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On hot mic, Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu raps ‘crazy’ EU, admits Syria strikes – Washington Times

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught Wednesday by a live microphone railing against the European Unions crazy insistence on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a precondition for closer ties with the 28-nation bloc, and trumpeting Israel as essential to its prosperity and survival.

Netanyahu was meeting with leaders of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at a regional summit. Netanyahu was discussing Iran, Syria, the Islamic State group, and EU-Israel relations when some of his comments and those of other leaders at the meeting closed to the media were accidentally broadcast to journalists in another room covering the conference.

Netanyahu also made a rare public admission that Israel has struck Iranian arms convoys in Syria bound for Hezbollah dozens and dozens of times.

The Israeli premier was overheard blasting the European Unions approach to Israel, saying its crazy. I think its actually crazy that the EU maintains that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come before closer trade ties.

There is no logic here. Europe is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining the connection with Israeli innovation because of a crazy attempt to create conditions (for peace with the Palestinians), said Netanyahu.

European ties with Israel would determine whether the 28-member union would live and thrive or shrivel and disappear, he added.

EU-Israel relations have been tense for years, with Jerusalem feeling that Brussels is targeting its policies far too much while being too soft on the Palestinians. While the EU is the main trading partner for Israel, frictions have persisted. Relations took a dive in November 2015 after Israel derided a decision by the bloc to label products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The EU doesnt recognize Israeli sovereignty over territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to establish a state. It has been a vocal critic of Israels settlement construction and has adopted measures mandating the labeling of goods produced in West Bank settlements.

The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel that produces technology in every area on political conditions. The only ones. Nobody does it, Netanyahu said, citing Russia, China and Indias willingness to do business with Israel despite politics.

Netanyahu has pushed for closer trade ties with India and China in recent years. Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Israel, during which the two countries signed a number of trade agreements cementing increasingly warm relations.

During statements to the media after their meeting, Orban shared Netanyahus view on the EUs relations with Israel, calling for a more rational approach with significantly better ties and less criticism of Israel.

The EU should value the efforts made by the state of Israel for stability in the region, Orban said. This is of interest not only for Israel but for Europe, too, as it protects us from more and more migrant invasions.

The EUs relations with Israel are not rational enough and need to be repaired, Orban added. Wed like relations between the EU and Israel to be characterized by rationality. Instead of criticizing Israel, we should open the door to cooperation with Israel.

If Europe fails to cooperate with Israel, it is punishing itself, Orban concluded. This makes no sense.

Orbans comments on Israel were in line with his similar views on countries like Turkey, Russia and China, where he also has chosen to emphasize improving ties and economic relations without delving, for example, into human rights issues.

Orban said the four Central European countries in the so-called Visegrad Group had accepted Netanyahus invitation to hold an upcoming meeting in Israel. Hungary holds the rotating presidency of the Visegrad Group until June 2018.

___

Ilan Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.

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On hot mic, Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu raps ‘crazy’ EU, admits Syria strikes – Washington Times

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: No decision made yet on Temple Mount metal detectors – The Jerusalem Post

An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City July 16, 2017.. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Israel is in contact with the Arab world and explaining that the installation of metal detectors on the Temple Mount is not a change of the status quo, but meant only to prevent the use of weapons at the site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, in a briefing with reporters in Budapest where he met with the heads of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said that there is currently no change in Israel’s position regarding the need for the metal detectors. He held phone consultations on the matter with senior security officials on Wednesday, but no decision was taken on whether to remove the devices.

Netanyahu said there will be other security consultations that he cannot discuss.

We want to solve the crisis in the quietest way possible, and return the quiet, he said. We are speaking with the Arab world, and explaining that there is no change in the status quo [on the Temple Mount]. This is a measure to prevent the use of weapons on the Temple Mount, something that happened for the first time.

Netanyahu, who earlier this week was in Paris, pointed out that there are metal detectors at the Eiffel Tower because of the security situation there, and that more people visit that site than the Temple Mount.

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Netanyahu: German sub deal likely to go ahead after probe – The Times of Israel

BUDAPEST, Hungary Israels deal with Germany regarding the sale of additional submarines will likely proceed, even though it is currently frozen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday providing the first confirmation from Israel that the hugely important deal was on hold.

As soon as things clear up, I assume that the deal will go forward, he told reporters during a briefing in his Budapest hotel. I have no idea [how the current investigation into the matter will end] but believe it will go ahead.

Germany has reportedly told Israel that it is delaying the signing of a deal for Israel to purchase three new submarines amid the rapidly expanding corruption scandal surrounding several multi-billion-dollar naval deals between the two countries.

Berlin and Jerusalem were said to sign a memorandum of understanding next week, but this has been postponed indefinitely.

Theres now an asterisk in the deal, Netanyahu said, adding that the German side is waiting to see how the ongoing corruption investigation will play out. Theres a probe, let the probe be concluded, he said.

Netanyahu angrily dismissed all attempts to implicate him in the affair, saying much of the press is out to topple him. All these efforts to bring me down have crossed all boundaries and are beginning to hurt Israels national security, he said.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case but his personal lawyer, David Shimron, who was under house arrest for several days until his release on Saturday, had been questioned several times by the police investigation unit Lahav 433.

I had no idea about Shimrons involvement, Netanyahu said Wednesday. When this whole story is over I will say what I think about it. The allegations against Shimron his second cousin will turn out to be baseless nonsense, he said.

Another suspect in the case, the former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom, was released from house arrest on Saturday evening.

I dont know what is corruption and what is not corruption in the submarines affair, Netanyahu said. The decisions the security establishment took were transparent and matter-of-fact. I dont judge people; people have the presumption of innocence. I dont know what will come of it or not come of it.

Concerns that Germany might cancel the deal prompted Defense Ministry head Udi Adam to meet his counterpart recently in Germany, Yedioth reported on Tuesday.

The move follows Mondays revelation that a key suspect in the case Miki Ganor, a former agent for German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is in talks to turn states witness.

Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid out bribes in connection with a decision to buy three submarines from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli Defense Ministry.

They also reportedly influenced decisions to buy naval corvettes to protect the gas fields and awarded ThyssenKrupp a contract to service other naval vessels.

Ganor is suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime. He was arrested a week ago and remains behind bars, along with Bar-Yosef. Both mens detention was extended Monday for a further four days.

Germany, which is supposed to finance a third of the deal, has the right to change its mind thanks to a clause in the agreement permitting it to do so unilaterally if suspicions of corruption and fraud prove to be true.

It appears that the reports about Ganor turning states witness gave the country sufficient jitters to activate that clause. Germanys decision to freeze the deal has not been confirmed by government sources.

The three new submarines are intended as replacements for older models which will be retired in around 10 years.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the police to formally look into the submarine affair dubbed Case 3000 in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase the vessels by business ties that Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp. Late last year, Channel 10 News revealed that Shimron had also served as an adviser to Ganor.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Gabbay hopes to challenge Netanyahu in Israel’s 2019 elections – Washington Times

Despite pulling off an upset victory in the primary elections of one of Israels most storied political parties, little is known about Avi Gabbay the man the center-left hope can pose a real challenge to the nearly 14-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last week, Mr. Gabbay narrowly secured his position as the head of Israels Labor party, the nations founding political organization that bore first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, first female Prime Minister Golda Meir and the countrys last great hope at a peace deal with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Rabin.

A relative unknown in politics, Mr. Gabbays ascent to the head of Labor is nothing short of a revolution, albeit an internal one. He didnt ride waves of populism into the government like President Trump or garner the love of the public with charisma like French President Emmanuel Macron.

People are still very clueless about him, they dont know much about him, said Tal Schneider, a leading Israeli political journalist and commentator. To my opinion, hes a big question mark.

A businessman turned politician, Mr. Gabbay was born and raised in Jerusalem, the seventh of eight children of a Morrocan family who lived in a transit camp when they immigrated to Israel.

Hes a self-made millionaire who rose through the ranks to lead Israels biggest telecommunications companies, Bezeq, and transitioned into politics by joining the like-minded Kulanu party, a center-right party that campaigned on economic reform.

Mr. Gabbay was appointed environmental protection minister after the 2015 elections, and during his short tenure achieved a political victory by implementing a stalled initiative to impose fees for plastic bags.

However, in the clearest examples of his principles, Mr. Gabbay resigned last year over a confluence of political and social events. These included the resignation of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon over the prime ministers failure to condemn the execution-style shooting of a Palestinian terrorist by an Israeli soldier.

Mr. Yaalon was replaced with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the more hard-line, right-wing party Yisrael Beytenu.

The recent political moves are something that I just cant be a part of, Mr. Gabbay said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported. The recent political moves and the replacement of the defense minister are grave acts which in my opinion ignore what is important for national security and will result in more divisiveness and extremism.

Last week, Mr. Gabbay beat former Labor leader Amir Peretz in a nail-bitingly close primary election, securing 52 percent of the vote and signaling nothing less than a shrugging off of the establishment.

I think what gave him the absolute win is really the fact that the party members rejected the old establishment, Ms. Schneider said. It was like a child in the family that [would] step out and choose a new parent to be adopted by Labor is like a small family, actually, and the kids the kids revolted.

While national elections arent expected to take place until 2019, a crisis in the coalition could send the country to the polls early as was the case in 2015 and 2013 and Labors changing leadership shows the partys intention and preparation to pose a credible challenge to Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party.

But a number of events would have to happen to give Mr. Gabbay a fighting chance to pose even a credible challenge to the established right wing. They would include the demise of the cult of Mr. Netanyahu, with his grip on power undermined by at least three criminal and corruption investigations into his family and associates.

If that happens, Ms. Schneider continued, it gives Gabbay fresh opportunity because, if you have all of these up and newcomers or relatively fresh faces on the right wing than the relatively fresh faces on the left wing may get a chance, an equal chance, because theyre not going against this big machine of Netanyahu.

But the public vote out of fear, Ms. Schneider said, for some reason Netanyahu gives them comfort, gives them an atmosphere of being secure.

If the political field were to open for a real challenge to the premiership, Mr. Gabbay would have to face off against Yair Lapid, an Israeli celebrity, political legacy and former journalist whos center-right Yesh Atid party had a meteoric rise in its 2013 inception.

The difference is that Gabbay could be prime minister and Lapid could never be prime minister, said Gil Hoffman, a political reporter for The Jerusalem Post, and my former colleague.

Where Mr. Lapid is at a disadvantage is that his party is seen to alienate the ultra-Orthodox parties, which despite small political numbers hold great sway in coalition building. Theyre the kingmakers, Mr. Hoffman said, and added that Mr. Lapid doesnt have the power to galvanize either the Right or Left.

Labor could build a coalition under Gabbay, which Lapid could never do.

While the Left is typically dovish, theres little indication of what Mr. Gabbay actually stands for, and this could work in his favor if he plays it right, Mr. Hoffman said.

No one really seems to care what hes actually in favor of. If I were him I would stop mentioning the Palestinians because every time he does he loses votes.

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

WATCH: Ya’alon pulls no punches – Netanyahu ‘absolutely’ will be indicted – The Jerusalem Post

Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit Israel Aerospace Industries.. (photo credit:AVSHALOM SASSONI)

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon pulled no punches when, on prime time US television on Tuesday night, he announced his belief that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his former boss, will be indicted on corruption charges.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour could hardly believe what the former IDF Chief of Staff had just said.

The exchange between the two begins at 4 minutes and 16 seconds.

“There are serious charges and there are serious investigations underway about the prime minister and the issue of corruption. How do you think that is going to end up?” asked Amanpour.

“By indictment. That’s my assessment and belief,” answered Ya’alon. “Too many issues are under investigation, and questions. I believe that in the end we will witness indictment.”

“Woah,” responded Amanpour. “You were his defense minister and now you’re telling me that you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will, under the law, be indicted?”

“Absolutely,” Ya’alon confirmed.

Netanyahu has been repeatedly questioned by police in relation to two criminal investigations, termed Case 1000 and Case 2000.

Case 1000 deals with allegations that the prime minister and his wife Sara Netanyahu accepted illegal gifts. Case 2000 relates to the suspicion that Netanyahu attempted to broker favorable media coverage with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes in exchange for supporting a 2014 bill to weaken competing newspaper Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

In a further investigation related to the purchase of submarines from Germany, termed Case 3000, Netanyahu is not a suspect. Senior figures with connections to the prime minister, however, have been detained in the ongoing investigation.

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WATCH: Ya’alon pulls no punches – Netanyahu ‘absolutely’ will be indicted – The Jerusalem Post

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July 14, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu on submarine and Bezeq affairs: The press is out to get me – The Jerusalem Post

PM Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended himself from allegations that he was involved in scandals concerning the purchase of German submarines and the telephone company Bezeq in a meeting with his closest supporters in the Likud faction on Thursday.

Netanyahu told the politicians that they should stop being nice while he is under attack and attack back on his behalf. He also presented a series of statistics proving his lack of involvement.

The premier believes that the press is trying to topple him and the Likud government.

“Behind the mud-slinging there are no facts, the opposite is true,” said Netanyahu. The prime minister reiterated that he is not a suspect in the submarine affair and that the justice ministry ruled regarding Bezeq that he did not make controversial decisions or any decisions that helped the company and could be seen as a conflict of interests.

Netanyahu summoned the ministers and Knesset members who are considered allies in the Likud for what they were told would be a briefing of the events of the past week.

Asides from the submarine scandal and the Bezeq brouhaha, the surprising victory of Avi Gabbay in the Labor party race was also reportedly on the agenda.

Likud MK Miki Zohar was one of the first to come out swinging. ” We are going on the offensive. We’re tired of all unforgivable slander aimed at the prime minister,” he said. “We have clear data that the prime minister has nothing to do with any of the ongoing scandals. It is time to stop blaming him for everything that goes wrong in the country. The unreasonable position whereby the prime minister is guilty until proven otherwise, must cease.”

Among the politicians invited were ministers Yariv Levin, Ofir Akunis, Tzachi Hanegbi, Miri Regev and Ayub Kara and Knesset members David Bitan’ David Amsallem and Yoav Kish.

Some politicians who were invited could not come on short notice due to work commitments, such as environmental protection minister Zeev Elkin.

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Middle Eastern chaos gives Benjamin Netanyahu cover to take Israel wherever he likes – The Conversation UK

Benjamin Netanyahu is a polarising figure to say the least, but few would deny that hes an extremely talented and determined politician. That much is clear from just how long he has lasted in Israeli politics an environment in which its notoriously difficult to survive, never mind thrive. Along with David Ben-Gurion, he is the only Israeli prime minister to have served four terms, surpassing Ben-Gurion by being elected three times in a row. He now looks set to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history.

Having led the right-wing Likud party since 2005 and acting as a member of the Knesset as well as prime minister, he is undoubtedly the central force shaping his countrys domestic and foreign policy. Netanyahu is known for being relentless and unwavering in pursuit of his goals, which are defined by both his partys nationalist ideology and his personal preoccupation with security.

On that particular front, he was clearly shaped by his own experiences as a member of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF): he took part in multiple operations with the special forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and fought in the 1967-1970 War of Attrition with Egypt and the 1973 Yom Kippur/October War.

But even in his unrelenting defence of what he considers Israels best interests, Netanyahu is a realist and an opportunist. As Israels Arab neighbours navigate the post-Arab Spring era with their interests upended and regional alignments shuffled, Netanyahu sees a chance to improve Israels standing in the Middle East and improve its relationships with its neighbours, especially the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has a very clear view of what he believes to be in Israels best interests, and his recent policies are most certainly designed to be maximise the benefits to Israel with little concern for others: the rapid expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, for instance.

But ever the realist, Netanyahu knows that his window of opportunity wont last forever and since about 2014, Netanyahu has stepped up the pace at which he has been trying to change the facts on the ground in Israels favour. Thanks to a particular set of circumstances roiling the outside world, he is doing with bolstered confidence, embracing what might once have been considered highly ambitious policies.

Netanyahu has lately supported the IDFs forays into the Syrian conflict, including intermittent airstrikes on suspected arms convoys destined for Hezbollah. He also gave the go-ahead for the largest single settlement expansion in the West Bank for over two decades, with plans for 8,000 new homes this on the back of plans to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem.

Not long ago, this would have been a major flashpoint. For much of the past 20 years, Israels policies towards the Palestinians have come under a great deal of scrutiny in Arab and Western circles alike, with Israeli governments finding it ever harder to claim the moral high ground. But since 2011, the abject depths of barbarity and depravity in Syria, Iraq and Yemen have set the bar lower than many observers thought it would ever go. In such a climate, even Netanyahus most questionable policies towards the Palestinians simply dont raise other leaders eyebrows as they once did.

Israel, then, enjoys lighter international scrutiny and only token pressure from its distracted neighbours, while also benefiting from the Trump administrations subtle but clear green light for some of its more controversial projects.

Throughout the latest and now irretrievably moribund peace process, key leaders policies and decisions at seminal moments have narrowed the scope of Israels relations not just with the Palestinians, but with the Middle East at large. The region is now living through just such a moment, and Netanyahus presence at the helm might just have irreversibly limited the potential for a peaceful and secure future for all concerned.

Its not all good news for the Israeli government. As ever, the Middle Easts instability presents Israel with challenges as well as opportunities. Most pressingly, the post-2011 disintegration of Syria and Yemen raises the prospect that simmering rivalries could turn into direct military confrontations, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the stand-off between Qatar and several Saudi-led Gulf states goes to show, the calculus has changed a lot in just a few short years and understanding this new landscape is the key to understanding Netanyahus domestic and foreign priorities.

For now, then, Netanyahu is making the most of his opportunity to secure his goals. But in the long term, Israel has to remember that the Middle Eastern community at large however fractured seems determined to exclude it. Whatever lies ahead in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, that fundamental reality is unlikely to change.

So while some of Netanyahus more extravagant or controversial actions might fly under the radar for now, their consequences for Israels future might be greater than even he, with all his experience and pragmatism, can anticipate.

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Trump arrives in Paris day before Netanyahu visit – The Jerusalem Post

PARIS – US President Donald Trump, under fire at home over Russian connections and abroad over climate change and trade, arrived in Paris on Thursday seeking common ground with France’s new leader Emmanuel Macron.

After a bumpy start to relations, the two men both have incentives to improve ties – Macron hoping to elevate France’s role in global affairs, and Trump, seemingly isolated among world leaders, needing a friend overseas.

Trump comes to France beset by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Emails released on Tuesday suggest his eldest son welcomed Russian help against his father’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Weeks after Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Palace of Versailles, Trump will bask in the trappings of the Bastille Day military parade on Friday and commemorations of the entry 100 years ago of US troops into World War One.

Talks will focus on shared diplomatic and military endeavors, but an Elysee official said Macron would not shy away from trickier issues. Trump has made few friends in Europe with his rejection of the Paris accord on climate change and “America First” trade stance.

“The meeting won’t avoid subjects on which we have different positions, such as climate and, to a certain extent, trade,” the Macron aide said.

Macron will greet Trump at the Hotel des Invalides, a grand 17th century complex where Napoleon Bonaparte and other war heroes are buried.

They will later dine with their wives at a restaurant on the second floor of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. The Elysee official said the symbolism was clear: “Paris is still Paris.”

During the US election campaign, Trump declared that a wave of militant attacks showed “France is no longer France,” urging the French to get tough on immigration and jihadists.

Trump and Macron are expected to discuss counter-terrorism and the situation in the Middle East, particularly the civil war in Syria, where Islamic State is defending its last major urban stronghold of Raqqa.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to arrive in the French capital on Friday afternoon ahead of a Sunday morning ceremony marking 75 years since a massive Nazi roundup in Paris of Jews, and a meeting with Macron. So far, there are no known public plans for Netanyahu and Trump to meet in Paris.

Netanyahu will spend three nights in Paris before going to Budapest for another three nights to attend a summit of the Visegrad group, made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

He is expected to hold both bilateral talks with the leaders of each of the four countries, as well as a joint meeting as well before returning to Israel on Thursday, July 20.

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Special Report: Netanyahu didn’t disclose ‘full list’ of conflicts of interest – The Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Communications Ministry did not disclose to the attorney-general the full list of his conflicts of interest connected to Bezeq and Wallas owner when requested, the State Comptrollers Office said in a report on Wednesday.

Businessman Shaul Elovitch is the controlling shareholder of Yes, Bezeq, Pelephone, Bezeq International, Halal Communications and Walla and has been a close friend of Netanyahu, who held all aspects of the Communications Minister portfolio until June 2016.

Multiple rounds of review of the prime ministers possible conflicts of interest by Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit from June 2016-onward gradually reduced his powers as communications minister until he fully relinquished the portfolio in February 2017.

This reviews came after media reports in late 2015 that Netanyahu had failed to disclose his ties to Elovitch.

Further, the revelations in Wednesdays State Comptrollers Report that aspects of Netanyahus conflicts of interest as communications minister and as a friend of Elovitch were not disclosed to Mandelblit even in June 2016 come as Elovitch is under criminal investigation for allegedly violating conflict- of-interest principles in a transaction between two of his companies: Bezeq and Yes.

Moreover, the report said the Prime Ministers Office did not deny that discussions between the prime minister and Elovitch may have touched on issues that the prime minister was involved in his capacity as communications minister.

According to State Comptroller Joseph Shapiras report, the Communications Ministry put together a list of 12 issues where the Netanyahu- Elovitch conflict could be problematic on a policy level.

Aspects of this list were not provided to Mandelblit when he permitted Netanyahu to continue as communications minister in June 2016, provided the prime minister refrained from involvement in certain issues.

In other words, Shapira said Mandelblits list of issues was incomplete, and the attorney-general might have directed Netanyahu to entirely give up the Communications Ministry in June 2016 had he seen the full list.

In fact, neither the ministry nor the prime minister provided this full list to the comptroller in August 2016 when responding to Shapiras request for information.

The report does not reveal how the State Comptrollers Office acquired the list, only stating that it acquired it over the course of its review of the issue from mid-2016 to June 2017.

But a spokesman for the comptroller clarified that there was no point at which the Communications Ministry or the Prime Ministers Office voluntary provided the information, and that it was acquired via inspections performed by the comptrollers staff as authorized by law.

Moreover, he comptroller questioned whether aspects of the governments coalition agreement needed to be reexamined for conflict of interest issues, since Netanyahus role as communications minister was part of the deal.

In addition, the report stated that Mandelblits office did not disclose all issues in his June 2016 public announcement that he was directing Netanyahu to refrain from involvement in Elovitch-related decisions.

Out of the public eye, the Attorney-Generals Office reviewed whether it should investigate major Elovitch-related policy decisions that Netanyahu had already made which may have involved a conflict of interest.

This review along with its eventual decision not to revisit Netanyahus past conflicted decisions and its reasoning for refraining from revisiting them were not revealed to the public in June 2016, indeed, not until Shapiras report disclosed the issue on Wednesday.

Mandelblits office explained that since no one had raised a specific alleged violation and that the issue in question was just the concept of avoiding conflicts as a matter of good governance, there was insufficient justification to warrant the exceptional measure of revising past decisions.

Shapira disagreed, stating, The publics faith requires that the results of a review be brought to the knowledge of the public. A situation where the public does not know that the Justice Ministry is reviewing the consequences of past decisions implicating conflicts of interest… could cause harm to the publics faith.

He also wrote that Mandelblits office should have dug deeper into what was said in conversations between Netanyahu and Elovitch.

Elovitch, meanwhile has denied that the two men discussed policy issues related to a conflict of interest.

The comptroller also questioned whether Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber should not have had Elovitch-related policy decisions removed from his authority.

While not questioning Filbers qualifications, Shapira wrote that Filbers status as the Likud campaign chairman in the 2015 election, and as a key Netanyahu aide in earlier years, meant that his appointment in the ministry was a close political appointment.

Shapira expressed criticism that the attorney-general did not review or impose conflict- of-interest parameters on Filber, and called for a standardization of criteria to apply in any future similar situation.

Also on Wednesday, the Israel Securities Authority questioned Filber as part of the Elovitch probe.

The ISA said Filber was questioned on suspicions of committing integrity and securities offenses, while Hebrew media reported that the director-general is suspected of giving favorable treatment to Bezeq.

The State Comptrollers Report also touches on the Communication Ministrys failure to move forward with a range of reforms meant to encourage Internet and telecommunications competition to lower price and improve service quality.

Decisions from 2015 or earlier directing Bezeq to permit competitors to fully use its infrastructure or to partially piggyback off its infrastructure by permitting competitors to insert wires into its pipes were either partially implemented or not implemented at all, said the report.

The same was true regarding the reform of directing Bezeq to sell some of its fixed telephone landlines.

Another reform that was opposed by many in the professional level of the Communications Ministry, but pushed by Filber, was loosening limits on how Bezeq, and therefore potentially Elovitch, could meld together the economic power of Bezeq and its subsidiaries.

Until now, Bezeq, and its subsidiaries such as the Yes satellite television provider, were under the same ownership.

But Elovitch, as controlling shareholder, and other shareholders, could not mix assets or share certain information.

It is unclear what will happen with this reform, especially in light of the current probe against Elovitch for allegedly violating conflicts principles in a merger and other related transactions between Bezeq and Yes.

The report also said that the Communications Ministrys negotiations with Bezeq regarding this reform were questionable in failing to keep records of discussions, failing to check Bezeqs presented economic calculations and in the suspicious timing of approving the merger.

The report quoted the Prime Ministers Office as saying We completely reject the conclusions of the state comptroller, but declining to address specific issues, adding that the main criticized party was the Communications Ministry.

A spokesman for the prime minister categorized the comptrollers criticism as just one more of many attempts to create the appearance of a scandal around Netanyahu.

The statement said that Netanyahu acted in line with Mandelblits instructions regarding any conflicts of interest.

While the Communications Ministry indicated it would respond to Jerusalem Post inquiries, none was received by press time.

Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report.

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

On hot mic, Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu raps ‘crazy’ EU, admits Syria strikes – Washington Times

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught Wednesday by a live microphone railing against the European Unions crazy insistence on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a precondition for closer ties with the 28-nation bloc, and trumpeting Israel as essential to its prosperity and survival. Netanyahu was meeting with leaders of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at a regional summit. Netanyahu was discussing Iran, Syria, the Islamic State group, and EU-Israel relations when some of his comments and those of other leaders at the meeting closed to the media were accidentally broadcast to journalists in another room covering the conference. Netanyahu also made a rare public admission that Israel has struck Iranian arms convoys in Syria bound for Hezbollah dozens and dozens of times. The Israeli premier was overheard blasting the European Unions approach to Israel, saying its crazy. I think its actually crazy that the EU maintains that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come before closer trade ties. There is no logic here. Europe is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining the connection with Israeli innovation because of a crazy attempt to create conditions (for peace with the Palestinians), said Netanyahu. European ties with Israel would determine whether the 28-member union would live and thrive or shrivel and disappear, he added. EU-Israel relations have been tense for years, with Jerusalem feeling that Brussels is targeting its policies far too much while being too soft on the Palestinians. While the EU is the main trading partner for Israel, frictions have persisted. Relations took a dive in November 2015 after Israel derided a decision by the bloc to label products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The EU doesnt recognize Israeli sovereignty over territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to establish a state. It has been a vocal critic of Israels settlement construction and has adopted measures mandating the labeling of goods produced in West Bank settlements. The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel that produces technology in every area on political conditions. The only ones. Nobody does it, Netanyahu said, citing Russia, China and Indias willingness to do business with Israel despite politics. Netanyahu has pushed for closer trade ties with India and China in recent years. Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Israel, during which the two countries signed a number of trade agreements cementing increasingly warm relations. During statements to the media after their meeting, Orban shared Netanyahus view on the EUs relations with Israel, calling for a more rational approach with significantly better ties and less criticism of Israel. The EU should value the efforts made by the state of Israel for stability in the region, Orban said. This is of interest not only for Israel but for Europe, too, as it protects us from more and more migrant invasions. The EUs relations with Israel are not rational enough and need to be repaired, Orban added. Wed like relations between the EU and Israel to be characterized by rationality. Instead of criticizing Israel, we should open the door to cooperation with Israel. If Europe fails to cooperate with Israel, it is punishing itself, Orban concluded. This makes no sense. Orbans comments on Israel were in line with his similar views on countries like Turkey, Russia and China, where he also has chosen to emphasize improving ties and economic relations without delving, for example, into human rights issues. Orban said the four Central European countries in the so-called Visegrad Group had accepted Netanyahus invitation to hold an upcoming meeting in Israel. Hungary holds the rotating presidency of the Visegrad Group until June 2018. ___ Ilan Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: No decision made yet on Temple Mount metal detectors – The Jerusalem Post

An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City July 16, 2017.. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS) Israel is in contact with the Arab world and explaining that the installation of metal detectors on the Temple Mount is not a change of the status quo, but meant only to prevent the use of weapons at the site, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday. Netanyahu, in a briefing with reporters in Budapest where he met with the heads of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said that there is currently no change in Israel’s position regarding the need for the metal detectors. He held phone consultations on the matter with senior security officials on Wednesday, but no decision was taken on whether to remove the devices. Netanyahu said there will be other security consultations that he cannot discuss. We want to solve the crisis in the quietest way possible, and return the quiet, he said. We are speaking with the Arab world, and explaining that there is no change in the status quo [on the Temple Mount]. This is a measure to prevent the use of weapons on the Temple Mount, something that happened for the first time. Netanyahu, who earlier this week was in Paris, pointed out that there are metal detectors at the Eiffel Tower because of the security situation there, and that more people visit that site than the Temple Mount. Share on facebook

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: German sub deal likely to go ahead after probe – The Times of Israel

BUDAPEST, Hungary Israels deal with Germany regarding the sale of additional submarines will likely proceed, even though it is currently frozen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday providing the first confirmation from Israel that the hugely important deal was on hold. As soon as things clear up, I assume that the deal will go forward, he told reporters during a briefing in his Budapest hotel. I have no idea [how the current investigation into the matter will end] but believe it will go ahead. Germany has reportedly told Israel that it is delaying the signing of a deal for Israel to purchase three new submarines amid the rapidly expanding corruption scandal surrounding several multi-billion-dollar naval deals between the two countries. Berlin and Jerusalem were said to sign a memorandum of understanding next week, but this has been postponed indefinitely. Theres now an asterisk in the deal, Netanyahu said, adding that the German side is waiting to see how the ongoing corruption investigation will play out. Theres a probe, let the probe be concluded, he said. Netanyahu angrily dismissed all attempts to implicate him in the affair, saying much of the press is out to topple him. All these efforts to bring me down have crossed all boundaries and are beginning to hurt Israels national security, he said. Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case but his personal lawyer, David Shimron, who was under house arrest for several days until his release on Saturday, had been questioned several times by the police investigation unit Lahav 433. I had no idea about Shimrons involvement, Netanyahu said Wednesday. When this whole story is over I will say what I think about it. The allegations against Shimron his second cousin will turn out to be baseless nonsense, he said. Another suspect in the case, the former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom, was released from house arrest on Saturday evening. I dont know what is corruption and what is not corruption in the submarines affair, Netanyahu said. The decisions the security establishment took were transparent and matter-of-fact. I dont judge people; people have the presumption of innocence. I dont know what will come of it or not come of it. Concerns that Germany might cancel the deal prompted Defense Ministry head Udi Adam to meet his counterpart recently in Germany, Yedioth reported on Tuesday. The move follows Mondays revelation that a key suspect in the case Miki Ganor, a former agent for German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is in talks to turn states witness. Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid out bribes in connection with a decision to buy three submarines from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli Defense Ministry. They also reportedly influenced decisions to buy naval corvettes to protect the gas fields and awarded ThyssenKrupp a contract to service other naval vessels. Ganor is suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime. He was arrested a week ago and remains behind bars, along with Bar-Yosef. Both mens detention was extended Monday for a further four days. Germany, which is supposed to finance a third of the deal, has the right to change its mind thanks to a clause in the agreement permitting it to do so unilaterally if suspicions of corruption and fraud prove to be true. It appears that the reports about Ganor turning states witness gave the country sufficient jitters to activate that clause. Germanys decision to freeze the deal has not been confirmed by government sources. The three new submarines are intended as replacements for older models which will be retired in around 10 years. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the police to formally look into the submarine affair dubbed Case 3000 in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase the vessels by business ties that Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp. Late last year, Channel 10 News revealed that Shimron had also served as an adviser to Ganor. Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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July 19, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Gabbay hopes to challenge Netanyahu in Israel’s 2019 elections – Washington Times

Despite pulling off an upset victory in the primary elections of one of Israels most storied political parties, little is known about Avi Gabbay the man the center-left hope can pose a real challenge to the nearly 14-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week, Mr. Gabbay narrowly secured his position as the head of Israels Labor party, the nations founding political organization that bore first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, first female Prime Minister Golda Meir and the countrys last great hope at a peace deal with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Rabin. A relative unknown in politics, Mr. Gabbays ascent to the head of Labor is nothing short of a revolution, albeit an internal one. He didnt ride waves of populism into the government like President Trump or garner the love of the public with charisma like French President Emmanuel Macron. People are still very clueless about him, they dont know much about him, said Tal Schneider, a leading Israeli political journalist and commentator. To my opinion, hes a big question mark. A businessman turned politician, Mr. Gabbay was born and raised in Jerusalem, the seventh of eight children of a Morrocan family who lived in a transit camp when they immigrated to Israel. Hes a self-made millionaire who rose through the ranks to lead Israels biggest telecommunications companies, Bezeq, and transitioned into politics by joining the like-minded Kulanu party, a center-right party that campaigned on economic reform. Mr. Gabbay was appointed environmental protection minister after the 2015 elections, and during his short tenure achieved a political victory by implementing a stalled initiative to impose fees for plastic bags. However, in the clearest examples of his principles, Mr. Gabbay resigned last year over a confluence of political and social events. These included the resignation of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon over the prime ministers failure to condemn the execution-style shooting of a Palestinian terrorist by an Israeli soldier. Mr. Yaalon was replaced with Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the more hard-line, right-wing party Yisrael Beytenu. The recent political moves are something that I just cant be a part of, Mr. Gabbay said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported. The recent political moves and the replacement of the defense minister are grave acts which in my opinion ignore what is important for national security and will result in more divisiveness and extremism. Last week, Mr. Gabbay beat former Labor leader Amir Peretz in a nail-bitingly close primary election, securing 52 percent of the vote and signaling nothing less than a shrugging off of the establishment. I think what gave him the absolute win is really the fact that the party members rejected the old establishment, Ms. Schneider said. It was like a child in the family that [would] step out and choose a new parent to be adopted by Labor is like a small family, actually, and the kids the kids revolted. While national elections arent expected to take place until 2019, a crisis in the coalition could send the country to the polls early as was the case in 2015 and 2013 and Labors changing leadership shows the partys intention and preparation to pose a credible challenge to Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party. But a number of events would have to happen to give Mr. Gabbay a fighting chance to pose even a credible challenge to the established right wing. They would include the demise of the cult of Mr. Netanyahu, with his grip on power undermined by at least three criminal and corruption investigations into his family and associates. If that happens, Ms. Schneider continued, it gives Gabbay fresh opportunity because, if you have all of these up and newcomers or relatively fresh faces on the right wing than the relatively fresh faces on the left wing may get a chance, an equal chance, because theyre not going against this big machine of Netanyahu. But the public vote out of fear, Ms. Schneider said, for some reason Netanyahu gives them comfort, gives them an atmosphere of being secure. If the political field were to open for a real challenge to the premiership, Mr. Gabbay would have to face off against Yair Lapid, an Israeli celebrity, political legacy and former journalist whos center-right Yesh Atid party had a meteoric rise in its 2013 inception. The difference is that Gabbay could be prime minister and Lapid could never be prime minister, said Gil Hoffman, a political reporter for The Jerusalem Post, and my former colleague. Where Mr. Lapid is at a disadvantage is that his party is seen to alienate the ultra-Orthodox parties, which despite small political numbers hold great sway in coalition building. Theyre the kingmakers, Mr. Hoffman said, and added that Mr. Lapid doesnt have the power to galvanize either the Right or Left. Labor could build a coalition under Gabbay, which Lapid could never do. While the Left is typically dovish, theres little indication of what Mr. Gabbay actually stands for, and this could work in his favor if he plays it right, Mr. Hoffman said. No one really seems to care what hes actually in favor of. If I were him I would stop mentioning the Palestinians because every time he does he loses votes.

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July 17, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

WATCH: Ya’alon pulls no punches – Netanyahu ‘absolutely’ will be indicted – The Jerusalem Post

Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit Israel Aerospace Industries.. (photo credit:AVSHALOM SASSONI) Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon pulled no punches when, on prime time US television on Tuesday night, he announced his belief that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his former boss, will be indicted on corruption charges. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour could hardly believe what the former IDF Chief of Staff had just said. The exchange between the two begins at 4 minutes and 16 seconds. “There are serious charges and there are serious investigations underway about the prime minister and the issue of corruption. How do you think that is going to end up?” asked Amanpour. “By indictment. That’s my assessment and belief,” answered Ya’alon. “Too many issues are under investigation, and questions. I believe that in the end we will witness indictment.” “Woah,” responded Amanpour. “You were his defense minister and now you’re telling me that you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will, under the law, be indicted?” “Absolutely,” Ya’alon confirmed. Netanyahu has been repeatedly questioned by police in relation to two criminal investigations, termed Case 1000 and Case 2000. Case 1000 deals with allegations that the prime minister and his wife Sara Netanyahu accepted illegal gifts. Case 2000 relates to the suspicion that Netanyahu attempted to broker favorable media coverage with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes in exchange for supporting a 2014 bill to weaken competing newspaper Israel Hayom. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases. In a further investigation related to the purchase of submarines from Germany, termed Case 3000, Netanyahu is not a suspect. Senior figures with connections to the prime minister, however, have been detained in the ongoing investigation. Share on facebook

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July 14, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu on submarine and Bezeq affairs: The press is out to get me – The Jerusalem Post

PM Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit:REUTERS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended himself from allegations that he was involved in scandals concerning the purchase of German submarines and the telephone company Bezeq in a meeting with his closest supporters in the Likud faction on Thursday. Netanyahu told the politicians that they should stop being nice while he is under attack and attack back on his behalf. He also presented a series of statistics proving his lack of involvement. The premier believes that the press is trying to topple him and the Likud government. “Behind the mud-slinging there are no facts, the opposite is true,” said Netanyahu. The prime minister reiterated that he is not a suspect in the submarine affair and that the justice ministry ruled regarding Bezeq that he did not make controversial decisions or any decisions that helped the company and could be seen as a conflict of interests. Netanyahu summoned the ministers and Knesset members who are considered allies in the Likud for what they were told would be a briefing of the events of the past week. Asides from the submarine scandal and the Bezeq brouhaha, the surprising victory of Avi Gabbay in the Labor party race was also reportedly on the agenda. Likud MK Miki Zohar was one of the first to come out swinging. ” We are going on the offensive. We’re tired of all unforgivable slander aimed at the prime minister,” he said. “We have clear data that the prime minister has nothing to do with any of the ongoing scandals. It is time to stop blaming him for everything that goes wrong in the country. The unreasonable position whereby the prime minister is guilty until proven otherwise, must cease.” Among the politicians invited were ministers Yariv Levin, Ofir Akunis, Tzachi Hanegbi, Miri Regev and Ayub Kara and Knesset members David Bitan’ David Amsallem and Yoav Kish. Some politicians who were invited could not come on short notice due to work commitments, such as environmental protection minister Zeev Elkin. Share on facebook

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Middle Eastern chaos gives Benjamin Netanyahu cover to take Israel wherever he likes – The Conversation UK

Benjamin Netanyahu is a polarising figure to say the least, but few would deny that hes an extremely talented and determined politician. That much is clear from just how long he has lasted in Israeli politics an environment in which its notoriously difficult to survive, never mind thrive. Along with David Ben-Gurion, he is the only Israeli prime minister to have served four terms, surpassing Ben-Gurion by being elected three times in a row. He now looks set to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. Having led the right-wing Likud party since 2005 and acting as a member of the Knesset as well as prime minister, he is undoubtedly the central force shaping his countrys domestic and foreign policy. Netanyahu is known for being relentless and unwavering in pursuit of his goals, which are defined by both his partys nationalist ideology and his personal preoccupation with security. On that particular front, he was clearly shaped by his own experiences as a member of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF): he took part in multiple operations with the special forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and fought in the 1967-1970 War of Attrition with Egypt and the 1973 Yom Kippur/October War. But even in his unrelenting defence of what he considers Israels best interests, Netanyahu is a realist and an opportunist. As Israels Arab neighbours navigate the post-Arab Spring era with their interests upended and regional alignments shuffled, Netanyahu sees a chance to improve Israels standing in the Middle East and improve its relationships with its neighbours, especially the Palestinians. Netanyahu has a very clear view of what he believes to be in Israels best interests, and his recent policies are most certainly designed to be maximise the benefits to Israel with little concern for others: the rapid expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, for instance. But ever the realist, Netanyahu knows that his window of opportunity wont last forever and since about 2014, Netanyahu has stepped up the pace at which he has been trying to change the facts on the ground in Israels favour. Thanks to a particular set of circumstances roiling the outside world, he is doing with bolstered confidence, embracing what might once have been considered highly ambitious policies. Netanyahu has lately supported the IDFs forays into the Syrian conflict, including intermittent airstrikes on suspected arms convoys destined for Hezbollah. He also gave the go-ahead for the largest single settlement expansion in the West Bank for over two decades, with plans for 8,000 new homes this on the back of plans to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem. Not long ago, this would have been a major flashpoint. For much of the past 20 years, Israels policies towards the Palestinians have come under a great deal of scrutiny in Arab and Western circles alike, with Israeli governments finding it ever harder to claim the moral high ground. But since 2011, the abject depths of barbarity and depravity in Syria, Iraq and Yemen have set the bar lower than many observers thought it would ever go. In such a climate, even Netanyahus most questionable policies towards the Palestinians simply dont raise other leaders eyebrows as they once did. Israel, then, enjoys lighter international scrutiny and only token pressure from its distracted neighbours, while also benefiting from the Trump administrations subtle but clear green light for some of its more controversial projects. Throughout the latest and now irretrievably moribund peace process, key leaders policies and decisions at seminal moments have narrowed the scope of Israels relations not just with the Palestinians, but with the Middle East at large. The region is now living through just such a moment, and Netanyahus presence at the helm might just have irreversibly limited the potential for a peaceful and secure future for all concerned. Its not all good news for the Israeli government. As ever, the Middle Easts instability presents Israel with challenges as well as opportunities. Most pressingly, the post-2011 disintegration of Syria and Yemen raises the prospect that simmering rivalries could turn into direct military confrontations, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the stand-off between Qatar and several Saudi-led Gulf states goes to show, the calculus has changed a lot in just a few short years and understanding this new landscape is the key to understanding Netanyahus domestic and foreign priorities. For now, then, Netanyahu is making the most of his opportunity to secure his goals. But in the long term, Israel has to remember that the Middle Eastern community at large however fractured seems determined to exclude it. Whatever lies ahead in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, that fundamental reality is unlikely to change. So while some of Netanyahus more extravagant or controversial actions might fly under the radar for now, their consequences for Israels future might be greater than even he, with all his experience and pragmatism, can anticipate.

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Trump arrives in Paris day before Netanyahu visit – The Jerusalem Post

PARIS – US President Donald Trump, under fire at home over Russian connections and abroad over climate change and trade, arrived in Paris on Thursday seeking common ground with France’s new leader Emmanuel Macron. After a bumpy start to relations, the two men both have incentives to improve ties – Macron hoping to elevate France’s role in global affairs, and Trump, seemingly isolated among world leaders, needing a friend overseas. Trump comes to France beset by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Emails released on Tuesday suggest his eldest son welcomed Russian help against his father’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Weeks after Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Palace of Versailles, Trump will bask in the trappings of the Bastille Day military parade on Friday and commemorations of the entry 100 years ago of US troops into World War One. Talks will focus on shared diplomatic and military endeavors, but an Elysee official said Macron would not shy away from trickier issues. Trump has made few friends in Europe with his rejection of the Paris accord on climate change and “America First” trade stance. “The meeting won’t avoid subjects on which we have different positions, such as climate and, to a certain extent, trade,” the Macron aide said. Macron will greet Trump at the Hotel des Invalides, a grand 17th century complex where Napoleon Bonaparte and other war heroes are buried. They will later dine with their wives at a restaurant on the second floor of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. The Elysee official said the symbolism was clear: “Paris is still Paris.” During the US election campaign, Trump declared that a wave of militant attacks showed “France is no longer France,” urging the French to get tough on immigration and jihadists. Trump and Macron are expected to discuss counter-terrorism and the situation in the Middle East, particularly the civil war in Syria, where Islamic State is defending its last major urban stronghold of Raqqa. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to arrive in the French capital on Friday afternoon ahead of a Sunday morning ceremony marking 75 years since a massive Nazi roundup in Paris of Jews, and a meeting with Macron. So far, there are no known public plans for Netanyahu and Trump to meet in Paris. Netanyahu will spend three nights in Paris before going to Budapest for another three nights to attend a summit of the Visegrad group, made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He is expected to hold both bilateral talks with the leaders of each of the four countries, as well as a joint meeting as well before returning to Israel on Thursday, July 20. Share on facebook

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Special Report: Netanyahu didn’t disclose ‘full list’ of conflicts of interest – The Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Communications Ministry did not disclose to the attorney-general the full list of his conflicts of interest connected to Bezeq and Wallas owner when requested, the State Comptrollers Office said in a report on Wednesday. Businessman Shaul Elovitch is the controlling shareholder of Yes, Bezeq, Pelephone, Bezeq International, Halal Communications and Walla and has been a close friend of Netanyahu, who held all aspects of the Communications Minister portfolio until June 2016. Multiple rounds of review of the prime ministers possible conflicts of interest by Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit from June 2016-onward gradually reduced his powers as communications minister until he fully relinquished the portfolio in February 2017. This reviews came after media reports in late 2015 that Netanyahu had failed to disclose his ties to Elovitch. Further, the revelations in Wednesdays State Comptrollers Report that aspects of Netanyahus conflicts of interest as communications minister and as a friend of Elovitch were not disclosed to Mandelblit even in June 2016 come as Elovitch is under criminal investigation for allegedly violating conflict- of-interest principles in a transaction between two of his companies: Bezeq and Yes. Moreover, the report said the Prime Ministers Office did not deny that discussions between the prime minister and Elovitch may have touched on issues that the prime minister was involved in his capacity as communications minister. According to State Comptroller Joseph Shapiras report, the Communications Ministry put together a list of 12 issues where the Netanyahu- Elovitch conflict could be problematic on a policy level. Aspects of this list were not provided to Mandelblit when he permitted Netanyahu to continue as communications minister in June 2016, provided the prime minister refrained from involvement in certain issues. In other words, Shapira said Mandelblits list of issues was incomplete, and the attorney-general might have directed Netanyahu to entirely give up the Communications Ministry in June 2016 had he seen the full list. In fact, neither the ministry nor the prime minister provided this full list to the comptroller in August 2016 when responding to Shapiras request for information. The report does not reveal how the State Comptrollers Office acquired the list, only stating that it acquired it over the course of its review of the issue from mid-2016 to June 2017. But a spokesman for the comptroller clarified that there was no point at which the Communications Ministry or the Prime Ministers Office voluntary provided the information, and that it was acquired via inspections performed by the comptrollers staff as authorized by law. Moreover, he comptroller questioned whether aspects of the governments coalition agreement needed to be reexamined for conflict of interest issues, since Netanyahus role as communications minister was part of the deal. In addition, the report stated that Mandelblits office did not disclose all issues in his June 2016 public announcement that he was directing Netanyahu to refrain from involvement in Elovitch-related decisions. Out of the public eye, the Attorney-Generals Office reviewed whether it should investigate major Elovitch-related policy decisions that Netanyahu had already made which may have involved a conflict of interest. This review along with its eventual decision not to revisit Netanyahus past conflicted decisions and its reasoning for refraining from revisiting them were not revealed to the public in June 2016, indeed, not until Shapiras report disclosed the issue on Wednesday. Mandelblits office explained that since no one had raised a specific alleged violation and that the issue in question was just the concept of avoiding conflicts as a matter of good governance, there was insufficient justification to warrant the exceptional measure of revising past decisions. Shapira disagreed, stating, The publics faith requires that the results of a review be brought to the knowledge of the public. A situation where the public does not know that the Justice Ministry is reviewing the consequences of past decisions implicating conflicts of interest… could cause harm to the publics faith. He also wrote that Mandelblits office should have dug deeper into what was said in conversations between Netanyahu and Elovitch. Elovitch, meanwhile has denied that the two men discussed policy issues related to a conflict of interest. The comptroller also questioned whether Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber should not have had Elovitch-related policy decisions removed from his authority. While not questioning Filbers qualifications, Shapira wrote that Filbers status as the Likud campaign chairman in the 2015 election, and as a key Netanyahu aide in earlier years, meant that his appointment in the ministry was a close political appointment. Shapira expressed criticism that the attorney-general did not review or impose conflict- of-interest parameters on Filber, and called for a standardization of criteria to apply in any future similar situation. Also on Wednesday, the Israel Securities Authority questioned Filber as part of the Elovitch probe. The ISA said Filber was questioned on suspicions of committing integrity and securities offenses, while Hebrew media reported that the director-general is suspected of giving favorable treatment to Bezeq. The State Comptrollers Report also touches on the Communication Ministrys failure to move forward with a range of reforms meant to encourage Internet and telecommunications competition to lower price and improve service quality. Decisions from 2015 or earlier directing Bezeq to permit competitors to fully use its infrastructure or to partially piggyback off its infrastructure by permitting competitors to insert wires into its pipes were either partially implemented or not implemented at all, said the report. The same was true regarding the reform of directing Bezeq to sell some of its fixed telephone landlines. Another reform that was opposed by many in the professional level of the Communications Ministry, but pushed by Filber, was loosening limits on how Bezeq, and therefore potentially Elovitch, could meld together the economic power of Bezeq and its subsidiaries. Until now, Bezeq, and its subsidiaries such as the Yes satellite television provider, were under the same ownership. But Elovitch, as controlling shareholder, and other shareholders, could not mix assets or share certain information. It is unclear what will happen with this reform, especially in light of the current probe against Elovitch for allegedly violating conflicts principles in a merger and other related transactions between Bezeq and Yes. The report also said that the Communications Ministrys negotiations with Bezeq regarding this reform were questionable in failing to keep records of discussions, failing to check Bezeqs presented economic calculations and in the suspicious timing of approving the merger. The report quoted the Prime Ministers Office as saying We completely reject the conclusions of the state comptroller, but declining to address specific issues, adding that the main criticized party was the Communications Ministry. A spokesman for the prime minister categorized the comptrollers criticism as just one more of many attempts to create the appearance of a scandal around Netanyahu. The statement said that Netanyahu acted in line with Mandelblits instructions regarding any conflicts of interest. While the Communications Ministry indicated it would respond to Jerusalem Post inquiries, none was received by press time. Eliyahu Kamisher contributed to this report. Share on facebook

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July 13, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed


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