Category Archives: Israel

(JC) Voters are waking up to Labour racism


A recent JC poll shows the party’s growing association with antisemitism matters — and is changing the way people vote

It has not just been confusion over the Labour party’s Brexit policy that has kept supporters from voting Labour in the local and European elections, but Jeremy Corbyn himself.

Polling has consistently showed this to be the case with the antisemitism row playing a crucial role in dragging down his personal ratings.

Sadly, antisemitism is not an issue that matters to most people outside the community. Many people in this country have never met a Jew. Focus groups show that even when people do care, they usually care more about things that affect their everyday lives.

But for a large number of people, Labour’s growing association with racism has mattered — and is changing their vote.

Three major polls have been carried out since last September into public attitudes to Labour and antisemitism, especially among Labour voters. The most surprising thing is the level to which it has cut through to the public.

In the latest survey, commissioned last month by the JC, 80 per cent out of a nationally-representative sample of more than 5,000 British voters said they had seen either a little or a lot of news coverage on the issue. As one seasoned pollster said: “You can set a bomb off in a village and you won’t get that kind of awareness.”

If you add up the figures from the May poll, then Labour could lose almost a million votes from those who said they might vote Labour but the antisemitism issue was leading to doubts about the party’s fitness for power.

That is enough to put a substantial dent in Labour’s chances of success in dozens of tight constituencies. It also comes on top of the millions of centrist and moderate voters driven away from the party by issues including antisemitism over the last 12 months.

In the same poll, more voters who had chosen in Labour in 2017 said Mr Corbyn had proved himself to be dishonest rather than honest (41 per cent versus 37 per cent) in the way he had handled antisemitism. And more Labour 2017 voters said they thought he was “not competent” rather than competent (50 per cent versus 32 per cent).

Since a similar poll carried out in February — just before the issue again exploded with Luciana Berger and other MPs leaving Labour — the number of the general population saying Labour has a problem with antisemitism has gone up from 43 per cent to 50 per cent. And there has been a significant drop in those saying the party does not have a problem with antisemitism, down from 23 per cent to 18 per cent over the same period.

For the first time in decades, over a century maybe, British Jews have had to ask ourselves: “Are we safe here?” It has taken a major effort by Jews and our non-Jewish allies to keep this issue in the public mind as much as possible. But we have also had the courage and organisational muscle to stand up, say “Enough” and heed the calls to be #BeLouder when we confront hate.

The likelihood is that the EHRC investigation announced last week will turn up still more embedded racism — and not just among the rank and file, but also at the top of Labour. In doing so, it will only increase the view that things cannot get better for the Labour Party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Things can only get worse.

(Independent) Israel faces new elections after parliament dissolves itself

(Independent) The newly elected Knesset and set a new election date for September 17.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

By Aron HellerAssociated Press

Israel has been plunged into another snap election campaign — the second this year — after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition and instead dissolved parliament.

In what seemed an improbable scenario days ago, Israel’s newly elected Knesset dissolved itself in an early morning 74-45 vote and set a new election date for September 17.

The developments were a shocking setback for Mr Netanyahu, who had appeared to secure a comfortable win in last month’s election, but was unable to build a parliamentary majority needed to rule because a traditional ally, Avigdor Lieberman, refused to bring his Yisrael Beiteinu faction into the coalition.

Avigdor Lieberman (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Mr Netanyahu, who has led Israel for a decade, now faces another challenge to his lengthy rule. It comes as he prepares for a pre-indictment hearing before expected criminal charges against him in a series of corruption cases.

Assuming they would sweep into power again, Mr Netanyahu’s allies in the ruling Likud Party had already begun drafting a contentious bill aimed at granting him immunity from any corruption charges. He was also looking to push legislation limiting the power of the Supreme Court and paving his path to many more years in office.

But it was a separate issue that sparked the unprecedented crisis, and for the first time in history thrust Israel into a repeat election before a new government was formed.

Mr Lieberman — a veteran nationalist and secular politician — demanded that current legislation mandating that young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military run its course.

The public chose me, and Lieberman, unfortunately, deceived his voters. From the beginning he had no intention to do what he saidBenjamin Netanyahu

Years of exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men have generated widespread resentment among the rest of Jewish Israelis who serve. The ultra-Orthodox, backed by Mr Netanyahu, refused to bend and the showdown quickly became a full-blown crisis.

“The public chose me, and Lieberman, unfortunately, deceived his voters. From the beginning he had no intention to do what he said,” Mr Netanyahu said after the vote, accusing Mr Lieberman of aligning with “the left”.

Mr Lieberman, a former senior aide to Mr Netanyahu who has alternated between a close alliance and bitter rivalry with his former boss, retorted that the new election was a result of Mr Netanyahu caving into the ultra-Orthodox.

“This is a complete surrender of Likud to the ultra-Orthodox,” he said.

A new election complicates Mr Netanyahu’s efforts to pass the proposed bills to protect himself from prosecution.

Even if he wins the election, it is unlikely he will be able to form a government and secure the required political support for an immunity deal before an expected indictment.

That would force him to stand trial, and in turn put heavy pressure on him to step aside. No one in Likud has yet challenged him publicly.

The political uncertainty could also spell trouble for the White House’s Middle East peace efforts. The US has scheduled a conference next month in Bahrain to unveil what it says is the first phase of its peace plan, an initiative aimed at drawing investment into the Palestinian territories.

The Trump administration had vowed to unveil its plan after the Israeli election and it is unclear how the current political shake-up will affect that rollout.

(GUA) Jews in Germany warned of risks of wearing kippah cap in public


Government commissioner says lifting of inhibitions and rise of uncouthness are factors behind rising incidence of antisemitism

A man wearing a Jewish kippah skullcap with the flags of Germany and Israel.
 A man wearing a Jewish kippah skullcap with the flags of Germany and Israel. Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism has suggested Jews should not always wear the traditional kippah cap in public, in the wake of a spike in anti-Jewish attacks.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published Saturday by the Funke regional press group. The remarks were criticised by the Israeli president as representing a “capitulation” to antisemitism.

In issuing the warning, Klein said he had “alas, changed my mind compared to previously”.

Antisemitic attacks are on the rise in a number of European countries, and a survey of Jewish people across the European Union carried out in December found 89% of Jews feel antisemitism has increased in their country over the past decade, while 85% believed it to be a serious problem.

Antisemitic hate crimes rose by 20% in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data, which blamed nine out of ten cases on the extreme right. There were 62 violent antisemitic attacks, compared to 37 in 2017. France has also seen a spike in violent incidents.

Klein, whose post was created last year, cited “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society” as factors behind a rising incidence of antisemitism.

“The internet and social media have largely contributed to this, but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

And he suggested police, teachers and lawyers should be better trained to recognise what constitutes “clearly defined” unacceptable behaviour and “what is authorised and what is not”.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Sunday that Klein’s remarks “shocked” him, and while appreciating the German government’s “commitment to the Jewish community,” accused it of bowing to those targeting Jews.

“Fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to antisemitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil,” said Rivlin. “We will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to antisemitism with defeatism – and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”

The US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, also criticised Klein’s advice. He wrote on Twitter: “The opposite is true. Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society.”

Antisemitism rising sharply across Europe, latest figures show

 Read more

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the fact that government had recognised the seriousness of the situation. “It has for some time been the case that Jews in some cities potentially endanger themselves if they are visible as Jews”, Josef Schuster told news agency AFP.

The increased prominence of far-right parties in a number of European countries in the past few years has led to antisemitic and other extremist rhetoric that was previously confined to the fringes appearing more and more in the mainstream. In Germany, the arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question the culture of atonement forsecond world war atrocities, has contributed to the change in atmosphere.

In Hungary, the nationalist government of Viktor Orbán has repeatedly been accused of anti-semitism, particularly in its campaigns against the financier and philanthropist George Soros, who is of Hungarian Jewish origin. Orbán has always denied the allegations and pointed out that, on the whole, Jews living in Hungary feel safe, unlike many living in western Europe. He has also criticised western Europe for accepting refugees and migrants from Muslim countries, claiming they bring antisemitism with them.

Klein acknowledged that the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, many from Muslim countries such as Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, has had an impact on the situation in Germany. Some were influenced by watching certain television channels “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews”, he said.

However, he emphasised that the far-right was to blame for the overwhelming majority of antisemitic crime.

“Antisemitism has always been here. But I think that recently, it has again become louder, more aggressive and flagrant,” Berlin’s top legal expert on antisemitism Claudia Vanoni said in a recent interview, adding the problem was “deeply rooted” in German society.

She also said the proliferation of online platforms that allow people to express extremist views without inhibition while hiding behind screens had fostered the rise in cases.

Justice minister Katarina Barley told the Handelsblatt newspaper the increase was “shameful for our country” but added that the police were “vigilant”.

Sabine Leutheuser-Scharrenberger, a former justice minister, said: “Everything has to be done to ensure that Jews can live their religion without facing danger and while relying on the rule of law”.

(Haaretz) In Israel, They Felt Unwanted. They Found Paradise in Portugal

(Haaretz) In Israel, They Felt Unwanted. They Found Paradise in Portugal

Farmland goes for a song, farmers receive state support and falafel and malabi are readily available. More and more Israelis are finding a haven on Portuguese soil.

The most popular stall in the heart of the outdoor market in São Martinho das Amoreiras, some 200 kilometers southeast of Lisbon, is the falafel stand run by Maoz Kashty and his partner, Natasha. Is there anything more humiliating for an Israeli than to buy falafel on European soil? Out of Israeli solidarity and sheer politeness I bought one – and was pleasantly surprised. Next to me was a young local man who was wondering about the orange sauce. Kashty, 45, told him it was chutney, and immediately explained himself to me, in Hebrew: “Hey, am I going to tell him it’s amba?”

An Israeli from a nearby farm took advantage of the hype in the market and recently opened an adjacent stand that sells malabi (a Middle Eastern rosewater pudding, served with pomegranate syrup). Gentiles aren’t familiar with malabi, so passersby were offered a free taste. Was I a witness to the genesis of a malabi craze on the Iberian Peninsula? Apart from the falafel and malabi hawkers, there were quite a few Israelis in the market who came to buy or sell – or to get a look at the local guru, Moji.

Before visiting the market, we had been hosted on an impressive farm for a weekly hummus fest. We sat under a cork oak tree, where we polished off a dish of hummus for six euros. Like many other Israelis who are farming in Portugal, the owner of this particular farm wanted nothing to do with the press, and asked that his name not be published. Earlier, I’d offended him slightly by saying something to the effect that if I was already in Portugal, I preferred to eat local food. “All they eat here is pork,” he immediately warned me. On another Israeli-owned farm, a two-day party got underway that same weekend, with an Israeli deejay. They, too, asked not to be identified by name.

To join the Facebook page of the Israelis who already live in Portugal, you have to declare that you are not a tourist and that you are not offering a service intended to help people obtain a local passport. The page has more than 3,000 members, but according to more conservative data, the actual number of Israelis who have immigrated to Portugal in recent year is several hundred. A few dozen live on farms, most of which were purchased in the past year. This appears to be a first wave that might swell. Not long ago, a Portuguese magazine published a cover story titled, “Is Portugal the Promised Land of the Jews?”

Maoz and Natasha Kashti, with their daughters Mali and Tuka, and friend Arona. “In Israel everyone who is outside the bubble tries to prick it.” Tomer Appelbaum

For Natasha, 35, Kashty’s partner, it’s already too much: She keeps seeing Israelis buying farms in the area, and she’s afraid that the flow will only intensify. Most of the Israeli-owned homesteads are located here, in southern Portugal, not far from the town of Odemira. Some, though, have opted for east, in the region of Castelo Branco, or further north. The city of Coimbra, in the central part of the country, even boasts an Israeli-Portuguese school.

There are several Facebook groups of Israelis who would like to move en masse to Portugal and form a community, but that hasn’t happened yet, despite a good response. The fact is that farmland is so cheap in Portugal, there’s no real reason to share the property.

One common denominator among the nice people I interviewed here is that they tried to live in Israel according to their desired lifestyle, but felt that the state rejected them, and so they sought a haven in Portugal. Perhaps the best known of the recent exiles is writer and journalist Yigal Sarna, who is recovering here from a legal battle with the Netanyahu family and termination of his employment on the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Sarna, who now spends half the year in northern Portugal, sounds happy, to judge from his Facebook posts. Kashty, the falafel king, had a clear explanation of why he fled: “We were living in a community in Pardes Hannah and we were good with that, but we were living in a bubble. The feeling is that in Israel everyone who is outside the bubble tries to prick the bubble, to stick nails into it.”

The economy in Portugal is lackluster, but it’s still a friendly place for foreigners, with a socialist government and vast, empty farmland that the state wants to populate.

Far from ugly politics

Dan Zeltser, 43, studied history and philosophy, did voluntary work with the Israeli-Palestinian organization Taayush and was a documentary photographer in the territories. But finally the politics got to him. “What happened in Israel stinks, it’s a sinking ship,” he says. “I decided I had to get out of there.”

Zeltser was determined to live closer to nature and set his mind on Portugal, even though he knew next to nothing about it. He met his partner, Biana Gaimano, 32, shortly before he left Israel. Gaimano had immigrated to Israel by herself from Russia, was employed in high-tech, and afterward was a producer on the reality-TV program “Connected.”

“Even though I had a good job in the industry, I realized that I didn’t want to be there,” Gaimano relates, adding that the day she met Zeltser, she sat in her car and realized that she would be leaving everything and moving to Portugal.

For a year, the young couple looked for suitable land. They show me their dot-studded Google map. “We saw a hundred farms,” Zeltser says. “We almost struck a deal with a Dutch swindler. Buying land here isn’t easy. You have to be careful and not trust lawyers; it’s crucial to get help from someone who’s already bought property.”

Biana Gaimano, Dan Zeltser and daughter Elisheva. “Israel’s a sinking ship,” he says. “I decided I had to get out of there.” Tomer Appelbaum

Newcomers also have to adjust to the local pace of life, he adds. “Everything here is very slow. But it’s important for the Portuguese to be accurate, to be on time. And Portugal is supportive, it doesn’t expel people, certainly not quickly. The people in the nearby villages are pleasant and hospitable, and really want to help. They think it’s good for them to have ‘new blood’ arrive.”

Did you leave because of things you saw in the occupied territories?

Zeltser: “Not only in the territories. Everywhere in the country. My heart said: Let go of the place.”

A few weeks ago, the couple bought 30 dunams (about 7.5 acres) of hilly land, near Castelo Branco. It’s covered with rocks and thistles, but has a stream and a few wells. They paid 15,000 euros, a sum that might buy you a lean-to back in Afula. “We don’t have a building,” Zeltser explains over black coffee served in empty baby-food jars. “If you want a real house you pay more – 50,000 to 100,000 euros and up. For me it was important to have a river nearby, so we won’t have to hook up to the water network.”

Their plan is to build a wooden house on their land, but in the meantime they’re renting a place on their neighbors’ property. They are delighted with their land. It’s nice to hike around there, despite the rugged terrain, but it’s hard to imagine planting anything on it.

“Just yesterday we organized an access road and fixed up a few terraces and canals,” Zeltser says. “Since buying the land, I discovered that we have a quite a few fruit trees. The foundations here are good.”

Other plans are amorphous. Zeltser waxes poetic about “a garden, with all the implications” and talks about hothouses for herbs, maybe saffron, and projects including a preschool, courses in sustainability, ecological tourism. Near the river, on Zeltser’s property, is the tent of an Englishman and his children, who looked pleased. As we nibble on cheese, Gaimano predicts that they will soon be making their own cheese. Zeltser hints that that will take some time. “The goal is to establish a home and farm that will feed us on a self-sufficient basis,” he explains. “In the next stage we’ll figure out how to make a living.” Gaimano wants to create a preschool for baby Elisheva: “We didn’t flee Tel Aviv in order to send our kids to institutional schools.”Eastern Portugal. Tomer Appelbaum

The couple say there are other Israelis living nearby and that one spoke to them about buying land next to theirs. “It’s just the beginning of a wave,” Gaimano says. “When I saw an ad for a Portuguese passport in Netanya, I knew there would be a flood.” (Since 2013, Portugal has offered citizenship to people who can prove their descent from Jews expelled from Portugal or Spain during the Inquisition.)

Ties with the local Jewish community are less congenial. “I went to the synagogue in the nearby town and said I’m an Israeli,” Zeltser says. “Because I walk around in a keffiyeh from Sinai, they thought I was an Israeli Arab, and the security guards checked me thoroughly. Maybe what did me in was that I said ‘Ahlan’ [Arabic for “Hello,” frequently used by Jewish Israelis]. The Jews of Portugal aren’t in the loop. It drove me crazy that the rabbi doesn’t know Hebrew. But we have made friends with foreigners here – 17 nationalities on our hill alone.”

Why do Israelis feel a connection with Portugal?

Zeltser: “The people here lack initiative and are very calm. Not everyone here is out for the dollar. The thinking here is more medieval, not capitalist, and that’s a positive thing. Besides, it’s hot here and it looks like Israel.”

Are you thinking of establishing a new Israel here?

“Isn’t one enough?”

Although they put on an optimistic face, it turns out that the couple have had moments of crisis. Three months after the move to Portugal, Gaimano was ready to go back. “I bought a ticket to Ben-Gurion, one way,” she says. “After two weeks in Tel Aviv, I’d had enough of sitting by the sea and I wanted to go home. I didn’t want to live in the city.” Zeltser hasn’t been back to Israel since he left.

Bar Yaaran with her goats. Tomer Appelbaum

Refuge from the storm

Yaaran Farm was established in 1995 in the forest below the popular stalactite cave in the Judean Hills, outside Beit Shemesh. The Yaaran family sought a self-sufficient lifestyle and raised goats on their farm, selling the cheese to visitors. Over the years, the Israeli authorities tried to get rid of them, because their farm lay on state-owned land. The Yaarans waged an impossible, perhaps naive, battle that entailed plenty of court hearings and then gave up.

Like most of those I interviewed, Bar and Avishai Yaaran, 51 and 56, respectively, felt as if they were simply spewed out by Israel and found themselves in Portugal. Three months ago, they bought a 40-dunam farm in the eastern part of the country and shipped the contents of their previous home there in a container, including the sign to their old place. Bar is now grateful to the authorities: “Thanks to the wickedness of the Israel Land Authority, we evacuated the place, and thanks to them I attained something of my own,” she says.

We catch up to her as she splits wood with an axe. “At first we looked for land in Crete, but just before the deal was closed, they tripled the price,” she relates. “Lucky we didn’t move there. The Greeks are tough and they don’t accept foreigners. They’re like Israelis. In Portugal, it’s the opposite. The economy is permanently drowsy. At midday everyone is at lunch. They don’t seem to have any motivation, but they are good people and welcoming. Even the clerks want what’s best for you. They don’t try to make things hard for you – the opposite of Israel. The farmers who were in the same boat as us back in Israel were always in competition. The average Israeli feels that he has to screw someone in order not to get screwed. Here I can breathe differently. I don’t hear stone quarries. The birds chirp here at night, too. We found our paradise.”

Looking back, Bar isn’t sure why she fought so hard for her farm: “We were a finger in the establishment’s eyes. It was just insane. We worked hard, people stood in line for our cheeses, and it all went to pay lawyers. I could have bought seven farms like this in Portugal if I hadn’t financed lawyers. When I stopped paying them, the lawyers simply stopped working for me, no matter how right I was. It’s unbelievable. There’s no ideology in that realm.”

The couple are now in the process of obtaining residency, which is granted in Portugal to people who establish companies, even if those entities are intended to manage an autarkic farm. Unlike Israel, the Yaarans say, Portugal encourages small, traditional, farm-based ventures. In many other countries in Europe, in contrast, the process of rapid urbanization means that many agricultural lands have fallen into disuse. In our travels, we passed through dozens of pleasant villages, and most of the people we saw were elderly folk relaxing with a glass of beer in a café on the main street.

Says Bar: “I know that even if I don’t come with all the paperwork, the Portuguese immigration authorities won’t throw me out. They won’t check whether I am Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Everyone can care for his goats and his vegetable patch, be simple like me, poor like me – and feel rich… Fortunately, Avishai knows the language, because he grew up in Kibbutz Bror Hayil [where many immigrants from Brazil live] and he has a Brazilian father.”

Tomer Appelbaum

Bar says she is moved by the small things. “For years I didn’t have a mailing address. After all, the authorities don’t want to give offenders an opening for official recognition, and because of that the children didn’t receive army draft notices. [She says that they did serve, however.] Now the mail comes right to me. I can’t believe it’s mine.”

Like Bar, many of those I spoke to invoked the word “paradise.” The truth is that it’s not as simple as it looks. The farm the Yaarans moved into three months ago was completely covered by a meter-high layer of thorny raspberry bushes. The bushes mean there’s lots of water, but dealing with them is difficult and endlessly bothersome.

“We are refugees,” she says. “Even after we left, the Land Authority was mad because we left a few stones that we were supposed to remove. They wanted to issue an order barring me from leaving the country and also for us to pay a users’ fee. Today I feel as though I’ve been reborn. I’m convinced they’ll be sorry we left. There will be forest fires.”

What do you think they wanted from you?

Bar Yaaran: “In Israel, agriculture is always political, it’s always about grabbing land from the Arabs. They think that if you give something to every [Jewish] shepherd, they’ll also have to give the Bedouin rights. I just pity the people from the Nature and Thieves Authority and the Society for the Destruction of Nature. But I pity the land more. How did I ever believe we stood a chance? I sat there in my bubble, on my island, while all around me people were legally authorized to quarry, the stream filled up with sewage, the noise of the helicopters frightened the pregnant goats, and we were the only ones looking after the environment.

“We built a fire truck to put out fires, we collected garbage for 24 years and we appeared before every committee, certain that we were in the right and that they would understand in the end. The truth is that no one wanted us. We were not in anyone’s political or economic interest, and we didn’t screw any Arab. Here, they went along with us about the idea of a small herd and a tiny dairy. And because I’m a farmer, all the diesel fuel will be subsidized. Israel is not a truly democratic country. All it cares about is screwing the Arabs, and to achieve that it will shoot everyone in the foot.”

If at the Yaaran’s first farm they needed a herd of 150 goats to be almost completely self-sufficient, now that they don’t have to pay for a legal team, they say then can make do with 15. “It was insane work, just to satisfy a rotten system that has no point or purpose.”

Despite the couple’s seemingly anarchistic approach to life, Avishai – who served in the Israel Defense Force’s Sayeret Matkal commando unit and was among the first soldiers to cut through the border fence and enter Lebanon in the 1982 war – doesn’t rule out accepting subsidies from state authorities in Portugal. “It is a fine and correct matter, an expression of a desire to preserve agriculture.”

Shefa and Oded Elyashiv. Tomer Appelbaum

Hippie enclave

If the Yaaran family wants above all to be left alone, Shefa and Oded Elyashiv, aged 49 and 52, who are among the senior figures of Israel’s “rainbow” gatherings, arrived with a communal vision. For $50,000 they bought a large tract of land, 160 dunams, in southern Portugal, half an hour by jeep from the nearest road. They moved in three months ago.

Their place doesn’t yet look like a farm – more like a small conclave of hippies set in a spectacular landscape. In the meantime they are living in a trailer, with the children’s tents next to it. Oded is excited to show us the compost toilet he recently assembled, as though it were a Venetian fountain. He has a philosophy about this subject: “Man is an enterprise for producing fertilizer, but that involves dealing with poop. I don’t understand what the problem is with poop. It’s madness to throw our poop into the toilet, and afterward to buy expensive compost, which is horses’ poop.”

The Elyashivs met 13 years ago. Oded is a yoga teacher; Shefa is an information systems consultant. For years, they scoured Israel in search of land on which they could live with friends. (They have two children, ages 7 and 11.) They tried to join a kibbutz, but were rejected by the admission committee. Shefa, who was born on Kibbutz Tsova, near Jerusalem, admits that she was hurt by this.

“We would have been happy to establish something like this in Israel,” Oded says. “It’s the Holy Land – not that I am religious. All our life we just wanted a piece of land. Not a lousy half-dunam slice of land in a crowded suburb. I wrote to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu” – with a request for land on which to create a communal settlement – “and he replied in a letter saying ‘Well done,’ and referring me to the authorities. We wanted to create a paradise, 10 dunams for 10 families, on the model of a small village for friends from the rainbow tribe. I wrote to all the authorities with the request. One referred me to another, but nothing came of it.”

“We only wanted land,” adds Oded, who liked to walk around nude at rainbow gatherings in Israel, so it took me time to recognize him. “We wanted to build a castle in Israel. And then we spoke to Haim Feldman, an Israeli who had moved here. He kept urging us to make the move. He told us how easy things are in Portugal. He’s a pioneer. The new Israel is slowly happening here. People keep coming. There are also those who try to make the move, but end up returning to Israel. But overall, the trend is that it’s continuing to grow.”

The family arrived in Portugal in 2016 with the aim of creating a community, but it didn’t work out. But Oded hasn’t abandoned his dream of a communal village: “It will happen naturally. Families want to visit. People will stay. We are the vanguard. There is enough room and we will find the way to bring them in. Maybe the others will want to buy neighboring lands.”

What’s the plan?

Oded: “The goal is to live in paradise. There will be 10,000 trees here, 1,000 of them fruit trees. There will be abundance never before seen. In the meantime, it really is hard. When you don’t know the language, even getting a pump is difficult.”

“The move is very hard,” Shefa admits. “My father was sick. I am torn. Should I go back to Israel? It would be wonderful if Israel allowed a simple life on the land. It’s incredible that it’s a criminal offense if a person lives on his own farmland. In every other country, people live on their own farms. In Portugal, four percent of every agricultural property is designated for the farmer’s house. In Israel you can’t even park a trailer on farmland.”

As in the original Garden of Eden, here too there are troubles with the children – although, despite their adventurous parents, they somehow came out quite normal. When we arrive, the children are using wireless internet and are busy destroying someone in the video game Fortnite. The parents admit that their offspring, especially their 11-year-old daughter, Petel, aren’t really wild about bathing in the river, and demand a standard hot-water shower now and again. To that end, they all occasionally head for the nearby town, which has a public bathhouse. There have been times when Shefa too broke down because of the harsh conditions and took a hotel room. “You have to understand,” Oded explains. “The girls have long hair, they have curls. They need a shower with running water. In another month we’ll have a shower.”

Are the children in a home-schooling program?

Oded: “It’s ‘unschooling.’ Petel went to an anthroposophic school in Israel. We didn’t want her to go there, but she had a girlfriend who was enthusiastic, and the school was good for her. Here they didn’t want it because of the language.”

Will I still find you here in another five years?

Shefa: “Absolutely. You’ll never get Oded out of here, and I’m with him. No one can take me away from here.”

Still, there are moments when her husband has heretical thoughts. “Since I’ve been here, I appreciate the city more,” he admits. “The city is an amazing place. People live there without any problems. You know, there are toilets and hot showers there.”

Ayala, Haim, Gaia and Lisa Werksman Feldman.“All they eat here is pork,” says the owner of the popular falafel stand. Tomer Appelbaum

Tractor-less farming

Even though Lisa and Haim Werksman Feldman, 41 and 44 years old, moved to Portugal only four years ago, they are considered veteran Israelis in the country’s agricultural landscape. Haim didn’t want to buy his own farm, preferring instead to purchase a modest house on the outskirts of Odemira, in Portugal’s south, for 50,000 euros. But he works and assists many Israeli farmers and is considered a “guru gardener.” At present, Feldman is cultivating an organic garden that supplies a restaurant, and also teaches ecology at two schools.

There’s a sad story behind his move to Portugal. After serving as a combat soldier in the IDF’s Nahal brigade, including in the territories, he tried to acquaint himself with farming, but couldn’t find his place in industrial-style agriculture. He went to the territories in the hope of learning traditional methods of farming and gradually got to know people on the other side. By the time of Operation Defensive Shield (2002) he refused to serve in the territories. Afterward, he tried to help create a bio-farming project with the Awad family in the village of Budrus, adjacent to the separation barrier. That lovely initiative was torpedoed by both the army and envious neighbors of the Awad family. What broke him was the shooting death of one of the Awad children at the hands of an Israel soldier.

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” Feldman says. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I couldn’t look the father in the eyes. I wanted something different, with plenty of traditional agriculture and an approach that encourages small-scale farming.”

Maoz Kashty, the falafel monger, whom I interview as he works, was drawn to Portugal for similar reasons. “People here want to have control over the elementary things,” he explains. “I’m talking about housing, food, medicine. An apartment that doesn’t require taking out a 30-year mortgage. Let us live life.” Kashti is hoping to buy a house and 10 dunams of land; the financing is meant to come from the falafel.

“Portugal recalls Israel from before the Six-Day War, before things got bad,” Feldman says. “It’s an empire that faded away. You don’t hustle off to work here, like in Israel. If you don’t need to work, you don’t work. But if you do, then you work well. It’s not slapdash. When the name of Israel comes up in conversations with local folk, I always mention what’s good in Israel.”

Even though you left because of what’s bad?

Feldman: “I am heartbroken from love. In Israel I was battered as a political activist and also as an ecological gardener. Israeli farmers are very condescending about enviromental concerns – they think that farming is only done with a tractor. Portugal is a country of small gardens, with great appreciation for the environment. Another reason I left was so that my daughters wouldn’t go to school in a fascist education al system. The brainwashing in Israel begins at an early age. A photograph of the chief of staff is hung on the kindergarten wall. Here the people are charming, and we mustn’t forget that in Portugal there was a Jewish community that lived together with the Muslims. It’s important to understand that there was a connection here.”

Tamir Burstein. There’s an old forest on his land that he won’t touch, he says. “It feels strange to say it’s mine.” Tomer Appelbaum

Pioneering work

Tamir and Luna Burstein, 47 and 45, have lived for almost a year with their two children on an impressive 200-dunam farm in the south of Portugal. The price: 100,000 euros. A handy person, Tamir removed the raspberry bushes and also dug a lake, which he populated with ducks. His land covers two hills, on one of which there’s an old forest that Tamir doesn’t intend to touch. “It feels strange to say it’s mine,” he tells me.

Tamir owned a bar on Carlebach Street in Tel Aviv – he brought the popular Kleiner Feigling fig liqueuerto Israel. Luna was a PR person for the Allenby 58 Club and today is a spiritual teacher. “I simply fell in love with Portugal,” Luna says, calling it “the India of Europe.” Tamir adds, “Already in Lisbon airport our heart opened and we allowed Creation to take us.”

They purchased the second property they saw, and got to work. “There are a lot of people who want to join us,” says Tamir. “Every week two families ask. Some want advice about how to buy land, some want to come here. Our property has enough room for four families to live comfortably. The demand is so great that I decided to organize a tour for Israelis to get to know the region. Two families moved here as a result – one of them bought within 10 minutes. Someone told me, ‘Don’t bring more Israelis, we don’t want a little Israel here.’ I have heard about dozens who want to make the move. People sit around drinking beer, and they think, ‘Let’s move to Portugal.’ But it’s a lot of work. It’s hard to be a pioneer.”

Tamar Mali. Tomer Appelbaum

‘Temple of love’

I met Tamar Mali, 36, at Tamera, an ecological peace community with a free-sex aura about it that’s been operating for the past 24 years in the country’s south. Mali, who says she’s planning to build a “temple of love” on the farm she bought in the area, has a tight schedule of lectures and workshops, so the only time we could meet was during supper. If she misses it, she won’t eat for many more hours.

After devoting half her life to the Israel Scouts movement, first as a scout and then as a leader, Mali is now active in the community of Israeli farmers here. “I am a person that deals with events, I’m planning to screen the Eurovision contest for the Israeli community. You can count on the Israelis here. I celebrate the Passover seder on my farm, but without reading the part about the plagues. Everyone talks about freedom. As I see it, every event is a reason to party. Christmas or Hanukkah or Eurovision.”

After leaving the Scouts, Mali studied sexual healing in London and visited ecological and spiritual communities around the world. “In the end I understood that I would not remain in any of the communities, because my mission is to establish a place myself, to establish the temple of love.” Her explanation is persuasive: “If there is a synagogue for the God of the Jews, and churches, I want to build something for love, which is the force that can bring healing to the world.”

She bought a 130-dunam farm near São Martinho do Porto, on which she intends to erect the temple of love in an old, half-destroyed structure. “In temples of love there is sexual work, and a prospect that there will be things related to sexual therapy. It’s a place that sets out to celebrate and activate that force in the world.”

Why not in Israel, a country where love is needed?

Mali: “I am very Israeli. It’s not that I left Israel because I scorned it. But what’s related to sexuality in Israel is more complicated. And to find 130 dunams in Israel is almost impossible.”

Even though the temple of love hasn’t yet been built, it has already brought about an impressive achievement: The first volunteer who arrived at the site, an expert in the art of paper folding, fell in love with Mali. “There are people who don’t leave Tel Aviv, because they’re afraid they won’t find a relationship,” she says. “One volunteer showed up, and now he’s my partner.”

(DN) Bragança acolhe Encontro de Culturas Sefarditas de 19 a 23 de junho


Bragança, 10 mai 2019 (Lusa) – Bragança acolhe de 19 a 23 de junho o Encontro de Culturas Judaico-Sefarditas colocando a cidade no epicentro daquela cultura em Portugal, como anunciou hoje a organização.

“Esta é a segunda edição da iniciativa, e dado que a primeira correu muito bem, resolvemos reforçar o programa que ao longo de cinco dias vai ajudar a perpetuar a memória judaica do nosso território, associada à diáspora, para que seja um fator de aproximação das pessoas”, referiu o presidente da Câmara Municipal de Bragança, Hernâni Dias.

O encontro dedicado aos judeus da Península Ibérica terá como atividade-âncora um congresso internacional sob o tema “Diásporas, Identidade e Globalização”, com a coordenação científica da Cátedra da Estudos Sefarditas da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.

“Este tema pretende recolocar Bragança como centro incontornável da reflexão sobre a memoria e o património judaico em todo o norte da Península Ibérica”, adiantaram em conferencia de imprensa os promotores da iniciativa.

O programa contempla o I Fórum Económico e do Empreendedorismo Sefardita, um debate sobre “os bons exemplos da dinâmica pluricontinental”, havendo ainda um encontro da historiografia local e regional sefardita, concertos, mercado ‘kosher’, entre outras iniciativas.

No primeiro dia do encontro sefardita, haverá um concerto nos jardins do Centro de Arte Contemporânea Graça Morais, com o mote “Herança Longínqua”, por músicos portugueses e espanhóis.

“Pretendemos com esta iniciativa envolver a comunidade local, para que haja um reconhecimento da temática da cultura sefardita na cidade de Bragança”, indicou o autarca.

Durante a iniciativa haverá ainda tempo para uma mostra de cinema judaico, ao ar livre.

(ZH) Secretive Israeli Company Uses WhatsApp Voice Calls To Install Spyware On Phones


With so much attention focused recently on constant consumer spying and privacy violations, erroneous or otherwise, by Amazon, Facebook and now Twitter, it is easy to forget that virtually other communication apps have the same purpose, and that’s what one secretive Israeli company relied on when they used a vulnerability in the popular messaging app WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) to inject commercial Israeli spyware on to phones, the company and a spyware technology dealer said. What is unique is how the app was infected: with a simple phone call.

According to the FT, WhatsApp which is used by 1.5bn people worldwide, discovered in early May that attackers were able to install surveillance software on to both iPhones and Android phones by ringing up targets using the app’s phone call function. The malicious code, developed by the secretive NSO Group, a notorious and controversial Israeli hacking and surveillance tools vendor, could be transmitted even if users did not answer their phones, and the calls often disappeared from call logs.

It is unclear how many apps were infected with the spyware trojan, which could for example, allow anyone to get access to John Podesta’s email password (and then blame say, Vladimir Putin for example) as WhatsApp is too early into its own investigations of the vulnerability to estimate how many phones were targeted using this method, although it is likely a substantial number. As late as Sunday, the FT reports that WhatsApp engineers were racing to close the loophole.

For those who thought that Alexa’s constant eavesdropping was bad, this is even worse: NSO’s flagship product is Pegasus, a program that can turn on a phone’s microphone and camera, trawl through emails and messages and collect location data. It effectively opens up one’s entire cellphone to the hacker, and to get “infected”, one just needs to receive an inbound phone call without ever answering it.

Many people probably heard of NSO for the first time in December 2018, when a New York Times story that claimed the company helped Saudi Arabia spy on the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October of last year.

NSO advertises its products to Middle Eastern and Western intelligence agencies, and says Pegasus is intended for governments to fight terrorism and crime. NSO was recently valued at $1bn in a leveraged buyout that involved the UK private equity fund Novalpina Capital

Since the application is Israeli, its hardly a surprise that the spies’ preferred targets were Middle Eastern: as the FT reports, in the past, human rights campaigners in the Middle East have received text messages over WhatsApp that contained links that would download Pegasus to their phones.

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said, with the government in question being that of Israel. “We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”

WhatsApp disclosed the issue to the US Department of Justice last week, according to a person familiar with the matter. A justice department spokesman declined to comment.Shalev Hulio, co-founder and CEO of NSO Group, speaks with correspondent Lesley Stahl

Of course, if instead of a “secretive Israeli” company, the offender was found to be – say – a fabricated Russian outfit, the deep state would ensure that we would now be on the verge of World War III. However, since it’s Israel…. well, turn on your TV and see how many TV stations discuss this grotesque spying incident which could affect virtually anyone.

NSO, of course, said it had carefully vetted customers and investigated any abuse. Asked about the WhatsApp attacks, NSO said it was investigating the issue.

“Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” the company said. “NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation, including this individual [the UK lawyer].”

Among others, the attack targeted a UK lawyer, who declined to be identified, who has helped a group of Mexican journalists and government critics and a Saudi dissident living in Canada, sue NSO in Israel, alleging that the company shares liability for any abuse of its software by clients.

“It’s upsetting but not surprising that my team has been targeted with the very technology that we are raising concerns about in our lawsuits,” said Alaa Mahajne, a Jerusalem-based lawyer who is handling lawsuits from the Mexican and Saudi citizens. “This desperate reaction to hamper our work and silence us, itself shows how urgent the lawsuits are, as we can see that the abuses are continuing.”

On Tuesday, NSO will also face a legal challenge to its ability to export its software, which is regulated by the Israeli ministry of defense.

It was unclear if the entity behind the actual espionage was NSO in conjunction with the Israeli government, or if Israel had sold the hacking application to one or more of its best clients, including Saudi Arabia.

“NSO Group sells its products to governments who are known for outrageous human rights abuses, giving them the tools to track activists and critics. The attack on Amnesty International was the final straw,” said Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty International, which identified an attempt to hack into the phone of one its researchers.

“The Israeli ministry of defense has ignored mounting evidence linking NSO Group to attacks on human rights defenders. As long as products like Pegasus are marketed without proper control and oversight, the rights and safety of Amnesty International’s staff and that of other activists, journalists and dissidents around the world is at risk.

For more on NSO, watch this 60 Minutes interview with the company’s CEO.

(Axios) Israel passed White House intelligence on possible Iran plot


Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

Behind the scenes: Information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf were raised two weeks ago in talks held at the White House between an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and a U.S. team led by Bolton, the Israeli officials told me.

  • The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage, but the officials said it was clear the threat was against a U.S. target in the Gulf or U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The bottom line: An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”

— Israeli official

(GUA) Jewish leaders demand explanation over Corbyn book foreword

(GUA) Before becoming Labour leader he called 1902 book containing antisemitic tropes ‘brilliant’

Jeremy Corbyn
 Jeremy Corbyn was defended by Rebecca Long-Bailey, who said he was praising wider political arguments. Photograph: Luke Dray/Getty Images

Jewish leaders have written to Jeremy Corbyn to express “grave concern” and demand an explanation after it emerged he wrote a glowing foreword for a century-old political tract that includes antisemitic tropes.

The book, Imperialism: A Study, written by John Atkinson Hobson in 1902, claimed European finance was controlled by “men of a single and peculiar race”. Corbyn described the book as “brilliant” and “very controversial”, the Times first reported.

He wrote the foreword when the book was reissued in 2011, four years before becoming Labour leader.

Hobson describes the financial system as controlled by people “united by the strongest bonds of organisation, always in closest and quickest touch with one another, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every state, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy of nations”.

In a strongly worded letter, the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed “grave concerns” about the emergence of the foreword.

It said an argument expounded in Hobson’s book, that journalism and banking were dominated by Jews, was “pure and unequivocal racism and there can be no apology for it”.

The letter, signed by the board’s president, Marie van der Zyl, went on to cite a series of other recent allegations of antisemitism against Corbyn and demanded a full explanation.

Earlier on Wednesday, the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, defended the Labour leader, insisting he was praising Hobson’s wider political arguments, not endorsing every aspect of the book.

“He was looking at the political thought within the whole text itself, not the comments that were antisemitic … Jeremy vigorously would not support antisemitic statements made by this writer or any writer,” she said.

“Jeremy was looking at the political thought … not comments that were antisemitic. Jeremy is not unlike other politicians who have quoted Hobson in speeches and written pieces about them.”

Labour MPs with concerns about Corbyn’s record seized on the existence of the foreword, which they regard as fresh evidence of the party leader not recognising and opposing antisemitism.

Wes Streeting, the MP for Ilford North, said Corbyn had “a responsibility to explain himself”, rather than leaving Long-Bailey to answer questions, and advised other shadow ministers to refuse to defend him.

Catherine McKinnell, who has persistently pressed for the party to change its disciplinary processes and tackle complaints of antisemitism more aggressively, responded to Long-Bailey’s comments by urging Labour to “stop excusing antisemitism”.

“Acknowledge it is a serious problem that goes right to the top, and deal with it,” she tweeted. “It is destroying our once proud anti-racist party”.

Ian Austin, who cited antisemitism claims as a reason for quitting the party in February to sit as an independent MP, said: “This is absolutely appalling. Decent people will be sickened to see him describing as ‘brilliant’ a book by someone who pushed deeply and clearly racist theories about Jewish people controlling banks, newspapers, governments and wars to further their financial interests.”

However, Tristram Hunt, another former Labour MP and Corbyn critic, urged caution, describing Hobson as “an important figure, worthy of study”, notwithstanding his “racist and ugly alignment of ‘Jewish finance’ with imperialism”.

Corbyn’s spokesman said that while the Labour leader absolutely condemned the antisemitism in the book, he did not believe it was wrong to write the foreword, saying the issue had been exaggerated by inaccurate reporting.

The book, the spokesman said, had been praised by other politicians but was “clearly a text of its time and its era”, adding that it also included “racially offensive phraseology” about other groups.

Imperialism: a look at the book behind the Corbyn furore

 Read more

“Jeremy’s foreword was talking about the broad ideas around imperialism and Hobson’s analysis, and how they applied to today,” he said, stressing that the piece in question was a foreword, not an introduction.

Asked if Corbyn should apologise given the worries expressed by the Jewish Labour group and others, the spokesman said some of the blame should be placed on the media.

“I would say that it’s not surprising given the way some of these things are reported,” he said. “It doesn’t just apply to this story, but quite a few others. It’s not surprising that people reading that think that Jeremy or other people in the Labour party are saying things that they’re clearly not.”

Asked if Corbyn stood by the foreword, the spokesman said he did, adding: “It was fine to write a foreword to Hobson’s Imperialism and to talk about the big issues it raised.”

Responding to the criticism himself in an interview for the Politics Joe website, the Labour leader said he agreed that the language used in Imperialism: A Study to describe minorities was “absolutely deplorable”. However, he argued that his foreword analysed the ideas about “the process which led to the first world war” – the subject of the book – and not the language used by the author.

(EUobserver) Spike in EU antisemitic attacks prompts alarm


Violent antisemitic incidents in Europe went up from 342 in 2017 to 387 last year, according to the European Jewish Congress (EJC). Numbers of incidents including harassment, vandalism, as well as physical assault went up by 74 percent in France and 70 percent in Germany. “Antisemitism has recently progressed to the point of calling into question the very continuation of Jewish life in Europe,” EJC head Moshe Kantor said.


(JPost) According to Ukrainian media, over $1.3 billion dollars allocated by the United States to strengthen Kiev’s defensive capabilities.

A UKRAINIAN military vehicle rushes to the front as fighting flares in Ukraine between separatists a

A UKRAINIAN military vehicle rushes to the front as fighting flares in Ukraine between separatists and the government.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel has been selling military equipment to Ukraine for over two decades, and with the election of Jewish comedian and novice politician Volodymyr Zelensky, there is a good chance to increase defense ties between the two countries.

Israel has maintained a neutral stance since the outbreak of the Donbass war with Russia in 2014, refraining many times from voting for Western-backed condemnations of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.Last Thursday, Ukrainian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko warned that a chance still remains of full-blown war breaking out between Ukraine and Russia.

“The peculiarity of the Russian-Ukrainian war is that within one hour it can turn into a full-scale conventional conflict involving land, naval, aviation components and special operations forces,” Muzhenko said in an interview with Ukraine’s Fakty i Kommentariinewspaper.

The conflict has killed more than 13,000 people (approximately 3,300 of them civilians) according to the UN Monitoring Mission on Human Rights, and has led Ukraine to refurbish their military with large contracts for new NATO-friendly military equipment.

According to Ukrainian media, over $1.3 billion has been allocated by the United States to strengthen Kiev’s defensive capabilities. US Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker said that Washington is considering the possibility of supplying more anti-tank missiles, as well as air defense and coastal defense systems to Kiev.

“They are losing soldiers every week defending their own country,” Volker was quoted by The Guardian as saying in September. “And so in that context it’s natural for Ukraine to build up its military, engage in self-defense, and it’s natural to seek assistance and is natural that other countries should help them. And of course they need lethal assistance because they’re being shot at.”

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak announced in March that 120 new types of military equipment had been recently introduced in the Ukrainian armed forces and that the military is working to design new reconnaissance systems, electronic warfare systems, new reconnaissance vehicles, and radar systems “to significantly increase their [Ukrainian Armed Forces] capabilities.”

And that possibly opens the door to new contracts with Israeli companies.

Israel’s Defense Ministry and companies like Elbit and Rafael would not divulge to The Jerusalem Post any information on arms exports, but defense ties with Kiev are certainly in place.

In January, Ukrainian media reported that a memorandum of cooperation was signed between Israeli defense giant Elbit Systems and Ukraine’s Ukroboronprom for the development of joint projects in the areas of communications, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for the ground and air forces, air rescue equipment, radar stations, equipment for port protection and modernization of armored vehicles.

Elbit Systems is part of a group investing in Ukraine’s defense establishment. Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis said in March that the company’s sales in Europe accounted for 22.6% of its 2017 sales, a 20% increase from the previous year, largely due to European countries realizing the need to rebuild their defense systems in the face of the growing Russian presence in both Syria and Ukraine.

And while millions of dollars in revenues from an increase in contracts is possible, military ties between the Israel and Ukraine are likely to remain under the table.

During the January visit of an official Ukrainian delegation, Defense Minister Poltorak said that Kiev was considering the possibility of training Ukrainian troops in Israel at the IMI Academy for Advanced Security & Anti-Terror Training.

“The possibility of training members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at that academy was considered during the meeting,” he was quoted by Ukrainian Press Service as saying at the time.

The academy, which specializes in training and projects in the fields of security and anti-terrorism, is a subsidiary of Israel Military Industries Ltd. and was recently bought by Elbit.

Israeli troops were also reportedly in Ukraine in October to train on the Russian S-300 missile defense system that was recently deployed to Syria. While Israel refused to comment on the matter, foreign reports said both Israel and the US had sent military delegations to Ukraine to train against the system.

Though the S-300 deployed to Syria remains in the hands of Russia, with which Israel has a deconfliction mechanism in place, it is only a matter of time before the system is handed over to the Assad regime and poses a real threat to Israeli jets.

While ties between Israel and Ukraine might remain largely hush-hush due to Israel’s fear of Russian wrath, considering the crises in Syria and Donbass, by exchanging experience fighting Russian-equipped forces, the two countries stand to gain much in ensuring their respective security.

(Times of Israel) Zelensky win makes Ukraine 1st country outside Israel with Jewish PM, president

(Times of Israel) Marvels one columnist: ‘Imagine, a pure-blooded Jew with the appearance of a Sholom Aleichem protagonist wins by a landslide in a country that glorifies Nazi criminals’

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

JTA — Following the victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine’s presidential elections, the country will become the only one in the world besides Israel whose president and prime minister are both Jewish.

When Zelensky is sworn in as president, his prime minister — at least for a while and possibly until the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime later this year — will be Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia.

To some of incumbent Petro Poroshenko’s critics, the landslide success of the vague campaign by the politically inexperienced Zelensky, a comedian, was not surprising in light of widespread resentment over the persistence of corruption under Poroshenko, who was elected in 2014 on a platform that vowed remedial action on exactly that front.

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More unusual to some, however, was how Zelensky’s appears to have won the elections so decisively in spite of how his Jewish ancestry – his mother, Rima, is Jewish and he has jokingly referred to this during the campaign — is well known in Ukraine.

After all, Russia and other critics claim Ukrainian society has a serious anti-Semitism problem and legacy.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman gestures as he speaks at a meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s supporters in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

“Imagine, a pure-blooded Jew with the appearance of a Sholom Aleichem protagonist wins by a landslide in a country where the glorification of Nazi criminals is enacted into law,” wrote Avigdor Eskin, a Russian-Israeli columnist, in an analysis published earlier this month by the Regnum news agency.

Eskin in column on Zelensky downplayed allegations of widespread anti-Semitism in Ukraine, attributing much of the attention to the problem in media and beyond to propaganda by Russia, which is involved in an armed conflict over territory with Ukraine.

But Eskin’s statement about Ukrainian laws glorifying Nazi criminals is not inaccurate, and Russia is not alone in criticizing Ukraine over this and other issues connected to anti-Semitism.

Last year, Israel’s government singled out Ukraine as a regional trouble spot in the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism.

“A striking exception in the trend of decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in Eastern Europe was Ukraine, where the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks was doubled from last year and surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined,” the report said. The authors of the report counted more than 130 reported anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine in 2017, they said.

Also last year, more than 50 US Congress members condemned Ukrainian legislation that they said “glorifies Nazi collaborators” and therefore goes even further than Poland’s controversial laws limiting what can be said about local complicity during the Holocaust.

A letter signed by the US lawmakers stated, “It’s particularly troubling that much of the Nazi glorification in Ukraine is government-supported.” It noted ceremonies, gestures and legislation venerating leaders of the UPA and OUN militias, who fought alongside Nazi Germany during World War II and whose troops participated in atrocities against Jews and other victims.

Poroshenko’s government greatly encouraged glorification of those troops and leaders as fighters for Ukrainian freedom who it insisted sided with Germany only in order to fight against the Russian-controlled Soviet Union.

Several cities across Ukraine named streets for the Nazi-collaborator Stepan Bandera, who prior to Poroshenko’s time in office was openly glorified only in the country’s west.

A statue of Stepan Bandera in Lviv, Ukraine, September 2014. (Courtesy Andrey Syasko/via JTA)

Meanwhile, in the western city of Lviv, nationalists became emboldened enough to celebrate with city authorities’ permission the anniversary of the 14th Galician division of the Waffen SS. The anniversary events featured men parading in Nazi SS uniforms on the street.

Such sights would have been unthinkable under Viktor Yanukovych, the corrupt president who was deposed in a 2013 revolution that ended with Poroshenko’s election. Careful to alienate neither ethnic Russians in Ukraine nor its powerful neighbor to the east, Yanukovych was less tolerant of this nationalist phenomenon.

On this subject, Zelensky has said only that he personally does not favor the veneration of people like Bandera, whom he described as “a hero to some Ukrainians.” It was a markedly reserved formulation compared to the unreserved endorsement of figures like Bandera by officials under Poroshenko.

Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists hold a torchlight procession across Kiev in honor of Stepan Bandera, a World War II anti-Soviet insurgent, on January 1, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Genya Savilov)

The presidential campaign itself has featured some anti-Semitism.

In some far-right circles, Zelensky’s work in a television stationed owned by the Jewish billionaire Igor Kolomoisky was proof of his belonging to a “Jewish cabal.” But it made Zelensky popular with other nationalists who appreciated Kolomoisky’s reputation as a fiery patriot.

Alexander Paliy, an influential political analyst supporting Poroshenko, last month stirred controversy when he wrote on Facebook that, despite his “respect” for Jews and some Russians, “The president of Ukraine should be Ukrainian and Christian, like the absolute majority of Ukrainians.”

Such rhetoric is shocking to many of Ukraine’s 300,000-odd Jews, whose ancestors suffered murderous anti-Semitism in Ukraine for centuries before, during and decades after the Holocaust.

The French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy also referenced Ukrainian Jew’s bloody history in an interview with Zelensky, the 41-year-old son of scientists who lived near major Soviet army bases in Ukraine, that he published earlier this month in the Le Point weekly.

“His Judaism. It’s extraordinary that the possible future president of the country of the Shoah by Bullets and Babi Yar is a self-affirmed Jew from a family of survivors from Kryvy Rih near Dnipro – the land of pogrom if ever there was one,” Levy wrote. “This postmodern kid, is he new proof that the virus of anti-Semitism has been contained” after the revolution, Levy added.

Not denying his Jewish ancestry, Zelensky declined to explore it at length in the interview, Levy wrote. On this subject, he replied with typical self-deprecating humor, telling Levy: “The fact that I am Jewish barely makes 20 in my long list of faults.”

Zelensky, whose mother, Rima, is Jewish, has ingratiated himself with the Ukrainian public with such jokes as the star of “Servant of the People” – a primetime television show where he portrays a teacher thrust by an unlikely chain of events to become Ukraine’s president. He announced his candidacy in January, becoming an instant favorite.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian actor and candidate reacts after debates between in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

This popularity has allowed Zelensky to both win on an unusually vague platform and distinguish himself from his professional politician rivals, with their proclivity to hyperbole and nationalist slogans.

For example, when a reporter asked him how he would deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelensky reverted to his comic roots, saying “I would speak to him at eye level.” It was a reference to him and Putin being at least three inches shorter than Poroshenko, a 6-footer.

Zelensky opaqueness means a high level of uncertainty, Dolinsky, the Jewish community leader, said.

“We will need to wait and see what kind of president Zelensky turns out to be,” said Dolinsky, who was an outspoken critic of some policies of the Poroshenko administration. “What is clear is that Poroshenko’s attempt to appeal to nationalism has failed. Ukrainians said they wanted change. And I am feeling optimistic.”

(DN) Acordo cinematográfico Portugal-Israel entra em vigor amanhã


O objetivo principal do acordo é “desenvolver laços culturais e tecnológicas entre Portugal e Israel” bem como “promover as indústrias cinematográficas e o crescimento económico dos setores ligados à atividade”.

O acordo de coprodução cinematográfica entre o governo português e israelita, acordado em 2016 por Augusto Santos Silva, ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, e Benjamin Netanyahu, na altura também ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros de Israel, vai entrar em vigor esta quarta-feira, dia 17 de abril.

O objetivo principal deste acordo, além de desenvolver a pr​​​​​​odução cinematográfica, é criar um “desenvolvimento dos laços culturais e tecnológicos entre Portugal e Israel”, segundo um comunicado da Embaixada de Israel em Portugal. O principal promotor deste acordo foi Raphael Gamzou, atual Embaixador de Israel em Portugal e ex-diretor-geral das Relações Cientificas e Culturais no Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros em Jerusalém. Gamzou defende que a história de ambos os povos tem muito pontos em comum e que este acordo pode fazer com que várias “histórias que ainda estão por contar” ganhem protagonismo no grande ecrã.

Outro dos objetivos da coprodução é promover as indústrias cinematográficas de ambos os países e o crescimento económico dos setores ligados à atividade. Neste momento, já estão a ser feitos alguns contactos entre ambas as indústrias cinematográficas com o propósito de criar e fortalecer futuras coproduções.

O Cinema City, com cerca de 50 salas espalhadas pelo país, é gerido pelo israelita Eyal Edery, com 43 anos, filho de Leon Edery, fundador do Cinema City e da produtora de filmes, a United King Films, que já produziu mais de 300 filmes em Israel. Conhecido por ser a maior operadora de cinema em Israel, exibe vários filmes israelitas nas salas portuguesas e promove, há mais de 11 anos, um festival cinematográfico intitulado os Dias do Cinema Israelita. Com o novo acordo entre Portugal e Israel, não só mais filmes israelitas chegarão a Portugal, como mais filmes portugueses chegarão a Israel.

O acordo permanece em vigor por um período de cinco anos e será automaticamente prorrogado por períodos adicionais de cinco anos.

(BBC) Israel election: Netanyahu set for record fifth term


Media captionNetanyahu hails his party’s election results

PM Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to secure a record fifth term after almost complete results from Israel’s election suggest a new right-wing coalition.

His Likud party is expected to finish with a similar number of seats as ex-military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance.

But Likud and right-wing allies are set to be the largest bloc with 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, local media said.

The 69-year-old premier is facing corruption allegations.

However, the election result means he could become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year, overtaking Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion.

Exit polls had predicted a tight race with no clear winner, prompting both Mr Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to claim victory on Tuesday night.

Israel election graphic

“It will be a right-wing government, but I will be prime minister for all,” Mr Netanyahu told cheering supporters.

“I’m very touched that the people of Israel gave me their vote of confidence for the fifth time, and an even bigger vote of confidence than previous elections.

“I intend to be the prime minister of all citizens of Israel. Right, left, Jews, non-Jews. All of Israel’s citizens.”

No party has ever won a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament and it has always had coalition governments.

Presentational grey line

‘Netanyahu’s most serious challenge yet’

By BBC Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman, Tel Aviv

Image captionEarly exit polls were positive for Mr Gantz

There were roars of celebration at the election night party for Benny Gantz as the first exit poll was released. His supporters believed Israel was on the brink of a new centre-ground government.

But as the votes were counted overnight, Benjamin Netanyahu’s success became clearer. The incumbent PM’s Likud party appears most likely to be able to form another coalition government with the help of right-wing nationalist and religious parties.

He said history had given the people of Israel another chance as his supporters, using his nickname, chanted: “Bibi, the King of Israel.”

With left-wing and Arab-Israeli parties suffering heavy losses, his win appears decisive, despite the most serious challenge yet to his decade in office.

Presentational grey line

How was the campaign fought?

Mr Netanyahu, 69, put forward tough messages on security ahead of the vote and it soon became one of the election’s key issues.

He also made a significant announcement in the final days of the campaign, suggesting a new government would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

In a separate controversy on Tuesday, Israeli Arab politicians condemned his Likud party for sending 1,200 observers equipped with hidden body cameras to polling stations in Arab communities.

The Arab alliance, Hadash-Taal, said it was an “illegal” action that sought to intimidate Arabs. Likud said it wanted to ensure only “valid votes” were cast.

Mr Netanyahu’s main challenger, Mr Gantz, is a retired lieutenant-general who formed the Blue and White in February, promising to unite a country that had “lost its way”.

The 59-year-old former chief of staff of the Israeli military rivalled Mr Netanyahu’s tough stance on security and promised cleaner politics.

Mr Gantz’s campaign platform referred to “separation” from the Palestinians but did not specifically mention them having an independent state. It also called for continued control over the Jordan Valley and retaining West Bank settlement blocs.

What allegations is Netanyahu facing?

At the end of February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed Mr Netanyahu that he intended to indict him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three cases, pending a final hearing.

Now that the election is over, the evidence in those cases is to be turned over to the lawyers of the various parties involved.

The prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage. Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and says he is a victim of a political “witch-hunt”.

A date for the final hearing, at which the prime minister and his lawyers would be able to argue against the allegations, has not yet been set. Mr Mandelblit has said the Supreme Court will determine whether Mr Netanyahu has to resign if he is charged.

There have been reports that Mr Netanyahu will attempt to persuade his potential coalition partners to pass legislation that would grant prime ministers immunity from prosecution while in office.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Likud and four other allied parties, who together will control 61 seats in the Knesset, have made it clear that they will not require Mr Netanyahu to resign if he is charged.

What does it mean for the peace process?

Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan which aims to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon.

However, ways to revive the moribund peace process were not a main subject of electoral debate. Many Israelis appear to see little hope in the longstanding international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”.

In the final days of the election campaign, Mr Netanyahu made a significant announcement suggesting a new government led by him would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Israel’s once-dominant Labour party, which sealed a breakthrough peace deal with the Palestinians in the 1990s, managed to win just six seats – its worst-ever performance.

The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, tweeted a downbeat view of the prospects for peace.

Twitter post by @ErakatSaeb: Dr.Saeb Erakat What the early results suggest is that Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo,they have said no to peace and yes to the occupation. The fact that  only 14 out of 120 elected members of the Israeli parliament support the two state solution on the 1967.

A two-state solution is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.

What comes next?

Under Israeli law, the Israeli president will consult political parties before designating a candidate deemed most able to form a government backed by a parliamentary majority. The process could take several weeks.

Mr Netanyahu has promised to speedily put together a coalition with his “natural partners”. Some Israeli analysts have predicted that this could produce a government that will accelerate nationalist and conservative policies pursued by Mr Netanyahu’s outgoing administration.

Why did Netanyahu prevail?

Despite pending indictments against the prime minister in three corruption cases and a strong challenge by a centre-right alliance featuring three former army generals, Mr Netanyahu was able to rally his right-wing base to deliver the votes he needed.

During the campaign, Mr Netanyahu warned that his opponents would set up a “leftist” government with the support of Israeli Arab parties that would allow the creation of a Palestinian state, which he said would pose a mortal threat to Israel.

He promoted his foreign policy credentials in the weeks before the elections, meeting US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and hosting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

To attract hawkish voters, Mr Netanyahu veered further to the right in promising to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and in a final election-day push he frantically warned that his opponents were poised to win if his supporters chose to stay at home.

(NYT) Why Israel Still Loves Netanyahu

(NYT) Yes, he has many faults. But on the issues that matter most, he’s a visionary leader.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with supporters on Tuesday night.CreditCreditThomas Coex/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — There are more than a few reasons to dislike Benjamin Netanyahu. He can be smug and vindictive. He can be ruthless when going up against political enemies. He is likely to be indicted on corruption charges related to three separate cases, which, if they are accurate, indicate that he is greedy, vain and manipulative.

And yet last night, this dislikable prime minister appears to have won his fifth — yes, fifth! — term in office. If he forms a government in the coming weeks, as he is expected to, Mr. Netanyahu will surpass Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion as the country’s longest serving prime minister. How is this possible?

To be fair, this was a close race. The main opposition party, Blue and White, is expected to get as many seats in the Knesset as Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party. The coalition that he forms will probably have little more than the minimum 61 seats behind it.

Given Mr. Netanyahu’s unsavory qualities, many people were intent on defeating him. Just a few months ahead of the election, Blue and White, a new centrist alliance led by three decorated generals and a former security minister, came together with little purpose other than to present an alternative to Mr. Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009. They campaigned fiercely — but civilly. At rallies, General Benny Gantz, the head of Blue and White, made it a habit to thank the prime minister for his service to the nation; this was a mirror image of Mr. Netanyahu’s and Likud’s name-calling and personal attacks. But civility and centrism weren’t enough to carry the day.

Mr. Netanyahu may be cynical but he doesn’t rig elections. He wins fairly, often against great odds, including, this time, the coming indictments against him and an understandable fatigue with his decade-old leadership, not to mention various other inter- and intraparty squabbles. But he seems to have succeeded again this time for the same reason he has dominated Israeli politics for most of the past 25 years: because when it comes to Israel’s national security, he is a leader with strategy and vision. And that is what many voters want.RelatedMore from Opinion on Israel’s electionOpinion | Hagai El-AdDemocracy, Israeli StyleApril 7, 2019Opinion | Roger CohenWill the Israeli ‘King’ Be Recrowned?April 7, 2019Opinion | Raja ShehadehWe Are Too Weak to Stop IsraelApril 4, 2019

In the mid-1990s, during his first term as prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu rejected the assumptions underlying the peace process with the Palestinians. At the time this was considered daringly right wing. Today, it is considered common sense in Israel, including by Mr. Netanyahu’s political rivals. Likewise, Mr. Netanyahu was one of the first politicians to recognize Iran as the main threat to Israel’s survival, and fought fiercely in international forums to get the world’s attention to this problem. Today, this view is also widely appreciated across the Israeli political spectrum.

The list goes on: In 2005, he warned that withdrawing Israeli troops from Gaza would end in disaster — and it did. He successfully resisted eight years of the Obama administration’s pressure to offer concessions to the Palestinians. He quickly forged an alliance with President Trump that has already proved to be of great benefit to Israel. In two years, Mr. Trump has moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and on Monday, designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

Blue and White tried to make this election a referendum on Mr. Netanyahu. Its campaign focused largely on the prime minister’s personal failings, the corruption accusations against him, and exhaustion with his leadership. But in Israel, security trumps all other issues. (A poll ahead of the election found voters rated security as their No. 1 concern.)

Blue and White thought that by placing former Israel Defense Force chiefs of staff at the top of the party list, it could counter Mr. Netanyahu’s image and experience as a defender of Israel, diplomatically and militarily. But the public still showed that it trusts the incumbent more.

Has Mr. Netanyahu ever been wrong when it comes to security? The truth is, many Israelis will find it hard to think of an example. And this goes not just for voters for the Likud party, or even the right-wing parties that are expected to join Likud in the next government, but even for Blue and White, which largely echoed Mr. Netanyahu’s positions on important foreign policy and national security questions.

Those Israelis who do want Mr. Netanyahu gone — and yes, there are many — want him gone because of his personality, his coarsening of Israeli political discourse, his pettiness and, maybe, his corruption. Those Israelis who want Mr. Netanyahu to stay — and the election makes clear that there are many — want him to stay despite those same characteristics. They can forgive the prime minister for often being a small man, because they appreciate him as a great leader.

(BBC) Israel’s election: Five things to know


A man walks with his dog between election campaign billboards of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and leaders of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz (2-R) and Yair Lapid (3-R) and Moshe Ya'alon (R), in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 3 April 2019

Israelis head to the polls on Tuesday for a general election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival.

Here are five things to know about the contest, and what to expect.

1. This is the closest fought election Israel has seen for years

Benjamin Netanyahu is running for his fifth term in office. If re-elected, he will overtake Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion in July as the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

However, Mr Netanyahu is facing both serious corruption charges, pending a final hearing with the attorney general, and his toughest competitor in years – Benny Gantz.

Mr Gantz, a former chief of staff for the Israeli military who is a newcomer to politics, can rival Mr Netanyahu on security – one of the election’s key issues – and promises cleaner politics.

A woman sorts ballot boxes at the Israel Central Election Committee Logistic Centre in Shoham (6 March 2019)
Image captionMore than 6.3 million Israelis are eligible to vote in their country’s 21st general election

His centrist Blue and White alliance – formed with two other former military chiefs and the former TV anchor-turned-politician Yair Lapid – was initially doing slightly better than Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party in opinion polls, although the situation has since reversed.

The close race is leading to an aggressive and often dirty election campaign with lots of smear attempts. Israeli voters tend to decide who to support on the basis of the candidates’ personalities, rather than their policies, and whether they consider them strong leaders.

2. The party leader with the most seats will not necessarily become prime minister

No single party in Israel has ever won a majority of seats in parliament; the country has always had coalition governments.

That means the prime minister is not always the person whose party wins the most votes, but the person who manages to bring together enough parties to control at least 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-R) and MPs take part in a Knesset(parliament) session in Jerusalem on 26 December 2108
Image captionThe party that wins the most seats in the Knesset may not be able to form a governing coalition

Some polls suggest that Mr Netanyahu is more likely to be able to form a coalition than Mr Gantz because of the prime minister’s close relationship with other right-wing parties and religious parties.

In a widely criticised move to lock down extra right-wing seats, Mr Netanyahu brokered a deal making it easier for candidates from an extreme-right wing party that many view as racist to enter parliament.

3. Plans for peace with the Palestinians have not featured prominently

Recent weeks have seen tensions flare between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, and US President Donald Trump is expected to publish his plan to solve Israel’s long-standing conflict with the Palestinians soon after the election.

However, ways to revive the moribund peace process have not been a main subject of electoral debate. The Israeli public sees little hope in the long-standing international formula for peace – the “two-state solution”.

A local photographer takes pictures as an Israeli border police member holds her back during the demolition of a Palestinian house whose owners said they were informed by the Israeli forces that they didn't obtain a construction license, in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on 2 April 2019.
Image captionThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects for peace have not been a key election issue

Prominent members of Mr Netanyahu’s current right-wing governing coalition openly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and want to annex much of the occupied West Bank.

Blue and White’s campaign platform refers to “separation” from the Palestinians but does not specifically mention them having a state.

It also supports a “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, although Palestinians claim the east of the city as their future capital.

Benny Gantz’s alliance also calls for continued control over the Jordan Valley and retaining West Bank Jewish settlement blocs. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.

Israel’s Labour Party, which sealed a breakthrough peace deal with the Palestinians in the 1990s, has lost favour with voters.

4. Demographics will play an important role

There are 6.3 million Israeli voters, and the social, ethnic and religious groups to which they belong can be a key factor in deciding what they do on election day.

Israel’s religious Haredi population is over a million-strong. Traditionally, ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and those of Eastern descent have taken advice from their rabbis and voted for dedicated parties.

However, more are now voting for mainstream parties, mostly those on the right. Among the key issues for them is ultra-Orthodox conscription in the military, which is due to come up again in the next parliament.

A mounted Israeli policeman disperses a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews during a demonstration against Israeli army conscription in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv on 1 November 2019
Image captionThe exemption from military service for ultra-Orthodox men has divided Israeli Jews

Israeli Arabs make up almost a fifth of the population, but surveys suggest that fewer than half of those eligible to vote plan to do so.

Turnout among Arabs was boosted in 2015, when four parties ran together under the Joint Arab List, to take 13 seats. But the list has broken up for this election.

5. A dark horse could emerge as kingmaker

The leader of the ultra-nationalist, libertarian Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, could emerge as a kingmaker in future coalition talks, with polls suggesting it could take at least four seats.

Mr Feiglin says he has no preference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz as prime minister.

A supporter of the leader of the far-right Zehut political party Moshe Feiglin smokes a fake inflatable marijuana joint during a meeting in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on 2 April 2019
Image captionLegalisation of cannabis for recreational use has become a hot topic in recent weeks

Mr Feiglin is well known for his calls to legalise cannabis but his party has an eclectic platform.

He has a hard-line position on the Palestinians and wants to encourage them to emigrate from the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

He also calls for a third Jewish temple to be built on the contested holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, which is the location of the al-Aqsa mosque.

(Reuters) Netanyahu uses icy relationship with Obama to try to win votes


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is using a second American president in his re-election campaign ads, but with a twist, featuring a famously frosty encounter with Barack Obama.FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Mount Herzl national cemetery during the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Menahem Kahana/Pool/File Photo

The right-wing prime minister put up billboards several weeks ago picturing a smiling President Donald Trump shaking his hand – highlighting warm ties marked by dramatic U.S. policy moves that Netanyahu has welcomed with delight.

A video Netanyahu posted on Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram portrayed his cold relationship with Trump’s predecessor to try to attract votes.

It shows a 2011 Oval Office meeting in which Netanyahu lectured a grim-looking Obama on how the Democrat’s vision of ways to achieve Middle East peace was unrealistic.

“In the face of all pressure, I will always protect our country,” Netanyahu wrote in Hebrew in a caption above the link to the video clip, credited to a 2016 U.S. PBS documentary, on his Facebook page.

At the meeting, Netanyahu insisted Israel would never pull back to its pre-1967 war borders — which would mean big concessions of occupied land — that Obama had said should be the basis for negotiations on creating a Palestinian state.

“It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen,” the Israeli leader said in the clip, as Obama, chin on hand, fixed him with an icy stare.

The White House encounter exposed a deep divide between Netanyahu and Obama, whose efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu, now in his fourth term and battling corruption allegations he denies, locked in a close race with centrist challenger Benny Gantz, a former armed forces chief. Voting is less than two weeks away.

In Washington on Monday, Netanyahu was at Trump’s side when the president signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981.

A popular figure in Israel, Trump had already broken with long-standing U.S. and international policies when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved the American embassy there from Tel Aviv last May.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, in Israeli hands since 1967, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

P.O. (GUA) Trump says US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

I can only say:
Well done President Trump!
The Golan Heights are vital to Israel security.
Before 52 years ago, when Israel conquered the area with enormous acts of heroism, under orders from the famous General Moshe Dayan, Israel used to be bombed almost everyday from these Heights.
It could not continue.

And i am of the opinion the Golan Heights should for ever be a part of Israel.
Full Stop.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(GUA) Donald Trump has announced that the US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, in a dramatic move likely to bolster Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes to win re-election, but which will also provoke international opposition.

Previous US administrations have treated Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, in line with UN security council resolutions. Trump declared his break with that policy, in a tweet on Thursday.

He said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

By defying a 52-year-old unanimously adopted UN resolution on “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”, Trump has also broken the postwar norm of refusing to recognise the forcible annexation of territory – which has underpinned western and international opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.

“The United States relies on these core principles regarding peaceful dispute resolution and rejecting acquisition of territory by force,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, wrote on Twitter. Wittes, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, added the move “yanks the rug out from under US policy opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as US views on other disputed territories”.

Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, quickly tweeted his gratitude for Trump’s gesture.

“At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the Israeli prime minister wrote. “Thank you President Trump!”

The Syrian state news agency issued a statement saying Golan Heights remained Arabian and Syrian regardless of Trump’s comments.

The announcement came as Netanyahu was hosting the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Jerusalem.

“President Trump has just made history,” Netanyahu said. “I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel. The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

Pompeo said: “President Trump tonight made the decision to recognise that hard-fought real estate, that important place is proper to be sovereign part of the state of Israel.”

He added: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought, the lives that they lost on that very ground, were worthy, meaningful and important for all time.”

The announcement marks a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu, less than three weeks before a close fought election, and four days before he is due to visit Washington.

Trump denied his announcement was intended to help Netanyahu hold on to office, even suggesting he had been unaware the election was imminent.

“I wouldn’t even know about that. I have no idea,” Trump told Fox News. He said he had been thinking about recognising the Israeli annexation “for a long time”.

“This is sovereignty, this is security, this is about regional security,” he said.

Administration officials had previously rebuffed Netanyahu’s pressure for recognition of Israel’s possession of the strategic border area, pointing out that Trump had already handed the Israeli leader a significant political gift by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Recognition of the Golan could pave the way for US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian occupied territories. In a recent state department report on human rights, the administration changed its description of the West Bank and Gaza from “occupied territories” to “Israeli-controlled territories”.

Robert Malley, a former Middle East adviser to Barack Obama and now head of the International Crisis Group, said: “This decision is intensely political – timed to boost Netanyahu’s electoral chances; gratuitous – it will not alter in any way Israel’s control of the Golan Heights; in disregard of international law; and an ominous step at a time when voices in Israel calling for the annexation of the West Bank are growing louder.”

He added: “It is of a piece with the administration’s one-sided Mideast policy and confirms that its goal is not Arab-Israeli peace but a fundamental redrawing of the parameters that have governed its pursuit.”

Israel advanced into the Golan Heights gradually in the years following the 1948 war Arab-Israeli war, and occupied it entirely in the 1967 war. That year, UN security council resolution 242 stressed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security”.

A further resolution, supported by the Reagan administration in 1981, rejected as “null and void” a move to put the area under direct Israeli jurisdiction.

Over the decades there have been a string of abortive attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the fate of the Golan Heights – most recently in 2010 when the Obama administration and Netanyahu engaged in secret talks with the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, on a peace treaty involving Israeli withdrawal.

But that effort foundered with the spread of the Arab Spring revolt to Syria, and Assad’s decision to crush the rebellion by massacring protesters in 2011.

Frederic Hof, a former senior state department official involved in those negotiations, told the Guardian on Thursday that annexation “would be an entirely gratuitous gesture with potential diplomatic downsides for Israel and for the security of Israelis”.

Hof said: “It will be welcomed by Israel’s bitterest enemies – Iran and Hezbollah – who would see annexation as additional justification for terror operations. It would enable Syria’s Assad regime to change the subject from its war crimes and crimes against humanity to Israel’s formal acquisition of territory in violation of UN security council resolution 242. It would do nothing whatsoever positive for Israel’s security.”

(OBS) O ódio a Israel é uma estupidez perigosa – Rui Ramos


Desde que as geringonças tornaram os esquerdistas respeitáveis, o seu ódio a Israel também se tem feito respeitável, como se vê no caso da Eurovisão. Convém dizer que é uma estupidez perigosa.

Parece que Roger Waters, nos intervalos da sua campanha a favor da ditadura chavista na Venezuela, tem andado a escrever aos cantores da Eurovisão para boicotarem o festival em Israel. Já o ano passado tinha havido um movimento para dissuadir o voto na canção israelita, sem muita eficácia: Israel ganhou. As pessoas ainda não vivem todas na cabeça do ex-Pink Floyd. Mas a conjugação entre o amor à ditadura venezuelana e o ódio a Israel não é uma excentricidade de Waters. Já a propaganda soviética tinha feito do “anti-sionismo” um elemento básico do credo do “homem de esquerda”. A ditadura venezuelana é aliada de Cuba, Israel é aliado dos EUA: para um bom esquerdista, não importa saber mais nada. Desde que as geringonças tornaram os esquerdistas respeitáveis, o seu ódio a Israel também se tem feito respeitável, como se vê pelas assinaturas para o boicote da Eurovisão. Convém dizer que é uma estupidez perigosa.

Dir-me-ão: há os palestinianos. Falemos então dos palestinianos. Sim, os árabes da Palestina nunca tiveram um Estado. Israel, porém, não tem sido o único problema a esse respeito. Entre 1948 e 1967, enquanto controlaram a Cisjordânia e Gaza, nunca o Egipto ou a Jordânia deixarem fundar o Estado árabe da Palestina. Interessou-lhes mais usar esses territórios e as suas populações para atacar Israel. Por isso, com a colaboração das Nações Unidas, mantiveram os árabes palestinianos em campos de refugiados, e impediram que fossem assimilados nas outras sociedades do Médio Oriente, como os judeus expulsos dos países árabes foram assimilados em Israel. Sempre que Israel, nos últimos anos, retirou de territórios ocupados – da Faixa de Gaza, por exemplo – logo esses territórios se tornaram base, não de um Estado palestiniano, mas de jihad contra Israel. O Estado palestiniano não é inviabilizado apenas pela ocupação israelita da Cisjordânia, mas pelas organizações terroristas que mantêm os árabes palestinianos reféns da campanha, iniciada pelo nacionalismo árabe e depois assumida pelo fundamentalismo islâmico, para destruir Israel. Devemos lamentar a política de colonatos israelitas, mas não devemos ignorar um direito de defesa que, num país que não chega a ter, em certos pontos, mais de 15 quilómetros de largura, tem passado infelizmente pela ocupação de território. A existência do Estado árabe da Palestina depende, como dependeu sempre, do reconhecimento do direito de Israel a existir como o Estado judeu da Palestina, segundo a resolução das Nações Unidas de 29 de Novembro de 1947 (que o Hamas, no poder em Gaza, embora por entre alguma confusão calculada, fundamentalmente recusa).

Nada disto, como é óbvio, é minimamente relevante para os inimigos de Israel. Para esses, o que importa é fazer de Israel a África do Sul do século XXI. Há quem diga que o problema é apenas as “políticas” de Israel. Mas como Israel é o Estado judeu do Médio Oriente, o “anti-sionismo” de tipo soviético tem sido a grande via para o restabelecimento do anti-semitismo, que, à conta da raiva contra Israel, infectou os partidos de esquerda como os Trabalhistas no Reino Unido e os Democratas nos Estados Unidos, conforme a esquerda radical neles ganhou influência. E isto, quando, através da influência do islamismo radical entre as comunidades imigrantes, a cultura de anti-judaísmo desinibido do Médio Oriente ameaça instalar-se no Ocidente.

Ora, o repúdio consensual do anti-semitismo tinha sido, desde 1945, a maior de todas as barreiras contra as extrema-direitas, incapazes de se desligarem de uma aversão que, nos anos 20 e 30, tinha sido a base popular do seu racismo e das suas teorias da conspiração. A esquerda radical diz-se hoje muito ansiosa com um eventual retorno desse tipo de extrema-direita. Deplora até todos os debates sobre temas que acha exclusivos do “populismo” (a imigração descontrolada, por exemplo). No entanto, não parece preocupada em reabrir a porta ao anti-semitismo através do ódio a Israel. Às vezes, é difícil distinguir entre o facciosismo e a estupidez.

(DN) Nova Zelândia/Ataque: Embaixador israelita em Portugal solidariza-se com comunidade islâmica


O embaixador de Israel em Portugal condenou hoje o atentado contra duas mesquitas na Nova Zelândia, que causou 49 mortos, e exprimiu “solidariedade na dor” numa carta enviada ao presidente da Comunidade Islâmica de Lisboa.

“Foi com choque e repugnância que tomei conhecimento do ataque insano a crentes muçulmanos”, declara Raphael Gamzou na carta dirigida a Abdool Karim Vakil, classificando o ataque de “crime de natureza claramente islamofóbica”.

“Só sociedades unidas por indivíduos de paz e tolerância para com todas as religiões, fundeadas em princípios profundamente humanistas (…) poderão derrotar a barbárie”, defende o embaixador israelita, que pede a Abdool Karim Vakil que transmita à comunidade islâmica portuguesa a sua solidariedade.

Pelo menos 49 pessoas morreram e 48 ficaram feridas hoje no ataque a duas mesquitas em Chirstchurch, na Nova Zelândia, tendo sido já detidos quatro suspeitos, três homens e uma mulher.

Um homem que se identificou como Brenton Tarrant, de 28 anos, nascido na Austrália, reivindicou a responsabilidade pelos disparos e transmitiu em direto na Internet o momento do ataque.

Christchurch é a maior cidade da Ilha Sul da Nova Zelândia e a terceira maior cidade do país com cerca de 376.700 habitantes.