Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for Israel

Newsline: Israel mulls diplomatic recognition of Morocco’s rule over Western Sahara

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser visited Rabat on Wednesday as his government mulls a possible announcement of recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara, officials said. Morocco considers Western Sahara its own, but the Algeria-backed Polisario front demands an independent state there. In 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s rule over the territory in return for its partial upgrade of relations with Israel. A diplomatic source told Reuters such a move by Israel could lead to a full upgrade of bilateral ties, with the countries’ respective missions, currently designated as liaison offices, becoming economic embassies, and a free-trade pact possible down the line. (https://neuters.de/world/israel-considers-recognition-moroccos-rule-over-western-sahara-2023-06-07/) Israel’s foreign ministry declined comment on the issue. But a source in Netanyahu’s cabinet acknowledged it was being discussed within the country’s National Security Council (NSC).

Newsline: US, French diplomats criticize Israeli order on West Bank settler outpost

The US State Department rebuked Israel on Sunday over an order that allows Jewish settlers to establish a permanent presence in a West Bank outpost. The State Department has repeatedly called on Israel to refrain from any moves that escalate tensions with Palestinians, like formalizing settler outposts, and specifically warned it over Homesh. “We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-troubled-by-israeli-order-settler-presence-west-bank-outpost-state-dept-2023-05-21/) The chief of the Israeli military’s Central Command signed an order on Thursday that allows Israelis to enter the Homesh outpost area, paving the way for a formal settlement to be built there. The French foreign ministry also criticized the move, which it said was contrary to international law and breached commitments made by Israel at regional meetings this year in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh. Israel’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newsline: Israeli top diplomat inaugurates embassy in Turkmenistan

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen inaugurated a permanent embassy in the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan on Thursday, establishing his country’s closest diplomatic presence to Iran, as Israel seeks to strengthen ties to its arch-foe’s neighbours. “I came to open an Israeli embassy 17 kilometres from the border with Iran, and to hold a series of meetings with the president and other officials,” Cohen tweeted on Thursday. In English remarks to Israeli reporters accompanying Cohen, his Turkmen counterpart, Rashid Meredov, described the embassy inauguration as “a very shining example of our friendship”. Cohen, who also met Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, called his visit “historic” and said Israel’s ties with Central Asia’s “energy superpower” were of strategic importance. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2023-04-20/israel-cements-ties-to-turkmenistan-on-irans-border) Although the countries established diplomatic relations 30 years ago, there had only been a temporary Israeli mission in Ashgabat and predominantly Muslim Turkmenistan still has no embassy in Israel.

Newsline: Israeli top diplomat to visit Turkmenistan to inaugurate embassy

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen plans to visit the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, on April 20, 2023, Trend reports citing the Israeli media. The purpose of the Minister’s visit will be the opening of the Israeli Embassy in Turkmenistan. (https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/3730287.html) Meanwhile, the Israeli Foreign Minister announced in a Twitter post at the beginning of March this year that Israel was opening a permanent mission in Turkmenistan.

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: Israeli Embassy in U.S. Closes

The Embassy to Israel of the United States in Washington closed with no indication of when it would reopen, joining a call by Israel’s largest labor union for government workers to protest recent legislative changes proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Monday, the Israeli Embassy in Washington responded to Histadrut’s request for strike and closed its offices until further notice. “Today (3/27), the Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor union, instructed all government employees to go on strike, including Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world. The Embassy of Israel will be closed today until further notice and no consular services will be provided,” embassy spokesperson Elad Strohmayer told Newsweek in a statement. (https://www.newsweek.com/israeli-embassy-us-closes-massive-protests-engulf-netanyahu-1790589) Embassy services, such as filling visa requests or renewing passports, will likely be affected by the closure, although many Israelis might welcome the inconvenience in a show of solidarity. The strikes and protests are the latest examples of unrest in Israel since the November elections. At the end of 2022, Netanyahu and Israel’s most far-right government in the nation’s history proposed a series of legislative changes that would drastically overhaul the nation’s judicial system and greatly limit the power of the Supreme Court of Israel. Thousands of Israelis have protested daily since the elections, and on Monday, Histadrut—Israel’s largest labor union—called for its members to strike. Histadrut’s members span countless sectors in the economy, from government officials to health and banking.

Newsline: Jordan parliament recommends expulsion of Israeli ambassador

The parliament of Jordan has voted to recommend the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Amman from the country in protest against the behaviour of a minister in Israel’s far-right government, who stirred controversy earlier this week after he denied the existence of the Palestinian people. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/22/jordan-parliament-votes-to-recommend-expelling-israeli-ambassador) During the legislative session, House of Representatives Speaker Ahmed al-Safadi called on the government to take action in response to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. The incident led to an angry backlash and the Israeli ambassador in Amman was summoned by the Jordanian foreign ministry to register its objections. The governments of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also issued statements condemning Smotrich’s words and actions.

Newsline: Israeli and Polish top diplomats meet to restore ties

The Israeli and Polish foreign ministers met Wednesday in a step that they hailed as a breakthrough in restoring a relationship that has been badly damaged due to bickering over Holocaust memory over the past five years. “I came here to restore the relationship between our countries, and I found in you, my distinguished colleague, a trusted partner,” Cohen said at a news conference alongside Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, whom he referred to more than once as his friend. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/03/22/poland-israel-cohen-warsaw-ghetto-anniversary-holocaust/b7421826-c8b5-11ed-9cc5-a58a4f6d84cd_story.html) The ministers signed an agreement that they say will allow for the resumption of Israeli youth trips to Poland, one of several points of contention that have led to bitter feelings between the two countries. The visit by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is the first at that level since 2018, and Poland’s Foreign Ministry says it will be followed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog attending observances next month for the 80th anniversary of the World War II Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Newsline: EU top diplomat urges Israel to disavow minister’s comments on Palestinians

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Monday on the Israeli government to disavow a minister’s comments that there was no Palestinian history or culture and no such thing as a Palestinian people. Borrell told reporters in Brussels that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s comments “certainly cannot be tolerated”. “I call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to start working together with all parties to defuse tensions,” Borrell said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/eu-top-diplomat-borrell-urges-israel-disavow-ministers-comments-palestinians-2023-03-20/) “I have to deplore these unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich. It is wrong, it is disrespectful, it is dangerous, it is counter-productive to say this kind of things in a situation which is already tense,” he added.

Newsline: South African Parliament Votes to Downgrade Embassy in Israel

South African lawmakers voted Tuesday to downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel, a move welcomed by human rights advocates around the world. The resolution to downgrade the status of South Africa’s embassy in Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv, to a liaison office was introduced by the center-left National Freedom Party (NFP), which hailed the measure’s passage as “a historic moment for our country and a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to justice, human rights, and freedom.” (https://www.commondreams.org/news/israel-south-africa) Holding just two seats in the Parliament, the NFP secured the resolution’s passage with the support of parties including the dominant African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters, United Democratic Movement, African Independent Congress, Al-Jama-ah, and Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “shameful and disgraceful,” NFP Member of Parliament Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, who introduced the resolution, said after its passage that “this is a moment Madiba would be proud of.” Emam was referring to former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who advocated for Palestinian rights and for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.