Archive for the ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’ Category

Sara Netanyahu petitions to reverse court’s Naftali ruling – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Sara Netanyahu. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Sara Netanyahu on Monday petitioned the High Court of Justice to reverse the NIS 267,500 National Labor Court judgment in favor of two former employees of the Prime Ministers Residence against her and the Prime Ministers Office.

On March 9, the National Labor Court declined to let Netanyahu appeal, confirming a lower courts ruling that only the state had that right, since the civil-damages claim in the case was technically against it.

The first judgment awarded was NIS 170,000 to former house manager Meni Naftali as compensation for unpaid overtime hours and poor treatment received on the job. The second awarded NIS 97,500 to Guy Eliyahu for having been abused while an employee in the Prime Ministers Residence.

In February and again in May of 2016, the lower Jerusalem Region Labor Court ruled in favor of Naftali and Eliyahu, respectively, against the state and against Sara Netanyahus narrative.

Naftali was house manager from February 2011 to November 2012.

Netanyahu argued that Naftalis case and the lower court ruling contained such significant findings against her character, she should have a right to get them overturned.

In contrast, the National Labor Court ruled that even though she was central to the narrative of the case, it was only in the role of a fact-witness and not as a defendant.

Technically, the three defendants were the Prime Ministers Office; office official Ezra Seidoff; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, though ultimately the prime minister played no role in the trial.

In the original trial, Sara testified that the baseless lies, slander and mudslinging which Mani Naftali told about the wife of the prime minister in court who is not even a defendant in his case are scandalous. Nothing less than that.

In the end, though, the three-person panel Judge Dita Pruginin, employee representative Natan Mizrahi and employer representative Eliezer Yaari believed Naftali over Sara Netanyahu almost across the board.

In their decision they wrote of Saras attacks on Naftali: There was no evidentiary basis in what was presented before us, and there was not even a lot of proof to support them.

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Isaac Herzog: There’s ‘no daylight’ between me and Benjamin … – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Herzog: There’s ‘no daylight’ between me and Netanyahu on Iran

ByJPOST.COM STAFF

March 27, 2017 17:12

Breaking news. (photo credit:JPOST STAFF)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on Monday said “there’s no daylight” between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to Iran.

In an question-and-answer session with Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, Herzog stressed that the global community should acknowledge the fact that the Islamic Republic is capable of a nuclear weapons breakout in 10 years under the current atomic deal with world powers.

Herzog added that he has made efforts to inform world leaders of the dangers of the regime in Tehran and its regional terror activities.

The opposition leader said that the two main forces of danger in the region are Iran and Islamic State, indicating that Israel has a “rare opportunity” to work with outside powers to counter the threats.

March 28, 2017

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Netanyahu assesses allowing ministers and MKs to visit Temple Mount – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Jerusalem Temple Mount. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Monday to assess past policy which disallowed lawmakers and ministers to visit the Temple Mount.

According to a Channel 2 news report, the measure will only come into force after considering the security situation in three months time, once the Jewish holidays and the Muslim month of Ramadan month have passed, which could spark violence.

It was reported that Netanyahu met on Monday with security personnel, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Nadav Argaman and Jerusalem District police chief Yoram Halevy, to assess the measure.

The Knesset Ethics Committee decided in January to lift the ban prohibiting MKs from entering the area.

According to the committees decision, the only restriction on lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount would be that they coordinate with the police ahead of time.

In response to the move, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud), a Temple Mount activist, said he was saddened to think it was only his threat of petitioning the Supreme Court on the matter that pushed the prime minister to act.

In the past 10 months, I was acting in every possible way to lift the ban on MKs visiting the Temple Mount, he said. I was discussing it with the attorney-general, the Knesset attorney-general and other senior figures.

I am saddened to think that only my threat to file a petition to the Supreme Court brought to the decision that was revealed tonight, he added. As it wasnt justified to bar MKs from visiting the Temple Mount against every basic law and legal immunity I do not understand why three more months are needed to open the gates of the complex, preventing me and others to do the mitzva of ascending the Temple Mount.

Glick then stressed that he will file a petition that will prevent further delay on the matter and called on all visitors of the place to be coordinated with police.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel reiterated Glicks criticism and wrote in his Twitter account that The delay is unacceptable. Visiting Temple Mount should be allowed immediately.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said that this decision by the prime minister does not apply to him, as Tibi never took into consideration decisions made by the government regarding the Temple Mount.

The decision whether we visit or not was never in Netanyahus hands, said Tibi, who is also the chairman of the Jerusalem committee of the party. Al-aksa mosque is a Muslim prayer mosque only, and the people who are inciting and fanning the flames here are Netanyahus friends and supporters a group of right-wing politicians that are entering the compound.

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Netanyahu: No deal yet with US on settlements – Jerusalem Post Israel News

PM Netanyahu and President Trump. (photo credit:AVI OHAYON – GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that despite recent reports, no agreement has been reached with the Trump administration on Israeli settlement building over the Green Line.

The premier’s remarks came after a Channel 2 report emerged Saturday saying the sides were hammering out a deal with that permits Israel to build a new settlement in exchange for a partial building freeze in areas outside of existing large settlement blocs.

“The talks are still ongoing and media reports are untrue,” he said at the weekly meeting of his Likud faction.

“Over the last few days media reports have surfaced saying that we have come to agreements with the White House on settlement building,” Netanyahu said, “there are a lot of inaccuracies in these reports and I will not get into the details right now. The talks with the White House are still happening and I hope they will conclude as soon as possible.”

According to the Channel 2 report, Netanyahu would be able to fulfill his pledge and build a new settlement for Amona evacuees, but then restrain settlement construction elsewhere and focus on construction in the large settlement blocs according to terms of the alleged agreement being negotiated with Washington.

The report said the Trump administration would also give Israel a green light to find a solution for other outposts like Amona where there are legal questions regarding land ownership. Channel 2 said that this agreement still needs the approval of both sides.

Discussions about finding a formula that would govern construction over the Green Line began when Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, came to Israel two weeks ago. The discussions continued last week in Washington, with the Israeli side represented by Netanyahu’s Chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, his foreign policy advisor Jonathan Schachter, and ambassador to the UN Ron Dermer. Greenblatt was joined in Washington by State Department and National Security Council officials.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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Netanyahu offers condolences to British Prime Minister May – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Netanyahu offers condolences to British Prime Minister May

ByDANA SOMBERG/MAARIV HASHAVUA, REUTERS

March 24, 2017 15:57

May thanked Netanyahu and the two spoke of working together in the war on terror.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, February 6, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke Friday morning for the first time since the terror attack outside the Parliament building in London.

Netanyahu offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to all the British people.

May thanked Netanyahu and the two spoke of working together in the war on terror.

Around 40 people were injured and at least four reported dead in London on Wednesday after a car crashed into pedestrians near the British parliament and an assailant stabbed a policeman in what police called a terrorist incident.

The knifeman was then shot by police in the shadow of Big Ben, where he had tried to force his way into a courtyard just outside the Houses of Parliament.

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March 26, 2017

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Jewish leaders hit back at critics of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit as … – Hepburn Advocate

22 Feb 2017, 9:41 a.m.

The controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia has intensified.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will hold talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, as will Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Labor MP Michael Danby and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg during the Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Alex Ryvchin says the visit is about deepening ties with Australia and is not about Israel’s domest5ic policies. Photo: actkeisuke.osawa

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will both hold talks with Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia has intensified, with Jewish leaders accusing his critics of “staggering” hypocrisy and a Labor MP breaking ranks to openly criticise prominent pro-Palestinian figures in his own party.

Mr Netanyahu will arrive witha business delegation on Wednesday for a four-day visit – the first ever by a serving Israeli Prime Minister – that will include talks with Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.

Trade, cyber-security, intelligence, the war in Syria and the Middle East peace process will be discussed, with the two countries set to sign agreements on technological research and air services.

But the controversial leader will also be met with protests and criticism.

Sixty business and religious leaders, lawyers, academics, entertainers and former politicians this week joined forces to oppose Mr Netanyahu’s visit, penning an open letter that said his policies “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinian people and are a roadblock to peace.

Jewish leaders hit back on Tuesday, withAnti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich slamming the group thatorganised the statement – the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network – as having “zero credibility”.

“‘The double standard of this inflammatory and divisive letter, that singles out the only democracy in the Middle East for censure, is staggering,” Dr Abramovich said. “This statement, signed by some organisations and individuals who have ritualistically maligned Israel and advocated its boycott, recycles accusations that are meant to stigmatise and delegitimise the Jewish state.”

Alex Ryvchin from the Executive Council of Australian Jews said those opposing Mr Netanyahu’s visit failed to grasp that it was about deepening ties with Australia, not Israeli domestic policies.

“I suspect many of those opposing the visit subscribe to the delusion that the way to peace-building between warring parties is by boycotting and hissing one side and infantilising the other. It is not,” he said.

The stoush comes after former prime minister Kevin Rudd joined other senior Labor figures – including Bob Hawke, Bob Carr and Gareth Evans – in calling for Australia to recognise Palestinian statehood at the UN. Labor supports a two-state solution but has also moved closer to supporting unilateral recognition, saying that will be up to a future Labor government.

Jewish Labor backbencher Michael Danby said he disagreed with Mr Rudd’s decision.

“I might say to all the heroes who are beating up on a democratic country where there are gay pride parades . . . and Christmas celebrations – there aren’t any in the surrounding countries – why don’t they beat up on China when the Chinese president comes to Australia?” Mr Danby told Sky News.

“The oppression of the Tibetans or the Uighurs is far worse than what’s happening to the Palestinians when some Israelis build houses 20 metres or 100 metres or a mile across the Green Line. Where is Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke on the terrible things that are happening in Tibet?”

Mr Netanyahu’s visit comes weeks after the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passed a controversial law retroactively legalising 4000 settlers’ homes built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Mr Danby conceded the law was “silly”, and Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Colin Rubenstein said he fully expected the Israeli Supreme Court to strike down the law.

Dr Rubenstein said the position of Mr Rudd and the other Labor figures would “reward bad behaviour and reinforce Palestinian intransigence” in refusing to come to the negotiating table with Israel.

Mr Ryvchin said: “If Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd are interested in bringing the Palestinians closer to statehood they should call out Palestinian corruption, violence and dependence on foreign aid and clearly state that the way to Palestinian statehood is through a return to negotiations without delay and without preconditions.”

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The Man Who Would Beat Bibi – POLITICO Magazine

Benjamin Netanyahu is a survivor. Hes beaten back what looked to be near-certain defeat at the polls more than once. Hes outlasted hard-line rivals and liberal critics to become Israels longest continuously serving prime minister, and if he can hang on two more years, would even outdo David Ben-Gurion, Israels idolized founding father, to claim the overall record in the job.

And in many ways, 2017 looks to be his year.

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Hes finally free of the meddlesome President Barack Obama, whose demands for a settlement freeze, critical lectures, Iran deal and failed peace talks eventually led to an open rupture with the White House. Even better, from Netanyahus point of view, Obamas replacement is Republican Donald Trump, whos just gotten a settlement-funding Orthodox Jew confirmed as his new ambassador, vowed to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and tapped his own Orthodox son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to help him cut a deal to finally end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. As Aaron David Miller, a veteran of the peace talks under five U.S. presidents, put it recently, Netanyahu cant believe his good fortune.

So why is it that a guy named Yair Lapid, whom few have heard of outside Israel, and who entered politics only five years ago, is beating Netanyahu in poll after poll these days? Is Bibi fatigue finally kicking in?

I cant think of any other democracy in which the same person was prime minister, or president, or head of state in 1996 is still the head of state, Lapid tells me in an interview for The Global POLITICO, our podcast on world affairs. So maybe the people of Israel tell themselves, Its time to say thank you and were moving on. And the country needs to move on. Weve been stuck in the same place for quite a while now.

The late Shimon Peres, the peacemaker behind the Oslo Accords who was beaten by Netanyahu in an election he was widely expected to win, was famous for saying the polls are like perfume, best to be smelled not drunk. Are these latest surveys showing Netanyahus vulnerability and Lapids surprising strength, for real? And do they matter at a time when Trump and his advisers actually seem to be getting serious about rekindling a peace process just about everyone else had given up for dead?

***

Yair Lapid has been called many things in the five years since he entered politics after a long career as perhaps Israels most recognizable TV anchor. An empty suit. A political cipher. An opportunist.

And also: the next big thing in Israeli politics and the cure for what ails an increasingly sclerotic democracy.

Some these days even see him as Israels answer to Donald Trump, a celebrity come lately to politics, with no discernible ideology and a flair for popular slogans.

Labels aside, whatever hes doing seems to be working, and Lapids newfangled politicsheavy on the requisite tough talk about Israeli security but with an emphasis on good governance and boosting Israels economyhave improbably vaulted him and Yesh Atid, the party he founded in 2012, to first place in survey after survey over the past several months. The latest polls generally show Yesh Atid (There Is a Future in Hebrew), leading Netanyahus conservative Likud party by about four seats in parliamentary elections.

Of course, no one yet knows when those elections will be and, given the fiendishly complicated politics that come with trying to assemble a governing coalition in Israels multiparty system, even an outright win for Lapids party wouldnt necessarily guarantee he would become prime minister, given that Israels increasingly influential ultra-Orthodox parties have said they refuse to participate in any coalition led by the more secular-minded, socially liberal Lapid.

Still, events are moving surprisingly quickly. After a budget deal last year, most knowledgeable Israeli political observers had expected Netanyahus government to last at least as long as the agreement, until 2018. But now, Netanyahu is facing a rapidly spiraling investigation into a host of allegations involving gifts and perks from big donors and trading favors for positive media coverage, not to mention new pressures from the right wing in his coalition who feel emboldened by Trumps ascension to push for harder-line policies. All of which has led to a fast-evolving sense that elections could come much sooner than 2018, even as early as this fall.

But can Lapid really beat him?

For years, liberals inside Israel and out have wondered what it would take to oust Netanyahu. Instead, they watched nearly helplessly as the countrys Labor party, historically the main opposition to Netanyahus Likud, has all but collapseda fate not dissimilar to the old left in many European countries like Britain in recent years.

Enter Lapid, a polished talker with a lush head of anchorman-silver hair who tells me he is running as an extreme moderate, preaching centrism as the new populism and a sort of gauzy patriotic nationalism that tends to give his former colleagues in the world of liberal journalism fits. Lapid, who served a stint as finance minister in a short-lived coalition with Netanyahu, now tours the world as a sort of shadow foreign minister, tangling with increasingly vocal Western advocates of boycotting Israel as a result of its continued occupation of the West Bank and ongoing settlement building there. With the world of alternative facts, the country is under attack by advocates of the budding boycott movement, Lapid tells me animatedly, and he is at his most passionate these days taking on those who prefer beating up on what he invariably calls the only democracy in the Middle East.

The country is under attack by people who think lying is just OK, he insists.

I asked a dozen veteran observers of Israeli politics in Israel and Washington whether they thought Lapid could finally give Netanyahu a run for his money. Every single one of them agreed that its plausible, as one put it, though not yet likely. A 50-50 shot, said a top Israeli political analyst. Its wrong to dismiss him as so many people do as an empty suit, or a pretty face, or a soundbite, one former senior U.S. official told me. Hes doing all the right things.

At the same time, they all remained unsure about Lapids famously hard-to-pin-down politics and lack of a national security background, a deficit they were unanimous in saying hed need to compensate for by bringing in a former general like ex-army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi or former defense minister Moshe Yaalon to his ticket.

And then, there is the real unknownthe looming investigation into Netanyahu by law-enforcement authorities, who have repeatedly questioned the prime minister for hours at a time (interrupted, during the most recent session, by a phone call from Trump). If an indictment is handed down, said another veteran U.S. official, then its a whole new ballgame.

For his part, Lapid, perhaps reluctant to step on the potential political windfall from the prosecutors, was cautious about commenting directly on Netanyahus legal woes except to promise in the interview for the first time a campaign focus on clean government. An indictment would be terrible for Israel, he says, meaning two prime ministers in a row under the cloud of corruption. Anywhere in the world, when governments have been in office too long, they tend to corrupt, he says.

For now, Lapids patriotism, compelling biography and cheerleading nationalism on his overseas trips are clearly playing well in Israeli politics, where the threats generally are of the existential variety and the country is still only a few years removed from its founding generation.

Lapids father was one of that generationa Holocaust survivor who went on to become a leading Israeli journalist and politician after his escape from wartime Hungary. Lapid, now 53, wrote a best-selling account of his father, Memories After My Death: The Tommy Lapid Story, and is still known to get teary-eyed at his mention. When I ask what his dad would make of Israels famously divisive present-day politics, he responds with an unabashedly corny story about his father on his hospital deathbed, lecturing him, Im not leaving you only with a family, but also with a country.

In this day and age of Trump and Brexit, when fiery right-wing populists are challenging for leadership of both France and Germany in hotly contested elections that have establishment types openly fretting about the death of the liberal international order, Lapids equally corny appeal for the virtues of responsible centrism can have an oddly soothing effect. Never mind the fears of a 1930s-style failure of the West, he says, projecting a certainty he may or may not feelboth about his own chances and about the democratic worlds coming rejection of extremism from both right and left.

The center is coming back, he insists in our interview, which takes place even as voters in the Netherlands are going to the polls to decisively reject the immigrant-bashing nationalism of Geert Wilders Freedom Party in favor of a telegenic establishment type for prime minister. I think people are saying, Wait, wait, wait. You know, this might have gone too far. Protest movements are not supposed to lead.

Over the past year or so, Lapid has been traveling extensively outside Israel, meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill, with European pols like the fast-rising presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in France, in search of his own Centrist Internationale. Youre going to see the return of the center in the coming years, he tells me. So I dont think were in the beginning of something; I think were in the end of something.

***

The end that most close watchers of Israeli politics have been anticipating is a different one: the collapse of the idea of a two-state solution to the long-running conflict with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu had only reluctantly embraced the concept, and has seemed less than concerned since the latest round of peacemaking brokered by Obama Secretary of State John Kerry led to ignominious collapse a couple years ago. Since Trumps win, the prime minister has stopped even using the two-state terminology, and the U.S. president has all but said he doesnt care either way.

But the initial assumptions about President Trump and what his more pro-Israeli approach to peacemaking would bring have quickly been tested. Trump named the pro-settlement lawyer David Friedman as his ambassador and saw him confirmed this Thursday after an unusually divisive vote, but hes backed away from his early plan to move the Embassy to Jerusalem, has reached out aggressively to Arab leaders and has publicly prodded Netanyahu not to engage in more disruptive building in disputed settlements in the West Bank, a push more or less consistent with previous U.S. policy.

When Trumps handpicked negotiator, his longtime personal lawyer Jason Greenblatt, toured the region last week, he received plaudits for meeting extensively with all sides, including the octogenarian leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who has now received a White House invite to come to Washington in early April even as it was announced that Netanyahu will skip this weekends big annual AIPAC meeting in Washington.

That may well be because Greenblatt and Netanyahu reportedly tangled in hours of discussions over just what kind of settlement building Trump would find acceptable, talks that are continuing this week in Washington between aides. He even was reported to have pushed Israel to freeze West Bank construction outside already established settlement blocs, a demand that veteran peace process watchers see as key for the Trump team to make if it is serious about getting Palestinians to the table. It seems clear the administration wants to do something, says Dennis Ross, a top Israel adviser to Democratic and Republican presidents since George H.W. Bush, and is prepared to work with Abu Mazen to do it, using Abbas nickname.

Trump didnt move the Embassy, pressured Bibi to put the brakes on settlements and reached out to Abu Mazen. He seems to really believe he can be the peacemaker, says Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton who with Kerry went on to lead Obamas failed effort to negotiate between Netanyahu and Abbas. I don’t have any other explanation.

But Trumps would-be peacemaking may make it a lot harder for Netanyahu to hang on politically, as just about everyone I talked with for this article was quick to point out. If Netanyahu cant deliver on more settlement-building from a supposedly favorable Trump administration, there are plenty on his right flank poised to criticize him. And then, theres Lapidofficially still a two-stater though he talks increasingly these days not of peace but of separation between Israelis and Palestinians as the goalwaiting to take advantage of whatever rupture occurs.

It is becoming clear that the administrations asks of Israel on restraining settlement activity are well within the range of traditional U.S. policy under previous administrationsmuch to the disappointment of some Israelis who thought it would be anything goes, says Dan Shapiro, who served as Obamas ambassador to Israel and sat in on every meeting he had with Netanyahu through the eight years of Obamas presidency. It is causing significant tensions within Netanyahus coalition.

In the end, those politics are one of the many reasons that the Democrats who felt so burned by their own peacemaking efforts with Netanyahu remain so skeptical about any renewed Trump approach.

The Trump guys will discover, just like we did, that its impossible. I spent a year of my life trying even though I didnt think it was possible. Its the Holy Grail; its the ultimate deal, and I dont blame them for trying. But I dont see any indication that ether Bibi or Abu Mazen is capable of taking risks necessary to get a deal, Indyk told me.

Israeli politics means its even less possible now, he argues. The right wing has Bibi by the throat and he cannot afford to do anything to jeopardize his coalition. Bibi cannot afford any kind of cracks in his coalition and they all know it, so theyre all going to press him and he will bend to them, he has to. No politician in Israel planning to run in next election wants to talk about peace.

***

A few weeks ago, Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev wrote a column in the newspaper Haaretz titled, For the first time, I thought of Yair Lapid as prime minister. The piece blasted Israels divided, extremist and vulgar politics, essentially endorsing Lapids view that only a new centrism could save the country from the abominable practice of both right and left to hand over the keys to the kingdom to parties that are essentially fanatic and anti-democratic.

It may be, Shalev wrote, the only doctor on call right now is Yair Lapid.

This was notable for a couple reasons: first, Shalev is a smart political analyst, and until now, smart political analysts have been reluctant to actually give Lapid a chance to win; they have mostly remained believers in what Shalev tells me is the mystique Bibi has developed that no matter what the polls say, he will win. And second, Shalev wrote this in Haaretz, a liberal newspaper with which Lapid has developed a feud so pronounced he boycotts its reporters.

When we meet in Washington, Lapid is clearly buoyant about his political momentumeven as he shows off many of the traits his critics and would-be rivals find so frustrating.

Most of all, he is hard to pin down, whether the subject is a controversial new law blocking pro-boycott and divestment activists from coming to Israel (which he tells me he is mostly but not entirely against, while also assuring me free speech remains well protected); Trumps peace initiative (you know what, if you are appointing your son-in-law, then you care about this); or his own campaign program (he will emphasize clean government, he says, though how is unclear).

But Lapid is also articulate, adaptive, well-read and savvy. Politically, hes disciplined enough not to get drawn into fights hes never going to win.

In our interview, he insists that his self-proclaimed extreme centrism is just as much an ideology as the more rabble-rousing kind. Its the problem of centrists all around the world, he says. You dont get to say those inflammatory, very interesting things that the extremists from both sides get to say. You are talking on behalf of complexity, and the fact that running a country has to do with competing interests.

Then again, Lapid is enough of a politician to know that nuance doesnt make for a great campaign poster.

As were about to wrap up, he promises that elections really are coming this year. Oh, and one other thing: I do think that Israelis understand that we need something that is new and clean and different, he says. Its time to move on.

In America, time for a change is a great slogan. But will it work in Israel?

Susan Glasser is POLITICOs chief international affairs columnist and host of its new weekly podcast, The Global Politico.

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The corruption cases that could take down Benjamin Netanyahu, explained – Vox

It was early March, and Israeli police were questioning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a burgeoning corruption probe that could force him out of power and potentially even send him to jail when the phone rang at Netanyahus official residence in Jerusalem. The caller was President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu excused himself and took the call. According to his office, the two leaders discussed the Trump administrations Iran strategy for several minutes, after which the interrogation resumed. It was the fourth time that Israeli police had questioned Netanyahu, a sign of the seriousness of the probe and the growing dangers facing the Israeli leader.

Many in Israel and Washington believe that the timing of the March 6 call wasnt a coincidence. Some speculated that Netanyahu knew the call would come while he was questioned, and deliberately didnt try to reschedule it; others went even further, suggesting that the White House was trying to help Netanyahu survive the rapidly expanding criminal investigation by signaling to Israeli prosecutors that the Trump administration viewed the prime minister as an indispensable ally. That would be Trumps way of paying back Netanyahu for inoculating him against charges of anti-Semitism.

Either way, Netanyahu got the public framing he wanted: a prime minister dealing with critical issues of Israeli national security while being harassed over petty allegations of bribery, corruption, and influence peddling. Instead of listing the charges against him, headlines in the Israeli press focused on Trump and Iran and put new pressure on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will soon have to decide whether to press charges against Netanyahu.

The call is a vivid illustration of a major scandal that threatens to reshape Israeli politics but has gotten very little attention in the US. Many Americans think about Netanyahu solely through the prism of his governments often rocky relationship with the US. He and former President Barack Obama openly disdained each other and fought publicly over issues like Iran and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Back home in Israel, though, Netanyahu is in the headlines for a vastly different reason: a pair of criminal investigations that threaten to end his career and potentially even send him to prison. Netanyahu, one of Israels longest-serving prime ministers, may be forced from office not by a political rival but by the prospect that he abused the powers of his office for personal and political gain.

Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, faces criminal probes that could end his career and send him to prison

The first case against Netanyahu centers on expensive gifts he and his wife got and sometimes demanded from rich businessmen. The second case deals with negotiations Netanyahu held with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israels largest newspaper. The two men allegedly discussed legislation designed to hurt Mozess main competitor in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister.

Netanyahu has strenuously denied the allegations, and hinted that he wouldnt resign even if Israeli prosecutors were to formally indict him. The police are expected to wrap up their work in the coming weeks, and the attorney general will then take several more months to make his call.

Even if Netanyahu refuses to leave, an indictment will almost surely lead to early elections. Two major parties have taken steps to hold their primaries sooner than planned, and prominent Israeli politicians such as former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon have signaled their intention to run. Netanyahu himself is hinting that he’s prepared to quickly call new elections a move that some pundits attribute to his desire to go to the polls before criminal charges are brought against him.

Netanyahus potential downfall would have a dramatic and immediate impact on Israels relationship with the US, its most vital ally. Trump has signaled that he feels personal affection for Netanyahu and has floated the idea of acceding to a pair of Netanyahus top objectives: moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and giving Israel a green light for settlement expansion. (Though Trump has backed away from both positions recently.)

Trump, in turn, views Netanyahu as an ally who will back his hard-line policies on Iran, protect his relationship with the American-Jewish community, and bolster his ties with Republican lawmakers who almost uniformly support Israel generally and Netanyahu specifically.

If one of the scandals takes down Netanyahu, in other words, it wont just be Israels political system that will be thrown into turmoil. The Trump administrations plans for Israel will be upended too.

Incredibly, every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who served in the mid-1990s, has at one time or another faced criminal investigations while in office. Only one of those investigations actually led to a criminal prosecution, however. Thats led some Israelis to conclude that the decisions about whether to actually press charges against a sitting prime minister have more to do with their perceived strength than with the actual evidence of their potential wrongdoing.

Take Ariel Sharon, the bellicose former general who ran Israel from March 2001 to April 2006. At the height of his powers, he avoided criminal charges in the Greek Island affair, where he was accused of taking bribes in exchange for helping an Israeli tycoon build a casino on a small and remote island in the Aegean Sea.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, already weakened by Israels failed military campaign in South Lebanon in 2006, was convicted in a 2009 bribery case. Olmert is currently serving his 18-month sentence in the same prison where former Israeli President Moshe Katsav spent five years following a rape conviction.

Netanyahus predecessor is in prison for corruption

Netanyahu himself faced several criminal investigations during his first term in office, which ran from 1996 to 1999. He was defeated by Ehud Barak in May 1999, 16 months before the attorney general decided to drop the last of those investigations. Barak, in turn, faced a criminal probe of his own for alleged campaign financing violations. Those charges were dropped in 2003.

Its a list of suspects and convicted felons that shed a very bad light on our political system, says Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz Party. Many of us believed that Olmerts conviction was a watershed moment, and that people would get the message. This turned out to be wishful thinking.

The timing of the new probes couldnt be worse for Netanyahu, who was looking forward to a warm relationship with Trump after years of open sparring with the Obama administration. Instead, the Israeli prime minister faces the fight of his life.

According to most estimates, the first of the investigations into Netanyahu, referred to by Israeli police as Case 1,000, is the one most likely to end up in court.

Police suspect Netanyahu accepted and at times demanded lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In one incident reported by the Israeli media, Netanyahus wife, Sarah, specifically demanded $2,700 worth of jewelry, which Milchan provided. According to a report in Haaretz, Milchan told police that in one instance, the Netanyahus demands made him feel sick.

The Netanyahus do not deny receiving presents from Milchan and Packer, but claim that these were gifts among friends, which are not forbidden by law. However, Milchan holds 9.8 percent of Israels Channel 10, which is subject to regulation by Israels Ministry of Communications which Netanyahu was personally running until recently. Netanyahu also intervened with then-US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and then-Secretary of State John Kerry to get Milchans US visa renewed.

The second probe, which police call Case 2,000, centers on recordings the police obtained while examining the personal computer and phone of Netanyahus former chief of staff, Ari Harow. Harow was under an unrelated investigation for money laundering and bribes. (The police recently announced it had sufficient evidence against Harow; the office of the states prosecutor has yet to decide whether to press charges.)

Those recordings capture conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and the popular Ynet News website.

In their conversations, which took place before the 2015 Israeli elections, Mozes reportedly offered to do everything in his power to help Netanyahu stay in power for as long as you want. In exchange, Mozes requested legislation that would limit the ability of his main competitor, the pro-Netanyahu Israel HaYom newspaper, to distribute free papers.

According to transcripts obtained by Israels Channel 2, the two went so as far as to discuss potential pro-Netanyahu columnists that Mozes would hire. Netanyahu then said he would discuss the legislation with the redhead referring to Israel HaYoms publisher, the American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major GOP donor who also contributed large amounts of money to Trumps successful presidential campaign.

Facing mounting pressure over both cases, Netanyahu was recently forced to temporarily recuse himself from running the Ministry of Communication.

Netanyahus legal worries do not end there: The prime ministers personal attorney (who is also his second cousin and a trusted proxy going back years) is one of the three known suspects in Case 3,000, which is looking at a suspicious Israeli military contract with a German shipbuilder.

In a fourth case, Israeli police have recommended pressing charges against Sarah Netanyahu, the prime ministers wife, for misusing state funds. Prosecutors are currently weighing whether to bring charges.

The man at the center of the drama apart from Netanyahu himself is Attorney General Mandelblit. In his previous role, Mandelblit served as the government secretary, a position that involved a close working relationship with the prime minister. Netanyahu and Mandelblit got along so well that the latters appointment to head the prosecution drew heavy criticism, with an Israeli watchdog group filing two formal petitions asking Israels high court to prevent his appointment. Both were rejected.

Mandelblit has been extremely cautious in handling Netanyahus cases in the eyes of critics like former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, far too cautious. He deliberated for months before authorizing formal police investigations against the prime minister. The attorney general also forbade the police to question Netanyahu and his wife simultaneously, a routine procedure in such cases that is meant to prevent suspects from coordinating their statements.

[There is] a strong sense of whitewashing and obstruction, Barak wrote on his Facebook page following reports that Mandelblit blocked the police from trying to speak to Shapiro and Kerry as part of one of the corruption probes.

The peoples trust in Mandelblit is crumbling, added Barak, who served as defense minister in Netanyahus government from 2009 to 2013.

But there is also the opposite interpretation: Some observers speculate that Mandelblit is deliberately moving slowly and cautiously because he may be nearing a decision to take the extraordinary step of filing charges against Netanyahu.

The evidence against Netanyahu was available for the attorney general to examine before he made his decision to launch a criminal probe, a former police investigator who led high-profile cases told me. The AG was aware of all the implications, including the political ones, and yet he ordered the police to launch formal investigations. This might suggest that he saw something there.

As the police wrap up their investigations, Netanyahus allies say he will not go down without a fight.

A high court ruling from 1993 requires that a minister resign after an indictment or be fired by the prime minister if he or she refuses to step down. But the ruling says nothing about whether a prime minister must resign and theres nobody who can fire Netanyahu, since he himself is the prime minister.

That means Netanyahu would need to quit on his own, and hes given no signs that he intends to do so. The head of Netanyahus governing coalition in Israels parliament, Likud Party lawmaker David Bitan, declared in a public event on Saturday that Netanyahu will not resign even if there is an indictment.

But theres another way he could potentially be forced out. In the Israeli system, Netanyahu depends on his coalition partners to maintain the parliamentary majority that keeps him in power. And at least two of them Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett might try to force him out by threatening to leave the coalition, or simply by dropping out. Thats what happened to Olmert, who was pushed to resign following his indictment. Finally, Netanyahu might also try to call early elections on his own, so he can face the prosecution with a renewed mandate from the people.

Netanyahus rivals on the right have been careful not to attack him right now the countrys left wing is so weak that his only conceivable challengers would be even more hawkish than the prime minister himself. His right-wing rivals will compete for his supporters in the future, so alienating those supporters today makes no sense.

Still, few of Israels leading right-wing politicians are openly backing Netanyahu. The incumbent prime minister is instead drawing support mainly from Likud backbenchers and his countrys pro-Netanyahu media outlets.

Behind the scenes, initial preparations for early elections are taking place. The Labor and Jewish Home parties have indicated their intention to hold primaries this spring. Popular former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has announced he will form his own party and compete for the top job. And the settlers are threatening to punish the government if their demand for a new outpost is not answered.

There is a certain frenzy in the Knesset something you feel ahead of elections, Zandberg says.

As if thats not enough, recent polls show that early elections could result in Netanyahus coalition losing its majority in the Israeli parliament. If those predictions prove accurate, the vote would pave the way for a new leader to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

No other person has shaped the face of present-day Israel as much as Netanyahu has during his 20 years in power. Hes changed Israels strategic priorities from seeking peace with the Palestinians to working to contain Iran, which he sees as an existential threat. Netanyahu has also helped decimate the countrys left-wing political parties and populated Israeli institutions with right-wing officials who hold religiously conservative and pro-settlement views.

Perhaps more than anything else, Netanyahu brought to politics a confrontational attitude that seems to have preceded its time. Today, everybody walks and talks like Netanyahu. He was never loved the way previous prime ministers like Sharon or Rabin were, but he has an intuitive sense for the undercurrents of politics that has allowed him to survive and flourish in one of the most chaotic and hard-edged political systems in the world.

That his downfall may ultimately come at a time when his fortunes seem to be at an all-time high with a friendly White House and no serious domestic political challengers is the height of irony.

Excerpt from:

The corruption cases that could take down Benjamin Netanyahu, explained – Vox

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March 24, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Why Netanyahu won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference – Al-Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not shown) at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, March 21, 2017. (photo byREUTERS/Etienne Oliveau)

Author:Ben Caspit Posted March 22, 2017

Upon his return from his first meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington on Feb. 15, it was obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be heading back to the US capital in the very near future. The official excuse would bethe annualAmerican Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) conference in late March, an event that Netanyahu does not like to miss. The second excuse would be that Netanyahu finally found a new buddy in the White House. After almost eight difficult years, in which he was alienated from the US administration under President Barack Obama, Netanyahu now has a good reason to pop over to Washington every Monday and Thursday. If the relationship between the two leaders is really as close as it seems, there is no reason why they would not want to meet each other as often as possible.

TranslatorDanny Wool

But Netanyahu will notbe going to AIPAC, nor will he be meeting with Trump. A diplomatic source in Washingtontold Al-Monitor on condition of anonymitythat it was impossible to arrange a meeting between the two men due to “scheduling conflicts.” As of now, it is unclear who really tried to avoid meeting with whom. Was it Trump, who was signaling to Netanyahu not to take him for granted, or was it Netanyahu, who is worried about another meeting with Trump?

Regardless of who was responsible for that, a source in the prime minister’s office said on condition of anonymity, “We’re not quite there yet, but we will soon start to miss Barack Hussein Obama.”

Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed that therewere all sorts of concerns in Jerusalem last week following envoyJason Greenblatt’s visitto the region. Anyone who thought that the Israeli right would have it easy during the Trump era was sorely mistaken.

Furthermore, while everything under Obama followed very clear rules defined well in advance, under Trump there is no way of knowing how it will all end. Netanyahu had no qualms about saying “no” to Obama on numerous occasions, and he almost never had to pay for that either at least until late 2016, when he got hit with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

Things are different under Trump. There are no rules, no checks and balances, and no restraints. As many people have learned firsthandover the past year, it is not a good idea to upset the president. He can do a 180-degree turnabout at breathtaking speed. According to some of his aides, Netanyahu is terrified of this. There was good reason why he sent his Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz to Washington on March 18. Horowitz must help Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer to come up with a formula for continued settlement construction that the administration could accept. Dermer never needed this kind of emergency assistance during all the years of the hated Obama administration. Now the situation looks completely different.

Before arriving for his visit to the region, Greenblatt met with several senior members of Obama’s peace negotiations team for briefings. He also met with quite a few Palestinian and Arab business leadersin an attempt to learn about the situation on the ground. He even brought Yael Lempert, the senior director for the Levant, Israeland Egypt at the National Security Council, to his meetings in the region. Lempert will apparently remain in her post under the new administration. In Netanyahu’s immediate surroundings, this is considered a bad omen.

Greenblatt met with Netanyahu twice, on March 13 and March 16, with each meeting lasting about five hours. Of the roughly10hours that Netanyahu and Greenblatt spent together, at least seven of them were private meetings between the two men. Greenblatt also met with President Reuven Rivlin, opposition chairman Isaac Herzog, settler representativesand even with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.Gen.Yoav Mordechai. He held a similar round of talks in Ramallah.

Under Obama, Netanyahu would not allow the Americans to meet with senior defense officials. He has now been forced to give up on that informal policy, and allowed Greenblatt to meet with Mordechai (though someone from Netanyahus office was also present in the meeting). In this meeting, Greenblatt tried to find out what Israel could do to improve the situation of the Palestinians. No one is better versed in this than Mordechai.

Greenblatt turned out to be an impressive, courteous, polishedand discreet individual. Describing his intentions during this visit, he said he “came to learn.” He looks like a Republican but talks like a Democrat. The yarmulke that he wears but which he removed while visiting Ramallahand the fact that he is a religious Jew who attended a yeshiva in Israel place a complex burden of proof on him. The fact that the Palestinians came away pleased after their meetings with him proves that he excelled in meeting that burden.

While he was still “learning,” Israelis learned that their dream about the impending “arrival of the messiah” (with Trump bringing salvation to the Israeli right) would have to be put on hold for now. No one in Trump’s inner circle plans “to throw the Palestinians under the bus.” In fact, the opposite may well be true. If talks between the parties until now are any indication, the US administration considers the Palestinians to be equal partners with the same rights as the Israelis, and it is committed to reaching the “ultimate deal.” What frightens Netanyahu is that he knows what happens to anyone who gets in Trump’s way, when he is trying to reach a deal. He does not want to be that person.

As several people that he met were told, Greenblatt’s task is to create a “restart bundle” for the diplomatic process. He has already set the dates for his next two visits to the region. He spent his first visit getting the lay of the land and learning about the two parties, working his way through both with impressive thoroughness. He will now try to reach a “containment formula” to restrain settlement construction and a series of trust-building measures that Israel can adopt toward the Palestinians. When Obama tried to ask Israel for such measures such as construction permits for Palestinians in Area CNetanyahu turned him down. On March 22, before getting on the plane back to Israel from China, Netanyahu said that discussions with the Americans on settlement construction advanced significantly. And prevailing assessment in Israel is that a formula for “restrained”construction would be reached in the coming two weeks.

Be that as it may, Greenblatt had another assignment, and a secretive one at that. During his talks in Washington, Netanyahu tried to intimidate the Americans by telling them that he was restrained by politics and his coalition. Given the makeup of his government, he explained thatthere was little he could do in terms of the Palestinian issue. As such, when Greenblatt met with Herzog and also with Zionist Camp co-leader Tzipi Livni, he asked discreetly and with considerable sensitivity about the current political situation. In other words, he tried to find out whether Netanyahu’s analysis of the situation was accurate, or whether he had other political options (which have been written about frequently in Al-Monitor).

Netanyahu is under siege. Police investigations against him are moving ahead quickly, while his promise to establish an alternative settlement for the Amona evacuees still remains unfulfilled. Washington looked into this potential new settlement and found that its location is problematic. It would complete the dissection of the West Bank from east to west and make it extremely difficult to establish a Palestinian state at some point in the future. Given this state of affairs, it is hard to believe that Washington would agree to the establishment of such a settlement. What is also unclear is how Netanyahu will extricate himself from this problem.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/israel-us-palestinians-benjamin-netanyahu-jason-greenblatt.html

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Why Netanyahu won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference – Al-Monitor

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March 24, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Sara Netanyahu petitions to reverse court’s Naftali ruling – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Sara Netanyahu. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Sara Netanyahu on Monday petitioned the High Court of Justice to reverse the NIS 267,500 National Labor Court judgment in favor of two former employees of the Prime Ministers Residence against her and the Prime Ministers Office. On March 9, the National Labor Court declined to let Netanyahu appeal, confirming a lower courts ruling that only the state had that right, since the civil-damages claim in the case was technically against it. The first judgment awarded was NIS 170,000 to former house manager Meni Naftali as compensation for unpaid overtime hours and poor treatment received on the job. The second awarded NIS 97,500 to Guy Eliyahu for having been abused while an employee in the Prime Ministers Residence. In February and again in May of 2016, the lower Jerusalem Region Labor Court ruled in favor of Naftali and Eliyahu, respectively, against the state and against Sara Netanyahus narrative. Naftali was house manager from February 2011 to November 2012. Netanyahu argued that Naftalis case and the lower court ruling contained such significant findings against her character, she should have a right to get them overturned. In contrast, the National Labor Court ruled that even though she was central to the narrative of the case, it was only in the role of a fact-witness and not as a defendant. Technically, the three defendants were the Prime Ministers Office; office official Ezra Seidoff; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, though ultimately the prime minister played no role in the trial. In the original trial, Sara testified that the baseless lies, slander and mudslinging which Mani Naftali told about the wife of the prime minister in court who is not even a defendant in his case are scandalous. Nothing less than that. In the end, though, the three-person panel Judge Dita Pruginin, employee representative Natan Mizrahi and employer representative Eliezer Yaari believed Naftali over Sara Netanyahu almost across the board. In their decision they wrote of Saras attacks on Naftali: There was no evidentiary basis in what was presented before us, and there was not even a lot of proof to support them. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Isaac Herzog: There’s ‘no daylight’ between me and Benjamin … – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Herzog: There’s ‘no daylight’ between me and Netanyahu on Iran ByJPOST.COM STAFF March 27, 2017 17:12 Breaking news. (photo credit:JPOST STAFF) Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on Monday said “there’s no daylight” between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to Iran. In an question-and-answer session with Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, Herzog stressed that the global community should acknowledge the fact that the Islamic Republic is capable of a nuclear weapons breakout in 10 years under the current atomic deal with world powers. Herzog added that he has made efforts to inform world leaders of the dangers of the regime in Tehran and its regional terror activities. The opposition leader said that the two main forces of danger in the region are Iran and Islamic State, indicating that Israel has a “rare opportunity” to work with outside powers to counter the threats. March 28, 2017 New poll shows centrist Macron beating Le Pen to win French election By REUTERS Iran: Russia can use military bases ‘on case by case basis’ By REUTERS Promoted Content Manhunt prompts evacuation of Arizona wildlife park By REUTERS Promoted Content US senator seeks ethics probe of Mnuchin’s ‘Lego Batman’ comment By REUTERS Promoted Content Pelosi says intel panel chief should recuse himself By REUTERS Promoted Content OUR FREE DAILY NEWS BLAST Micah Halpern Trump is not an antisemite Caroline B. Glick Our World: A test for King Abdullah Ruthie Blum Right From Wrong: Westminster carnage, Turkish delight Ehud (Udi) Eiran Netanyahu goes to China: Three questions Pence: US seeks ‘just solution’ to conflict, president still seriously considering embassy move Dallas JCC evacuated over threatening phone call after Israeli suspect arrested Russia extends its Middle East reach with an eye on Libya REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS Most Read ‘Ties between US Jews and Israel could reach breaking point in 2017’ Hamas: If Israel changes the rules of the game we accept the challenge Netanyahu: Trump has already turned words of support for Israel into actions Jerusalem students uncover nearly 2,000-year-old relics from Bar Kokhba revolt

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu assesses allowing ministers and MKs to visit Temple Mount – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Jerusalem Temple Mount. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Monday to assess past policy which disallowed lawmakers and ministers to visit the Temple Mount. According to a Channel 2 news report, the measure will only come into force after considering the security situation in three months time, once the Jewish holidays and the Muslim month of Ramadan month have passed, which could spark violence. It was reported that Netanyahu met on Monday with security personnel, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Nadav Argaman and Jerusalem District police chief Yoram Halevy, to assess the measure. The Knesset Ethics Committee decided in January to lift the ban prohibiting MKs from entering the area. According to the committees decision, the only restriction on lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount would be that they coordinate with the police ahead of time. In response to the move, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud), a Temple Mount activist, said he was saddened to think it was only his threat of petitioning the Supreme Court on the matter that pushed the prime minister to act. In the past 10 months, I was acting in every possible way to lift the ban on MKs visiting the Temple Mount, he said. I was discussing it with the attorney-general, the Knesset attorney-general and other senior figures. I am saddened to think that only my threat to file a petition to the Supreme Court brought to the decision that was revealed tonight, he added. As it wasnt justified to bar MKs from visiting the Temple Mount against every basic law and legal immunity I do not understand why three more months are needed to open the gates of the complex, preventing me and others to do the mitzva of ascending the Temple Mount. Glick then stressed that he will file a petition that will prevent further delay on the matter and called on all visitors of the place to be coordinated with police. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel reiterated Glicks criticism and wrote in his Twitter account that The delay is unacceptable. Visiting Temple Mount should be allowed immediately. Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said that this decision by the prime minister does not apply to him, as Tibi never took into consideration decisions made by the government regarding the Temple Mount. The decision whether we visit or not was never in Netanyahus hands, said Tibi, who is also the chairman of the Jerusalem committee of the party. Al-aksa mosque is a Muslim prayer mosque only, and the people who are inciting and fanning the flames here are Netanyahus friends and supporters a group of right-wing politicians that are entering the compound. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

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March 28, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu: No deal yet with US on settlements – Jerusalem Post Israel News

PM Netanyahu and President Trump. (photo credit:AVI OHAYON – GPO) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that despite recent reports, no agreement has been reached with the Trump administration on Israeli settlement building over the Green Line. The premier’s remarks came after a Channel 2 report emerged Saturday saying the sides were hammering out a deal with that permits Israel to build a new settlement in exchange for a partial building freeze in areas outside of existing large settlement blocs. “The talks are still ongoing and media reports are untrue,” he said at the weekly meeting of his Likud faction. “Over the last few days media reports have surfaced saying that we have come to agreements with the White House on settlement building,” Netanyahu said, “there are a lot of inaccuracies in these reports and I will not get into the details right now. The talks with the White House are still happening and I hope they will conclude as soon as possible.” According to the Channel 2 report, Netanyahu would be able to fulfill his pledge and build a new settlement for Amona evacuees, but then restrain settlement construction elsewhere and focus on construction in the large settlement blocs according to terms of the alleged agreement being negotiated with Washington. The report said the Trump administration would also give Israel a green light to find a solution for other outposts like Amona where there are legal questions regarding land ownership. Channel 2 said that this agreement still needs the approval of both sides. Discussions about finding a formula that would govern construction over the Green Line began when Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, came to Israel two weeks ago. The discussions continued last week in Washington, with the Israeli side represented by Netanyahu’s Chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, his foreign policy advisor Jonathan Schachter, and ambassador to the UN Ron Dermer. Greenblatt was joined in Washington by State Department and National Security Council officials. Herb Keinon contributed to this report. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

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March 26, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Netanyahu offers condolences to British Prime Minister May – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Netanyahu offers condolences to British Prime Minister May ByDANA SOMBERG/MAARIV HASHAVUA, REUTERS March 24, 2017 15:57 May thanked Netanyahu and the two spoke of working together in the war on terror. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, February 6, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke Friday morning for the first time since the terror attack outside the Parliament building in London. Netanyahu offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to all the British people. May thanked Netanyahu and the two spoke of working together in the war on terror. Around 40 people were injured and at least four reported dead in London on Wednesday after a car crashed into pedestrians near the British parliament and an assailant stabbed a policeman in what police called a terrorist incident. The knifeman was then shot by police in the shadow of Big Ben, where he had tried to force his way into a courtyard just outside the Houses of Parliament. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin March 26, 2017 Netanyahu: No deal yet with US on settlements By JPOST.COM STAFF Two dead and multiple injured, including children in shootings in Israeli-Arab towns By ELIYAHU KAMISHER Promoted Content Sela falls in straight sets to Nadal at Miami Open By ALLON SINAI Promoted Content Hapoel Jerusalem blown out by 24 points in Rishon By ALLON SINAI Promoted Content Levys Israel humbled 4-1 in Spain qualifier By ALLON SINAI Promoted Content OUR FREE DAILY NEWS BLAST Lior Akerman Israels open secret Michael Tanchum Sino-Saudi alignment in Yemen and escalating conflict Caroline B. Glick Column One: Trumps greatest deal Lawrence Rifkin Grumpy Old Man: Two tough days for journalism Intel CEO: We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a US company Analysis: Trumps envoy, bareheaded, walks into the lions den Russia extends its Middle East reach with an eye on Libya REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS Most Read Hamas blames Israel for killing Izzadin Kassam leader Report: US, Russia agree to help Israel ‘expel’ Iran from Syria US House and Senate introduce bipartisan bills against boycotts of Israel Analysis: Israel’s new approach to Hamas?

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March 26, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Jewish leaders hit back at critics of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit as … – Hepburn Advocate

22 Feb 2017, 9:41 a.m. The controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia has intensified. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will hold talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, as will Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Labor MP Michael Danby and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg during the Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Alex Ryvchin says the visit is about deepening ties with Australia and is not about Israel’s domest5ic policies. Photo: actkeisuke.osawa Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will both hold talks with Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen The controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia has intensified, with Jewish leaders accusing his critics of “staggering” hypocrisy and a Labor MP breaking ranks to openly criticise prominent pro-Palestinian figures in his own party. Mr Netanyahu will arrive witha business delegation on Wednesday for a four-day visit – the first ever by a serving Israeli Prime Minister – that will include talks with Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. Trade, cyber-security, intelligence, the war in Syria and the Middle East peace process will be discussed, with the two countries set to sign agreements on technological research and air services. But the controversial leader will also be met with protests and criticism. Sixty business and religious leaders, lawyers, academics, entertainers and former politicians this week joined forces to oppose Mr Netanyahu’s visit, penning an open letter that said his policies “provoke, intimidate and oppress” the Palestinian people and are a roadblock to peace. Jewish leaders hit back on Tuesday, withAnti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich slamming the group thatorganised the statement – the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network – as having “zero credibility”. “‘The double standard of this inflammatory and divisive letter, that singles out the only democracy in the Middle East for censure, is staggering,” Dr Abramovich said. “This statement, signed by some organisations and individuals who have ritualistically maligned Israel and advocated its boycott, recycles accusations that are meant to stigmatise and delegitimise the Jewish state.” Alex Ryvchin from the Executive Council of Australian Jews said those opposing Mr Netanyahu’s visit failed to grasp that it was about deepening ties with Australia, not Israeli domestic policies. “I suspect many of those opposing the visit subscribe to the delusion that the way to peace-building between warring parties is by boycotting and hissing one side and infantilising the other. It is not,” he said. The stoush comes after former prime minister Kevin Rudd joined other senior Labor figures – including Bob Hawke, Bob Carr and Gareth Evans – in calling for Australia to recognise Palestinian statehood at the UN. Labor supports a two-state solution but has also moved closer to supporting unilateral recognition, saying that will be up to a future Labor government. Jewish Labor backbencher Michael Danby said he disagreed with Mr Rudd’s decision. “I might say to all the heroes who are beating up on a democratic country where there are gay pride parades . . . and Christmas celebrations – there aren’t any in the surrounding countries – why don’t they beat up on China when the Chinese president comes to Australia?” Mr Danby told Sky News. “The oppression of the Tibetans or the Uighurs is far worse than what’s happening to the Palestinians when some Israelis build houses 20 metres or 100 metres or a mile across the Green Line. Where is Bob Carr, Gareth Evans and Bob Hawke on the terrible things that are happening in Tibet?” Mr Netanyahu’s visit comes weeks after the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passed a controversial law retroactively legalising 4000 settlers’ homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. Mr Danby conceded the law was “silly”, and Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Colin Rubenstein said he fully expected the Israeli Supreme Court to strike down the law. Dr Rubenstein said the position of Mr Rudd and the other Labor figures would “reward bad behaviour and reinforce Palestinian intransigence” in refusing to come to the negotiating table with Israel. Mr Ryvchin said: “If Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd are interested in bringing the Palestinians closer to statehood they should call out Palestinian corruption, violence and dependence on foreign aid and clearly state that the way to Palestinian statehood is through a return to negotiations without delay and without preconditions.” Follow us on Facebook The story Jewish leaders hit back at critics of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit as Labor splits first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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March 26, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

The Man Who Would Beat Bibi – POLITICO Magazine

Benjamin Netanyahu is a survivor. Hes beaten back what looked to be near-certain defeat at the polls more than once. Hes outlasted hard-line rivals and liberal critics to become Israels longest continuously serving prime minister, and if he can hang on two more years, would even outdo David Ben-Gurion, Israels idolized founding father, to claim the overall record in the job. And in many ways, 2017 looks to be his year. Story Continued Below Hes finally free of the meddlesome President Barack Obama, whose demands for a settlement freeze, critical lectures, Iran deal and failed peace talks eventually led to an open rupture with the White House. Even better, from Netanyahus point of view, Obamas replacement is Republican Donald Trump, whos just gotten a settlement-funding Orthodox Jew confirmed as his new ambassador, vowed to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and tapped his own Orthodox son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to help him cut a deal to finally end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. As Aaron David Miller, a veteran of the peace talks under five U.S. presidents, put it recently, Netanyahu cant believe his good fortune. So why is it that a guy named Yair Lapid, whom few have heard of outside Israel, and who entered politics only five years ago, is beating Netanyahu in poll after poll these days? Is Bibi fatigue finally kicking in? I cant think of any other democracy in which the same person was prime minister, or president, or head of state in 1996 is still the head of state, Lapid tells me in an interview for The Global POLITICO, our podcast on world affairs. So maybe the people of Israel tell themselves, Its time to say thank you and were moving on. And the country needs to move on. Weve been stuck in the same place for quite a while now. The late Shimon Peres, the peacemaker behind the Oslo Accords who was beaten by Netanyahu in an election he was widely expected to win, was famous for saying the polls are like perfume, best to be smelled not drunk. Are these latest surveys showing Netanyahus vulnerability and Lapids surprising strength, for real? And do they matter at a time when Trump and his advisers actually seem to be getting serious about rekindling a peace process just about everyone else had given up for dead? *** Yair Lapid has been called many things in the five years since he entered politics after a long career as perhaps Israels most recognizable TV anchor. An empty suit. A political cipher. An opportunist. And also: the next big thing in Israeli politics and the cure for what ails an increasingly sclerotic democracy. Some these days even see him as Israels answer to Donald Trump, a celebrity come lately to politics, with no discernible ideology and a flair for popular slogans. Labels aside, whatever hes doing seems to be working, and Lapids newfangled politicsheavy on the requisite tough talk about Israeli security but with an emphasis on good governance and boosting Israels economyhave improbably vaulted him and Yesh Atid, the party he founded in 2012, to first place in survey after survey over the past several months. The latest polls generally show Yesh Atid (There Is a Future in Hebrew), leading Netanyahus conservative Likud party by about four seats in parliamentary elections. Of course, no one yet knows when those elections will be and, given the fiendishly complicated politics that come with trying to assemble a governing coalition in Israels multiparty system, even an outright win for Lapids party wouldnt necessarily guarantee he would become prime minister, given that Israels increasingly influential ultra-Orthodox parties have said they refuse to participate in any coalition led by the more secular-minded, socially liberal Lapid. Still, events are moving surprisingly quickly. After a budget deal last year, most knowledgeable Israeli political observers had expected Netanyahus government to last at least as long as the agreement, until 2018. But now, Netanyahu is facing a rapidly spiraling investigation into a host of allegations involving gifts and perks from big donors and trading favors for positive media coverage, not to mention new pressures from the right wing in his coalition who feel emboldened by Trumps ascension to push for harder-line policies. All of which has led to a fast-evolving sense that elections could come much sooner than 2018, even as early as this fall. But can Lapid really beat him? For years, liberals inside Israel and out have wondered what it would take to oust Netanyahu. Instead, they watched nearly helplessly as the countrys Labor party, historically the main opposition to Netanyahus Likud, has all but collapseda fate not dissimilar to the old left in many European countries like Britain in recent years. Enter Lapid, a polished talker with a lush head of anchorman-silver hair who tells me he is running as an extreme moderate, preaching centrism as the new populism and a sort of gauzy patriotic nationalism that tends to give his former colleagues in the world of liberal journalism fits. Lapid, who served a stint as finance minister in a short-lived coalition with Netanyahu, now tours the world as a sort of shadow foreign minister, tangling with increasingly vocal Western advocates of boycotting Israel as a result of its continued occupation of the West Bank and ongoing settlement building there. With the world of alternative facts, the country is under attack by advocates of the budding boycott movement, Lapid tells me animatedly, and he is at his most passionate these days taking on those who prefer beating up on what he invariably calls the only democracy in the Middle East. The country is under attack by people who think lying is just OK, he insists. I asked a dozen veteran observers of Israeli politics in Israel and Washington whether they thought Lapid could finally give Netanyahu a run for his money. Every single one of them agreed that its plausible, as one put it, though not yet likely. A 50-50 shot, said a top Israeli political analyst. Its wrong to dismiss him as so many people do as an empty suit, or a pretty face, or a soundbite, one former senior U.S. official told me. Hes doing all the right things. At the same time, they all remained unsure about Lapids famously hard-to-pin-down politics and lack of a national security background, a deficit they were unanimous in saying hed need to compensate for by bringing in a former general like ex-army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi or former defense minister Moshe Yaalon to his ticket. And then, there is the real unknownthe looming investigation into Netanyahu by law-enforcement authorities, who have repeatedly questioned the prime minister for hours at a time (interrupted, during the most recent session, by a phone call from Trump). If an indictment is handed down, said another veteran U.S. official, then its a whole new ballgame. For his part, Lapid, perhaps reluctant to step on the potential political windfall from the prosecutors, was cautious about commenting directly on Netanyahus legal woes except to promise in the interview for the first time a campaign focus on clean government. An indictment would be terrible for Israel, he says, meaning two prime ministers in a row under the cloud of corruption. Anywhere in the world, when governments have been in office too long, they tend to corrupt, he says. For now, Lapids patriotism, compelling biography and cheerleading nationalism on his overseas trips are clearly playing well in Israeli politics, where the threats generally are of the existential variety and the country is still only a few years removed from its founding generation. Lapids father was one of that generationa Holocaust survivor who went on to become a leading Israeli journalist and politician after his escape from wartime Hungary. Lapid, now 53, wrote a best-selling account of his father, Memories After My Death: The Tommy Lapid Story, and is still known to get teary-eyed at his mention. When I ask what his dad would make of Israels famously divisive present-day politics, he responds with an unabashedly corny story about his father on his hospital deathbed, lecturing him, Im not leaving you only with a family, but also with a country. In this day and age of Trump and Brexit, when fiery right-wing populists are challenging for leadership of both France and Germany in hotly contested elections that have establishment types openly fretting about the death of the liberal international order, Lapids equally corny appeal for the virtues of responsible centrism can have an oddly soothing effect. Never mind the fears of a 1930s-style failure of the West, he says, projecting a certainty he may or may not feelboth about his own chances and about the democratic worlds coming rejection of extremism from both right and left. The center is coming back, he insists in our interview, which takes place even as voters in the Netherlands are going to the polls to decisively reject the immigrant-bashing nationalism of Geert Wilders Freedom Party in favor of a telegenic establishment type for prime minister. I think people are saying, Wait, wait, wait. You know, this might have gone too far. Protest movements are not supposed to lead. Over the past year or so, Lapid has been traveling extensively outside Israel, meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill, with European pols like the fast-rising presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in France, in search of his own Centrist Internationale. Youre going to see the return of the center in the coming years, he tells me. So I dont think were in the beginning of something; I think were in the end of something. *** The end that most close watchers of Israeli politics have been anticipating is a different one: the collapse of the idea of a two-state solution to the long-running conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu had only reluctantly embraced the concept, and has seemed less than concerned since the latest round of peacemaking brokered by Obama Secretary of State John Kerry led to ignominious collapse a couple years ago. Since Trumps win, the prime minister has stopped even using the two-state terminology, and the U.S. president has all but said he doesnt care either way. But the initial assumptions about President Trump and what his more pro-Israeli approach to peacemaking would bring have quickly been tested. Trump named the pro-settlement lawyer David Friedman as his ambassador and saw him confirmed this Thursday after an unusually divisive vote, but hes backed away from his early plan to move the Embassy to Jerusalem, has reached out aggressively to Arab leaders and has publicly prodded Netanyahu not to engage in more disruptive building in disputed settlements in the West Bank, a push more or less consistent with previous U.S. policy. When Trumps handpicked negotiator, his longtime personal lawyer Jason Greenblatt, toured the region last week, he received plaudits for meeting extensively with all sides, including the octogenarian leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who has now received a White House invite to come to Washington in early April even as it was announced that Netanyahu will skip this weekends big annual AIPAC meeting in Washington. That may well be because Greenblatt and Netanyahu reportedly tangled in hours of discussions over just what kind of settlement building Trump would find acceptable, talks that are continuing this week in Washington between aides. He even was reported to have pushed Israel to freeze West Bank construction outside already established settlement blocs, a demand that veteran peace process watchers see as key for the Trump team to make if it is serious about getting Palestinians to the table. It seems clear the administration wants to do something, says Dennis Ross, a top Israel adviser to Democratic and Republican presidents since George H.W. Bush, and is prepared to work with Abu Mazen to do it, using Abbas nickname. Trump didnt move the Embassy, pressured Bibi to put the brakes on settlements and reached out to Abu Mazen. He seems to really believe he can be the peacemaker, says Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton who with Kerry went on to lead Obamas failed effort to negotiate between Netanyahu and Abbas. I don’t have any other explanation. But Trumps would-be peacemaking may make it a lot harder for Netanyahu to hang on politically, as just about everyone I talked with for this article was quick to point out. If Netanyahu cant deliver on more settlement-building from a supposedly favorable Trump administration, there are plenty on his right flank poised to criticize him. And then, theres Lapidofficially still a two-stater though he talks increasingly these days not of peace but of separation between Israelis and Palestinians as the goalwaiting to take advantage of whatever rupture occurs. It is becoming clear that the administrations asks of Israel on restraining settlement activity are well within the range of traditional U.S. policy under previous administrationsmuch to the disappointment of some Israelis who thought it would be anything goes, says Dan Shapiro, who served as Obamas ambassador to Israel and sat in on every meeting he had with Netanyahu through the eight years of Obamas presidency. It is causing significant tensions within Netanyahus coalition. In the end, those politics are one of the many reasons that the Democrats who felt so burned by their own peacemaking efforts with Netanyahu remain so skeptical about any renewed Trump approach. The Trump guys will discover, just like we did, that its impossible. I spent a year of my life trying even though I didnt think it was possible. Its the Holy Grail; its the ultimate deal, and I dont blame them for trying. But I dont see any indication that ether Bibi or Abu Mazen is capable of taking risks necessary to get a deal, Indyk told me. Israeli politics means its even less possible now, he argues. The right wing has Bibi by the throat and he cannot afford to do anything to jeopardize his coalition. Bibi cannot afford any kind of cracks in his coalition and they all know it, so theyre all going to press him and he will bend to them, he has to. No politician in Israel planning to run in next election wants to talk about peace. *** A few weeks ago, Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev wrote a column in the newspaper Haaretz titled, For the first time, I thought of Yair Lapid as prime minister. The piece blasted Israels divided, extremist and vulgar politics, essentially endorsing Lapids view that only a new centrism could save the country from the abominable practice of both right and left to hand over the keys to the kingdom to parties that are essentially fanatic and anti-democratic. It may be, Shalev wrote, the only doctor on call right now is Yair Lapid. This was notable for a couple reasons: first, Shalev is a smart political analyst, and until now, smart political analysts have been reluctant to actually give Lapid a chance to win; they have mostly remained believers in what Shalev tells me is the mystique Bibi has developed that no matter what the polls say, he will win. And second, Shalev wrote this in Haaretz, a liberal newspaper with which Lapid has developed a feud so pronounced he boycotts its reporters. When we meet in Washington, Lapid is clearly buoyant about his political momentumeven as he shows off many of the traits his critics and would-be rivals find so frustrating. Most of all, he is hard to pin down, whether the subject is a controversial new law blocking pro-boycott and divestment activists from coming to Israel (which he tells me he is mostly but not entirely against, while also assuring me free speech remains well protected); Trumps peace initiative (you know what, if you are appointing your son-in-law, then you care about this); or his own campaign program (he will emphasize clean government, he says, though how is unclear). But Lapid is also articulate, adaptive, well-read and savvy. Politically, hes disciplined enough not to get drawn into fights hes never going to win. In our interview, he insists that his self-proclaimed extreme centrism is just as much an ideology as the more rabble-rousing kind. Its the problem of centrists all around the world, he says. You dont get to say those inflammatory, very interesting things that the extremists from both sides get to say. You are talking on behalf of complexity, and the fact that running a country has to do with competing interests. Then again, Lapid is enough of a politician to know that nuance doesnt make for a great campaign poster. As were about to wrap up, he promises that elections really are coming this year. Oh, and one other thing: I do think that Israelis understand that we need something that is new and clean and different, he says. Its time to move on. In America, time for a change is a great slogan. But will it work in Israel? Susan Glasser is POLITICOs chief international affairs columnist and host of its new weekly podcast, The Global Politico.

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March 26, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

The corruption cases that could take down Benjamin Netanyahu, explained – Vox

It was early March, and Israeli police were questioning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a burgeoning corruption probe that could force him out of power and potentially even send him to jail when the phone rang at Netanyahus official residence in Jerusalem. The caller was President Donald Trump. Netanyahu excused himself and took the call. According to his office, the two leaders discussed the Trump administrations Iran strategy for several minutes, after which the interrogation resumed. It was the fourth time that Israeli police had questioned Netanyahu, a sign of the seriousness of the probe and the growing dangers facing the Israeli leader. Many in Israel and Washington believe that the timing of the March 6 call wasnt a coincidence. Some speculated that Netanyahu knew the call would come while he was questioned, and deliberately didnt try to reschedule it; others went even further, suggesting that the White House was trying to help Netanyahu survive the rapidly expanding criminal investigation by signaling to Israeli prosecutors that the Trump administration viewed the prime minister as an indispensable ally. That would be Trumps way of paying back Netanyahu for inoculating him against charges of anti-Semitism. Either way, Netanyahu got the public framing he wanted: a prime minister dealing with critical issues of Israeli national security while being harassed over petty allegations of bribery, corruption, and influence peddling. Instead of listing the charges against him, headlines in the Israeli press focused on Trump and Iran and put new pressure on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will soon have to decide whether to press charges against Netanyahu. The call is a vivid illustration of a major scandal that threatens to reshape Israeli politics but has gotten very little attention in the US. Many Americans think about Netanyahu solely through the prism of his governments often rocky relationship with the US. He and former President Barack Obama openly disdained each other and fought publicly over issues like Iran and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Back home in Israel, though, Netanyahu is in the headlines for a vastly different reason: a pair of criminal investigations that threaten to end his career and potentially even send him to prison. Netanyahu, one of Israels longest-serving prime ministers, may be forced from office not by a political rival but by the prospect that he abused the powers of his office for personal and political gain. Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, faces criminal probes that could end his career and send him to prison The first case against Netanyahu centers on expensive gifts he and his wife got and sometimes demanded from rich businessmen. The second case deals with negotiations Netanyahu held with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israels largest newspaper. The two men allegedly discussed legislation designed to hurt Mozess main competitor in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister. Netanyahu has strenuously denied the allegations, and hinted that he wouldnt resign even if Israeli prosecutors were to formally indict him. The police are expected to wrap up their work in the coming weeks, and the attorney general will then take several more months to make his call. Even if Netanyahu refuses to leave, an indictment will almost surely lead to early elections. Two major parties have taken steps to hold their primaries sooner than planned, and prominent Israeli politicians such as former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon have signaled their intention to run. Netanyahu himself is hinting that he’s prepared to quickly call new elections a move that some pundits attribute to his desire to go to the polls before criminal charges are brought against him. Netanyahus potential downfall would have a dramatic and immediate impact on Israels relationship with the US, its most vital ally. Trump has signaled that he feels personal affection for Netanyahu and has floated the idea of acceding to a pair of Netanyahus top objectives: moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and giving Israel a green light for settlement expansion. (Though Trump has backed away from both positions recently.) Trump, in turn, views Netanyahu as an ally who will back his hard-line policies on Iran, protect his relationship with the American-Jewish community, and bolster his ties with Republican lawmakers who almost uniformly support Israel generally and Netanyahu specifically. If one of the scandals takes down Netanyahu, in other words, it wont just be Israels political system that will be thrown into turmoil. The Trump administrations plans for Israel will be upended too. Incredibly, every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who served in the mid-1990s, has at one time or another faced criminal investigations while in office. Only one of those investigations actually led to a criminal prosecution, however. Thats led some Israelis to conclude that the decisions about whether to actually press charges against a sitting prime minister have more to do with their perceived strength than with the actual evidence of their potential wrongdoing. Take Ariel Sharon, the bellicose former general who ran Israel from March 2001 to April 2006. At the height of his powers, he avoided criminal charges in the Greek Island affair, where he was accused of taking bribes in exchange for helping an Israeli tycoon build a casino on a small and remote island in the Aegean Sea. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, already weakened by Israels failed military campaign in South Lebanon in 2006, was convicted in a 2009 bribery case. Olmert is currently serving his 18-month sentence in the same prison where former Israeli President Moshe Katsav spent five years following a rape conviction. Netanyahus predecessor is in prison for corruption Netanyahu himself faced several criminal investigations during his first term in office, which ran from 1996 to 1999. He was defeated by Ehud Barak in May 1999, 16 months before the attorney general decided to drop the last of those investigations. Barak, in turn, faced a criminal probe of his own for alleged campaign financing violations. Those charges were dropped in 2003. Its a list of suspects and convicted felons that shed a very bad light on our political system, says Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz Party. Many of us believed that Olmerts conviction was a watershed moment, and that people would get the message. This turned out to be wishful thinking. The timing of the new probes couldnt be worse for Netanyahu, who was looking forward to a warm relationship with Trump after years of open sparring with the Obama administration. Instead, the Israeli prime minister faces the fight of his life. According to most estimates, the first of the investigations into Netanyahu, referred to by Israeli police as Case 1,000, is the one most likely to end up in court. Police suspect Netanyahu accepted and at times demanded lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In one incident reported by the Israeli media, Netanyahus wife, Sarah, specifically demanded $2,700 worth of jewelry, which Milchan provided. According to a report in Haaretz, Milchan told police that in one instance, the Netanyahus demands made him feel sick. The Netanyahus do not deny receiving presents from Milchan and Packer, but claim that these were gifts among friends, which are not forbidden by law. However, Milchan holds 9.8 percent of Israels Channel 10, which is subject to regulation by Israels Ministry of Communications which Netanyahu was personally running until recently. Netanyahu also intervened with then-US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and then-Secretary of State John Kerry to get Milchans US visa renewed. The second probe, which police call Case 2,000, centers on recordings the police obtained while examining the personal computer and phone of Netanyahus former chief of staff, Ari Harow. Harow was under an unrelated investigation for money laundering and bribes. (The police recently announced it had sufficient evidence against Harow; the office of the states prosecutor has yet to decide whether to press charges.) Those recordings capture conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and the popular Ynet News website. In their conversations, which took place before the 2015 Israeli elections, Mozes reportedly offered to do everything in his power to help Netanyahu stay in power for as long as you want. In exchange, Mozes requested legislation that would limit the ability of his main competitor, the pro-Netanyahu Israel HaYom newspaper, to distribute free papers. According to transcripts obtained by Israels Channel 2, the two went so as far as to discuss potential pro-Netanyahu columnists that Mozes would hire. Netanyahu then said he would discuss the legislation with the redhead referring to Israel HaYoms publisher, the American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major GOP donor who also contributed large amounts of money to Trumps successful presidential campaign. Facing mounting pressure over both cases, Netanyahu was recently forced to temporarily recuse himself from running the Ministry of Communication. Netanyahus legal worries do not end there: The prime ministers personal attorney (who is also his second cousin and a trusted proxy going back years) is one of the three known suspects in Case 3,000, which is looking at a suspicious Israeli military contract with a German shipbuilder. In a fourth case, Israeli police have recommended pressing charges against Sarah Netanyahu, the prime ministers wife, for misusing state funds. Prosecutors are currently weighing whether to bring charges. The man at the center of the drama apart from Netanyahu himself is Attorney General Mandelblit. In his previous role, Mandelblit served as the government secretary, a position that involved a close working relationship with the prime minister. Netanyahu and Mandelblit got along so well that the latters appointment to head the prosecution drew heavy criticism, with an Israeli watchdog group filing two formal petitions asking Israels high court to prevent his appointment. Both were rejected. Mandelblit has been extremely cautious in handling Netanyahus cases in the eyes of critics like former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, far too cautious. He deliberated for months before authorizing formal police investigations against the prime minister. The attorney general also forbade the police to question Netanyahu and his wife simultaneously, a routine procedure in such cases that is meant to prevent suspects from coordinating their statements. [There is] a strong sense of whitewashing and obstruction, Barak wrote on his Facebook page following reports that Mandelblit blocked the police from trying to speak to Shapiro and Kerry as part of one of the corruption probes. The peoples trust in Mandelblit is crumbling, added Barak, who served as defense minister in Netanyahus government from 2009 to 2013. But there is also the opposite interpretation: Some observers speculate that Mandelblit is deliberately moving slowly and cautiously because he may be nearing a decision to take the extraordinary step of filing charges against Netanyahu. The evidence against Netanyahu was available for the attorney general to examine before he made his decision to launch a criminal probe, a former police investigator who led high-profile cases told me. The AG was aware of all the implications, including the political ones, and yet he ordered the police to launch formal investigations. This might suggest that he saw something there. As the police wrap up their investigations, Netanyahus allies say he will not go down without a fight. A high court ruling from 1993 requires that a minister resign after an indictment or be fired by the prime minister if he or she refuses to step down. But the ruling says nothing about whether a prime minister must resign and theres nobody who can fire Netanyahu, since he himself is the prime minister. That means Netanyahu would need to quit on his own, and hes given no signs that he intends to do so. The head of Netanyahus governing coalition in Israels parliament, Likud Party lawmaker David Bitan, declared in a public event on Saturday that Netanyahu will not resign even if there is an indictment. But theres another way he could potentially be forced out. In the Israeli system, Netanyahu depends on his coalition partners to maintain the parliamentary majority that keeps him in power. And at least two of them Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett might try to force him out by threatening to leave the coalition, or simply by dropping out. Thats what happened to Olmert, who was pushed to resign following his indictment. Finally, Netanyahu might also try to call early elections on his own, so he can face the prosecution with a renewed mandate from the people. Netanyahus rivals on the right have been careful not to attack him right now the countrys left wing is so weak that his only conceivable challengers would be even more hawkish than the prime minister himself. His right-wing rivals will compete for his supporters in the future, so alienating those supporters today makes no sense. Still, few of Israels leading right-wing politicians are openly backing Netanyahu. The incumbent prime minister is instead drawing support mainly from Likud backbenchers and his countrys pro-Netanyahu media outlets. Behind the scenes, initial preparations for early elections are taking place. The Labor and Jewish Home parties have indicated their intention to hold primaries this spring. Popular former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has announced he will form his own party and compete for the top job. And the settlers are threatening to punish the government if their demand for a new outpost is not answered. There is a certain frenzy in the Knesset something you feel ahead of elections, Zandberg says. As if thats not enough, recent polls show that early elections could result in Netanyahus coalition losing its majority in the Israeli parliament. If those predictions prove accurate, the vote would pave the way for a new leader to replace Netanyahu as prime minister. No other person has shaped the face of present-day Israel as much as Netanyahu has during his 20 years in power. Hes changed Israels strategic priorities from seeking peace with the Palestinians to working to contain Iran, which he sees as an existential threat. Netanyahu has also helped decimate the countrys left-wing political parties and populated Israeli institutions with right-wing officials who hold religiously conservative and pro-settlement views. Perhaps more than anything else, Netanyahu brought to politics a confrontational attitude that seems to have preceded its time. Today, everybody walks and talks like Netanyahu. He was never loved the way previous prime ministers like Sharon or Rabin were, but he has an intuitive sense for the undercurrents of politics that has allowed him to survive and flourish in one of the most chaotic and hard-edged political systems in the world. That his downfall may ultimately come at a time when his fortunes seem to be at an all-time high with a friendly White House and no serious domestic political challengers is the height of irony.

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March 24, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed

Why Netanyahu won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference – Al-Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not shown) at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, March 21, 2017. (photo byREUTERS/Etienne Oliveau) Author:Ben Caspit Posted March 22, 2017 Upon his return from his first meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington on Feb. 15, it was obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be heading back to the US capital in the very near future. The official excuse would bethe annualAmerican Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) conference in late March, an event that Netanyahu does not like to miss. The second excuse would be that Netanyahu finally found a new buddy in the White House. After almost eight difficult years, in which he was alienated from the US administration under President Barack Obama, Netanyahu now has a good reason to pop over to Washington every Monday and Thursday. If the relationship between the two leaders is really as close as it seems, there is no reason why they would not want to meet each other as often as possible. TranslatorDanny Wool But Netanyahu will notbe going to AIPAC, nor will he be meeting with Trump. A diplomatic source in Washingtontold Al-Monitor on condition of anonymitythat it was impossible to arrange a meeting between the two men due to “scheduling conflicts.” As of now, it is unclear who really tried to avoid meeting with whom. Was it Trump, who was signaling to Netanyahu not to take him for granted, or was it Netanyahu, who is worried about another meeting with Trump? Regardless of who was responsible for that, a source in the prime minister’s office said on condition of anonymity, “We’re not quite there yet, but we will soon start to miss Barack Hussein Obama.” Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed that therewere all sorts of concerns in Jerusalem last week following envoyJason Greenblatt’s visitto the region. Anyone who thought that the Israeli right would have it easy during the Trump era was sorely mistaken. Furthermore, while everything under Obama followed very clear rules defined well in advance, under Trump there is no way of knowing how it will all end. Netanyahu had no qualms about saying “no” to Obama on numerous occasions, and he almost never had to pay for that either at least until late 2016, when he got hit with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. Things are different under Trump. There are no rules, no checks and balances, and no restraints. As many people have learned firsthandover the past year, it is not a good idea to upset the president. He can do a 180-degree turnabout at breathtaking speed. According to some of his aides, Netanyahu is terrified of this. There was good reason why he sent his Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz to Washington on March 18. Horowitz must help Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer to come up with a formula for continued settlement construction that the administration could accept. Dermer never needed this kind of emergency assistance during all the years of the hated Obama administration. Now the situation looks completely different. Before arriving for his visit to the region, Greenblatt met with several senior members of Obama’s peace negotiations team for briefings. He also met with quite a few Palestinian and Arab business leadersin an attempt to learn about the situation on the ground. He even brought Yael Lempert, the senior director for the Levant, Israeland Egypt at the National Security Council, to his meetings in the region. Lempert will apparently remain in her post under the new administration. In Netanyahu’s immediate surroundings, this is considered a bad omen. Greenblatt met with Netanyahu twice, on March 13 and March 16, with each meeting lasting about five hours. Of the roughly10hours that Netanyahu and Greenblatt spent together, at least seven of them were private meetings between the two men. Greenblatt also met with President Reuven Rivlin, opposition chairman Isaac Herzog, settler representativesand even with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.Gen.Yoav Mordechai. He held a similar round of talks in Ramallah. Under Obama, Netanyahu would not allow the Americans to meet with senior defense officials. He has now been forced to give up on that informal policy, and allowed Greenblatt to meet with Mordechai (though someone from Netanyahus office was also present in the meeting). In this meeting, Greenblatt tried to find out what Israel could do to improve the situation of the Palestinians. No one is better versed in this than Mordechai. Greenblatt turned out to be an impressive, courteous, polishedand discreet individual. Describing his intentions during this visit, he said he “came to learn.” He looks like a Republican but talks like a Democrat. The yarmulke that he wears but which he removed while visiting Ramallahand the fact that he is a religious Jew who attended a yeshiva in Israel place a complex burden of proof on him. The fact that the Palestinians came away pleased after their meetings with him proves that he excelled in meeting that burden. While he was still “learning,” Israelis learned that their dream about the impending “arrival of the messiah” (with Trump bringing salvation to the Israeli right) would have to be put on hold for now. No one in Trump’s inner circle plans “to throw the Palestinians under the bus.” In fact, the opposite may well be true. If talks between the parties until now are any indication, the US administration considers the Palestinians to be equal partners with the same rights as the Israelis, and it is committed to reaching the “ultimate deal.” What frightens Netanyahu is that he knows what happens to anyone who gets in Trump’s way, when he is trying to reach a deal. He does not want to be that person. As several people that he met were told, Greenblatt’s task is to create a “restart bundle” for the diplomatic process. He has already set the dates for his next two visits to the region. He spent his first visit getting the lay of the land and learning about the two parties, working his way through both with impressive thoroughness. He will now try to reach a “containment formula” to restrain settlement construction and a series of trust-building measures that Israel can adopt toward the Palestinians. When Obama tried to ask Israel for such measures such as construction permits for Palestinians in Area CNetanyahu turned him down. On March 22, before getting on the plane back to Israel from China, Netanyahu said that discussions with the Americans on settlement construction advanced significantly. And prevailing assessment in Israel is that a formula for “restrained”construction would be reached in the coming two weeks. Be that as it may, Greenblatt had another assignment, and a secretive one at that. During his talks in Washington, Netanyahu tried to intimidate the Americans by telling them that he was restrained by politics and his coalition. Given the makeup of his government, he explained thatthere was little he could do in terms of the Palestinian issue. As such, when Greenblatt met with Herzog and also with Zionist Camp co-leader Tzipi Livni, he asked discreetly and with considerable sensitivity about the current political situation. In other words, he tried to find out whether Netanyahu’s analysis of the situation was accurate, or whether he had other political options (which have been written about frequently in Al-Monitor). Netanyahu is under siege. Police investigations against him are moving ahead quickly, while his promise to establish an alternative settlement for the Amona evacuees still remains unfulfilled. Washington looked into this potential new settlement and found that its location is problematic. It would complete the dissection of the West Bank from east to west and make it extremely difficult to establish a Palestinian state at some point in the future. Given this state of affairs, it is hard to believe that Washington would agree to the establishment of such a settlement. What is also unclear is how Netanyahu will extricate himself from this problem. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/israel-us-palestinians-benjamin-netanyahu-jason-greenblatt.html

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March 24, 2017   Posted in: Benjamin Netanyahu  Comments Closed


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