European Jewish Congress
Israel Press Review of 22/11/2016
Israeli Press Review
Israel Press Review of 22/11/2016

Major Headlines 
  • Erdogan accuses Israel of barbarism in TV interview

In his first interview with the Israeli press in over a decade, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday slightly walked back a 2014 assertion that Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was more barbaric than Hitler, but made no apology for invoking the Nazi leader’s name in the context, said he was “well aware” of the sensitivities, and again condemned Israel’s “barbarism” against the Palestinians.

Erdogan spoke to Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan in Turkish in a sweeping, and frequently tense, interview that covered Israel-Turkey relations, the Gaza Strip and the failed coup attempt in Turkey over the summer. The interview, apparently intended to mark a new, warming era in bilateral ties, began politely, but later featured passages where Erdogan, seething, leveled bitter criticism at Israel, especially regarding its policies on the Palestinians. At one point in the interview, Erdogan snapped at Dayan, and told her she could not pressure him and would not be able to manoeuvre him “into a corner.”

“I don’t agree with what Hitler did and I also don’t agree with what Israel did in Gaza. Therefore, there’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric,” Erdogan said when reminded of his 2014 comments.

Asked if he was conscious of the shock his reference to Hitler caused among Jews, Erdogan said “I’m very well aware… But is the Jewish community aware of what is done [in Gaza]? Thousands of people bombed in Gaza and Palestine” in the 2014 war with Hamas.

The Turkish president dismissed categorising Hamas as a terrorist organisation, calling it a legitimate political party, and a “refugee movement born out nationalism” that must be part of any future peace deal. He called for Palestinian elections, saying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah party has been ineffective. He placed the onus for the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks squarely on Israel, saying he would be willing to broker talks, but that Israel has refused such overtures. He also said he was in “constant contact” with Hamas.

He accused Israel of failing to respect the holiness of Jerusalem, accusing it of trying to change the status quo at the Al-Aksa compound (the Temple Mount). “Jerusalem is holy to three religions. You have to respect that,” he said.

Erdogan said he successfully negotiated peace talks between Israel and Syria in 2008, under then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, and that the two sides were on the verge of signing the deal when Operation Cast Lead broke out between Israel and Gaza, scuttling the initiative.

Israel and Turkey are close to an agreement to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, he also said, indicating that such a move would further hasten the normalization of Israel-Turkey ties. Asked whether he was confident Hamas would not abuse the lifting of the blockade in order to import weaponry, Erdogan switched the focus to Israel, and castigated “your use of weapons against Gaza.”

Israel and Turkey signed a detente agreement earlier this year to restore diplomatic relations after a five-year chill. Last week, Israel and Turkey exchanged ambassadors in the final stage of an agreement signed in the summer to end the breakdown in relations sparked by 2010’s Mavi Marmara incident.

Click here to read the full article in Times of Israel 

  • Netanyahu bans ministers from speaking to Trump administration

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu banned government ministers from speaking with US President-elect Donald Trump or members of his administration, the Times of Israel reports.

Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman sent a letter on Monday to ministers instructing them not to speak with the nascent government.

The letter instructed ministers that all contact must be either through the Prime Minister’s Office or the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

This highly unusual move follows the publication of a letter on Saturday written by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) to Stephen Bannon on the Breitbart website. Ariel thanked Bannon for his support of and friendship with Israel.

Bannon, who was appointed as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist, has been roundly condemned by many Israeli and Jewish groups for his alleged support of the white nationalist alt-right movement.

Netanyahu himself congratulated Trump shortly after the results were announced.

“The bond between the US and Israel is based on shared values, shared interests and a shared future. I am sure that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the US and we will bring them to new heights,” he said.

Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer met with Trump on Thursday, and declared that Jerusalem was looking forward to working with his entire team — including Bannon.

“Israel has no doubt that President-elect Trump is a true friend of Israel,” Dermer told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.

Click here to read the full article in Times of Israel

  • Attorney General: No criminal probe of Netanyahu in submarine affair

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not face a police investigation into the circumstances of Israel’s controversial submarine deal with the German firm ThyssenKrupp, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced Sunday in a meeting with State Attorney Shai Nitzan and top Justice Ministry officials, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Mandelblit and Nitzan agreed in the meeting to continue looking into the deal and whether Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron violated written commitments to prevent conflicts of interest by representing Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel.

Netanyahu said on Sunday the submarines are necessary for Israel’s national security.

“As the prime minister of Israel, I dedicate the majority of my time to ensuring Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting. “The principle that guides me is clear – that Israel will be able to defend itself by itself against any enemy in any realm.”

“These are strategic weapons that ensure Israel’s future and, I tell you, the very existence of Israel for dozens of years to come,” he said. “The strengthening of Israel’s power is the only consideration that guided me in purchasing the submarines. It is the only consideration that always guides me, and nothing else.”

Last week, it surfaced that Shimron had pushed Netanyahu to make the deal with ThyssenKrupp, even though he faced stiff opposition from the military, including then-defence minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Israel currently has three Dolphin-class submarines and two Dolphin 2-class submarines (another one is expected to be delivered in 2018). The new Dolphin 2-class submarines, which would not reach Israel’s coast for another decade, are expected to replace the older Dolphins at a cost of combined price of NIS 5 billion.

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara said at Sunday’s Likud ministers’ meeting that the press should stop talking about the submarines, because the issue is irrelevant.

“The prime minister is like a submarine, and he will lead Israel to safe waters,” Kara said.

Click here to read the full article in Jerusalem Post

  • Health Ministry destroys illegally imported pork at Tel Aviv deli

The Health Ministry destroyed 38 kilogrammes of pork at a Tel Aviv restaurant-grocery during a recent visit that found “meat products from an unknown source and without proper documentation,” according to a statement from the ministry.

The ministry said the owners of Delicatessen, located on Yehuda Halevy Street, committed two separate offences: smuggling meat into Israel; and importing pork into Israel, Ha’aretz reports.

 “Meat whose provenance was not clear, as a result of which its fitness for human consumption could not be verified, was imported into the country. Out of concern for public health, the district veterinarian ordered the meat destroyed,” the Health Ministry said, adding that it will take additional measures against the business.

Click here to read the full article in Haaretz

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
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