IMRA Middle East News Updates Middle East News & Analysis en-US Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:04:05 +0000 Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:04:05 +0000 Capalon Internet 2.0 (Aaron Lerner) News & Analysis IMRA Middle East News Updates 144 97 =?utf-8?Q?Israel_Innovation_Authority_Laun?= <p>Israel Innovation Authority Launches “Technological Innovation Labs”<br /> Enabling Open Innovation for Corporations via Labs which will Support<br /> Startups through their ‘Proof of Concept’</p> <p>Program Calls on Israeli and Multinational Corporations to Establish<br /> Innovation Labs to Support Interesting and Relevant Startups. The Israel<br /> Innovation Authority Will Support Establishment of Labs at Up to NIS 4<br /> Million, Assist in Ongoing Maintenance, and Fund Startups Until Proof of<br /> Concept.</p> <p>Jerusalem. January 16, 2016 – The Israel Innovation Authority’s new<br /> “Technological Innovation Labs” program will be launched at an event on<br /> January 26th 2017 at Airport City, where corporations will be introduced to<br /> conditions and benefits of the program ahead of a call for proposals to be<br /> announced at the end of the month.</p> <p>The new “Technological Innovation Labs” Program is intended to help<br /> corporations establish innovation labs with the help of the Israel<br /> Innovation Authority to support startups of interest to the companies.</p> <p>Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry<br /> and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority: “Open innovation is crucial<br /> for the development of companies in our advanced economy. This program will<br /> help Israeli corporations operating these labs grow and strengthen their<br /> position in Israel. It will also help multinational corporations gain<br /> exposure to the unique atmosphere of innovation in Israel and bolster their<br /> presence here. This will give a boost to Israeli industry specifically and<br /> the Israeli economy in general.”</p> <p>Anya Eldan, GM Startup Division at the Israel Innovation Authority: “The<br /> main goal of the program is to serve as a platform between corporations and<br /> startups, with an emphasis on advanced production techniques, in several<br /> fields such as: automotive, robotics, 3D printing, and more. The program<br /> will help build ecosystems in Israel in various fields around these labs by<br /> enabling support for a range of activities entrepreneurs need to develop<br /> proof of concept for an innovative idea.”</p> <p>The target audience for the program is entrepreneurs and startups with an<br /> innovative idea in the relevant verticals, interested in establishing proof<br /> of concept and developing their idea into a product, as well as leading<br /> multinationals and corporations interested in adopting open innovation<br /> through such labs and in supporting startups by making their unique<br /> technological infrastructure accessible, especially the types not currently<br /> accessible in Israel.</p> <p>As part of the program, entrepreneurs and startups will receive support from<br /> the labs, including access to technological infrastructure such as: advanced<br /> production or development tools, knowhow regarding markets and marketing<br /> routes, and unique expertise in assessing and creating products. In<br /> addition, financial support will be provided at up to 85% of the budget<br /> approved for a company by the Israel Innovation Authority and up to NIS 1<br /> million for a period of activity of up to 12 months. The Israel Innovation<br /> Authority will fund 33% of the costs of establishing the lab infrastructure<br /> and making the technology accessible (50% in peripheral areas), up to a<br /> maximum conditional grant of NIS 4 million. The Authority will fund 50% of<br /> the total costs of running the lab up to a maximum of NIS 500,000 per year.</p> <p>A call for proposals will be published at the end of the month, with up to 5<br /> new technological innovation labs selected from the proposals.</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:04:05 +0000 Europe-Iran Relations One Year after the Sanctions were Lifted <p>Europe-Iran Relations One Year after the Sanctions were Lifted<br /> INSS Insight No. 888, January 16, 2017<br /> Sima Shine, Anna Catran<br /></p> <p>SUMMARY: In the year since the nuclear agreement with Iran was implemented<br /> and Europe lifted the sanctions, there has been much momentum and activity<br /> regarding the resumption of contacts and signed agreements between European<br /> countries and Iran. Relations with Europe are exceedingly important to the<br /> regime in Tehran, both with regard to Europe as a source of<br /> economic-commercial benefits and as a counterweight to the United States.<br /> Iran’s relationship with Europe is especially significant upon the eve of<br /> Trump’s entry into the White House, and given Trump’s statements about the<br /> possibility of either renegotiating the nuclear agreement or scrapping it<br /> altogether. The position of the European countries within the P5+1 is<br /> important for the continuity of the JCPOA. And indeed, during their last<br /> meeting, the European foreign ministers reiterated their support of the<br /> continued implementation of the JCPOA and of the development of economic<br /> relations with Iran, while clarifying that they will not support<br /> cancellation of the agreement. If Trump indeed seeks to cancel or even<br /> adjust the agreement, Europe’s opposition will be of decisive importance,<br /> and will enable Iran to oppose new US demands, based on solid relations with<br /> Europe.</p> <p>In the year since the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with Iran was implemented<br /> and Europe lifted the sanctions, there has been much momentum and activity<br /> regarding the resumption of contacts and signed agreements between European<br /> countries and Iran. Since the removal of the sanctions, over 200 European<br /> trade delegations have visited in Iran. Some of these contacts have already<br /> matured into economic transactions, reflecting a 43 percent rise in EU-Iran<br /> trade during the first half of the year over the corresponding period in<br /> 2015 when the sanctions were still in effect. In parallel, on October 25,<br /> 2016, the European parliament has approved a strategy toward Iran in the era<br /> of the JCPOA and following the removal of the sanctions.</p> <p>Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (l) and French President Francois Hollande<br /> during a contracts and economic agreements signing ceremony in Paris,<br /> January 28, 2016. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP<br /> Immediately after the signing of the nuclear agreement in the summer of<br /> 2015, and even before the sanctions were lifted, delegations of European<br /> senior officials and businessmen began visiting Iran with the aim of laying<br /> the groundwork for investments and economic cooperation. Iranian President<br /> Hassan Rouhani made a tour of European capitals, the first visit of its kind<br /> in years, in which framework agreements for bilateral trade and economic<br /> cooperation were signed. Among the deals concluded since then: Iran<br /> purchased some 100 Airbus aircraft from France, after the United States<br /> withdrew its objections to this transaction (the first plane arrived in Iran<br /> on January 12, 2017); the French automobile companies, Peugeot and Renault,<br /> returned their operations to Iran; the French oil company, Total, resumed<br /> operations in Iran this past November after a six-year halt, within the<br /> scope of an agreement to proceed with additional development in the South<br /> Pars gas field in conjunction with a Chinese company – a transaction that is<br /> valued at $6 billion; energy deals were signed with Italy; and the German<br /> company Siemens signed an agreement to upgrade Iran’s railway infrastructure<br /> (Germany was formerly Iran’s largest trade partner). Also on the agenda is<br /> the resumption of activities in Iran by the British insurance company<br /> Lloyds, after a five-year hiatus. This is an important development that was<br /> even mentioned by President Rouhani, due to its contribution to lowering<br /> Iranian export costs, as Iran had been forced to absorb high costs in recent<br /> years because insurance companies, headed by Lloyds, refused to insure<br /> Iranian cargos. Alongside these business developments is Iran’s reconnection<br /> to the Swift global payments system, and thirty Iranian banks have already<br /> connected to the system. The return of small European banks to Iran has also<br /> contributed to the impressive improvement in Iran’s economic indices<br /> recorded this past year.</p> <p>Likewise evident were a number of important developments on the political<br /> level, and these helped Iran to depict its release from political isolation<br /> as one of the achievements of the nuclear agreement. Prominent among them is<br /> the renewal of relations with Great Britain some four years after these<br /> relations were severed, which occurred in part because of the storming of<br /> the British embassy in Tehran by Iranian protestors and their attempt to<br /> occupy it. Concurrently, after prolonged discussions and intense Iranian<br /> lobbying efforts, the European parliament accepted the EU’s strategy for<br /> relations with Iran. This includes support for expanded economic cooperative<br /> efforts and investments and trade between European countries and Iran. In<br /> addition, the strategy supports Iran’s joining the World Trade Organization<br /> (WTO): the Iranian economy is the largest in the world outside the WTO; the<br /> European Union was formerly Iran’s largest trade partner; and the volume of<br /> trade, which currently reaches $8 billion, is expected to grow fourfold<br /> within the next two years. On the other hand, the report on the EU strategy<br /> does not disregard the serious human rights infractions in Iran, and states<br /> that the lack of freedom of expression on the internet, the systemic<br /> monitoring of internet traffic, and the lack of digital freedoms constitute<br /> human rights violations and therefore pose an obstacle to enhancing trade<br /> relations.</p> <p>Another issue highlighted in the European Union’s strategy pertains to death<br /> penalty sentences and executions in Iran, the country with the highest level<br /> of death penalty executions per capita in the world. According to Amnesty<br /> reports, in 2015 Iran executed 977 people, including juveniles, most<br /> convicted for drug-related offenses. The EU strategy prescribes that given<br /> Europe’s opposition to the death penalty, this issue is high on the European<br /> human rights policy and foreign policy agenda. The EU strategy emphasizes<br /> that capital punishment will be raised in the political dialogue and calls<br /> on Iran to declare an immediate moratorium on the death penalty sentences<br /> already handed down, and on the Iranian parliament to reconsider the section<br /> in its penal code that allows the sentencing to death of children under the<br /> age of 18. Furthermore, the European Union requests that Iran amend its<br /> legislation that allows the judiciary to impose the death penalty on people<br /> convicted of drug related offenses, as this would decrease the number of<br /> executions dramatically.</p> <p>Discussing the death penalty in Iran is taboo, and therefore few debate it<br /> publicly. The majority of the executions occur inside prisons, although the<br /> regime has carried out some executions in city squares as a deterrent<br /> tactic. The Iranian constitution obligates the country to define explicitly<br /> the crimes punishable by death, and all types of drug-related offenses have<br /> been defined as such. Specifically, the death penalty for the use or sale of<br /> drugs is anchored in the Iranian civil anti-drug legislation. This issue has<br /> triggered a debate between the executive authority under the Rouhani<br /> government, and the judicial authority, whose chairman is known for his<br /> extremist views. The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, declared that the European<br /> Union has no authority to decide what happens in Iran, and conservatives<br /> also accused the EU of interfering in Iran’s internal affairs. Nevertheless,<br /> an Iranian MP reported recently that a resolution was passed to commute the<br /> sentences of five thousand people sentenced to various types of punishment.<br /> According to the press release on the conclusions of the European Foreign<br /> Affairs Council of November 14, 2016, the issue of human rights violations<br /> and executions in Iran will remain a top priority on the EU agenda.</p> <p>Against this backdrop, a debate is underway in Iran regarding the EU’s<br /> desire to open a pseudo embassy in Iran. At this stage, a small<br /> representative office operates out of the German embassy, and there is no<br /> Iranian approval to open an embassy. Similar to most other foreign policy<br /> topics in Iran, the issue of the relations with the European Union has<br /> become a sensitive topic subject to internal political disagreements and a<br /> tool for conservatives, concerned that having an independent EU embassy<br /> would serve as a magnet for Iranian human rights activists, to condemn<br /> Rouhani and his government. According to the head of the judicial authority,<br /> Sadeq Larijani, an EU embassy would constitute a “nest of corruption,” and<br /> he will not allow it. At the same time, the European Union is proposing that<br /> Iran join its research programs within the framework of the Horizon 2020<br /> Project, as well as student exchange programs, stressing the fact that more<br /> than 60 percent of the Iranian population are below the age of 30. These<br /> topics are also perceived as sensitive issues in Iran, due to the regime’s<br /> tight control over educational programs in universities and its concern<br /> about political activism among students, including during the annual student<br /> day events, which are platforms for criticism of the regime.</p> <p>Relations with Europe are exceedingly important to the regime in Tehran,<br /> both with regard to Europe as a source of economic-commercial benefits and<br /> as a counterweight to the United States, which is perceived as antagonistic<br /> toward the regime. Iran’s relationship with Europe is especially important<br /> upon the eve of Trump’s entry into the White House, and given Trump’s<br /> statements about the possibility of either renegotiating the nuclear<br /> agreement or scrapping it altogether. The position of the European countries<br /> within the P5+1 is important to ensure the continuity of the JCPOA. And<br /> indeed, during their last meeting, the European foreign ministers reiterated<br /> their support of the continued implementation of the nuclear agreement and<br /> of the development of economic relations with Iran, while clarifying that<br /> they will not support cancellation of the agreement. Furthermore, if Trump<br /> indeed seeks to cancel or even adjust the agreement, Europe’s opposition<br /> will be of decisive importance, and will enable Iran to oppose new US<br /> demands, based on solid relations with Europe.</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:03:44 +0000 Excerpts: Syrian rebels to attend Astana peace talks. Saudi deal for <p>Excerpts: Syrian rebels to attend Astana peace talks. Saudi deal for 80<br /> Airbus planes. China holds firm on Taiwan. Egypt Court says no transfer of<br /> islands to Saudi Arabia. SA sets condition for aid to Lebanon January 16,<br /> 2017</p> <p>+++SOURCE:Al Arabiya News 16 Jan.’17:”Syrian rebels to attend Astana peace<br /> talks”,by Reuters<br /> SUBJECT:Syrian rebels to attend Astana peace talks</p> <p>FULL TEXT:Syrian rebel groups have decided to attend peace talks backed by<br /> Russia and Turkey in Kazakhstan to press for implementation of a widely<br /> violated ceasefire, rebel officials said on Monday[16 Jan], in a boost for<br /> Moscow-led diplomacy.</p> <p>Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally, set the new<br /> diplomatic effort in motion after the Syrian opposition suffered a major<br /> defeat last month when it lost the rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo.</p> <p>Rebel groups took the decision at meetings that are underway in Ankara, and<br /> are now working to form a delegation that will be different to one sent to<br /> peace talks in Geneva last year by a Saudi-backed opposition group.</p> <p>The talks are scheduled for Jan. 23 in Astana.</p> <p>"The factions will go and the first thing they will discuss will be the<br /> matter of the ceasefire and the violations by the regime," said an official<br /> in a Free Syrian Army rebel group who declined to be identified because the<br /> rebel groups had yet to appoint a spokesman.</p> <p>A second official, Zakaria Malahifji of the Fastaqim rebel group, said: "The<br /> majority of the groups decided to attend. Discussions will be on the<br /> ceasefire - the humanitarian issues - aid deliveries, release of detainees."</p> <p>Turkey has been a major backer of the rebellion against Assad, but its<br /> priorities in Syria appear to have shifted away from toppling Assad towards<br /> combating both Kurdish groups and Islamic State in areas of northern Syria<br /> near its border.</p> <p>The Saudi-backed opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee, said on<br /> Saturday[14 Jan} that it had supported efforts towards the planned peace<br /> talks in Kazakhstan, and viewed the meeting as a preliminary step for<br /> resuming the next round of political negotiations in Geneva.</p> <p>The HNC, formed in Riyadh in December 2015, includes both political and<br /> armed opponents of Assad.</p> <p>Malahifji said the new delegation would be formed in coordination with the<br /> HNC, but it would differ from it because "the Russians are focusing very<br /> much on the military factions".</p> <p>+++SOURCE:Naharnet(Lebanon) 16 Jan.’17:”Saudi Carrier Flynas Signs Deal for<br /> 80 Airbus Planes, by Agence France Presse<br /> SUBJECT:Saudi orders 80 Airbus planes<br /> Low-cost Saudi carrier flynas on Monday[15 Jan] signed an $8.6 billion deal<br /> with European plane manufacturer Airbus to purchase 80 A320neo single-aisle<br /> jets.</p> <p>Flynas chairman Ayed al-Jeaid said at the signing ceremony in Riyadh that<br /> the deal includes an option for 40 more of the short to medium-haul planes<br /> in what airline executives said is a growing domestic market.</p> <p>Bander al-Mohanna, the chief executive of NAS Holding, signed the agreement<br /> with Fouad Attar, Middle East director for the European Aerospace company.</p> <p>Mohanna told a news conference following the ceremony that the deal was made<br /> for flynas "to play a leading role in the market".</p> <p>Delivery would begin next year and continue until at least 2026, flynas<br /> executives said.</p> <p>+++SOURCE:Naharnet(L ebanon) 16Jan.’17: “China Will ‘Take the Gloves Off’<br /> over Taiwan”,by Agence France Presse<br /> SUBJECT: China holds firm onTaiwan</p> <p>FULL TEXT:China is running out of patience with Donald Trump's stance on<br /> Taiwan, state media said Monday16, and will "take the gloves off" if he<br /> keeps challenging the One China policy.</p> <p>The US president-elect told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend the<br /> longstanding policy was up for negotiation, in his latest comment on the<br /> issue.</p> <p>Trump had already irked China by accepting a congratulatory phone call from<br /> Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen after he won the presidential election,<br /> upending decades of diplomatic precedent in which the US avoided direct<br /> public communication with the island's leader.</p> <p>The foreign ministry, for the second time in two days, warned Trump<br /> Monday[ the One China policy was non-negotiable.16Jan]</p> <p>Anyone who tries to use it as a bargaining chip will be met with "common<br /> opposition" and will ultimately "shoot oneself in the foot", foreign<br /> ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.</p> <p>The China Daily said in an editorial earlier Monday that Trump "will seldom<br /> be given the benefit of the doubt twice, because doing the same thing for a<br /> third time shows intent".</p> <p>The Taiwan issue is a "Pandora's box of lethal potential", it added.</p> <p>While the president-elect had been given the benefit of the doubt so far, it<br /> said, if he is "determined to use this gambit on taking office, a period of<br /> fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable as Beijing will have no<br /> choice but to take off the gloves."</p> <p>Trump has threatened to get tough with what he sees as unfair Chinese trade<br /> practises and suggested that the One China policy could become a bargaining<br /> chip in this.</p> <p>"Everything is under negotiation, including One China," he told the Journal<br /> in the interview published Friday.</p> <p>Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province to be brought back<br /> within its fold, by force if necessary, and the United States switched<br /> diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.</p> <p>China first warned Trump on the issue last month after he said he did not<br /> see why Washington must "be bound by a One China policy unless we make a<br /> deal with China having to do with other things, including trade".</p> <p>But he has less leverage than he might think, warned the Global Times, a<br /> nationalistic tabloid thought to have close ties to hawkish elements of the<br /> ruling Communist Party.</p> <p>China will "mercilessly combat those who advocate Taiwan's independence", it<br /> said in an editorial Monday.</p> <p>If Trump chooses to use the island as a bargaining chip, it added, it "may<br /> be sacrificed as a result of this despicable strategy".</p> <p>Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen made two stops in the US this month while in<br /> transit to diplomatic allies in Central America, despite Beijing's<br /> objections.</p> <p>On her return to the island Sunday she said its "new direction" of diplomacy<br /> was clear.</p> <p>"We must all continue to work to let Taiwan be seen, to let Taiwan make its<br /> contribution to the world."</p> <p>SourceAgence France Presse</p> <p>+++SOURCE: Naharnet(Lebanon)16 Jan.’17:”Egypt Court Upholds Barring Islands<br /> Transfer to SaudiArabia”,by Agence France Presse<br /> SUBJECT:Egypt Court says no transfer of islands to Saudi Arabia</p> <p>FULL TEXT:Egypt's High Administrative Court upheld on Monday[16 Jan] a<br /> ruling voiding a government agreement to hand over two Red Sea islands to<br /> Saudi Arabia in a deal that sparked protests.</p> <p>The government had appealed against a lower court ruling in June that found<br /> the controversial border demarcation agreement was illegal.</p> <p>The latest ruling may further complicate ties between Egypt and Saudi<br /> Arabia, a main financial backer of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since the<br /> former army chief toppled his Islamist predecessor in 2013.</p> <p>But relations have cooled over Egypt's stance on Syria, which is seen as<br /> closer to Russia which backs President Bashar al-Assad than Saudi Arabia<br /> which supports rebels fighting to topple his regime.</p> <p>The courtroom erupted in cheers as the judge delivered the verdict, with<br /> lawyers and activists chanting: "These islands are Egyptian."</p> <p>The deal to hand over the islands, signed during an April visit by Saudi<br /> King Salman in which Riyadh showered Egypt with aid, provoked accusations<br /> that Cairo had "sold" the strategic islands.</p> <p>Cairo said the islands were Saudi to start with, but had been leased to<br /> Egypt in the 1950s.</p> <p>But the court on Monday[16 Jan] said it was its "unanimous" decision that<br /> the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, were sovereign Egyptian territories</p> <p>+++SOURCE:Naharnet(Lebanon)16 J an.’17:”Report:SA Sets Conditions in Return<br /> for Reactivating Aid ,by Programs for Lebanon”,by Naharnet Newsdesk<br /> SUBJECT: SA sets conditions for aid to Lebanon</p> <p>FULL TEXT:Saudi Arabia has set some conditions in return for reconsidering<br /> the activation of military and economic aid programs for Lebanon that have<br /> been halted in 2016, media reports said Monday[16 Jan].</p> <p>Al-Joumhouria daily said that senior Saudi officials told President Michel<br /> Aoun during his visit to the Kingdom last week, that in order for SA to<br /> revitalize relations with Lebanon, it is crucial that the term of Aoun<br /> demonstrates “independence” away from any Lebanese parties' attempt to<br /> control it.</p> <p>They pointed out that Aoun's term is “promising and positive, especially<br /> that the direct contact between King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and President<br /> Aoun was good.”</p> <p>The conditions reportedly set by Riyadh are:</p> <p>1:Iran and Hizbullah's behavior on the Lebanese arena in the upcoming<br /> months, mainly that the negotiations for a settlement in Syria began in<br /> parallel with the war ravaging there.</p> <p>2: Conducting the parliamentary elections in order for Saudi Arabia to know<br /> whether Prime Minister Saad Hariri will be chosen to head the next cabinet,<br /> or if his earlier endorsement was a temporary procedure that came to<br /> guarantee the election of President Michel Aoun.</p> <p>3:Inquiring the future of the Lebanese army leadership, after reports leaked<br /> that certain changes will be introduced. Knowing that the latest military<br /> achievements under Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji impose the need to<br /> keep this leadership instead of changing it.</p> <p>4:The fate of the governorship of the Central Bank of Lebanon, since the<br /> previous and future Saudi donations are usually made through the central<br /> bank. Knowing that a relationship of trust connects Governor Riad Salameh<br /> and Saudi Arabia. But, Saudi officials received information last week from<br /> the PM that Salameh will remain in his post to ensure the safety of the<br /> Lebanese currency.<br /> ==============<br /> Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:03:24 +0000 Palestinian MK: New [LEFT WING!] Israeli ad campaign 'racist' <p>Palestinian MK: New Israeli ad campaign 'racist'<br /> Jan. 16, 2017 10:37 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 16, 2017 10:42 P.M.)<br /></p> <p>BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Former senior Israeli defense officials rolled out a<br /> massive ad campaign in Israel on Sunday “warning” Israelis of a single-state<br /> with a Palestinian majority if the two state-solution is not implemented as<br /> the end goal in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.</p> <p>The former officials are members of a group known as Commanders for Israel’s<br /> Security, “which is made up of approximately 200 former top officials from<br /> the country’s security services and is dedicated to advancing the two-state<br /> solution,” according to the Times of Israel.</p> <p>The ad campaign featured pictures of Palestinian crowds, which the Times of<br /> Israel referred to as a “Palestinian mob,” overlaid with the caption “Soon<br /> we will be the majority” written in Arabic, and “Palestine: One state for<br /> two people” in English.</p> <p>The ads reference the growing Palestinian population, which is projected to<br /> reach 7.13 million by the end of 2020, compared to 6.96 million Jews in<br /> "historical Palestine" -- meaning the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem,<br /> the Gaza Strip, and Israel -- according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of<br /> Statistics 2016 census.</p> <p>The campaign featured in full-page ads in two of Israel’s “most influential<br /> newspapers” and billboards across the country, the Times of Israel reported.</p> <p>Palestinian lawmakers inside Israel slammed the campaign, which was<br /> reportedly intended to promote the two-state solution and to oppose<br /> right-wing calls to annex large swaths of occupied West Bank, calling it<br /> racist.</p> <p>Ayman Odeh, a member of Israel’s parliament, posted a statement on Facebook<br /> saying “this isn't a peace campaign, but rather a hatred campaign against<br /> Arabs. It's an ugly campaign and exaggerated campaign, and given the general<br /> atmosphere as the [Israeli] prime minister classifies Arab citizens as<br /> enemies, this campaign turns dangerous.”</p> <p>Odeh emphasized that a two-state solution involving the establishment of a<br /> Palestinian state next to the state of Israel was “clearly in the interest<br /> of both peoples,” but first and foremost was “a legitimate and a just right<br /> of the Palestinian people.”</p> <p>Odeh, a member of the Joint List political bloc -- representing parties led<br /> by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israel's parliament, the Knesset --<br /> said that the road to achieving the two-state solution was not “through<br /> joining the incitement band.”</p> <p>According to the Times of Israel, former Israeli major general Amnon Reshef,<br /> a member of the group responsible for the campaign, denied that the campaign<br /> was racist or inciteful, saying that “we’re not doing any demonization.<br /> There’s nothing here that’s racist.”</p> <p>“I don’t want trucks to come from Jabal al-Mukabbir into Jerusalem and run<br /> over soldiers. I don’t want them,” the Times of Israel quoted former head of<br /> the Israeli army’s central command Gadi Shamni as saying in a press<br /> conference in Tel Aviv following the release of the campaign.</p> <p>Referring to an attack carried out last week by a Palestinian truck driver<br /> that left four Israeli soldiers dead in occupied East Jerusalem, Shamni said<br /> that the only way to prevent such attacks was “to disconnect entirely from<br /> the Palestinians.”</p> <p>“I want us to be here and them to be there. We’ll be like good neighbors,”<br /> Shamni said.</p> <p>Odeh, however, saw the campaign as being far from promoting a “good<br /> neighbor” type of relationship, saying that “he who sees us a threat,<br /> doesn't see us partners, and he who doesn't see us partners can't make<br /> peace.”</p> <p>Odeh concluded his statement by calling upon the officials who started the<br /> campaign to “stop spreading this hatred and immediately put down all the<br /> propaganda.”</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:03:03 +0000 Saudis, Egyptians at loggerheads over Tiran and Sanafir <p>Saudis, Egyptians at loggerheads over Tiran and Sanafir<br /> Mon, 16/01/2017 - 15:18 Al-Masry Al-Youm</p> <p>Saudis reacted to the Supreme Administrative Court ruling on Monday via<br /> social media, expressing anger at the verdict which nullified the transfer<br /> of sovreignty of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.</p> <p>Some Saudi Twitter users called for Egyptian workers to be expelled from the<br /> Gulf kingdom, while others demanded international arbitration over the issue<br /> in order to seize the islands.</p> <p>The Saudi cleric Awad al-Qarni, a well-known personality in the gulf<br /> kingdom, stepped into the row over the islands by criticizing Emirati<br /> politician Abdel Khalek Abdallah, who had demanded that the Egyptian<br /> judiciary's ruling be respected.</p> <p>Qarni said: "If an Iranian court ruled that the three islands [in dispute<br /> between UAE and Iran] would it be appropriate for an Emirati to say, 'the<br /> judiciary must be respected?' Why couldn't you stay silent?"</p> <p>Saudi TV anchor Abdallah Salem also rejected the ruling, saying: "Tiran and<br /> Sanafir are Saudi, according to United Nations documents from 1950."</p> <p>Egyptian MP Mostafa Bakry, who is known for his support of Saudi claims to<br /> the two islands, refused to comment on the ruling.</p> <p>"[I won't] comment on anything now; we'll wait and see how things go," Bakry<br /> said.</p> <p>Former presidential advisrr and Noble laureate Mohamed al-Baradei said: "I<br /> hope we understand that nations can only be built with justice and the rule<br /> of the law. I hope that today's ruling is the beginning of an awakening and<br /> a pause within ourselves so as to change and correct our path. Sovereignty<br /> belongs to the people."</p> <p>Lawyer and former presidential hopeful Khaled Ali, who filed the initial<br /> lawsuit aiming to have the agreement revoked, said the islands are Egyptian<br /> owing to the documents, papers and blood of Egyptian martyrs who defended<br /> their land throughout the ages.</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:02:42 +0000 [Israel not to blame] PA PM Hamdallah to Hamas: Hand over power <p>PM Hamdallah to Hamas: Hand over power authority to solve energy crisis<br /> By Malak Hasan<br /></p> <p>RAMALLAH, January 16, 2017 (WAFA - PLO news agency) – Prime Minister Rami<br /> Hamdallah Monday demanded Hamas to hand over the energy authority it<br /> currently runs in the Gaza Strip to the national unity government in order<br /> to solve the ongoing power crisis.</p> <p>He said in a press conference held at the Energy and Natural Resources<br /> Authority in Ramallah that for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to solve the<br /> power crisis, Hamas must hold itself responsible and allow the unity<br /> government to be in charge of all sectors in Gaza.</p> <p>“We are ready to fully run all sectors in the Gaza Strip,” he told local and<br /> international press.</p> <p>The demand came after a severe electricity crisis that sparked protests and<br /> unrest in the Gaza Strip after announcing that the electricity cycle will be<br /> cut back to three hours per day; five hours short of the regular eight-hour<br /> cycle.</p> <p>Hamdallah said the PA has always assumed responsibility for Gaza’s needs<br /> despite Hamas’ refusal to allow it to be fully in charge of the work of<br /> ministries and facilities.</p> <p>He said the Palestinian leadership is facing a defamation campaign by Hamas<br /> concerning the power crisis to which he responded that the PA spent $250<br /> million money per year on importing, producing and developing electricity<br /> sources in the Gaza Strip.</p> <p>He said while the West Bank only receives between 4% - 6% in fuel support,<br /> the Gaza power plant receives 60% to 80% in fuel support.</p> <p>“Every month, Israel automatically deducts $10 million to $13 million from<br /> the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues to pay for the power feed provided<br /> by the Israeli power company,” he said.</p> <p>He added that the Gaza power plant’s operation and production costs amount<br /> to $2 million every month.</p> <p>“The electricity provided by Egypt to the Gaza Strip costs the PA around<br /> $1.8 million every month.”</p> <p>Hamdallah explained that the money is automatically deducted from the<br /> Palestinian Authority’s funds donated by Arab states through the League of<br /> Arab States.</p> <p>Following protests, Qatar pledged to donate $12 million to buy fuel for the<br /> Gaza power plant.</p> <p>The funds would cover the costs of fuel needed to operate the Gaza Strip's<br /> only power plant for more than eight hours a day.</p> <p>Hamdallah thanked Qatar and confirmed that an agreement with Turkey is<br /> currently being drafted.</p> <p>“Turkey confirmed it would provide 15 tons of fuel to the Gaza Strip,” he<br /> explained.</p> <p>Hamdallah said that the cabinet and leadership are keen to meet the needs of<br /> Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and welcomed the factions’ initiative to form<br /> a new board for the energy authority in Gaza in order to solve the crisis.</p> <p>He expressed worry that should Hamas continue to be in charge of the energy<br /> authority, the unity government will not be able to solve the crisis and the<br /> initiative to form a new board will fail.</p> <p>Hamdallah then questioned Hamas for failing to reveal where the money it<br /> collects in exchange of electricity to Gaza goes.</p> <p>The Hamas-run energy authority collects around $6 million for electricity<br /> while it should be collecting a total of $19 million. “I am not sure where<br /> the $13 million left go?”</p> <p>He said the authority that collects money for electricity provided should be<br /> capable to perform the task and offer guarantees and Hamas should be capable<br /> to force organizations and institutions to pay for the services provided.</p> <p>The PA’s main issue with providing more electricity supplies from Israel is<br /> the need to provide Israel with bank guarantees and to be totally in charge<br /> of the energy authority. “Without both, our efforts will fail.”</p> <p>“Gaza receives 200 Megawatts of electricity and according to technicians;<br /> this should provide 12 hours of electricity. We need answers,” he said in<br /> reference to the announcement that the electricity cycle will be decreased<br /> to three hours.</p> <p>The prime minister addressed people of Gaza saying that the PA will do<br /> everything possible to solve the crisis and meet their basic needs.</p> <p>“It is impossible for the unity government to keep exerting efforts to meet<br /> the needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and pay for the operational<br /> expenses for hospitals, schools and so on and the reconstruction while Hamas<br /> is running the Strip,” he said.</p> <p>The government launched a campaign under the title “We need electricity for<br /> Gaza” in an attempt to turn efforts into a reality and end years of<br /> electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.</p> <p>The Gaza power plant has not run at full capacity in years now due to<br /> Israel's ongoing measures which aim to fuel imports into the coastal<br /> enclave.</p> <p>Along with war, the power shortage has driven people to the streets to<br /> demand a decent power supply and an end to daily blackouts.</p> <p>M.H./M.K.</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:02:22 +0000 =?utf-8?Q?Israel=E2=80=99s_Invisible_Presence_in_A?= <p>Israel’s Invisible Presence in Astana Guaranteed by Russia<br /> Nazir Majli Asharq Al Awsat 16 January 2017<br /></p> <p>Tel Aviv – Israel is optimistic regarding Russia’s position concerning<br /> Israel’s interests, according to Israeli military and political officials.</p> <p>Even if Israel didn’t attend the Astana talks to settle the Syrian case, its<br /> position will be represented for two reasons: attacks near Damascus, and the<br /> positive development of relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin<br /> and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the officials.</p> <p>Netanyahu is constantly contacting Putin, even before and after the attacks<br /> on Mezzeh military airport which were accredited to Israel.</p> <p>Highly informed Israeli sources said that this will be discussed during the<br /> talks on Syria’s future – expected to start on January 23 in Astana.</p> <p>Sources added that Israel wasn’t invited to this conference, but it is<br /> making sure that its presence is felt there through all possible channels,<br /> and thus conveying a message that no agreement can be reached, especially<br /> concerning Golan Heights, without taking Israeli interests into account.</p> <p>After Aleppo, Russians began preparing for the summit in Kazakhstan, and<br /> once again a new report surfaced saying that Israel had attacked Syria, with<br /> all Russian media quoting the official statement from Damascus. But what is<br /> more important is that for the first time a Russian official speaks of the<br /> attack and is surprisingly understanding of Israel’s position.</p> <p>State Duma Deputy and Deputy Chairman of Committee on International Affairs<br /> Andrey Klimov was quoted in the semi-official Izvestia newspaper saying that<br /> Israel uses the armed forces against organization considered a threat to its<br /> security. He also accused Hezbollah without naming it explicitly saying:<br /> “Tel Aviv is fighting against terrorist organizations engaged in the war in<br /> Syria.”</p> <p>Israeli officials believe that this is an official Russian hint to Iranians,<br /> and Hezbollah, that they disagree with Moscow concerning arrangements in<br /> Syria.</p> <p>Israel’s benefit is evident here: to deter any attempts that the Syrian<br /> regime might try to take control over Golan Heights, whether through war or<br /> dialogue with the opposition.</p> <p>Officials also declared that unlike similar incidents in the past, Syrians<br /> are trying to gain politically from this attack pointing fingers at Israel<br /> and addressing the Security Council saying the Tel Aviv used F-35 warplanes<br /> in the attack. But, F-35 doesn’t exactly present new technologies that<br /> Israel doesn’t already have, and Israel doesn’t need new planes that haven’t<br /> gained any experience around the world in action.</p> <p>“It seems as though Syrians want to embarrass the U.S. administration by<br /> saying: you gave Israel developed weapons, and they directly used it to<br /> aggravate the conflict in the Middle East,” according to an Israeli<br /> official.</p> <p>Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson had warned U.S. and coalition<br /> forces of attacking Syrian regime targets. As for the Israeli attacks,<br /> Moscow is currently ignoring them.</p> <p>All of this consequently leads to the belief that there are silent<br /> agreements between Tel Aviv and Moscow. Other than the agreement on avoiding<br /> airplanes of both armies from attacking one another, the content of this<br /> pact isn’t very clear.</p> <p>Those agreements had been reached during the exchanged phone calls between<br /> Putin and Netanyahu and especially during the meeting between Israeli<br /> Commander of Air Force Maj-Gen Amir Eshel and Russian Chief of Staff.</p> <p>We can then deduce that Russia understands what are the Israeli red lines<br /> and interests in Syria.</p> Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:02:01 +0000