Israeli military razes West Bank shelters built by EU


Israel razed five buildings in the West Bank constructed without permits, including three built by the European Union.

Forces from the Civil Administration tore down the buildings Tuesday in a Bedouin village near Hebron. A day earlier, three others were razed near Jericho.

The buildings taken down Tuesday housed 27 Palestinians, including 16 minors, according to the B’Tselem human rights group.

Six prefabricated homes funded by the EU in the same village were razed in April.

Regavim congratulated the Civil Administration on the demolitions, which the Israeli legal advocacy organization said occurred just days after it filed a complaint against the buildings.

“In recent years, the European Union has unilaterally built over a thousand illegal structures across Area C in violation of international law,” Regavim asserted in a statement. Area C of the West Bank is under Israeli military control.

The European Union says that providing the houses and shelters is humanitarian assistance and should not need permits from the Israeli military.

The EU, Terror and the Transparency Bill


On the 7 December 1970, German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt solemnly before the Warsaw Ghetto in contrition. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel faced annihilation, the same Willy Brandt denied German landing rights to US planes carrying emergency supplies to Israel. 

Chancellor Merkel occasionally says that Israel’s “right to exist” is Germany’s raison d’etre.

Like Willy Brandt, Germany appears to be two tongued when it comes to antisemitism. Like the EU,  Germany makes a distinction between antisemitism and objecting to Israel’s policies, which on paper seems to be fair. Thus, giving the Hitler salute and denying the Holocaust are illegal. On the other hand, the annual Iran sponsored Al Quds March through downtown Berlin, calling for the destruction of Israel is legal. Berlin constantly turns a deaf ear to appeals to ban that march.

The JCPOA (Iran Deal) was enthusiastically supported by Germany enabling Iran to fully develop its nuclear program after a decade, whilst currently testing “Death to Israel” marked missiles. However, the same Germany decided that nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes were too risky for Germans. They are to be phased out by 2022.

Germany maintains it has a “special relationship” with Israel while the EU ambassador to Israel explained that Israel is singled out because “you are one of us.”

The EU countries support various NGOs despite being termed “non-government.” Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides funding to NGOs as part of its foreign aid programs. Recently Prof Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor exposed the doublespeak of Germany yet further. The German government annually pays 4 million Euros to NGOs in Israel, of which 42% goes to organizations that support BDS and worse, like The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee which advocates violent riots in Judea/Samaria. The German Embassy in Tel Aviv does not deny the funding, but blandly states that Germany does not support boycotts of Israel. They donate to “organizations supporting peace.”

Some of the NGOs funded by the EU are Zochrot, Grassroots Jerusalem and Baladna Arab Youth Association, all of which are committed to getting  Palestinian refugees and their third and fourth generation descendants to “return” even though most have never been to Israel.  I have met some of these “refugees” who lead comfortable middle class lives, in Australia. They certainly do not fit the image of a refugee we see on TV. In my recent satire, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” the story depicts one such comfortable refugee who, like his parents, has never been to Israel. Despite these anomalies, the EU generously funds these organizations that are dedicated to Israel’s disappearance as the Jewish State.

The EU therefore supports some organizations dedicated to Israel’s demise, while paying lip service to its “right to exist,” whatever that means. The EU, led by countries such as Germany, also supports labelling people and products from beyond the Green Line or “Auschwitz Lines” as former dovish foreign minister Abba Eban called it. Thus, while officially declining to support BDS, the same EU countries fund NGOs that do—all with a straight face.

Unlike the vicious murder of Hallel Ariel (z”l) and countless others before and after her, the EU, committed to democracy and human rights, has been “deeply concerned” about the recent transparency law passed by the Knesset, even though there is no suggestion these NGOs would be banned from practising their dubious activities. The State Department termed it “chilling,” despite its funds being surreptitiously used to help influence the outcome of Israel’s last election. In the meantime, Europe is reeling with regular terror attacks, for which Europeans cannot find an answer—except to insultingly compare Israel to Putin’s Russia and be “deeply concerned” with their fellow democracy that struggles to maintain some balance in civil rights while upholding its citizens right to life.

Israel remains a vibrant democracy despite the underhand tactics of the EU. As Europe grapples with increasing terror, their exaggerated concern with an ally threatened daily by internal and external terror is misplaced and misguided.

NGO Monitor has shown in great detail the doublespeak of the EU countries which mouth unconvincing platitudes regarding Israel’s “right to exist,” but simultaneously fund many NGOs that promote exactly the opposite.

At the end of the day, it should be remembered that the hidden agendas of many of these NGOs have little to do with “human rights” per se but more to do with providing conditions that would end  the State of Israel, by stressing the Nakba, hope, resilience and the “right of return” of refugees and their descendants.

That is why it is always worth remembering Willy Brandt 1970 and Willy Brandt 1973. It sums up Europe perfectly.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is Fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. He recently authored of the satire “The trombone man: Tales of a misogynist.”

Can a hobbled EU live up to its promise to combat anti-Semitism and racism?


When the late Austro-Hungarian aristocrat Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi attended church on Good Friday, his father would famously cause a scene, storming out when the liturgy came to the anti-Semitic exhortation “Let us also pray for the faithless Jews.”

Such protest was unusual in 19th-century Austria-Hungary, where anti-Semitism and other forms of racism were de rigueur. But the old count — a personal friend of Zionist legend Theodor Herzl — abhorred such biases in part because his wife, Richard’s mother, was Japanese.

Brought up in a multiculturalist home, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi made the fight against anti-Semitism a cornerstone of the Pan-Europa movement he founded in 1926. It was a major precursor of the European Union, which has evolved into a quasi-federal entity of 28 states with its own executive arm – the European Commission — parliament and judiciary.

Little wonder, then, that prominent Jews such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud endorsed the nobleman’s pan-European vision from its inception. They saw it as an antidote to the nationalism and racist hate that culminated  in World War II and the Holocaust.

Determined to prevent the recurrence of such traumatic events, postwar European societies became open to adopting the revolutionary pan-European model of government.

Traditionally, Jews have been very supportive of the incarnation of von Coudenhove-Kalergi’s vision: the European Union, with its strong anti-racist rhetoric and agendas. But the growing influence of homegrown xenophobes, integration failures and Brussels’ perceived singling out of Israel for criticism have disillusioned many Jewish opinion shapers.

These conflicting Jewish attitudes were on display during the polarizing debate that took place in the United Kingdom over last month’s referendum on a British exit, or Brexit, from the European Union, according to Geoffrey Alderman, a historian and former member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“There’s a belief that Jews are a very cosmopolitan, pan-European people whom one would’ve expected to show a large measure of support to the idea of the EU,” he said. But in Britain, “prominent Jews were in favor of exiting,” said Alderman, who himself was among the 52 percent of British voters in the June 23 referendum who supported leaving the bloc.

The British Jewish community’s institutions stayed neutral on the Brexit issue, whereas many Jewish intellectuals argued that the desire to leave was born of xenophobia and ignorance and risked unleashing a wave of nationalism and economic instability in the UK and beyond. The British-Jewish sociologist David Hirsh, in an op-ed for the Jewish News of London, highlighted the “freedom of movement, freedom to work where you choose and freedom of trade” afforded by the EU.

Strong statements about the need to fight anti-Semitism from some of the EU’s top officials have also shored up Jewish support.

“If there’s no future for Jews in Europe, there’s no future for Europe,” Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, said last year.

Robert-Jan Smits, a director within the European Commission, said in 2011 that “present-day Europe arose from the ash of Auschwitz crematoria.”

And European Parliament President Martin Schulz said this year: “Jewish friends, we stand with you against those who spread hatred. Europe is your home today, every day and forever.’’

But the European Union’s Jewish critics say it is unable to back up the rhetoric with action — one reason, according to Alderman, why many Jewish Brexiters were open to leaving.

In the first few traumatized decades after World War II, anti-Semitism was “present but not spoken of” in the EU’s founding states in the continent’s west, Alderman said. “But anti-Semitism is a light sleeper and the EU has failed to create the political-social conditions” to keep it dormant, he said.

The awakening unleashed a resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence in Western Europe. It was spearheaded by Muslims, who were invited to immigrate there as cheap laborers on the promise that the countries would integrate and embrace them, and under the assumption that the immigrants would integrate and embrace postwar European values.

Millions of Muslims have done just that, but jihadists who grew within these communities have killed more than 300 people in terrorist attacks since 2012 alone — including 12 in three attacks on Jewish targets in France and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Eastern European EU member states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary are celebrating the legacies of Nazi collaborators who participated in the Holocaust. Xenophobic parties from both east and west are riding a crest of popularity into the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the body set up to prevent such tendencies from reaching power.

Jewish Euroskeptics argue it would be easier to be deal with such challenges on a national level. EU supporters, including Hirsh, say these challenges require European societies to double down on federal ideals.

Far from ignoring the problem of anti-Semitism, say the EU’s defenders, EU senior officials have vowed to fight them head on.

“It is unacceptable that Jews are reluctant to wear their traditional clothes and display religious symbols in public because of fear,” Schulz said in January. “Jews are again killed because they are Jews. We will fight the demons of anti-Semitism, of ultranationalism, of intolerance.”

The European Union has taken some concrete steps to achieve this, including the unveiling in May of a code of conduct on online hate speech together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft.

But in 2013, the EU eroded its own credibility with many on this issue by abandoning the only definition it had for anti-Semitism after pro-Palestinian critics objected to the inclusion of a clause about the demonization of Israel. Currently, the EU agency for fighting racism is on record as saying it is unable to define anti-Semitism and that the concept is not in need of a definition.

Critics, including Alderman, disagree.

The decision to drop the working definition on anti-Semitism “damages the European Union’s credibility on its desire to fight anti-Semitic racism,” said Shimon Samuels, a British national based in Paris who heads the European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Back in Britain, a staunch advocate of the European Union — Rabbi David Rose of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation — drew parallels between Europeans’ ambivalence toward the EU to the Hebrews’ reluctance to trust God after he led them out of Egypt and through the Sinai Desert.

Eventually, Rose said, God gave up on the people he rescued and decided to build his Chosen People from their children born during 40 years in the wilderness.

“Perhaps in this analogy we are in the wilderness and our job is to raise a generation worthy of the Promised Land,” he said.

Belgian paper demands EU action on Abbas ‘blood libel’


A Jewish newspaper from Belgium urged European leaders to condemn a false statement by Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke in Brussels about Jewish settlers seeking to poison water wells.

The Joods Actueel monthly on Monday published an open letter on the matter by its editor-in-chief, Michael Freilich, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Freilich’s letter was about a June 22 speech by Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, before the European Parliament, in which he said: “Just a week ago, some rabbis rose up in Israel and explicitly announced and demanded of their government that it poison the water in order to kill the Palestinians.”

Abbas’ office later apologized for the reference to wells, which a probe by Israeli media showed was false. It provoked anger because the theme of well-poisoning Jews was frequent motif in mediaeval blood libels against Jews, which often led to deadly pogroms.  Freilich called Abbas’ speech a “blood libel.”

European Parliament  President Martin Schulz, who is German, and Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, who is also German, did not correct Abbas before or during the speech and have yet to distance their institutions from the claims made in Brussels, where Abbas received a standing ovation, Freilich wrote.

“Painfully, Martin Schulz even published a tweet calling Abbas’ speech ‘inspiring,’” Freilich complained.

Joods Actueel wrote to Merkel after Schulz’s office told the paper: “The content of the address is a total responsibility of the state leaders and the European Parliament is not in a position to censure or to control it.“

Belgian Jews seek neither control nor censorship, he wrote, but they do require an “unambiguous rejection of this anti-Jewish incitement in the heart of Europe.”

Merkel’s office confirmed receiving the letter but will not reply, said Freilich, who subsequently set up an online petition demanding action on Merkel’s part.

Berlin rabbi: Jewish leaders need to help save the EU


A prominent rabbi in Berlin called on other Jewish community leaders to do everything in their power to prevent additional countries from leaving the European Union after Britain’s vote to exit the bloc.

Yehudah Teichtal, a rabbi of the Jewish community of Berlin, made the call Tuesday in a statement about his meeting with Thomas Oppermann, the head of the German Social Democratic Party’s faction in the German parliament.

Teichtal told Oppermann that in his conversations with European rabbis and Jewish leaders he “encourages them to take action and prevent any further breaking in the EU,” the statement said. “I call upon the leaders of all Jewish communities around Europe to do whatever they can and execute all of their influence” to prevent additional exits, the rabbi was quoted as saying in the statement by his office.

“The establishment of the EU and the multi-cultural approach it symbolizes, contributes to the welfare of Europe’s Jewish communities”, said Teichtal, who is a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi. “Therefore, the possibility of dismantling the EU and reverting back to nation states should worry all Jewish people around Europe.”

Teichtal’s statement follows the June 23 vote in Britain, in which 51 percent of voters supported a British exit, or Brexit, as British media has dubbed the initiative. While this issue has divided British Jewry, several European rabbis issued calls similar to Teichtal’s.

The President of the European Conference of Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, last week said that, “After Brexit we live in a new Europe. The voices calling for the dismantling of the European Union are getting stronger and our continent is prone to more shakeups and changes.”

Rabbi Mencahem Margolin, another Chabad rabbi and director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe and the European Jewish Association, said following the vote: “We have lost an important voice here in Brussels and across the continent as a whole. Brexit sees a number of threats from these parties who are licking their lips at the prospect of increasing power. It appears that Brexit has given them hope. And that is deeply worrying for Jews across Europe.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Loewenthal, a Chabad British rabbi who lives in Denmark, said following the vote:  “I would’ve preferred that they remain,” but added the European Union “needs to learn” to allow the peoples that make up the bloc to “be diverse, yet remaining connected.”

Only such an attitude, he said, would address the issue that the supporters of leaving the union have with the bloc, namely that “Brussels imposes laws for all its member states, and does not properly take into consideration the individual cultures and needs of the member countries,“ as Loewenthal described this attitude.

Judaism’s own attitude to these issues is reflected in the Menorah, he added, which “has different branches representing different attitudes, different traditions, and different personalities – yet they all face inward to the middle light symbolizing the light of God and the Torah.”

Brexit poll: Jews voted 2-1 to remain in EU


Twice as many British Jews voted to remain in the European Union rather than exit, according to a new survey.

Conducted by the Survation polling firm earlier this week for The Jewish Chronicle, the opinion poll of  1,000 British Jews showed that 59 percent were displeased by last week’s narrow vote to leave the EU, compared to 28.3 percent of respondents who were pleased with the result.

Surveyed after the vote, 59 percent of respondents said they voted Remain, with 31 percent voting Leave. Six percent did not vote, they said.

Of those who voted for a British exit, or Brexit, 11 percent said they now regret their decision.

A similar poll conducted ahead of the vote showed a 50-50 split.

As a result of the June 23 referendum, 38 percent of Jews indicated they felt less safe, compared to 42 percent who said they did not feel any decrease in their level of security.

Xenophobic hate speech saw an uptick in Britain following the vote, with dozens of cases involving nationalistic rhetoric observed within days of the vote. But the Community Security Trust, the Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, said none of the reported incidents show a direct link to anti-Semitism.

Have we taken leave of our senses?


As a British Jew in London, I got a rude awakening on the morning of June 24. Looking at my phone at 7 in the morning, I could hardly believe what I was reading in the notifications from the news sites I subscribe to.

I am rabbi to a congregation of more than 3,000 members, and barely anyone who had spoken to me about the European Union referendum campaign had indicated that they were going to vote to leave. Over the past few weeks, I had been part of a two straw polls in which people indicated how they were likely to vote, one at our Assembly of Rabbis, one among a large studio audience at a television debate on an unrelated religious issue on which I was a panelist. Both times, the indication was a large majority wanted to remain. The national polls had been saying that the result was likely to be close, but close in favor of Remain, not Leave. While sermons had been preached on the issues as how they might affect the Jewish community at our civically engaged synagogue, the synagogue had not taken a line on which way to vote as we knew that there was a small amount of diversity in opinion that had to be respected.

At 7 in the morning of June 24, I had to face the screaming evidence that I did not know my country. Britain, up to that point, felt safe for Jews to thrive in a multicultural outward looking, welcoming society. It was one where we felt connected to the rest of the world through our membership in the powerful and open European Union. Now it feels horribly uncertain. For the country to split so evenly on such a big issue is worrying, and the Jewish community is largely on the losing side of the argument. 

The statistics provide very strong evidence for this. Nationally, the Leave vote was 51.9 percent, the Remain vote was 48.1 percent. It means half the country’s citizens in a vote with a high 72 percent turnout do not agree with the other half. The Jewish community in Britain is concentrated in London. Of 264,000 of us, according to the 2011 census, more than 75 percent live in London, where the vote to remain was the substantial majority. In the area where almost all of the members of my synagogue live, and which is the area of the highest concentration of Jews in the country, the Remain vote was more than 80 percent.

On the afternoon of the announcement of the results, the conference of our national Movement for Reform Judaism began. It meant that I was now together with Jews from all around the country and, informally, this confirmed for me that most Jews had been on the Remain side.

Speaking to people around the conference, Brexit was, of course, a major topic of conversation. People’s reasons for voting Remain had been those of Britain’s middle class in general: the ability of their children to find employment if they wished throughout Europe; the ability of their companies to trade widely and easily; a comfort with immigration to Britain as a benefit to the economy and cultural richness of the nation.

But there were also more Jewish issues among the reasons for Remain: a strong discomfort with the far right-wing stance of some in the Leave camp whose success might encourage other similar groups across Europe that include Jews among the groups they reject; a sense that a Jew must be able to live elsewhere in case of emergency, a reality lived one or two generations previously by those with Jewish refugee ancestors; the knowledge that the European Union had enshrined the cessation of regular war between European nations within which Jews had been scapegoats in the past; and, from a more positive perspective, the unity of the European Jewish community, demonstrated in our European Union for Progressive Judaism, the Orthodox Council of European Rabbis and many other cooperative institutions and, of course, family and personal relationships across Europe.

Yet our country had rejected this. Many Jews have been talking about how little we know the parts of Britain that must feel economically disenfranchised, that feel under threat from the free movement of European people, that feel safer closed in.

At our Reform Movement conference, speaking privately with members of a synagogue in one of the northern cities that voted more than 70 percent to leave the EU, I heard they were sure their community in that city had voted with the majority. They experienced the disenfranchisement and disillusion with the EU just as much as their fellow citizens and felt that any Jewish community arguments to remain were of lesser value when you have lived for decades with uncertain employment and a low-wage, local economy.

Leaving the EU — and the process of leaving — will undoubtedly have an effect on the Jewish community. We expect it to be harder to raise funds for Jewish community life as the uncertainly of the economy makes our members naturally cautious. The British Jewish community has been thriving, with great new institutions and synagogues being built, especially in London, but our ambition may now be on hold.

We are concerned about Brexit encouraging the far right across Europe and possibly leading to continental European countries facing the same disunity Britain has just shown. A community so dedicated to bringing up our next generation is worried that our children’s future, their options for work and residence, and their ability to study abroad has just been constricted. Above all, we are worried that we didn’t really know how the rest of the country thinks.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is rabbi at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, London. He was ordained at Leo Baeck College in London in 1996 and is past chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK and the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism.

British Jewish leaders keep mum on wisdom of Brexit


Britain’s Jewish leaders had mixed reactions to the country’s surprising vote in favor of leaving the European Union, with few offering an opinion on whether or not leaving the EU is a good idea.

Several praised Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced after the vote that he would resign, for his record on Jewish issues and voiced hope that Thursday’s referendum will put an end to the divisions caused by the so-called “Brexit” campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising Cameron but offering no opinion on the nonbinding vote in favor of leaving the EU.

In a notable exception to the lack of opining by Jewish leaders, Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard in an Op-Ed in his paper critiqued what he described as “bizarre myths” about “what Brexit will mean for Israel and British Jews.”

Pollard said the country’s departure from the EU will not hurt its relationship with Israel, but could even improve it, saying “one could argue that, away from the Brussels bartering and negotiations that lie behind the EU’s foreign policy, Britain will be free to carve out an even more supportive stance, should we wish to …”

He also argued that leaving the EU would not lead to increased anti-Semitism, suggesting that, “far from Brexit hurting minorities, the real problem for minorities comes … when the mainstream loses touch with people and the only vehicles left to make a point are extremists.”

“Our freedom from the EU will make extremism less, not more, likely, as the pressure cooker is released,” he said.

The UK’s Jewish News reported that the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement that it hoped the country “will now come together” after a “divisive and bruising” campaign, and “will nonetheless continue to work with colleagues and organisations across Europe as part of our broader programme of advocacy on international issues of concern to the Jewish people.”

Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Jewish News he was sad to learn of Cameron’s resignation, because Cameron “has always been a loyal friend of the Jewish community and a visible and vocal supporter of the State of Israel. He has worked constructively with us, engaging on issues of concern to British Jews.”

Noting that the Brexit debate has “sharply divided our country,” the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said, according to the Jewish News, that “the time for disagreement and division is now over.”

While not specifically addressing the Brexit, Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner told the Jewish News that she hoped the country would “continue to be an outward facing society, confident of its place in the world” and called for Britons to “reject isolation.”

British lawmaker shot dead, EU referendum campaigns suspended


A British member of Parliament was shot dead in the street in northern England on Thursday, causing deep shock across Britain and the suspension of campaigning for next week's referendum on the country's EU membership.

Jo Cox, 41, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and vocal supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union, was attacked as she prepared to hold a meeting with constituents in Birstall near Leeds.

Media reports said she had been shot and stabbed.

West Yorkshire Police said a 52-year-old man was arrested by officers nearby and weapons including a firearm recovered. The motive for the attack was not immediately known.

“The whole of the Labour Party and Labour family – and indeed the whole country – will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the killing of Cox, who was married with two children and had worked on U.S. President Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign, was a tragedy.

“We have lost a great star,” the Conservative prime minister said in a statement. “She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart. It is dreadful, dreadful news.”

British lawmakers are not in parliament ahead of the June 23 referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU.

The rival referendum campaign groups said they were suspending activities for the day and Cameron said he would pull out of a planned rally in Gibraltar, the British territory on the southern coast of Spain.

It was not immediately clear what the impact would be on the referendum.

“It's fairly clear no one is quite sure what has happened,” said John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde. “Until it's clear who was responsible and what their motivation was or it might have been, all it does is stop the campaign when the 'Remain' side probably would not want it to be stopped.”

The pro-EU “Remain” campaign has fallen behind the “Leave” camp in pre-referendum polls.

The last British lawmaker to have been killed in an attack was Ian Gow, who died after a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded under his car at his home in southern England in 1990.

MAKESHIFT GUN PULLED FROM BAG

Police said a 77-year-old man was also assaulted in the incident and suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

One witness said a man had pulled an old or makeshift gun from a bag and had fired twice.

“I saw a lady on the floor like on the beach with her arms straight and her knees up and blood all over the face,” Hichem Ben-Abdallah told reporters. “She wasn't making any noise, but clearly she was in agony.”

BBC TV and other media showed a picture of the alleged suspect, a balding white man, being apprehended by police.

Dee Collins, the Temporary Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, said a full investigation was under way into the motive for the attack.

“This is a very significant investigation with large numbers of witnesses who have been spoken to by police at this time,” she told reporters. “We are not in a position to discuss any motive at this time. We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.”

Media reports citing witnesses said the attacker had shouted out “Britain First”, which is the name of a right-wing group that describes itself on its website as “a patriotic political party and street defense organization”.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, said the attack was “absolutely disgusting” and suggested that Britain first was a common slogan being used in the referendum campaign by those who support taking Britain out of the EU.

“We were as shocked to hear these reports as everyone else,” Fransen told Reuters. “At the moment would point out this is hearsay, we are keen to verify the comments but we can only do that when the police provide more details.”

Britain's sterling currency rose against the dollar after news of the attack, adding around two cents as investors speculated that Cox's death might boost popular support for the referendum “Remain” campaign.

The last attack on a British legislator was in 2010, when Labour member and ex-cabinet minister Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach at his office in east London by a 21-year-old student who was angry over his backing for the 2003 Iraq war.

In 2000, a Liberal Democrat local councillor was murdered by a man with a samurai sword at the offices in western England of lawmaker Nigel Jones, who was also seriously hurt in the attack.

Cox, a Cambridge University graduate, spent a decade working in a variety of roles with aid agency Oxfam, including head of policy, head of humanitarian campaigning based in New York and head of its European office in Brussels.

She was known for her work on women's issues, and won election for Labour in northern England's Batley and Spen district at the 2015 general election.

Fellow lawmakers from several parties expressed their horror at the attack, praising Cox as a rising star of politics.

“She's a tiny woman, five feet nothing and a lion as well – she fights so hard for the things she believes in. I cannot believe anyone would do this to her,” fellow Labour lawmaker Sarah Champion told BBC TV.

One of Brussels bombers had worked in EU Parliament


One of the Islamic State suicide bombers who killed 32 people in Brussels on March 22 had worked as a cleaner for a short period in the European Parliament six years earlier, a spokesman for the EU assembly said on Thursday.

In 2009 and 2010, “one of the perpetrators of the Brussels terrorist attacks worked for a period of one month for a cleaning company which was contracted by the European Parliament at the time,” spokesman Jaume Duch Guillot said in a statement which did not name the individual.

An EU official said the person was Najim Laachraoui, a 25-year-old Belgian who prosecutors said blew himself up in the airport attack and is also suspected of making suicide vests for last November's Paris attacks in which 130 people died.

At the time of his temporary work in the parliament, he had no criminal record, the parliament's spokesman said.

Explosion at Brussels metro station close to EU institutions, says RTBF


An explosion was heard at Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, close to the EU institutions, Belgian broadcaster RTBF said, after explosions ripped through the departure hall at Brussels airport.

Metro operator STIB announced on Twitter that the metro was closing.

Revolution – Implications for Israel, for the Arab World, and the West


Since Iran became a radical Islamic Shiite state some 46 years ago, it has been recognized as a perpetrator of both regional and global terrorism. The proxy organizations that it has established have turned into terrorist armies. Hezbollah in Lebanon has, for all intents and purposes, taken control of the state.  Hamas in Gaza has been in control there for nearly nine years. The third proxy, the Houthis in Yemen, took control over all of Yemen, but last year lost half of the area under their control to the Saudis and other Arab countries. Up until a year ago, Iran was classified as the country that posed the biggest threat to the Arab world and the West alike, and, of course, to Israel.

The year 2015 will go down in history as the year when Iran's leadership managed to instigate a revolution. No, not in Iran, but in the world in general, and, in particular, among the major global powers.

The US and the EU countries, which had regarded Iran as a problem, began to regard it as a solution.

Iran is now seen as the country that will bring stability to Syria and Iraq and enable the U.S administration to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, and stabilize Yemen.

Russia and China also became swept up in this political excitement, together with the aforementioned countries, as well as with others who see Iran as a land of business opportunities for many years to come. China's president, who recently visited Iran, signed contracts to the tune of $600 billion over 10 years (2.5 trillion NIS). The European company Airbus receivied an order for 150 passenger jets for starters, out of 600 aircraft which will be ordered in the coming years. Russia has begun selling advanced model Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft to Iran along with advanced weaponry and equipment, as have other European countries.

The Iranian arms and missile industry, which is already fairly well developed, will become a source of weapon sales to other countries in the coming years, competing with Israeli industry.

There is no sight of any sort of deal which would cause Iran to stop, or at least limit its support of the terrorist organizations it has established. Iran will continue to engage Israel with threats and terror attacks carried out by Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia. All this is happening without any sign of intervention from the United States, England, France or Germany, because in their eyes, Iran is the solution to their problems in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

For those who believe this is a good opportunity for Israel to strengthen its ties with those Arab states which are also under threat from Iran, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it is important to clarify that the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, does not fly in Arabic. They have a phrase of their own: “My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against foreigners.”

Israel and Western countries will always be seen as foreign to them.

The relationship between Israel and the United States now has more importance than ever. The Iranians will now seek to exploit the situation. They have already increased their influence over countries adjacent to Israel, starting with the Palestinian Authority and then Jordan and even Egypt. Syria and Lebanon are already in very deep. Khomeini’s Islamic revolution was only Phase One of the Iranian missile. The second stage is penetration into Sunni Arab Muslim nations. And they will seek to direct the nuclear warhead which will be produced at some point, at Israel. They will want to use the Shiite warhead under construction since 1979 to strike a few countries. thus completing the revolution which Khomeini launched.

Israel's various new defense systems– the barrier wall and its components, the Arrow missiles, David's Sling and Iron Dome– are just part of the response Israel is preparing to deal with the “solution” that Iran has suddenly become.  The professional intelligence gathering performed by Israel and other countries will reveal the true face of Iran.

Hamas, which continues to build tunnels in Gaza, will eventually realize that it is digging the world’s largest terrorist  cemetery– for themselves. The Shiite Hezbollah will learn firsthand that Syria, which is predominantly populated by Sunnis, will not tolerate Assad, an Alawite, even if that will take many years. It will become clear that during a raging storm, the best place to be is in the eye of the storm. Israel will remain there safely until the countries surrounding us calm down.

Member of Knesset Avi Dichter is an Israel politican from the Likud Party. He is the former head of Shin Bet, Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Home Front Defense.

Calling out anti-Semitism


If you discriminate against the only Jewish country in the world, is that anti-Semitism?

Let’s take the European Union (EU), which routinely discriminates against the Jewish state. Among the numerous “occupied territories” around the world, for example, the EU has singled out only the Jewish state for special labeling of products from those territories.

Is that anti-Semitism?

A less well-known example of EU discrimination comes from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), a group that aims to improve democracy and human rights in non-EU countries. In the Middle East, does it focus on countries where gays are lynched and journalists are jailed and women are stoned to death?

No, it focuses on Israel, the only Jewish state and the only democracy in the Middle East. 

As Evelyn Gordon reported last week in Commentary, from 2007 to 2010, the EIDHR spent more on promoting democracy and human rights in “Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories” than in all other countries of the Mideast combined. Combined!

This is the same Israel, by the way, where an Arab judge sentenced a Jewish president to prison, where an Arab student finished first in her class at the Technion and where Arab gays from neighboring countries come to find safety from persecution.

But even if we allow that Israel is far from perfect and has its share of injustice, is the blatant singling out of the Jewish state a sign of anti-Semitism?

I think so, but don’t take my word for it. Listen to Mark Joseph Stern, a fervent Israel critic who writes for Slate on LGBTQ issues and has railed against what he calls Israel’s “brutal occupation” of the West Bank.

During the recent Creating Change conference in Chicago, when LGBTQ activists singled out for condemnation an Israeli-American LGBTQ group just for being associated with Israel, Stern had the courage to call it what it is. 

“A legitimately troubling problem has begun to tear at the seams of the LGBTQ movement,” he wrote. “That problem is anti-Semitism.”

What specifically troubled Stern was the unfair singling out of the Jewish state.

“I would like to ask why, exactly, 200 protesters saw fit to punish A Wider Bridge and the Jerusalem Open House for the sins of a country to which they are connected. Plenty of groups at Creating Change are based in states with deeply unjust laws and police practices. Plenty of participants come from countries that are far more repressive than Israel.

“But the protesters did not single out any of these people. Instead, they stormed a reception featuring Israeli speakers, sponsored by an Israeli-American advocacy group. In other words, they stormed a reception for a bunch of Jews.”

As much as I value the sharp Jewish impulse for self-criticism, it’s important to also know when to fight back. Stern is a liberal critic of Israel who fought back against the scourge of anti-Semitism in his own liberal world.

The Jewish community ought to follow his lead, while being careful not to throw out the accusation too loosely. 

The way I see it, if you claim to fight for human rights and yet you single out the Jewish state for special condemnation, while giving murderous, homophobic, sexist and bigoted non-Jewish states a pass, you’re not just a hypocrite or a critic, you’re anti-Semitic. 

Pro-Israel liberal groups that criticize Israel have enormous credibility in this regard. They must direct their critical eye at organizations such as the EU, the United Nations and other human rights groups and put them on notice that singling out Israel for special condemnation will be called out for what it is.

Let’s face it, Israel’s enemies have one big thing on Israel: the occupation of the West Bank (which I call disputed, but most of the world calls illegal). Israel’s enemies know that Israel has no easy way out. Right now, it can’t just withdraw from the West Bank even if it wanted to, lest groups such as Hamas and ISIS swoop in and create yet another dangerous terror state in a region already in meltdown.

The Palestinian Authority also knows that should the Israel Defense Forces leave the West Bank any time soon, their own necks would literally be on the line from the blades of Hamas or ISIS.

And yet, Israel’s enemies are conveniently using this complicated situation to single out Israel and isolate it as the world’s most maligned country.

This is not just unfair. It’s anti-Semitic, and we should call it what it is.

EU security chiefs brace for more Islamist attacks


Islamic State and other militants are very likely to attempt big new attacks in Europe following those in Paris, the EU's police agency said on Monday, echoing previous warnings by senior security officials.

The assessment was based on discussions concluded eight weeks ago by security agencies from EU states. The 8-page public report said further attacks could even take place quite soon.

The events in Paris “appear to indicate a shift toward a broader strategy of IS going global, of them specifically attacking France, but also the possibility of attacks against other member states of the EU in the near future”, it said.

There was “every reason to expect” an attack, by Islamic State or “IS-inspired terrorists or another religiously inspired terrorist group”. “This is in addition to the threat of lone actor attacks, which has not diminished,” it said.

At a news conference to mark the launch of a new European Counter Terrorism Centre within Europol, based in The Hague, its director Rob Wainwright said Islamic State “has the willingness and capability to carry out further attacks in Europe”.

Since immediately after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, in which Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people, Wainwright, a senior British police officer, has said further similar attacks are likely in Europe and that “lone wolf” militants are no longer the prime threat.

The Europol report said Islamic State may have established an “external action command trained for special forces-style attacks in the international environment” and noted that, as the Paris attacks showed, the group was largely active in Europe through radicalized European citizens, not foreigners.

The report also warned of a risk of cyber attacks but said there was no evidence of Islamist militants trying to use chemical, biological or nuclear material as a weapon in Europe.

Wainwright welcomed what he called a “considerable improvement” in the level of intelligence information that EU governments were now willing to share with each other through Europol following the attacks on Paris, which have concentrated minds on a need for cooperation against Islamist threats.

Currently, some 30 Europol experts are working to support the Franco-Belgian investigation into the Paris attack, Wainwright said, helping track movements of money, weapons, fake documents and other elements of the plot.

Human Rights Watch report ramps up pressure on Israeli settlement activity


The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a year ago has led to an accelerating war of words over Israeli settlements, with Israel accusing its growing chorus of foreign critics of prejudging the final terms of a peace deal at best – and anti-Semitism at worst.

The battle heated up this week with the release of a report by Human Rights Watch arguing that doing business with West Bank settlements reinforces Israel’s presence there and contributes to human rights abuses.

The report comes a day after the European Union, which in November announced new guidelines to label Israeli exports produced in the settlements, declared that any agreement with Israel “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

And the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, while not going nearly as far, decried Israel’s seizure of West Bank lands and what he described as a two-tiered justice system.

“Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians,” Shapiro said in a speech Monday that otherwise extolled U.S.-Israel closeness.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was infuriated by the remarks, calling them “unacceptable and incorrect.” But his wider strategy against the settlement criticism has been to lump such efforts together with the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, and liken them to the pre-Holocaust boycotts of Jewish businesses in Europe.

“Because bureaucracies or set patterns entrench themselves, and then we get the absurdity of the EU in Brussels, from European soil, labeling the products of Israeli citizens, of Jews,” Netanyahu told foreign reporters last week. “And the last time that was done on the soil of Europe was over 70 years ago.”

Israel has largely been able to stave off questions about the status of the West Bank as long as it seemed substantially engaged in the peace process. But developments this week seem to confirm warnings last year that the collapse of the peace process, followed by statements from Netanyahu on the eve of his reelection in March that appeared to reject the possibility of Palestinian statehood, would lead the United States and Europe to focus anew on the settlements, if only as a means of keeping open the option for a two-state solution.

The Human Rights Watch report argues plainly that trading with the settlements entrenches Israel in the West Bank and makes businesses a partner in the oppression of the Palestinians. It recommends that businesses “avoid financing, administering or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure, such as through contracting to purchase settlement-manufactured goods or agricultural produce, to ensure the businesses are not indirectly contributing to and benefiting from such activities.”

The report cites an example of how bringing attention to Israeli practices in the West Bank can impede them. Human Rights Watch contacted a factory in a West Bank settlement that its researchers found provided linens for an American retailer and was underpaying its Palestinian laborers.

“During the conversations that followed, the factory agreed to close its operations in Barkan and locate to new facilities inside Israel,” the group reported, without naming the parties.

“We are not looking for problems,” Human Rights Watch quoted the factory’s co-owner as telling the group. “It seems it really bothers people that we’re there, so we’ll leave.”

Centrist and right-wing pro-Israel groups insist that such efforts to target settlements are aimed at setting the terms of a final peace deal. In December, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee posted a lengthy analysis of the European Union’s decision on settlement labeling.

“The EU’s action — taken outside the context of peace negotiations — is designed to impose Brussels’ vision of Israel’s future borders,” said AIPAC, a prominent pro-Israel lobby. “These commercial attacks against Israel increase the prospect of isolating the Jewish state, while strengthening its most vitriolic critics and slowing the pursuit of peace.”

The fight over settlements is also playing out in Congress and state houses. AIPAC has garnered bipartisan support through congressional statements rejecting attempts to single out settlements. And several state-level legislative moves to target BDS explicitly include attempts to distinguish the settlements.

Pro-Israel groups on the left argue that such efforts are mutually self-defeating. Attempts to isolate settlements are a good thing, they say, as they help neutralize the wider BDS movement.

“A more accurate labeling system, as Israel never annexed the West Bank, will allow European residents to make purchases according to ideological considerations,” Americans for Peace Now said at the time of the European labeling decision. “This system will help curb efforts to boycott Israel entirely, such as those advocated by the BDS movement.”

Czech parliament rejects labelling goods from Israeli settlements


The Czech parliament's lower house called on the government on Thursday to ignore EU rules on labelling goods from Israeli settlements, joining Hungary in breaking ranks over the divisive regulations.

The Czech Assembly said new EU guidelines which require the labelling of exports from Israeli settlements in the West Bank were “motivated by a political positioning versus the State of Israel”.

The vote reflected a long and strong trade and diplomatic relationship between Israel and the Czech Republic, particularly since its emergence from communist rule in 1989.

Brussels has said the guidelines, published last month, are purely technical. But Israel branded them “discriminatory” and suspended contacts with European Union bodies involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians. 

The EU's position is that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war – including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – are not part of the internationally recognised borders of Israel.

As such, goods from there cannot be labelled “Made in Israel” and should be labelled as coming from settlements, which the EU considers illegal under international law. 

The Czech parliamentary resolution was supported by all government and opposition parties except for the Communists.

Culture Minister Daniel Hermann stopped short of saying whether the government would now ignore the EU guidelines, but thanked the lower house for the vote.

“It is necessary to reject these attempts that try to discriminate against the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said.

The foreign ministry said in a brief statement sent to Reuters the country respected its EU commitments but also that it considered Israel as a strategic partner and was keen on developing economic relations with the country.

EU member countries that do not follow the bloc's rules can face infringement proceedings by the Commission and eventually be taken to court.

Hungary's foreign minister said last month it would not label the goods, calling the regulations “irrational” according to media reports.

With Israeli-EU relations strained, Netanyahu looks toward Asia


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, sat kiddy-corner in armchairs at this week’s international climate summit near Paris, talking and laughing.

“We have the best of relations, and they can be made even better,” Netanyahu told Modi at the meeting.

To which Modi responded, “I am happy that often we can talk easily on telephone, we can discuss everything.”

A brief encounter between Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy envoy Federica Mogherini was far frostier. Mogherini approached Netanyahu in the hallway, and they shared little more than a handshake.

The contrast reflects an Israeli warming to the East, just as its relations with Europe have cooled amid disagreements over the peace process and Iran’s nuclear program. In recent years, trade between Israel and Asia has shot up, while Israel and Asian powers have made diplomatic overtures toward each other. And even as Israel’s strongest diplomatic ties remain with the West, there are signs of a pivot eastward.

Israel is considering “an eastern option if things don’t go the right way with Europe and the United States,” Alon Liel, a former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told JTA. “In the last year and a half, there wasn’t a peace process, and in Europe there was disappointment that there wasn’t a peace process.”

Israel has long had amicable relations with Europe, ranging from defense cooperation to economics. Today, the European Union collectively is Israel’s biggest export destination, and Israel competes in European athletic and cultural competitions such as soccer tournaments and the Eurovision musical competition.

The ties are also historical. Israel was founded on the European model of a democratic nation-state. Many of Israel’s citizens are of European descent.

Recently, those ties have deteriorated. Israel almost withdrew from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, which funds scientific research and innovation,  due to a disagreement about funding projects in West Bank settlements. And it bristled at a French proposal this year to have the United Nations Security Council oversee Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

European-Israeli relations are at a low point now over recently released EU guidelines to label goods produced in Israeli settlements. Israel has lambasted the guidelines as approaching a boycott. In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has cut off all coordination with EU institutions on issues related to the peace process.

“We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement,” read a Foreign Ministry statement on the labeling guidelines. “This recent step raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play.”

Israeli relations with Asia, meanwhile, have been on the upswing. Israeli exports to Asian countries tripled between 2004 and 2014, totaling $16.7 billion last year — one-fifth of Israel’s total exports. Last year, Asia surpassed the United States as Israel’s second-biggest export destination behind Europe.

Meanwhile, Japan didn’t sell its cars in Israel until the 1990s in order to avoid a boycott in the Arab world. But last year, trade between Japan and Israel rose nearly 10 percent, to $1.75 billion. Israel also increased government grants for joint Israeli-Japanese research by 50 percent this year. Netanyahu also met with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe in Paris this week.

Israel and China, which established formal relations only in 1992, are working on a free-trade agreement, and Netanyahu created an Israel-China task force within his office this year. Last year, Israel had a so-called “China Week,” when a variety of Chinese government officials and business leaders visited Israel.

India’s Modi has said he plans to visit as well. Meanwhile, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee traveled to Jerusalem in October, becoming the highest-ranking Indian official ever to come to Israel.

“We are very deeply part of the West in many, many ways, but we look to the East,” Netanyahu said at the state dinner during Mukherjee’s visit. “We appreciate Europe, but we admire Asia.”

In 2013, then-Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said during a visit to China that increased trade could open an avenue for “economic diplomacy” with the world’s most populous country. As opposed to Europe, Bennett said, Chinese companies don’t let the Israeli-Arab conflict get in the way of business.

“They never once asked us about the Arabs, or the Palestinians, or the occupation, or the shmoccupation, or anything else,” he said in a video statement. “The only thing that interests them is Israeli high-tech and Israeli innovation.”

India abstained from endorsing the U.N. report on last year’s war in Gaza, which accused Israel of possible war crimes. All European countries on the U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, endorsed the report.

But analysts caution that Israel should not view India and China as alternatives diplomatically to Europe and the United States. Before Modi took office last year, India had historically been pro-Palestinian, supporting Palestinian causes in the United Nations, and Asian nations have generally taken less of an interest than Europe and the United States in Israeli foreign affairs.

While the U.S. has a longstanding policy of vetoing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. Security Council, China typically votes against Israel. Given the size of China’s economy, analysts say a few more billion dollars in Israeli trade likely won’t mean a Chinese veto.

“Economic relations are driven by the business sector, not because the government wants to give priority,” said Oded Eran, the former director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “We need to remember that China and India are very pragmatic, but they haven’t changed — and I doubt if they will change their vote in the U.N. because of improved economic relations.”

Hungary will not label West Bank products, its foreign minister says


Hungary will not label separately products made in the West Bank or the Golan Heights, its foreign minister said.

Peter Szijjarto, who is also Hungary’s trade minister, said on an overnight visit to Israel that the European Union’s guidelines for labeling goods that originate in Jewish settlements are “irrational” and do not contribute to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Szijjarto announced his country’s opposition to the labeling guidelines on Monday morning at the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, according to reports. Also attending the council meeting was Lars Faaborg Andersen, the head of the EU delegation in Israel.

Szijjarto also called the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night “a strong wake-up call for European politicians.”

Referencing the current refugee crisis, which he said should be called a “mass immigration,” Szijjarto said, “We must make serious decisions to protect our people because we are currently defenseless. We must get back the ability to control our borders. We should not be speaking about how to manage migration, but how to help these people to stay at home.”

He called on the European Union to strengthen its cooperation with Israel in fighting terrorism, citing Israel’s experience, knowledge and technology, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Migrant crisis spurs European interest in Israeli border barriers


Faced with a surge in migration from the Middle East and North Africa, two European countries are exploring the possibility of erecting towering steel security fences along parts of their borders, similar to Israel's barrier with Egypt.

Hungary and Bulgaria have made preliminary inquiries about buying the Israeli-designed fences, according to an Israeli business source who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the discussions.

Both EU countries are beefing up their borders to deter migrants, many of them refugees from wars, who are seeking to use them as gateways to richer countries further north and west, particularly Germany.

But moves to throw up such barriers – which could be around 5-6 meters (15-20 feet) high, topped with razor wire and equipped with cameras and motion sensors – would evoke memories of Cold War-era divisions in Europe and exasperate EU officials who say they would not help to solve the crisis.

Bulgarian and Hungarian officials indicated that such discussions about security fences were taking place.

“I presume that such is the case because the cooperation between the (Israeli and Bulgarian) ministries of internal affairs and security is quite intensive,” said Rayko Pepelanov, Bulgaria's deputy ambassador in Israel.

“I cannot give you any details right now, but I think that we have taken from the Israeli experiences as much as we can.”

Hungary's foreign affairs and trade ministry said it “does not dispose of information about ongoing Israeli-Hungarian negotiations on buying Israeli-designed border fences”.

The Israeli source said any deals remained some way off, pointing to budget constraints and the political sensitivity in the European Union over erecting fences to control the flow of migrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

“(European countries) all want solutions and see the relevance of our technologies,” the source said. “But they also need EU support and this has not been forthcoming.”

The European Commission, the EU executive, has said it opposes the construction of fences but accepts it is up to each nation to decide how it protects its borders.

“Fences … do not send the right message, particularly to our neighbors,” said spokeswoman Mina Andreeva.

DOWN TO THE WIRE

The type of fence the countries have expressed interest in is the one Israel has constructed along its 230 km (143-mile) border with Egypt, rather than the steel-and-concrete barrier that separates the West Bank from Israel and East Jerusalem.

The Egyptian fence was built over three years and completed in 2013, with the aim of stopping an influx of migrants from Africa and guarding against raids by Islamist insurgents.

The fence cost the Israeli government around $380 million. A similar-style barrier is likely to cost foreign customers about 15 percent more – up to $1.9 million per km, according to industry sources, although hills, forests and other difficult European topography could drive the price higher.

Erecting such barriers would represent a significant step-up in security for Hungary and Bulgaria.

The former is already completing a 3.5-metre-high fence along its border with Serbia, while the latter has erected a fence about 3 meters high on its Turkish border. But the Israeli-designed barriers, as well as being taller, would be more heavily fortified and have more sophisticated electronic defense.

Hungary has emerged as a flashpoint in the crisis, as the primary entry point for those traveling overland across the Balkans. Its right-wing government is among the continent's most outspoken voices against allowing mass immigration.

But EU officials have been critical of Budapest, with some pointing out the irony of the country that first opened the Iron Curtain frontier with Austria in 1989, before the Berlin Wall came down, taking the lead in erecting new barriers.

Frontex, the EU agency responsible for border management, is opposed to fences and has made clear the European Union will not help member states finance them.

“When you talk about the management of migratory flows, the fence itself is not the solution, just as border control is not the panacea for migration flows,” said spokeswoman Izabella Cooper. “You have to stabilize the countries of origin from which the refugees flee.”

Six powers and Iran to continue nuclear talks past deadline


Iran and six major powers will keep negotiating past Tuesday's deadline for a long-term nuclear agreement as they tackle the most contentious issues, including the continuation of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, the big powers said.

“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadline,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said outside the hotel where the talks between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are taking place.

The spokeswoman for the U.S. delegation, Marie Harf, said the terms of an interim deal between Iran and the six would be extended through Friday to give negotiators a few more days to finish their work.

“We're frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won't get any easier with time,” Harf said. “That is why we are continuing to negotiate.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was “every reason” to believe a deal would be done within “a few days”, and that there was an “understanding” that most of the current sanctions against Iran would be lifted.

“There is only one big problem in terms of sanctions – it is the problem of a weapons embargo,” he told journalists, according to the news agency Interfax.

He said it was important to reach agreement on this as soon as possible, telling journalists that “ending the bans on supplies to Iran of the weapons required to fight terrorism is a very, very relevant objective”.

It is the fourth time the parties have extended the terms of the interim deal, which was struck in November 2013 and provided Iran with limited sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to the production of uranium enriched to a purity level of 20 percent.

EXTENSION EXTENDED

The comprehensive deal under discussion is aimed at curbing Tehran's most sensitive nuclear work for a decade or more, in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have slashed Iran's oil exports and crippled its economy.

The negotiators missed a June 30 deadline for a final agreement and then gave themselves until Tuesday.

“We are interpreting in a flexible way our deadline, which means that we are taking the time, the days we still need, to finalize the agreement,” Mogherini said, adding that there remained several difficult issues to resolve.

Among these, officials said, are Iranian demands for a U.N. arms embargo and ballistic missiles sanctions to be lifted, the timing of U.S. and EU sanctions relief, and disagreements over future Iranian nuclear research and development.

“We have entered the most difficult, but also the most real, part of the negotiations,” Mogherini added.

“We knew it would be difficult, challenging and sometimes hard and some things get tense and others we make progress.”

She said foreign ministers now in Vienna might come and go.

“Don’t get too excited if you see ministers leaving. They might come back. They will come back. And it doesn’t mean that we are stopping the work we are doing inside. On the contrary, on the contrary.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that he would leave, and return to Vienna on Wednesday night.

The United States and its allies fear Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its program is peaceful.

An agreement would be the most important milestone in decades towards easing hostility between the United States and Iran, enemies since Iranian revolutionaries captured 52 hostages in the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

A deal would also reduce the chances of a U.S. military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, something Washington refuses to rule out, and of a wider regional war.

EU diplomats protest Israel’s plan to demolish Palestinian town


Diplomats from all 28 European member states’ Jerusalem consulate traveled to the Palestinian town of Susiya to protest Israel’s decision to demolish it.

The delegation visited the town in the Hebron hills on Monday and urged Israel not to evict its 300 residents, saying that the move would reduce the possibility of achieving a two-state solution, theTelegraph (UK) reported.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last month that the Civil Administration, Israel’s military governing authority in the West Bank, had the right to demolish Palestinian homes in Susiya because they had been built without permission.

The town’s residents argue that they had no choice but to build illegally because the Civil Administration rarely grants permits to Palestinians in the West Bank’s Area C, a zone officially controlled by the Israel Defense Forces as per the 1993 Oslo peace accords.

John Gatt-Rutter, the EU’s representative in Jerusalem, said Susiya had become “a byword for a policy that has deprived Palestinians of their land and resources,” according to the Telegraph.

Hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians from the group Combatants for Peace demonstrated in Susiya on June 5, a day that the Palestinians call the Naksa, or “setback,” commemorating their loss of land in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Europe wants central role in Middle East peace, Mogherini says


The European Union wants a more active role in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the bloc's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday on the eve of her first visit to the region.

Six months into her tenure, the 41-year-old former Italian foreign minister is eager to leverage Europe's position as Israel's biggest trade partner and as the Palestinians' main aid donor after last year's failure by the United States to make progress in the latest efforts to broker a two-state peace deal.

“My very early visit has a political meaning,” Mogherini told a news conference following an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels where she discussed the Middle East.

“The European Union is ready and willing to play a major role in a relaunching of this process on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Some EU diplomats believe Mogherini, who meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and Thursday, sees a chance for EU diplomacy in the absence of a major new push from Washington as President Barack Obama approaches his final 18 months in office.

However, the 28-nation bloc faces deep internal divisions over the Middle East. Many Palestinians see the United States as too close to Israel, while the Jewish state is wary of EU governments it views as too tolerant of Palestinian militants.

Criticized in Israel for past contacts with Palestinian leaders, Mogherini said on Monday she wanted to listen to both sides, especially following right-winger Netanyahu's formation of a new coalition government.

Some European states have grown impatient with Netanyahu, especially over continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Some have recently recognized a Palestinian state, while last week the Vatican decided to recognize the state of Palestine in a treaty for the first time.

Mogherini refused to be drawn on alternatives to the decades-old quest for a two-state solution:

“One thing is clear to everyone in the region,” she said. “That the status quo is not an option.”

Vatican, FIFA, EU put Israel in center of diplomatic storm


This story originally appeared on The Media Line.

The Palestinian decision to internationalize their conflict with Israel seems to be paying off as Israel is coming under diplomatic pressure on several fronts at the same time. The Vatican decision to recognize “Palestine” as a state, an expected French-sponsored resolution to the United Nations Security Council, and the possible expulsion of Israel from FIFA, the international soccer federation, are creating the sense that Israel is losing the diplomatic battle.

“There is a sense of erosion,” a senior Israeli official told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “We see more and more countries and organizations buying into the unilateral logic of the Palestinians.”

But he warned, ultimately it will not be possible to create a Palestinian state without Israeli approval.

“No matter how much the Palestinians obtain in declarations and international organizations it can’t replace negotiations,” he said. “Palestinians have given up on negotiations and we believe it’s a huge mistake.”

The latest decision by the Vatican to sign a treaty with the state of “Palestine”, concerning the Holy See’s activities in the Palestinian Authority, comes before a weekend meeting between the Pope and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. It is an important symbolic move by the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. At the UN, the Vatican and Palestine are both considered non-member observer states. In a statement, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the decision.

“The significance of this decision goes beyond the political and legal into the symbolic and moral domains and sends a message to all people of conscience that the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination, formal recognition, freedom, and statehood,” she said in a statement.

Some Israeli analysts said the move by the Vatican, while purely symbolic, was nevertheless important.

“It’s a big deal because the Pope is the spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of Christians,” Eytan Gilboa of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University told The Media Line. “Christians are being murdered all over the Middle East but what is important for him is the particular recognition of Palestine.”

But others said that Israel should be more concerned about its relationship with the US, then with the Vatican.

“This has basically been Vatican policy all along,” Amiel Ungar, an Israeli commentator. “The big enchilada is how much the Obama administration is behind the European moves.”

France is expected to soon present a new resolution to the UN Security Council to recognize Palestine. In the past, the US has vetoed all such resolutions, but after the election of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said it will “reassess” that decision.

The guidelines of Netanyahu’s new government does not include any mention of a Palestinian state, a change from the previous government. A group of former European leaders and diplomats has called for more pressure on Israel, and charges that EU political and financial aid has achieved nothing but the “preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza”.

At the same time, the Palestinians have been campaigning in FIFA, the international football federation, to suspend Israel’s membership or to level sanctions on Israel for limiting the free movement of Palestinian soccer players and refusing them permission to travel abroad. The 200 national leagues in FIFA are expected to vote on the resolution in the coming weeks.

All of this is expected to lead to growing international pressure on Israel, but it could also end up backfiring and encouraging Palestinians to stay away from the negotiating table.

“Israel has only three cards it can use with the Palestinians – giving up territory, international recognition, and the release of Palestinian prisoners,” Eytan Gilboa said. “But if they get the recognition without any negotiations, what motivation do they have to negotiate with Israel?”

Leaked report: EU may sanction Israel over settlements


Sanctions may be imposed on Israel for its increased settlement in the eastern part of Jerusalem, a leaked European Union report warns.

The report, as described by the Guardian on Friday, blames Israeli settlement in eastern Jerusalem for a “vicious cycle of violence … increasingly threatening the viability of the two-state solution.” It said Jerusalem is more divided than at any time since 1967, when Israel assumed control of the city in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.

Among the EU report’s recommendations are restrictions on “known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence as regards immigration regulations in EU member states.” The report also discourages European businesses from working with new Israeli settlements.

The report comes just days after the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in the lead-up to the vote said in an interview that as prime minister he would not allow the formation of a Palestinian state. He was criticized as well for urging his supporters to vote by saying that “droves” of Arab-Israelis were voting.

Throughout his campaign, Netanyahu repeatedly vowed to continue building settlements in eastern Jerusalem.

Following Netanyahu’s statements and reelection, the Obama administration has indicated that it may change its strategy toward achieving a two-state solution.

Irish government to accept motion to recognize Palestinian state


The Irish government will accept a motion to be proposed by the opposition on Tuesday calling on parliament to recognize Palestine as a state, echoing similar recent symbolic decisions in other European Union countries.

While most developing countries recognize Palestine as a state, most Western European countries do not, supporting the Israeli and U.S. position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.

European countries have grown frustrated with Israel, which since the collapse of the latest U.S.-sponsored talks in April has pressed on with building settlements in territory the Palestinians want for their state.

The government's decision comes after Sweden became the biggest Western European country to recognize Palestine, and parliaments in Spain, Britain and France held votes in which they backed non-binding resolutions in favor of recognition.

It also follows the passing of a motion in Ireland's upper house in October calling on the government to formally recognize Palestine.

Members of parliament in the lower house are due to discuss the motion proposed by the opposition Sinn Fein party later on Tuesday and on Wednesday. A government spokesman said it will not oppose the bill, meaning MPs will not be required to vote.

The motion calls on the government to “officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in UN resolutions, as a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

It also recognizes that “continued Israeli settlement construction and extension activities in the West Bank, is illegal and severely threatening the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.”

Israel to stop exporting settlement poultry, dairy to EU


Israel will stop exporting poultry and dairy from settlements to the European Union, Israeli and European officials announced.

Effective Sept. 1, Israeli poultry and dairy exports to the EU will be restricted to products from within the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the French news agency AFP reported.

An Israeli official involved in discussions with the EU told AFP that Israel does not export a significant amount from the settlements and that most of those products cater to observant Jews.

However, a Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post that certain technicalities in the EU legislation barring these imports, which were approved in February, could allow for a wider ban on settlement products.

The EU already labels such products, but has no ban on the sale of settlement products. The new policy concerning poultry and dairy stems from the European Commission’s decision not to recognize the authority of inspection agencies over the Green Line.

Israel’s Agriculture Ministry told dairy farms and factories that it plans to comply with the edict, even as it works to sway the EU to repeal it, according to The Jerusalem Post.

David Elhayani, who heads the Jordan Valley Regional Council, told the Post that the EU policy is “anti-Semitic” and that many farms are focusing on alternative markets, particularly Russia.

 

German neo-Nazi’s naming to EU committee rankles Jewish leaders


European Jewish leaders slammed the appointment of a German neo-Nazi lawmaker to the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee.

Udo Voigt, the former head of the far-right National Democratic Party, was named this week to the parliamentary committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Voigt, 62, has lauded Adolf Hitler and is notorious for his relativization of the Holocaust.

“It is surreal and the ultimate insult to the Jews of Europe and to the European Union itself,” Moshe Kantor, head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress, said in a statement Tuesday. He urged all lawmakers “to refuse to allow this man to participate in the workings of the committee.”

Kantor added that none of this would have happened if Germany had banned the NPD, which has some 7,000 members nationwide.

Voigt gained his seat in the European Parliament in May when the NDP won about 1 percent of the German popular vote — the new threshold for admission to the body.

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said “it was already bad enough that Voigt was able to get elected” after Germany removed the 5 percent vote threshold for international elections this year. His appointment to the committee is “disgraceful and unacceptable,” Singer said, joining calls for the EU to establish a higher threshold to prevent extremist fringe groups from gaining a foothold. The next such election is scheduled for 2019.

“The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is sickening,” said Stephan Kramer, newly appointed director of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on Anti-Semitism, based in Brussels and Berlin.

Germany’s last official attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003, after it turned out that government informants had incited some of the illegal actions for which the party was being investigated.

After the NPD reached the threshold in May, Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he felt justified in pushing for a new attempt to ban the party. Skeptics have warned that a second failure would only benefit the extremists and hurt all future attempts.

Just prior to his election, Voigt received a one-year suspended sentence in Germany for incitement to hate.

E.U. donates $335m to UNRWA


The European Union approved a $335 million contribution to UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for people it defines as Palestinian refugees.

The contribution, which will go to UNRWA‘s General Fund for core services for the period 2014-2016, was announced on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton and UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbühl.

“The European Union remains a steadfast partner for Palestine refugees amid the uncertainty of the Middle East right now,” he said at the ceremony in Brussels, according to the E.U.-funded ENPI Information and Communication Support Project.

“The European Union’s continuing support to UNRWA is a key element in our strategy to promote stability in the Middle East and facilitate the parties’ quest for peace,” said Ashton.

Ashton and Krahenbühl signed a joint declaration on E.U. support for UNRWA — an acronym for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees — in which the European Union pledged the new sum.

The United States is also a major donor to UNRWA, having contributed close to $300 million in 2013.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA provides social, welfare and medical services to approximately five million Palestinian Arabs who were displaced during the first Israeli-Arab war of 1948, or are descended from Palestinian Arabs who were displaced in the conflict. UNRWA provides education, welfare and medical services in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s government works with UNRWA on a number of levels, in part because the agency’s relief helps maintain stability in the region, although Israel has clashed with the agency on a number of occasions.

In 2011, Israel’s foreign ministry accused UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by “not applying equal and universal principles,” claiming that its definition of refugee is more liberal than that of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNRWA officials say that in many cases they assist Palestinians who would otherwise be neglected by host governments. UNRWA has been a key conduit for aid, for instance, to Palestinians affected by the Syrian conflict.

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Union has provided more than $1.3 billion in support to UNRWA. In 2013, funding by European Union member states and institutions accounted for 43 percent of the U.N. organization’s budget, according to ENPI.

 

Jewish museum shooting suspect refuses extradition to Belgium


The French national suspected of having shot three people dead in the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month refused on Wednesday to be extradited from France to Belgium, prosecutors and his lawyer said.

Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, who has been in police custody since his arrest on Friday in the southern city of Marseille, refused to leave France when presented with a European arrest warrant during a court hearing in Versailles outside Paris.

The suspect has another court appearance on Thursday. If he refuses extradition again, he can appeal the prosecutor's demand to a higher court, but this would likely only delay rather than block his transfer to Brussels, legal sources said.

Prosecutors say the repeat-offender, who they say spent most of 2013 fighting in Syria with Islamist rebels, is being held under anti-terror laws on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons in relation to the May 24 attack.

“We would like him to be judged under French jurisdiction,” Nemmouche's lawyer, Apolin Pepiezep, told iTele. “Nothing today proves that Mehdi Nemmouche is the culprit.”

The EU-wide system of arrest warrants, in effect since 2004, is designed to ensure faster and simpler extraditions. The European Commission says an extradition within EU member states takes on average 48 days if the suspect does not agree to it.

An Israeli couple and a French woman were killed in the attack in the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital by a man who opened fire with a Kalashnikov.

When arrested at a Marseille bus terminal, Nemmouche was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, another gun and ammunition similar to that used in the shooting, prosecutors said. His lawyer said Nemmouche told police he had stolen them from a car in Brussels.

Nemmouche, who comes from Roubaix near the Belgian border, has already served five different sentences in French jails, where he became a radical Islamist, prosecutors have said.

Writing and additional reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Mark John and Tom Heneghan

EU official lauds Israel for treating injured Syrians


A European Union official based in Israel praised the Jewish state for providing medical treatment to Syrian civilians injured in their country’s civil war.

EU Ambassador-designate Lars Faaborg-Andersen on Wednesday visited the Ziv Medical Center in Safed to see the care being provided to the injured Syrians. More than 300 Syrians have been brought to Israel for treatment since the civil war began about 2 1/2 years ago.

“I was deeply impressed by the dedication of the medical staff that is sparing no effort to provide the injured patients, many of them children, with the best possible medical care,” Faaborg-Andersen said in a statement. “This commitment to the welfare of other human beings, regardless of the fact that they belong to an enemy nation, should be a source of pride to all Israelis.”

Earlier this month, a 20-year-old woman became the first Syrian civilian fleeing the civil war to give birth in Israel, according to reports.