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Archive for Israel

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: Israeli envoy named in Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan received the credentials of Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey on Tuesday, as the two countries normalise ties after four years of strain. Irit Lillian, Israeli’s charge d’affaires in Ankara since January 2021, became ambassador after presenting his letter of confidence to Erdogan. (https://kfgo.com/2022/12/27/israeli-envoy-named-in-turkey-after-years-of-strain/) Turkey and Israel began improving relations with high-level visits this year including Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Ankara. They agreed to appoint ambassadors mutually in August. After Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu won elections last month, he and Erdogan agreed to “work together to create a new era in relations” on a basis of respect for mutual interests. Once close regional allies, relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained for more than a decade, with Ankara having expelled Israel’s ambassador following a 2010 Israeli raid on an aid ship to Gaza, which killed 10 Turkish citizens. Diplomatic relations were restored in 2016, but two years later Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli envoy when Israeli forces killed a number of Palestinians who had taken part in protests in the Gaza Strip.

Newsline: Chile aims to open embassy in Palestinian territories

Chile plans to open an embassy in the Palestinian territories, President Gabriel Boric said, which could make the Andean country one of only a handful to have an embassy-level office in the territories that are contested with Israel. “I am taking a risk (saying) this… we are going to raise our official representation in Palestine from having a charge d’affaires; now we are going to open an embassy,” Boric said, without giving details on where the embassy would be located. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/chile-open-embassy-palestinian-territories-says-president-2022-12-22/) Chilean Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola confirmed the plan on Thursday but said there was no timeline in place yet and that Chile continues to recognize both Palestine and Israel as legitimate states. Leftist Boric, who has repeatedly expressed support for the Palestinian people’s demand for an independent state, made the comments at a private ceremony in Santiago hosted by the city’s important Palestinian diaspora. A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Chile said it would not be making a public statement on the matter. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside of business hours.

Newsline: Israeli diplomat in China hospitalized in ‘prison conditions’ for COVID

An Israeli diplomat infected with COVID in China has revealed how he was forced to stay in a prison-like medical facility, where he was held in isolation for 10 “surreal” days. Israeli Consul-General in Shanghai Eddie Shapira said that he was sent to the facility “reminiscent of a prison” after coming down with mild symptoms. “I got sick with COVID and I recovered completely,” he wrote on Facebook. “I didn’t have any serious symptoms. The problem is that I caught it in the most wrong place on earth – in China.” The diplomat said that with even mild cases like his, the country treats patients as if it’s the early days of the pandemic. According to Shapira, “nothing could have prepared [him] for the experience,” even after working through the pandemic the past two years. (https://nypost.com/2022/12/05/israeli-diplomat-eddie-shapira-hospitalized-for-covid-in-china/) COVID patients are cordoned off in separate, designated hospitals for 10 days until they have fully recovered. Shapira described the hospital room where he received treatment as similar to an aquarium.

Newsline: Israeli ambassador to India apologises after filmmaker’s remarks spark uproar

An Israeli filmmaker’s criticism of a film depicting the exodus of India’s majority Hindu population from the disputed region of Kashmir has sparked an uproar in India and prompted an apology from the Israeli ambassador. Nadav Lapid, an Israeli filmmaker who headed the jury at a government-organised film festival in the Indian state of Goa, said during closing ceremony that “The Kashmir Files” was a “propaganda movie” that had no place at a film festival, drawing a wave of criticism and outrage on social media. The film, a runaway hit in India when released in March this year, tells the fictional story of a student who discovers his Kashmiri Hindu parents were killed by Islamist militants – and not in an accident as his grandfather had told him. Lapid’s name was trending on Twitter for most of Tuesday and several users accused him of dismissing the portrayal of the exodus of Hindus from Muslim-majority Kashmir. Naor Gilon, Israel’s ambassador to India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, apologised on Twitter. “As a human being I feel ashamed and want to apologise to our hosts for the bad manner in which we repaid them for their generosity and friendship,” he said. “I’m no film expert but I do know that it’s insensitive and presumptuous to speak about historic events before deeply studying them and which are an open wound in India because many of the involved are still around and still paying a price,” Gilon said in a thread addressed to Lapid. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/israeli-ambassador-to-india-apologises-after-filmmakers-remarks-spark-uproar-1213797) Reuters was not able to reach Lapid for a comment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised the film, which focuses on the violent upheaval of 1989-90 in Kashmir. Supporters of Modi and the BJP have endorsed the movie while videos published online show people in movie audiences cheering, shouting slogans and waving Indian flags during screenings.

Newsline: UK abandons plans to move British Embassy to Jerusalem

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has dropped his predecessor’s controversial plans to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the British embassy to Jerusalem. The move would have followed the example set by former US President, Donald Trump. “There are no plans to move the British Embassy from Tel Aviv,” a Downing Street spokesman said. (https://muslimnews.co.uk/newspaper/home-news/sunak-abandons-plans-to-move-british-embassy-to-jerusalem/) The confirmation was made after Sunak replaced Liz Truss, who was MP for just 44 days before resigning. The Palestinian Mission in London immediately welcomed the clarification. “We would like to thank the UK government, opposition parties, faith leaders, activists, and members of the public whose efforts have helped keep the UK in line with international law on the matter,” said Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, said. The U-turn appeared to be a policy reversal by Sunak. In August he told the Conservative Friends of Israel that Jerusalem was Israel’s “undisputed capital”. And that there was a “very strong case” for relocating the UK embassy there. At a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, Truss told her then-Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, that she was carrying out a “review of the current location of the British Embassy in Israel.” Previously, she declared at a CFI meeting that she was a “huge Zionist” and “a huge supporter of Israel”. Truss was warned by politicians, religious leaders, other countries, as well as Palestinians, not to follow the example set by Trump.

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: Azerbaijan to become first Shi’ite Muslim country with embassy in Israel

Azerbaijan is set to become the first Shi’ite Muslim-majority state to open an embassy in Israel, following parliamentary approval on Friday. Prime Minister Yair Lapid praised the decision, calling Azerbaijan “an important partner of Israel and home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world. “The decision to open an embassy reflects the depth of the relations between the countries,” Lapid added. “This move is the fruit of efforts by the Israeli government to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world.” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-722774) The new embassy, which The Jerusalem Post reported was in the works last month, will be in Tel Aviv, where the country already has a Tourism Office and a Trade Representative Office. Israel and Azerbaijan have had relations for 30 years, and there has been an Israeli embassy in Baku since 1993.

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.