Jewishupdates's Blog

January 17, 2010

A7News: Netanyahu Sought US Permission to Build in Jerusalem

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishupdates @ 1:48 pm

logo.jpgShevat 2, 5770 / Sunday, Jan. 17 ’10

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Headlines

  1. Netanyahu Sought US Permission to Build in Jerusalem
  2. Israeli Volunteers in Haiti: Sabbath was ‘Hellish’ but Stirring
  3. Jews Applaud, PA & UNRWA Slam Canada’s Funding Change
  4. Left Aghast at Arrest of ‘Civil Rights’ Group Chief
  5. Hard-Line Government Minister Visits Abu Dhabi
  6. Left-Right Graffiti War at Shdema
  7. Cabinet to Decide on New Chametz Law
  8. Likud, Kadima Propose: 6-12 Months Between Journalism & Politics

1. Netanyahu Sought US Permission to Build in Jerusalem

by Hillel Fendel

The story behind the recent announcement of 700 new housing units in Jerusalem does not paint a pretty picture for future construction in new Jerusalem neighborhoods. The new units are a result of strong pressure and even threats by coalition partner Shas, a request by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the U.S., one-time permission for a precise amount of housing units, and a coordinated, weak condemnation.

The information comes from an unnamed senior source in the Prime Minister’s Bureau and sources close to Housing Minister Ariel Attias, reports correspondent Haggai Huberman. Attias of Shas reportedly told Netanyahu that his party would no longer be able to tolerate what had become a “construction freeze” in Jerusalem – and that he would make a public statement to this effect if the situation continued.

In fact, two months ago, Minister Attias told a television interviewer that not a single construction project had been authorized in eastern Jerusalem since Netanyahu took office at the end of March.

Sources close to Attias said that he was motivated by fears that he would be severely criticized by Shas supporters. They added that because of the ultimatum Attias issued Netanyahu, the Prime Minister agreed to issue the housing tenders – but said that they must be coordinated with the Americans.

The tenders in question, announced nearly a month ago, were for nearly 700 units: 198 in three projects in Pisgat Ze’ev, 377 in N’veh Yaakov, and 117 in Har Homa. All three neighborhoods are in areas liberated by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967.

The PM’s bureau source said that the numbers were determined in coordination with the Obama Administration, after Netanyahu explained that he must find a way to appease the nationalist and Shas camps regarding the freeze in Judea and Samaria.

Two other tenders – 150 units in Pisgat Ze’ev and 130 in Har Homa – are still in limbo, according to Housing Ministry sources, because adding them would mean that Israel exceeds the 700 approved by the United States.

Immediately following the announcement of the tenders, the U.S. government publicized a condemnation of sorts, stating that the US objects to new Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem and that Jerusalem’s final status must be resolved via bilateral negotiations with the support of the international community.

The PM’s Bureau source said that both the tender announcement and the condemnation were timed to coincide with the Christmas vacation, so that neither would receive much attention.

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2. Israeli Volunteers in Haiti: Sabbath was ‘Hellish’ but Stirring

by Gil Ronen

Volunteers from ZAKA, the religious emergency rescue group, said that they experienced a “hellish” Sabbath in Haiti but also experienced stirring moments during the Sabbath prayer.

The ZAKA delegation arrived in Haiti on Thursday after taking part in rescue operations, collection of bodies and identification at another disaster scene – the site of the helicopter crash in Mexico in which Jewish financier and philanthropist Moshe Saba was killed.

The ZAKA delegation decided to take charge of rescue operations at the ruins of the Haiti university building, an eight story structure that collapsed. They worked around the clock, assisted by members of the Jewish emergency rescue team of Mexico, which had accompanied them from their previous mission, and using equipment from the Mexican army. They succeeded in extricating eight Haitian students who were still alive and suffering from various degrees of injury, after spending 38 hours trapped under the wreckage. News of this success circulated among other rescue crews and added to their motivation, encouraging them not to give up on the possibility of finding survivors under the ruins.

Surrealistic prayer scene
The delegation members described their Sabbath experience as “hell,” with hundreds of bodies strewn all about with nobody there to bury them, and the stench of rotting flesh in the air. The group held the Sabbath prayers amidst the ruins, and later described “a surrealistic sight of Jews wrapped in tallitot [prayer shawls] atop fallen buildings.” Many of the local people believed that the Jews were praying for the well-being of the injured and to the memory of the dead, and gathered around them to watch the prayers. Dozens of the onlookers approached the Jewish delegation when the prayer was over and kissed their tallitot.

The volunteers reported a particularly moving moment when they reached the verse “He Who looks at the earth and it quakes,” which is taken from Psalms 104 and is a part of the Sabbath prayer. They said that many of them shook physically at this point, when they realized for the first time what terrible consequences the verse refers to.

The ZAKA team was unable to make contact with the Home Front Command delegation that arrived directly from Israel because the telephone system and other communications were down. They therefore nourished themselves with canned food they had brought with them from Mexico.

Members of the ZAKA delegation, who are no strangers to horrific disaster sites, nevertheless said that the sights they saw were “unbearable” and “such that the human mind cannot digest.”

According to the ZAKA website, one member of the ZAKA team said: "There are no words to describe the grief over human beings like me and you who cry out for help and rescue, yet no one can rescue them.”

ZAKA rescuer at the university building

Treating a survivor

Ruins of the university building.

Film Footage from the IDF Home Front Command Team in Haiti

[flash:124430]

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3. Jews Applaud, PA & UNRWA Slam Canada’s Funding Change

by Hana Levi Julian

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is protesting a Canadian government decision to cut funding to the agency’s programs in the Palestinian Authority, in favor of redirecting the money towards the PA justice system.

UNRWA runs a numbers of schools as well as food distribution and other support programs, including quarterly stipends, in Arab towns and villages throughout Gaza, Judea and Samaria. The agency employs thousands of local PA Arabs in each of the regions to carry out its programs, each of which is also administered by local PA residents as well.

The redirection of funds, however, was applauded by the nonprofit Binai Brith of Canada organization, which praised the strategy as one that would further build PA government infrastructure.

Neither PA officials nor UNRWA was pleased by the decision. Until now, the Canadian government has provided UNRWA with approximately 11 percent of its budget, totaling approximately $10 million annually. In explaining the change, Canadian officials said that it was “difficult” for the government to monitor how the money was being used.

The Canada-Israel Committee also released a statement applauding the government’s reallocation of UNRWA’s funding to "direct food aid to the Palestinians."

Canada: PA Wanted ‘Direct Deposit’ to Treasury
Victor Toews, president of the Canadian Treasury Board, told reporters that he met in Ramallah on January 9 to discuss the matter with Ali al-Jarbawi, PA Minister of Planning and Administrative Development. Also present at the meeting were two other PA officials, PA Justice Minister Ali Khashan and PA Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughani.

Toews related that at the meeting, al-Jarbawi asked that the money be deposited “directly" to the PA Treasury. However, Toews said, the Canadian government refused the request.

“Canada has made a $300 million commitment over five years to the Palestinian Authority, but we want to put that money only into programs that are consistent with Canadian values,” he explained. “We are going to focus directing our funds on institution-building in the PA, such as building a proper functioning justice system… I told him [Jarbawi] that our [Canada’s] paramount concern is the security of Israel.”

Binai Brith: Hamas Infiltration in UNRWA?
“We are grateful that Canadians have a government that truly understands the situation in Israel and the territories and has acted to redirect funding from UNRWA to specific projects in the Palestinian Authority,” Frank Dimant, executive vice president of Binai Brith Canada, said in a statement.

“Institution-building in the Palestinian territories is crucial for civil society there to prosper and for a peace deal between the parties to become truly feasible. Canadian funding of UNRWA has always been problematic due to the fact that numerous reports spelled out the degree to which Hamas and other Islamic terrorist organizations have infiltrated UNRWA and diverted funding intended to benefit the Palestinian people,” the statement continued.

“This new directive from the Harper administration will ensure that the funding will actually go to real and specific projects for which there will at last be true accountability.”

UNRWA: ‘Ill-Judged Politically-Motivated Allegations’
Jerusalem-based UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said flatly the allegations were “baseless.” In a written response sent to Israel National News, Gunness noted that the United States and Europe, “which give serious support to the State of Israel, are UNRWA’s two most generous supporters. If these baseless allegations were even halfway true, do you really think the US and EC would give us hundreds of millions of dollars each year?” he asked.

“The latest US Government Accountability Office audit of UNRWA – the result of months of detailed investigations into these sorts of allegations – show how ill-judged these politically motivated allegations are,” he said.

Gunness also claimed that it is in Israel’s interest to maintain a strong UNRWA, “contributing to the peace and stability of this region – a fact recognized by the Israeli government which regularly praises our work,” he said. “There are groups who seem to think that if UNRWA were de-funded and disappeared, the refugees would disappear too. This is a deluded fiction,” he stated.

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4. Left Aghast at Arrest of ‘Civil Rights’ Group Chief

by Gil Ronen

MK Dov Henin (Hadash) and New Israel Fund Director Rachel Liel voiced outrage at the arrest Friday of Haggai Elad, Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), at a demonstration against Jewish life in Jerusalem’s Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood.

MK Henin wants the Knesset’s Interior Committee convened post-haste in order to discuss the arrest of Elad and 14 others at the demonstration, which took place one day after National Union Knesset members toured the neighborhood. The Jerusalem Police said in response that the demonstration was an illegal protest by anarchists and leftists who ignored police instructions to break up. “If the Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel feels free to participate in an illegal demonstration, he should not be surprised that he is arrested,” the police added.

Liel, who heads the New Israel Fund which finances ACRI, asked in a statement: “Who gave the order to add Israel to the group of states in which human rights activists are arrested for their activity? After the arrest of the Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Israeli citizens need to place this question before the Minister of Public Security and the Prime Minister. The hurried use of the tool of arrest in order to silence civil protest, without there being any violence, should be of concern to all those who could be involved in civil protest, from all ends of the political spectrum.”

Left wing groups have been holding licensed demonstrations every Friday over the past three months to protest renewed Jewish presence at the ancient Jerusalem neighborhood of Shimon HaTzaddik. This Friday’s demonstration was not licensed because police had already granted a license to another left endorsed event on the previous evening – a mixed Arab-Jewish dance party.

Demonstrator who blocked police megaphone surrounded…

…and carted away.

Another demonstrator hauled off.

Police haul away a man holding what looks like a camera or audio recorder.

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5. Hard-Line Government Minister Visits Abu Dhabi

by Hillel Fendel

For the first time, an Israeli Cabinet minister has made an official visit to the United Arab Emirates – as part of the IRENA conference on renewable energies.

Minister of Infrastructures Uzi Landau, a hard-line former Likud member who now represents the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party, is participating in the Preparatory Commission of IRENA, The International Renewable Energy Agency. He addressed the agency’s third session taking place today (Sunday) in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi.

“The fact that I have been invited is evidence that we can have genuine cooperation in the region regarding common interests,” Landau said before he left.

In his speech, Landau invited the participants – many of whom were Arab country representatives – to take part in next month’s conference in Eilat dealing with advanced water technologies.

“We have the desire to share our experience in this field with those who share this problem [of water shortage] with us,” Landau said. “The conference will take place not far from here, in the desert city of Eilat. I hope I will have the honor of seeing many of you visiting our country in the second half of February.”

The first time an Israeli flag was officially unfurled in the United Arab Emirates was three months ago, when two Israelis – from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructures – took part in IRENA’s preparatory council for today’s conference. They were joined by representatives of 70 other countries.

IRENA is an intergovernmental organisation focusing on renewable energies, concentrating on alternative energies in both industrialised and developing countries. Its overall goal is to effect a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy worldwide. Some 115 countries, including Israel, are signatories on the founding charter, but only eight have ratified it thus far, including Germany and Norway. Twenty-five ratifications are needed for the organization to gain official international status.

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6. Left-Right Graffiti War at Shdema

by Gil Ronen

Nationalist activists were unpleasantly surprised Friday when they discovered that anarchists, left-wingers and international activists covered many of the structures at the Shdema site with spray painted messages. The nationalist activists believe that security forces – who are stationed nearby – allowed the left-wing radicals were to carry out the vandalism for several hours, unhindered.

The nationalists had arrived at Shdema on Friday as they do every week, as part of an ongoing effort to make sure the recently abandoned military base site does not fall into enemy hands. While Dr. Tzipi Rainy gave a lecture about author Naomi Frankel, the Shdema Youth repainted the entire base, erasing the graffiti. This was preceded by a debate about whether or not it was right to erase biblical verses that contained the name of HaShem. Leading activists Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover convinced others that the writing should be erased.

Counterattack
“There is no doubt that they were aiming to dishonor Israel,” they stated. “Everyone realizes that just as we would not allow a stranger to enter our living room and paint on the walls, even if they painted biblical verses, this is doubly true in this case. The Arabs are raising their heads because of the atmosphere of retreat in the country. Therefore we could not content ourselves with erasing the graffiti and had no choice but to respond in kind. Shdema activists went down to the illegal structures the Arabs built at the foot of Shdema and spray painted all of the Arabs’ illegal structures from within and without, on the walls, doors and floors.”

Matar and Katzover said that an IDF officer on the spot had vowed “revenge” against the Jews, saying “I personally will make sure you do not ascend to Shdema again.” The Council for Shdema and Women in Green therefore call upon “the entire nation of Israel” to come to Shdema next Friday and show massive presence. Dr. Hagi Ben-Artzi will be giving a lecture at 9:00 AM Friday on “The Land of Israel in Kabbalistic Writings.”

Spraying for Israel at Shdema (file) / Flash 90

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7. Cabinet to Decide on New Chametz Law

by Gil Ronen

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is currently debating whether or not to support a bill that would make the display of chametz foodstuffs in any public space illegal during the Pesach (Passover) holiday.

The change would widen the scope of the prohibition on displaying chametz to include the interiors of stores. It would amend the present Chametz Law, which says that “the owner of a business will not display in public a chametz product for sale or consumption” by changing the words “in public” [Hebrew/Aramaic befumbi – ed.] to “in a public place” [bemakom tziburi].

The approval of a bill by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation means that the coalition MKs will support it, thus greatly increasing its chance of being written into law by the Knesset.

The bill’s explanatory notes say that “the court’s definition of the word ‘befumbi‘, which is only used to denote sale from a stand that is situated in the public domain, distorts the legislators’ intention and creates an absurd situation in which chametz can be displayed in a large store, like a supermarket, where thousands of people pass, but sale of pitas or beigalehs [soft pretzels – ed.] from a stand in a dark alleyway is forbidden.”

The bill’s initiator, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), explained Saturday evening that the new change is not a new form of "religious coercion," as “the Chametz Law is a Jewish law and not a religious one." He said that the state’s "Jewish character is a certificate of insurance to its existence and a justification for advancing a diplomatic solution in the region.

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8. Likud, Kadima Propose: 6-12 Months Between Journalism & Politics

by Gil Ronen

MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and MK Carmel Shama (Likud) have proposed bills to impose a cooling-off period on a journalist wishing to run for election to the Knesset. The bills to amend the Law of Elections to the Knesset would require journalists who cover politics to wait six months (in Tirosh’s bill) or a year (in Shama’s bill) after quitting journalism before entering politics.

The law currently mandates cooling-off periods for military personnel and public servants wishing to enter politics.

Both bills are widely interpreted as intended to hurt the chances of journalist Yair Lapid, the presenter of Channel 2’s Friday evening news show and the son of the late Yosef Tommy Lapid, who was also a journalist-turned-politician. Pundits say that in the case of Kadima, the background for what is being dubbed the "Lapid Law" is the party’s weakness in the polls, which – combined with the weakness of Labor – seems to create fertile ground for the entry of a new center-leftist force. Likud, while in better political shape than Kadima, may also recognize Lapid’s potential to steal votes from it.

The elder Lapid, a long-time writer in Ma’ariv, became the head of the secularist Shinui party in 1999, which under his leadership received 15 seats in the 2003 elections. He was appointed Minister of Justice in Ariel Sharon’s government and was a supporter of the Disengagement.

The younger Lapid continued in his father’s footsteps as a writer in Ma’ariv, then in Yediot Acharonot, where he writes a weekly column, and became one of Israel’s leading celebrities. He began hosting television talk shows in 1995 and was the main presenter for Bank HaPoalim’s advertising campaign, a very lucrative position which he quit two years ago in order to begin presenting Channel 2’s central weekly newscast on Friday night. He has appeared in films, has written nine books, and is an amateur boxer.

Explaining the Disengagement
The younger Lapid was also an avid supporter of the Disengagement, writing afterwards that the main reason it needed to be carried out was not because of security or diplomatic considerations, but to teach the settlers a lesson. He was sued for libel after he wrote a column that mocked Hanael Dayan, the soldier who refused to shake hands with then-IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz because of the Disengagement. Lapid made use of military correspondence regarding the soldier’s family that he received improperly from then-Head of Personnel Branch, Maj.-Gen Elazar Stern. The court made Lapid publish an apology and pay a relatively low sum of NIS 12,000.

Yair Lapid was recently interviewed by television journalist Ilana Dayan, who asked him whether he intended to run for the Knesset. He answered: “I will have to decide that one minute before the elections.”

Tirosh’s bill explains the reasoning behind a cooling-off period for journalists in the same way that the same requirement for military personnel is explained in the current law: “When one who previously covered the political arena contends in elections to the Knesset or serves as minister, there is a concern that his recent decisions as a journalist were influenced by his political views, which were made public when he joined the list of candidates for elections.”

A mandatory cooling off-period would be important for “maintaining the independence of the media systems,” the bill’s explanatory notes say, “precisely because of their important contribution, and the well-known faces of the media people.”

Shama’s bill explains that while working in the media appears to be a private vocation, it has a public dimension. “Today the media is a central and important part of the democratic discourse and the shaping of public opinion.” A cooling off period is need “in order to preserve the independence and objectivity of the press and prevent its politicization or tendentiousness,” the Likud bill says.

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