Israel News for June 14, 2016

Peace Proposal
In recent weeks, as the French sponsored international peace summit took form, reports circulated about the openness of PM Netanyahu to a 2002 Saudi Arabian sponsored peace proposal adopted by the Arab League. Newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also seemed to indicate hope in a potential peace agreement. The Egyptian president announced his intention to organize a peace summit in Cairo that would bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table using the Arab League proposal as the framework. The PM reacted enthusiastically. He invited opposition leader Isaac Herzog to join the government to take part in the historical opportunity to make peace.

Hold on. At a meeting with Likud MKs last night, the PM made it clear that unless the Arabs maKe major changes to their proposal, it was a non starter. He said, “If the Arab nations grasp the fact that they need to revise the Arab League proposal according to the changes Israel demands, then we can talk. But if they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it’ – we’ll choose to leave it.”

Netanyahu was positive about the fact that the Arabs were interested in a peace deal with Israel, but rejected the conditions of their proposal, which include Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan and the West Bank (with minor adjustments) and the return of Palestinian refugees.

The Saudi foreign minister recently said in an interview that he rejected any dilution of the Arab League proposal saying, “Why should the Arab Peace Initiative be changed?”

Is this just the beginning of a negotiation or the end to another false hope for peace?

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UN First
For the first time since the establishment of the UN, Israel’s Ambassador has been appointed to head a UN committee. After months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic struggles, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was elected to head the UN Legal Committee yesterday. The committee deals with sensitive topics including fighting global terrorism.

Despite fierce anti-Israel lobbying by the Palestinian and Iranian UN representatives, 109 nations voted in favor of appointing Danon. His appointment was strongly supported by the US and most European countries.

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Israel and Russia
PM Netanyahu has spoken in the most positive terms about his recent visit to Moscow and his work deepening Israel’s relations with Russia. But based on an article in Pravda, one of Russia’s premier newspapers, Netanyahu’s recent Moscow visit “created the impression of failure.”

The Pravda commentator pointed out that despite protests by Israel, Russia has continued to supply weapons to Lebanon, which are being used by Hezbollah. Moscow sees Hezbollah as part of the legitimate government of Lebanon and “an essential element of structure of the Middle East.” He also points out other issues which show the tension between Israel and Russia.

The truth probably lies somewhere between the PM and Pravda.

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Flag Fine
The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee has approved a substantial hike in the fine for desecrating the Israeli flag from the current 300 lirot (the old Israeli currency) to 58,400 shekels ($15,137). The committee is also discussing increasing the prison sentence for flag desecration. Under current law, the maximum punishment for debasing the flag of a foreign country is three years imprisonment, while desecrating the Israeli flag, besides the fine, carries a punishment of only one year.

Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul attacked the measure, sating, “I’m against undermining freedom of expression and I think a year is a proportionate sentence. Why make it three years? It’s strange that in an enlightened nation, one of the most enlightened in the world, the flag is turned into idolatry. Soon we’ll reach the point where whoever doesn’t kiss the flag every morning will be punished.”

Israeli flag burners beware.

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Temple Mount
PM Netanyahu has lifted the ban on Knesset Members and cabinet ministers visiting the Temple Mount. The ban had been in place for eight months, and applied to both Jewish and Arab Knesset Members. The Knesset’s Ethics Committee is expected to end its own ban on Temple Mount visits today.

Arab MKs had vowed to visit the Temple Mount during the current Ramadan holiday. Now they’ll be able to do so legally. Now they’ll be able to do so legally.

Will Jewish MKs resume visits as well? If they do they might be treated to a sermon by preacher Ali Abu Ahmad who was recently recorded preaching to hundreds of followers on the Mount and ending his sermon with this sweet prayer: “Oh Allah, protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews! Oh Allah, annihilate all the Jews! Oh Allah, enable us to kill them!”

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