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Archive for Israel

Newsline: Israel to join U.S. Visa Waiver Programme in September

Israel expects to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Programme in September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, after Israeli legislation of measures required by Washington. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment on Netanyahu’s announcement, which came as tensions spiked between the allies over a contested Israeli judicial overhaul plan. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/netanyahu-sees-israel-joining-us-visa-waiver-programme-september-2023-03-29/) The embassy said on Jan. 30 that Israel met its requirement of being below the 3% non-immigrant refusal rate – a reference to the number of applicants turned away due to faulty paperwork. Before Netanyahu’s announcement, his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Twitter that parliament was due to ratify the last of four bills “that will advance us toward getting the U.S. visa waiver for the citizens of Israel”. That appeared to refer to the Knesset plenum’s approval in final readings on Wednesday of a law setting up a new national immigration database linked with airline passenger manifests. Washington had previously called for greater access to databases in Israel about its travelers to the United States. It was not immediately clear whether Israel met another U.S. condition for the visa waiver – free passage for Palestinian-Americans at its airports and into the occupied West Bank.

Newsline: EU envoy demands Israeli accountability

The European Union’s ambassador to the Palestinians called on Friday for accountability and for perpetrators to be brought to justice after a rampage by Israeli settlers this week in the occupied West Bank in which one Palestinian was killed and dozens of houses, shops and cars were torched. Ambassador Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, heading one of the biggest EU delegations to visit the West Bank, said the officials wanted to see with their own eyes the damage left by Sunday’s violence in and around the Palestinian village of Huwara. The rampage followed a Palestinian gun attack that killed two Israeli brothers. “It is absolutely necessary for us that accountability is fully ensured, that the perpetrators be brought to justice, that those who lost property be compensated,” Kuhn von Burgsdorff said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/israeli-forces-kill-palestinian-teen-surging-west-bank-violence-2023-03-02/) Local media reported that, in a rare move, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday signed administrative detention orders for two suspects over the rampage, after a Jerusalem court ordered police to release all seven people who had been detained in connection with the rampage.

Newsline: US ambassador to Israel told ‘mind your own business’

The Israeli minister responsible for relations with Jews in the Diaspora has a message for the government of the country where most of them live: “Mind your own business.” Amichai Chikli made the comment Sunday in a radio interview in Israel, where he was asked to address recent comments by U.S. ambassador Tom Nides, who said he was urging Israeli leaders to “pump the brakes” on their controversial effort to change the country’s judiciary. Nides was echoing sentiments expressed by U.S. President Joe Biden about the judicial reform proposal, which would give the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions. Biden said last week that both that checks and balances are part of the “genius” of democracy and that “building consensus for fundamental changes is really important.” Chikli had a retort: “I say to the American ambassador, put on the brakes yourself and mind your own business,” he said. “You aren’t sovereign here, to get involved in the matter of judicial reform. We will be happy to discuss foreign and security matters with you. But respect our democracy.” (https://www.jta.org/2023/02/19/politics/mind-your-own-business-israels-diaspora-minister-tells-us-ambassador-about-judicial-reform-urging) The message was in line with one that Chikli issued during his first public comments as Diaspora minister on American soil last month. And Netanyahu, too, appeared to reject the urging by Biden and Nides in a speech Sunday in Jerusalem to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella that includes a broad range of groups.

Newsline: Israeli foreign minister in Ukraine to reopen embassy

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Thursday in the first such visit since the Russian invasion last year, the Foreign Ministry said. Cohen was set to attend the reopening of the Israeli embassy that has returned to full activity, the ministry said. (https://neuters.de/world/israeli-foreign-minister-ukraine-first-time-since-war-began-2023-02-16/) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power in December, has spoken about reviewing Israeli policy on the Ukraine-Russia war but has stopped short of pledging any direct supply of arms to Kyiv. The Israelis want to maintain a coordination hotline with Russia, set up in 2015, over their military strikes on suspected Iranian targets in Syria, where Moscow has a garrison. They are also mindful of the welfare of Russia’s big Jewish community.

Newsline: U.S. ambassador says Israel visa-waiver linked to West Bank travel for Palestinian-Americans

The United States expects Israel, under a visa-waiver deal being discussed between the allies, to enable free passage for Palestinian-Americans into the occupied West Bank, the U.S. ambassador said on Wednesday. Ambassador Thomas Nides said he expected an announcement soon on whether the number of Israeli applicants refused recent requests for U.S. visas had been kept to 3% or fewer, as required for a waiver deal. Israel would also have to ratify such a deal. “Number three, we have to be clear about reciprocity. Reciprocity will mean that Palestinian-Americans will be able to freely travel from Detroit to (Israel’s main airport) Ben-Gurion to Ramallah,” Nides told Ynet Radio, referring to the West Bank hub city that is the seat of Palestinian government. “And Americans who live in Ramallah will be able to go from Ramallah to Ben-Gurion back to Detroit,” he said. “When we get all those pieces working together, hopefully, then Israelis will not have to stand in line ever again to get a tourist visa – a visa to come to the United States.” Asked whether Israel was preparing special provisions for Palestinian-Americans to pass through its West Bank checkpoints, a military spokesperson said: “We have nothing new to relay.” (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-links-israel-visa-waiver-west-bank-travel-palestinian-americans-2023-01-18/) In an estimate that it says is based in part on U.S. census data, the Arab American Institute Foundation puts the number Palestinian-descended Americans at between 122,500 and 220,000. The Office of Palestinian Affairs in the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for the number of Palestinian-Americans domiciled in the West Bank. Some U.S. officials have privately put that number as being in the tens of thousands. The overall Palestinian population in the West Bank is 3.2 million, according to a Ramallah census.

Newsline: Israel’s ambassador to France resigns

A group of more than 100 Israeli diplomats have written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing concern about his new government’s proposed policies, while Israel’s ambassador to France resigned in a similar act of protest. The group letter expressed “profound concern at the serious damage to Israel’s foreign relations, its international standing and its core interests abroad” if Netanyahu’s plans proceed as expected. Signatories included Nimrod Barkan, who served as ambassador to Canada under the last Netanyahu-led government; Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s ambassador to Germany; Pini Avivi, former ambassador to Turkey; Colette Avital, a former Labor politician and veteran diplomat; and Avi Gil, former director general of ministry of foreign affairs. The group warned that “expected changes in Israeli policy in Judea-Samaria/the West Bank” along with “extreme and discriminatory laws” targeting minorities in Israel and other policies would not only harm the country’s democratic values but could also harm relations with the U.S., disrupt the Abraham Accords and even hurt investment in Israel. (https://forward.com/fast-forward/530215/israel-ambassador-france-yael-german-resigns-netanyahu-government/) Yael German, the ambassador to France, wrote in her letter: “The statements of the ministers in your government and the intentions of their legislation go against my conscience, my worldview, and the underlying promises of the declaration of independence of a Jewish and democratic state.” The letter, which she posted to Twitter on Thursday, was written in Hebrew and translated by the Forward.

Newsline: US ambassador says two citizens injured in Jerusalem terror attack

Two U.S. citizens were among the injured after a pair of explosions rocked two bus stops in Jerusalem during the height of the rush hour commute Wednesday morning, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel confirmed. The bombs injured at least 18 victims and killed a Canadian-Israeli teenager in what Israeli police said were attacks by Palestinians. “Sadly, I can now confirm that two U.S. citizens were among those injured in today’s terror attacks in Jerusalem,” Amb. Tom Nides tweeted. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/us-citizens-injured-jerusalem-deadly-terror-attack-ambassador-says) The first explosion occurred just after 7 a.m. local time at a crowded bus station. Israeli police suspect that a bag with explosives was detonated remotely.

Newsline: Israel summons Ukrainian ambassador

Israel said it had summoned the Ukrainian ambassador for a dressing down after Kyiv voted in favour of a resolution to open an international probe into Israel’s prolonged occupation of the West Bank. The resolution, approved at U.N. headquarters in New York last week, asks that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) “urgently” weigh in on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory”, which it said were violating the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Israel “expressed its dissatisfaction” with Ukraine’s decision to vote in favour of the resolution in a conversation with Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk, according to a statement released by the Israeli foreign ministry. “It was clarified to the ambassador that this behaviour does not embody friendly behaviour,” the statement said. (https://news.yahoo.com/israel-admonishes-ukrainian-ambassador-over-135245644.html) In a statement about the meeting on Facebook, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel wrote: “The ambassador expressed disappointment with the position of Israel, whose representative abstained during the vote in the U.N. General Assembly on the issue of Russian reparation payments to Ukraine.” While the Israeli statement said the ambassador had been “summoned”, Ukraine said the meeting had been prearranged and was not a summons.

Newsline: Church leaders voice concern over possible UK Embassy move to Jerusalem

The leaders of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem have joined in expressing their deep concerns over the possible transfer of the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. British Prime Minister Liz Truss hinted to this possibility on September 21 during a bilateral meeting in New York with her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid. The proposed relocation has spurred strong criticism, including from the Palestinian leaders and the Arab League, as both Israeli and Palestinian authorities claim Jerusalem to be their capital city. This is the reason why most nations, including the United Kingdom, use Tel Aviv as their diplomatic headquarters. In a statement, the Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem said the relocation of the UK embassy would be “a further impediment to advancing the already moribund Peace Process”, between Israel and the Palestinians. (https://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/church-leaders-urge-british-pm-not-to-move-embassy-to-jerusalem/68051/1) The US have already relocated their embassy to Jerusalem. The move was announced in 2017 by the Trump Administration and sparked international condemnation.

Newsline: Relocation of British embassy to Jerusalem considered

Liz Truss has told her Israeli counterpart she is reviewing moving the British embassy in Tel Aviv to the contested holy city of Jerusalem. A Downing Street spokeswoman said Ms Truss informed Mr Lapid “about her review of the current location of the British Embassy in Israel”. (https://news.yahoo.com/truss-tells-israel-she-considering-000039584.html) The Prime Minister raised following Donald Trump on the possible move with Yair Lapid during a meeting at the United Nations summit in New York. Britain has long maintained its Israel embassy in Tel Aviv despite Israel designating Jerusalem as its capital. Mr Trump, when president, sparked controversy by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2017.