Friday, 16 December 2016
PRESS REVIEW N°500
By Gilberte JACARETISRAELThe Real Illegal Settlements
by Bassam Tawil
December 5, 2016 at 5:00 am
While construction in Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.
The Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union, are behind the Palestinian initiative.
The Jewish outpost of Amona, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. Apparently, settlements are only a "major obstacle to peace" when they are constructed by Jews.
The EU and some Islamic governments and organizations are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.
The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.
As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition to overlooking the Palestinian building project, the West has clearly been neglecting a crucial difference between the two efforts: while the construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.
In this behind-the-scenes endeavor, which does not meet even the most minimum standards required by engineers, architects and housing planners, the Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground.
A quick tour of the areas surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south easily exposes the colossal construction that is taking place there. In most cases, these high-rise buildings are slapped together without licenses or any adequate planning or safety concerns.
An example of massive illegal Palestinian construction near Shufat and Anata, on the northeastern outskirts of Jerusalem.
The Jewish outpost of Amona in the central West Bank, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. In 2006, the High Court of Israel ruled that the outpost is illegal under Israeli law because it lies on private Palestinian land. In 2014, the High Court ordered the government to evacuate and demolish the entire outpost within two years.
In Israel, as Amona demonstrates, no one is above the law. Israel boasts an independent judiciary system that is second to none.
Yet as the debate in Israel intensifies over the fate of Amona, the Palestinians are making a mockery of laws and building regulations by embarking on massive construction of illegal neighborhoods and buildings. Apparently, settlements are only a "major obstacle to peace" when they are constructed by Jews.
In recent years and continuing to the present, the Palestinians, with the aid of Western donors for whom only Jewish construction is anathema, are working night and day to create irreversible facts in the form of not just single-family houses, but masses of giant high-rise buildings. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union are behind the Palestinian initiative.
Ironically, this has been taking place even when it means that the Palestinians have been stealing land from our own people.
The Palestinian building is taking place mostly in what is called Area C of the West Bank, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is supposed to be under exclusive Israeli control. The building has also been mushrooming in many neighborhoods -- even in entire villages -- surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south, leaving the city with only one option: to expand towards the west, thereby building a giant collar of cement effectively to surround and choke off Jerusalem from the Jews.
Recently, entire Arab neighborhoods with crowded high-rises have shot up around Jerusalem. Only a handful of steps separate some of the buildings, and most lack proper sewage systems. Apartment prices range from $25,000 to $50,000 USD. These are ridiculous prices compared with the real costs of apartments in both Arab and Jewish (legal) neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase a three-room apartment in the city for less than $250,000 USD.
The new neighborhoods are located in Kufr Akab, Samiramis, Kalandya, Beit Hanina, Shufat, Ras Khamis and Anata in the north of Jerusalem.
In the southern and eastern parts of the city, new neighborhoods have emerged with noticeable suddenness in Ras Al-Amoud, A-Tur, Al-Zaim, Jabal Mukaber, Um Tuba and Jabal Mukaber. These areas fall within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. However, failing to halt the illegal construction and leaving the city besieged from north, east and south, Jerusalem Municipality officials admit that Israel will have lost the war against illegal Palestinian construction unless immediate action is taken.
Alarmed by the ongoing illegal construction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently took the unprecedented measure of petitioning the High Court to allow the city to demolish 14 illegally built structures in east Jerusalem.
Most importantly, there is no housing crisis for the Arab population; it is not an Arab housing crisis that is prompting this spree of illegal Palestinian construction. Rather, the goal is political: to show the world that Jerusalem is an Arab, and not a Jewish, city. By and large, the apartments remain empty: there is simply no real demand.
Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the "contractors" are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project.
"They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it," said a resident whose land was "confiscated" by the illegal contractors.
"They tell you if you don't like it, go to court, knowing that by the time the legal procedures are over they would have succeeded in building another tall building and even selling some of the apartments.
"Many Arab land owners feel helpless. They tell us that it is their national duty to build as much as they can on any empty land, otherwise the Jews would be building there."
Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have managed to build more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The construction continues to this moment, unabated. Partial funding comes from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some Arab and Islamic countries These countries include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other oil-rich countries in the Gulf. However, the Palestinians continue to complain that the Arab and Islamic funding is below expectations.
In Area C, a stretch of land accounting for 60% of the West Bank, the European Union, which bitterly condemns construction in Jewish settlements as illegal, openly funds illegal constructioncarried out by Palestinians. The EU argues that its support for Palestinian construction falls under the category of "humanitarian relief" and is permissible under international law.
The EU's real goal is to help the Palestinians create these irreversible facts on the ground ahead of any possible future peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. It is aimed at facilitating the mission of the Palestinians to seize as much land as possible, even if that means funding illegal construction or providing mobile homes to Palestinian communities in this area.
In short, it is the EU and some Arabs and Muslims who are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.
The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media -- those dozens of correspondents who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.
Forty-two Jewish families in Amona have the world riveted, but what does the world think about the Palestinian land-grab? It is time to call out this treachery, this illegality and this double-standard, and demand that the Palestinians also cease the construction of illegal settlements, which are designed with one aim in mind: to pre-determine the outcome of any future peace deal.
Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.Cop stabbed with screwdriver, lightly hurt in Jerusalem attack
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What you need to know about our new F-35
Published on: December 5, 2016
2016 is a year of momentous events around the world. The IAF continues this trend with its landing of the F-35. This is what you need to know about the IAF's newest asset.
One of Two
Israel is the first to receive the state-of-the-art jet outside of the USA. The IAF has sent two delegations to America to learn about the plane, and how to best utilize its capabilities.
The IAF is receiving a total of 50 jets within the next few years. The first two are being flown from America and are landing on December 12, 2016. The others will be shipped by sea, including a test plane which will arrive in 2019.
The F-35 is one of a kind. Its stealth technology allows our pilots to carry out top-secret missions without tipping off the enemy. Within 20 seconds of takeoff, a team on the ground can see the route data of the jet, letting the pilot fly at his or her best while knowing that they've got support on the ground.
As the Middle East grows more and more unstable, and as groups that threaten to destroy us race to stockpile weapons, we need to stay a step ahead of the game. The F-35 gives us the edge we need to take on groups and armies with even the most advanced technology.
Once the F-35 lands in Israel, it will be all our own. The IAF is adding its own systems to the jet, bringing a touch of the Start Up Nation to this already state-of-the-art plate. All maintenance and testing of the plane will be done in Israel, and the planes are projected to be operational in about one year.
Posted in Air Force, IDF Units, Updates and tagged in f-35, f-35i, IAF, IDF, Israel Air Force.PM hails Azerbaijan cooperation as beacon of Jewish-Muslim coexistence
During Netanyahu's historic visit to Baku, Azeri leader says his country has bought some $5b in weapons from Jewish stateBY RAPHAEL AHREN December 13, 2016, 5:00 pm 7
BAKU, Azerbaijan — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday hailed Israel's multi-billion dollar military cooperation with Azerbaijan as a positive example of Muslim-Jewish coexistence.
"Israel is the Jewish state and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority," Netanyahu said after meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. "Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at Baku's Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
A secular state that has long had warm relations with Israel, the overwhelmingly Muslim Azerbaijan is one of Israel's main trading partners, buying weapons systems and providing the Jewish state with the lion's share of its oil.
"The world sees so much intolerance and darkness, this is an example of how the Muslim-Jewish relationship can and should be everywhere," Netanyahu said on the first leg of his historic two-day visit to Muslim-majority countries in bid to further develop security, economic, and diplomatic ties.
Netanyahu in his remarks also noted the growing cooperation between the two countries in the energy, agriculture, IT and education sectors.
At the press conference, Aliyev said that Baku has purchased nearly $5 billion in Israeli weapons over the years.
"We actively cooperate in the area of defense industries. This cooperation has lasted for many years already," Aliyev told Israeli and Azerbaijani reporters at Baku's Zagulba Palace.
"To give you one figure to illustrate how broad this cooperation is, so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to $5 billion. To be more precise, $4.85 billion."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greeted by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at Baku's Zagulba Palace on December 13, 2016. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Though most of the military contracts have already been executed, Aliyev said there was room for increased partnerships with Israel.
Two Israeli officials said they were surprised that Azerbaijan chose to reveal exact figures detailing its defense deals with Israel.
Earlier this year, Armenian forces claimed Baku deployed Israeli-made kamikaze drones in a battle against them in the ongoing fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
According to reports, Baku is interested in acquiring Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, a deal that was likely to be discussed during Netanyahu's visit.
"We're very satisfied with the level of this cooperation," Aliyev told reporters.
Nearly 98 percent of Azerbaijan's 10 million inhabitants are Muslim, the vast majority of them Shiites, along with a tiny, 20,000-member Jewish minority.
Netanyahu was to later Tuesday lay a wreath at Şəhidlər Xiyabanı, or Martyrs Lane, a memorial dedicated to Azeris killed by the Soviets during the 1990 January Massacre and the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted from 1988 to 1994. He also planned to visit the Ohr Avner Jewish educational complex, run by the Chabad movement, where he was scheduled to meet with representatives of Azerbaijan's Jewish community.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu and his delegation will travel to Kazakhstan for talks with officials interested in Israeli counterterrorism know-how and in doing business with Israel's high-tech sector, a means of diversifying its economy, which is currently dominated by exports of hydrocarbons.USA
Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with G.O.P.
New York Times By DAVID E. SANGERDEC. 10, 2016
WASHINGTON — An extraordinary breach has emerged between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the national security establishment, with Mr. Trump mocking American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, and top Republicans vowing investigations into Kremlin activities.
On Saturday, intelligence officials said it was not until the week after the election that the C.I.A. altered its formal assessment of Russia's activities to conclude that the government of President Vladimir V. Putin was not just trying to undermine the election, but had also acted to give one candidate an advantage.
Wary of being seen as politicizing their findings, C.I.A. analysts had been reluctant to come to that conclusion in the midst of the election — even as many supporters of Hillary Clinton believed it was obvious, given the leak of emails from her campaign chairman and others.
One intelligence official said there were indications in early October that the Russians had shifted their focus to harm Mrs. Clinton. The C.I.A.'s slowness in shifting its assessment, another official said, was one reason President Obama ordered a full review of "lessons learned" on the operation to influence the election.
Trump's pick for State seen as a concrete outreach to Russia.Rex Tillerson is an accomplished executive who has advocated for US engagement in Middle East and is considered close to Putin
THE TIMES OF ISRAEL BY JEFF HORWITZ December 11, 2016, 8:27 am
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has found an accomplished American executive in Rex Tillerson, but one whose longstanding support for free trade, international law and an expansive US presence in the Middle East largely doesn't fit with what Trump has pitched to supporters.
A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Tillerson came to Exxon Mobile Corporation as a production engineer straight out of the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and never left. Groomed for an executive position, Tillerson came up in the rough-and-tumble world of oil production, holding posts in the company's central United States, Yemen and Russian operations.
His nomination as the country's top diplomat would be the nascent Trump administration's most concrete outreach yet to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Success in Russia required aligning the company's interests with those of the Russian government, mettle and good relations with Putin. Exxon steadily expanded its Russian business even as its rivals faced expropriation and regulatory obstacles, and in 2013 Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship on Tillerson.
In 2006, Tillerson won the battle to succeed former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond. Under the Texan's leadership, oil prices broke records and Exxon's profits helped make it the most valuable public company in the world, with a security force totaling thousands of employees, direct channels with governments worldwide and a strong aversion to American sanctions or limitations on where it could operate.
In this Friday, March 27, 2015 file photo, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the release of a report by the National Petroleum Council on oil drilling in the Arctic, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Tillerson has used Exxon's enormous profits to explore new regions for oil and gas and to invest in new acquisitions like XTO Resources, a company that had helped pioneer drilling for natural gas in formations of shale in the United States. But over the years oil has become more difficult and expensive to find as large, easy-to-tap reservoirs in stable countries were slowly depleted. Exxon and other giant oil corporations found it ever more difficult to replace the oil they sold every day with new resources, and they were forced to look in every more difficult and hostile regions for oil and gas.
"Energy made in America is not as important as energy simply made wherever it is most economic," he said in 2007 in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. "We are free-market, free-trade advocates," he said in another speech to the group five years later, declaring that the greatest boon for American energy security would be support for oil production and trading worldwide.
While Tillerson advocates for a hands-off approach to markets, he's backed continued American engagement in the Middle East. After the Iraq war, Exxon agreed to develop a large project in still-unstable southern Iraq at terms that less favorable to Exxon than most deals. In 2011, Tillerson announced an expansive relationship with Russia's Rosneft that will spend years and billions of dollars developing technology to explore and produce oil and gas in icy waters in the Russian Arctic.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in April 2012. (CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons)
While the revolutionary gains from shale fracking have poised the US to supply far more of its own energy, Tillerson has said it would be a mistake to step back.
"The question you have to ask is, 'well then, who steps into that void,'" he said, suggesting it would be a "large consuming country" such as China.
While his predecessor was a firm skeptic about the link between fossil fuel combustion and climate change, Tillerson has softened the company's position on the issue, even if he's unconvinced by the most dire predictions of the consequences.
At an industry conference in 2007, Tillerson acknowledged Earth's climate is changing, the average temperature is rising and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. He also noted that climate remains a complex area of scientific study. Exxon remains under fire for its past efforts to undercut climate change — even as recently exposed internal documents show the company's own scientists recognized climate change's legitimacy as early as the 1970s.
But he said it's clear the risks of climate change to society and ecosystems could be significant, and it's prudent to develop and implement "sensible strategies that address these risks while not reducing our ability to progress other global priorities such as economic development, poverty eradication and public health."
Tillerson was slated to retire in March at age 65 under the company's mandatory retirement policy. Paid $27.3 million last year, Tillerson has accumulated roughly $160 million in Exxon stock along with $149 million of unvested stock options, according a proxy statement the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Outside the oil industry, Tillerson has served as director of the United Negro College Fund and as chairman of the American Petroleum Institute. A former Eagle Scout, Tillerson also served as the National President of the Boy Scouts of America.TURKEY
Turkey declares day of mourning after bombing kills 38 and wounds 166
Deputy prime minister says outlawed Kurdistan Workers' party may be behind attack outside Istanbul football stadium
The Guardian Helena Smith and agencies
Sunday 11 December 2016 08.54 GMT First published on Saturday 10 December 2016 20.14 GMT
A twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in the Turkish city of Istanbul killed 38 people, mostly police officers, and injured more than 160 others, the country's interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, has said.
The explosions, triggered by a car and suicide bomb less than one minute apart, struck outside Beşiktaş's stadium less than two hours after a match had finished on Saturday evening.
Officials said the attack, which killed more than 30 police officers, was believed to have been orchestrated by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) and 13 people had been detained overnight.
Fourteen of the 166 wounded remained in intensive care, Soylu said.
In comments broadcast on CNN Türk, Turkey's deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmuş, said countries offering messages condemning the bombing should also show solidarity with Turkey's fight against terrorism.
"The arrows point at the PKK. It is clearly a planned event. There will be an announcement once the investigations are over. We cannot say anything definite for now," he said.
The Prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, declared a day of mourning and ordered flags flown at half mast to commemorate the victims, the state-run Anadolu agency said......
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled a planned trip to Kazakhstan, his office said. Erdoğan described the blasts as a terrorist attack on police and civilians. He said the aim of the bombings, two hours after the end of a match attended by thousands of people, had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.
"Nobody should doubt that with God's will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organizations ... and the forces behind them," he said in a statement.