Friday, September 25, 2020

Jordan, Egypt, France and Germany call for resumption of Israel-PA peace talks

Netanyahu and Abbas

The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, France and Germany on Thursday urged Israel and Palestinian Arabs to engage in "credible dialogue" to restore "hope" to the peace process.

"Ending the stalemate in peace talks, the creation of political horizons and the restoration of hope through credible dialogue must be a priority," they said in a statement quoted by AFP.

The meeting comes after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain formally established full diplomatic ties with Israel, the third and fourth Arab states to do so after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace process has been frozen since 2014, when PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas breached conditions of talks that were ongoing at the time by unilaterally joining international treaties and conventions.

After Thursday's meeting, the ministers stressed "the urgency of the resumption of serious, meaningful and effective negotiations on the basis of international law and agreed parameters directly between the parties or under the UN umbrella."

"We call upon the parties to commit to past agreements and to resume credible dialogue on this basis," they said.

The meeting was also attended by the EU's envoy for the peace process.

The ministers also met Jordan's King Abdullah II, who reiterated a long-held position that ending the conflict required "a two-state solution with an independent (and) viable Palestinian state" based on pre-1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

The ministers also commented on Israel agreeing to pause its move to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as part of the deal to normalize ties with the UAE.

"This suspension should become permanent," they said, stressing the "importance" of the UAE and Bahrain deals.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted that the agreement with the UAE did not mark the end of his sovereignty plan, but is merely a temporary delay. US President Donald Trump, however, later asserted that Israel agreed not to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as part of the agreement.

The EU, which was highly vocal in its criticism of Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, welcomed the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates while restating its support for a two-state solution between Israel and the PA.

Russia dismisses US sanctions on Iran

Sergey Lavrov

Russia on Thursday dismissed the threat of US sanctions and attempts to isolate Iran, saying it intended to trade with Tehran once a UN arms embargo expires next month, AFP reports.

The embargo on conventional arms shipments to Iran is set to expire on October 18.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced an executive order and new sanctions against Iran aimed at enforcing United Nations sanctions.

The sanctions put in place a new arms embargo on Iran to replace a UN ban set to expire in October. Administration officials say it is an indefinite ban on weapons sales and allows for sanctions on any international companies or individuals that seek to violate the embargo.

Last month, Washington started the process of restoring all pre-2015 UN sanctions against Iran. The move to activate the “snapback” came after the UN Security Council rejected the US resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October.

However, the president of the UN Security Council rejected the US demand, saying there was no general agreement among council members.

Speaking alongside visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed those threats as illegal.

"Russia will in no way build its policies on the basis of these aggressive illegal demands which have no legal force," Lavrov said.

He expressed hope that other countries cooperating with Iran would follow suit.

"The fact that the United States threatened to introduce sanctions on all those who will contradict the US interpretation of the current situation once again confirms that Washington wants to behave like a bull in a china shop," Lavrov added, according to AFP.

"In my opinion, the current (US) administration has lost diplomatic skills almost beyond retrieve," Lavrov continued.

He added however that Russia and European countries continued talks with Washington on the subject.

'I will never allow the establishment of a Palestinian State in the heartland of Israel'

Ofir Akunis - Wikipedia

Minister of Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis spoke recently at the "Together for the Jordan Valley" event organized by the Holy Land Redemption Fund, and broadcast live on Arutz Sheva.

“Israel is the birthplace of both the Jewish and Christian faiths. It is the land where our patriarchs prayed, where our kings ruled, and where our prophets preached,” said Akunis.

“By returning to our homeland, Israel is fulfilling prophecy. We returned to the desert and made it bloom again. We restored the ancient language of the Bible and made it speak again. And we rebuilt the ruins of Jerusalem and made them strong again”.

“Recently, I had the honor of meeting the leaders of Israel's Christian communities at a summit at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. Israel is proud to be the one country in the Middle East where Christians both survive and thrive. Our Christian community is growing rapidly and flourishing,” continued Akunis.

“Sadly,” he noted, “this is not the case in Palestinian-controlled areas, where Christians have been persecuted for observing their faith. The number of Christians in the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza continues to drop and Christian worshippers are heavily restricted. This cannot continue. Israel stands with you.”

“When visiting Israel, you don’t need a tour book. The Bible itself is your tour book. Each location and holy site can be found exactly where it is described in the Bible. Be it Jerusalem, Hebron, Shiloh, Beit El, Bethlehem and more.”

Akunis pointed out that “In the United States, there are eleven places named Hebron, five places named Shiloh, four places named Beit El, and six places named Bethlehem. Here in Israel, we have only one Hebron, only one Shiloh, only one Beit El and one united Jerusalem.

“As such, I will never allow the establishment of a Palestinian State in the heartland of Israel,” he stressed.

“Dear friends, one of the most important places in Israel is the Jordan Valley. Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, and its establishment as our eastern border, will be necessary both from a security and religious point of view,” continued Akunis.

“From a security point of view, Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley will ensure that terrorists will be blocked from smuggling weapons from Jordan to the Palestinian Authority to attack Israel. Similarly, it will ensure that terrorists will be blocked from smuggling weapons from the Palestinian Authority to attack Jordan. Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley will protect the security of Israelis and Jordanians, and prevent the creation of another failed terror state in the Middle East.”

“From a religious point of view, the Jordan Valley is a holy site for both Jews and Christians,” Akunis pointed out.

“It was in the Jordan Valley where Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land after wandering for forty years in the desert. And it's in the Jordan Valley, in Qasr Al-Yahud, where Christians are baptized until this very day.”

“As Israel's Minister of Regional Cooperation, I will do everything in my power to further enhance cooperation with Christians in the Middle East,” vowed Akunis. “And I will do everything in my power to ensure that Qasr Al Yahud and all the Jordan Valley will remain part of Israel forever. We will develop, build and strengthen the Jordan Valley for generations to come.”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Saudi dissidents launch opposition party amid 'repression'

A group of Saudi dissidents exiled in Britain, the US and elsewhere announced the launch of an opposition party on Wednesday, the first organized political resistance under King Salman's rule.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any political opposition, but the formation of the National Assembly Party on the anniversary of the kingdom's founding comes amid a growing state crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression.

"We hereby announce the establishment of the National Assembly Party, which aims to institute democracy as a form of government in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the group said in a statement. The development is unlikely to seriously undermine the authority of the Arab world's most powerful ruling family.  

But it poses a fresh challenge to Saudi Arabia's rulers as they grapple with low crude oil prices and gear up to host a G20 summit in November amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There was no immediate reaction from Saudi authorities. The party is led by prominent London-based human rights defender Yahya Assiri. 

Its members include Britain-based academic Madawi al-Rasheed, researcher Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, activist Ahmed al-Mshikhs, US-based Abdullah Alaoudh and Canada-based Omar Abdulaziz, sources close to the outfit told AFP.

"We are announcing the launch of this party at a critical moment to try to save our country... to institute a democratic future and to respond to our people's aspirations," Assiri, the party's general secretary, told AFP.

Assiri, a former Royal Saudi Air Force officer, founded the London-based human rights organisation ALQST, which has catalogued what it calls widespread state abuses including arrests of women activists, academics and royal family members.

The announcement comes at a time when "the scope for politics has become blocked in all directions", the party statement said. (Read More)

Iran tries to form Russia-China alliance against US

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is trying to entice 
Russia to become closer to Iran through bilateral relations, Iranian media reported Thursday. He arrived in Moscow to discuss relations with Russia. His goal is to pave the way for Iran to circumvent the US embargo and sanctions. Iran seeks to harness Russia and also China to confront “US lawlessness,” Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported. 

Zarif praised the “important role of Russia and China in supporting the UN Security Council and countering US illegal actions in the Security Council,” the report quoted him as saying. 

“The Russian government and its representation in the UN have had the best position alongside China during the difficult recent months,” he said.
They have “played a leading role in the face of US lawlessness,” Zarif said, referring to the US pushing snapback sanctions this month after having asserted that Iran had violated the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran says the US has no leverage because it left the deal in 2018. (Read More)

Netanyahu approves large-scale construction in Judea and Samaria

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening ordered a meeting to be held immediately after Simchat Torah of the Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration, with the aim of approving extensive construction in Judea and Samaria.

Arutz Sheva has learned that Netanyahu has approved the promotion of more than 5,000 housing units in dozens of localities, after freezing construction planning in Judea and

Samaria since last February so as not to jeopardize the peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

In recent days, there have been contacts between the heads of the local councils in Judea and Samaria and the prime minister. The settler leaders demanded an end to the freeze and even threatened to protest widely against Netanyahu, which could put him in a difficult political situation.

Earlier this week, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, said that "Netanyahu's test is in issuing the building permits in Judea and Samaria. The people of Israel expect full sovereignty to be applied as promised by the prime minister in three consecutive elections, but while sovereignty is not applied, a national government should take steps to strengthen settlement and prove that the national government is committed to Israel and to settlement in Judea and Samaria."

Following the eight-month freeze, Dagan sent a clear message to Netanyahu: "We will not accept a de facto construction freeze. I call on the Prime Minister to order now the convening of the Supreme Planning Council and the release of this cork that stops all settlement." (INN)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Large fire breaks out in factory outside Tehran

A fire breaks out in a factory outside of Tehran, Iran on September 22, 2020. (Screencapture/Twitter)

A large fire erupted in an Iranian dairy factory near Tehran on Tuesday night, Iranian State television reported.

The cause of the fire was under investigation and no casualties were reported.

The fire is the latest in a series of mysterious blasts and blazes that have occurred in recent months throughout Iran.

The most recent occurred on September 11, when a huge explosion in a battery workshop southwest of Tehran killed one person and damaged dozens of cars and buildings, according to Iranian media.

While many of the incidents have been blamed on Iran’s crumbling infrastructure, speculation has swirled that Israel or the US could have been behind some of the blasts, particularly a July 2 explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility.

That explosion damaged an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant. It has been reported by some experts to have significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program.

According to a New York Times report, the blast was most likely the result of a bomb planted at the facility, potentially at a strategic gas line. The report did not rule out the possibility that a cyberattack was used to cause a malfunction that led to the explosion.

US eyes breakthrough on Sudan-Israel deal before election

Mike Pompeo

With weeks to go before the US presidential election, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is racing to make a breakthrough with Sudan that he hopes could also benefit Israel.

Sudan's new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognize Israel -- a major cause for President Donald Trump's electoral base.

"The United States has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that compensation is finally provided to victims of the 1998 Al-Qaeda-backed terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators that was confirmed by congressional sources.

"We also have a unique and narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan that has finally rid itself of the Islamist dictatorship that previously led that country."

Sudan is one of four nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, severely impeding investment as businesses worry of legal risks in dealing with the country.

The designation dates back to 1993 when then strongman Omar al-Bashir welcomed Islamists including Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, which carried out the embassy attacks that claimed more than 200 lives.

Washington had been gradually reconciling with Bashir, who agreed to independence for mostly Christian South Sudan.

But Sudan was transformed last year when Bashir was deposed following a wave of youth-led protests. British-educated economist Abdalla Hamdok has become the new prime minister with a reformist mandate in a transitional arrangement with the military.

Question for Congress

Sudan's delisting has been held up by a dispute over a package of some $335 million that Khartoum would pay as compensation to victims' families and survivors of the embassy attacks.

Completing a compensation package "is one of the highest priorities for the Department of State," a spokesperson said.

In his letter, Pompeo said it was "very likely" that an agreement on claims and on delisting Sudan from the terror blacklist would be completed by the end of October -- days before the November 3 election.

But Congress also needs to pass legislation to provide Sudan immunity from further claims.

Senate Democrats are divided in part because the draft package would provide more money to US citizens than Africans, who made up the bulk of the victims -- an arrangement some call discriminatory but others say is realistic and in keeping with precedent.

Some lawmakers also want further discussion on compensation for other attacks by Al-Qaeda, notably the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

Why the sudden push by Pompeo, who in his more than two years as America's top diplomat has rarely seemed preoccupied by Africa?

Sudan has hinted at a willingness to engage Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in February met Khartoum's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last month recognized Israel, a coup for the Jewish state and a signature foreign policy win for Trump.

Pompeo briefly stopped in Khartoum in late August in the first visit there by a US secretary of state in 15 years.

Hamdok demurred in his meeting with Pompeo, saying that his transitional government, which is set to rule until 2022 elections, did not have a mandate to normalize relations with Israel -- in what would be a major about-face for a country until recently considered Islamist-run.

But some observers believe there can still be forward movement on relations with Israel, especially with the prospect of removal from the terror blacklist.

Saudis reject deal with Israel, but push outreach to Jews

Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman

From scrubbing hate-filled school textbooks to a taboo-defying religious sermon, Saudi Arabia is pushing for another kind of normalization after declining to establish formal relations with Israel -- co-existence with Jews.

Saudi Arabia has said it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing diplomatic relations without a resolution to the Palestinian issue, even as it cultivates clandestine ties with the Jewish state.

Having Saudi Arabia, an Arab powerhouse and epicenter of Islam, forge a similar deal would be the ultimate diplomatic prize for Israel, but the kingdom is wary that its citizens -- sympathetic to the Palestinian Authority -- may not be ready for a full embrace.

Saudi Arabia, however, is pushing to change public perceptions about Jews with a risky outreach to a community that has long been vilified by the kingdom's clerical establishment and media, laying the groundwork for an eventual recognition.

School textbooks, once well-known for denigrating Jews and other non-Muslims as "swines" and "apes", are undergoing revision as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's campaign to combat extremism in education, officials say.

"The Saudi government has also decided to prohibit the disparagement of Jews and Christians in mosques," said Saudi analyst Najah al-Otaibi.

"Anti-Jewish rhetoric was common at Friday prayers of the imams in mosques used to address Muslims around the world."

In a stunning U-turn, a preacher in the holy city of Mecca triggered a social media storm this month when he spoke of Prophet Mohammed's friendly relations with Jews to advocate religious tolerance.

The sermon was by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque who courted controversy in the past for strongly anti-Semitic views.

'When, not if'

Mohammed al-Issa, a Saudi cleric who heads the Muslim World League, won praise from Israel in January after he travelled to Poland for events marking 75 years since the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was liberated.

Earlier this year, the kingdom announced the screening of a Holocaust-themed film for the first time at a movie festival, before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The kingdom has also pursued a bold outreach to Jewish figures, including in February when King Salman hosted a Jerusalem-based rabbi, David Rosen, for the first time in modern history.

"When it comes to Saudi Arabia and Israel establishing relations, it is a question of 'when', not 'if'," said Marc Schneier, an American rabbi with close relations to Gulf rulers.

"Part of the process that all Gulf countries have and are going through on the road to normalization is first pushing warmer ties between Muslims and Jews and then moving more boldly into discussing Israel and the Gulf."

Arab News, the kingdom's main English-language daily, whipped up a social media storm at the weekend when it briefly changed its social media banner on Twitter and Facebook with a greeting in Hebrew for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The newspaper recently published a lengthy series on the Jews of Lebanon, and plans a similar instalment on an ancient Jewish community that lived in what is today Saudi Arabia.

The newspaper's editor Faisal Abbas told AFP the coverage "was not tied to Israel" but aimed at connecting with "Arab Jews worldwide".

'Difficult to happen'

The coverage marks a departure for tightly controlled media in the absolute monarchy.

Saudi media outlets have previously branded the Jewish state as the "Zionist" enemy, but largely hailed the recent deals struck with the UAE and Bahrain.

Fuelling speculation about quietly warming relations with Israel were two television dramas on the Saudi-controlled MBC network during this year's fasting month of Ramadan.

In a controversial scene in one of the shows, "Exit 7", one Saudi character brushes aside the taboo of doing business with Israel, saying Palestinians are the real "enemy" for insulting the kingdom "day and night" despite decades of support.

The moves indicate that the kingdom is not opposed to normalization with the Jewish state after having resolutely supported the Palestinian Authority politically and financially for decades, observers say.

But Israel formalizing relations with unelected Arab governments "is not the same as Israel making 'peace' with Arab people", said Giorgio Cafiero, the chief executive of Gulf State Analytics.

Data from a rare Saudi public opinion poll published last month by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy suggests many Saudi citizens are not in favor of a deal.

Despite the Saudi media outreach to Israelis and Jews, "a mere nine percent of Saudis" agreed that people in favor of business or sports contacts with Israelis should be allowed to do so, according to the Institute's David Pollock.

"What peace? Peace after all that (Israel) has done, killing and war?" Bader, a young Saudi citizen in Riyadh, told AFP.

"It's difficult for this to happen between (Saudis and Israelis). I won't support it

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Report: US, UAE to commit to F-35 fighter sale by December

F-35 stealth fighter

The United States and the United Arab Emirates will move forward with the sale of F-35 fighter jets, with an initial agreement to be signed by early December, Reuters reported Tuesday afternoon.

According to the report, which cited sources close to the negotiations, the two sides are planning to sign a letter of agreement regarding the sale in place no later than December 2nd.

The Trump administration is pushing the sale of the advance stealth fighters despite objections from Israel, and is looking for ways to placate Jerusalem, which fears the sale could weaken Israel’s qualitative military edge.

Two sources told Reuters that the US is studying ways to make the F-35 stealth fighter visible to Israeli radar, enabling Israel to maintain its strategic edge.

In addition, defense experts say the F-35 fighters sold to the UAE could be built in such a way as to underperform the variant sold to the Israeli Air Force, much as the US currently ensures that all F-35s sold abroad be unable to outperform US jets.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who recently arrived in Washington, is set to meet with Defense Secretary Mark Esper Tuesday.

The two are scheduled to discuss the F-35 sale and Israel’s concerns, among other things.

PA quits Arab League role in protest against peace deal

Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian Authority has stepped down from a key Arab League role in protest at the regional
bloc's failure to take a stand against Israeli-Arab deals, an official said Tuesday.

PA foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki announced the decision to resign from the rotating presidency of the Council of the Arab League, after its failure to agree a draft resolution condemning a normalization accord between the UAE and Israel.

"The state of Palestine... refuses to record in its history the association of its presidency with the regression in values and principles that was evident in the last meeting of the council of foreign ministers," Maliki said in Ramallah.

The PA presided over the council's latest session earlier this month and had been due to stay in the role until March.

Their delegation had tabled a draft resolution at the meeting of the council, which brings together foreign ministers of the 22-member bloc, to condemn the normalization accord.

The Cairo meeting came ahead of another such deal being announced by Bahrain with the Jewish state. Both deals were signed in Washington on September 15.

The Gulf agreements broke with years of Arab League policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict and were condemned by the PA as a "betrayal".

In 2002, the bloc adopted a Saudi-proposed peace plan which was renewed as recently as 2017. It offered normalization only in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from territories it liberated in the 1967 Six-Day War, a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital and a "just" solution for the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees.

The Arab plan has been pushed aside by the US administration, which after several delays unveiled a peace blueprint of its own in January.

It promised Washington's blessing for Israel's eventual application of its sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria.

The United Arab Emirates government hailed a clause in its US-brokered deal that appeared to put any Israeli sovereignty plans on hold.

But Israel has stated that sovereignty plans remained on the table.

Explosion at Hezbollah stronghold in Lebanon

A violent explosion today occurred in the village of Ein Kana in southern Lebanon. There are several wounded.

Residents reported a loud explosion in the area and black smoke.

State media reported the blast occurred at a Hezbollah-owned site. The circumstances of the explosion are unknown.

In early August, a powerful explosion occurred in the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. At least 170 people were killed in the incident and more than 6,000 injured. The blast occurred at a warehouse containing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.

Israel and India sign MoU to collaborate in tech innovation

Narendra Modi and Binyamin Netanyahu (archive)

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today between Israel’s Start-Up Nation Central and India’s International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate) to initiate a bilateral program to accelerate innovation and technology cooperation between start-ups and corporates from both countries. The aim of this program is to bring together Israeli and Indian entrepreneurs and startups to collaborate on innovative projects.

The MoU was signed by Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central from Jerusalem and Anupam Jalote, CEO of iCreate from Ahmedabad. Professor Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to Govt. of India was present in the event through video-conferencing, while H.E. Dr. Ron Malka, Israel’s Ambassador to India and Mr. Yaakov Finkelstein, Israel’s Consul General in Mumbai were physically present. Others who were present virtually were H.E. Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Singla, India’s Ambassador to Israel. Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Vijay Rupani sent his best wishes through a video message.

iCreate and Start-Up Nation Central will initiate a unique Online Acceleration Program for market penetration to work with relevant technologies that match up with requirements originating from Indian corporations.

The program will begin by defining a set of challenges that will then be shortlisted to the most relevant solutions and technology providers. This will be followed by a matchmaking mechanism that will be developed by leveraging both countries' networks to support the process of adaptation and piloting these solutions in India.

The Israel-India growing partnership has developed into a strategic partnership in recent years, and since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the two countries have collaborated on a number of joint ventures such as Operation Open Skies and integration of Israeli medical equipment and technologies in Indian hospitals.

Ambassador of Israel to India, Dr. Ron Malka said, “Today we close a circle. A circle that started in 2018 when PM Modi and PM Netanyahu inaugurated this important incubator, iCreate, and now, two years later, we are signing, on the very spot where they stood, an MoU on innovation between Israel’s Start-Up Nation Central and India’s iCreate. This agreement is an important milestone in the growing innovation collaboration between Israel and India and stands in line with the visions of the Prime Ministers. Israel has the most startups per capita worldwide, and India is the top innovation destination in Asia. Together, both countries continue to form partnerships and collaborations in technology and innovation to solve a range of global issues like Covid 19, renewable energy and more, implementing high end technologies like AI, big data analysis and more.”

“This MOU is an important step in realizing the potential of the India-Israel relations in the field of innovative technologies,” said Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central. “I’m confident this partnership will pave the way for more Israeli startups to collaborate with Indian organizations and firms to develop and implement cutting-edge Israeli technologies that address India's and the world's most pressing needs. We look forward to collaborating with i-Create, identifying Israeli partners to jointly develop solutions to the current challenges in India.”

iCreate was established in 2012 to create a hi-tech start-up ecosystem with the active support of Mr. Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It roped in leading industrialists and academicians as mentors. It has been working with Israeli universities and accelerators from the year of its foundation. The new campus of iCreate was inaugurated by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 17th January 2018.

Start-Up Nation Central is an independent non-profit organization that builds bridges to Israeli innovation. Start-Up Nation Central connects business, government, and NGO leaders from around the world to Israeli innovation that can help them answer their most pressing needs.

The organization allows free access to Finder, Start-Up Nation Central’s online discovery platform that maps more than 6,600 Israeli start-Ups and Hi-tech companies, including in-depth insights about Israel’s innovation sector.

The partnership between the two entities was established with the encouragement and support of the Embassy of Israel to New Delhi and the Governments of India and Gujarat, in the hope of achieving the full adaptation of technologies and collaborative business models that will form the basis of long term, sustainable collaboration between the innovation and startup ecosystems of both nations.

Monday, September 21, 2020

US-brokered Israel-Lebanon talks on sea & land border disputes off to a good start

Trump’s election campaign is giving new impetus to talks on the Israel-Lebanon controversies over their maritime and land borders – another deep-rooted Mid East dispute attacked by President Donald Trump’s diplomats after he achieved the coup of UAE-Bahrain ties with Israel. How to finally demarcate the overlapping Israeli and Lebanese Exclusive Economic Zones has defeated previous mediators. An agreement would allow Lebanon to start exploiting its offshore gas and oil reserves and help haul that country out of deep economic hole – with timely kudos for Trump diplomacy.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the talks underway at the UN camp in Naqura on the Lebanon-Israeli border are focusing on the two border issues between the two countries. The land border marked by the Blue Line Since 2011 is more or less accepted, excepting for the small pocket of Shabaa Farms. It is based on the  1949 armistice agreement and the British-French agreement which demarcated the boundary between Mandatory Palestine and Mandatory Syria and Lebanon.

The maritime dispute is trickier: it is over an 856-sq km elongated triangle of energy-rich east Mediterranean Sea, In earlier negotiations, Israel agreed to assign 58pc of the disputed piece of ocean to Lebanon and retain 42pc for itself. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker has been shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem in recent days to try and go forward on this basis. He found Lebanese officials he met, instead of the usual foot-dragging, raring for a deal, as the key to drawing investments and lifting its bankrupt finances out of the pit. The French Total has been given permission to start explorations in  “Block 9” – the disputed area which partly overlaps Israel’s EEZ
Israel has meanwhile established a new energy company Alon D after the American Chevron giant purchased the Texan Noble Energy’s share of the Leviathan offshore gas field, including plans to build a pipeline to Europe. Recent tests have found between 3 and 4 new gas fields larger than Leviathan in the same patch of sea.

While Israel is charging ahead with its energy bonanza, Schenkar has run into a major hitch in Beirut. The politicians there have not been able to put a government in place.  Hizballah is demanding the key Finance and Health portfolios, against strong resistance from other factions, and the Christian President Michel Aoun has broken off his ties with the Shiite leaders, including Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and the Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri. None of them, it must be said, have made any objections to a maritime deal with Israel.

With the White House pressing for quick results, Schenkar, who is a seasoned diplomat and knowledgeable on Mid East corridors of power, may be expected to find the right buttons to push in Beirut for bringing the Trump administration another coup and arresting Lebanon’s disastrous slump.