Netanyahu Battles To Save Weakened Ruling Coalition

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was battling to keep his government afloat on Friday after Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman quit over a ceasefire deal for Gaza.

Left with a single seat majority in parliament after the walkout by Lieberman and his hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party, most media saw little way for Netanyahu to avoid calling a snap general election.

The veteran prime minister was expected to hold crunch talks later on Friday with his other main right-wing rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose religious nationalist Jewish Home party has threatened to quit unless he is given Lieberman’s job.

The Gaza ceasefire, which ended the worst flare-up between Israel and the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas since a 2014 war, faced its first major test later on Friday as Palestinian demonstrators were expected to gather along the border for mass protests that have triggered deadly violence in previous weeks.

The deal has already drawn heavy criticism, however, in Israeli communities near the border that faced barrages of rockets earlier this week.

Hundreds joined a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Thursday despite a promise from Netanyahu of more public money for emergency services.

Pro-Netanyahu freesheet Yisrael Hayom daily predicted that the prime minister would do all he could to avoid a general election while his hard-won security credentials were at issue.

“Holding elections with the fiasco in Gaza in the background cracks the image of the ultimate leader that he has built over the course of years,” it said.

“The chances of stopping this speeding train appear impossible, but Netanyahu is still trying.”

The eight lawmakers of Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party are not the only threat to Netaynahu’s razor-thin parliamentary majority.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose centre-right Kulanu party hold 10 seats, has reportedly told Netanyahu that a snap election is necessary to provide a stable government to keep the economy on track.

But Yisrael Hayom said Bennett was key to efforts to avoid an early election and could yet prove Netanyahu’s political salvation.

“Naftali Bennett as defence minister and Netanyahu as prime minister could together project stability and embark on a coordinated offensive against anyone who gets in the way,” it said.

In a speech on Thursday, Bennett did not reiterate the resignation threat but made his case for why he should get the defence post.

“The most dangerous thing for the state of Israel is that we begin to think that there is no solution to terrorism, to terrorists, to missiles,” he said.

“There is a solution. When Israel wants to win, we will win.”

There were no official details of when or where Bennett would meet Netanyahu on Friday or what public statements if any would be made.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening calling for tougher action against Hamas which has portrayed the ceasefire and Lieberman’s resignation as a victory.

Netanyahu — flanked by Kahlon, Interior Minister Arie Deri and army top brass — met with the leaders of Israeli border communities.

He briefed them on military efforts to quell Hamas attacks and also announced a 500 million shekel ($139 million, 119 million euro) two-year package to improve emergency medical and social services, a government statement said.

With a major domestic political battle on his hands, Netanyahu cancelled a planned two-day visit to Austria next week for a conference on anti-semitism and anti-Zionism.

There has long been speculation that Netanyahu would call a general election before its scheduled date of November 2019.

Police have recommended he be charged in two separate corruption cases and the attorney general is expected to announce in the coming months whether to put him on trial.

Analysts say the prime minister would be better positioned to fight any charges with a fresh mandate from the voters.

But he would not have chosen to go the polls with voters’ attention focused on the Gaza ceasefire and his rivals’ efforts to outbid his security credentials.

AFP

Churches Urge Israeli PM To Block Property Law

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu                                                      ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

Three major Holy Land churches on Friday called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to block draft legislation they said was aimed at expropriating their property.

In a letter to Netanyahu seen by AFP, heads of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in Jerusalem and a senior Roman Catholic official condemned the bill as “disgraceful”.

They said its inclusion on the agenda of a government committee meeting scheduled for Sunday reneged on previous commitments to withdraw the law.

Swathes of Jerusalem are held by various churches, in many cases under long-term leases from the state.

The churches then sublet the properties on the commercial market.

In February, Jerusalem municipality began enforcing tax collection on church property — excluding places of worship.

Separately, parliament was working on a law that would allow the state to intervene in the resale of leases to commercial property developers.

The religious leaders protested by closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site in Jerusalem where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried.

Israeli authorities then froze both the tax measures and the legislation, committing to a dialogue with the churches over the issues.

In their letter Friday, the churchmen said Netanyahu himself had written to them in July giving “assurances to withdraw the legislation”.

“We were astonished to realise that this disgraceful bill was listed on the agenda of the ministerial committee for legislation this coming Sunday,” it said.

“We are therefore compelled to call yet again for Your Excellency’s urgent intervention to stop this bill once and for all.”

The cabinet office listed the bill among several “added to the agenda” of Sunday’s meeting.

Listed as a bill for tenants’ rights, it aims to safeguard residents of properties assigned to “various bodies” on 99-year leases during the 1950s.

The bill’s sponsor, MP Rachel Azaria of the centrist Kulanu party says it was meant to solve the problem of “thousands of Jerusalem residents who could lose their homes due to the demands of developers”.

Netanyahu Undergoes New Graft Questioning

File photo of Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel Photo: STEPHANIE KEITH / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underwent a new round of questioning on Friday over one of several graft cases that have threatened to topple him, Israeli media reported.

The veteran premier’s 12th round of questioning as a suspect in various cases comes two days before his wife Sara appears in court on charges of misusing state funds for catering at their official residence.

Netanyahu has not been charged in any of the cases and a spokesman on Friday reasserted the prime minister’s innocence.

The prime minister has been repeatedly questioned over allegations involving Israeli telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.

Netanyahu is accused of seeking favourable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for policies that could have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

He also faces interrogation as a witness in a case involving the purchase of three German submarines.

Israeli television on Friday showed footage of police officers arriving at his office.

Police confirmed the premier had been questioned for a number of hours, without giving further details.

Allegations over luxury gifts

Israeli media reported that Friday’s questioning will for the first time cover two further cases in which he is suspected of corruption, fraud and breach of trust.

In one, he and family members are suspected of receiving around 1 million shekels ($275,000) worth of luxury cigars, bottles of champagne and jewellery in exchange for financial or personal favours.

In the second, he is suspected of seeking a deal for positive coverage from Israel’s top-selling daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, in exchange for advancing a law that would have limited the circulation of Israel Hayom, a free competitor.

A spokesman for Netanyahu rejected the accusations: “It is now definitively clear that in the investigations against the prime minister, there is no meat on the bone, and that there is not even any bone at all.”

“The prime minister has responded with confidence to the questions which have been posed to him, knowing that there was nothing and therefore there will be nothing” to come out of the investigations, the spokesman added in a statement.

Netanyahu’s wife Sara is due to appear in court on Sunday charged with misusing state funds to buy catered meals costing $100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier’s official residence.

Prime minister for around 12 years in total and with no rival in sight, Netanyahu has maintained his innocence in all the cases.

But the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.

So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations. He is not obliged to step down as prime minister even if he is formally charged.

AFP

Netanyahu Demands ‘Total’ Gaza Ceasefire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday demanded a “total” ceasefire from Gaza’s Hamas rulers in his first public comments on another deadly flare-up between the two sides.

There have been efforts by UN officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.

Since July, there have been three major flare-ups of violence.

“We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting. “It will not end with one blow.

“Our demand is clear: a total ceasefire. We shall not be satisfied with less than that,” he added.

“Until now we have destroyed hundreds of Hamas military targets and with every round of attacks the Israel Defence Forces exact another heavy price from Hamas.”

Netanyahu has come under political pressure to act more strongly against Hamas, though both sides are reluctant to start a fourth war between them since 2008.

Israel has also sought an end to kites and balloons carrying firebombs over the Gaza border fence to burn Israeli farmland.

An informal truce reached on Thursday night has largely held despite the deaths of three Palestinians since then from Israeli army fire during border protests and clashes.

Thursday saw extensive Israeli air strikes in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies beginning on Wednesday night.

Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.

It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.

At least 168 Palestinians have been killed since Gaza border protests and clashes began on March 30, with most succumbing to Israeli fire during demonstrations. Others have died in air strikes.

Over the same period, one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

AFP

Netanyahu Cancels Colombia Trip Over Gaza Attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put off a planned trip next week to Colombia to focus on developments along his country’s border with the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials said Thursday.

He had been scheduled to fly to Bogata on Monday.

“In light of the situation in the south, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to stay in this country next week and therefore he cancelled his trip to Colombia,” they said on condition of anonymity, without elaborating.

Israel reimposed a blockade on fuel deliveries to Hamas-ruled Gaza on Thursday citing a resurgence in kites carrying firebombs over the border into southern Israel and signalling that a pause in tensions may be ending.

Mass protests for the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes inside Israel erupted along the border on March 30.

Israeli fire has since killed at least 157 Palestinians. One Israeli soldier has also died.

There were two separate military flare-ups last month.

The first, on July 14, saw dozens of Israeli air strikes that killed two Palestinians, while some 200 rockets and mortar rounds were fired from the enclave at Israel in response.

It was the most serious exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

On July 20, Israel unleashed a wave of strikes across the territory after a soldier was shot dead on the border. Three Hamas militants were killed in the strikes.

UN officials and Egypt brokered a ceasefire after the July 20 violence that resulted in a drop in tensions.

However, protests and clashes have continued along the border and the kite-borne firebombs did not stop completely as Israel demands.

Israeli daily Haaretz linked the cancellation of the Bogota trip to reports of progress towards a new ceasefire in talks with Hamas being mediated by the United Nations and Egypt.

Netanyahu was expected to convene his security cabinet on Sunday, “to discuss the efforts to reach a deal with Hamas”, it said.

AFP

Netanyahu Defends Controversial Jewish Nation Law

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu                                                         ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended a new law declaring Israel the Jewish people’s nation-state, saying it did not harm minority rights despite it lacking references to equality and democracy.

The new legislation speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a “unique” right to self-determination there.

Netanyahu said other laws are already on the books guaranteeing equality for non-Jews and defining Israel as democratic.

“However, we have never determined the national rights of the Jewish people in its land in a basic law — until now, when we passed the nation-state law,” Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.

The law was passed in the middle of the night on July 19 and is part of Israel’s so-called basic laws, a de facto constitution.

It has been subject to harsh criticism in parliament and elsewhere. Arab lawmaker Zouheir Bahloul of the opposition Zionist Union party resigned on Saturday over it.

Hundreds of Israeli writers and artists have signed a petition calling on Netanyahu to “stop your government and coalition members from scourging minorities” and repeal the law.

Arab citizens make up some 17.5 percent of Israel’s more than eight million population.

Members of Israel’s 130,000-strong Druze community — who serve in the police and military — have also been among those strongly denouncing the legislation.

On Friday, Netanyahu met with Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif and a retired Druze general. He also met with Druze lawmakers on Thursday.

“There is nothing in this law that infringes on your rights as equal citizens of the state of Israel, and there is nothing in it that harms the special status of the Druze community in Israel,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

AFP

Israeli Cartoonist Fired After Drawing Netanyahu As Pig

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on July 8, 2018. ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

An Israeli news publisher said Thursday it had fired a cartoonist who depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as one of the pigs in George Orwell’s political satire “Animal Farm”.

Following passage last week of a controversial law which critics say discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis, the Jerusalem Report news magazine published cartoonist Avi Katz’s take on a selfie taken with Netanyahu by triumphant members of his right-wing Likud party after the vote.

Katz sketched them with pigs’ heads, provoking outrage among some readers in Israel where pigs are considered unclean and eating pork is forbidden under Jewish law.

To make clear the reference to Orwell’s book, Katz captioned his drawing “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

The line echoes a key phrase from the leader of the revolutionary pigs who in the novel overthrow their human owners, and then start to oppress their fellow farm animals.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper group, which owns the Report, said in a statement that Katz had ruffled feathers with previous cartoons but his latest was particularly offensive.

“It was decided to stop publishing these cartoons after a number of them in recent months sparked angry reactions,” it wrote.

“A cartoon showing Israeli leaders with pigs’ heads causes harm and incitement, and has no place in any of our publications.”

Press freedom advocates noted that the cartoon was approved for publication by Jerusalem Report editors.

It was still on the magazine’s website on Thursday.

The law adopted last week defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and says they have a “unique” right to self-determination there.

AFP

Netanyahu Holds Talks With Druze Over Controversial Law

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks during a meeting in Paris. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with lawmakers from the minority Druze community on Thursday after a court challenge over a deeply controversial law declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Opponents have called the law “racist” as it makes no mention of equality and Israel’s democratic character, implying the country’s Jewish nature takes precedence.

It speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a “unique” right to self-determination there.

Members of Israel’s 130,000-strong Druze community — who serve in the police and military — have been among those strongly denouncing the legislation.

Community leaders have filed a court challenge to the law, given final passage in the middle of the night on July 19. It becomes part of Israel’s so-called basic laws, a de facto constitution.

Two key ministers have called for changes to the law in response to concerns from the Druze.

Netanyahu held a meeting with Druze lawmakers on the issue, along with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Communications Minister Ayoob Kara.

Kara, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, is Druze but voted in favour of the law. He has since reportedly received death threats.

Netanyahu planned another meeting on Friday with Druze community leaders and a plan would later be developed to express Israel’s “profound commitment” to the Druze, the prime minister’s office said.

Kahlon called for changes, saying the law had been “passed in haste”.

“The last thing that we want is to harm the Druze community,” Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is the second-largest in Netanyahu’s coalition, told army radio.

‘Heal the rift’ 

His comments followed similar ones on Wednesday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party.

Bennett, who was a prominent advocate for the law, said he had now realised damage was done, adding that the Druze were “our brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the battlefield”.

“We, the government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to heal the rift,” he said.

The law has sparked international criticism of Israel and intense controversy at home.

A freelance cartoonist for a local magazine who drew Netanyahu and other politicians as pigs alongside a reference to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” after the passing of the law has become a subject of criticism.

The Jerusalem Report magazine decided to stop publishing Avi Katz’s cartoons “after a number of them in recent months sparked angry reactions”, a statement from the magazine’s owner, The Jerusalem Post Group, said Thursday.

“A cartoon showing Israeli leaders with pigs’ heads causes harm and incitement, and has no place in any of our publications,” it said.

Some said the cartoon contained anti-Semitic images even though it was a clear reference to Orwell’s book, with the quote: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Press freedom advocates criticised the magazine’s move to let him go.

The controversy over the new law is set to continue in the coming days, with Druze leaders planning a demonstration against the law in central Tel Aviv on August 4.

The Druze are an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Officials say there are 110,000 of them in northern Israel and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The legislation makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

Arab Israelis have also denounced the law, saying it encourages discrimination and racism.

Arab citizens make up some 17.5 per cent of Israel’s more than eight million population.

The Palestinian leadership has lashed out at the passage of the law.

Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat told journalists Thursday that “this law was introduced to constitute the basis of cancelling the concept of a two-state solution and to officially replace it with one state, two systems — apartheid.”

AFP

Netanyahu Hits Back At Erdogan, Says Turkey ‘Becoming Dictatorship’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he welcomes the President of Panama prior to their meeting at his Jerusalem office.  GALI TIBBON / POOL / AFP

 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday Turkey was becoming a “dark dictatorship” as he hit back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s harsh criticism of a “racist” new Israeli law.

“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has imprisoned tens of thousands of his citizens,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Turkey under Erdogan is becoming a dark dictatorship, while Israel is meticulously maintaining equal rights for all its citizens, before and after the law.”

Earlier Tuesday, Erdogan branded Israel “the world’s most Zionist, fascist and racist state” after the Israeli parliament passed a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

In one of his toughest recent onslaughts against Israel, Erdogan claimed there was “no difference between Hitler’s obsession with the Aryan race and Israel’s understanding that these ancient lands are meant only for Jews.”

“The spirit of Hitler, which led the world to a great catastrophe, has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders,” he added in a speech to his ruling party.

The legislation makes Hebrew the national language of Israel and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

The law does not specify equality and Israel’s democratic character, implying that the country’s Jewish nature comes first, analysts said.

AFP

Erdogan Calls Israel ‘Fascist’ In New Netanyahu Row

(L-R) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prident Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AFP

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called Israel a “fascist” state while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Turkey was becoming a “dark dictatorship” as the rivals engaged in a new war of words over a controversial law.

Turkey has led condemnation in the Islamic world of a hotly debated new law adopted by the Knesset last week defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

The spat is just the latest tension between the two leaders that threatens to derail a normalisation in relations between Israel and one of its few Muslim partners.

In his first reaction to the law, Erdogan did not mince words, likening Israel’s leadership to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and even drawing parallels between racial policy in Nazi Germany and modern Israel.

“This measure has shown without leaving the slightest room for doubt that Israel is the world’s most Zionist, fascist and racist state,” Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling party.

Erdogan claimed there was “no difference between Hitler’s obsession with the Aryan race and Israel’s understanding that these ancient lands are meant only for Jews.”

“The spirit of Hitler, which led the world to a great catastrophe, has found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders,” he added.

The Nazis killed around six million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.

‘Dark dictatorship’ 

But Netanyahu hit back with characteristic speed, lashing out at Erdogan for Turkey’s campaigns inside Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria and its mass crackdown after the 2016 failed coup.

“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has imprisoned tens of thousands of his citizens,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Turkey under Erdogan is becoming a dark dictatorship, while Israel is meticulously maintaining equal rights for all its citizens, before and after the law.”

The legislation makes Hebrew the national language of Israel and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was downgraded to one with a “special status”.

The law does not specify equality and Israel’s democratic character, implying that the country’s Jewish nature comes first, analysts said.

Arab citizens account for 17.5 per cent of Israel’s population of more than eight million.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin then hit back at Netanyahu, saying the prime minister of Israel — which he described as a “Zionist apartheid state built on racism, occupation and displacement — (was in) no position to lecture our president on human rights.”

Kalin said the Israeli law was “a shameless attempt to institutionalise discrimination against the Palestinian people” while Turkey’s criticism was “a universal call for justice and peace”.

Troubled ties 

Turkey and Israel in 2016 normalised ties after relations were downgraded for over half a decade following the crisis sparked by the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos.

The rapprochement received the warm applause of the United States, which has always been keen to see a good relationship between Israel, its main ally in the Middle East, and NATO partner Turkey.

But tensions have flared again in recent months, particularly after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the United States embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians, twice held summits of Muslim states to denounce the move.

Ankara then ordered out Israel’s ambassador in May after Israeli soldiers killed dozens of unarmed protestors along the border with the Gaza Strip.

The Turkish president is proud of his stance on the Palestinians and famously walked out of a January 2009 debate in Davos with then Israeli president Shimon Peres, complaining he was not given enough time to respond and repeatedly saying “one minute”.

But analysts note that behind the rhetoric economic ties remain strong, with trade robust and both sides interested in the export of Israeli energy resources to Turkey.

AFP

Israel To Withhold Families’ Payments From Palestinian Markets

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he welcomes the President of Panama prior to their meeting at his Jerusalem office on May 17, 2018. GALI TIBBON / POOL / AFP

 

Israel’s parliament has passed a law to freeze money transferred to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for attacks on Israelis.

The legislation was approved late Monday and gives the Israeli government powers to withhold an amount of money based on what is paid to the prisoners and their families.

Israel collects around $127 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports and then transfers it to the Palestinian Authority.

A sponsor of the legislation says the PA pays around $330 million a year to prisoners and their families, amounting to seven percent of its budget.

Israel has withheld payments in the past, notably in response to the Palestinians’ 2011 admission to the UN cultural agency UNESCO as a full member.

When Israeli ministers first backed the new legislation in February, the Palestinian government called it “piracy and theft” as well as a breach of international law.

Israel says the payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for security offences or killed by Israeli forces while carrying out attacks encourages further violence.

Many Palestinians view the prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes or “martyrs” in the struggle against Israeli occupation.

The payments can be a key source of income for families, who have in many cases lost their main breadwinner.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman hailed the passing of the new law saying: “Every shekel (president) Mahmud Abbas will pay for terrorists and assassins will be automatically withdrawn from the Palestinian Authority’s budget.

“An effective war on terrorism also passes through the pocket — of the terrorists, of their families and of Mahmud Abbas.”

AFP

Netanyahu Warns Assad On Iranian Presence In Syria

A photo collage showing Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad (L) and Israeli’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (R). Credit: AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Thursday, warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “no longer immune” from retaliation while declaring the Iran nuclear deal over after Washington ditched the accord.

Noting that Israel had stayed out of Syria’s protracted civil war, in which Tehran backs Assad, Netanyahu said increasing Iranian encroachment required “a new calculus”.

“He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, as we’ve just demonstrated, we will destroy his forces,” the Israeli leader said at an event organised by the Policy Exchange think tank in London.

Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on purported Iranian targets in Syria following what it said was a barrage of rockets fired by Iran from the country toward its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.

Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.

“Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” Netanyahu added.

“The consequences are not merely to the Iranian forces there but to the Assad regime as well,” he said, adding: “I think it’s something that he should consider very seriously”.

Netanyahu is on a three-day European tour — visiting Berlin and Paris earlier this week — marked by strategic differences on Iran, as its leaders attempt to rescue the nuclear deal after US withdrawal in May.

He met Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who reiterated London’s “firm commitment” to the accord, according to Downing Street.

But the Israeli leader said Thursday “the weight of the American economy” was already dooming “this very bad agreement”.

“It’s a done deal — in the other meaning of the word,” he added, noting companies were already pulling out of Iran under threat of damaging US sanctions.

“You have to choose whether to do business with Iran, or forego doing business with the United States… that’s a no-brainer and everybody’s choosing it effectively as we speak.”

Netanyahu said he had reiterated his dislike for the 2015 deal, which offers sanctions relief in exchange for strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

However, the focus of his discussions in Europe had been on reducing Iran’s presence in Syria, he added.

“I found considerable agreement on that goal.”

At the same time, he criticised his European hosts for an outdated approach to the region.

Netanyahu said Iranian expansion had led to a “realignment” of relations with Arab states in the Middle East who also oppose Tehran — something Britain and western Europe were “evidently not understanding”.

“There is a whole realignment taking place in the Middle East — they’re sort of stuck in the past,” he added, displaying a map of the world with numerous countries highlighted to show Israel’s “expanding diplomatic horizons”.

“I think there’s a west European problem with recognising that the world is changing,” he said.

AFP