June 18, 2024
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Bibi Meets Abdullah, Round Three

Jordan—PM Bibi Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan met for the third time in Jordan this year. The Israeli government press office issued a statement saying that the King and the Prime Minister “discussed recent developments in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” with the PM stressing “the important role played by Jordan, under King Abdullah’s leadership, in the efforts to bring about an agreement,” and emphasizing that Israel” places a premium on security arrangements, including Jordan’s interests, in any future agreement.” They also discussed the economy. The King asked the PM to work on a lasting and comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and urged Netanyahu to “build on the opportunity made available by the consolidated efforts of the U.S. secretary of state to achieve tangible progress in the peace negotiations.” The palace noted that the king’s meeting with Netanyahu was part of Jordan’s “cooperation with all the sides involved in the peace process.”

Price Tag Attacks Anti-Torah

The Jerusalem Post reports that although some rabbis from the right and left did not sign a petition declaring price tag attacks forbidden al pi halakha, many more did, from across the spectrum. The petition was circulated by the moderate daatei leumi organization Beit Hillel, after two such attacks by suspected extremist settlers in recent weeks—one that included vandalizing a mosque. Among the more than 100 signatories on the petition were Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Rabbi David Stav of Tzohar, Samaria district Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, former IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. (res.), Avichai Rontzki (dean of the hesder yeshiva in Itamar), and educator Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun. “‘Price-tag’ [activities] are actions that are forbidden according to the Torah and ethics, contravene the law, and cause a desecration of God’s name,” the declaration reads….Moreover, price-tag attacks damage the settlements in Judea and Samaria and stain the entire settler community.”

Trying to Stop the Syrian Insanity

Al-Monitor—The Assad regime has named officials for the Syrian peace talks, while the Western and Gulf-backed opposition-in-exile bickers. Threats from the U.S. and the UK to cut off support if they do not attend may push the national coalition to name its delegation. Crucially, Haytham Mana’s NCB (National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, an umbrella group for what is known as the “internal opposition”) will likely not attend and neither will Iran, which was disinvited by the UN earlier this week. Regular Syrians just want a return to normalcy. Recent Islamist rebel infighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the nascent Saudi-backed Islamic Front, which recently murdered 1,000 people, shifted control in north Syria after the moderate Free Syrian Army was almost completely destroyed last month. The U.S. and Russia are trying for localized cease-fires in Syria, something which worked in some Damascus neighborhoods, providing a possible template for a broader cease-fire, prisoner exchanges, and access to humanitarian aid.

Genocide Brewing in Africa, Again.

Combined Services—The UN has designated the Central African Republic as one of the top three global humanitarian emergencies, along with Syria and the Philippines. A mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, seized power in the former French colony in March, throwing the country into a civil war between Christians and Muslims. More than a million people have been displaced by the violence since Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was made interim president. In one month alone in the capital Bangui more than 1,000 people were killed and about 30,000 people from other countries were pulled out. “The elements are there; the seeds are there for a genocide,” John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news conference in Geneva. “It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia.” France sent 1,600 troops in December. The deployment of Rwandan troops, the first of whom arrived aboard a U.S. military aircraft last week, will increase the AU contingent to more than 5,000 peacekeepers this month. Instead of a religious conflict, this is seen as a war for control of the natural resources in a country that already had issues that were exacerbated “by foreign meddling.”

Turkey Turmoil Continues

TIP—The battle between Turkish PM Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish President, U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen has escalated again in recent weeks. The police raided headquarters of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a group with close ties to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The moves pitted Gulen supporters on one side and the AKP and its supporters on the other. Last December Gulenist officials in Turkey’s judiciary launched a series of anti-corruption probes targeting AKP elites, and the AKP responded with mass purges of police officers involved in those probes. Turkish media reported that, true to form, two anti-terror police unit chiefs involved in the recent anti-terror raids on the IHH and on the Al Qaeda-linked groups were dismissed in the raids’ aftermath. The incident is, however, already being read beyond the political battles between the AKP and the Gulenist movement. The IHH’s close ties to Ankara’s AKP government have the potential to deepen growing concerns that AKP figures are permitting Turkish territory and assets to promote terrorism. The IHH, designated as a terrorist entity by Amsterdam and Berlin, was the central player in the 2010 “flotilla” effort to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Nine people died in the ensuing fighting, which escalated into an international incident and largely collapsed already-fraying Israeli-Turkish ties.

WJRO Serbian Property Deadline March 1, 2014

The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) is alerting families of Serbian Jewish victims of the Holocaust to a deadline of March 1, 2014 for filing claims for the restitution of properties located in Belgrade or elsewhere in what is now the Republic of Serbia (part of the former Yugoslavia). Approximately 16,000 Jews lived in Serbia within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the Holocaust. All but about 1,500 were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. In October 2011, Serbia enacted The Law on Property Restitution and Compensation. Any person, or his or her descendants who had property confiscated during the Holocaust or subsequently by the Communist regime may file a claim. WJRO urges the Serbian government to pass legislation for the restitution of heirless property. A claims form is required to be completed to submit a claim. The U.S. Embassy in Serbia has a webpage with helpful information about filing a claim, including a list of English, Italian, and French translators (http://serbia.usembassy.gov/service/restitution.html). The form, which is in Serbian, lists required documentation that must accompany a claim. The website of the Serbian Agency for Restitution (http://www.restitucija.gov.rs) has information about filing a claim, including notices about the claims process (in English, Hebrew, Serbian, and other languages) and responses to frequently asked questions (in English, Hebrew, Serbian, and other languages). Questions can be directed to the Serbian Agency for Restitution by phone at 381 11 3061 398 or 381 11 3061 387 or by email at agencija_restitucija.gov.rs.

Tunisia’s Next Tourism Minister Will Be Jewish

JNS.org—The Tunisian French-language daily Africa Manager reports that the government is appointing Rene Trabelsi, a Jew, as the next tourism minister in the new moderate government of Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa. Trabelsi is the CEO of Royal First Travel, a successful Tunisian travel agency. One of Trabelsi’s main goals will be rebuilding the tourism sector, which has been affected by the country’s upheavals. According to reports, Mehdi has also faced some opposition from the Islamist Ennahda party to not appoint Trabelsi. Unlike other countries affected by the so-called “Arab Spring,” Tunisia’s transition to democracy has been remarkably peaceful. Recently, the Ennahda party agreed to share power with liberals and secularists. A new moderate constitution is also set to be approved. Once home to more than 100,000 Jews, Tunisia’s Jewish community now numbers between 1,000 and 2,000. Tunisian Jews mainly live in the city of Tunis and on the island of Djerba, whose ancient synagogue is a popular pilgrimage site.

Polish Survey on Jews Released

The Forward reports on a recent survey done in Poland that found that 63% of respondents believe that there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control international banking and the media, while 90% of those Poles say they’ve never met a Jew. The study, done by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University, found that in Poland, the belief in a Jewish conspiracy remains high and relatively unchanged from 2009 when 65% of respondents held this belief. The study also found an 8% increase in more traditional forms of antisemitism, including blaming Jews for the murder of Jesus Christ and the belief that Christian blood is used in Jewish rituals. Some 23% were found to hold such traditional, religious-based beliefs about Jews. Michal Bilewicz, director of the Center for Research on Prejudice and an assistant professor on the faculty of psychology at the University of Warsaw, is co-author of the report. Geographically, the new study’s findings suggest that the provinces of Lublin and Lodz in southeastern Poland are the most antisemitic regions of the country. This is where the largest Jewish communities existed before the war and where the ruins of many synagogues still stand, though virtually no Jews live there today.

Israelis Attend Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi

Combined Services—Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom attended the Jan. 20-22 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, signaling “ warming” ties between Jerusalem and traditional U.S. allies in the Arab world. This is the seventh such energy conference and 30,000 people from 172 countries discussed “new paradigms and challenges in traditional and renewable energies,” as well as waste management. The visit will mark the first official Israeli delegation since 2010 to the United Arab Emirates, whose leaders have been calling attention to Iranian territorial claims throughout the Gulf. This is at a time when, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, the level of coordination and exchange of information [between Israel and Egypt] is at an all-time high. There has also been solidification of three regional Middle East blocs: Israel and the U.S.’s Arab allies; an increasingly explicit emphasis on a transnational “resistance” bloc anchored by Iran; and a third camp of relatively extreme Sunni entities—Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various jihadist groups—who have opposed but opportunistically cooperated with the other two blocs. Recent weeks have seen growing criticism that there is now a de facto U.S. alignment with Iranian interests and moves. In the meantime, the International Energy Agency in Paris is forecasting the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil before 2020.

Liberman Rebukes the EU

TIP—Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman recently summoned ambassadors from European powers to rebuke them for what he described as “one-sided” policies against the Jewish state, potentially renewing long-simmering controversies over the E.U.’s efforts to balance even-handed diplomacy in the Middle East with what even European leaders acknowledge is a diplomatic double-standard applied to Israel. The PM echoed that in a talk with journalists, blasting European Union silence regarding Palestinian incitement. The moves came a day after Israeli ambassadors in several European countries were summoned to receive lectures on Israeli construction beyond the Jewish state’s 1949 armistice lines. European leaders insist that the vociferous criticism they often aim at Israel is grounded in concerns over Israeli settlement policies, an explanation that observers—including a group of European and global leaders drawn from political, military, intellectual, and activist circles—call a pretext for  “discriminatory polic[ies] directed exclusively against Israel.” Analysts have in particular pointed to fairly explicit contradictions in the E.U.’s stances toward Israeli universities vs. Northern Cypriot universities and, more recently, to the difficulty that the E.U. faces in explaining away a recent Western Sahara fishing rights deal involving Morocco.

Pope Francis Hosts Argentinian Rabbis

JNS.org—Pope Francis recently hosted 16 rabbis from his home country of Argentina. The meeting was organized by the Latin American Jewish Congress and the pontiff’s close friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina. Also recently, a conference focusing on furthering dialogue between Catholics and Jews called “Jewish-Catholic Dialogue, 50 years After Nostra Aetate: A Latin-American Perspective,” was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The conference was organized by Skorka and presided over by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Vatican News reported. Since being elevated to the papacy last year, Pope Francis has made Jewish-Catholic relations a priority, meeting several times with Jewish delegations. As a Cardinal in Argentina, when he was known as Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis forged a close relationship with Argentina’s Jewish community. The pope is also scheduled to visit Israel in May.

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