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Home arrow Press Reviews arrow Press Review nį241. By Gilberte Jacaret
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
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Press Review nį241. By Gilberte Jacaret Print E-mail

Israel launches long-awaited solar field... By Rivka Borochov. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. July 17, 2011

... A red-carpet gala celebrated the opening of the power-generating field at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev.    

On a dusty path on Kibbutz Ketura, one of the sunniest spots in Israel, there was cause for celebration this past World Environment Day, June 5. On that day, the Israeli company Arava Power marked an historic event for Israel, the solar energy industry and the environment. It took five years to get the permits needed, but Arava Power finally inaugurated its 4.95-megawatt solar power field in Israel in the presence of VIPs from the press, government and business worlds, along with investors including Siemens and even the rapper Shyne.
There was a tangible excitement in the air, heralding hope as Israel quite literally heads toward an energy drought - since tapping into its offshore natural gas reserves is still far off.

Developing its green tech brand
Though Israel is known worldwide for developing clean technologies, it has yet to prove itself locally in generating its own form of renewable energy, enough to reach its 10 percent renewable energy goal by 2020.

Arava Power executives hope that their company, now with a foothold in the sand and sun, can play a major role in that production by providing an eventual 400 megawatts of power to fulfill its vision of being a "renewable light unto the nations."

Their recent launch at Ketura can provide enough power to serve the energy needs of about three kibbutzim, or communal-style villages, in the hot sunny region of Eilat. Though the energy produced at Kibbutz Ketura is only a drop in the bucket, Arava Power is concurrently establishing its second solar field nearby, which will be eight times larger than the field launched on June 5.

In total, Arava expects to launch 40 solar energy fields in the Negev desert region, with the help of attractive feed-in tariffs for investors supplied by and guaranteed by the state.

Jonathan Cohen, the CEO of Arava Power, believes that Israel's Negev could provide about 2,000 to 2,500 megawatts of solar power to the grid, and his company's role in achieving this might require about $2 billion in financing. Obviously, there will be investment opportunities for individuals and companies looking to reap the profits of Israel's evolving solar industry.

A red carpet in the sand
Meanwhile, the recent launch at Kibbutz Ketura, a half hour drive north of Eilat, will show the embryonic industry in Israel how it's done, growing pains and all.

Those present at the gala event, which included a red carpet running through the sand, may reasonably hope to be invited to similar celebrations in coming years.

The tentative date for flipping the switch on the power plant is June 15. "The government of Israel is intent on ensuring that Israeli technology, research and development is aggressively developed. It plays an important role in the ongoing development of solar entities within Israel, as something that is going to be budgeted and addressed," says Cohen. "At this very moment, Israel is in need of electricity. We are going through an electric drought, with hundreds of megawatts needed."

He explains that Arava Power chose to work with the Chinese-produced Suntech solar panels because Israel's nascent solar energy technologies have not yet stood the test of time. "The technology needs to be time-proven to prove its bankability," says Cohen, acknowledging the chicken-and-egg conundrum.

"When the means are made available to ensure Israeli novel technologies are included in Israel's solar drive, we and others will be looking to employ them as much as possible."


Prominent Belgian Jewish figure resigned from Brussels University Board to denounce anti-Semitic incidents... European Jewish Press. July 17, 2011

Brussels: A prominent figure of the Jewish community of Belgium has resigned from the Board of Free University of Brussels (ULB) after denouncing several grave anti-Semitic incidents within the institution.

Jacques Brotchi, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and honorary professor at the ULB, told EJP: "I resigned from the Board of the University Foundation which collects funds for research because I deeply deplored the absence of a strong and appropriate reaction from the university authorities to a succession of anti-Semitic incidents.

In his letter of resignation addressed to the ULB Rector, he wrote: "I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB." He added, "I asked if the university of free-examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism."

The incidents, which have been repeatedly denounced by the Union of Jewish Students of Belgium (UEJB), included the staging of an Israeli military checkpoint on the university campus, the invitation of anti-Semitic French comic Dieudonne to a conference and the absence of reaction to the comments he made, a Nazi-style student feast and the publication of an article in the magazine of Solvay, the economics and management school, in which the author used anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudices comparable to those of the Protocols of Elders of Zion.

The Union of Jewish Students urged the academic authorities to take measures against the "deteriorating climate" on the campus.

According to Brotchi the situation at Brussels University is not isolated. "It is comparable to what is happening in other universities in Europe and elsewhere with the academic boycott of Israel campaigns where anti-Zionism takes the form of anti-Semitism." "But this is no reason to stay without reaction," he added.

Israel ambassador denounces 'anti-Semitic' Spain in farewell message... European Jewish Press. July 17, 2011

Madrid: Israel's ambassador in Madrid described the "hatred and anti-Semitism" he had experienced during his four years in Spain, in a message post on the embassy website Saturday.

Raphael Shutz said that his four years in Spain had included some difficult moments.
He cited Israel's January 2009 assault on the Palestinian-held Gaza Strip, which provoked an international outcry and the May 2010 commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists in which nine Turks were killed.

In addition, he said, "...the fact of having personally experienced the hate and the anti-Semitism that exists in Spanish society is something that I take away with me."
But he stressed too, that he had also had many positive experiences.

Last month, as Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki visited Madrid, Spain called for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks and a two-state solution to the conflict.

In February, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez made her first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, in a trip marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties.
As part of this event, the Prince of Asturias visited Israel last April, after Israeli President Shimon Peres traveled to Madrid in February.

"Relations between our two countries are just beginning," said Shutz in his message Saturday.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were first established in January 1986 after centuries of hostility following the publication of a royal order expelling the Jews from Spain in 1492.

The edict of expulsion was formally nullified 500 years later at an
official ceremony in March 1992 which was attended by the Spanish king and then Israeli president Haim Herzog.

Alon Bar, who will take over Schutz’s post in August, was already number two at the Madrid embassy in the nineties. He is currently head of Israel's foreign ministry's cultural relations department.


As U.S. Steps Back, Europe Takes Bigger Role in Mideast Peace Push... By Mark Landler. New York Times, July 20, 2011

Washington: It is a truism of Middle East peacemaking that the United States is the pivotal player — the most credible broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But with talks at a standstill, the Obama administration now finds itself on the sidelines, and Europe is emerging as the key diplomatic actor.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, have crisscrossed the Continent in recent weeks, trying to woo leaders who are weighing whether to support a Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations in September. Neither man has visited Washington since the spring.

That may suit the administration just fine. The White House, several officials said, has deliberately kept a low profile since President Obama’s speech on the Middle East in May, in which he tried unsuccessfully to break the stalemate by proposing a starting point for negotiating the contours of a Palestinian state.

Europe’s rising role stems not only from American fatigue with a seemingly intractable problem, but also from the peculiar dynamics of the Palestinian campaign at the United Nations. With more than 100 countries, most in the developing world, expected to support Palestinian recognition — and the United States almost certain to oppose it — Britain, France and Germany are viewed as influential swing votes.

“Rarely has Europe been so courted when it comes to Middle East diplomacy,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Europe is the prize this summer.”

For the Europeans, who have also taken a lead role in the NATO military campaign in Libya, the chance to play Middle East power broker is gratifying. But it comes with a risk, said Martin S. Indyk, director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and a former American ambassador to Israel.

“The action in the United Nations is a bigger problem for them than for us,” he said. “It has the potential of splitting the E.U., with some siding with us and Israel and some siding with the Palestinians.”

A rift is the last thing the European Union needs, at a time when the bloc is being strained by the debt crisis in Greece. Already, the major countries appear divided, with Germany and Italy rejecting the Palestinian campaign, France and Spain receptive, and Britain on the fence.

For some Europeans, leaving the door open to Palestinian recognition is a handy way to pressure Israel to return to negotiations, which have been on ice since last fall. To break that deadlock, Mr. Obama proposed using the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, adjusted to account for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as the basis for negotiating a new Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu initially rejected that formula, saying it would render Israel indefensible.

But an Israeli official said that in recent weeks, Mr. Netanyahu had moved much closer to accepting the idea, provided that the Palestinians agreed to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, something they have long refused.

Last week, the United States tried to build support for such a quid pro quo from the Quartet, a Middle East peacemaking group that also includes the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. Winning the Quartet’s endorsement would have put pressure on both sides to resume negotiations and taken much of the steam out of the Palestinian march to the United Nations.

While European countries have publicly backed Mr. Obama’s proposal for restarting the talks, several of them, as well as Russia, balked at the Jewish-state provision, officials briefed on the meeting said. Rather than issue an anodyne statement, as it often does, the Quartet chose to say nothing at all.

The Palestinian date with the United Nations looms large, though no one is exactly sure what will happen after it. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, warned that his country faced a “diplomatic tsunami.” Others worry that it will kick off a third intifada, given the political ferment elsewhere in the region.

“The conditions for massive public reaction are ripe,” Ghaith al-Omari, the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, said. “If things go down that path, it would be highly destabilizing.”
The United States continues to work on European allies and the Palestinians to point out the downsides of going for recognition, including the threat that Congress could vote to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Still, the administration has opted for what one Middle East diplomat called a “tactical withdrawal,” leaving it to Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who is the special envoy to the Quartet, to try to close the gaps. While the United States does not want to be isolated by vetoing a Palestinian resolution, which Mr. Obama has signaled he will do, the administration appears less agitated by this prospect than it was a few months ago.

“The U.S. is frustrated, but ultimately an outcome where it vetoes a resolution is not the end of the world,” said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group.
Palestinian leaders insist they are determined to go through with the drive for recognition, but it could take less aggressive forms: petitioning the General Assembly, rather than the Security Council, for nonmember status, thus sidestepping an American veto.

The Palestinians could even propose a resolution that echoes Mr. Obama’s formula for talks. This is where Europe plays an important role. Without support from big countries like Britain and France, the Palestinians may opt to hold off or pursue a softer resolution. And if they go ahead at the Security Council, the Europeans could introduce an alternative resolution embracing Mr. Obama’s principles.

“The United States has put its cards on the table, but Europe has not yet done that,” said Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who used to run the Jerusalem office of the Quartet. “The run-up to September is not about numbers. It’s about: Where does the West stand?”
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