So, Israel and Gaza are at it again. To an outsider, it seems simply tragic. But it is more than just an aerial bombardment. So let me try to dummy-down the complexities, as an Israeli who did not vote for the PM in any of the recent elections.

In terms of the conduct of the war – yes, it is a war – I approve of everything I have seen so far from the government. Why? Putting aside the ‘who started it game’, no country has the right to hurl thousands of rockets indiscriminately, at anyone else. Israel must defend itself.

Disagree? Consider you have a child at school. Rightly or otherwise, that child always takes the spot of another kid in the playground, which causes distress. Would you agree to allow that child beat up yours? Unlikely.

That said, there is no doubt in my mind that the events leading up to the latest fighting were totally misunderstood by the PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his cronies in the Likud party. (Likud is the dominant faction in a very fractious temporary government).

To start with, it turns out that the Hamas social media network has been calling for riots for months to take place on Jerusalem Day. The policing of the hot points of the Holy City was shown to be naïve at crucial moments. Rushing into mosques to arrest trouble makers showed old lessons had been forgotten. And the management of the Sheik Jarrah eviction was a shambles.

All of the above are the responsibility of the PM or a close ally. They gave Hamas the excuses they needed. Israel was caught off-guard.

However, let us keep some perspective, the rockets from Gaza are laced with anti-Semitism and terror. They frighten, destroy, maim and even kill. But, they will not destroy the country. Just today, an Israeli e-commerce company has completed a NASDAQ valuation of over US$3.0 billion.

What disgusts me is what happened over the past two nights. In cities known for where Jew and non-Jew literally live side-by-side, vigilantes of both religions took control of the streets. There are stories of of repulsive violence and vandalism from both corners of the ring.

Social media was full of warnings. Police presence was inadequate. Political leadership was noticeable through its deafening silence. I was shocked dismayed and embarrassed.

Yes, of the few exceptions to this was a spontaneous interview with the highly respected Reuven Rivlin, the outgoing President of Israel. About 90 minutes later, the PM also issued a brief statement.

Maybe I missed his wise words, but I have yet to hear from the Minister of Police, Mr Amir Ohana. Known for his close ties to the Prime Minister, he has to accept that under his watch, and I repeat, his police force lost control of the streets in at least four cities!

And that comes immediately after the tragedy 2 weeks ago, when 45 people were crushed to death in a religious ceremony in the north of the country. It would seem that only at the highest of levels did the police approve the security arrangements for the event. To date, no public inquiry has been set up. A disgrace!

The difference between the issue of the rockets and the riots is that the former is a threat to life and property, but it is scenario with boundaries (for now). The latter is vast in depth and represents a direct threat to the core values of a country, based on democracy and mutual respect.

Who gave the PM the right to put this at risk?

For a decade, Netanyahu has kept power by mocking minority groups and dividing society. For the past two years, he has fought his legal battles, maintaining that he run the country at the same time. He has asked for a mandate from the public four times in 24 months, and thankfully has not received it.

For the sake of the future of this country and its values, the man must go, now!

Ostensibly, the news from Israel this week has been depressing.

  • About 20 more citizens died from corona.
  • The government’s economic policy for saving the economy looks amateurish, if I have to be complimentary.
  • The Prime Minister is seeking new elections, when the country needs leadership not political pranks.
  • Demonstrations and violent counter -demos in response to the actions of the Prime Minister.

The list goes on. It is no wonder that I cancelled the weekend newspapers months ago. It is poignant to note that yesterday was the day that Jews around the world recalled the destruction of the first two Temples. One of the background causes is considered senseless hatred, when communities turn in one each other. Ironic?

This morning, my face brightened up. Just after completing the 6.00am news on the Israeli Army Radio station – it is a 70 year old anomaly that this semi-commercial media outlet is still ostensibly run by the military – the announcer wished the Arab and Druze community “Eid al Hada Mubarak”.

Today is Eid-Al-Hada, the Feast of Sacrifice, for Moslems.

So there is hope! But is this a one-off incident? I invite to open this link https://www.facebook.com/19459912688/videos/750021899147879/

It is amazing how many wonderful things take place in this wonderful Holy Land between different religions, but is so rarely reported! When I look around at these and other similar stories, I note that none involve the government. People are doing it by themselves, for themselves.

It’s now about 4.00pm. One of the main TV stations has a special on how citizens can donate to charities, swamped with extra appeals in this time of need. During the chit-chat, there is a ticker at the bottom of the screen, publicising positions available.

Some cheer at last. Have a good weekend!

For decades, Arabs boycotted Israel, at least on paper. They encouraged companies like Pepsi or Asian car manufacturers to do the same.

And today? Well, I challenge you to name me one large automobile outfit that is not present in Israel with an r&d centre. Did you know that participation requests were received from 22 Arab countries to attend the Our Crowd Investment Summit in Jerusalem two weeks ago?

Why continue to ask for a boycott? On behalf of the Palestinians or the Israeli Arabs? Have a look at these news items from this month.

Start off with J.P. Morgan, which is beginning to expand its presence in the Holy Land on a very prominent scale. Their head of tech in Israel, Dr. Yoav Intrator, observed that:

……we have set a target of increasing the diversity of the human element in the center’s work teams. We have already begun taking steps to achieve this target, both by including women in our teams and by including Arab staff, mainly Israeli Arabs. I think that the lack of diversity in this area is one of the main problems in the Israeli economy, and there is potential for redressing the situation. For example, there is currently a high proportion of Arab women among engineering and computer science students at universities in Israel.

Similarly, Bank Hapoalim is heavily involved in the development of the Arab incubator in Nazareth.

However, most striking for me is the news that “Israel and the Palestinian Authority appeared to have come to an agreement to end a major trade dispute in which both sides placed sweeping restrictions on some of each other’s goods.”

It appears that:

Palestinians exported around $100 million in agricultural products in 2018, including dates and olive oil. About half went to Israel while the rest was sent to other countries, according Abu Laban. In contrast, Palestinians imported approximately $300 million in agricultural goods from Israel in 2018.

Imagine how that can figure can grow. And we all know that trade usually improves bilateral relations between sides. Why boycott in the first place?

And why continue to advocate for a boycott when the people on the ground – those involved – clearly do not advocate for it?

Today is 25th December 2019. It is Christmas. In Israel, this special Christian holiday has become politicised over the years. President Abbas is always seen attending a service in Bethlehem. The PR team at the City Hall in Jerusalem ensure that all the press knows how many free Xmas trees have been handed out.

To summarise one wag on Facebook today, Jesus could not have been a Palestinian, because the term was only coined 200 years after he died.

Israeli spokespersons have pointed out for a few years now that And please note that the largest section of those numbers are affiliated with the churches of East Europe.

The British-born journalist, Matthew Kalman, has cited numbers from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

There are 177,000 Christians living in Israel at Christmas 2019, 2% of the population. Their number grew by 1.5% in 2018, compared to 2% the previous year. Among the 855 Israeli Christian couples that married in 2017, the average age of the groom was 30.1 years old, while the average age of the bride was 26.0. The average number of children aged under 17 in Christian families is 1.87, compared to 2.37 for Jewish families and 2.77 for Muslim families.

As for me, I am spending the season in Australia. I have been wished Happy Hanukah by Christians, and I have wished so many others Happy Christmas. So, as they say here down-under, I wish all my readers “happy holidays”.

Since its establishment and due to the country’s PR system, Israeli governments have always been coalitions. The previous general election in Israel this April did almost produce a result, that could enable the PM to cobble together a team.

Unfortunately for the PM, Bibi Netanyahu was caught off-guard by a slick move from a former close ally, Avigdor Lieberman. Thus, rather than returning the mandate to the president – and thus risking the hurrying up of the criminal procedures mounting against him – Netanyahu called another general election.

There are about 6.4 million people allowed to vote. 31 parties are standing, of which about 15 have a realistic chance of sending representatives to the Kenesset. The participation rate was 67.8% last time. Another 1.8% were disallowed and a further 370,000 votes ended up with parties who never made it across the line.

Netanyahu wants to set up a right wing government, supported by ultra-orthodox religious partners, some of whom want to create a state based on religion. In the outgoing government, five ministers are facing various criminal procedures, including the Prime Minister himself. Most could see themselves back in power tomorrow night.

Clearly, this does not inspire confidence. Nor do the words of Yair Netanyahu, Bibi’s son and an active team member of his re-election campaign. He accused a different former PM of murdering Holocaust survivors, a statement that Bibi did not condemn.

I could write about how operations against Hamas and Hizbollah seem to be declared openly in the press, almost as an electoral statement. I have repeatedly voiced my concerns of the mismanagement (or the non-supervision) of the economy. The price of housing, a flagship policy from two years ago, has started to climb – 2.5% in the first half of 2019. All round, something seems amiss.

What symbolises for me the rule of Netanyahu is his appearance at an election rally in Ashdod about a week ago. Unusually, the event was publicised in advance and then broadcast live on Facebook. During his speech, missiles were fired from Gaza. Bibi was rushed off the stage to safety. The crowd had to fend for themselves.

Opposition politicians claimed that they would not have left the area. I am not so sure. What is of interest to me is why Bibi made sure that the world knew where he was speaking and when. It seems that he was so anxious for others to hear him talk about his successes and promises that he ignored the safety of the lives of his faithful audience!

Bibi ignored their safety. In the same way, he regularly insults the Arab community. And before the last election, he launched a vicious verbal attack on a female TV personality who had criticised him. The list goes on.

Who will win? Few are rash enough to predict. However, I do not feel that Israel deserves or needs another four years of Bibi Netanyahu’s very personal and individual form of Zionism, even if it does suit his own specific needs.

A few days ago, Benny Begin, son of Menachem Begin, a hero form the days when the state was set up and latter founder of the Likud, Bibi’s party, categorically called on the electorate not to vote for Bibi. I too cannot see a good positive reason to vote for that man.

 

 

UNRWA was set up in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees. Today, it has an annual budget of around one billion dollars. And, special programmes or campaigns can see similar additional amounts raised from donor countries, via their taxpayers.

UNRWA is a nebulous body. It uses the UN initials, but does not seem to come under UN auspices or jurisdiction. Last year, President Trump suspended American funding and Washington was the largest donor. In recent months, four other countries have followed suit. Even New Zealand, no friend of the Israeli government, is withholding support.

UNRWA’s history has been unusual. It is nearly 15 years ago, when one commentator observed that:

Despite over 50 years of experience and employing around 25,000 local Palestinians, UNRWA simply does not do its job effectively. A recent World Bank report on the Palestinian territories noted that “55% of those who receive emergency assistance are not needy… 32% of the needy do not receive emergency assistance.” If UNRWA’s money does not help solve Palestinian poverty, then who are the true beneficiaries of its lavish funds?……..

Most Palestinians in Jordan have resolved their economic issues without UNRWA. The 1997 report from the Norwegian Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies compared the situation of the 13% of Palestinian Arabs in the Hashemite Kingdom who were being catered to by UNRWA to the remaining 87%. It concluded that the Palestinian Arabs cared for by UNRWA continued to live in destitution, while the others maintained a similar economic level to their fellow non-Palestinian Jordanian citizens.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has invested much resources into the Palestinian issue. That said, it has just published a report, which concludes: –

Today, 25 August 2019, marks the two-year anniversary of the start of the largest ever stream of refugees out of Myanmar….. Since 25 August 2017, around 740,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh. More than 630,000 are living in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp.

I am prepared to bet that these wretched people do not receive even 50% per capita of what the Palestinians do. And what does reach them is carefully accounted for.

Meanwhile, the UN is allowing a Palestinian oligarchy to support itself, at the expense of unknown taxpayers and to the detriment of other needy causes. What conclusions would you draw?

Postscript: I just checked the UNRWA website. I could not find budget figures for post 2017.

One of the core arguments of the British “Leave Europe Campaign” is that the EU is one big amorphous bureaucracy. For example, accountability and transparency are words that rarely find their way into the diplomatic nous. Nowhere has this been more true than the issue of paying out money to the Palestinians.

Back in the early 1980s, the EU took a deliberate decision to match the USA aid for Israel (and Egypt). The Palestinians needed support. Within two decades, the World Bank had declared that the Palestinians were receiving more aid per capita than any other target population, including Tsunami victims.

Not only was much of this cash was coming from generous EU taxpayers. Analyses of the Palestinian Authority’s budget had revealed that the PA was failing to raise taxes by any significant amount. And what did enter the coffers of the Treasury in Ramalalh was often disbursed to the families of those imprisoned in Israel on terror charges, to the security forces fighting Israel, or simply to the families of the leading leaders of the PA and Hamas.

Nothing new there?

In 2016, the British public informed Brussels what it thought of its policies. Somewhere in that message was the whole theme of vast sums disappearing into black holes to fund the favourite political campaigns of the few. And this included the politically correct issue of helping the Palestinians. For example:

The EU is the largest contributor to UNRWA. Together with the EU Member States, the EU’s contribution for 2016, 2017 and 2018 amounted to €1.2 billion……EU support to the Palestinians covers a wide range of areas, including humanitarian assistance, capacity building, democratic governance and socio-economic development. In 2018, it amounted to a total of nearly €350 million. The funding is framed by the “European Joint Strategy in Support of Palestine 2017-2020” agreed by the EU Institutions, 22 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland.

Add in the money for support to various NGOs. Then season that off with contributions by individual governments for pet projects. That €1.2 billion has easily doubled!

For years, pro-Israel pressure groups screamed. One of the initial campaigners was Arnold Roth, whose daughter was murdered by a Palestinian called Tamimi, whose family find support in the actions of the EU. The Palestinians do deserve a better life, but make sure that you now where the money is going. As for UNRWA, who is supervising this amorphous multi billion body, employing 30,000 people and which has yet to resettle even one Palestinian in over seven decades?

Last week, by some ironic coincidence, the extent of the gross misuse of funds for the Palestinians leaked out in two separate news items.

First, The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has ordered the Department for International Development (DFID) to disclose audit reports of accounts into which British grant money was transferred and allegedly used to pay salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

Why? It has emerged that:

a) In the period 2008 to 2015, Britain gave grant aid to the PA’s Central Treasury totaling £430.5 million (NIS 1.85 m.), via the World Bank. The aid was untied and not earmarked for a specific project.…..
b) PA pays more than 8% of its total budget through its Central Treasury to fund salaries for convicted terrorists, which serve to reward and encourage terrorism. As such, it is possible that some of the funds provided by the UK were used to pay these salaries.

Ooops!

Awkward piece of news no’ 2 is that it leaked out that UNRWA has not just failed to deliver on its remit. It has been cited for corruption, nepotism and sexual abuse. At least for now, Switzerland and the Netherlands have ceased funding.

Double that ooops!

Meanwhile, as ever, only Qatar is propping up the finances of the PA. Quelle Surprise! Yet again the government of President Abbas has run out of money! It is even turning to cryptocurrencies for help.

So after nearly four decades of positive intervention, what have the European taxpayers got for their buck – or should I say Euro – regarding the Palestinians? And we are talking about billions of Euros that could have gone to Greece or Spain or internal structural projects or ….you name it.

It is difficult to argue for anything positive. There again, questions abound.

  • If billions had been allocated to any other project without a net social gain, would there have been such a placid response by the EU bureaucrats or its politicians?
  • Why is it that the EU has consistently rejected the classic Israeli argument for a new approach to helping Palestinian society? What are they not telling us?
  • And on this basis, can anyone really blame the UK for bolting the EU? The taxpayers deserve better, and so do the Palestinians.

Israel has its detractors in Europe. For decades, car manufacturers would not sell to the Holy Land. Today, the leader of Britain’s main opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn, cannot mention the word Israel, except in a manner that challenges the right of the country to exist.

The question remains. Can Europe do without Israel?

Israel…….. (has) around 1 startup for every 1,400 people. Some of these startups have gone on to be high-profile exits — Waze, which sold to Google for $1.3 billion, and recently Mobileye to Intel for $15.3 billion, among many, many others – (technologies used by hundreds of millions of Europeans daily). Just for comparison, France has .112 startups for every 1,400 people. Germany has .056 startups for every 1,400 people, and the UK has .21 startups for every 1,400 people.

I just read today that the “European Union has awarded 742 Million Euro to 1,062 Israeli Scientific Research Projects”. That must be a reason for that.

Now those same detractors of Israel may object to this use of taxpayers money. At least it is being handed out in a transparent and accountable manner, as opposed to the billions available for the Palestinians. At the same time, it is money that eventually benefits peoples of all kinds, across national divides.

I recommend that you read the press release in full.

The EU Delegation to Israel, together with the Israel-Europe Research and Innovation Directorate (ISERD) and the Israel Innovation Authority, celebrated scientific cooperation under the Horizon 2020 program with an awards ceremony on June 4th at the Peres Center for Research and Innovation in Jaffa. Awards were presented to 423 Israeli companies and researchers that won Horizon 2020 grants in 2018. Grants totaling over 742 Million Euro have been awarded to 1,062 Israeli projects since the beginning of the program through the end of 2018.

The Horizon 2020 program is the largest research and innovation program in the world, amounting to approximately 80 Billion Euro over seven years.

International cooperation in research and innovation is a strategic priority for the EU. It allows for tackling global societal challenges more effectively, creates business opportunities, and makes scientific diplomacy a driving force for the external policy of Europe.

Israel has been a partner in the EU’s research and innovation framework programs since 1996 and was the first non-European country to join it. Over the years, the EU-Israel partnership has strengthened Israeli academic and industrial excellence, led to investments in research infrastructure, and enabled long-term, innovative research

The program has enabled Israeli companies, researchers, and innovators to gain access to European partners, to integrate into an extensive infrastructure of European research, and participate in flagship projects in the fields of quantum technologies, graphene and brain research. The European Research Council (ERC), which is part of Horizon 2020, supports ground-breaking research at the frontiers of human endeavour. Israeli researchers have been extremely successful in the ERC programme and Israeli universities and research institutes can be found among the top 10 organisations, worldwide, hosting ERC grantees.

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret said: “Every year, we celebrate EU-Israeli collaboration in research and innovation and honor the Israeli winners in the EU’s research and innovation program, Horizon 2020. We hosted a ‘plastic-free’ ceremony and event to show support for a critical area where the EU has taken on global leadership. Policies promoting sustainability of the planet for future generations need to be supported with technologies, research, and innovative solutions, where EU-Israel cooperation can play a key role.”

Dr. Ami Appelbaum, Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry, Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, and Chairman of ISERD’s Steering Committee noted that: “The prestigious European Framework Program enables industry and academia in Israel to compete in the world of excellence and innovation. The average success rate for eligible applicants is only about 14%, so winning a grant in the program is a sign of quality and excellence for both researchers and companies. The European Framework Program allows for individual proposals and combined proposals with European partners, opening the door for research and business cooperation with European entities beyond the significant funding they already receive.”

Nili Shalev, Director General of ISERD, added: “The European Framework Program provides companies and researchers with numerous advantages besides the generous funding grants. It elevates the quality of research, enables recruitment of high-quality workers, provides investment in advanced equipment, and facilitates work at international standards. The grant enables companies to cut the time it takes to go to market and enables interaction with many potential customers. The program places participants at the forefront of global research on issues of environmental and social importance. The program offers a wide range of opportunities and benefits, and we are calling on all interested parties to contact the ISERD director, who serves as a gateway to the program.”

Projects and research that received funding in 2018 include:

Israeli company Vectorious received funding via the European SME Instrument Phase II program in early 2018 to conduct clinical trials and continue developing its V-LAP product – a miniature wireless heart implant that monitors heart function, accurately measures left atrial pressure (LAP), and sends all data directly to the HMO or the hospital where the patient is receiving treatment. For the first time, physicians can make informed decisions and provide their patients with better treatment based on real-time clinical data.

Optima Design Automation from Nazareth was granted approximately 2.5 Million Euro to continue development and scale-up of its innovative product: a software platform for chip manufacturers designed to ensure functional safety of chips used in autonomous cars.

A joint project of the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) – Volcani Center and the company Fluence for a decision support-based approach for sustainable water reuse applications in agricultural production (DSWAP) that aims to find holistic solutions for wastewater irrigation that ensures environmental safety and health with minimal energy investment. This project included research groups from Israel, Germany, Cyprus, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal.

Triox Nano from Jerusalem won a 2 Million Euro grant to continue development of its new drug delivery platform SMARTIOX, which combines material and DNA techniques to provide breast cancer treatment for women by injecting the active ingredient used in chemotherapy directly into the tumor area alone. This platform could be applied to other disease treatments as well in the future.

The PlaMOS project, led by Mellanox and IBM’s Haifa Lab, is developing a powerful integrative platform that allows an eight-fold increase in the speed of optical transmitters and receivers used in datacenters. PlaMOS relies on small-scale wafer integration of novel ferroelectric-based plasmonic-photonic modulators, silicon germanium photodetectors, and BiCMOS electronics combined in a super-fast, micrometer-scale optical engine capable of transmitting and receiving data at the world’s fastest speed of 200 Gbit/s per optical channel.

The unnamed Lieutenant-Colonel from the Israeli intelligence forces said that they cried, when his team realised that they had identified the body of Zechariah Baumol. Somehow, after 37 years, the Israeli army had tracked down his place of burial. With the help of Russian President Putin and a third country, the reserve soldier, killed in Lebanon, had been brought out of Syria and was laid to rest in Jerusalem.

April 2019 is a horrendously divisive time in Israel’s history. The general election campaign has taken few hostages. Somehow, the story of this first sergeant, wrapped in the humility of his mother, sister and other family members, has humbled the nation. Prime Minister Netanyahu called his ‘return home’ as one of the most emotional episodes in his reign at the top.

In a sense, for a few hours, campaigning ‘seemed’ to be thrown to the gutter, along with all the useless flyers and interfering WhatsApp messages. The failing health of the President’s wife, Ruhama Rivlin, has also struck a cord of unity, even if the President himself had been insulted earlier in the week by the Prime Minister.

However, to my amazement, the other picture that has caught my attention was in today’s edition of the Ha’aretz newspaper, known for its vocal support of Palestinian rights. On page 24, we see a full picture. The caption describes Palestinians running away from gas canisters launched by the Israeli army, presumably at a demonstration near the border with Gaza. In the foreground, are seven children and one adult. Sad, no?

Now remember, for the first time in years, the Palestinian issue is very much off the front pages in this election. What is really sad for me is that the picture has a misleading attribution. Over 20 other people in the background are just loitering about – no tear gas is bothering them. No child is wiping their eyes.

And then you have to ask. Who takes under age children to a demonstration, especially when violence is a probability,…..and why?

Take a step back. In 2010, the Arab League set up a special fund for donations to be funneled to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Currently, the World Bank estimates the GDP of Gaza at 1% of that of Israel. What has gone wrong?

Egypt’s border closure back in 2012 has had a major impact. Hamas determination to invest in military aggression against Israel – 1,000 rockets fired in 2018 alone – has diverted resources. In the past year, President Abbas has cut off funding from his Hamas enemies.

More pertinent is the question what happened to that money from the Arab League? At the end of 2014 and the latest major fighting with Israel, US$4 billion was promised. In the following two years, about US$1.8 billion turned up. New suburbs were created. Water systems were installed.

But, then the donors assessed the level of graft by Hamas officialdom. According to the World Bank, the money flows faltered to US30 million monthly in 2017 and a paltry US$4 million last year. Combine that with Abbas cutting 30% and then 50% of the annual US$1.5 billion allocation, which he was supposed deliver, and then you can begin to wonder.

The stats continue. The standard of living in Gaza dropped by 10% in 2018. It is 140% higher in the West Bank, as ruled by the Palestinian Authority of Hamas.

The fundamentalist and intransigent, terrorist government of Hamas was propped up by Arab friends for years. It is currently funded by suitcases (literally) of dollars from Qatar. Weapon systems, originating from Iran, are still smuggled in.

Whatever the outcome of the Israeli election, the internecine Arab hatred will continue. It is sad. It is tragic, but it is not Israel’s fault. Whether Netanyahu wins or not, the upshot of the economics of Gaza will see the adult population continuing to send their kids to the front line. Sickening.

Israel is where Western countries send delegations to learn how to copy the success of the start up nation. Just this week, it was announced that Mellanox exited for a mere US$6.9 billion. Who’s next?

And yet there are those who are questioning if the proverbial bubble has burst for the Israeli economy. The fiscal deficit is climbing. The general election on April 9th and is likely to result in further political instability. Can the economic triumphs of the past decade be repeated?

Palestinians benefit from a resilient Israeli economy. Legally or otherwise, over 100,000 labourers find employment daily via their neighbours. If they gainfully registered they receive full social benefits, which barely exist in the territories. That said, since the Oslo Accords, both in the West Bank and particularly in Gaza, the Palestinian economy has shrunk.

Yes, there was a positive blip at the end of the 1990s – 15% improvement for two consecutive years. However, Chairman Arafat’s decision to launch the Intifada killed that off, as well as others.

The West Bank has historically been the stronger of the two districts. According to an analysis by Doron Peskin, unemployment has risen slightly over the past two years to almost 18%. Arguably of more concern is that economic growth has shrunk by almost 50% to about 2.7% annually. The data for Gaza is far more depressing.

What is important to note about these numbers is that natural population growth is higher than 3%. President Abbas is ill and is seen increasingly as less able to command respect. And we have observed that the Israeli economy may be weakening, and thus less able to take up some of the slack.

Next stop? I am not sure. However, just before Hamas launched two rockets at Tel Aviv last night, there had been a massive demonstration in Gaza. The populace were revolting at the high cost of living. At the same time, the shops in the better off suburbs still appear to be remarkably busy.

I suggest that there is a lesson here. The Palestinian leadership should learn from their Western colleagues, listening to Israelis about how create wealth rather than seeking to destroy hope.

I have written many times about BDS, a global movement that aims to isolate Israel, economically and culturally.

Over the past few days, two well-known advocates of BDS unwittingly demonstrated the true moral force of their campaign. In the first item, Dutchmen Robert-Willem van Norren was spotted waving Palestinian flags and shouting slogans from his wheelchair as is his custom. One technical hitch; van Norren owns a special chair, “the Breeze S3 model of the Kalnoit brand, designed and assembled in Kibbutz Afikim in Israel’s Jordan Valley.”

A few days later, anti-Israel Member of Congress, Rashida Tlaib, was discovered to be utilising Israeli technology to operate her website. In fact, she and a whole load of other Israeli haters are using Wix technology, whose home base is none other than Tel Aviv.

As if to rub salt into a large septic wound, the Jerusalem Post newspaper ran an expose this week. Quoting Gaza’s Economic Ministry, it states that 65% of all items imported into the territory are Israeli made. No boycott there. No boycott anywhere. Just hatred.

And if you were to try to boycott? We know that for decades Intel computers are stuffed with tech emanating from the Holy Land. Manufacturers like Toyota are turning to Israeli tech in the race to develop for the first autonomous vehicle. And in the retail world, some of Decathlon’s and IKEA’s most profitable stores are to be found in Israel.

I suggest people check out the LinkedIn page of the British embassy in Israel. Posts in the past month have featured various forms of collaboration with the banks of Nat West and RBS, the NHS, the Welsh Government, and many more. I could go on, and at considerable length.

BDS supporters have spent much effort in the past few weeks trying to encourage performing artists to boycott Israel as the host of 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. (As one blogger has pointed out, they never complained when the competition was located in places like Turkey, who arguably has the worst record on human rights in Europe).

Speaking on British TV, Netta, the current Eurovision champ, made a very succinct point.

I believe in dialogue, I believe in protest. Boycotting is preventing light being spread but if you boycott light you spread darkness. Boycotts are not the answer!

……unless, of course, you are confined to a wheelchair or need to put up a website in a hurry!

It may be a tad British, but I am currently enjoying a fascinating podcast about leadership. Interviewing a former England cricket captain, the key feature is how you can take an average team – in sport, commerce or a social group – and mobilise it into something sensational.

In terms of the Palestinian issue, much has been discussed recently about how President Abbas has just started his 15 year of his term in office, when he was only elected for four years. It is too easy to be cynical. Just how much of a motivator is he?

However, as if to add to the challenge, this week Abbas demanded the dissolution of the Palestinian Parliament.

The reason?

Abbas is recognizing that at 83 years old he must consider what will happen the day he leaves office. Under PA (Palestinian Authority) law should the president leave office without a successor, the Speaker of the Parliament takes over as President of the Palestinian Authority for two months after which presidential elections are held. The current Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament is Aziz Al-Dweik from Hamas.

And let us recall that Hamas threw the PA out of Gaza in a most violent manner, and is challenging its position in the West Bank.

The above synopsis sparked a series of comments from a financial analyst, David Frankfurter. He observed:

I wonder if these members of the parliament that did not meet are to continue receiving a salary, benefits, electoral assistants and other financial assitance? How much did it add up to? This could be another element of side effects of the US withdrawing financial support to the PA.

If so, it would be a signpost to the Europeans on how to introduce efficiency to the aid they keep flowing. It is yet another indicator to the European taxpayer as to what a wasteful manner their elected representatives and finance ministries use their taxes on misdirected foreign aid.

Worth a thought. Maybe write to your rep and ask them?

Palestinians should be allowed to improve their economy without worrying about whether they will give up on their national cause.

Thus wrote Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, on the Ma’an News Agency website of the Palestinians.

He is correct. Whatever side of the seemingly intractable Palestinian – Israeli argument you may be on, the economies of Gaza and Ramallah seem unsustainable. And whatever the true numbers, unemployment is super high, productivity continues to find new levels to sink towards, while overseas aid is petering off.

Reliable figures for the financial activity of the Palestinian government have been hard to obtain for many years. The reasons vary. Recently, former Israeli military intelligence officer, Yossi Kuperwasser set out an analysis of the 2018 budget. The key points are: –

  1. The total budget is about US$5 billion dollars.
  2. Around 15% or US$775 million is supported by overseas aid, including the taxpayers of Western countries.
  3. US$155 million is allocated to aiding prisoners and / or their families in Israeli jails, assumedly for charges relating to terror incidents.
  4. And: The P.A. budget for supporting the families of “martyrs” and the wounded is $185 million. This sum is used to make sure that 24,000 families of “martyrs” and wounded who reside inside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 13,500 such families who reside outside the “homeland” get a monthly allowance, 375 families get special monetary assistance, 28,000 families get health insurance, and monthly allowances are paid to the victims of the 2014 conflict in Gaza. 

Earlier this week, Saleh Barghouti calmly drove past a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop and  mowed them down. Of the seven wounded, one was a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy. The baby was delivered in hospital, but was immediately diagnosed with difficulties, resulting from both the shooting and its premature arrival.

Last night, 4 days old and with barely enough time to name him as Amiad Yisrael, the child was buried. In the picture below, the infant is seen wrapped in a prayer shawl. The man looks petrified that the body in his hands is so small and light that it may fall.

Image result for picture of funeral of Amiad israel

Of all the terrible stories of terror from around the world – Manchester, Boston, Bali et al – this is truly the saddest picture that I have ever seen. I saw it and froze.

As for the other parties to this story, it appears that Amiad’s mother is beginning to recover from her serious wounds. Meanwhile, Barghouti was shot dead by Israeli forces while resisting arrest. However, as per the strictures of the Palestinian budget approved by President Abbas, Barghouti’s family is set to become the financial beneficiaries from his heinous crime.

One postscript for Abbas, who this week celebrated his 15th year in his position, originally democratically elected for just four years: Earlier today, a couple of miles from where Barghouti struck, two other Israelis were slain. Clearly, this will place a further demand on the Palestinian budget, leading to additional calls for aid from European treasuries.

Israel is a country replete with conservative religions. It is located in the Middle East. Therefore, women do not have a key role to play in its society, correct?

That is certainly what liberal critics of the country would have you make believe. Just last week, a leading rabbi was kept under house arrest for harassment of young women. Known cases in the army – the largest bureaucracy in the country – total about 1.000 annually. Wages of women compared to men in similar jobs regularly lag behind. And the rest seems to be a familiar story…..

….or maybe not. The days of Prime Minister Golda Meir are four decades behind us. The outgoing governor of the Bank of Israel and at least the leaders of two major banks in Israel are women. Of the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament, 35 are female, a ratio that is improving consistently. Two of the country’s growing stars in TV journalism are women (and neither are Jewish).

I was particularly fascinated by three articles on women in Israeli society that have featured in the press recently.

Karin Eibschitz Segal is the head of Intel’s R&D in Israel. That means 7,000 jobs and an annual revenue of around US$30 billion has a lot to do with how she is ‘feeling every morning’. For the record, Intel has made around 18 purchases of Israeli companies since 1974. 20% of its r&d team are estimated to be women.

Returning to politics, Aliza Bloch and Einat Kalish Rotem were recently elected as mayors of the cities of Beit Shemesh and Haifa respectively. Both where considered ‘dark horses’, ousting male incumbents who were considered safe bets just weeks before the polls opened. Interestingly, the former was the head mistress of a school, whose ex pupils are considered to have voted for her en masse.

And finally, and maybe surprisingly, is Hannah Ziad. I had never heard of her until last week. With over 700,000 followers, she is the country’s leading YouTube blogger. The vast majority of her fans are from Arab countries, looking out for her latest fashion tips. Now aged 25 and developing her own brand with a designer from Bethlehem, she has been active in social media for over a decade.

Does all this make Israel a ‘Garden of Eden’ for women to live in? Unfortunately not. However, it is an indication how the country is progressing, beyond the traditional religious restrictions. It also show how others can learn from these changes.

Eight days have passed since a Palestinian kidnapped, handcuffed and shot two Israelis in a factory in the industrial zone of Barkan in the heart of the West Bank.

A few days later, this form of ‘self-defense” was justified by yet another resolution from the British Labour Party, this time emanating from the area of Brighton. Personally, I find this form of argument repugnant. It is barely discourse. Rather, it represents a set of statements based on hatred, whose design is the very opposite of peaceful coexistence.

I am not going to argue that the relations between most Jews and most Arab in the West Bank is like a rose garden on a summer’s day with birds twittering in the background. However, Israel’s weekend newspaper cobbled together some facts that are worth copying here and analyzing.

There are about 100,000 Palestinians working in Israel on a daily basis, and roughly 2/3 have a license to do so. Another 30,000 work in places like the Barkan area. If the average monthly wage in the Palestinian territories is around 2,500 nis, a typical Palestinian will bring home about 6,500 nis (about US$1,800) from an Israeli employer.  Of the 8,000 or so workers in the Barkan district, about 3,500 are Palestinians with a license.

Let us be clear. Since 2010, the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has officially banned its followers to work for Jewish enterprises. These are the same companies that by Israeli law have to pay the Palestinians full social security contributions, which are negligent under Ramallah law.

In some factories, Palestinians do climb up the tree of management, although rarely to senior levels. That said, incidents of murder or lesser violence have barely been reported since the industrial zone was established 36 years ago.

The BDS movement, prominently supported by much of the Labour Party, would put an end to this creation of mutual wealth and trust. In other words, the Israelis should be boycotted and sent packing. In their place would be……….well, I suppose fewer Palestinians, earning less than half their previous wages, and without the social benefits that a Labour Party demands for its own membership in the UK.

I suppose this is where hatred is so valuable, as it is required to help to cover up the malignant contradictions of the BDS thought process. And in the meantime, the local authorities are constantly preparing more space for factories in the West Bank, which looks to be an economic win-win policy for all parties, who care.

 

 

 

 

Today, Thursday, nearly 7,000 Christians marched are openly and proudly marching through the streets of Jerusalem. About 24 hours earlier, Jeremy Corbyn, the controversial leader of the Labour Party in the UK, spoke to his annual conference. Regarding Jews and Israel, he said:

I believe we are all stronger from listening and learning from each other.
The Jewish people have suffered a long and terrible history of persecution and genocide. I was humbled to see a memorial to that suffering two years ago, when I visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin.
The row over antisemitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party. But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it.
I say this to all in the Jewish community:
This party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms.
We are your ally.
And the next Labour government will guarantee whatever support necessary to ensure the security of Jewish community centres and places of worship, as we will for any other community experiencing hateful behaviour and physical attacks.
We will work with Jewish communities to eradicate antisemitism, both from our party and wider society.
And with your help I will fight for that with every breath I possess.
Anti-racism is integral to our very being. It’s part of who you all are, and it’s part of who I am.

……. And let me next say a few words about the ongoing denial of justice and rights to the Palestinian people. Our Party is united in condemning the shooting of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli forces and the passing of Israel’s discriminatory Nation-State Law.
The continuing occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage. We support a two-state solution to the conflict with a secure Israel and a viable and secure Palestinian state.
But a quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords we are no closer to justice or peace and the Palestinian tragedy continues, while the outside world stands by.
As my great Israeli friend Uri Avnery who died this year put it: “What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples”.
And in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality we will recognise a Palestinian state as soon as we take office.

Promising, but as with much of the speech, great words and little substance. To find out if the deeds can match the words, it is worth referring back to the debate on Tuesday, when the conference voted to ban arms’ sales to Israel. The reasoning is that because Israel is deemed a goliath of an aggressor against the Palestinians, it should only be allowed to defend itself against terror with one hand tied behind its back.

Now this debate was considered the fourth most urgent issue at the conference, as judged by delegates. It was placed higher than the National Health Service or pensions to name a few. In fact, Israel was the only country selected for a foreign policy debate.

Some considered the discussion an empty gesture by an irrelevant force. Judging from the popularity of Corbyn’s own speech, I find this naïve. The debate on Israel had to be carefully orchestrated. And despite the control, many speakers managed to work into their comments anti-Semitic elements. For example:

If you want to know how that orchestration (of alleged antisemitism smears) works you need to watch that Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby.

What really concerned me was the chanting not reported about in the general press. At the beginning of the discussion, many delegates were bellowing out the phrase “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.

Sounds innocuous? It is part of the PLO constitution. It refers to the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The constitution explicitly says that Jews will not be allowed to live in that area.

Nobody took any action to stop these chants. And where exactly are the Jews of Palestine supposed to live? In a Corbynite Britain?

In this context, what do the 360 words of Corbyn’s speech quoted above add up to?

Let me provide an answer in manner that challenges the newspeak of Corbyn. He argues that he talks to the IRA, Hamas, the Iranians, et al because he believes that in order to make peace, you have to talk to the enemy. Sounds potentially plausible.

It is funny how he never talks to his own enemies like leading rabbis in the UK or the Zionist organisations in the UK. Why is that? What do those lack of action signify?

Postscript:

I am currently reading a book called The Holocaust by Laurence Rees. With some ironic timing, his description of Hitler’s manipulation of the economic chaos of the late 1920s and the speeches of the Fuhrer are worringly familiar to a politician of the modern era.

Tonight, Tuesday 18th September 2018, the fast of Yom Kippur will commence. Known in English as the day of Atonement, Israel shuts down. You will not see cars on the road. Businesses are closed. Restaurants are shut. Complete tranquility, as the country – at least traditional and observant Jews – dedicate themselves to prayer.

(To put the biblical instruction in terms of 2018, millions learn how to put aside Whattsapp for 25 hours).

Sunday morning, roughly 48 hours previous to my writing this text, Rabbi Ari Fuld was out shopping near the town of Efrat, located between Bethlehem and Hebron. Many around the world know this region as the West Bank (of the Jordan River).

Fuld was stabbed in the back by a 16 year old, Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, from a village south of Hebron. There is a video of Fuld trying to chase the youth and taking a shot at him, before collapsing. I know the medic who tried to treat Fuld on the spot. He described to me the gapping hole in the rabbi’s back. He was declared dead shortly after arrival at the hospital.

The youth was remanded in an Israeli hospital, where he was treated for a mild flesh wound to his hand. His initial “court appearance” was conducted around his bed. The Palestinian Authority (PA) will pay his family about US$400 every month for three years. As the Palestinian ambassador to the UK effectively admitted on a talk-in last week, such funds are available due to the generosity and financial support from European and other governments towards the PA.

The supporters of the Palestinian cause have blasted social media with the argument that Fuld was an armed settler, and thus he was a legitimate target. I suppose the logic of that argument is that if you disagree with somebody’s politics, you can slay them in cold blood.

I guess that mix of hatred justifies 9/11 in the USA, 7/7 in London, Spanish train bombings et al. It is noticeable the many of the proponents of such views hang out with anti-semites. They imply that Jews are a fifth column in their country of living. More hatred, which is rarely found in societies looking to cerate individual growth and development.

What would such people say if a dear and beloved one was randomly slain in the name of a political movement? Would that also become acceptable?

As for the victim, I saw a post from a friend of mine, David Olesker.

In the last week a righteous man, whose public works are known to many, was murdered. Our Sages say that the death of the righteous (especially those who die sanctifying G-d’s name) is an atonement for the generation.
I can’t help but feel that, despite the countless merits of the acts Ari Fuld did in public, his true righteousness probably lay in his private life, known to his family and those closest to him. There are doubtless others, who are not known to the wider world, who stand beside him today, before the Throne of Mercy, where they will plead for their people on the day when we are all judged.
These advocates will not make us ashamed, let us not make them ashamed!

The scenery at this time of year in Israel is exquisite. On the Day of Atonement, Jews pray to be sealed in the Book of Life. I wish everyone – yes, everyone – a healthy, prosperous year ahead. It should be a year full of self-fulfillment and mutual opportunities.

The amount of Israeli investment in the UK has been growing since a UK government scheme called the UK Israel Tech Hub was launched in 2011……..Anglo-Israeli business deals totalling £85m have now been secured through the hub. Meanwhile, hundreds of British and Israeli companies have been involved in its various activities and events. During 2016-17 this included more than 150 UK and 490 Israeli firms.

Thus, summarised an extensive review by the BBC of the growing tech ties between Israel and the UK.

To give some context, the item comes during an interesting week for relations between the two countries. The British affirmed in the House of Commons that “The UK has announced £17 million of funding over the past four months, in addition to our original budget of £28.5 million, to protect UNRWA’s vital services (for the Palestinians).

And the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has continued to oppose anti-Semitism, while talking the languages of its proponents (sic). This sinister approach was dissected in a satirical rebuke by award winning author, Howard Jacobson, and then in an eloquent speech by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks in the House of Lords.

(As if to confirm their concerns and to highlight the depth of malicious debate in the Labour Party,  TUC delegate Mark Serwotka has just declared that Israel has tried to “create a story that does not exist”. His words and tone are the plagarised language of the fake ‘Protocols of Zion’ from Tsarist Russia.)

So let us just step aside and see how much each country contributes to the success of each others’ economy and society as a whole.

  • It is less than a month ago that the largest trade deal between the UK and Israel was declared. Rolls Royce is “supplying Trent 1000 engines to power a fleet of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that have been ordered by EL AL Israel Airlines”. That is a lot of work for a lot of British jobs.
  • Staying with flight, the UK’s Effective Space, a startup developing a satellite servicing system (drones), has announced an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to provide technical and financial support.
  • In the world of finance, the cities of London and Tel Aviv have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding to bolster FinTech and cyber security cooperation between two leading global centres for digital innovation.

And so the list goes on. As a British minister stated in Parliament on 13th September: The UK-Israel Trade Working Group is making positive progress towards transitioning the EU – Israel Association Agreement, to maintain our strong trade and investment relationship with Israel.

I think it is worth concluding with extracts from a debate from the same day led by Dr. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for international trade. To quote the salient points:

From online banking security to prescription drugs to cherry tomatoes, Israel has become an international technological and trade powerhouse. Every day, millions of Britons are benefiting from Israeli inventions and produce, even if they do not realise it.

Our trade with Israel currently stands at £3.9 billion in goods and services, with our exports up 7% in the past year. The Prime Minister met the Israeli Prime Minister in February 2017 to set up the joint trade working group, and I would like to thank the Israeli Government for their close liaison. We are dedicated to the continuity of trade and, once we leave the European Union, to having an ambitious new trade agreement that will provide even greater benefits than those we currently have.

The tech hub (see above) is there to help British businesses to get access to the innovations that come out of Israel across a range of sectors. It is worth pointing out that Israel is an extraordinarily innovative country and has more start-ups per capita than any other country on the planet. Where we can get UK businesses across a range of sectors to get access to such innovation, it is always a positive outcome.

The latest computers used in the House of Commons use Intel 7 and Intel 8 cores and above, and Shazam, Skype and FaceTime all use technology developed in Israel.

As I (Dr Fox) have already said, the key to that is the UK-Israel tech hub. This relates not only to the area of computers, which my hon. Friend has mentioned, but to FinTech, cyber-security, biomed, retail technology and the creative industries. These are all prime areas for co-operation between the United Kingdom and Israel, and we should celebrate that relationship and the benefits that it brings to both our populations.

Now if Mark Serwotka, a Corbyn ally, would have their way on Jews in Israel, how many British workers would lose their jobs. How much worse would British consumer become?

It has been an awful night. At least 80 rockets have been launched into southern Israel since midnight. As a friend of mine posted on Facebook:

We were woken repeatedly during the night by sirens and audible rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza.
The Rocket app recorded over 125 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel last night.
Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night in a shelter or safe room (if they have one – we don’t).
Did anyone hear about this on a foreign news station?
Seriously.
Anyone?

What a way to live! Would you accept that in your backyard? Will Israel go into Gaza? I have no idea, but this is not just a challenge to the country, this terrorism is a direct threat to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has cultivated a reputation as Mr. Security. In other words, the country can depend on him.

This somewhat cynical consideration is incredibly pertinent, because just two days ago Israel’s High Court of Justice allowed the government just three more months to implement the new draft law. In effect, this would force ultra orthodox Jews to face conscription, which their political leaders see as a double red line, which should not be even considered.

Now, as Israel’s government is a coalition, dependent on these same parties, this means that the government is likely to fall, maybe before the end of the summer recess. In theory, this would suit Netanyahu just fine. Sometime towards the end of the year, he may face calls for prosecution. The noise of the elections should preempt and then dampen the clamour for his withdrawal from public office.

It should be noted that in poll after poll, Netanyahu is riding high. And it is assumed that after any such early elections, he will again ask the ultraorthodox to support his new government, assuming he is asked by the President to form it. (I shall spare yet another cynical comment).

It is incredible to comprehend that none of the multiples of opposition parties have thrown up a leader of strength and moral worthiness, who can challenge the incumbent Prime Minister. Certainly, the sharp words of the Druze community over the past few weeks have left him slightly wounded. A poor performance against Hamas this summer could also dent his popularity. And that is it.

One thing is clear to me. However Israel does respond to Hamas, it could eventually be seen in the context of a future general election. What a sad way to run a beautiful country.

 

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