Monday, December 5, 2016
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned on Sunday night, shortly after suffering a heavy defeat in a referendum over his plan to reform the constitution.
An exit poll for state broadcaster RAI suggested that 42-46% voted to back reform, compared with 54-58% who voted No, according to the BBC.
The first projections based on the official count point to a wider defeat, the network noted, as early indications have the Yes vote at 39-43% and the No at 57-61%.
In a statement following the defeat, Renzi said he took responsibility for the outcome and called on the No camp to make clear proposals.
"The experience of my government ends here," Renzi said, according to Reuters, describing the defeat as "extraordinarily clear" and adding that on Monday afternoon he would convene his cabinet and then hand in his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.
The vote asked about plans to streamline parliament but it was widely seen as a chance to register discontent with the prime minister.
The turnout was very high by Italian standards, noted the BBC, with about 60% of the electorate casting their vote. READ MORE
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday demanded that U.S. President Barack Obama not sign an extension of U.S. sanctions on his country, The Associated Press reported.
Rouhani said the bill is a violation of a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Last Thursday, the Senate unanimously voted99-0 to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by ten years.
The bill had previously been approved by a vote of 419-1 in the House of Representatives. The bill still needs to be signed into law by Obama.
The ISA, which was first passed in 1996, enacts sanctions on companies that invest in Iran's energy sector in order to deter the Islamic Republic's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
On Sunday, speaking in an open session of Iran's parliament, Rouhani said Obama is "obliged" to let the sanctions expire.
The Iranian leader promised a "prompt response" from Iran if the U.S. sanctions are extended.
"We are committed to an acceptable implementation of the deal but in response to non-commitment, violation or hesitation in its implementation, we will act promptly," he said, according to AP.
Senior Iranian officials reacted angrily after the House of Representatives passed the extension of the sanctions, saying that doing so goes against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name of the nuclear agreement signed last year between Iran and six world powers.
And, on Friday, Iranian lawmakers threatened to pass legislation to resume the country’s nuclear activities response to Congress extending the sanctions.
Prime Minsiter Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the 16th annual Saban forum at the Brookings Institute Sunday.
The Prime Minister was asked during the forum what his plans to deal with the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons will be after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Netanyahu reiterated his longstanding position on the threat Iran poses to the State of Israel. "Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has not changed and will not change."
He said that he wanted to coordinate Israel's response to the nuclear deal western powers signed with Iran last year with Trump. "As [for] President-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking with him about what to do about this bad deal."
Trump has called the Iran deal, the JCPOA, the "worst deal ever negotiated," though he has given conflicting messages on whether he will keep the agreement or tear it up.
Netanyahu said that the deal did not end the Iranian nuclear threat. "I opposed the deal because it doesn't prevent Iran from getting nukes. It paves the way for Iran to get nuclear weapons. The problem isn't so much that Iran will break the deal, but that Iran will keep it. Because it just can walk in within a decade...to industrial scale enrichment of uranium to make the core for an arsenal of nuclear weapons."
Netanyahu also touched on the peace process, saying that the reason there is no peace is the Arab refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. "The problem we have, and the core of the conflict we have, is that the Palestinians persist in refusing to recognize the Jewish state in any boundry."
The Secretary spoke at length about his feelings towards Israel and Zionism, and his belief that Israel is headed in the wrong direction – and that the future of Israel is at risk.
"I do feel really passionate - genuinely passionate about Israel: the Land of Milk and Honey,” said Kerry.
Calling Zionism and Israel “the greatest story ever told,” Kerry warned that the State of Israel was treading down a dangerous path.
“But it’s not finished. The end of the story has not yet been written."
"There is no status quo - it is getting worse. It is moving in the wrong direction,” he said. "I have to tell you the truth. I have to share with you facts and describe to you why I am concerned. I come to you as someone who is concerned about the safety and security of Israel."
Specifically, said Kerry, Israel must confront what he described as a binary choice: to either permit Jews to flourish in Judea and Samaria, or to separate from the area and establish a Palestinian state.
"There's a basic choice that has to be made by Israelis - by the leadership of Israel. By all of you who support and care about Israel. Are there going to be continued settlements - continued implementation of settlement policy - or separation and the creation of two states?" READ MORE
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Donald Trump has not been elected president. The real election takes place December 19, when the 538 Electors cast their ballots – for anyone they want. We are calling on “Conscientious Electors” to protect the Constitution from Donald Trump, and to support the national popular vote winner. More than 4.6 million Americans support this grassroots effort. Please visit electoralcollegepetition.com to join this movement. (Read More) (This news site does not support this petition, but considered its existence to be newsworthy).
Not since 2010 has California felt itself politically so out of step with the times. That year the state resisted the nationwide wave of anti-incumbent, anti-regulation and anti-big government voting to elect Jerry Brown as governor, ease the passage of big-money state budgets and turn away a challenge to its pioneering greenhouse gas regulations.
This election day, California voters tightened gun control, extended taxes on the rich, hiked cigarette taxes, legalized marijuana, boosted multilingual education — and of course provided Hillary Clinton with all of her winning margin of 2 million popular votes, and then some, in her losing campaign for president.
No wonder the election has inspired talk of California’s seceding from the United States. The nascent campaign, organized under the banner of the Yes California Independence Campaign and heralded by the Twitter hashtag #Calexit, has been energized by remarks by Brown, and others, that a Trump election would necessitate “building a wall around California” to preserve its forward-looking policies against a reactionary federal regime. And why not, the argument goes. After all, with a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion, the state’s economy ranks sixth in the world, sandwiched between Britain and France.
Secession talk is more valuable as a pointer to all the ways that California and federal policies are likely to come into conflict during the next few years than as a formula for practical politics.
Italy’s referendum is supposed to be about curbing the power of the Senate. But after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s promise to quit if he loses, the overarching issue has become his efforts to fend off the challenge of the anti-euro Five Star Movement after almost three years in power. Across the Alps, Norbert Hofer is aiming to become Western Europe’s first right-wing nationalist head of state since World War II, by appealing to Austrians’ distrust of immigrants, global trade and the EU.
Iran is threatening to resume its nuclear activities which were halted as part of the deal with the West, in response to the United States’ Congress extending the sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
A member of the Iranian Parliament’s Presiding Board said Friday, according to PressTV, that the legislature is preparing a motion which would mandate the government to resume nuclear activities halted under the agreement.
“The three-urgency motion on the resumption of nuclear activities has been drafted due to the urgency [required] to counter the U.S. move,” the lawmaker, Akbar Ranjbarzadeh, was quoted as having said.
Ranjbarzadeh further said the Iranian lawmakers sought to adopt "a fundamental and principled" measure proportionate to the move by Congress.
“The U.S. and its Congress are the ones who have acted in violation of international law and trampled upon it,” he charged, according to PressTV.
He emphasized that the motion calls for "the swift, comprehensive and complete" resumption of nuclear activities in Iran.
Ranjbarzadeh said Iran would "repeatedly and round the clock declare to the world through its diplomatic apparatus and media that it was Washington which initiated this illegal action and that we (Iran) had no option but retaliation." READ MORE
Saturday, December 3, 2016
TEL AVIV – Fearing Donald Trump’s impending presidency, Iran is accelerating its vision of regional hegemony by bolstering its efforts to arm its Middle East proxies, a former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy told the Algemeiner Wednesday.
During a heated exchange with Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denied Palmieri’s accusations that Trump appealed to racists and countered that Team Clinton proved themselves to be sore losers with a bad candidate and no real message. READ MORE
China’s military conducted a salvo of 10 missile flight tests late last month in a show of force during the transition to the Donald Trump administration.
Chinese state media reported Thursday that the simultaneous flight tests of 10 DF-21 intermediate-range ballistic missiles were carried out in China.
The missiles “can destroy U.S. Asia-Pacific bases at any time,” the dispatch from the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The flight tests were disclosed by China Central Television on Nov. 28 and coincide with President-elect Donald Trump’s high-profile announcements of new senior government officials.
Disclosure of the missile salvo launch comes as Trump announced on Thursday that he will nominate retired Marine Corps. Gen. James Mattis as his defense secretary. Mattis is one of the Corps’ most celebrated warfighting generals.
Xinhua reported that the DF-21 is comparable to the U.S. Pershing II intermediate-range missile that used a two-stage rocket and aerodynamic reentry vehicle. The Pershing II was dismantled under the U.S.-Russian INF treaty.
Rick Fisher, a China military expert, confirmed the missile tests involved the DF-21C variant of the missile.
Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, also noted that the missile test came as China is conducting large-scale naval exercises.
“The PLA is banging some drums to provide background for military psychological warfare,” Fisher said.
The DF-21 is the basis for several types of missiles, including the anti-ship variant known as the DF-21D. Another version is believed to be part of China’s anti-satellite arsenal.
The DF-21C is a land-attack maneuvering missile with a range of about 1,000 miles.
It is also capable of firing a maneuvering warhead.
Friday, December 2, 2016
The US Senate unanimously voted to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by ten years on Thursday.
The bill was passed by a vote of 99-0. It had previously been approved by a vote of 419-1 in the House of Representatives. President Barack Obama still has to sign the bill for it to become law.
The Obama Administration had hinted that it would have preferred not to sign the bill into law. It was passed with a veto-proof majority, however.
The ISA, which was first passed in 1996, enacts sanctions on companies that invest in Iran's energy sector in order to deter the Islamic Republic's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened "revenge" against the US if the ISA extension is passed. He said that Iran would "retaliate" and that it would consider such a move to be a violation of the nuclear deal Iran signed with Western powers in 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the law is meant to enable the US to stop Iran’s “persistent efforts to expand its sphere of influence.” Senator Ben Cardin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that renewing the ISA was necessary to create a “credible deterrent” should Iran violate the nuclear deal.
The government of Hamas, which is the de-facto governing authority in Gaza, continues to build up its military capabilities in preparation for a future conflict with Israel.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the local security forces, many of whom are active in Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, announced on Thursday that a comprehensive military drill will be held throughout the coastal enclave this coming Sunday.
According to the announcement, the drill will begin at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and sounds of explosions and gunfire will be heard in Gaza during that time.
The police headquarters and some of the Palestinian security forces will be evacuated during the drill, and the forces will be deployed in the field. This appears to be a drill practicing a scenario of an Israeli attack.
In recent years, Hamas has been working feverishly to rebuild its infiltration tunnel networkinto Israel, after the IDF destroyed the network during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
In addition, the group has invested considerable resources in the development and procurement of weapons, including long-range missiles that cover most of the territory of the State of Israel.
As part of these efforts, Hamas conducts ongoing missile tests meant to advance its domestic rocket arsenal ahead of its next terror war against Israel.
Just last week, a senior Hamas official announced that Hamas has thousands of rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and localities to the north in the event of another war.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Erfan estimates that the Christian population will top 10 percent in Iran by 2020, which he said would precipitate a “paradigm shift” in the country and the surrounding region.
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), on Wednesday declared that Fatah will never give up on its principles, its character and its identity in order to achieve the dream of freedom and an independent state.
Abbas was speaking at the Fatah congress being held in Ramallah, a day after he was re-electedby consensus as Fatah leader.
Attendees at the congress, which is being held for the first time since 2009, include representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups, who were invited directly by Fatah, despite the fact that Abbas is considered a "moderate" by most of the Western world, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad openly call for the destruction of the state of Israel.
In his speech on Wednesday, Abbas reiterated that the Palestinian Arabs will not accept a state with temporary borders or interim solutions, and stressed that they will continue to refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He reiterated the demand to implement the Arab peace initiative without changes, and stated that the PA would continue its efforts, with the help of friendly Arab countries, to approve a Security Council resolution against “Israeli settlements”.
Referring to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed Britain’s support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in then-Palestine, Abbas said that the PA is negotiating with Britain to apologize for the publication of this document, correct the "injustice" done to the Palestinians and recognize the “State of Palestine”.
The PLO has in recent months launched a new campaign in an attempt to force Great Britain to apologize for the Balfour Declaration, going so far as to threaten to sue Britain over the 99-year-old document that declared the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in what was then called southern Syria or Palestine, the name given the area by Rome before the existence of Islam.
Abbas’s remarks come as he continues to refuse to sit down for peace talks with Israel, while imposing preconditions on talks.
The forum of army rabbis in the reserves blessed this morning incoming IDF Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Eyal Karim, whose induction ceremony is set to take place later today at Tel Aviv’s central “Kirya” army base.
“We wish him blessings and success,” the rabbis said. “We hope that [Rabbi Karim] will lead the military rabbinate to new heights, with strength and modesty, in the spirit of King David, [who was both gentle and tough].”
The forum called on rabbis in the wider public to rally around Rabbi Karim: “Rabbi Karim’s acceptance of the position provides an opportunity for all the yeshiva heads to rally around the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, and to see in him the one trustworthy authority for dealing with matters of religious observance in the army, and to thus strengthen the military rabbinate and Jewish matters in the army - preventing the bypassing of the military rabbinate and its resulting weakened status.”
“We are filled with prayer that God will send blessings of success to Rabbi Eyal Karim, a worthy and fitting choice, a Torah scholar of stalwart character and shining countenance, for the Army and for the State of Israel.
“The purpose of the IDF was, and remains, victory in war and defense of the State of Israel - the Jewish State. The military rabbinate will continue to faithfully act towards this purpose, while preserving the Jewish and nationalist character of the Army,” the rabbis concluded.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on all Muslims to “defend the Palestinian cause” and protect Jerusalem.
Speaking in Istanbul at a parliamentary symposium on Jerusalem and quoted by Al Jazeera, Erdogan said "it is the common duty of all Muslims to embrace the Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem", adding that safeguarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque should not be left to children armed with nothing but stones.
He accused Israel of "policies of repression and discrimination against our Palestinian brothers" and condemned the so-called Israeli “Muezzin Law”, which would prohibit houses of worship from using loudspeakers, specifically mosques, which disturb the sleep of nearby residents when the Muezzin calls worshipers to prayer in the early hours of the morning.
Erdogan criticized the bill as "irrational" and "conscienceless", reiterating criticism voiced about the law last week by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister. He also underscored the need for a "two-state solution" to solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"The only way for permanent peace in the Middle East is a free and independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem," said Erdogan, according to Al Jazeera.
"It is not possible to provide peace in the region without bandaging this wound in the Middle East," he added.
Israel and Turkey recently restored ties that were severed in 2010 after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. Despite the fact that Turkey appointed an ambassador to Israel and Israel did the same just weeks ago, Erdogan has continued his verbal attacks on Israel.
In an interview with Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan last week, Erdogan refused to take back his past verbal attacks against Israel, including a statement that Israel’s attacks against terrorist targets in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were more barbaric than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s actions.