Netanyahu to meet Kerry in Rome to discuss peace talks

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Prime minister, US secretary of state to rendezvous next week amid growing international pressure to restart negotiations with Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US Secretary of State John Kerry speak to the press during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 24, 2015. (AFP/Pool/Atef Safadi)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome amid growing international pressure for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that the prime minister will meet Kerry early next week, without providing further details.

Israeli media has reported that the two will discuss resuming talks with the Palestinians that collapsed two years ago.

Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over the conflict with the Palestinians. He opposes a French initiative, insisting a deal can only be reached in direct negotiations between the two sides. Palestinians have welcomed the French initiative.

On Monday a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels unanimously endorsed the French plan to host an international peace process later this year.

Israel has repeatedly rejected the French initiative, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiating positions and thus distances peace.

The Quartet of Mideast mediators — the UN, US, European Union and Russia — are finalizing a report on the conflict expected to be critical of Israel.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014 amid mutual recriminations.

Times Of Israel

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During his 48-hour trip to Moscow (Monday and Tuesday May 6-7), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will try and talk President Vladimir Putin into cutting Israel into the military teamwork evolving between Washington and Moscow for combating the Islamic State in Syria. As a quid pro quo, he will offer to elevate Moscow to senior broker in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, with Moscow or Geneva selected as the venue for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, if they occur – and with US participation. Netanyahu is also keen on a role for Egypt’s Presidents Abdek-Fattah al-Sisi.
DEBKAfile sources in Jerusalem and Moscow report exclusively that the floating of this deal was the reason why Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abstained from attending the Mid East conference staged last weekend by France’s President Francois Hollande in Paris. The UK and German foreign ministers followed the Russian lead and stayed away.
And Friday, June 3, on the day of the Paris meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikihail Bogdanov, who is in charge of Kremlin Middle East policy, offered a formula for resolving the problem of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  That formula was very similar to the land swaps plan proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman a few years ago.
It consisted essentially of the transfer to the Palestinian state of parts of Israel with dense Arab populations, in return for Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Israeli communities of Judea and Samaria.
In comments to Tass news service, Bogdanov said that Moscow is willing to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, and also offered to mediate between the rival Palestinian factions, including Abu Mazen’s Fatah and the radical Hamas which rules the aza Strip.
While some Israeli politicians see the French initiative as offering President Barack Obama a handle for settling accounts with PM Netanyahu before he leaves the White House at the end of the year, Moscow and Jerusalem are concocting a parallel strategy – not merely to block the Franco-American move, but also to lift Washington’s drive for an Israeli-Palestinian accord from Paris to Moscow.
DEBKAfile sources say that this maneuver is based on the early stages of military and political coordination between Washington and Moscow in the Syrian arena, including the fight against ISIS.
No such coordination exists between Washington and Paris.
Netanyahu envisages the tightening military cooperation between Russia and Israel for Syria, along with Israel’s active participation in the airstrikes against ISIS, as becoming integral to American-Russian understandings, and extending also to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Moscow and Jerusalem both estimate that an offer of US-Russian-Arab guarantees to the Palestinians, underwritten by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, can move the negotiations forward.



Netanyahu on Jerusalem Day: “We can’t return to the reality of a divided Jerusalem”

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Israeli President Reuben Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in an official rally on Ammunition Hill marking 49 years since the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem.


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In an official rally marking 49 years since the reunification of Jerusalem on Ammunition Hill, Israeli President Reuben Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attended a special ceremony. In honor of the occasion, Netanyahu stated: “I remember the magic of Jerusalem in my childhood but I also remember another reality, walls with snipers, abandoned areas, and minefields. We already have 49 years of a Jerusalem free of bondage and we won’t return to that reality anymore.”

“Jerusalem is not exempt from problems and we deal with them,” Netanyahu added. “But the reality of a divided city, a wounded city, a torn city we don’t want to go back to. Placing our flag on the Western Wall was the second most important day after the Declaration of Independence.”

“We won’t abandon the Western Wall and we won’t deny our ties to the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu proclaimed. “UNESCO, the UN branch that deals with preserving human cultural civilization, claimed that there is no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. What stupidity, what absurdity, what a disgrace!”

Netanyahu also criticized the peace conference in Paris: “Jerusalem has 70 names and one of them is peace. The State of Israel wants peace. I want peace. I am interested in renewing a political process aimed at establishing peace but peace will be achieved only via direct negotiations between us, where in the end they will recognize the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish nation state.”

“Peace will be achieved via direct and free negotiations between the sides,” he stated. “We’ve seen that it was achieved with Jordan and Egypt. It has not been reached via international dictates. All international dictates do is distance peace and to make the Palestinians more stubborn in their positions.”

“The one who refuses to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is also the one who denies our connection to Jerusalem and turns the Temple Mount into a center of religious incitement,” Netanyahu proclaimed. “The one who doesn’t renounce terrorism has a long way to go to achieve peace.”

“Jerusalem is open to all three religions only because Israel is sovereign in Jerusalem,” he declared. “This was not true for previous generations’ centuries before us. Israel respects all religions, defends the holy sites of all religions, and builds in Jerusalem for all its residents, both Jewish and Arab alike.”

“Over 800 fighters from the Paratroopers Brigade, the Jerusalem Brigade, and the Harel Brigade lost their lives in and around Jerusalem in the Six Days War,” Israeli President Reuben Rivlin stated. “The Hillel prayer was merged with pain. Just as the happiness of Israel’s Independence Day is connected to the sorrow of Memorial Day, also the happiness regarding our freedom on Jerusalem Day is mixed with the sorrow over the deaths of the liberators of Jerusalem who fought for its unity.”

“I was born in Jerusalem 76 years ago,” Rivlin stated. “During the Six Days War, I was an intelligence officer in the reserves for the Jerusalem Brigade. I was privileged to be among the liberators of the city. I remember the excitement that surrounded us when we got to the wall. There were also those that did not want to and cried.”


Jerusalem Online

Bennett rejects renewal of peace talks, threatens to bring down government if needed


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In an interview to Channel 2 News, Education Minister Bennett says his party will continue to reject the notion of a Palestinian state.

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Amid statements made this week by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister that hinted at a possible renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians, HaBayit Hayehudi Chairman MK Naftali Bennett said on Thursday he remains firm on preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and would be willing to dissolve the government if needed.

“We shouldn’t accept any peace initiative or renew peace talks,” said the country’s Education Minister. “I am the only leader in Israel who says clearly – there will not be a Palestine here. I insisted to include this in the government’s basic guidelines.”

“We will stand strong against historic mistakes,” Bennett added. “If it involves withdrawing to the 1967 lines and the partition of Jerusalem – not only will I quit the government, I will bring it down.”


Jerusalem Online

PM partially embraces Arab peace plan, says it could ‘revive’ talks with Palestinians

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Netanyahu offers to negotiate revisions to 2002 bid; new Defense Minister Liberman also sees ‘very positive elements’ to it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) hold a press conference in the Knesset on Monday, May 30, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a dramatic declaration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday partially endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative, offering to negotiate with the Arab world the parameters of the plan, which promises Israel full diplomatic ties with 57 Arab and Muslim states after cementing a peace accord with the Palestinians.

“I take this opportunity to make clear that I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab Peace Initiative contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu declared in the Knesset.

“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in our region since 2002″ — when the proposal was first floated — “but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said, making his statement first in Hebrew and then repeating it in English.

The prime minister concluded his remarks by welcoming a recent speech by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who offered Cairo’s assistance in helping Israelis and Palestinians reach a peace agreement. Netanyahu did not mention his frequently reiterated conditions for any peace deal with Ramallah, namely that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and has to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu also did not mention the new French peace initiative, which will kick off Friday with a conference in Paris where the foreign ministers of some of the world’s most important states are expected, including the top diplomats from the United States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Standing next to Netanyahu, incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he fully endorsed the prime minister’s statement, including his call for an agreement leading to two states for two peoples. His party, Yisrael Beytenu, has long supported Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, in which he for the first time accepted, in principle, the idea of Palestinian statehood, Liberman said.

“President Sissi’s speech was very important; it creates a genuine opportunity that obligates us to pick up the gauntlet,” the new defense minister said. “I certainly agree that in the Arab Peace Initiative there are some very positive elements that will enable us to conduct serious dialogue with our neighbors in the region.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promotes the Arab Peace Initiative during a speech at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Jim Young)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promotes the Arab Peace Initiative during a speech at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in Jordan, May 26, 2013. (AP/Jim Young)

Proposed by Saudi Arabia and later adopted by the Arab League 14 years ago, the Arab Peace Initiative says that 57 Arab and Muslim states will establish “full diplomatic and normal relations” with Israel, in exchange for a “comprehensive peace agreement” with the Palestinians.

In 2002, the Israeli government was curious but perceived the initiative as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition it couldn’t possibly embrace. “On the surface, the proposal looked appealing, with its provision that the Arab states welcome peace with Israel — something they had been unwilling to do since the state’s inception,” the son of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, Gilad Sharon, wrote in a 2011 memoir of his father. “But the details made the offer unacceptable.”

Originally, the initiative demanded a “full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967,” the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a “just” and “agreed upon” solution to the Palestinian refugee question. Over the years, the initiative has been partially embraced by some in the Israeli left, but the required withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the open-ended nature of the refugee issue made the initiative a nonstarter for many Israelis.

In 2013, the Arab League showed some flexibility in allowing that, to reach a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps could be possible.

Exactly one year ago, Netanyahu for the first time had some good words about the initiative, though he stopped short of fully endorsing it. “This initiative is 13 years old, and the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed,” he told reporters on May 28, 2015. “But the general idea — to try to reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”

In recent months Netanyahu has frequently touted what he has described as warming ties with Sunni Arab nations, with which Israel has grown to share many regional security interests. His and Liberman’s statements embracing peace talks with the Palestinians come amid domestic and international criticism over the appointment of Liberman, widely perceived as a hardliner, to the sensitive post of defense minister, and over his party joining the coalition to form what has been referred to by pundits as “the most right-wing” government in Israel’s history.


The Times of Israel

PM at Holocaust Remembrance ceremony: ‘Incitement preceded annihilation’

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While in the last couple of years the theme of the premier’s annual address has been either the need to keep Iran from getting nuclear arms or the necessity of speaking out against that possibility, this time the thrust was warning about the spread of anti-Semitic lies.“What paved the way for the Holocaust, what greased the wheels of the Nazi murder machine?” he asked.  “The answer is the lie. Nazi propaganda described the Jews as the source of all evil in the world: the poisoners of wells, parasites, enemies of humanity.  Incitement preceded annihilation.”

Netanyahu did mention Iran in his address, but only briefly, and only toward the end.

“There are those who want to ignore the intentions of Iran that are inscribed on its missiles with the words ‘Destroy Israel,’ and  which holds a cartoon Holocaust denial contest.,” he said. “We don’t ignore it.”

And he added that while some may we willing to come to terms with nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, Israel will never do so. “All those conspiring to destroy us should know one thing,” he said. “Israel has great strength — offensive strength, defensive strength, deterrent strength.”

The vilification of the Jewish state has taken the place of vilification of the Jew, Netanyahu said, adding that anti-Semitism did not die with Hitler in his Berlin bunker.

“Today millions of people in the Muslim world read and hear horrible falsehoods about the Jewish people. They tell them that the Jews are the descendants of monkeys and pigs,. They say that Jews drink the blood of their enemies in goblets,” he said, adding that this  hatred is spread on social media in a manner which Hitler and his propaganda chief Goebbels could never have imagined.

While the source of this incitement is radical Islam in the Arab world, of late it has been joined by no less pernicious incitement from the west, Netanyahu charged.

“British Mps, senior officials in Sweden, public opinion makers in France; I must say that anti-Semitism in our days is creating odd combinations — the elites who allegedly represent human progress joining up with the worst barbarians  on earth, those who chop off heads, persecute, women, oppress Gays, destroy cultural treasures,” Netanyahu said.

Lies about Israel, he said, have no boundaries, and he mentioned the UNESCO resolution last month that expunged any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount as an example.

“Pay attention to what is going on here,” he said. “An international organization charged with preserving history rewrites one of the basic facts of human history. This is willful ignorance. Worse than that, is the addiction to lies and its dissemination to the world until it is accepted as fact.”

Netanyahu said that the hatred of the Jews will not easily be eradicated from the world, and three things must be done: fight the lies, fortify Israel’s strength, and build the country.

“We must mobilize to spread the truth with the same passion our enemies are mobilizing to spread lies,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said that even if Jew hatred cannot be uprooted, Israel can push back against its enemies. “For generations we were like a driven leaf in the wind, without strength, without defense,” he said.  “But no more.”