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German Foreign Policy 20-Jul-16
Whereas the Brexit has been met with wholesale rejection by the German and other EU member states’ establishments, it was positively assessed in the little noticed countries of Northwest Europe, growing in strategic importance. Iceland’s president recently invited Great Britain to enhance its cooperation with the “triangle of non-EU countries,” meaning Iceland, and the autonomous regions Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland left the European Community (EC) in 1982; the Faroe Islands have never been members and Iceland officially withdrew its application for EU membership in 2015. All three countries refuse nuclear weapons and NATO’s missile defense shield on their territories, while showing a greater openness towards Russia than most other western countries. Iceland and particularly Greenland have been growing in their strategic importance with the impending opening of Arctic sea routes and exploitation of Arctic natural resources. German experts have already suggested inciting Greenland to secede from Denmark. This would offer Germany greater influence on Greenland and consequently on the Arctic’s political, economic and military affairs.
The Triangle of Non-EU Countries
Whereas, the Brexit was met with wholesale rejection by the establishments of EU member states, positive assessments can be heard, for example in Iceland. Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson invited Great Britain to join the “triangle of non-EU countries” in the northern Atlantic, comprised of Iceland Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Grimsson’s offer comes from a region, where German influence has been dwindling over the past few years, also due to the fact that the countries concerned are not integrated into the EU.
First EC Exit
Greenland is the largest country in the “Triangle of Non-EU Countries.” Experts of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) call it “Europe’s gateway to the Arctic.” It is an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark, however, it is no longer a member of the EU, because of the aggressiveness of German fishermen. In February 1980, the illegal fishing off Greenland’s coast by fishermen from Bremerhaven ended in an international scandal. The fishermen were tried und sentenced. In view of the fishing industry’s prime importance for the country’s economy, this incident prompted the debate on Greenland leaving the European Community (EC). In a referendum held in February 1982, 53 percent of Greenland’s voters opted for the EC-exit. Since then, the German government relies on its good relations with Denmark’s government to gain influence in Greenland, for example for activities in the Arctic. Copenhagen is still responsible for Greenland’s foreign and defense policies.
No Nuclear Weapons
Subsequent to withdrawal from the EC and its newly gained independence, Greenland’s parliament and government were looking for new forms of international cooperation. In 1985, parliamentary representatives from Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands founded the “West Nordic Parliamentarian Council of Cooperation” – since 1997 under the shortened name “West Nordic Council” (WNC). With the WNC, the three countries established a common forum for their international relations. At the 1986 WNC meeting, the parliamentarians decided to declare the West Nordic Region a nuclear free zone. They have therefore been in opposition to NATO’s nuclear arms policy, which has been -and still is – supported by the Federal Republic of Germany. Just recently, German think tanks called for expanding the west’s nuclear arsenal.
No NATO Missile Defense Shield
The German-supported NATO nuclear policy is not the only issue being challenged by the members of the triangle. In 1999, Greenland’s Prime Minister at the time, Jonathan Motzfeld, rejected US plans to install a missile defense shield in his country. Greenland’s government declared its intention to refuse authorization for the necessary constructions on the US base in Thule, in Northwest Greenland. At the time, Motzfeld was quoted with the assessment, “a Cold War atmosphere will be created,” and he did not want “Greenland to become the focal point in a Cold War.” Toward the end of the 90s, Greenland turned its back on German-instigated confrontation measures against Russia. In 1998, German foundations in Slovakia supported the replacement of a government that was cooperative with Russia, and in 1999, Germany played an essential role in NATO’s war on Yugoslavia, one of Russia’s allies. Whereas Germany’s government favored the expansion of the US missile defense shield all the way to it becoming a NATO missile defense shield in 2007, the war alliance still must do without a shield on its Arctic Ocean northern flank.
Better Relations with Russia
Greenland is not the only northern country refusing to join the aggressive policy toward Russia. In spite of its NATO membership, Iceland is also keeping the door open to Moscow. During the 2007 financial crisis, when NATO countries refused to grant Iceland a loan, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Geir Haarde  asked Russia for a credit of US $5.4 billion, which, due to the slump in energy prices and the economic crisis that had now reached Russia, did not materialize. Nevertheless, Icelandic diplomats, at the time, came under a barrage of harsh criticism from their NATO allies.
Greenland is also not the only northern country rejecting EU membership. Alongside Norway, whose population declined to join the EC and the EU in two referendums, Iceland, as well, is not a member of this international confederation. March 12, 2015, the Icelandic government officially withdrew its application for EU membership, that it had to submit during its struggle to overcome the banking crisis. Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that his country’s interests are better served outside the EU. Iceland became the first country to withdraw its membership application – a novelty for the expansion-oriented confederation, under German domination.
Dispute over Fishing Quotas
The smallest country of the Northern European “triangle of non-EU members” has undergone a similar development in its criticism of the EU. On the Faroe Islands, an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark, which – like Greenland – is not a member of the EU, there are only 50,000 inhabitants. Already in 1983, the islands’ parliament declared the region a nuclear free zone, however the decision was overturned by Denmark. Nevertheless, over the past decade, the political elite of the Faroe Islands have developed a certain affinity to the EU. In 2009, the country’s two main parties agreed to apply for membership to the Euro zone – independently of Denmark. However their application has remained unanswered. In the meantime, the tide has turned. In the summer of 2013, because Faroe fishermen were overfishing, the EU imposed sanctions on the island. This measure has significantly contributed to the EU’s loss of prestige among the population on the islands. Already in 2012, an expert of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation wrote that, in the question of setting fishing quotas, the Faroe Islands were pursuing a strategy that was “incompatible with sustainable exploitation,” which constitutes “a violation of international obligations … by the Faroe side to cooperate with other instances.” Because of the prime importance the fishing industry has for the population of the islands, this conflict has taken on special significance.
Representative Office in Russia
Not only have relations chilled between the EU and the Faroe Islands, the autonomous region has also enhanced its relations with Moscow. Following EU sanctions against Russia and the subsequent Russian counter sanctions, agricultural exports from western countries to the Russian Federation have been drastically reduced. The Faroe Islands have not been affected, because – as mentioned above – they are not members of the EU. In September 2014, Faroe Prime Minister, Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen travelled to Moscow and concluded a trade agreement with Russia. Since then, exports to Russia from the Faroe Islands have drastically increased and the country is experiencing an economic boom. The Faroe Islands are also maintaining a representative office in Russia, their only liaison office outside the EU and NATO.
Carrot and Stick
Over the past two decades, German politicians and think tanks have been toying with the idea of motivating Greenland and the Faroe Islands to secede from Denmark, to clear the way for their entry or re-entry into the EU. According to experts at the SWP, since Greenland’s withdrawal, the EU has become “a vehicle for international recognition.” The EU should “include Greenland as a ‘privileged partner’,” for “each new investment … in the Arctic region,”, and “not only respect, but actively support,” the “country’s legitimate aspiration to independence.” If Germany would help Greenland to secede from Denmark, Germany would win new influence in the country and, therefore, also in the strategically increasingly important Arctic. There is, however, currently no indication that this would be successful.
[Footnotes to articles in German removed]  Jess Staufenberg: Brexit: Iceland president says UK can join ‘triangle’ of non-EU countries, independent.co.uk 28.06.2016.  Ove Johansen/Carsten Lehmann Sørensen: Greenland’s Way out of the European Community, in: The World Today, Jg. 39 (1983), Nr. 7/8, S. 270-277 (hier: S. 272).  Ebenda, S. 274.
 Hans Jacob Debes: Reflections on the Position, Participation and Co-Operation of Small Nations in International Politics Case: The Faroe Islands, in: Nordic Journal of International Law, Jg. 57 (1988), Nr. 573, S. 365-368 (hier: S. 368).  See Fundamental Readjustment.  Motzfeld held office from 1979 – 1991 and from 1997 – 2002.  China and Greenland back Russia on ABM Issue, Jamestown Foundation Monitor, Jg. 5, Nr. 206, 05.11.1999.  Haarde was in office from 2006 – 2009.  Valur Ingimundarson: Iceland’s Post-American Security Policy, Russian Geopolitics And The Arctic Question, in: The RUSI Journal, Jg. 154 (2009), Nr. 4, S. 74-80 (hier: S. 76).  The Referendums were held in September 1972 and in November 1994.  Debes: Reflections on the Position, Participation and Co-Operation of Small Nations in International Politics Case: The Faroe Islands, S. 367.  Jarrett Iovine: Euro wanted as currency in Faroe Islands, icenews.is 06.08.2009.  Anton Troianovski: Faeroe Islands Boom by Selling Salmon to Russia, wsj.com 20.02.2015.  See Arctic Oil, Ice-Cold Geopolitics (I) and Ice-Cold Geopolitics (II).
UK-EU:160721:(25-JUL-16):Britain’s Theresa May Begins Sounding Out Europe on Brexit Negotiating Position
Wall Street Journal 21-Jul-16
U.K. leader launches charm offensive in Berlin, as Angela Merkel says she won’t negotiate with Britain until launch of formal exit talks
Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time Wednesday, declaring that she would seek the closest possible economic ties with Germany after leaving the European Union and that the U.K. wasn’t walking away from its “European friends.”
In a news conference in Berlin before the two leaders met over dinner, Ms. May repeated that she wouldn’t signal formal notification of the U.K.’s intention to quit the EU before the end of this year.
Ms. Merkel said she wouldn’t negotiate with Ms. May over the terms of its exit before it formally signals its intent by declaring Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would launch two years of divorce negotiations. “We will of course discuss the situation today, and also the things in connection with Article 50, without holding negotiations—either formally or informally,” the German chancellor said.
Ms. Merkel said she understood that the U.K. needed time to come up with a negotiating strategy before officially declaring its intention to leave. “No one wants an impasse,” she said.
The two leaders’ public comments reinforce a pattern that has been evident since the June 23 referendum, when British voters opted to leave the EU. Until the U.K. declares its hand, Germany and the rest of the EU won’t enter the negotiating game.
The motive of the 27 other EU governments not to negotiate before Article 50 is notified is powerful. If they allow the U.K. to embark on early negotiations, it would give the British incentives to delay notification, put more chips on the British side of the table and risk dragging out the exit talks indefinitely.
Only the U.K. can pull the trigger, putting it in the driving seat up to that point. But once it is pulled, a two-year clock for negotiations starts ticking. That immediately turns the tables.
That is because of Article 50’s design. If the two years run out without an agreement, the U.K. drops out of the EU anyway, likely maximizing the disruption around exit. But if the U.K. wants to extend the two-year period, it can only do it with the unanimous agreement of the other 27.
To heighten pressure on the U.K. to declare Article 50 soon, the European Commission in Brussels aims to ensure that a broader range of British actors are left in the dark about what happens after Brexit. In a letter to commissioners and heads of departments last month, seen by The Wall Street Journal, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asked departments “to strictly respect the principle of no negotiation without notification.”
The bar doesn’t just relate to high-level negotiations with British officials, but covers a variety of other contacts, including “correspondence and queries and requests for access to documents.” This prevents, for example, U.K. universities, from getting clarity on the status of EU research and other grants currently scheduled to last until after a likely Brexit.
Ms. May, who is scheduled to meet with French President François Hollande on Thursday, said in Berlin that Britain would continue to respect the rights and obligations of EU membership so long as it remained part of the bloc.
All of this suggests that the early meetings will be more about atmospherics and establishing goodwill. Until the U.K. has decided what it wants to negotiate, real negotiations aren’t practically possible anyway. But, even if the early meetings don’t get into specifics, EU officials are fully expecting the U.K. to try to pre-negotiate some key issues before triggering Article 50.
Earlier this month, before being appointed prime minister, Ms. May suggested that she would push for informal discussions before the U.K. triggers Article 50.
“In the European negotiations I have been involved in, you often have preliminary talks before you actually reach the formal position,” she said in an interview with the Evening Standard. “This will be a point of discussion.”
One key red line for Ms. May to establish is Ms. Merkel’s view of what, if any, leeway she sees on the question of free movement of workers.
Until now, Ms. Merkel and other EU leaders have repeated that the U.K. won’t be part of the EU’s internal market in goods, services and capital, unless it also agrees free movement of EU workers. That is in direct conflict with Ms. May’s stated aim to seek more U.K. control over migration from other parts of the EU while securing the closest possible economic relations with Germany.
But even if Berlin agrees with Ms. May to seek open trade in goods with the U.K. to suit its manufacturers, it is far from being the only significant voice among the 27 governments on the other side of the table. Among the plethora of demands the U.K. will have to face, diplomats expect Eastern European governments to prioritize the rights of their migrant workers in the U.K., and France to insist that the City of London should lose its current rights to dominate trade in euro-denominated financial instruments.
Despite Ms. May’s expected charm offensive, the rest of the EU will be wary. “You always negotiate the same thing two or three times with the British,” said one senior EU official.
New British Prime Minister Theresa May is in France on July 21, where she is meeting with President Francois Hollande, BBC reported. During a joint press conference, Hollande said the sooner the United Kingdom decides to trigger the process of leaving the European Union, the better. May’s visit to Paris comes the day after she met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. May, who took over for David Cameron on July 13, is looking to build relationships as the United Kingdom seeks to recalibrate its relationship with the European Union following the Brexit referendum.
New Europe 22-Jul-16
British Prime Minister Theresa May met with French President François Hollande in Paris on July 21 to discuss the UK’s exit from the European Union. The French leader called for a speedy divorce.
During a joint press conference with May following talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Hollande said: “The United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union and we respect that decision. We would like to be reflected in the best possible timescale to open a negotiation to establish what will be the relationship between the UK and Europe.
“For France, the sooner the better,” he added. “There cannot be discussions or pre-negotiations before the negotiations, but we can of course prepare these negotiations and we can understand that your government, that’s just been formed, needs this time.”
But May is in no rush to invoke Article 50, the official mechanism that starts the divorce proceedings. She said she does not intend to do so until the end of this year.
“Britain is leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe, and we are not walking away from our friendship with France or any of our other European partners,” May said.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, however, Hollande has taken a firm stance after the referendum in June, saying London risks losing its prominence as a European financial centre if Brexit is delayed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, has been more conciliatory. Meeting with May on July 20, she said she understood that the UK needed time to come up with a negotiating strategy before formally declaring it was leaving the EU.
As reported by the BBC, May seems to have won her way over the timing of Article 50. But President Hollande said that on the key issues of access to the single market and free movement of people, the UK had to understand: you don’t get one without the other.
“As I have said Brexit means Brexit and I firmly believe we will make a success of it. Not just for the UK but for our European partners too,” May said during the press conference in Paris. “We will continue to work together to keep our people safe and to stand up for our values around the world. We did so before the EU existed and we will continue to do so long after the UK has left.”
Caroline Glick web page 22-Jul-16
Wednesday NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that the purge of thousands in the Turkish military – including a third of the serving generals – did not weaken the military.
Stoltenberg told Reuters, “Turkey has a large armed force, professional armed forces and…I am certain they will continue as a committed and strong NATO ally.”
It would be interesting to know whether the 1,500 US soldiers who have been locked down at Incirlik air base along with several hundred soldiers from other NATO countries since the failed coup Friday night would agree with him.
Following the failed coup, the Erdogan regime cut off the base’s external electricity supply and temporarily suspended all flights from the base.
The base commander General Bekir Ercan Van and eleven other service members from the base and a police officer, were placed under arrest.
Incirlik is the center of NATO air operations against Islamic State in Syria. It also reportedly houses 50 nuclear warheads. The atomic bombs belong to the US. They deployed to Turkey – under US control – as a relic of the Cold War.
It took US President Barack Obama two years of pleading to convince Turkish President Recep Erdogan to allow NATO forces to use the base at Incirlik. It was only after the Kurdish political party secured unprecedented gains in Turkey’s parliamentary elections last year, and Erdogan decided to expand his operations against the Kurds of Iraq and Syria to dampen domestic support for the Kurds, that he agreed to allow NATO forces to use the base.
His condition was that the US support his war against the Kurds – the most effective ground force in the war against Islamic State.
Stoltenberg’s statement of support for Turkey is particularly troubling because Erdogan’s post-coup behavior makes it impossible to continue to sweep his hostility under the rug.
For nearly 14 years, since his AKP party first won the national elections in late 2002, Erdogan and his followers have made clear that they are ideologically – and therefore permanently — hostile to the West. And for nearly 14 years, Western leaders have pretended this reality under the rug.
Just weeks after AKP’s first electoral triumph, the Turkish parliament shocked Washington when it voted to reject the US’s request to deploy Iraq invasion forces along the Turkish border with Iraq. Turkey’s refusal to permit US operations from its territory are a big reason the insurgency was able to organize.
It took the US some two months to take over northern Iraq. By that time, the Baathists had organized the paramilitary militias that later morphed into al Qaeda in Iraq and then, following the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, the Islamic State.
Ever since then, Erdogan has paid lip service, and even assisted NATO and the EU from time to time, when it served his momentary interests to do so. But the consistent trend of his behavior has been negative.
Since taking power, Erdogan has galvanized the organs of state propaganda – from the media to the entertainment industry to the book world – to indoctrinate the citizens of Turkey to hate Jews and Americans and to view terrorists supportively.
This induced hatred has been expressed as well in his foreign policy. Erdogan was the first major leader to embrace Hamas after its electoral victory in the 2006 elections. He treated Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh like a visiting monarch when he hosted him shortly after those elections.
During Hezbollah’s 2006 war against Israel, Turkey was caught red handed as it allowed Iran to move weapons systems to Hezbollah through Turkish territory.
Erdogan has turned a blind eye to al Qaeda. And he has permitted IS to use Turkey as its logistical base, economic headquarters and recruitment center. Earlier this year the State Department claimed that all of the 25,000 foreign recruits to IS have entered Syria through Turkey.
As for Iran, until Obama engineered the lifting of UN sanctions against Iran through his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Turkey was Iran’s conduit to the international market. Turkey was Iran’ partner in evading sanctions and so ensuring the economic viability of the regime. According to a series of investigative reports by Turkish and foreign reporters, Erdogan’s family was directly involved in this illicit trade.
Then there is Europe. For IS, Turkey has been a two way street. Fighters have entered Syria through Turkey and returned to Europe, through Turkey. Turkey is behind the massive inflow of Syrian refugees to Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to cut a deal with Erdogan that would stem the flow. Erdogan pocketed her economic concessions and did nothing to stop the hemorrhage of refugees to Europe.
As for the US, the years of anti-American incitement and indoctrination of Turkish society are now coming into full flower in the aftermath of the coup. Even before the dust had settled, Erdogan was pointing an accusatory finger at Washington.
Insisting that the failed coup was the brainchild of exiled Islamic cleric – and erstwhile ally of Erdogan – Fetullah Gulen, who took up residence in the Poconos 16 years ago – Erdogan demanded that the US immediately put Gulen on an airplane with a one-stop ticket to Turkey.
In the days that followed, the Erdogan regime’s accusations against the US became more and more unhinged. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that failure to comply with Erdogan’s extradition demand would be viewed as a hostile act by the US.
And Turkish Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu flat out said, “America is behind the coup,” in a media interview.
In other words, after arresting the base commander and other forces at Incirlik, and while effectively holding US-led NATO forces and fifty nuclear warheads prisoner for the past six days, Turkey is accusing the US of engineering the coup attempt.
But apparently, NATO has decided to try to again sweep reality under the rug, once more. Hence, Stoltenberg’s soothing insistence that there is no cause for worry. Turkey remains a trusted member of the alliance.
This isn’t merely irresponsible. It is dangerous, for several reasons.
First of all, Stoltenberg’s claim that the Turkish military is as strong as ever is simply ridiculous.
A third of the serving generals are behind bars along with thousands of commanders and soldiers, educators, police officers, jurists and judges.
Who exactly can be willing to take the initiative in this climate? Amid at best mixed messages from the regime regarding the war against IS, and with the generals who coordinated the campaign with NATO now behind bars, who will maintain the alliance with NATO?
No one will.
The implications of this passivity will be felt on the ground in Turkey as well as in Syria and Iraq.
Thanks to Erdogan’s passive support, IS has operatives seeded throughout Turkey. Who can guarantee that they will leave the nuclear weapons at Incirlik alone? Is the US really planning to leave those bombs in Turkey when its own forces are effective prisoners of the regime? And what are the implications of removing them? How can such a necessary move be made at the same time as NATO pretends that all is well with Turkey?
Then there is the problem of chemical weapons.
In recent months, IS has used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq. In February, James Clapper, the Director of US National Intelligence warned that IS is developing a chemical arsenal and intends to use chemical weapons against the US and Europe.
In May it was reported that IS is conducting experiments with chemical weapons on dogs and prisoners in labs located in residential neighborhoods in Mosul.
As a NATO member with open borders to Europe, the only thing that has prevented IS terrorists from bringing chemical weapons to Europe has been the Turkish military and police force. They are now being purged.
Moreover, as Soner Cagaptay reported in the Wall Street Journal this week, Erdogan used out and out jihadists to put down the coup on Friday night and Saturday. He has continued to embrace them in the days that have passed since then.
In so doing, Erdogan signaled that he may well use the post-coup state of emergency to dismantle what is left of Turkey’s secular state apparatus and transform the NATO member into an Islamist state, along the lines of the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, which Erdogan enthusiastically supported.
In this climate, it is difficult, if not as a practical matter, impossible to imagine that the military and police will work particularly hard to prevent IS terrorists from transporting weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Europe through Turkey.
The Obama administration itself is partly responsible for the current crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry just agreed to subordinate the US-led anti-IS campaign to Russia. In so doing, he made clear that the US will not protect Turkey from Russia. This gives Erdogan little choice other than to strike out a new, far more radical course.
To Erdogan’s own Islamist convictions and US incompetence must be added a third reason to assume the situation in Turkey will only get worse.
As David Goldman has reported in the Asia Times, Turkey is on the brink of economic collapse. Its currency has been devalued by 7 percent just since the failed coup.
“With about $300 billion in foreign currency liabilities, Turkish corporations’ debt service costs rise as the currency falls. Stocks have lost more than half their value in dollar terms since 2013,” Goldman warned.
In the current climate, it is hard to imagine Erdogan instituting austerity measures to pay down the debt. So he needs a scapegoat for his failure. The chosen scapegoat is clearly the US.
To make a long story short then, the Turkish military is no longer capable of cooperating in any meaningful way with the US or NATO. Erdogan, never a reliable ally, is now openly hostile.
He is in the midst of committing aggression against NATO forces at Incirlik, where the US reportedly has 50 nuclear weapons. And he is embracing Turkish jihadists who are ideologically indistinguishable from IS.
The US surrender to Russia means that America cannot protect Turkey from Russia. And Erdogan has chosen to blame American for Turkey’s fast approaching economic doomsday.
Under the circumstances, if NATO takes its job of protecting the free world seriously, it has no choice but to quit with the business as usual routine and kick Turkey out of the alliance, withdraw its personnel and either remove or disable the nuclear weapons it fields in the country.
As for anti-IS operations, the US will have to move its bases to Iraqi Kurdistan and embrace the Kurds as the strategic allies they have clearly become.
In the aftermath of the failed coup, Turkey is a time bomb. It cannot be defused. It will go off. The only way to protect the free world from the aftershocks is by closing the border and battening down the hatches.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Israeli housing construction in the West Bank is back in the news again, and once again major global political figures – who are presumably well briefed on the issue and should know better – have been blowing the issue out of proportion and misrepresenting the reality on the ground.
While media reports often make it seem as if Israeli settlement activity is constantly accelerating, new research by AIJAC proves that Israel has been exercising great restraint in regard to such construction for years.
The fact is, since Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in 2009, on average, demand for housing in settlements for natural growth – i.e. births and marriages – has exceeded supply of new housing, even in settlement blocs Israel is expected to keep in any potential peace agreement. Far from “massively expanding”, settlements are barely treading water.
These statistics are available to anyone, yet diplomats continue to overemphasise the settlements issue – a counterproductive exercise which stands to diminish prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians – not because of the settlement reality but by propagating the myth of exaggerated Israeli settlement activity.
Such examples of this overemphasis on settlements are commonplace and routine. On July 12, Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, told the Security Council:
We were deeply disturbed by Israel’s recent decision to advance plans for 800 new housing units in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such settlements are an affront to this Council, an affront to the Quartet, and take us further from peace.
Earlier, as part of a report on July 1, the Middle East Quartet criticised construction in Israel’s settlements as well as calling attention to the population growth there, claiming that these issues were making a two-state peace outcome less possible.
Between 2009 and 2014, the West Bank settler population increased by over 80,000, including at least 16,000 deep in the West Bank. During this period, construction began on over 9,000 new settlement units in Area C.
This is flawed reasoning by the NZ Envoy and the Quartet. As for the 800 units mentioned by van Bohemen, 560 are earmarked for the thriving Jerusalem suburb of Ma’ale Adumim (population 40,000 as of 2014), while the rest of the homes were to be split between the long-established Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Ramot (population 50,000 as of 2011, a neighbourhood which sits almost entirely in what used to be a demilitarised zone between Jordanian and Israeli lines between 1948 and 1967) and Har Homa (population 25,000 as of 2013).
Meanwhile, what the Quartet report failed to explain is that all Israeli West Bank settlements are in Area C, and it failed to differentiate between construction in settlement blocs compared to isolated settlements.
This is no mere issue of semantics and is as equally relevant for settlement blocs as for Israel’s east Jerusalem neighbourhoods.
The entire raison d’être for the mutually agreed land swaps that everyone from US President Obama to the Arab League have referred to as part of any potential peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel is to help resolve the settlement issue.
They were designed to do so by allowing Israel to keep its existing east Jerusalem neighbourhoods and strategic settlement blocs where most settlers live and in return give Palestinians land inside of pre-’67 Israel as compensation.
If settlement blocs and east Jerusalem neighbourhoods aren’t the land the Security Council and Quartet had in mind for land swaps, just what exactly were they expecting to swap? And if they are the land destined for swaps, what exactly is the problem for Israel to build there?
For years, Palestinian officials have admitted as much to journalists – usually on condition of anonymity. For example, on November 21, 1999 in an article headlined “In exchange for statehood. PA would swap some settlements for land”, Jerusalem Post reporter Lamia Lahoud wrote:
Public declarations notwithstanding, Palestinian Authority officials say quietly they are likely to accede to a key Israeli demand to retain some settlements in a final-status deal, as long as they obtain statehood and equivalent land swaps inside pre-Six Day War Israel.
Furthermore, settlement population growth criticised in the Quartet report is demonstrably irrelevant to peace prospects, as I blogged in December 2014 and October 2015.
In the 2014 blog, I wrote:
Population growth figures are misleading for a number of reasons. First of all, they do not differentiate between people who are actually moving into the settlements and new births into settler families.
As I wrote on November 11 , ultra-orthodox Jews – who tend to have very large families – are the fastest growing settler group, accounting for 31 percent of the Jewish population of the West Bank (as of 2011) yet they make up some 10 percent of the overall Jewish population of Israel (as of 2012).
Incidentally, they also happen to live for the most part in just a few specific settlements located in settlement blocs that Israel would be expected to retain in any peace agreement after land swaps with the Palestinians.
Last month, Peace Now’s Shaul Arieli inadvertently proved this point in his op-ed for Ha’aretz titled “Look at the figures: Israel’s settlement enterprise has failed”.
In 2015, as in the preceding five years, almost 90 percent of the 15,523 individuals who joined the population of Judea and Samaria were a result of natural population growth [i.e. high birth rates, and not newcomers from other parts of Israel].
Arieli did not write his essay in order to defend the Netanyahu Government’s restraint on the settlement issue but rather to embarrass it. He attempted to claim that the reason why population growth in the settlements is almost entirely due to births, not migration, is because Israelis don’t want to move there. However the construction statistics tell a different story. We don’t actually know whether or not Israelis want to move there because most Israelis simply can’t move to the West Bank due to lack of new housing.
This is the complete opposite of the claims about “massive increase in settlements” that have been made in the past by figures such as US Secretary of State John Kerry and former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr.
Over the past seven years, hard data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has consistently borne this out.
Most recently, on June 20 the Jerusalem Post’s Tovah Lazaroff reported that housing starts in the settlements had dropped by 53 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year.
The ground broken in settlements for 331 new homes reflected only 3% of the 11,813 housing starts nationwide, according to data the CBS published last week. During the same period in 2015, the 705 settler housing starts represented 5% of the 12,860 throughout the country.
While housing data fluctuates from quarter to quarter and can at times seem confusing and contradictory (Lazaroff herself notes later in the story that housing completions from previous starts in the West Bank had increased, for example), what is most relevant are long term trends.
Three statistical trends are a matter of factual record and are beyond dispute:
First, since taking office in 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has built fewer homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank than previous prime ministers going back to the 1990s, including centrist Kadima’s Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon and centre-left Labour’s Ehud Barak.
[AIJAC has been keeping statistics on housing starts in Israeli settlements in the West Bank since 2000 and they can be viewed here.]
Second, as mentioned earlier, the vast majority of homes that have been built in settlements are in settlement blocs that take up a tiny fraction of the West Bank and are expected to remain part of Israel in any future peace deal as a result of negotiated land swaps with the Palestinians (land swaps being a principle that even the Arab League has endorsed).
Third – and this regrettably has not been well reported even inside Israel – the long term trend has shown proportionally fewer housing starts in Israeli settlements than elsewhere in Israel, and also fewer housing starts in proportion to the Israel’s settler population compared to the general population.
What does this mean, exactly? As I also reported in my December 2014 blog, at the end of 2013, settlers made up 4.38 percent of Israel’s population. (Today, according to the latest data available, settlers have increased to 4.47% of Israel’s population. As I shall reconfirm shortly, we know that this modest increase itself is entirely due to births among the settler population and not from new housing since, again, according to the long-term trend, new housing inside pre-’67 Israel outpaces construction within settlements.)
If housing starts in the settlements only account for 3% of Israel’s overall housing starts in an area that contains 4.47% of the population, it means that the settlement population is being underserved and cannot find enough new housing to even accommodate natural growth.
Put another way, it means that if the children of settler parents (who may well have been raised in the West Bank from birth and even married a friend from the same settlement) wants to start a family close to their parents, they may not be able to do so because there simply aren’t enough new houses being built to accommodate that.
A line graph perhaps explains this situation best. AIJAC has produced a fact sheet with the line graph that you can download here and the raw data that was used to construct the line graph here.
Looking at the statistics, however, does invite the question why settlement housing starts clearly did outpace natural growth between 2000 and 2008, with the biggest surge happening under the centre-Left government of Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000.
The answer can be found in an article published on September 28, 1999 in the Sydney Morning Herald [No online link available]. Correspondent Ross Dunn noted that Barak had issued tenders for 2,600 new homes in Jewish West Bank settlements within the span of just two months after he took office. Dunn approached Barak’s housing minister Yitzhak Levy for an explanation.
…Mr Levy said most of the new homes were to be built in Jewish communities in the West Bank which are considered satellites of Jerusalem and would remain under Israeli sovereignty, even after a final peace settlement with the Palestinians.
Indeed, this strategy of building primarily in blocs Israel was expected to retain in any peace agreement was the principle which guided Israeli settlement policy not only for the Barak Government, but at a slower pace for subsequent right and centrist governments of Likud and Kadima until the election which brought Netanyahu to power in 2009.
For example, veteran US Middle East correspondent Joel Greenberg reported in an article about settlements on June 15, 2008 for the Chicago Tribune:
[Then-Prime Minister Kadima leader Ehud] Olmert and other Israeli officials have argued that the new building does not prejudice peace talks because it is in Jerusalem on land Israel considers its sovereign territory, or in large West Bank settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep and which President Bush has said must be taken into account when drawing borders in a future peace agreement.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has gone even further – contrary to his reputation – slowing construction even within the settlement blocs to a pace that demonstrably no longer accommodates natural growth.
One final but important note: In 2004 US President George Bush provided then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon assurances that final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state would reflect realities on the ground and that, in the meantime, Israeli construction in its West Bank settlements would be allowed to accommodate natural growth. This was reconfirmed in 2009 by Bush’s top official in charge of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, Elliott Abrams.
Moreover, according to the Oslo Accords and its signed addendums and additions – legally binding documents recognised under international law – Israel has the right to exercise complete administrative and security control over Area C. According to these signed agreements with the Palestinian leadership, the fate of the settlements needs to be negotiated directly between the two parties as part of final status agreements.
This point and others can be found in a fact sheet on settlements AIJAC produced last year.
It is international diplomatic disregard and indifference for written and verbal assurances regarding the settlements issue – and not the existence of settlements or Israel’s tepid lifeline of services and development for the settlements – that may do the worst damage to the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
If Israel is forced to conclude that any such agreements that Israel signs as part of a peace deal may fail to be upheld and supported by the international community, how can it sign a peace deal which will almost certainly require international security guarantees?
Such arbitrary enforcement of agreements could compromise Israel’s security while at the same time limiting its ability to defend itself from future threats from a Palestinian state – an untenable situation no Israeli leader could accept.
Israel Hayom 22-Jul-16
The July 11, 2016 statistics, published by the Palestinian Authority – claiming that Jews are a minority west of the Jordan River – is a classic case of “lies, damn lies and statistics.” This practice – which manipulates statistics in order to misrepresent reality and mislead observers – has been employed, deliberately and systematically, by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), despite a powerful Jewish demographic tailwind and a rapid Westernization of Muslim demography west of the Jordan River, and throughout the Muslim World other than the Sub-Sahara region.
The misuse of statistics, by the Palestinian Authority, has afflicted Israel and its supporters with unwarranted demographic pessimism/fatalism. The aim has been to cajole Israeli policy-makers into a false assumption that conceding the Jewish geography of the over-towering mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, is a prerequisite to securing Jewish demography.
In spite of Palestinian statistics, and the display of gross negligence by the international establishment – which accepts the PCBS and all other central bureaus of statistics at face-value without proper auditing – in July, 2016, there is a solid, long-term, 66% Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel, benefitting from an unprecedented robust tailwind of Jewish fertility and migration. Moreover, in July, 2016, there is a gap of 1.15 million people between the PCBS contended number of Arabs in Judea and Samaria (2.9 million) and the well-documented number (1.75 million).
How has the PCBS manipulated its population statistics?
The initial Palestinian smoke and mirror performance occurred during the June, 1997 (first) Palestinian census in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with the artificial addition of 648,000 people. The census was conducted by the Palestinian Authority, which was concerned that the arrival in Israel of one million Soviet Jews, could dispel the myth of “the Arab demographic time bomb,” thus ending the Jewish nightmare of becoming a minority west of the Jordan River.
The 1997 Palestinian population census in Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza was puffed by the inclusion of 325,000 overseas residents, as documented by the PCBS’ website; the double-count of 210,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who were also included in the Israeli census; and the documented inconsistencies (of 113,000 people) between the PCBS, on the one hand, and the Palestinian departments of health, education and the Central Election Commission, on the other hand.
Moreover, in 1996, the population data of the Palestinian Central Election Commission (2.146 million) and Departments of Health and Education (2.270 million) were dramatically lower than the 1997 census (2.783 million), but almost identical to those of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (2.111 million), which validated its numbers against the number of newly-issued ID cards and the immunization of all ages.
Demonstrating the creativity of Palestinian statistics, the Head of the PCBS, Hassan Abu Libdeh, admitted at a February 26, 1998 press conference in El-Bireh that – in violation of international standards – “we counted 325,000 people (13% of the total population!) living outside the Palestinian lands for more than one year.”
Furthermore, the inclusion of overseas residents in official counts has been also practiced by other Palestinian agencies. For instance, according to an October 14, 2004 press release by the Central Election Commission, 200,000 overseas residents were included in the (last) Palestinian election in 2005. 350,000 overseas residents were included in the Palestinian statistics, according to a 1993 study by the World Bank.
Explaining the inconsistencies between the PCBS and other Palestinian departments, Louie Shabanah, a former Head of the PCBS stated during a June 8, 2005 debate at Haifa’s Technion: “The Palestinian Health Department accounts for less births because – unlike the PCBS – it excludes overseas births….”
The aforementioned statistical bloats expand annually due to births, hence the widening 1.15 million gap in Judea and Samaria in 2016, which consists of:
+400,000 overseas residents, as reaffirmed by Hassan Ilwi, the Palestinian Undersecretary of the Interior: “Since 1995, we have registered about 100,000 children born abroad.”
+300,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who bear Israeli ID cards are doubly-counted as Israelis and as West Bankers.
+240,000 net-emigration of Judea and Samaria Arabs has been documented by Israel’s Border Police since the 1997 Palestinian census.
+Over 100,000 (mostly Judea and Samaria) Arabs have married Israeli Arabs since 1997, receiving Israeli ID cards, but are still (doubly) counted as West Bankers. In November, 2003, the Knesset passed a statue, terminating the automatic receipt of Israeli ID cards upon marrying an Israeli citizen.
+110,000 result from an inherent under-documentation of deaths (represented by the inclusion of Arabs born in 1847 in the June 2007 census…) and over-documentation of births (represented by a World Bank study, documenting a 32% gap between its own births documentation and the PCBS’ births statistics).
In 2016, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate (3.15 births per woman) is higher than all Arab countries, other than Sudan, Yemen and Iraq, reflected in a unique 75% increase in the number of births from 1995 (80,400) to 2015 (139,000), irrespective of the moderate decline in the fertility of the ultra-orthodox women, but due to the unprecedentedly robust secular (Yuppie) fertility. The norm of 1-2 births per woman among secular folks, twenty years ago, has now shifted into a norm of 3-4 births!
Recent demographic trends expose the unreliability of Palestinian statistics. They bode-well for Israel’s posture in the negotiation process with the Palestinian Authority, but mostly for Israel’s economy and national security, which will benefit from an exceptionally high natural growth (quantitatively and qualitatively), compared to all other advanced economies, which may have to rely on foreign workers in order to sustain their economic growth.
The Trumpet 22-Jul-16
Last Friday night, Turkish tanks rolled into Istanbul and stationed themselves on two bridges over the Bosporus. Soon thereafter, the sonic boom of tactical jets and the low thumping of helicopters could be heard flying overhead. These were the first signs that a coup d’état was underway.
For many of us, the possibility of the fall of Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised hopes that Turkey might experience a return to the secular state that dominated the nation for the past 50 years. If history was any guide, come a day or two, and the military would have declared victory over the Islamist leader.
All four previous coup attempts in modern Turkey (1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997) were successful as the military rose to preserve the secular democratic state. This one, many hoped, would end the same way.
And yet, that’s not what happened.
Before most Americans went to bed on the same day that the coup started, it was obvious that Erdoğan would not be removed. Instead, it was clear he would use the opportunity as an excuse to garner more power to himself, in effect, exploiting the coup as his own “Reichstag fire.” This refers to Adolf Hitler’s use of the 1933 arson in Germany’s parliament as justification for suspending civil liberties, the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship. Indeed, as the coup was winding down, Erdoğan himself called the uprising a “gift from God” because it “will be a reason to cleanse our army.”
The days since the coup have proved this true, except that Erdoğan is cleansing more than just the army.
In the past week, Erdoğan has arrested 6,319 military personnel and 1,481 judges and prosecutors as well as suspended 21,738 workers for the ministry of education and 8,777 at the Interior Ministry. He has also revoked the licenses of 21,000 private educational institutions and forced 1,577 university department heads to resign. The fact that Erdoğan’s government could move so quickly to purge the nation of dissenters shows that most were already on his hit list before the coup.
Then on Thursday, Erdoğan furthered his power grab by declaring a state of emergency for the next three months; this will give him unparalleled power.
While many in the West have been extremely unnerved by Erdoğan’s overreach following the coup, the silence from the public in Turkey has been deafening.
More than half of Turks consider Erdoğan’s moves, not disconcerting, but actually welcomed.
Earlier this year, Erdoğan’s policy of removing dissenters from positions of power was essentially supported by over half of the public when they voted him into office once again. This is why, believe it or not, Erdoğan has been touting the coup’s failure as a victory for democracy. It also speaks volumes about why the first military coup in Turkey’s modern history was unsuccessful.
In many ways this latest attempt at overthrowing the government in Turkey did not follow the normal procedure for military coups. Historically, a coup in Turkey and the rest of the Middle East normally begins as a response to public outcry and protest against the government’s movement away from the secular state. As in the case of the 2013 military coup in Egypt against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, the army stepped in only after the people themselves organized a substantial protest against the government. Then, as the Morsi government violently suppressed the rioters, the majority of the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, removed Morsi from power.
That is what normally happens.
But that’s not what happened in Turkey. Instead of people taking to the streets and then the military stepping in to remove the government, we had a situation where Turkish military tried to take down the government and, in response, the people took to the streets to stop the military. It was the overwhelming response of the Turkish people in support of Erdoğan that was the major reason the coup failed. Just as the rebellion was beginning, Erdoğan was able to evade the revolutionaries as they descended on the coastal hotel where he had been staying. Then, via Apple’s FaceTime app, Erdoğan appeared on cnnTurk calling on his supporters to take to the streets and use any and all means necessary to stop the insurrection. At the same time, mosques all over Istanbul and Ankara called on people to gather in town squares and airports in defiance of the coup. Simultaneously, the same message was sent via numerous text messages to cell phones across the nation.
In response, the people defied the military’s imposed curfew and took to the streets. Footage quickly emerged on social media of men in plain clothes trying to hold back battle tanks, some even lying in front of them as they plowed forward. This only further motivated Erdoğan’s supporters to come out in droves. Eventually, as many witnessed the next day, the iconic moment of the coup was when soldiers laid down their weapons in surrender and were marched off the Istanbul Bosporus Bridge.
While a number of other factors contributed to the failure of the coup attempt, the one that surprised many, especially in the West, was the amount of public support Erdoğan received. The failure of the coup reveals that, like it or not, the majority of Turks want Erdoğan in power. They like his Islamist leanings, and they don’t want a return to a secular state.
For the secularists and other minorities in Turkey, this is a scary thought.
As Ms. Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow from the European Council of Foreign Relations wrote from Istanbul, “The opposite of a military coup is democracy, not Islam. But that’s not how the government mobilized masses. Friday night was scary for most secular Turks, not only because of the coup but also because among those who took to the streets were radicals and members of Islamic sects.” She concluded: “Here is the final irony. The military had long been regarded as the bastion of Turkey’s secular order fashioned after the principles of the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This silly botched coup has brought about the end of Ataturks’s secular republic. We are beginning a new chapter in Turkey now.” Indeed, this new chapter of an Islamist-dominated state in Turkey was already written; it just took this coup for the world to realize it.
While Western leaders have generally expressed support for Erdoğan in putting down the coup, many were slow to do so. It’s likely that many European leaders would have happily accepted the result of a successful coup.
Especially over the past year, European leaders have received a lot of blowback from their own constituents over their deal with Turkey over the refugee crises. In order to stop the flow of refugees from Syria to Europe, Turkey agreed to stop the migrants before they reached Greece. In response, the European Union, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said it would pay off Turkey and also offer visa-free travel for Turks into Europe. In order to receive this second part of the deal, Europe demanded Erdoğan release some of his grip on power, especially reinstating freedom of the press and stopping human rights abuses. And yet, Erdoğan has done nothing of the sort. Instead, he has strengthened his autocratic rule.
The aftermath of this coup attempt will only make it less likely Erdoğan will comply with European demands, which will further Europe’s moral quandary in dealing with Turkey. Before the coup, Erdoğan was largely seen as an unsavory autocrat who, though he was democratically elected, did not represent the views or ideals of the people. Yet the coup revealed that, while he is a dictator, the majority of the Turkish people support his Islamist, authoritarian rule.
For all their wishing the opposite, it looks like Europe is stuck with Erdoğan.
The world is such today that national survival demands that unsavory autocrats such as Erdoğan must be worked with, not around. For Europe, that means Turkey will continue to be engaged regardless of how Islamist or authoritarian it becomes. Bible prophecy shows there will be end-time aligning of interests between Turkey and a German-led Europe. Along with being part of an end-time alliance found in Psalm 83, the book of Obadiah indicates that Turkey will be part of a latter-day betrayal of the nations of Israel. In both instances, there is no indication that the alliance is based on mutual values or an abiding friendship. Instead, it is purely based on a mutual interest, which is the exact type of relationship we see being created today.
Economic activity in July reached its lowest since 2009, according to British research group Markit. A preliminary purchasing managers’ index (PMI) shows that output and new orders have fallen, and “a number of firms linked this to ongoing uncertainty pre-and post-EU referendum,” the study says.
SputnikNews updated 23-Jul-16
Reports indicate that Russia has produced as many as 46 new supersonic MiG-29M fighter jets with rumors that a buyer has been lined up for a $2 billion warplane contract.
The International Business Times reports that Russia has undertaken a flurry of MiG-29M fighter jet construction producing as many as 46 new supersonic aircraft leading to speculation that a secretive deal to sell the 1616MPH (2600kmh) warplanes.
Moscow has provided no official confirmation about which country, if any, has signed a contract to acquire the fighter jet that analysts estimate is worth upwards of $2 billion although qualified speculation suggests that the purchaser may be the Egyptian government.
The belief that the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the buyer is predicated upon an Egyptian media report that the country’s minister of military production traveled to Moscow in March to discuss military cooperation. Russia has also looked in recent years to China, India, and Iran as potential markets for its military hardware.
Analysts believe that conducting a deal for the 46 supersonic aircraft with Iran is unlikely given that the deal would likely fall victim to a veto by members of the United Nations Security Council under the terms of last year’s Iran nuclear deal.
Analysts are downplaying the possibility, but India may be an equally likely partner in light of the two country’s cooperation in the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA fifth-generation T-50 fighter jet program and may make sense as New Delhi looks to patch a capability gap vis-à-vis China until the fifth generation fighter goes into serial production in 2017.Given the short wait until the T-50 becomes combat ready, the purchase of an entire 46 aircraft fleet may be excessive even in an increasingly tense region.
Beijing seems to be the least likely trade partner for the MIG-29M in light of reports of new J-20 fighter jets surfacing over the skies of China signaling that the warplane program is nearing a critical phase before mass production.
Ultimately, the sale of 46 MiG fighter jets would be a boon for Russia’s military aviation industry. The once iconic MiG aircraft company, now known as Mikoyan, has been hit since the 1990s with lost deals and production slowdowns falling behind Russia’s other major aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi.
The rumors of a major fighter jet deal are also in keeping with a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month that Moscow would look to increase military exports in the coming years.
“The exports of Russian-made weapons and military equipment have reached $4.6 billion, and our contract portfolio is worth more than $50 billion,” said Putin in early July. “Russian weapons and military equipment have proven efficient and reliable in vastly different conditions.”
The leaders of Russia and Israel discussed counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East and agreed to continue contacts on various levels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed in a phone talk the anti-terror cooperation between the two countries in the Middle East, the Kremlin press service said on Saturday.
“On July 23, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a phone talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the light of Netanyahu’s official visit to Russia on June 7 they discussed Russian-Israeli cooperation against terror threat in the Middle East,” Kremlin’s statement reads, adding that Putin and Netanyahu agreed to continue contacts on various levels.
TU:160724:(25-JUL-16):Post-Coup, Turkey’s Erdogan Targets Unions, Private Education, Charities and Military
Media Line MidEast Daily News 24-Jul-16
Working furiously to consolidate his power after surviving a coup attempt last week, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has closed thousands of private schools, unions and charities. In addition, the president is meeting with those military leaders remaining after thousands of officers and the rank-and-file have been removed from their positions in an effort to restructure the nation’s defense and security apparatus. He has extended his emergency powers from four to thirty in order to maintain the ability to detain suspects while the investigation continues. Stabilizing and establishing firm control over the military is clearly an Erdogan imperative. Meanwhile, with the United States not having decided on the Turkish request to extradite the man Erdogan claims is responsible for the attempted coup, Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, from his residence in Pennsylvania, authorities instead detained Gulen’s nephew from his home in northern Turkey and will bring him to Ankara for questioning. The state of emergency declared by Erdogan gives his government the ability to declare laws without parliamentary support while suspending civil rights and freedoms arbitrarily as the government decides.
Financial Times 24-Mar-16
When the Pope arrives on Wednesday, his presence will resonate beyond usual pomp and circumstance
When a senior Polish cabinet minister was asked by the FT whether the government had been more preoccupied with this month’s visit of US President Barack Obama or that of Pope Francis, he replied without hesitation: “The Pope, of course.”
Warsaw has been feverishly preparing for the pontiff’s arrival this week — the government has appointed a dedicated secretary of state to plan for the occasion, built a road named after their guest, and filled the city of Krakow with hundreds of pop-up confession boxes for over 1.5m expected pilgrims.
When the Pope arrives in Poland on Wednesday, his presence will resonate beyond the usual pomp and circumstance of his trips. Catholicism looms large in Poland — some 90 per cent of its citizens belong to the religion and the Catholic church is closely linked with the country’s independence, given its prominent role in the campaign to overthrow communism in 1989.
But despite Poland’s adulation for the Pope and his church, and the excitement among Poles ahead of his first visit to the country, the five-day trip will also test the pontiff’s diplomatic nous.
Pope Francis has big shoes to fill in Poland — his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, is a local hero who was archbishop of Krakow and is the closest thing to a national saint. Pope John Paul II also espoused a form of conservative Catholicism that is still followed by senior Polish clergy, even though it runs counter to the reformist path taken by the current pontiff.
Local church leaders are also broadly allied with Poland’s nationalist government, which has refused to accept refugees fleeing war in the Middle East — in direct opposition to the Pope’s demand for European countries to do more to help migrants.
The Pope, who is generally outspoken, is unlikely to publicly rebuke Warsaw over its stance on refugees for fear of embarrassing his hosts, Vatican watchers say. “The issue will be in the air,” says Christopher Lamb, Vatican correspondent for the Tablet, a Catholic weekly. “But he will try to stay away from a public row.”
The pontiff may have opportunities to voice veiled criticisms at some events during his trip, which will include a prayer vigil featuring a testimony from a Syrian woman.
The EU is struggling to respond to a surge of desperate migrants that has resulted in thousands of deaths
“For Polish Catholics it could be a good lesson of humbleness to see that Poland, with its traditional approach, is not the last and only anchor of Catholicism in the world, and we can still learn a lot from the others,” said Gabriela Wasko, a 26-year-old Polish architect living in Krakow. “His visit will help us to look at Christianity from a more humane side.”
Vatican officials have suggested that the Pope’s main objective in Poland is to connect with a nation — and people — with which he has little experience. “Poland is a novelty for him, he doesn’t know it, he has never been,” Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said at a briefing last week.
The Pope is due to begin his visit on Wednesday by meeting Poland’s president and other government officials. He will also visit the former Nazi death camp in Auschwitz and hold a series of masses, including one service to mark the 1,050th anniversary of Christianity in Poland.
Warsaw has been at pains to stress the safety of the visit, following terror attacks across Europe this year. In Krakow, the city in southern Poland where the Pope’s trip is focused, residents have been told to walk to work and avoid closed roads, while security services have conducted house-to-house checks and made an inventory of foreign nationals living in the city.
Security concerns have also focused on a large field just outside Krakow, where close to 2m people from Poland and across the world are expected to gather for the Pope’s final mass on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to walk there from Krakow and sleep overnight on Saturday.
A leaked government report in Aprilwarned that the site, which is bounded by a motorway and rivers and contains a high-voltage electricity pylon, poses a “high risk for the life and health of people.” The government later said it had fixed the safety issues and declared the event location to be safe.
At meetings with foreign ambassadors ahead of the visit, Polish government officials said any heavy rain before or during the mass would also pose major problems in terms of accessing the site.
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser) 24-Jul-16
“The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, held wide ranging discussions that reflected the close and very important relations both countries enjoy.
In the course of the discussions, both leaders emphasized their shared interests in regional stability and expressed their agreement to continue countering sources of extremism and terrorism.
The two sides continued their talks about emergency response cooperation. Both leaders encouraged their teams to conclude these talks as soon as possible.
The two sides discussed the unitization issue regarding the Aphrodite and Yishai gas fields, and concluded that by September 2016 the two Energy Ministers will seek to finalize these discussions.
In the context of the exploration and development of energy resource in the eastern Mediterranean, both leaders concluded that there is no question that resolving the outstanding issues between Cyprus and Turkey would greatly facilitate the pace of the development of future projects, which will proceed according to international law, as well as greatly enhance stability in the region. Therefore, Israel has a strong interest in the resolution of this issue.
Both leaders stressed the importance of the trilateral framework between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece and reconvening together by the end of the year, as was agreed between the parties at the Nicosia Summit, on January 28, 2016.”
A brake on EU migrants, single market access, UK contributions to the EU budget, and UK cooperation in EU security structures – formal talks on Britain’s exit from the Union have not begun, but a deal is already taking shape.
Senior British and EU sources, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Observer, a British weekly out on Sunday (24 July), that the UK would be allowed to exclude EU workers for up to seven years but would get permanent access to the single market.
Hammond: “I don’t think they [the EU] are in punishment mode” (Photo: council of European Union)
They said the UK would still have to make large payments into the EU budget, on the model of associated nations such as Norway and Switzerland.
The seven-year immigration brake would go much further than the four-year brake on some types of welfare for EU migrants that the UK had been offered prior to the referendum.
Commenting on The Observer’s report, Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen said the UK would also have to let EU migrants who are already living in the UK stay in place.
“If the rights of EU citizens now living the UK can be guaranteed permanently by the UK government, then I think we can look at some form of emergency brake on free movement of labour,” he said.
Philip Hammond, the British finance minister, told the BBC at a G20 meeting in China: “What we now need to do is get on with it in a way that minimises the economic impact on the UK economy in the short term and maximises the benefit in the long term.
“I don’t think they [the EU] are in punishment mode.”
But John Redwood, a Conservative MP, told The Observer that temporary curbs on EU immigration would not be good enough.
“The UK did not recently vote for a slightly beefed up version of [former British PM] Mr Cameron’s attempted renegotiation with the EU. We voted to leave, to take back control of our laws, our money and our borders”, he said.
The issue of UK contributions to the EU budget could also prove difficult.
Britain last year paid €21.2 billion gross into the EU treasury.
It got back €5.8 billion under the terms of its rebate and a further €5.3 billion in EU payments for British farmers and other beneficiaries, but with the perks and benefits also up for renegotiation, its post-Brexit net fee could be substantial.
Keith Vaz, a senior MP from the opposition Labour party, said Britain should also maintain cooperation with Europol, the EU’s joint police agency, and take part in the EU arrest warrant, which speeds up extraditions.
He noted that Theresa May, the new British PM and former home secretary, had praised Europol and the EU warrant prior to the referendum.
“After the Munich attack and other attacks across Europe, it is even more important that these relationships continue”, he told The Observer, referring to a shooting on Friday in Germany that killed nine people.
The UK will start formal negotiations on the terms of its EU divorce only after it legally notifies the European Union of its intention to leave by invoking article 50 of the EU treaty.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative Party chairman, said this would happen before the next general election, which is due by 2020.
Jason Coppel, a government lawyer, told the British High Court last week that it would happen no earlier than 2017.
Top EU officials have categorically ruled out holding informal talks on future UK relations until article 50 notification takes place.
But Mark Sedwill, a senior British civil servant, speaking at an event hosted by The Institute for Government, a London-based charity, last week said that this was not true in practice.
“Talks about talks, agreements in principle, things that are initialled before they are signed; all this kind of thing is the meat and drink of of international negotiations,” he said.
“With some ingenuity and some good will, it should be possible to do all of these thing in parallel [to the article 50 protocol].”
Britain is already pursuing the parallel approach on trade.
So long as it remains an EU member, it is not entitled to hold negotiations with non-EU countries on bilateral agreements.
The situation means Britain is endorsing EU talks on free trade pacts with Canada and with the US even though it will not be part of them after it leaves the European Union.
But Hammond, the British finance chief, told the BBC that he had started talks on a UK-China free trade deal in the margins of the G20 event in Beijing.
He said China would get greater access to the UK market for manufactured goods and investments in return for reducing barriers for British banks and insurance firms.
With the EU and China currently locked in a tariff war on steel, Hammond added: “The mood music that I have heard here [at the G20] is very much that this [Brexit] will mean more opportunity for countries like China that are outside the European Union to do business with Britain”.
“As Britain leaves the European Union and is not bound by the rules of the European Union perhaps it will be easier to do deals with Britain in the future”, he added.
The EU also has an arms embargo on China dating back to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989.
But the UK would be unlikely to start selling weapons to China in return for a better trade deal due to the security concerns of its main ally, the US.
New Europe 25-Jul-16
An ambitious free trade deal between the United Kingdom and China is on the cards. Britain’s new finance minister has started discussions with China that could ease access for major Chinese banks and businesses to the UK economy.
In an interview with the BBC, Chancellor Philip Hammond said it was time to explore “new opportunities” across the world, including with China, one of the UK’s biggest inward investors. China invested over $5bn (£3.8bn) in the UK in 2014.
“What we now need to do is get on with it in a way that minimises the economic impact on the UK economy in the short term and maximises the benefit in the long-term,” Hammond said, admitting that there had been “global disappointment” about the Brexit vote.
Earlier this month, the Chinese state media reported that the Chinese ministry of commerce wants to do a UK free trade deal. Hammond has now revealed that Britain is also keen.
And in return for greater access to the UK for its manufactured products and investment, China would reduce barriers to Britain’s service industries like banking and insurance as well as UK goods, reported the BBC.
“The mood music that I have heard here is very much that this will mean more opportunity for countries like China that are outside the European Union to do business with Britain,” Hammond said at the end of a G20 summit in China. “And as Britain leaves the European Union and is not bound by the rules of the European Union perhaps it will be easier to do deals with Britain in the future.”
In a separate report, the Telegraph noted Hammond’s warning to European leaders. He said they must respond “positively” to Brexit negotiations or they will risk years of damaging economic uncertainty.
“I think what will start to reduce uncertainty is when we will set out more clearly the kind of arrangement we envisage going forward with the EU,” explained Hammond. “If our EU partners respond to such a vision positively, obviously it will be subject to negotiation, but positively, so that there is a sense later this year that we’re all on the same page where we expect to be going. I think that will send a reassuring signal to the business community and to markets.”
Int. Chr. Emb. Jerusalem 25-Jul-16
In the latest indication that efforts to isolate Israel diplomatically are failing, a delegation of political and business leaders from Saudi Arabia were in Jerusalem on Friday to openly declare their interest in deepening ties with the Jewish State. However, during their meetings with Israeli leaders they made it clear that moves towards normalized ties would only come following a resolution of the long-standing conflict with the Palestinians.
Visit Don’s website here…. www.milestonesuk.org
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