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Dan Diker appointed as director of the World Jewish Congress

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–As the World Jewish Congress resumes its traditional role as a major player in international Jewish affairs, the volume our  activity has grown exponentially requiring additional skilled professional staff  to properly achieve our strategic objectives and programmatic goals. I am pleased to report that Dan Diker, foreign policy fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), has been appointed WJC Director of Strategic Affairs. Dan has been serving as a special advisor to the WJC on Middle East affairs since March 2009.

For the past five years, Dan has served as director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs working closely with Israel’s former UN Ambassador Dore Gold in producing several major policy books  and ongoing analyses on Iran, the delegitimizaiton of Israel, Israel’s security needs in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, and the current situation in the Middle East.

Dan is executive editor and contributing author of the JCPA’s latest  policy book, “Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace”. He is widely recognized as a top  political and diplomatic affairs analyst, is a  frequent Middle East commentator appearing  on Israeli, Western, and Arabic television and radio news programs.

Dan will be focusing on several core issues at WJC: the Iranian threat, the delegitimization of Israel and the situation in the Middle East overall. He will also  work in close liaison with Shai Hermesh and the Executive of World Jewish Congress Israel in order to maximize cooperation, coordination and effectiveness.

Michael Schneider
Secretary General
World Jewish Congress

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OPINION – José María Aznar: If Israel goes down, we all go down

June 17, 2010 9 comments

(WJC)–The following article by the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar was published in the British newspaper ‘The Times’ on 17 June 2010:

If Israel goes down, we all go down

Anger over Gaza is a distraction. We cannot forget that Israel is the West’s best ally in a turbulent region

By José María Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organised a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfilment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel’s legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel’s vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defence of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.
José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.

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Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat to speak at Jewish Federation of San Diego County

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO, California (Press Release)– Ishmael Khaldi, policy advisor to the Foreign Minister of Israel, will be speaking at Jewish Federation of San Diego County on Thursday, July 1.

Khaldi is Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, having served as deputy consul in San Francisco, and the first Muslim to rise through the ranks of the nation’s Foreign Ministry.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Haifa University and a master’s degree in international relations from Tel Aviv University. Khaldi is exceptionally positioned to provide unique insight into the current state of Israeli/Arab affairs, particularly issues related to being Arab in a Jewish democracy.

Approximately 1.5 million Arabs are citizens of Israel, of those, 160,000 are Bedouin. Until relatively recently, many continued to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the southern part of Israel.  Khaldi himself lived in a Bedouin tent until the age of eight.

The invitation only event will be held at 12:00 p.m. in Federation’s “Foster Board Room” – 4950 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego. The briefing will be followed by a book signing. Khaldi’s book “A Shepherd’s Journey” will be available for purchase.

The event will be the first in a series held by Federation’s Israel & Overseas Center. The Center’s stated goal is to “connect Jews in San Diego to the worldwide Jewish community.” This is accomplished through education, advocacy, community collaboration and community building.

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Preceding provided by Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Washington and Brussels adopt new Iran sanctions

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The US government has announced new unilateral sanctions against Iran, targeting banks, shippers and the Revolutionary Guard. Washington said the individuals and institutions targeted were helping Iran to develop its nuclear program. Those blacklisted include Iran’s Post Bank, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi – who is wanted by Interpol in connection with the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires – and the air force and missile command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The measures prohibit any American business or individual from trading with those named on the blacklist. Any assets they may have under US jurisdiction are also frozen. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the US would in the coming weeks be coordinating with other governments to put further pressure on Iran and enhance trade restrictions. “We will continue to target Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, we will continue to focus on the Revolutionary Guard, and we will continue to expose Iran’s efforts to evade international sanctions,” he told a news briefing at the White House.

Also on the list of targeted organizations is a front company for the national shipping line, which is run by the Revolutionary Guard. The Treasury has designated 27 new ships and updated entries for 71 others whose names have been changed. The designation of Iran’s Post Bank brings to 16 the total number of Iranian banks subject to sanctions. The Treasury Department said Post Bank was a front for Bank Sepah, which was designated in 2007 for providing financial services to the Iranian missile industry.

The 27 heads of state and government of the European Union are also set to approve a sanctions package. At their meeting in Brussels on Thursday, they are expected  to pass sanctions that go beyond those adopted by the UN Security Council last week, also targeting the oil and gas industry. Although European countries such as Germany and Italy are important trading partners for Iran, the EU is becoming increasingly concerned that Iran may be pursuing nuclear weapons.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Israel’s Supreme Court rules against Ashkenazi parents demanding segregated classrooms

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The Supreme Court of Israel  has confirmed a two-week prison sentence for Orthodox Jewish parents of Ashkenazi descent who refuse to send their daughters to a girls school also attended by Sephardic children. unless they allow their daughters back to school by Thursday. The judges said the parent’s behavior had been racist.

Involved in the case is a group of close to 40 parents from a strictly observant sect of Chassidic Jews called Slonim, which has an Ashkenazi lineage. They currently reside in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel and have refused to allow their daughters to study at a girls’ school because it was also attended by students from Sephardic families.

In August 2009 the Supreme Court had ruled that Sephardic girls must be allowed to attend the same classes as the Ashkenazi ones, and as a result, the parents of 74 students removed their children from the school and set up make-shift lessons elsewhere in the settlement.

The Ashkenazi parents insisted they were not racist but wanted to keep the classrooms segregated because the families of the Sephardic girls were not religious enough. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and told the parents that the school must be integrated.

On Thursday, police in Jerusalem were on high alert ahead of protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews against the ruling. More than 10,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews were expected to turn out in support of the Ashkenazi parents in various places, with the main rally scheduled for Jerusalem.

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Israel relaxes import restrictions for Gaza

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The Israeli Security Cabinet has decided to relax import rules for humanitarian goods and to ease much of its land blockade on the Gaza Strip. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had been “agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision. A list of prohibited goods not allowed into Gaza is to replace the current system of a list of approved goods. Moreover, construction materials for UN-sponsored projects will be allowed into the Hamas-controlled territory, and Israel will consider allowing EU monitors to be stationed at crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

A press release by Netanyahu’s office added that Israel “expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” the IDF soldier abducted by Hamas in June 2006 and held hostage in Gaza.

Middle East envoy Tony Blair described the Israeli decision as a “very important step” which “will allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there.” The former British prime minister told the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’: “The policy in Gaza should be to isolate the extremists but to help the people.” Israeli minister Isaac Herzog told ‘Army Radio’: “We must understand that the blockade implemented until this time is outdated and no longer applicable in the current international and diplomatic climate.”

Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations, said the blockade should be lifted entirely. “We need to judge the Israeli authorities by deeds not words because there have been many words in the past,” he was quoted by the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ as saying.

Meanwhile, the controversial Turkish foundation IHH announced at a press conference held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that it is planning to send another flotilla of ships to break the Gaza sea blockade in late July.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview that Israel’s attack on the Gaza Flotilla on 31 May had increased the chances of a new war in the Middle East. In a BBC interview Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”. The raid had “destroyed any chance for peace in the near future,” Assad said, adding: “You cannot achieve peace with such [a] government.” The Syrian leader denied that he was sending weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but insisted that Iran would remain an ally of Syria.

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OPINION – Ronald S. Lauder: Put more pressure on Iran – Financial Times Deutschland

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–In a contribution for the German newspaper ‘Financial Times Deutschland’, the president of the World Jewish Congress argues that the latest UN sanctions against Iran were only a first step and need to be followed up with unliateral measures by the US and Europe. Read the full text in English and German below.

Put more pressure on Iran
By Ronald Lauder 

On Wednesday, following months of intensive diplomatic haggling, the UN Security Council finally passed a fourth package of sanctions on Iran which at least to some extent can be qualified as “strong”. The fact that China and Russia were now willing to support such measures sends out the important signal that the international community is determined. The vote at the United Nations is the fruit of hard work, in particular by the Obama Administration.

The United Nations have again made it clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is not an acceptable option. Yet whoever believes that Iran is unprepared is naïve and has learnt little from the past years of negotiations.

These sanctions come late. President Obama wanted them in place six months ago, and his French counterpart Sarkozy even promised them “within three months” – back in the summer of 2009. Precious time has again been wasted.

In the meantime, in Natanz, Qom, Isfahan and other secret locations, Iran’s nuclear program and the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade has continued at great pace. In parallel, the regime is developing medium-range missile systems and has procured plans to build advanced nuclear warheads.

All this is happening under the watchful eyes of the international community. Reports by the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna provide clear evidence of Iran’s true intentions, as do those of Western intelligence services. Although Iran is censured when it denies IAEA weapons inspectors access to its nuclear sites, or otherwise fails to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nothing else happens.

As long ago as 2006 the UN Security Council adopted a legally-binding resolution which called on Tehran to cooperate. The same year, the council passed sanctions because Iran had failed to comply with its demands.

In other words, for the last four years the regime in Tehran has been in clear breach of international law. It has defied the international community and has put up a smokescreen of frantic diplomatic activity which serves only one purpose: to gain precious time.

Any tactic suits Iran if that tactic helps to delay effective sanctions. As a result, Iran already possesses sufficient fissile material for two nuclear bombs. A year ago, it had only enough to make one.

In short, for years Iran has successfully made a fool of the international community and always been a step ahead of the diplomatic game. President Ahmadinejad will continue to make dishonest offers to the West, combined with ludicrous demands and conditions. Together with his allies around the Globe he will continue to present himself as the innocent victim of Western attacks.

Iran has managed to fool the world with a kind of pseudo diplomacy that only serves the purpose of creating confusion and seeks to drive a wedge into the international community, despite the growing threat that Iran poses to world peace.

Iran’s reasoning has been that no country will want to lose its competitive advantage in the global marketplace for oil and gas by unilaterally withdrawing from the lucrative Iranian energy market.

Regrettably, Brazil and Turkey have now deemed it appropriate to negotiate with Tehran about possible “compromises” – without the international community’s mandate to do so. At the Security Council, these two countries were the only ones to vote against the Iran sanctions package, when even Lebanon abstained.

Only a mediator that is accepted by all sides, acts on the basis of international law and is not secretly motivated by narrow self-interests can be a credible arbiter. After the events of the last weeks, I have my doubts that Ankara is well qualified to assume the role of an “honest broker”.

Moreover, why should we assume that Turkey or Brazil will achieve, in the course of a few months, the breakthrough that even diplomatic heavyweights like Russia and China could not bring about in years of intensive diplomacy and political pressure? The “deal” they presented three weeks ago was rightly rejected by the permanent members of the Security Council.

The Iranian regime will continue to gain time. As long as certain countries keep trying to score cheap diplomatic points despite the seriousness of the issue, there will not be a satisfactory solution. The international community’s unity and resolve is an absolute precondition for stopping aggressive regimes such as the one in Iran. It must not be squandered.

However, this will not be sufficient. The new UN sanctions will have to be implemented forcefully, and additional measures – if necessary on a unilateral basis – must follow suit.

The United States are forging ahead, and Europe would be well-advised to, as a minimum, withdraw quickly and fully from the Iranian oil and gas sector.

Even if this means voluntarily forgoing profits in the short term: it is our only chance to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran without military means. After years of fruitless diplomacy, now is the time for action! Further by-standing would be wantonly negligent. It appears that the European heads of government are now finally ready to act.

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