NETANYAHU SAYS STRUGGLE BETWEEN MODERNITY AND RADICAL ISLAM THE ROOT OF WORLD CONFLICT
Describing his relationship with President Barack Obama in New York as “very good, very friendly, very real and very honest,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the differences between the two leaders over the past eight years “were not based on personal animosity.” Netanyahu said, “I don’t think any hostility exists between us. There is greater mutual admiration than people think. The best evidence that “all the predictions on the part of self-appointed experts” about soured relations between the White House and Jerusalem have been wrong, Netanyahu said, lies in the $38 billion military-aid package signed earlier this month between the US and Israel. This, he added, shows that the bond is as strong and bipartisan as ever.
Where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, and rumours that Obama might take advantage of his lame-duck period after the November 8 US presidential election to make moves detrimental to the Jewish state, Netanyahu said, “In a recent address I quoted Obama’s very decisive statement that the path to peace is not through resolutions from international bodies.” Netanyahu said. “During his entire tenure as president, the only time he exercised his veto was on an anti-Israel Security Council resolution in 2011. So I can only hope that the American administration sticks to what has been its consistent policy over the years.” When asked how he would attempt to influence any of the vast array of possible negative scenarios floating around this issue, Netanyahu answered simply, “In various ways.”
Pressed about his viewpoint that settlements do not constitute an obstacle to peace, while key players in the West still see them as such, Netanyahu replied: “It takes time for truth to come to light. It is not true to say that settlements are the root of the conflict and prevent the achieving of an agreement. What prevents an agreement is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people within any borders. That’s the truth. After all, they had nearly 50 years-from 1920-1967-during which there were no settlements, yet attacks on us continued throughout the whole period. Why? When we withdrew from Gaza, they continued firing thousands of missiles at us. Why?
If we withdraw to the ’67 borders without their relinquishing the demand for the ‘right of return’ of all refugees and without recognizing the right of the Jewish nation-state to exist, this will continue. That is the root of the conflict. “How can the entire world keep repeating this nonsense? It is a clear fundamental mistake with contemporary historical evidence… How can they perpetuate the nonsense that the root of the conflict in the Middle East is the Palestinian problem? …Was the guy that immolated himself in Tunisia and sparked the Arab Spring thinking about the Palestinian problem? Of course not. Did Libya fall apart because of the Palestinian problem? Yemen? Iraq? Syria? Of course not.
These conflicts stem from the enormous struggle going on in the Arab world between forces of tomorrow and yesterday, between modernity and radical Islam. That is the root of the real conflict that is rocking the entire world.” Netanyahu was asked how it is that he speaks so much about the Internet and Israeli innovation, when he doesn’t even have a cell phone. How does he manage to follow what’s going on in cyberspace? “I am greatly exposed to it, but do not expose myself,” he said. “I follow what’s going on; I read a lot and speak to leaders in the field around the world” Then the interviewer asked Netanyahu about his stance on women. “Do you define yourself as a feminist?” she asked.
“The answer is yes, if what you mean by that is that women have equal abilities, and should have the same opportunities as men,” he said, going on to reiterate what he had pointed out in his UN speech about the “absurdity” of the declaration in March by the Commission on the Status of Women singling out Israel for condemnation on this score, “while women are being murdered, raped and enslaved the world over by all kinds of tyrannies.” This is not to say that there isn’t “room for improvement,” he added, moving on to the subject of his recent bolstering of ties with African countries. “My vision is to break the automatic anti-Israel majority at the UN.
At a pre-General Assembly meeting, one African leader asked me, ‘How do you create the miracle that is the state of Israel? What is in your DNA?’ It is a question I wasn’t prepared for. I told him that our DNA is like an ancient tree whose branches reach to the sky, because of the curiosity that is engraved in our national culture. There are both the roots of the tree, planted deep in our national soil, in our land, and the combination of heritage and innovation, which is incredibly powerful. Africa recognizes this, so we ought to recognize it as well and bless it.” Netanyahu concluded his interview by wishing the citizens of Israel, “security, success and who knows? maybe even peace.”
ARSONISTS STARTED FIRES IN ISRAEL AS A NEW WAVE OF TERRORISM
Firefighters have extinguished blazes that ravaged Israel and the occupied West Bank for five days and forced tens of thousands to flee, authorities said, blaming arsonists for some outbreaks. There were no deaths but 122 people were treated for injuries, mainly smoke inhalation, medical officials said. Around 700 homes were damaged or destroyed as the flames fed by high winds ripped through thousands of hectares. Firefighting planes from a list of countries flew low over the hills of the occupied West Bank and Israel, dropping tonnes of water and retardants. At one point, flames towered over an area near Jerusalem, and residents surveyed charred homes and businesses.
“There are no active sites left,” fire and rescue service spokesman Yoram Levy said. “It’s pretty calm now. We have no new activity.” Levy said firefighters dealt with about 2,000 fires in Israel and the West Bank, 20 of them major. Israeli authorities suspect some were set deliberately and linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said 110 fires in the West Bank were so far determined to be arson, without elaborating. Speaking at the Israeli settlement of Halamish, where dozens of homes were damaged, he said Israel should respond to any arson by building more settlement homes. Police have arrested 23 people suspected of setting fires and interrogated others.
However, Palestinian authorities also joined in the massive international firefighting effort and have pointed to damage to their crops and land. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a phone call to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to thank him for those efforts. Levy noted forces were still “on high alert” because of dry conditions and high winds. Highlighting the continued risk, a forest fire was recently extinguished near Kiryat Malakhi in southern Israel. Israeli firefighters have been battling wildfires throughout the country which also hit major city Haifa, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate their homes. Israel’s cabinet met in Haifa during the crisis in an act of solidarity, with Netanyahu saying he hoped to form a multi-national firefighting force in the future.
“We will help you rebuild your homes and your lives forthwith and this is the main goal of this special cabinet meeting in Haifa,” he said. Around 1,000 residents of Halamish near Ramallah in the West Bank had to flee. Eighteen homes there were destroyed and another 35 had various degrees of damage, a spokeswoman for settlements in the area said. Residents suspected the fire was started deliberately and authorities were investigating. “I got my family out and moved them a few hundred metres down the road, and I came back to knock on my neighbours’ doors,” Doron Cohen, 50, said. The smell of smoke was heavy in the air, the debris of burnt homes blackening the ground.
When he returned, flames were shooting high, said Cohen, whose house was badly damaged. He alleged arson was the cause, calling it “an act of war”.Firefighting planes from Israel and countries including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Canada battled the outbreaks. A US Supertanker, considered the largest firefighting aircraft in the world, also joined in the operation. Palestinian authorities sent 41 firefighters and eight trucks to help in Haifa and the Jerusalem area. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority said tens of thousands of hectares of forest and shrub land had burned. Fires in Palestinian areas of the West Bank have also been extinguished, with the Ramallah-based Civil Defence saying it had dealt with 143 blazes which burned crops and trees but caused no casualties.
Israel’s right-wing politicians have spoken out harshly in response to suspicions of arson. At Halamish, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that “the person who threw the firebomb, which was found, that lit the fire here tried to murder the residents of an entire settlement, no less”. Dozens of olive trees near the Palestinian village of Deir Nizam near Halamish were also destroyed, and five Palestinian villages were without electricity overnight, residents said.
RABBIS IN ISRAEL URGE TRUMP AND PUTIN TO HELP REBUILD THE TEMPLE
A group of Israeli rabbis see in US President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin echoes of King Cyrus of Persia, who 2,500 years ago assisted the Jewish people in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Prof. Rabbi Hillel Weiss, a spokesman for the Sanhedrin, a modern effort to revive the ancient Jewish religious court, noted “The political conditions today, in which the two most important national leaders in the world support the Jewish right to Jerusalem as their spiritual inheritance, is historically unprecedented.” The Sanhedrin sent letters to both Trump and Putin urging them to work together to fulfil a project that will benefit all mankind-the rebuilding of the Holy Temple atop Jerusalem’s hotly contested Temple Mount. Both leaders have expressed support for Jewish claims to Jerusalem, though Trump has certainly been the more vocal of the two. Israel is “poised to rebuild the Temple,” Weiss insisted.