Israel-Turkish accord expected to pass security cabinet despite Liberman objections
The Israeli-Turkish rapprochement agreement that was formally announced on Monday is expected to be approved by the nine-member security cabinet on Wednesday, even though newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman does not support it.
Before joining the government last week, Liberman was among the MKs most adamantly opposed to an accord with Turkey, saying just seven months ago that Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a “radical Islamic regime.” He told his Yisrael Beytenu faction in the Knesset on Monday that he does not support the deal, but will not actively campaign against it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the agreement at a news conference in Rome, shortly after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who welcomed the deal. Netanyahu’s Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, announced the deal at about the same time in Ankara.
Netanyahu said the accord – which has come under fire in Israel from both the Right and the Left as a capitulation to Turkey, and a national humiliation because compensation will be paid to families of the nine victims on the ship who violently resisted IDF soldiers – will strengthen Israel’s position in the region.
“Israel has reached an agreement of strategic importance for the State of Israel, for security, for regional stability and for the Israeli economy,” Netanyahu said. “As prime minister of Israel, it is my responsibility to be concerned with its strategic interests, to take a broad and long-term view, based on an understanding of the international arena as well as of our security and economic needs, at present and in the future.”
Netanyahu said that with both the world and the region going through enormous changes, it is important to create centers of stability, and this accord does that with Turkey. He said that his strategy is to create these points of stability in ties with some Arab states in the region, with Greece and Cyprus, and with Russia.
Netanyahu said he kept Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Russia – all countries that have a fraught relationship with Turkey – in the loop regarding the negotiations leading up to the accord, adding that every move was also coordinated with the US.
Just hours after the announcement, the Kremlin said that it had received a letter from Erdogan apologizing for Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet over its airspace last year, a move that led to a dramatic deterioration in its ties with Russia.
At the same time that Netanyahu was announcing the accord in Rome, stressing the elements favorable to Israel, Yıldırım was doing the same in Ankara, underlining elements in the agreement more to Turkey’s liking.
Both prime ministers said that relations between the two countries will now be normalized.
Relations between Israel and what was once its principle Muslim ally crumbled in 2010, after the IDF stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. After being attacked by passengers, the soldiers killed 10 people on board.
Netanyahu stressed that the accord – through a law to be passed in the Turkish parliament – will prevent any criminal or civil suits to be brought against IDF soldiers in Turkey.
He also stressed that the agreement does not compromise Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Lifting the blockade was long one of Turkey’s conditions for reconciliation.
Maintaining the security blockade, he said, “is our supreme security interest – I was not prepared to compromise on it. This interest is vital to prevent the strengthening of Hamas, and it remains as it has been.”
Under the accord, however, Israel will allow Turkey to transfer unlimited amounts of humanitarian and civilian aid to the Gaza Strip, and build a hospital there as well as a power and desalination plant.
Dealing with humanitarian issues in Gaza, Netanyahu said, is also in Israel’s interest.
As an example, Netanyahu noted that when there is not enough water in Gaza – beyond humanitarian considerations – it means that the aquifers become polluted, something that could pass to the Israeli side as well.
“When there is not enough electricity, various problems arise, including those having to do with sanitation, and when there are outbreaks, the outbreaks do not stop at the fences,” he said. “This is both a humanitarian interest and an outstanding Israeli interest.”
Netanyahu said that the accord also includes a Turkish commitment to prevent all terrorist or military activity against Israel from Turkish soil, “including collecting funds for these purposes.
This is an important – even primary – commitment that we have not had up until now.”
Yildirim stressed other parts of the agreements, saying that the first shipment of 10,000 tons of Turkish humanitarian aid will set sail next Friday. He presented this as a lifting of the blockade on Gaza, something Netanyahu denied during his comments.
Yildirim made no mention of Turkey’s commitment to limit Hamas activity on Turkish soil in his prepared comments, presenting the agreement instead as a document that provides relief to the Palestinians. “Turkey is the protector of the justified aspirations of the Palestinians,” he said, including their right to declare a state.
Netanyahu said the agreement opens the door to very lucrative energy deals with Turkey that will be of extreme importance to the Israeli economy.
He also said that the agreement requires Turkey to assist Israel in entering all international organizations where Turkey is a member. Until recently, Turkey blocked an upgrade of Israel’s ties with NATO.
Regarding the return of the two Israeli prisoners in Gaza and the bodies of two soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge – Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin – Netanyahu said that the Turks have given their commitment to assist in every way in gaining their return.
“I understand the suffering of the families,” Netanyahu said. “I speak with them and I know what they are going through, and I would like to assure them: I promise you, members of the families, I promise you that we will not stop and we will not rest until we bring the boys back home.”
The families of the two soldiers, however, condemned the deal, issuing a statement saying Netanyahu’s declarations “are empty. He is acting against his promises to us in recent days, and is bringing the people of Israel and us a bad, problematic agreement, one that ignores the pain of the families and the fate of Israeli heroes.”
Responding to criticism of the agreement heard in Israel from both the Left and the Right – including calling the payment of $20 million to a fund for the families of those killed a “humiliation” – Netanyahu said that this accord promotes Israel’s “vital interests,” and that he would not be deterred by the criticism. (Jerusalem Post)
In Next War With Hezbollah, Dozens of Missiles Will Strike Tel Aviv, Deputy IDF Chief Warns
In Israel’s next war with Hezbollah, dozens of missiles will strike the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff said on Monday at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.
Maj. Gen. Yair Golan — who made this prediction in a speech he delivered at a conference held by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority — also said, however, that the Israeli home front is well-prepared for such a scenario.
“In the Second Lebanon War, seventy tons of explosive warheads hit Israel,” Golan said. “Let’s assume that in the next war it will be four times that amount — some 300 tons in a month. Our air force does that in five hours in Lebanon. Don’t you think we can withstand this? Do we not have a national resilience?”
Golan went on to say, “We’re the country best equipped to deal with emergency scenarios … I look at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. How many missiles will explode there in a month? Several dozen. We can handle that. The Home Front Command has prepared directives for all authoritative bodies in Israel, and we just need to make sure that everyone does his job seriously and as planned. Israel has an early warning system unparalleled in the world that lets civilians know what to do.”
During the 34-day Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah peppered northern Israel with thousands of rockets, and 44 Israeli civilians were killed. But central Israel remained untouched. However, due to upgrades in Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal over the past decade, Golan and other believe that would likely not be the case in a future conflict with the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization.
The deputy IDF chief of staff said he opposed on principle any wide-scale evacuation of northern border area residents during a future war with Hezbollah.
“The IDF knows that the best defense is to go on the offense to remove the threat … we must continue to improve the readiness of the home front, but we cannot forget that wars are won by going on the offensive.”
Golan recently made headlines, when, during a speech at a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in early May, he seemingly compared modern-day Israeli society to Nazi Germany. He later walked back his remarks, saying he “had no intention whatsoever to draw any sort of parallel.” (the Algemeiner)
Abbas aide: ‘Wherever you see an Israeli, slit his throat’
An aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for gruesome violence against Israelis on Monday, sparking a scathing response from an Israeli official.
Sultan Abu al-Einein, an adviser to Abbas on civil society organizations and a Fatah Central Committee member, said during an interview with the Palestinian news site Donia al-Watan: “Wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat.”
The comment from the senior Fatah official came in response to a question about normalization between members of his party and Israel.
When asked what he thought about normalization with Israel and Palestinian officials taking part in Israeli conferences, Abu al-Einein said: “If you ask me my blunt position, I would say — every place you find an Israeli, slit his throat. Likewise, I am against talks, negotiations, meetings, and normalization in all its forms with the Israeli occupation.”
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, blasted Abu al-Einein over the comments and warned they would be met with “repercussions” in the future.
“Such words, in the summer of 2016, in a region that wakes up and falls asleep to the news of terrorist actions similar [to the words said by Abu al-Einein], cannot be allowed to stay within the bounds of rhetoric,” he wrote on Facebook.
He also called for Palestinians — and especially the Palestinian leadership — to denounce such talk as they do when speaking against the actions of the Islamic State.
Abu al-Einein has been an outspoken critic of Israel, supporting violence and praising terrorism against Israelis. In 2013, five US congressmen wrote to Abbas to ask him to fire Abu al-Einein over his praise of terrorism, but the PA president refused, arguing he was an elected official.
Israel has consistently complained that the PA backs terror and incites its citizens to carry out attacks. (the Times of Israel)
Police temporarily close Temple Mount to non-Muslim visitors after rioting resumes
Following three consecutive days of rioting by Arab youths on the Temple Mount, police announced Tuesday morning that the contested holy site will be temporarily closed to non-Muslim visitors, at least through Thursday.
In a statement, police said the decision was made after security assessments indicated it was not safe for Jewish visitors, who have been the target of numerous attacks there since Sunday, when the final 10 days of Ramadan commenced.
Despite banning non-Muslim visitors from the compound on Tuesday, rioting resumed when a group of masked Muslim youths threw rocks and other objects at police officers stationed there, then barricaded themselves in al-Aksa Mosque, which police are forbidden from entering.
According to Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, 16 people were arrested, and one woman was lightly wounded when struck by a rock near the Western Wall.
Police have arrested 26 Arab suspects since Sunday for throwing rocks, shoes and chairs at small groups of Jews visiting the compound, as well as the heavily-armed officers protecting them, during restricted morning visiting hours.
No injuries were reported, and as of Monday, police allowed the tours to resume after barricading the assailants in al-Aksa Mosque.
Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Nava Boker (Likud) condemned the decision to close the Temple Mount to non-Muslim visitors as rewarding terrorists.
“The police gave a prize to terrorism, and instead of punishing the Arab rioters, they are punishing the Jews who act legally,” Boker said in a statement. “It is a miracle today that a disaster was averted when a stone thrown at the Western Wall ‘only’ injured a woman. If we cannot handle the insurgents, next time there will be no miracles.”
Deputy Defense Minister MK Eli Ben Dahan, a rabbi who’s made controversial statements about Palestinians and non-Jews, echoed Boker’s sentiments.
“Again, we see the same chronicle, where Muslim worshipers desecrate the sanctity of the Temple Mount by the use of violence, and those who pay the price are law-abiding citizens: Tourists and Jews, who just want to make a pilgrimage to the Temple Mount.”
While Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat issued a statement supporting the police’s decision as a prudent safety measure following days of rioting, he also warned against allowing violence to dictate policy.
“Israeli police must be allowed to do its work and continue to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount,” Barkat said.
“Yet we must not make decisions under the pressure of violent riots. Only conduct coherent to maintaining the status quo will ensure long-term decline in violent incidents and quiet in Jerusalem.”
After a relative lull in violence, rioting began on the mount on Sunday, when a group of Jewish visitors entered the compound during the last 10 days of Ramadan, which offended the thousands of Muslim worshipers there.
Security concerns were so pronounced during the last 10 days of the month-long holiday over the preceding two years that all non-Muslim visitation was banned until it was over. Several hundred thousand Muslims have converged at the compound since Ramadan began, with attendance peaking during Friday prayers.
While right-wing critics accused police of acquiescing to terror, left-wing advocates, including former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz city councilman, Dr. Meir Margalit, warned that allowing Jewish visitors to the site during Ramadan would be viewed by Muslims as a provocation.
Noting that violence in the contested area has been endemic since the 1967 War, Margalit said on Tuesday that the only solution is to remove both Jewish and Muslim extremists from the site, while limiting entry to tolerant members of both communities.
“The violence is nothing new and comes from both sides,” said Margalit by phone. “What is important now is not who started it, but who can stop it. This is the main question. And if the right-wing really cares about the future of the city, they must stop provocative visits on the Temple Mount, even if it is not easy for them, because the future of Jerusalem is more important.”
Margalit added that he is not against Jewish visitation to the compound, but believes that Jewish extremists, as well as Muslim extremists, must be banned from the holy site if there is to be enduring peace in the capital.
“The issue is not that Jews should not be visiting; Jews should be able to visit the Temple Mount for sure,” he said. “The issue is those who go up there with a political agenda. I believe that without a political agenda, all of us will live a better life in the city.”
Margalit continued: “All extremists must be removed from the site.”
There was a sustained period of quiet on the Mount after the government banned two Islamic Movement Northern Branch hate groups, the Murabitun (for men) and the Murabitat (for women), from the site last September to stop their chronic attacks against Jewish visitors.
However, since then Palestinian leadership and media have colluded to manipulate the groups’ expulsion from the site to proliferate the deadly and patently false narrative that Jews intend to seize and destroy al-Aksa, which has fueled what many are now deeming to be a third intifada (Jerusalem Post)
Rivlin to Ban Ki-Moon: Help us bring Israelis in Hamas captivity home
In welcoming UN Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon on his 11th and final visit to Israel in his present capacity, President Reuven Rivlin pleaded with Ban on Monday to do his utmost to relieve the pain of the families of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, pronounced dead by the IDF but believed by their parents and siblings to be prisoners of war missing in action.
Rivlin also included the families of two Israeli citizens “both suffering poor mental health – one Muslim, one Jewish.”
Hamas still refuses to provide information on the two soldiers, even to the Red Cross, said Rivlin
Turning to developments in the region, Rivlin said that there is closer cooperation between Israel and her neighbors, and that he believes that there is a regional desire to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
He also welcomed the chance for Israel to renew relations with Turkey.
“We have a long history of cooperation, and I believe we have a promising future of cooperation,” said Rivlin. “I understand the many Israelis that disagree or feel hurt by the agreement, but our elected leaders have the responsibility to act in the country’s best interest. There are no shortcuts in the Middle East. Hatred spreads much faster than hope, and the only way to move forward is direct negotiations.”
Rivlin thanked Ban for his dedication to the region and peoples around the world, and told him that despite occasional disagreements, he would always be welcome “as a friend of Israel, who knows the importance of a strong Israel.”
In addition to his regular entourage, Ban was accompanied by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Danny Danon, who was congratulated by Rivlin on his recent election to chair the UN legal affairs panel, which also deals with international terrorism. He is the first Israeli to hold this office.
Ban said he wanted to use the opportunity of his visit to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to discuss the way forward. Earlier in the day, he met with innovators at Tel Aviv University who are working to build a better tomorrow.
In Ban’s perception, a better tomorrow “means a future free of stabbings, shootings and bombings, which will not achieve anything because violence is never a solution. Such acts are precisely designed to breed fear and uncertainty,” said Ban, who condemned the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
“They eat away at trust and hope, drive Palestinians and Israelis further apart, and strip away a sense of empathy for one another.”
He was equally insistent that “50 years of occupation has had a devastating impact on Palestinian lives, undermining the belief in a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” and emphasized that it has not brought security to the Israelis.
“Leaders on both sides need to take concrete steps to restore hope and a political horizon, so that the Israeli and Palestinian people see a pathway to peace, not a quagmire of recurring violence,” he said.
Ban encouraged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to engage with the Quartet on its recommendations, following its soon-to-be published report on creating conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations.
Ban reiterated his belief that the only viable solution to the conflict is a negotiated two-state solution, and pledged that efforts towards this goal would be supported by the United Nations.
In their public statements, neither Rivlin nor Ban referred to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejecting the European Parliament’s request for Abbas to meet with Rivlin last week when both were in Belgium.
Rivlin told Ban that he was disappointed that Abbas had once again resorted to falsehoods about Israel in his address to the European Parliament.
With regard to Abbas’s refusal to meet with him, Rivlin said that this illustrated his contention that it is essential to introduce strong confidence-building measures in order to facilitate a return to the negotiating table. (Jerusalem Post)
US Army Seeks Purchase of Israeli Missile Interceptor for European Defense Against Russia
A United States Army general said Monday that the US is looking to purchase the short-range missile interceptor used by Israel’s Iron Dome system, which would then be used for European air defense against Russia.
“With all that is happening in Europe, especially the fact that Russia has really awakened itself and has really decided to rebuild its military and is really posing a threat, we are looking at how we can do the multi-tiered defense,” Major General Glenn Bramhall of the US Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command told Reuters at a conference hosted by the Israeli security organization iHLS.
Bramhall said the US has test-launched the Israeli short-range interceptor missile called “Tamir,” with the expectation of complementing the army’s mid-range Patriot and THAAD interceptors within two to three years.
“We are looking at multiple solutions to actually create a third tier that is missing. Patriot and THAAD are great systems that do what they were designed to do. But I don’t think we would want to waste a Patriot or a THAAD missile on something that can be affected by something that’s lower-cost and is actually designed for that job itself,” said Bramhall.
The Iron Dome has had a 90-percent success rate on intercepting Palestinian-fired rockets. Each Tamir unit would cost $100,000 for the US, according to Iron Dome developer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Bramhall said that price is “within an acceptable range.”
“It would be right for us at Rafael, and for every Israeli citizen, to support whatever the Americans decide on,” Yosi Druker, a vice president at Rafael, told Reuters. (the Algemeiner)
Lifeguard discovers 900-year-old oil lamp on Ashkelon beach during morning jog
A routine run on the beach last week turned into a fascinating archeological discovery, when the jogger happened upon a 900-yearold clay oil lamp at Tel Ashkelon National Park, the Antiquities Authority said on Monday.
Meir Amsik, a lifeguard who works at the beach, said he came across the relic when he stopped to pick up planks washed from the Mediterranean onto the ancient southern port city’s shoreline.
“Suddenly, I saw part of a cliff deteriorating,” he said. “So I made my up way there and saw this intriguing oil lamp lying there in its entirety. I thought it might be an antique, so I picked it up.”
Amsik showed the find to a colleague at his lifeguard station, and the duo decided to contact the Antiquities Authority to report the finding.
After analyzing the small oil lamp, Sa’ar Ganor, the IAA’s archeologist for the Ashkelon District, dated it to the Crusader Period in the 12th century.
“You can see the signs of wear and soot on the opening,” said Ganor, noting the oil lamp was unearthed as a result of a receding and weathered coastal cliff.
“The candle represents part of the cultural richness of the ancient city of Ashkelon, which was once a city of commerce,” Ganor added. “Ashkelon’s port function was to import goods from the sea and to export manufactured goods from all parts of southern Israel. At Tel Ashkelon National Park, you can find evidence of preserved life dating back to the Canaanite period 4,000 years ago, up to the modern era.”
After learning of the oil lamp’s significance, Amsik said he was delighted to contribute to its recovery and restoration for the public.
“Finding such a treasure is very exciting,” he said. “Just to feel like a part of history fulfills a sense of appreciation for what was here before me, and makes me feels like a link in the chain.”
Guy Fitoussi, of the IAA’s Robbery Prevention Unit, praised Amsik for reporting the find.
“The lifeguards on the beach are not just saving people, but even antiques,” said Fitoussi.
“People must understand that ancient fossils they find belong to the state and the general public. This finding could be very valuable for research and historical knowledge for all of us. Thankfully, more and more people report finding antiques.” (Jerusalem Post)
Turkey deal – Just enough ambiguity for both sides to claim victory
by Herb Keinon The Jerusalem Post
In 2013, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned his Turkish colleague Recep Tayyip Erdogan and – at the urging of US President Barack Obama – apologized for “operational errors” in the Mavi Marmara incident, the Turks were anything but gracious.
Indeed, billboards erected in Ankara at the time seemed designed to rub Israel’s nose in the apology: “Israel apologized to Turkey,” they exclaimed. “Dear prime minister [Erdogan], we are grateful that you let our country experience this pride.”
The words were superimposed over pictures of a confident Erdogan and a tired, gloomy-looking Netanyahu. This was the Turkish version of Danny Ayalon seating the Turkish ambassador in a low stool when he called him into his office to protest anti-Semitic content on Turkish television in January 2010.
Similar billboards are unlikely to dot the Ankara skyline on Tuesday, when the directors-general of the foreign ministries of both countries sign the rapprochement agreement.
Even Turkey will be hard pressed to present this accord as bringing Israel to its knees.
Immediately after the Mavi Marmara incident, the Turks presented two necessary conditions for reconciliation: a formal apology, and the payment of compensation to the families of those killed while trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Shortly afterward, Erdogan climbed even further up the tree, demanding a third condition: Israel would have to lift its naval blockade of Gaza.
This demand was unrealistic from the get-go.
The Palmer report put out by the UN declared that the blockade was legal, and it was unreasonable to really believe Israel would sacrifice its security considerations to meet a Turkish demand.
Yet it was a demand that Erdogan made, one that must be seen in the context of the time – this was late 2010, and Erdogan was the darling of the Arab world.
He then became an absolute hero in the Arab world for putting Israel “in its place,” first for demonstratively walking out on President Shimon Peres at Davos in 2009, then for extracting an apology from Ayalon for the low-couch incident, and then for expelling Israel’s envoy from Ankara after the Mavi Marmara.
This was before the “Arab Spring” and the Syrian civil war. Erdogan was the new sultan.
This was an Erdogan so full of himself that he hinted he would send warships to accompany “aid” ships to Gaza to relieve the blockade (which never happened), an Erdogan who was going to show off to everyone and make a triumphant visit to Gaza in 2013 (also something that never happened).
He repeated his demand to lift the blockade, or “siege,” as the Turks often call it, ever since.
Even as late as April, his spokesman said there would be no deal without a lifting the blockade.
But the blockade was not lifted, yet the deal will be signed.
It will be signed because Turkey needs the deal as much, if not even more, than Israel. For years the negotiations were one-way, based on what Israel had to give Turkey: the apology, compensation, lifting the blockade. But as Turkey’s strategic situation worsened, as peace negotiations with the Kurdish PKK broke down, as the Syrian civil war went on and on, and as its relations with Egypt and with Russia deteriorated, it was no longer a country that could dictate terms.
Into the breach stepped Israel, setting conditions of its own, the first being the closing of the Hamas office in Turkey.
But neither country got everything it wanted.
Israel did not get a Turkish commitment to evict Hamas, only a promise that the terrorist group will not plan or mount attacks against it from Turkish soil, or raise funds. And regardless of how they spin it, the Turks did not get their demands met either. Yes, they can bring in aid, and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım can make the claim that Turkey is the protector of the Palestinians. But Erdogan did not get Israel to fundamentally change its Gaza policy, i.e., lifting the blockade.
In the final analysis, the accord was signed because it is in the interest of both countries to cooperate where they can in keeping the region from collapsing, and because they could both point to elements in the accord as a victory.
After six years, the deal was signed because the Middle East and Turkey’s standing have changed dramatically, and because an accord was drawn up with enough diplomatic ambiguity that each side could – as they did on Monday – present it as a victory of sorts.
But claims of total victory, in either capital, are disingenuous.
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