Netanyahu and Mofaz agreeing to a new coalition today
* Ten-year-old Tunisian boy praised for his “bravery” after he refuses to play chess against an Israeli child at the World School Chess Championship in Romania
* Israel slows settlement growth, removes most West Bank roadblocks
* For the first time under Hamas, Gaza restaurant is allowed to employ a waitress
* Iran to send more living creatures into space by mid-summer. Iran has already sent several small animals – including a rat, turtles and worms – into space
* German toy firm emails an Israeli client: Jews are “a disease”
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1. Netanyahu forms broad unity government – expected to tackle key issues with consensus
2. Netanyahu may now deal with Iran this fall
3. Rafsanjani: Israel is “so small and vulnerable that it is a ‘one-bomb’ nation”
4. By the numbers: The New York Times’ Palestinian prisoner article
5. For the first time under Hamas, Gaza restaurant allowed to employ a waitress
6. Fayyad clings on to role as Palestinian Prime Minister
7. Ten-year-old Tunisian boy refuses to play Israeli in chess match
8. American gay community praises Israeli ambassador’s speech at conference
9. Contrary to media misreporting, Netanyahu has significantly slowed settlement growth
10. Israel removes most West Bank roadblocks
11. Under pressure, Abbas reverses internet censorship order
12. PA arrests dozens of Fatah members over Jenin governor’s death
13. Sky TV enters 24-hour Arabic news market; Bloomberg set to follow
14. German firm to Israeli client: Jews are “a disease”
15. Iran to send more living creatures into space by mid-summer
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
NETANYAHU FORMS BROAD UNITY GOVERNMENT – EXPECTED TO TACKLE KEY ISSUES WITH CONSENSUS
In what has been described by some as a “political masterstroke,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last night canceled the proposed early elections on September 4 and announced that he had formed a national unity government with the centrist Kadima party.
The new coalition will comprise 94 of the 120 Knesset members – the largest and potentially most stable government in Israel’s history. Sources in the Prime Minister’s office say Netanyahu is now in a position to advance issues on which there is wide public consensus, such as reform of the electoral system, some territorial compromise with the Palestinians, and curtailing some of the powers of ultra-orthodox Jews – as well as dealing with the Iranian issue and counteracting President Obama’s pressure on Israel (which is expected to be increased should Obama be reelected) with a near united front in Israel.
Kadima is headed by Shaul Mofaz, who will assume the position of deputy Prime Minister in the government. Last month, Mofaz was elected to replace Tzipi Livni as head of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset. Livni was regarded by many as a failure, both as head of Kadima and as opposition leader.
Mofaz’s move keeps Kadima in the spotlight. Had early elections been called the party would almost certainly have lost many seats to a resurgent Labor party and a new centrist party headed by former TV host Yair Lapid.
“This is the time for leadership that puts the national interest at center stage,” Mofaz said at a press conference today. “The prime minister and I will be judged by results and not by promises. If it had been up to me, as you know, I would have joined a unity government three years ago.” (To the despair of many, Livni had blocked the formation of a national unity government for the past three years.)
Speaking from Canada, where he is on a state visit, President Shimon Peres congratulated Netanyahu on the decision and said that “a national unity government is good for the people of Israel, and that the good of the state, in light of the crucial challenges facing it, requires broad national unity.”
Hanan Crystal, a political commentator for Israel Radio, said that the new unity government would allow Netanyahu to pursue a more centrist policy in dealing with Palestinians and social issues in Israel. He called it the “move of a super-statesman.”
As a result, the next Israeli elections will likely be held, as planned, in October 2013.
NETANYAHU MAY NOW DEAL WITH IRAN THIS FALL
Some commentators in Israel are speculating that Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed a national unity government so he will be free to deal with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program this September or October, before the American elections at the start of November.
Netanyahu will head a broad coalition at home, thereby reducing any domestic opposition to striking Iran’s nuclear facilities should this prove necessary, and President Barack Obama will be embroiled in the U.S. presidential campaign and unlikely to be able to pressure Israel in the way that he might do at other times. By forming a broad coalition rather than proceeding with early elections, Netanyahu will also still have his trusted defense minister, Ehud Barak, at his side. (Once a new government is formed after elections, Barak is likely to lose that position, since his Independence Party – a break-off from the Labor party – may not even gain Knesset seats.)
Barak said last weekend: “The political-security system will make decisions as needed, even under challenging circumstances. We must separate the issue of Iran from the subject of elections.” Regarding, the Iranian nuclear drive, Barak added: “The moment of truth is approaching.”
Netanyahu again said in recent days that sanctions and diplomacy have not slowed for even one moment Iran’s enrichment of uranium, which continues for 24 hours per day, seven-days-per week, and warned that he will not allow Israel to have to live under the shadow of “annihilation.”
RAFSANJANI: ISRAEL IS “SO SMALL AND VULNERABLE THAT IT IS A ‘ONE-BOMB’ NATION”
In an interview last weekend with the newspaper Israel Hayom, Israeli Defense Minister Barak again said that confronting Iran before it achieves a nuclear weapons capability, however difficult, will be far less complex than dealing with Iran – and with its client militia Hamas and Hizbullah, who now possess over 150,000 rocket aimed at Israel from Lebanon in the north and Gaza in the south – once Iran has a nuclear capability.
Barak recalled a speech given in 2003 by the then-Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who said Israel is “so small and vulnerable that it is a ‘one-bomb’ nation.”
“If one bomb were dropped on it, this nation would not return to its former glory,” Barak quoted Rafsanjani as saying. “After the exchange of blows, Rafsanjani said, Islam would remain and Israel would not remain as it was. He also noted that there need not be any clear markers on the bomb as to where it came from. It could be transported in a shipping container that arrives at some port and simply explodes.”
Other Israelis have said that the Jewish state cannot trust the world to save it, pointing to the reluctance of any country to help stem the ongoing slaughter in neighboring Syria, beyond merely offering meaningless words of condemnation, and the way in which the United States, Britain and other countries went out of their way not to save Jews in the Holocaust – or indeed to save Rwandans, Cambodians and others in subsequent genocides.
Barak also used his interview with Israel Hayom to criticize those former Israeli intelligence chiefs and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who have criticized what they argue is Netanyahu’s and Barak’s mishandling of the Iranian threat.
Barak said: “You can trust me when I say this: In the history of the state, there has never been such an orderly decision-making process.”
Off the record, other former intelligence chiefs have backed Netanyahu’s and Barak’s handling of the Iran issue, and criticized former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and others for speaking out of turn.
Tom Gross adds: All this is only speculation and may merely be designed to put pressure on Western countries to become more serious in their diplomatic efforts to pressure Iran.
BY THE NUMBERS: THE NEW YORK TIMES’ PALESTINIAN PRISONER ARTICLE
The New York Times published a report by its new Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren on May 3 regarding Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike.
Number of quoted words by Palestinian supporters of Palestinian prisoners: 269. Number of words explaining the Israeli rationale behind administrative detention: 0. Number of paragraphs before Rudoren gets around to letting readers know that the stars of her article are members of Islamic Jihad: 14. Countries and groups that list Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization: U.S., Canada, EU, UK and Australia. Number of other articles in the same edition of the New York Times that use the words “terrorist,” “terrorist organization,” terrorist network” or “terrorist attack” to describe non-Palestinian groups, individuals and attacks: 6. Number of times Rudoren uses these words to describe Islamic Jihad: 0. Number of people murdered by Islamic Jihad: Hundreds. Number of rockets fired at Israeli cities and towns by Islamic Jihad: Hundreds. Number of references in the article to those attacks: 0.
(The above is based on a summary of a report by “Camera”.)
FOR FIRST TIME UNDER HAMAS, GAZA RESTAURANT ALLOWED TO EMPLOY A WAITRESS
Since Hamas seized control of Gaza, there has been a major clampdown on the rights that women, Christians and other minorities enjoyed when Israel controlled Gaza.
But last month, 24-year-old Ranad al-Ghozz from Gaza City was allowed to start working as a waitress in a restaurant serving food and drinks to men. She is working at the A-Salam restaurant, located next to the sea.
Previously she worked at the restaurant but was only allowed to serve women.
She told a Gaza news outlet: “I hope people will accept this type of work.”
Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, they have passed laws banning women from riding bicycles or from having their hair cut in mixed hair salons, among other restrictions.
It remains to be seen whether Hamas will allow al-Ghozz to continue to be employed.
FAYYAD CLINGS ON TO ROLE AS PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER
Despite rumors to the contrary, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will remain in his position – but without control of the treasury – when Palestinian President Abbas undertakes a major reshuffle of his cabinet in the coming days.
Hamas have said they will not form a unity government with Abbas’ Fatah faction unless Fayyad is removed.
Fayyad is a Western-educated Palestinian economist who is credited with producing strong economic growth in the West Bank in recent years. Over a decade ago, he won the admiration of the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (who even invited Fayyad to a wedding of a friend near Tel Aviv while the intifada was still continuing). Sharon persuaded then U.S. President George W. Bush to persuade Abbas to appoint Fayyad as Palestinian Finance minister and later Prime Minister. Fayyad is not a member of the ruling Fatah party.
(For more on Fayyad, please see: As Fayyad says Next Year in Jerusalem, Hamas says put Fayyad on trial.)
The Palestinian finance ministry is expected to be headed by Nabil Qassis, a former president of Birzeit University and currently the head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat – perhaps the best known Palestinian spokesman in the world, with his regular appearances on international news channels – suffered a mild heart attack yesterday. Erekat, 57, was taken to a hospital in Ramallah where he underwent a catheterization and will remain under observation for about three days. His condition is said to stable.
TEN-YEAR-OLD TUNISIAN BOY REFUSES TO PLAY ISRAELI IN CHESS MATCH
Muhammad Hamida, 10, has been praised in the Tunisian media and by Hamas for his “bravery” after he refused to compete in a chess match against an Israeli child at the World School Chess Championship, which is currently taking place in Romania.
In several respects, Tunisia, touted as having the most promising future in the Arab world as a result of the so-called Arab Spring, has become less liberal since the president was overthrown last year.
AMERICAN GAY COMMUNITY PRAISES ISRAELI AMBASSADOR’S SPEECH AT CONFERENCE
In a rare move, a foreign ambassador – Israel’s Michael Oren – spoke at one of America’s most prominent gay and lesbian events, the Equality Forum in Philadelphia on Saturday.
“Israel’s LBGT community is part of the country’s diverse and thriving social fabric,” Oren said. “Together, we are soldiers, professors, legislators, judges, factory workers, members of the medical professions, and teachers. Together, we are not gays, heterosexuals, bisexuals, or trans-genders, but proud Israelis.”
Several Palestinian gay rights organizations, suffering severe persecution in the Palestinian Authority, have recently registered and set up offices in Israel.
Among other recent related dispatches, please see
CONTRARY TO MEDIA MISREPORTING, NETANYAHU HAS SIGNIFICANTLY SLOWED SETTLEMENT GROWTH
Contrary to the inaccurate assertions of several leading commentators for respected media outlets like The New York Times and BBC, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has significantly reduced the rate of West Bank Jewish settlement growth during his current term in office.
Building on the West Bank was four-times greater in the last Labor government headed by Ehud Barak, and twice as great in the government headed by Kadima’s Ehud Olmert, than it is currently under Netanyahu, according to the IDF.
While Western critics wrongly claim that Netanyahu has encouraged the expansion of West Bank homes for Israelis, Jewish settlement leaders and the right-wing of Netanyahu’s own Likud party are furious with him for having made it extremely difficult in recent years to even expand existing apartments in settlements to accommodate growing families.
ISRAEL REMOVES MOST WEST BANK ROADBLOCKS
As a result of the reduction in attempted terror attacks launched on Israel from the West Bank, and in an effort to improve the Palestinian quality of life, Israel has speeded up the removal a number of roadblocks on roads throughout the West Bank in recent weeks.
Since 2008, the IDF has evacuated 30 manned checkpoints in the West Bank, leaving 11, mostly located at crossings into Israel along Israel’s 1967 borders.
“Nowadays, Palestinians can travel from northern Samaria to southern Judea within record time while crossing maybe one checkpoint, when three years ago it might have taken a few hours and they would have had to cross several checkpoints,” an IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post.
Israel is also continuing to allow Palestinian battalions to train in Jordan. Eight battalions have already deployed in the West Bank, comprising about 4,000 policemen trained by the United States.
UNDER PRESSURE, ABBAS REVERSES INTERNET CENSORSHIP ORDER
This is a follow up to the third item in the dispatch: London 2012 Olympics official website: Jerusalem Capital of ‘Palestine,’ not Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has bowed to domestic and international pressure and reduced the number of Internet and print media outlets critical of Abbas’ rule which are being censored. In recent weeks, there has been a stepped-up clampdown on journalists and bloggers in the West Bank, and Palestinian security forces have arrested at least nine Palestinian journalists. They had criticized the siphoning off of huge amounts of international aid money into private bank accounts held by those close to Abbas and his sons.
At a news conference on Sunday, Abbas said, “From this point forward, the attorney general and judiciary are prohibited from shutting down or blocking websites, and they are instructed to lift any existing bans.”
PA ARRESTS DOZENS OF FATAH MEMBERS OVER JENIN GOVERNOR’S DEATH
The biggest clampdown by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank for years has been launched, after unidentified men shot at the home of Jenin Governor Kadoura Musa last Wednesday, causing him to then die of a heart attack.
Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested dozens of Palestinians in Jenin and the surrounding villages. Many of those arrested are Fatah members and officers working for PA security services. Palestinian media said at least 2,000 PA policemen and officers were taking part in the operation. Among those arrested is Zakariya Zubeidi, the commander of Fatah’s armed militia, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in Jenin; and Muhammad al-Zalafi, the former security commander of Jenin. All the suspects have been transferred to the PA’s central prison in Jericho.
Jenin residents welcomed the crackdown. For months, they have been complaining about lawlessness in the city. Many residents blame Fatah gangs for the chaos and involvement in crimes, including extortion and murder.
Last year, unidentified men shot and killed Israeli Arab actor and producer Julian Mar-Khamis as he walked through Jenin.
Musa had been trying to restrain Fatah gangs in the town.
SKY TV ENTERS 24-HOUR ARABIC NEWS MARKET; BLOOMBERG SET TO FOLLOW
Sky News became the latest Western media outlet to launch a 24-hour Arabic language news network on Sunday. The BBC, France 24, Russia Today, China Today, Iran’s Press TV and others already run 24-hour Arabic language news networks. But the market remains dominated by Al Jazeera, which is controlled by Qatar’s dictatorship, and the rival Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya.
Sky News has set up a 400-person news operation – backed by a senior member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. Sky News Arabia’s joint venture partner, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is also a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and one of the most senior members of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. He also owns Manchester City football club, which next weekend is tipped to beat rivals Manchester United to win the prestigious English Premier League for the first time in 44 years.
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Waleed bin Talal, a major investor in Sky News’s controlling shareholder, News Corp, is also preparing soon to launch a news channel of his own, in partnership with Bloomberg News.
Several countries are attempting to use media as a tool of their foreign policy.
GERMAN FIRM TO ISRAELI CLIENT: JEWS ARE A DISEASE
A German toy company has apologized after it sent an email to a client in Tel Aviv calling Jews “a disease” and praising “the great” German poet Günter Grass for his demonization of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post revealed that the hateful emails were sent by Walter Adler, the founder of Hoff-Interieur, a manufacturer based in Nuremberg,
Several emails by The Jerusalem Post sent to Hoff-Interieur went unanswered, but the company eventually apologized yesterday after a story by the Post was reproduced in a number of German newspapers.
IRAN TO SEND MORE LIVING CREATURES INTO SPACE BY MID-SUMMER
Iran has already sent several small animals – including a rat, turtles and worms – into space.
Below is a report from Iran’s official Fars news agency.
Iran to Send Living Creatures into Space by Mid Summer
May 2, 2012
TEHRAN (FNA) - Iran will send more living creatures into the space by the next three months, a senior Iranian space official announced.
“Given the good support that has been offered by the government, we will have a program for sending living creatures into space,” Head of the Iranian Space Agency Hamid Fazeli said.
“The preliminary steps have already been taken and the living creatures will be sent into the space by the next two or three months,” Fazeli added.
He further announced that Iran will send Fajr (Dawn), Tolou (Sunrise) and Elm-o Sana’at (Promise of Science and Industry) satellites into orbit this year.
Iran has already sent small animals into space - a rat, turtles and worms - aboard a capsule carried by its Kavoshgar-3 rocket in 2010.
The Islamic republic, which first put a satellite into orbit in 2009, has outlined an ambitious space program and has, thus far, made giant progress in the field despite western sanctions and pressures against its advancement.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]