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October 25, 2012-Lieberman and Netanyahu Combine Forces - History


October 25, 2012-Lieberman and Netanyahu Combine Forces

Just when I thought the Israeli political system could not get any worse....Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman announced they were uniting their lists. Likud and Israel Beiteinu will jointly run for the Knesset. To see the two of these men speaking together should make anyone who cares about our democracy feel sick to their stomach. Lieberman has been running an autocratic party, both from within and from without. He has run a racist party and a racist campaign. Of course worse than that, Lieberman is corrupt. The police recommended that he be indicted, as did the State Prosecutor's office. While that alone does not make him guilty- It is a known fact that Lieberman's 21-year-old daughter made a few million dollars for consulting. It does not require Sherlock Holmes to see through that sham. And who engineered the dea between Netanyahu and Liebermanl? Natan Eshel, the same man who resigned from Netanyahu's office after being accused of taking pictures up a woman’s dress, among other things. So just how rotten this new deal can be?

Netanyahu made this deal as a result of his fear the Likud might lose support in the coming election. Although the conventional wisdom was that Netanyahu would be the next Prime Minister, (as he had no substantive rivals) his popularity is currently not that high. Observers believed Netanyahu would loose votes to Shas, HaBayit Hayhudi, and even to Lieberman's party. Thus, while the right bloc might end up the strongest concentration of parties, Netanyahu feared he could find himself the head of a much smaller Likud. For Lieberman, this gives him a way back into the Likud, the party in which he was once the equivalent of its Executive Director. If he is not indicted, (we have been waiting for the final decision of the Attorney General for months) Lieberman will become Netanyahu's heir apparent.. As part of the agreement Netanyahu promised Lieberman that he could choose between the positions of Defense Minister, the Finance Minister or keep his current portfolio as Foreign Minister- at his discretion. That thought alone should keep many of us awake at night, since Lieberman will likely choose either control over the money or command over the guns.

How this deal will work out in the end, only the next few months will tell. I am sure that Netanyahu did all the polling in the world before deciding to make this move. His polls say the move will strengthen the combined Likud/Israel Beitenu ticket. That might be the case, but I think the new deal will weaken the Likud. I believe they will lose some moderate Likud voters. I also think they will lose some of the Russian voters who Lieberman was misleading, with his continued promises of religious reform and no action.

We will all have to wait and watch. Needless to say, those of us who can, VOTE!


Historical Events on October 23

42 BC Roman Republican civil wars: Second Battle of Philippi - Brutus's army is decisively defeated by Mark Antony and Octavian. Brutus commits suicide.

    The Synodus Palmaris, called by Gothic king Theodoric the Great, discharges Pope Symmachus of all charges, thus ending the schism of Antipope Laurentius. Burgundy king Guntram opens synod of Mâcon (Mastico) Byzantine empress Irene recovers Iconoclastic cult at Nicaea Battle of az-Zallaqah: Almoravid army of Yusuf ibn Tashfin defeats the forces of Castilian King Alfonso VI Tornado (possible T8/F4) strikes the heart of London killing two and demolishing the wooden London Bridge (OS 17 Oct) The Battle of Grathe Heath ends the civil war in Denmark. King Sweyn III is killed and Valdemar I restores the country. Otto II becomes earl of Gelre

Royal Coronation

1520 King Carlos I crowned German emperor Charles V

    Remnants of Medina Sidonia's Spanish Armada returns to Santander Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 - Catholic uprising in Ulster

Victory in Battle

1642 Battle of Edgehill (Warwickshire): King Charles I beat English parliamentarian forces

    Sea battle of Fehmarn Sont: Adm Thijssen beats Denen Jews of Barbados forbidden to engage in retail trade Meal Tub Plot against James Duke of York (future James II of England)

Declaration of War

1739 War of Jenkins' Ear starts: British Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, reluctantly declares war on Spain

    First Jewish prayer books printed in North America Slaves revolt in Haiti (later suppressed) Sailing ship "Aeneus" sinks off Newfoundland killing 340

Coup d'état

1812 Failed coup against French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

    The Pacific Fur Company trading post in Astoria, Oregon is turned over to the rival British North West Company (the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest was dominated for the next three decades by the United Kingdom). 1st plastic surgery is performed (England) 1st ship sails through the Erie Canal from Rome, New York to Utica, New York Maastricht-Aken railway in Netherlands opens English newspaper "The Times" gives precise British positions in Crimea during Crimean War Battle of Westport, Missouri: Union General Samuel R Curtis defeats Confederate General Stirling Price 72 Senators are summoned by Royal Proclamation to serve as the first members of the Canadian Senate. Replacement yacht Sappho (US) beats Livonia (UK) by 25:27 in race 5 to win 3rd America's Cup off Newport, RI 4-1 original defender Columbia damaged so misses races 4 & 5 New Orleans Mint reopens as an assay office "World Championship" Baseball Series, Sportsman's Park, St. Louis: St.L Browns edge Chicago White Stockings, 4-3 in 10 innings in Game 6 to take series, 4-2 Pelham Bay Park in Bronx vested

Italo-Turkish War

1911 1st aerial reconnaissance mission is flown by an Italian pilot over Turkish lines during the Italo-Turkish War

Italian airships bomb Turkish positions. The Italo-Turkish War was the first conflict to feature aerial bombardment.

Women's Suffrage March on Fifth Ave, New York

1915 An estimated 25,000 supporters in a women's suffrage march on New York's Fifth Ave, led by Dr. Anna Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters

    1st Infantry division "Big Red One" shoots 1st US shot in WW I Romberg & Atteridge's musical "Passing Show" premieres in NYC Chicago grand jury indicts Abe Attell, Hal Chase, & Bill Burns as go-betweens in Black Sox World Series scandal African demonstrators shot in Port Elizabeth, South Africa Green Bay Packers play 1st APFA (forerunner to NFL) game beat Minneapolis Marines, 7-6 at Hagemeister Park, Green Bay, WI Leos Janacek's opera "Kat'a Kabanova" premieres in Brno Channing Pollock's "Fool" premieres in NYC

Event of Interest

1922 Conservative Andrew Bonar Law forms government in United Kingdom, replacing David Lloyd George's Liberal government

Event of Interest

1923 Legendary Yankees slugger Babe Ruth makes a postseason exhibition appearance in a rival Giants uniform as NY beats Baltimore Orioles, 9-0 in a benefit game for former Giants owner John Day

Event of Interest

1933 John Dillinger and his gang rob Central National Bank, in Greencastle, Indiana. They take $75, 000

    Jean Piccard & Jeanette Ridlen attain balloon height of 17.341 m (rec) Gabby Hartnett selected NL MVP Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre.

Election of Interest

1935 Mackenzie King is elected as Prime Minister of Canada for the third time

Film Release

1941 Walt Disney's animated film "Dumbo" released

    First ships of invasion fleet to Morocco leave Norfolk During WWII, Britain launches major offensive at El Alamein, Egypt German units go through Red October-factory in Stalingrad All 12 passengers and crewmen aboard an American Airlines DC-3 airliner killed when it is struck by a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber near Palm Springs, California. Amongst the victims is composer Ralph Rainger ("Thanks for the Memory") First Jewish transport out of Rome reaches camp Birkenau First Central Kitchen opens in Amsterdam Gulf of Leyte battle begin Soviet army invades Hungary Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's flagship the heavy cruiser Atago sinks during the Battle of Leyte Gulf

Contract of Interest

1945 Jackie Robinson signs Montreal Royal contract

    UN General Assembly 2nd session convenes (1st NYC-Flushing Meadows) NAACP petition on racism "An Appeal to the World" presented to UN Husband & wife Dr Carl Cori & Dr Gerty Cori are 1st spouses to be awarded joint Nobel Prizes

Event of Interest

1950 Filipino President Elpidio Quirino issues Executive Order No. 355 replacing the National Land Settlement Administration with Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO)

Event of Interest

1951 English chemist Rosalind Franklin first identifies the two types of carbon produced by temperature, in paper published by the Royal Society [1]

Film Premier

1952 Charlie Chaplin's "Limelight", starring himself and Claire Bloom, with an appearance by Buster Keaton, premieres in New York City Not released in Los Angeles until 1972, winning Chaplin his only competitive Academy Award for original score

    France grants Laos' sovereignty German FR applies to NATO WTRF TV channel 7 in Wheeling-Steubenville, WV (CBS) 1st broadcast Britain, France & US agree to end occupation of Germany Pakistan Governor-General Ghoelan Mohammed disbands parliament WSAU TV channel 7 in Wausau, WI (CBS) begins broadcasting Dominican Professional Baseball League moves to winter play for first time First video recording on magnetic tape televised coast-to-coast Thousands of Hungarians protest against the government and Soviet occupation. (The Hungarian Revolution is crushed on November 4). First test firing of Vanguard satellite launch vehicle, TV-3 De Gaulle offers Algerians defiance "peace of the brave"

Nobel Prize

1958 Soviet novelist Boris Pasternak, wins Nobel Prize for Literature

    USSR lends money to UAR to build Aswan High Dam The Springhill Mine Bump - underground earthquake traps 174 miners in No. 2 colliery at Springhill, Nova Scotia, deepest coal mine in North America. By 1st November rescuers had dug out 100 victims, with death toll at 74.

The Smurfs TV Debut

1958 The Smurfs first appear in the story "Johan and Pirlouit" by Belgium cartoonist Peyo

    Chinese troops move into India, 17 die "Kwamina" opens at 54th St Theater NYC for 32 performances USSR performs nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya USSR

United Nations Speech

1962 Adlai Stevenson speaks at the United Nations about the Cuba crisis

    USAF Major Robert A Rushworth takes X-15 to 40,800m WCIV TV channel 4 in Charleston, South Carolina (NBC) begins broadcasting

Event of Interest

1963 Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" premieres in NYC

Event of Interest

1963 New York Yankees name Yogi Berra as manager, replacing Ralph Houk who becomes the team's general manager

    Time Magazine uses term "op art" for 1st time Japan beats the Soviet Union 3-0 to claim the inaugural Olympic women's volleyball gold medal in Tokyo undefeated in 6-team round robin competition Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia finish 8-1 in inaugural Olympic men's volleyball competition in Tokyo Soviets win 10 team round robin on count back of sets won-lost Dutch 10th dan judoka Anton Geesink wins Open gold medal in the first ever Olympic judo competition in Tokyo prevents clean sweep of the gold medals by Japan Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská wins the balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics her 3rd gold medal of the Games with individual all-round and vault victories Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina wins the floor exercise gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics her 2nd gold of the Games (team) and career 9th (1956, 60, 64), a gymnastics record Japanese gymnast Yukio Endo wins the parallel bars gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics his 3rd gold medal of the Games (individual all-round and team) 4th career gold (1960, 64)

Olympic Gold

1964 Future undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier dominates German Hans Huber for an easy points win and the Olympic heavyweight gold medal in Tokyo

    Hungary beats Czechoslovakia 2-1 to win the men's football gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics Australian Jack Brabham is first to win F1 World Drivers Championship and International Cup for Constructors Championship in the same year 2nd in season ending Mexican Grand Prix at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez "Henry, Sweet Henry" opens at Palace Theater NYC for 80 performances NJ Americans (later NY/NJ Nets) play 1st ABA game "Maggie Flynn" opens at ANTA Theater NYC for 82 performances American swimmer Kaye Hall sets a world record 1:06.2 to beat Canadian Elaine Tanner by 0.5s and win the 100m backstroke gold medal at the Mexico City Olympics "Jimmy" opens at Winter Garden Theater NYC for 84 performances

Agreement of Interest

1973 Richard Nixon agrees to turn over White House tape recordings to Judge John Sirica

    UN's revised International Telecommunication Convention adopted Yankee GM & pres Lee MacPhail named AL president Arab oil embargo extended to the Netherlands

Event of Interest

1973 19 year old American tennis star Chris Evert retains her WTA Tour Championship at Boca Raton, Florida beats Nancy Richey Gunter 6-3, 6-3 in the final

    Chicago Cubs trade 6-time MLB All Star outfielder Billy Williams to Oakland A's for second baseman Manny Trillo and 2 pitchers Lake Isaac in Cleveland Metroparks' Big Creek Reservation dedicated Battle between Cuba & South Africa troops in Angola Islander Glenn Resch's 5th shut-out opponent-Flyers 3-0 Women take the day off in Iceland to commemorate “International Women’s Year”, shutting the country down for a day

Event of Interest

1977 Despite not driving in season ending Japanese Grand Prix, Austrian Niki Lauda wins his second Formula 1 World Drivers Championship by 17 points from Jody Scheckter of South Africa

Event of Interest

1978 Sid Vicious attempts suicide while at Riker's Detention Center in NYC

    "Tintypes" opens at John Golden Theater NYC for 93 performances McCosker (168) & Dyson (152) make 319 opening stand cricket, NSW v WA Soviet PM Nikolai Tichonov succeeds Alexei Kosygin, due to illness US national debt hits $1 trillion 13th NYC Women's Marathon won by Grete Waitz in 2:27:00 14th NYC Marathon won by Rod Dixon in 2:08:59 400,000 demonstrate in Brussels, against cruise missile Suicide terrorist truck bomb kills 243 US personnel in Beirut Cubs Rick Sutcliffe, selected as a unanimous choice as NL Cy Young NBC airs BBC footage of Ethiopian famine STS 51-A launch vehicle moves to launch pad

Event of Interest

1986 Artist Keith Haring commissioned to paint a mural on the Berlin wall by Checkpoint Charlie Museum 300 metres long


Dorf on Law

Last week, before a ceasefire was reached between Israel and Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the following explanation for Israeli military policy with respect to Gaza:

Much of the critical public reaction to that statement understandably focused on the conquest option. To "conquer" Hamas would presumably mean not simply that Israeli troops would cross the border into Gaza to engage in a ground war for the purpose of degrading the capacity of Hamas to strike Israel with rockets or launch incursions through tunnels, but that Israel would return to the status quo that prevailed prior to the August 2005 Israeli withdrawal and once again occupy Gaza with troops. Indeed, to conquer implies more than merely to occupy, which is, at least in principle, temporary. Conquest of Gaza might include its annexation and absorption into Israel proper, much in the way that Israel regards east Jerusalem as not merely occupied but annexed or that Russia claims to have annexed Crimea.

For most of human history, military conquest was an accepted means by which nation-states expanded their territory. However, since the early twentieth century, international law has rejected conquest. Is there some way to understand Netanyahu's reference to conquest as anything other than as a threat of unlawful force? Maybe just barely. Perhaps Netanyahu was speaking only loosely and using "conquer" as a rough albeit somewhat inaccurate synonym for "invade" and/or "occupy."

Yet if conquer doesn't really mean conquer, what are we to make of Netanyahu's alternative: "deter"? Here too, unpacking what he seems to have meant suggests that the most natural understanding of the proposed course of action--indeed, of the action that was actually undertaken--violates international law.

In the domestic context, we commonly say that the criminal law "deters" (at least some) crime. Holmes's bad man will not hesitate to commit crimes due to any pangs of conscience, but if the law is robustly enforced, he will restrain himself because he fears apprehension and punishment. You deter someone from doing something by threatening to harm him should he do it.

The word "deter" has much the same meaning in the international context. During the Cold War and still today, potentially hostile nations--especially the U.S. and its nuclear-armed adversaries--stockpiled nuclear weapons. Under what came to be known as the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, each side prevented the other from using its nukes by promising to retaliate if hit first. But retaliate how?

The actual use of nuclear weapons would almost surely violate international law. While the exact target lists were officially secret, everyone understood that, given the numbers of weapons, each side included population centers with millions of civilians among its list of retaliatory targets. I would be surprised to learn that population centers are no longer on such lists. If nukes were ever used for such retaliatory strikes, of course, that would be a clear violation of international law, which forbids targeting civilians.

Indeed, even the use of nukes against military targets would very likely violate international law, given that the military targets will be close enough (even hundreds of miles away counts as close enough for a modest to large nuclear explosion) to result in enormous numbers of civilian casualties--thus violating the principle of proportionality. To comply with international law, the otherwise-justified use of force must have legitimate military targets and unintended (but foreseeable) civilian casualties may not be disproportionate. Thus, whether targeted at civilian populations (per se unlawfully) or at military sites (with very likely disproportionate civilian casualties), the actual use of nukes once deterrence fails would violate international law.

That conclusion raises a puzzle with which ethicists, military strategists, and international lawyers struggled during the Cold War and presumably with which they continue to struggle: If the use of nukes is almost certainly unlawful, how can it be lawful even to threaten to use them?

The conventional answer, somewhat oddly, is that nonetheless the mere having of and threatening to use nukes as retaliation does not violate international humanitarian law, although for many countries possession of nukes may violate other, more specific obligations, like the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Purely on logical grounds, I am dubious of the proposition that it should ever be deemed lawful to threaten an unlawful course of action--even for the purpose of deterring someone else from engaging in unlawful activity.

In any event, the Cold War deterrence analogy can only get Netanyahu so far, because in describing Israeli policy with respect to Hamas as deterrence, he did not mean to deter through the mere threat of force that, like the sword of Damocles, hangs but never drops. Netanyahu made the statement in question at a time when Israel was in fact using force. Was that force unlawful?

In the public discussion of the most recent and prior conflicts between Israel and Hamas, commentators often use language that means something different from the same language in matters of international humanitarian law. Thus, people will point to the lopsided casualty numbers and say that Israel's use of force is "disproportionate." That's not wrong in the colloquial sense, but it's misleading if meant to suggest a violation of international law. There is no international legal obligation that a nation use force in such a way as to render its own civilian casualties equal or comparable in number to the civilian casualties on the other side. Rather, the jus in bello obligation is to refrain from using any force that aims at civilian casualties and, even when aiming at legitimate military targets to refrain from doing so if the unintended but foreseeable civilian casualties would be disproportionate to the military advantage thereby gained.

Israel has defended its targeting practices in the most recent and prior wars with Hamas by arguing: (a) Israel does not target civilians and in fact tries to minimize civilian casualties by providing warnings (b) the civilian casualty numbers in Gaza, while high, are proportionate to the military value of targeting Hamas's ability to launch attacks on Israeli civilians and (c) to the extent that civilian casualties in Gaza are as high as they are, that is because Hamas deliberately locates its military infrastructure among the civilian population, effectively converting that population into human shields.

Debate over (c) focuses on a factual question and a normative question. The factual question is whether Hamas in fact is deliberately using the civilian population as human shields. Some commentators argue that given the population density of Gaza, anywhere Hamas based its operations would be in close proximity to civilians. The normative question is whether, even assuming that Hamas is using civilians as human shields--which would be unlawful--that justifies adjusting the proportionality calculus for Israel's targeting.

The answer cannot be that because Hamas is a bad actor, Israel is completely excused from the proportionality requirement. After all, as a general matter, the unlawful conduct of the enemy doesn't necessarily provide a justification or excuse for engaging in otherwise unlawful conduct in response. For example, Hamas clearly and repeatedly violates international law by aiming its rockets at Israel's civilian population. But no one claims that this fact would justify Israel targeting Palestinian civilians in response. The human shield question is a bit different, of course. Israel's defenders do not say that because Hamas uses human shields Israel has license to do whatever it wants they say that what counts as proportional should be more forgiving of higher numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties based on Hamas's responsibility for putting its own civilian population at risk.

Who's right about that? I don't have a fully worked out view. I think Israel's defenders have a point that the responsibility Hamas bears for locating its fighters and weapons among the civilian population should count for something in figuring out whether Israel's strikes are proportionate. How much they count for and whether that's enough to render the Israeli use of force legal are the real questions. I shall disappoint readers by not attempting to answer them.

Instead, I want to focus again on the second half of Netanyahu's statement. By characterizing Israel's policy as one of deterrence, he appears to be saying that the civilian casualties in Gaza are in fact a strategic goal of Israeli strikes. If so, that would plainly violate international humanitarian law. And crucially, that would be true even if each individual bombing raid aims at a military target and seeks to minimize civilian casualties. To call the overall policy one of deterrence is to say, effectively, Hamas needs to know that launching rockets and other attacks at Israel will have the "unintended" effect of large numbers of civilian casualties and disruption in Gaza as a result of the accumulation of casualties from the individually justified--because militarily targeted and civilian-casualty-minimizing--Israeli airstrikes.

That, to my mind, is oxymoronic. A policy that aims to deter by strategically leveraging expected but not individually intended civilian casualties should be deemed to target civilians.

Is there a way out for Netanyahu? Maybe. Perhaps, just as Netanyahu may have meant "conquer" imprecisely, so he might have meant "deterrence" to refer solely to the impacts on Hamas military leadership, who were in fact targeted in the latest strikes. If so--if the idea is that Israel will forcefully attack military targets in response to Hamas rocket or other attacks--then there would be no violation of the international law against targeting civilians. (There would remain the proportionality question I punted above.) But if that's what Netanyahu meant, he certainly could have expressed the idea more clearly. Taken at face value, he said that for now Israel is engaged in one kind of violation of international law but it might change approach and try another kind of violation.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews attack and hurl objects at soldier in Jerusalem

Police said Thursday that a soldier was attacked by a crowd of ultra-Orthodox Jews as he walked through the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

According to police, dozens of rioters hurled objects at the Israel Defense Forces soldier while shouting insults at him.

He was taken to safety by police officers who arrived on the scene and was given medical treatment for a light wound he received to his hand.

“The Israel Police will work with all the means at its disposal in order to identify those who took part in verbal or physical attacks on uniformed men and bring them to justice,” police said in a statement.

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory military service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions from the army in favor of religious seminary studies.

Tuesday’s elections were triggered after staunchly secular Avigdor Liberman of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party refused to enter a coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the April vote unless a bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students was passed without changes, a demand rejected by the ultra-Orthodox parties in the prospective government.

Liberman on Wednesday reiterated his insistence that ultra-Orthodox military draft was among his preconditions for entering any coalition.

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Ex-staffer testifies in new abuse lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of blocking Yemen peace

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is accusing Tehran of smuggling arms to Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, who control northern Yemen, and to the rebels’ ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“Iran is destroying all attempts to find a solution in Yemen, which has led to the failure of all political negotiations between the government and these militias,” Jubeir tells a gathering in the Saudi capital of foreign ministers and military officials from countries including Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Senegal.

“These militias would not have continued operations without the support of the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world — the Iranian regime,” Jubeir says.

The Yemen war has claimed more than 8,600 lives since a regional military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, joined the Yemeni government’s fight against the rebels in 2015.

A cholera outbreak has also claimed more than 2,100 lives since April as hospitals struggle to secure supplies amid a blockades on ports and the country’s main international airport.

Tens of thousands rally in Barcelona for Spanish unity

Tens of thousands who want Catalonia to remain part of Spain rally in downtown Barcelona, two days after a separatist majority in Catalonia’s parliament voted for the wealthy region to secede.

Organizers say the march’s goal is to defend Spain’s unity and reject “an unprecedented attack in the history of democracy.” Leaders of rival pro-union parties from the ruling conservatives, the pro-business liberals and the socialists have joined together under the slogan “We are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!”

Grassroots group Societat Civil Catalan called for those who oppose Catalonia from breaking away to march. Demonstrators, many waving Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags, flooded a central boulevard. The mood was festive and jubilant, with no incidents reported.

Three weeks ago, the same group organized a mass rally that brought hundreds of thousands onto Barcelona’s streets. That was by far the largest pro-union show of force in Catalonia in recent years, in contrast to huge rallies by separatists.

Cabinet okays finance minister to draft 3-year budget framework

The cabinet votes in favor of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s proposal to release some NIS 3.5 billion in budget surplus to allow him to draft a 3-year budget framework for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled out any future two-year budgets from being advanced unless the Knesset overhauls its Basic Law on the state economy, though it kept the government’s 2017-2018 budget intact.

Instead of passing a two- or even three-year budget, as has also been suggested in the past, Kahlon will instead now be able to formulate the macro-principles guiding each year’s spending goals, even without being able to set a specific budget for each ministry.

Nicaraguan vice president calls Israeli senior official ‘brother’

Nicaragua’s vice president calls a guest Israeli official “hermano,” or brother, seven months after the countries renewed diplomatic ties.

Rosario Murillo uses the Spanish word for “brother” to speak of Modi Ephraim, head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry division to Latin America and the Caribbean, who arrives today in Managua for a two-day mission including high-level meetings with local officials, reported El Nuevo Diario newspaper.

“Brother Modi Ephraim will be coming to our country in the upcoming days. He will work in a program developed by a bilateral commission, where we are emphasizing and prioritizing all the advanced technologies in that brother country, technological irrigation for agriculture, training, everything that has to do with post-harvest production,” Murillo tells reporters.

The meetings will also address “the exchange between the two governments and peoples for the re-establishment of relations, which was announced and celebrated especially by many brothers of the Christian churches of our country,” she adds.

Mexican diplomat who protested anti-Israel UNESCO resolution and was fired, is honored

Mexico’s former UNESCO ambassador, who was fired last year for walking out of a vote on an anti-Israel resolution effectively denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem, was honored in LA.

Andres Roemer receives the Guardian of Truth and History Award from StandWithUS during a ceremony held in Los Angeles, reports the Milenio news website.

“More important than education is critical thinking. Many people with many academic degrees and educational degrees have voted, supported and made terrible leaders rise to power. It does not matter if they are right or left. It does not matter if they are Trump, Chavez, Maduro or Pol Pot. The followers end up being the leaders,” Roemer, who is Jewish, says during his speech.

In October 2016, the Latin American diplomat risked his position by walking out of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization vote at its headquarters in Paris — leaving his deputy to cast the country’s vote — in a personal protest against the UNESCO resolution denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

In July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Roemer in Jerusalem.

Hate letter with swastikas, white power mailed to Israeli consulate in New York

A letter decorated with swastikas that contained an unidentified white powder was mailed to the Israeli consulate in New York.

The letter was received on Thursday afternoon, the New York Daily News reports, citing police sources.

The powder was determined to be nontoxic, according to the report.

The envelope also contained a hate letter, written in Hebrew, and was decorated with swastikas.

Early Wednesday morning, a pink swastika was spray-painted across the doors of the Sutton Place Synagogue, in New York’s Midtown Manhattan area, the newspaper reported. Surveillance video shows three men near the synagogue, with one spraypainting the doors.

Supporters of Swiss Islamist call sexual assault accusations ‘Zionist plot’

Three women say they were sexually assaulted by Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Islamist and professor at Oxford University with ties to terrorists, whose critics say he justifies Palestinian terrorism and promotes conspiracy theories against Jews.

His supporters are calling the accusations the result of a “international Zionist plot” to blacken his name.

The third and newest complainant, a woman identified only as Yasmina in the French media, told Le Parisien that Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford’s St. Anthony’s College, sexually harassed her in 2014 and blackmailed her for sexual favors, the weekly reported Saturday. She said Ramadan threatened to distribute “compromising pictures” of her.

The accusations by Yasmina, who said she was filing criminal charges against Ramadan, closely followed the filing of criminal charges against him on October 20 for alleged rape by Henda Ayari, a former Islamist turned secular feminist. The alleged crimes took place in 2012 in France, added Ayari, who also said that Ramadan threatened her and that she was afraid to denounce him “for fear of reprisals.” On Thursday, another complainant against Ramadan stepped forward. A convert to Islam who is suffering from a disability in her legs, she said she suffered “sexual violence of great brutality” by Ramadan in 2009. She also filed a formal complaint against Ramadan.

Ramadan denies any wrongdoing.

Following Ayari’s decision to step forward, journalist Caroline Fourest, who has reported extensively about Ramadan’s controversial career, on Friday wrote in the Marianne weekly that supporters of Ramadan are calling the accusations the result of a “international Zionist plot” to blacken his name.

UK funding last-ditch effort to interview Polish witnesses to Holocaust rescues

The British government launches a last-ditch funding effort to interview witnesses to attempts to rescue Jews during from the genocide.

The campaign, titled “Silent Heroes,” was announced at a news conference in Warsaw that was organized by the From the Depths organization and attended by the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Eric Pickles, and the head of Poland’s largest Jewish organization, TSKZ President Artur Hoffman.

One witness who was interviewed last month, Natalia Jakoniuk, suffered a debilitating stroke the following week, demonstrating how “time is of the essence and not on our side,” From the Depths founder, Jonny Daniels, said.

Under the new campaign, in which journalists and researchers conduct filmed interviews with witnesses, posters asking witnesses to step forward will be placed in government offices with nationwide distribution.

From the Depths attempts to substantiate the testimonies it is collecting with Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance and other archives, Daniels said.

‘Jews will burn’ note left on Connecticut sixth-grader’s locker

A note reading “Jews will burn” was left on the locker of a sixth grader at a middle school in southwestern Connecticut, superintendent of the Wilton city schools, Kevin Smith says in a letter to parents of the Middlebrook Middle School.

The letter says that students caught committing such acts “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and subject to suspension and expulsion, according to Connecticut News 12.

Swastikas were found drawn on the walls of the middle school’s bathroom twice this month, according to the report. A student confessed to one of those incidents.

In a letter sent home to parents earlier this month, the school’s principal said: “The student was not personally intending to make an anti-Semitic statement. Of course, this in no way decreases the negative impact this has had on our school community.”

Meetings were scheduled with the school’s parent community to discuss the incidents.

Spain says Catalan leader can run in election ‘if not in jail’

Spain’s foreign minister says Catalonia’s deposed leader would be eligible to run in the regional election called by the central government on December 21, provided he hasn’t been imprisoned by then.

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis tells The Associated Press in an interview in Madrid that Carles Puigdemont’s pro-independence party could “theoretically” put him up as a candidate “if he is not put in jail at that time.”

Puigdemont could face criminal charges for his role in the separatist movement that culminated in the Catalan parliament declaring an independent republic on Friday.

Roadside bomb, gunfire kills 2 policemen in Egypt’s Sinai

Security and hospital officials say an attack targeting a police vehicle by suspected militants in the turbulent northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has killed two conscripts.

They say the militants disabled the truck with a roadside bomb detonated remotely then opened fire.

A total of 10 conscripts were wounded in the attack on the outskirts of el-Arish, Sinai’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Security forces have been battling militants in northern Sinai for years in an insurgency that gathered steam after the 2013 ouster by the military of an Islamist president whose one-year rule proved divisive.

Egypt is also facing a growing number of attacks by militants in its western desert.

UN finds underground tunnel coming from UNWRA school in Gaza

UN officials have discovered an underground tunnel emanating from a school in the Gaza strip run by the international body’s agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, according to the Ynet Hebrew-language news site.

Since the discovery was made some two weeks ago, UNRWA has closed the school and filled in the opening to the tunnel, the report said.

Israel was updated on the incident when it happened, UNRWA said.

“The existence of a tunnel under an UNRWA facility in unacceptable and places the children and staff at huge risk,” the agency said.

Million people at Spanish unity rally in Barcelona, Madrid representative says

One million people join a rally in favor of Spanish unity in Barcelona on Sunday, the central government’s representative in Catalonia says, while municipal police estimated turnout at 300,000.

Organizers say 1.3 million people had taken part in the demonstration, which comes two days after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare the wealthy region of 7.5 million people an independent republic.

Iran’s parliament approves Rouhani’s cabinet picks

Iran’s parliament approves two nominees by President Hassan Rouhani to head the ministries of energy and higher education.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani says 225 of 276 lawmakers in attendance voted for Reza Ardakanian to serve as energy minister. Mansour Gholami secured 180 votes to serve as the minister of science, who is in charge of universities and higher education.

Though Iranian universities work under boards of trustees, hardliners do not support reformists for the post of science minister who has influence in picking university chancellors.

With the vote, Rouhani’s 18-minister cabinet is now complete.

Bank of Israel governor opposes tax cuts

Governor of the Bank of Israel Karnit Flug says she opposes the finance minister’s proposal to use surplus tax revenues in 2017 to cut taxes, Globes reports.

Speaking to the cabinet this morning while Moshe Kahlon presented his planned multi-year budget framework, Flug reportedly said: “Given the state of the budget, it is clear that cutting taxes now, which will lower taxes in the coming years, is inconsistent with meeting the fiscal targets for the coming years. This means that if taxes are cut now, it will very likely be necessary to raise them by 2019. This fluctuation in tax rates is bad for the business sector, and cannot help achieve long-term targets that tax cuts are capable of achieving (encouraging labor, for example).”

The cabinet nonetheless voted in favor of Kahlon’s proposal to release some NIS 3.5 billion in budget surplus to allow him to draft a 3-year budget framework for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

US official: Jerusalem expansion bill distracts parties in peace process

A senior official in the Trump administration comes out against Israeli legislation that seeks to absorb a number of West Bank settlements into Jerusalem.

“It’s fair to say that the US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the Administration to be one of those actions,” the official told journalists.

The bill aims to solidify the city’s Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear. The bill says the communities would be considered “daughter municipalities” of Jerusalem.

David Bitan, the Likud party’s parliamentary whip and a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Army Radio this morning that pressure from the United States led Israel to delay a vote on the bill in the key Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

“There is American pressure claiming this is annexation,” he said.

Iceland’s scandal-hit PM wins re-election

Iceland’s conservative prime minister has won a snap election despite a string of scandals, final results confirm, but it remained unclear whether he can form a viable coalition.

Bjarni Benediktsson, 47, was named last year in the “Panama Papers” worldwide tax-evasion leaks. He has also been accused of wrongdoing during Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008.

Nevertheless his Independence Party beat its rivals in yesterday’s election, according to final results published earlier today.

It won 16 seats in the 63-seat parliament. Turnout was 81 percent. No party won a majority.

It could take months before Iceland has a new government in place as thorny coalition negotiations await.

Netanyahu meets Greenblatt in Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office.

Greenblatt has been shuttling throughout the region in hopes of restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which last collapsed in 2014.

Earlier today a senior US official criticized proposed Israeli legislation that seeks to absorb a number of West Bank settlements into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.

9- and 12-year-old girls arrested for kindergarten break-in, vandalism

Police arrest two preteen girls for breaking into and vandalizing a public kindergarten in the southern town of Kiryat Gat.

Police were alerted to the vandalism this morning after the kindergarten teachers arrived at the preschool to discover it had been broken into and “completely trashed,” according to a police statement.

The girls, ages 9 and 12, were arrested after police opened an investigation into the “extreme damage” done to the property.

Questioned by the Juvenile Crimes Unit, they admitted to the suspicions against them and apologized. They were later released from custody and the case has been transferred to the city’s social services department.

White House official: Greenblatt and Netanyahu didn’t discuss ‘Annexation bill’

A senior Trump administration official says that the White House’s Middle East envoy and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not discuss “the annexation bill” that seeks to absorb a number of West Bank settlements into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.

“Jason and the ambassador met with the prime minister as a general check-in on peace conversations. They did not meet to discuss the annexation bill,” the official says.

Greenblatt has been shuttling throughout the region in hopes of restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which last collapsed in 2014.

Earlier today a senior US official criticized the proposed Israeli legislation, saying it “distracts” both parties from peace.

Palestinian official suggests Holocaust guilt led FIFA not to sanction Israel

European countries are leading opposition to intervention by FIFA in a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over soccer clubs in the West Bank, according to Palestinian Football [soccer] Association (PFA) chief Jibril Rajoub.

Rajoub, speaking in a press conference at the Palestinian Football Association in the West Bank town Al-Ram, says the Palestinian soccer players are “scapegoats” for European crimes against the Jews during the Holocaust, for which those countries were now purportedly compensating in refusing to come down on the Jewish state.

The PFA had demanded FIFA sanctions over six teams playing in the Israeli league that are based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The international community considers all Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.

On Friday, the world body’s ruling council declined to adopt any of three possible actions recommended by an international commission, which had spent more than two years looking at the long-running battle.

Memo said to reveal plans for farting ‘David’ statue in London museum

According to a leaked memo, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is reportedly planning to let a children’s comic book team run an exhibition there next summer, which will include Michaelangelo’s “David” statue making farting noises as people walk past.

The exhibition, being billed as a takeover of the museum by “The Beano,” aims to encourage children to visit the museum, the UK’s Daily Mail reports.

“The Beano,” known for its anarchic humor, has been published weekly since 1938 and its most famous character is Dennis the Menace.

The museum’s replica of “David” is to be fitted with a speaker that will cause the sculpture to break wind.

Other plans for the museum include a display of slingshots, famously used by Dennis the Menace, and covering one of the museum’s most valuable objects, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, with vinyl comic book signs.

Real Madrid loses 2-1 to Girona amid Catalan crisis

Real Madrid suffers a backlash on the field, rather than from an expected hostile atmosphere amid political turmoil in Catalonia, as they slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat at Girona.

Goals from Cristhian Stuani and Portu in four second-half minutes cancelled out Isco’s opener for Madrid as Real fell eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, after just 10 games.

Egypt court orders ban on ‘anti-Islam’ broadcast

An Egyptian court rules that a television program deemed contrary to Islamic law should not be broadcast, following a request from the country’s highest institution of Sunni Islam.

Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar had demanded that the authorities ban “With Islam” presented by controversial intellectual reformer Islam Behairy and aired by private channel Al Qahera Wel Nass.

Al-Azhar accuses Behairy of “regularly attacking Islamic law.”

Although Al-Azhar advocates tolerance and moderate Islam in conferences, it also routinely asks for programs and shows in which secular Egyptians criticize current Islamic practices or heritage to be banned.

Behairy has infuriated Al-Azhar’s traditional clergy in the past, with attacks on canonical religious books and some of Sunni Islam’s most important scholars.

He served a year in prison for “insulting religion” before being released in late 2016 under a presidential pardon.

Iran blocks ‘illegal’ rally at ancient king’s tomb

Iranian authorities prevent an “illegal gathering” at the tomb of ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great and arrested a number of suspects, local media reports.

The Mizanonline news website says the intelligence ministry had identified members of “a counter-revolutionary group which had wanted to organize an illegal gathering under the pretext of celebrating Cyrus.”

Semi-official ISNA news agency reported that the head of the elite Revolutionary Guard, General Hashem Ghiassi, had issued a warning to the “counter-revolutionaries.”

Authorities in Iran last October arrested several organizers of a rally at the same site.

Footage posted on social media showed participants chanting for freedom of expression, along with nationalistic and anti-Arab slogans.

Speculation rife as first arrest in US Russia probe said near

Official Washington is abuzz over reports that a grand jury has charged at least one person stemming from the US probe of Russia’s attempts to tilt the 2016 presidential elections in Donald Trump’s favor.

There is no indication, in reporting by CNN that other media later confirmed, of who might be charged or what crimes might be alleged in the ongoing inquiry led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

But Trump, in a rapid burst of tweets again denounced the investigation as a “witch hunt” and repeated his denials of any collusion with Russia.

Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?),….

&mdash Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017

…the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia,….

&mdash Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017

…"collusion," which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's…

&mdash Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017

…are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!

&mdash Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017

UK to investigate minister who asked aide to buy sex toys

Britain’s Cabinet Office will investigate whether an international trade minister breached conduct rules by asking his secretary to buy sex toys as widening allegations of sexual harassment roil Parliament.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Mark Garnier will face an investigation after the minister’s former secretary told The Mail on Sunday that Garnier gave her money to buy two vibrators at a Soho sex shop and called her a disparaging name in front of witnesses.

“The facts of (the report) are in dispute, so the Cabinet Office are going to look at it and see if there is a breach,” Hunt told ITV’s Peston on Sunday program.

Syria says retreating IS released 25 hostages

A Syrian government official says Islamic State militants have released 25 apparent hostages as they retreated from a town in the central Homs province.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi tells The Associated Press Sunday there are another 19 people originally from Qaryatayn still held by IS.

Government forces and allied troops regained control of Qaryatayn last week, chasing the militants out, after they were held for three weeks. The militants left a trail of blood behind them, killing at least 70 residents. Bodies were found strewn in the streets and in ditches. At the time, activists said more remain unaccounted for.

It was not immediately clear why the militants released the 25 hostages.

Mass grave with 36 bodies found near Libya’s Benghazi

Authorities in eastern Libya discover an open mass grave in a quarry containing 36 bodies, the largest such discovery since the country’s civil war.

Spokesman Awad Aladouli of the eastern interim government’s Ministry of Interior says Sunday that the bodies were found in Al-Abyar City southeast of Benghazi overnight into Friday morning.

The dead, apparently of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds, in attire ranging from athletic wear to business suits, included people shot in the head, blindfolded, and with hands tied behind their backs. Investigations are ongoing, with 22 bodies identified.

Libya descended into chaos following a popular 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The oil-rich North African nation has three rival administrations, but a multitude of militias hold actual power on the ground.

Senior White House official: Trump personally committed to peace deal

A Senior White House official issues a lengthy defense of ongoing efforts by the Trump Adminstration to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“As President Donald J. Trump has clearly stated, he is personally committed to achieving a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians that would help usher in an era of greater regional peace and prosperity. A few months ago, the president directed his advisers to continue discussions with regional partners about how best to support the peace effort. Those conversations are still ongoing. On the margins of the UN General Assembly, US representatives met individually with representatives from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and other regional partners,” the official says.

“More recently, the Special Representative for International Negotiations traveled to Cairo, Amman, Jerusalem, and Ramallah and met with officials, and he will have further meetings in the coming weeks. In addition, the Senior Adviser to the President, the Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy, and the Special Representative for International Negotiations recently returned from Saudi Arabia. The Senior Adviser has also been in frequent contact with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While these regional talks will play an important role, the President reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress toward that goal. No deal will be imposed on Israelis and Palestinians We are committed to facilitating a deal that improves conditions for both parties,” he adds.

Ex-staffer testifies in abuse lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu

A former worker at the Prime Minister’s Residence provides police testimony against Sara Netanyahu on Sunday, after filing an abuse lawsuit against the prime minister’s wife alleging that Mrs. Netanyahu had abused the employee.

Police took testimony regarding the ex-staffer’s complaints, but also probed other witnesses in order to corroborate her story, police said.

Responding to a query from The Times of Israel on the questioning, police said that the woman requested, via her lawyer, to give testimony on her own accord, and was not requested or compelled to testify by authorities.

“After ascertaining her account, the complaint will be passed on to authorized police investigators for further treatment, according to the advice of the State prosecution,” police said in a statement.

Saudi Airlines to operate first Baghdad flight in 27 years

State-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines will launch its first flight to Baghdad in 27 years on Monday, state media says, amid a thaw in ties between the Arab neighbors.

The airline, also known as Saudia, will depart from the Red Sea city of Jeddah, barely two weeks after Saudi budget carrier flynas made the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990.

“Saudi Arabian Airlines will inaugurate regular flights between the kingdom and Iraq after an interruption of 27 years,” the official Saudi Press Agency reports. “The resumption of flights is in line with growing ties between the two brotherly countries.”

Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended in August 1990, after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.

Witness in case against PM’s wife offered job as aide by Netanyahu family adviser — report

An adviser to the Netanyahu family offered the job of an “aide to a ministry director general” to a central witness in a case alleging abuse of an employee by Sara Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to stop her from giving testimony against the prime minister’s wife, Channel 2 reports.

The witness is connected to a former worker in the Prime Minister’s Residence, who provided police testimony against Sara Netanyahu on Sunday, after filing an abuse lawsuit against the prime minister’s wife.

A spokesperson for the Netanyahu family said the report was made up of “baseless claims, part of an illegitimate method aimed at blackening the name of Sara Netanyahu and damaging the prime minister.”

“There is no end to the persecution and character assassination,” the statement says, noting past accusations against Sara Netanyahu, including the “cynical” claims made by former housekeeper Meni Naftali. The statement, however, fails to mention that Naftali was awarded NIS 170,000 compensation (about $43,735) for the years of mistreatment at the hand of Mrs. Netanyahu while working at the prime minister’s residence.

“Who would offer, via a text message, a job of an aide to a director general to someone they had never met, who by chance is a central witness?” the Netanyahu’s statement asks. “This text exposes the whole farce.”

WWII veteran laid to rest in Illinois, 73 years after death

Relatives of a World War II veteran who died in a 1944 battle in the Netherlands that was part of an Allied campaign, later depicted in the movie “A Bridge Too Far,” lay his remains to rest in central Illinois.

Mourners gathered at Springfield’s Camp Butler National Cemetery for the funeral of US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Aiello.

Aiello’s great-grandnephew, Brian Aiello, said the family now has a sense of relief, but there’s also sadness because many older relatives who knew Aiello have passed away during the last 15 to 20 years.

“We really wanted them to be here for this moment. It’s bittersweet, but it’s nice that he’s at least home now,” he tells The State Journal-Register .

Yisrael Beytenu MK slams Ben Gurion University fast-track entry for Arab sector

MK Oded Forer from the Yisrael Beytenu party slams a Ben Gurion University decision to open a special track in which students from the Arab sector will be accepted without the need for a psychometric test.

“Those involved with equality and human rights repeatedly discriminate against citizens who serve and contribute to the State of Israel. Is the blood of the Arab student receiving relief more red than the blood of new immigrants, discharged soldiers or any other student coming from a low socioeconomic background?” Forer asks in a statement.

“It is impossible to talk about special tracks exempt from psychometric exams without taking into consideration new immigrants, those who come from a low socio-economic situation or those who have served in the military or national service and whose studies have been postponed for several years because of their service,” he adds.

Forer says he has written to university president Rivka Carmi “demanding that she include other populations” in the new track.

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Israel Shocked by French Consul General Denial of Jewish Connection to the Holy Land

The statement by Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came in response to remarks made last month by Consul General Frederic Desagneaux in a speech on archaeology. Desagneaux spoke of “the important archaeological projects that French archaeologists had helped to uncover in Palestine,” including the Qumran Caves.

Desagneaux also praised French archaeologists for “helping to discover Palestine.” An approved copy of his speech mentions, in this context, the Qumran Caves, where archaeologists discovered the collection of biblical texts knows as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The text does not contain the word “Jewish” and Israel appears in it once, in a sentence about the “Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

“We have seen how important these heritage sites are to international recognition of Palestine, and France intends to continue to lead the movement to recognize the Palestinians’ management of these sites,” he said, according to the copy of his speech published on the website of the consulate.

Palmor confirmed to JTA that the ministry had expressed “shock that that the French consul general was joining forces with those who would rewrite history to reflect specific agendas and erase the Jewish and Israeli connection to the Land of Israel.”

“It is unworthy of an official representative of France to provide assistance to this kind of propaganda, at the expense of fairness and historical truth,” Palmor said.

Biography of the General Consul Frédéric Desagneaux (Source: French consulate website)

Frédéric Desagneaux, was born in 1957, he graduated from the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.

His first post was in Iraq in 1979. Then he moved to Khartoum (1981-1983) as Deputy Consul and to Muscat as Vice Secretary (1983-1986).

From 1986 to 1988, he went back to France at the Central Administration (Northern Africa and Middle East-Africa Department.)

Between 1988 and 1991 he was Deputy Consul in Tehran.

From 1991 to 1994, he returned to the Central Administration (Information, Press and Communications Department).

May 10, 1994 he was named and given the title of Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

From 1994 to 1998, he was First Secretary at the French Permanent Mission to the UN.

From 1998 to 2003 he held the position of Deputy Spokesperson for the Presidency of the French Republic.

Between 2003 and 2007, he was sent as Consul General to San Francisco.

Between 2007 and 2009, he held the position of Vice Director of Communication and Information Department and Spokesman of the Central Administration.


BOOK REVIEW: 'The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran'

Agrand irony of the Islamic world is that most of the places pointed to as shining examples of high Muslim civilization were formed by centuries of pre-Islamic culture. Moorish Spain had been a center of ancient Roman civilization long before invading Arabs seized it at sword’s point. Tunisia was the site of Rome’s greatest rival, Carthage. Lebanon and its environs were once home to the ancient Phoenicians. Iraq’s pre-Islamic history goes back as far as ancient Babylon, Egypt’s to the age of Pharaohs.

Present-day Iran is successor state to the ancient Persian Empire, arguably the world’s first superpower and a center of high culture, political sophistication, advanced commerce and a remarkable system of underground irrigation. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the late — and probably last — Shah of Iran, dreamed of restoring some of that ancient greatness to a country that had grown weak, backward and impoverished under centuries of decadent rulers who crushed their own subjects while being bullied and despoiled by stronger neighbors.

As its title suggests, Andrew Scott Cooper’s “Fall of Heaven” deals in greatest detail with the events leading up to the shah’s downfall and exile in 1979. But it is also the story of his reign and that of his father, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, woven into the greater fabric of modern Iranian history. Mr. Cooper’s work is thoroughly researched and documented it is also highly readable and does justice to the tragic grandeur of his subject.

But maybe I’m a bit biased. While only peripherally, my own family has crossed paths with Pahlavi-era Iran on at least three occasions over the last hundred years. A close friend of my paternal grandmother’s, Margaret Windom, traveled to Iran with her liberated, globe-trotting mother during the last years of the old Qajar monarchy immediately after World War I. She remembered the imposing figure of a sergeant in the elite regiment of Persian Cossacks who frequently visited a friend (her mother’s cook) at their villa in Tehran. The sergeant later rose to command his regiment, then seized power as prime minister, displaced the last Qajar shah and ultimately placed the crown on his own head. His son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, is the hero/victim of “The Fall of Heaven.” Then, circa 1960, as a prep school boy with a crush on a beautiful young co-ed at Georgetown University, I encountered a rather oily, Casanova-manque by the name of Sadegh Ghotzbadegh he was also pursuing her, though neither of us caught her. Mr. Ghotzbadegh, a perennial graduate student, fancied himself a left-wing revolutionary as well as a ladies’ man. I used to refer to him as “Goat’s Body.” He would later latch onto Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and become his foreign minister before falling into disfavor and receiving a probably well-earned death sentence.

Finally, I still have an unopened magnum of Dom Perignon, complete with the shah’s imperial emblem, that was given to me by Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi, his able, longtime emissary in Washington, for my emceeing an Iranian Night at the National Press Club in the mid-󈦦s. (I told Mr. Zahedi at the time that I preferred the legendary wines of Shiraz, to which, ever the Europhile, he replied, “The wines of Shiraz give me a headache.”)

For almost four decades, while simultaneously contending with ruthless internal enemies, a hostile Russia, and bullying proconsular “friends” like Britain and the United States, the shah desperately strove to bring education, prosperity, emancipation of women, and modern medical care to his people. While his security forces intimidated, jailed and sometimes executed political opponents — especially active terrorists in the Communist underground — his reign saw serious land reform, the creation of a vastly expanded and better educated middle class, equal rights for women and more press and academic freedom by far than in the much bloodier and more repressive rule of the mullahs following his departure. That departure did not take place because the shah was a ruthless tyrant. More Hamlet than Macbeth, he refused to use military force, of which he still had plenty, against his own people, be they ever so misguided.

Most of what is right about Iran today can be traced to surviving strands of its ancient culture and the great strides toward modernization under the shah most of what is wrong is the direct result of Khomeini and his mixed following of fanatics, opportunists and xenophobes. It will probably have turned to vinegar by then, but I hope one day to uncork that magnum of the shah’s Dom Perignon to toast the return of a civilized, post-revolutionary Iran embodying his nobler aspirations, minus their silly, tinsel trappings.

Aram Bakshian Jr., an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, writes widely on politics, history, gastronomy and the arts.


Liberman backs Netanyahu for PM, but insists on passage of Haredi draft law

Avigdor Liberman, the chairman of the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party, said Monday that he would recommend Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister, but indicated he would hold his ground on religion and state issues in a coalition likely to be dominated by the religious right.

“If we’re forced to choose between giving up on the [ultra-Orthodox] draft law to remain in the coalition, or sitting in the opposition, we will go to new elections,” Liberman threatened in a speech.

In principle, his backing of Netanyahu cements the prime minister’s right-wing coalition at 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

But Liberman’s party holds five of those seats, just enough to bring Netanyahu to the brink of collapse if he leaves the coalition — as he did in November in a spat over what he said were disagreements with the prime minister’s Gaza policy, shrinking Netanyahu’s coalition at the time to just 61 seats.

Speaking at a meeting of his party’s Central Committee in Jerusalem on Monday, Liberman blamed the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism for initiating the developing crisis over the draft and other hot-button issues.

“We’re trying to support common sense and logic on issues of religion and state. Those who aren’t willing [to do the same] will be responsible for the failure to establish the [next] government,” he said.

He praised Israelis for electing a right-wing parliamentary majority, but lamented that “the Haredi-Hardali wing of the right grew to 21 or 22 seats, something I see as a threat.”

“Hardal” is a Hebrew acronym for “Haredi-leumi,” or “Haredi-nationalist,” a branch of the religious-Zionist community that has shifted rightward on religious issues in recent years and resembles the ultra-Orthodox community on many social and political issues. It is represented in the Knesset by the Union of Right-Wing Parties.

Liberman, whose base of supporters is largely made up of secular immigrants from the former Soviet Union, campaigned on opposing “religious coercion,” and supports public transportation and allowing mini-markets to remain open on Shabbat, in addition to ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over marriage and divorce, and passing legislation regulating — and limiting — exemptions to military conscription for ultra-Orthodox students.

Liberman was seen by some on the center and center-left as a possible initiator of a national unity government of Likud and Blue and White, which together hold nearly 70 seats in the 21st Knesset. If Liberman conditioned his support for Netanyahu on such a government, Netanyahu may not have the coalition math to refuse, the thinking went.

But the idea never caught on among Likud leaders, and Liberman himself has dismissed it.

“A unity government should be formed around some issue,” Liberman said. “To establish a unity government without such a purpose is to establish a paralyzed government.”

Yisrael Beytenu is to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday to offer its recommendations for premier.

“There’s a leader, and the people have decided, and that decision must be respected,” Liberman said. “We will recommend Netanyahu as prime minister tomorrow.”

He said he promised before the elections that he would be part of a right-wing government, and that he stood by his promise, but that the new coalition must act like a right-wing government and not just talk like one. Liberman resigned as defense minister last November in protest at Netanyahu’s ostensibly weak response to rocket fire and other violence from Hamas-run Gaza. He said Monday that he wants to be defense minister again, and also wants the Absorption Ministry for his party.

Liberman also said that the five Knesset seats won by his party represented a “significant victory against all the odds.”

“We fought against a wall to wall coalition that sought to destroy us,” he charged. “It was an all out war” that was fought on the digital and political fronts “in a way that I have never seen before.”

TV news reports claimed Liberman and his party may now formally join forces with Netanyahu’s Likud, as Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu is also reportedly in negotiations to do.

Liberman’s threats on religion and state issues came hours after the Knesset’s two ultra-Orthodox factions issued their own threats on Monday.

Shas and UTJ reached an agreement with the Union of Right-Wing Parties to coordinate on issues of religion and state during the coming coalition negotiations, an ultra-Orthodox MK told his community’s Yated Ne’eman daily on Monday.

“There is coordination between the ultra-Orthodox parties to form a united front against Liberman,” UTJ’s Moshe Gafni said, confirming reports of collaboration between his party, Shas, and the nationalist-religious slate, in an effort to combat the Yisrael Beytenu head’s demands on religious issues.

The parties will present “an identical and uncompromising front” on matters such as the sanctity of the Sabbath, Yated Ne’eman reported.

Gafni told the Ashkenazi Haredi daily, “If our positions are not accepted, there will not be a coalition. It is inconceivable that Liberman, with his five seats, would dictate terms [that contradict the views of] three larger parties.”

The reported agreement came four days after URWP leader Rafi Peretz reached out to the chairmen of Shas and United Torah Judaism, proposing that they form a technical bloc in order to arrive at this week’s coalition negotiations with more influence, particularly on issues of religion and state on which the three parties largely agree. Peretz was seeking for the three parties, which will hold a combined 20 seats in the next Knesset, to then work together in parliament as well.

The move, confirmed to The Times of Israel by a URWP spokesman, is meant to serve as a countermeasure to the leverage Liberman is expected to wield during the talks.

Peretz told Shas head Aryeh Deri, whose party won eight seats, and United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman, whose party won either seven or eight seats — the precise final tally is yet to be announced — that they were all in agreement against Liberman on religious issues.

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October 25, 2017

At least 10 fighters from the Jaish Khaled Bin Walid group were killed on Monday (23rd) by suspected Israeli airstrikes in the town of Sahm al-Jolan in southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Several months ago 16 fighters from the group were killed in suspected Israeli strikes in the same area.

The group is estimated to have 1,200 fighters and controls territory in western Daraa province along the border with the Golan Heights.

IDF arrests 2 Palestinians for trying to attack Israeli farmer

The Israeli Defense Forces arrested two Palestinians in the West Bank on Tuesday (24th) for trying to attack a settler, the army said.

The owner of Talia Farm, an outpost located in the Hebron Hills, shot his gun in the air to deter the would-be attackers before IDF soldiers arrived and arrested the two Palestinians, according to the army.

A spokesperson for the Har Regional Council said the Palestinians attacked the farmer with rocks and a pole.

Netanyahu: World must take care of Kurds’ future

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday (24th) said Israel had “great sympathy” for Kurdish aspirations and that the world should concern itself with their well-being.

Netanyahu was speaking at a memorial ceremony for far-right Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Ze’evi, assassinated by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem in 2001.

“We have great sympathy for the Kurds and their desires, and the world needs to concern itself with their safety and with their future.”

Israel has been the only country to openly support Kurdish independence, with Netanyahu last month backing “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of their own.”

Palestinians erect memorial to Saddam Hussein

The city of Kalkilya in the West Bank unveiled a memorial to Saddam Hussein on October 18, along with naming a street for him.

The monument bears the slogan, “Arab Palestine from the River to the Sea,” referring to the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Kalkilya District Governor Rafi Rawajba said: “Saddam was an emblem of heroism, honor, originality and defiance.”

U.S. Mideast envoy Greenblatt: Hamas “begging Iran” for help

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special representative for international negotiations, wrote on Facebook and Twitter Monday (23rd): “Hamas, which has only brought ruin and misery to the Palestinians, now begs Iran for help and again vows to destroy Israel. Palestinians deserve so much better than this. We must find a better path forward toward peace and prosperity.”

Hamas sees reconciliation with Fatah as step toward destroying Israel – Yoni Ben Menachem

Recent statements by Yahye Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, and Salah al-Aruri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau, made clear that the goal of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah is not to take a softer line toward Israel on the path to some sort of diplomatic settlement but, rather, to pave the way for Hamas to “destroy the Zionist entity.”

Their words contradict the way in which Egypt has been portraying the reconciliation agreement to the Trump administration. The Hamas leadership, now that it has been taken over by the movement’s military wing, sees the reconciliation process as an opportunity to synchronize with Iran and gain strength for the ongoing anti-Israeli struggle.

Iran to execute scholar accused of assisting Israel

While Iranian officials attempted to maintain secrecy with regard to a scientist who recently was handed a death sentence for being a “Mossad agent,” international organizations are releasing the man’s identity, naming him as Ahmadreza Djalali. He was arrested in April 2016 in Tehran during an academic visit.

While visiting the Islamic Republic, Djalali was accused of “collaboration with a hostile government (Israel)” as prosecutors attempted to pin on him the deaths of several Iranian scientists associated with the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Djalali is being held in Evin Prison where he wrote that he believes he was arrested because he refused to spy for the Iranian intelligence service.

Arab-Israeli Muslim woman proud to live in Israel

Dema Taya, an Arab-Israeli Muslim woman, told the Israeli Arabic news channel: “I hope and wish for all the Arab countries, citizens, and societies to have a democratic state like the State of Israel.”

“I define myself as an Arab, a Muslim with Israeli citizenship, proud of my religion, proud of myself, and that I’m living in a country that respects my will and my rights.”

“I’m proud to stand up and speak for Israel and that I am an integrated part of it….More than 90% of the citizens of Gaza and the West Bank wish they were living under such a government.”

Maryland bars state business with companies that boycott Israel – Ovetta Wiggins

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order on Monday (23rd) that prohibits the state from doing business with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel. “Boycotts based on religion, national origin, place of residence or ethnicity are discriminatory,” Hogan said. “Contracting with businesses that practice discrimination would make the state a passive participant in private-sector commercial discrimination.”

49 North Americans move to Israel

As immigrants and public officials celebrated Aliya Day at the Knesset on Tuesday (24th), 49 new immigrants from the U.S. and Canada arrived in Israel.

The immigrants hail from 13 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.

Aliya Day acknowledges immigration as a core value of the country and celebrates the contributions of olim to society. It was celebrated for the first time last year.


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Odessa, founded in 1794, was a cosmopolitan port city on the Black Sea. Its Jews were involved in politics, commerce and shipping, as well as in education and the city’s cultural life. Important Jewish figures from the city include Zeev Jabotinsky, Zionist leader Leon Pinsker, writer Isaac Babel (who called the city the “Star of Exile”), poet Haim Nahman Bialik, and historian Simon Dubnow, to mention a very few.

In 1939, some 201,000 Jews lived in Odessa (about a third of the overall population), which had been annexed to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920. After the conquest of the Transnistria territory by Axis forces in summer of 1941, the Germans gave control of the region, called the Transnistria Governate, to Romania. After a two-month siege, Odessa fell to the Germans and Romanians on October 16 and was declared the capital of the governate. By then, some half of the city’s Jews had fled. Of the approximately 90,000 who remained, Romanian troops immediately killed about 8,000.

On October 22, an explosion rocked the Romanian military headquarters in Odessa, killing 67 soldiers and officers. The bomb was apparently a device left behind by the retreating Soviet army and set for delayed detonation, but the Romanian response was a massacre of Jews. Over the following three days, some 44,000 were killed – by shooting, fire, shelling, and hand grenades. On the final day, October 25, those who were still alive, numbering between 35,000 and 40,000, were moved to the ghetto in the suburb of Slobodka, and left outdoors until November 3. From then until January 1942, the remainder of Odessa’s Jews who didn’t die from natural causes died either on death marches, in concentration camps, or were shot.

The Red Army liberated Odessa on April 10, 1944. Yad Vashem estimates that 99,000 of the city’s 201,000 Jews died in the Holocaust.

Despite a viciously anti-Semitic atmosphere that prevailed in the city following its return to the USSR after World War II, and despite the departure of thousands of Jews both in the 1970s and the 1990s, the city today has some 30,000 Jewish residents, out of a general population of 1,000,000. They are served by numerous institutions established there in the wake of Ukrainian independence, by organizations like the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency and Chabad.


Netanyahu's diplomatic vacuum

In October 2003, while the second intifada was raging, the Israeli media uncovered a diplomatic initiative that sent the country’s political system into turmoil. The scope of the public debate surrounding it surprised even its architects on the Israeli side: former minister Yossi Beilin and former chairman of the Israel Labor Party Amram Mitzna.

The right-wing prime minister of the time, Ariel Sharon, was then at the height of his political power, leading a party holding 38 seats. Yet even he found himself challenged by the virtual peace agreement signed in Geneva between Beilin, who was then the chairman of the small opposition Meretz Party, and the Palestinian adviser and politician Yasser Abed Rabbo, who held no official position. Sharon came out against those forces on the left who acted behind the government’s back and collaborated with forces he claimed were hostile to the State of Israel. He tried, to no avail, to delegitimize what has come to be known as the Geneva Initiative and the people behind it.

While the second intifada continued, Sharon experienced a drop in the public opinion polls, while at the same time his efforts to create a diplomatic agenda failed. The Geneva Initiative rolled into the ensuing vacuum like a tempest, receiving the backing of leaders of the free world, among them US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. For many long months, the initiative refused to disappear from the headlines. Ultimately, it was one of the factors that motivated Sharon to announce the disengagement from Gaza a few months later. By then he had realized that he had lost all relevancy in the diplomatic discourse.

A decade later, that virtual peace initiative continues to set a meaningful agenda and to evoke political and public debates. That was its great achievement. It continues to preserve the relevance of Israel’s diplomatic left, which suffered a harsh blow after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000 and the eruption of the second intifada immediately after that.

Like Sharon before him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to the point where he will lose all relevance in the diplomatic arena. Israel is now in the midst of one of the greatest periods of isolation it has ever known, and Netanyahu has been forced into participating in a vague and uncertain diplomatic process. Worst of all as far as he is concerned is the waning of the Iranian issue since the signing of an interim agreement between Tehran and world powers.

Putting the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians into motion provided Netanyahu with some quiet, but only for a limited time. On the other hand, conflicting reports about what is happening in the inner chambers are hardly encouraging and add a large question mark to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks Dec. 6 about the progress of the talks. Furthermore, Avigdor Liberman — foreign minister of Israel, number two in the ruling party and the person who holds the keys to the integrity of the coalition — was loud and clear when he told the world on Dec. 6 that the task of reaching an agreement is impossible at the current time.

Even if Liberman, who said this from the podium of the Saban Forum in Washington, was just speaking his own mind, without coordinating what he would say with Netanyahu, the political significance of his remarks is clear. The prime minister does not have the support of the key person needed to advance the negotiations. In other words, the talks have no political future.

At the same time, just as Sharon could not ignore the Geneva Initiative ten years ago, Liberman and Netanyahu are not acting in a vacuum either. Even then, the virtual agreement offered clear-cut proof that the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians has enormous implications in the international arena and that a large part of the Israeli public is still interested in a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians based on a partition of the land.

The citizens of Israel have gone through a lot since then. Sharon has long exited the stage, but his heirs in the Kadima Party — former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni — failed to achieve an agreement and finally, in 2009, they lost the reins of government to the Likud Party. Ever since that election, which brought Netanyahu back to the prime minister’s office, the Palestinian issue has completely vanished from the agenda, replaced with the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program.

Now that the world is losing interest in the Iranian nuclear program issue, the level of interest in the negotiations with the Palestinians is rising. Israelis are also paying close attention to warnings by the former head of Shin Bet Yuval Diskin, who described the negotiations with the Palestinians as an existential issue for Israel while attacking Netanyahu’s coalition and describing the prime minister as a weak leader on Dec. 4. To prevent serious discussion about Diskin’s claims, Netanyahu chose to disparage his person instead.

In some way, it is reminiscent of how Sharon tried to delegitimize Beilin right after the Geneva Initiative was revealed in 2003. It did not work then. Three years into the second intifada, the Israeli public was looking for a more hopeful future. It will not work now. Diskin gave a speech last week at an event to mark the tenth anniversary of the Geneva Initiative, in front of a hall full of the initiative’s supporters, while Meretz, the sponsor of the event, has soared in the polls, which suggests it could hold 12 seats.

The January 2013 elections proved that the center-left bloc, which supports a diplomatic resolution based on the concept of a two-state solution, has the same political power as the right-wing bloc, which also has supporters of such a solution within the prime minister’s own party. The current coalition has at least 25 seats in Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni’s parties [Yesh Atid and HaTenua, respectively], who are committed to the diplomatic process. The election of Isaac Herzog as chairman of the Labor Party, instead of Shelly Yachimovich, also fits well with that trend.

At the same time, there is significant activity outside of the political system to topple Netanyahu. The two people leading this effort, Olmert and former minister Moshe Kahlon, are currently working independently, but they could combine forces in the future. As far as anyone knows, Diskin has no political ambitions of his own, but he would be glad to throw his support behind any group organizing to serve as a counterweight to the prime minister.

Netanyahu is closer than ever to the moment where he will have to decide for himself. Without the Iranian nuclear issue, he will have to be more active in the current diplomatic process, or he will have to present an alternative plan of his own. Otherwise, the vacuum will be inundated with other diplomatic initiatives and political forces.


Watch the video: ΠΣΕΚ Παρέλαση 28 Οκτωβρίου 2012, Λεμεσός Video only (January 2022).