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El Al Airlines Charges the President an Extra Fee for Carrying an Oxygen Tank on Board

El Al, Israel’s national airline, has made a not so wise judgment call that is going to lead to a lot of negative publicity. El Al is typically the airline of choice when the president, prime minister and other VIP fly for official business trips. However, when President Shimon Peres booked a flight with the airlines, it decided to charge him an additional $5,000 for the addition of an oxygen tank.

According to safety procedure, an oxygen tank and other emergency first aid equipment are mandatory whenever the president, prime minister or other politician travel abroad by air.

Upon hearing of El Al’s plans of charging for the extra carry-on, Peres cancelled the flight and booked a flight instead with Air Canada.

Anat Friedman, a spokeswoman for El Al, issued an apology to the president. Israeli officials have acknowledged the apology and said that the president wishes to put the matter behind him.

President Peres will be arriving to Canada as a witness when the memorandum of understanding between the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Royal Society of Canada is signed. He will also be meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Part of the trip will include a stop in Ottawa with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a talk on security, peace and trade.

President Peres played a pivotal role in the negotiating of the Oslo Accords in 1992 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 along with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

While most airlines are struggling financially, they need to really consider the consequences when tacking on additional fees. The bad publicity could prove to be far more costly in the long haul. Hopefully, for El Al, their blunder in judgment is something they can recover from.

In and Around Hamas

The Hamas Treatment:

While Gilad Shalit is not being hounded by Israeli press, and even had a hugging session this week with President Shimon Peres for a tear-jerking chat, here’s how Hamas is treating their people, recently freed from an Israeli prison.

Ma’an News Agency reports that those sent to Gaza “will stay in hotels for three weeks or until they each get a private apartment, car, and a job.”

Ismail Haniyeh already announced he will give each of the released prisoners $2,000. Ma’an also reports:

“… future income will be gained through jobs provided for each prisoner, said Saber Abu Karsh, a prisoners advocate in Gaza. Haniyeh has ordered that the released prisoners be given all assistance to help them re-enter society, he said. If that’s not enough, the Palestinian cellphone company Jawwal has offered each freed prisoner a mobile phone with a credit of 500 shekels ($140)… “

The Bloomberg Approval:

New York City Mayor Bloomberg defended the prisoner swap on Sunday, saying:

“I just know that the government of Israel had to make a decision and they didn’t walk away from the decision, they made one, and that’s what governing is all about…There’s no simple solutions to complex problems…Israel has a strong tradition of always bringing people back…And I’m sure that is something that all Israelis feel. And I’m not in a position to make a decision for the Israeli government of what they should do in any one situation.”

The Libyan Enticement:

Reuters reports,

“5,000 unemployed Palestinians have registered over the past week at a Gaza trade union office for jobs they hope will materialize in post-Gaddafi Libya… Hundreds of Palestinians who worked in Libya returned to the Palestinian territories after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42 years of one-man rule erupted in February.”

In other news, Ma’an reports:
“Egyptian authorities prevented Gazan journalist and author Mustafa al-Sawwaf from leaving the Strip on Monday to participate in a media meeting in Iran.”
The Hamas affiliated journalist was on route to Tehran to participate in a meeting about the formation of a union for Islamic media, a Ma’an correspondent said, but was prevented from leaving Gaza at the Rafah crossing. No reason was given by Egyptian authorities for not granting al-Sawwaf permission to enter via Rafah.

Al-Sawwaf said that he resents the way Egyptian authorities treat Palestinians and called for changes to be made by the Egyptian government at the Rafah crossing to prevent unnecessary humiliation and security procedures, a Ma’an correspondent reported. Al-Sawwaf is a columnist at the Hamas-run Gaza newspaper website Filastin Online. He said that he also holds a great respect for Egypt, pointing out that he has never committed any crime against the country.”

Israel Has a Friend In Italy

The Italian Prime-Minister Silvio Berlusconi came to Jerusalem on Monday to meet with our fearless Prime-Minister, Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu. The visit was amiable and showed promise for Israel’s future as a welcome country in European eyes.


Bibi, in his Knesset remarks, said that

“Israel knows it has a great friend in Europe in Berlusconi.”

He also stated that

“this meeting will give momentum to relations between our two countries.”

“We appreciate you. We embrace you. We love you.”

said Netanyahu.
Silvio Berlusconi said he dreams of one day seeing Israel join the European Union as a full-fledged and influential member state.

“As long as I am one of the shapers of politics, my greatest dream is to include Israel among the European Union countries,”

said Berlusconi shortly after arriving together with top Italian ministers in a joint cabinet meeting with their Israeli counterparts.

Berlusconi informed that he only holds joint cabinet meetings with the most important European nations. He said his visit demonstrates that he views Israel as part of Europe.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the Italian delegation warmly, and announced that the Jewish country is lucky to have a friend like Berlusconi in a region traditionally unfriendly to the Jewish people and to Israel.

The visit kicked off with a gala dinner at the King David Hotel then the following morning Berlusconi held working meetings with Lieberman and Netanyahu, where Lieberman hoped to enlist Berlusconi’s help in applying stronger European pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program.

He also met with opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni, before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem; about which he said the remembrance of what had happened in his and other European countries made him feel

“like someone punched me in the gut.”

A further joint cabinet session happened at the Prime Minister’s Office, where the premiers and ministers reviewed bilateral agreements and decided on areas of cooperation in the coming year, with an aim of deepening relations between Italy and Israel. A press conference was held afterward.

On Wednesday morning Berlusconi addressed the Knesset in a special session, and then opened an exhibition of seven original sketches from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus. The Italian premier will end his visit in the Holy Land with a lunch with President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence. From there he will go to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Berlusconi will be leaving Israel on Wednesday evening.

Silvio Berlusconi is among Italy’s richest men, estimated to be worth $6.5 billion.
He won his third term as prime minister in 2008, two years after his center-right coalition was voted out.
Mr. Berlusconi, 72, owns a business empire that spans media, advertising, insurance, food and construction.
He is also the owner of Italy’s most successful football club, AC Milan, admits he has had cosmetic surgery, has fought off repeated corruption allegations, and has been dogged by a sex scandal.

Israel is lucky to have such a good friend in him.

Gordon Brown Apologizes

Apparently things aren’t as bad as we thought they were when I posted a couple of days ago about English lawyers issuing arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials.

ivni brownIsrael’s President Shimon Peres said that the warrant was “one of Britain’s biggest political mistakes in recent years.” Before heading to Copenhagen for the climate conference, Peres said that London “had pledged to remedy this situation, and that it was high time it did.”

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the leader of the Kadima party on Wednesday to assure her that she is welcome in England anytime.

On Tuesday, Israel confirmed that Livni canceled her planned trips to London this month after she received word of a secretly issued arrest warrant, awaiting her British arrival.

Brown insists that he will take action to change the legal parameters that gave way to the situation, in the first place. Britain pledges to reform the strange legal auspices, which lets judges order the arrest of visiting politicians and generals. One day, under the current legal stance, arrest warrants could feasibly become issued against Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin, let alone Israelis.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued this statement:

“Israel is a strategic partner and a close friend of the United Kingdom. We are determined to protect and develop these ties….Israeli leaders – like leaders from other countries – must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government.”

Another Blood Libel, This Time from Turkey

It’s now gone farther than Turkey banning Israel from a joint military exercise with the US and other EU countries, or Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan ripping Shimon Peres in public at Davos, or accusing Israel of aiming phosphorus bombs at civilian targets, or even staging war games with Syria, which Turkey did a few days ago. Now, they’re starting the blood libels.

Turkey’s new show, “Ayrilik”, broadcast on State television station TRT1, depicts a love story between two Palestinians that takes place during Operation Cast Lead. The IDF is portrayed as a bloodthirsty merciless band of murderers, shooting Palestinian children at point blank range and lining civilians up to the firing squad.

No time for a long post about this right now, but if any of you want to listen to Arabic with Turkish subtitles, then here’s a clip from the show.

On the one hand, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has done the expected, summoning the Turkish ambassador. On the other, Defense Minister Barak warns against breaking ties with Turkey. So once again, a confused stance.

I’d just like to add that I am not at all surprised, or really all that much offended by this. It may just be me, but recently, anti Semitic displays have only given me encouragement. In my estimation, Israel should continue to expect a tightening of international relations with all countries and a general increase in isolation. Life will get a bit more difficult, until some sort of breakthrough is made and the status quo is altered in the Middle East.

The good news in all this is that if history has shown anything about the Jewish people, it is that they persevere under severe pressure. After all, you can’t have perseverance without severe. So prepare for some rough seas, and look forward to coming out safe on the other side. The only question is how long and bumpy will the ride be?

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv: Please Don’t Anger the Gentiles!

Here are some of the edicts that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who will turn 100 this coming April, has made lately. The internet is forbidden, Shabbat elevators are forbidden, women must acquiesce to every form of extortion from husbands they want to receive a bill of divorce from in order to be free to remarry, Crocs are forbidden on Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to visit the Western Wall on Shabbat, women are forbidden from earning an academic degree but at the same time must support their unemployed husbands who aren’t allowed to work because they have to study all their lives, and now, Jews are forbidden from entering the Temple Mount complex.
Oh happy day.

Rabbi ElyashivThis latest of rulings was mentioned to President Shimon Peres when the latter went to visit him in his Meah Shearim sukkah.

According to Elyashiv, Jews going up to the Temple mount could anger the gentiles and spark a war and further condemnation of Israel by the nations of the world. So it’s better the Jews lay low and put up a do not disturb sign.

This ruling fits perfectly well with the Haredi mentality of, basically, put up a giant wall, and wait for everything around you to collapse on its own, at which point the Messiah will come and the Haredim will inherit the Earth. This translates into the assumption that if Jews do anything to assert their rights anywhere, then we are “inhibiting the coming of the Messiah,” by breaching the wall we’re supposed to put up. This is why, in Haredi eyes, Israel is illegitimate. We breached the wall.

Elyashiv has his critics and slowly but surely, Haredi society is freeing itself from the influence of the old guard. We won’t see this actively happening until Elyashiv passes on and then some, but there is some simmering going on. Building a giant wall and waiting for everything outside of it to collapse just isn’t in style so much these days.
Some actually think that putting up a do not disturb sign encourages people to start rapping at your door. If you don’t answer, it, the knock usually gets even louder.

Palestinian State within Two Years? Bibi: ‘No Comment’

This’ll be a tough one to swallow. As soon as I finished reading the report on Haaretz, I started laughing. Here’s why. The report began with a blanket statement that negotiations over a Palestinian state will begin next month on the basis of an understanding that a state will be established in two years’ time. The next sentence I read was “Palestinian and European Union sources told Haaretz that talks will initially focus on determining the permanent border…” Then I thought, “well, what about Israel? What did they tell Haaretz?”
 
Apparently…nothing. And then this sentence: “It is understood that this will be accompanied by a public American and European declaration that the permanent border will be based on the border of June 4, 1967.”
 
Public American and European declaration…what about Israel? I guess she just slipped their minds.

They finally get to Netanyahu and Israel somewhere in the next paragraph. Here’s what they say: “Likewise, Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that the Arab world embark on normalizing ties with Israel, will not constitute preconditions to an “early recognition” of Palestine.”
 
In other words, Israel is actually irrelevant, and her demands may as well be perfectly ignored. That’s what about Israel.
 
Shimon Peres, who by some amazingly weird miracle is somehow still involved in politics after losing every single election he ran for since the mid 80’s, called Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to announce a de facto Palestinian State within two years, something worthy of a “Palestinian Ben Gurion”. 

As for Netanyahu’s opinion of Fayyad, Haaretz had this to say: “Netanyahu has not yet commented on Fayyad’s plan.”
 
With such overwhelming consensus, we can definitely afford to say, “Well, uh…sure, maybe this time it’ll work.”

President Peres Cordially Invites King Abdullah to visit Jerusalem

The Iraninan delegation may have walked out when Israeli President Shimon Peres addressed the delegates to the International Interfaith Conference being held in Kazakhstan on Wednesday; but the Saudi delegates didn’t, and they head the Israeli President invite His Majesty King Abdullah to meet with him and other Israeli officials in Jerusalem or in Riyadh or to travel back to Kazakhstan in order to talk about peace between Israel and it’s Arab neighbors.

Speaking before the 150 delegate audience Peres told them “there was time when we (the Israeli delegation) would be the only Middle Eastern ones present in such a conference. But times have changed and together with all the Arab leaders, we can realize your vision, our vision and the vision of all the leaders and all the believers in our shared goal of peace and justice”.

Peres in KhazkstanPeres called upon the delegates attending the conference to separate themselves between religion and terror and to castigate those who use the practice of religion to “kill in the name of God”. He then focused hid attention towards the Iranian delegation by telling them “Your country organizes religion to carry out violent acts, supposedly in God’s name, towards your own people – acts that are seen to be in worst criminal manner against mankind and against the laws of God.”

Peres immediately returned to Israel, following his presence at the conference, and his meetings with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in what was a historical first meeting between an Israeli Head of State and the leaders of two Muslim countries: Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Peres’ presence at the conference is seen as an important step forward in improving relations between Israel and countries who in the past have not had very friendly relations with the Jewish state. Whether or not the Saudi king takes Peres up on his invite is up to speculation, as Saudi Arabia is one or strictest Islamic countries in the world, where women have far less status and individual rights than those living in most other Muslim countries – including Iran. The Saudi royal family is also under intense pressure from both Iran and from terror groups like Al Qaeda, who’s leader Usama bin Ladin came from there and still has many relatives still residing in the Kingdom.

But the offer was made, and it may not be too far fetched to one day see a Saudi king and his entourage praying in the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Pope’s Visit Anticipated Amid Property Disputes

Pope Benedict XVIThe arrival in Israel of Pope Benedict XVI on May 14 is already being prepared for in earnest by Israeli and Catholic Church authorities. The visit of the Pontiff will include a formal call to Israel President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi, and to the Beit HaShoah Holocaust memorial as well as the usual holy places in the Old City and elsewhere. Benedict’s visit to Yad Vashem will be the second by a reining Pontiff following Pope John Paul II ‘s historic visit there in March, 2000. Being of German descent, and due to his membership in the National Socialist Youth Movement as a child, his visit to Israel and to Yad Vashem takes on an even more significant aspect.

The visit will not be without its problems, however, as the Catholic Church is presently in dispute with the Israeli government over the ownership of some church properties in Jerusalem and other locations, including the building on Mt. Zion which is known by the Church as the Coenaculum, where Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper. Other disputed properties include the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Church and Gardens of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the Monastery on the summit of Mt. Tabor; and the Church of the Multiplication, which is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Church JerusalemPresident Peres, in a gesture of good will is trying to persuade the government to abide by the Church’s requests (demands?), hoping that this will enable more tourists and pilgrims to visit Israel and the Holy Land. So far, however, the government including the Interior and Tourism ministers are not ready to give these places up. As was noted to a Haaretz reporter by Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, “If we were certain this great gift would bring millions of Christian pilgrims to visit here we would have good reason to agree to these demands. But since we are not certain this will happen, why should we give out gifts?”

A considerable amount of Christian church property is in the control of various religious denominations, but these particular properties have been in dispute for some time, especially ones located in East Jerusalem since the Six Day War of 1967. The Pope’s visit in itself will be a logistical challenge, and some protests are being planned against the temporary closure of some of the holy sites he will visit, including the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and the Kotel or Western Wall in the Old City.

Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000 had hoped to bring millions of pilgrims to Israel, due to it heralding the 2nd Millennium. But not only did this not happen (less than 100,000 actually came) but the Second Intifada broke out in September of the same year. Many people wonder now what will be the outcome of this papal visit, taking the current political and security state of the region into account.

All Eyes Turn to Peres

Tomorrow, Wednesday evening, at 6 pm Jerusalem Time, President Shimon Peres will receive the official results of the general elections, which took place last week. These results will include all the votes, including the soldiers’ ballots.

Peres’ decision won’t be an easy one. Neither candidate — Binyamin Netanyahu nor Tzipi Livni — has so far managed to garner the necessary support of 61 Knesset members. Some media commentators even say jokingly(?!) that we might need to redo the elections!

So who is it going to be? Tzipi or Bibi? Too bad Mr. Obama is already taken.

Shimon Peres' Hard Choices

No Turkish Delight

Row Between Israel and Turkey Threatens to Damage Historic Ties

The sharp exchange of words at the World Economic Forum between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan over who started the Operation Cast Lead war in Gaza, is a sad and ominous message regarding the deterioration of relations between the two countries.

Prior to the recent 22 day war in Gaza, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed fairly decent relations with one another, despite the increase in terrorism against Jewish targets in Turkey and a rise in Islamic fundamentalism that begun to increase in this country despite efforts by Mr. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party to create closer ties to the West, and his efforts to act as an intermediary in preliminary peace talks between Israel and Syria. All that has changed now, and relations between the two countries have sunk to such a low that many Israeli travel agents have cancelled tourism package bookings to Turkey and are considering canceling package tour trips to Anatoly and other Turkish resort locations popular with Israelis.

Turkish DelightPrior to the economic forum conference, held in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Erdoğan was quoted at a news conference that it appeared that it was Israel, and not the Hamas organization, that broke the 6 month cease fire agreement, while not mentioning the rocket that were being fired into Israel by Hamas and other militants, despite the cease fire.

It is a bit strange, as well as frustrating, that Turkey P.M. Erdoğan could make a statement that Israel broke the truce with Hamas, despite the fact that around 300 mortar shells and rockets were fired by Hamas militants into Israel. This statement, by a Turkish head of government, only re-enforces the ongoing changes occurring in a country that appears to be drifting further into Islamization, and away from the secular ideals so adamantly espoused by Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

When Kurdish rebels make attacks against Turkish villages and towns bordering on Turkey’s borders with Iraq or Iran, Turkish air and ground forces retaliate – sometimes fiercely. Some of these retaliations have resulted in large scale intrusions into Kurkish areas, on scales not unlike the IDF’s entry into Gaza. Yet, the U.N. and other international forums have condemned the Turkish government on a much smaller scale than Israel has been condemned. This truth was mentioned by Mr. Peres when he asked Mr. Erdoğan what his government would do if missiles were to rain down on Istanbul.

The right of self defense must be the same for both countries; and Mr. Erdoğan and his government should be well aware of this fact. As Israel and Turkey enjoy a goodly amount of trade with each other, it would be a real pity if this were to end or be sharply reduced.

The Highs and Lows of President Peres

Last Wednesday, I featured a video from Oxford university, showing a heckler disrupting President Shimon Peres in the middle of a speech. It is not the first time Peres has to deal with tough situations and loud protesters. Despite his old age, he keeps traveling the globe and spreading his agenda to all those who would listen.

Nevertheless, sometimes even presidents need a break… or a nap.

Heckler disrupts Peres in Oxford

President Shimon Peres gave a lecture at Oxford University yesterday. In the middle of his speech, a man tried to approach him from the audience, while shouting “You’re responsible for the massacre of hundreds of people. You’re responsible for an apartheid state.”

Press this link to watch the incident.

Among other things, Peres noted that the election of Barack Obama marks the end of racism in the United States. He also reminded the audience that the Zionist movement had been born as a reaction to European anti-Semitism and racism.

Who will blink first?

Livni had about a month to form a coalition ever since she was elected Kadima’s. But in the past 28 days she seemed to hurry nowhere, conducting the negotiations quite sluggishly.

Today her 90 minutes are up, and she only has a single round of overtime. (if you’d excuse my soccer metaphors). This morning, Mrs. Livni met with the president Shimon Peres and was granted 2 more weeks to try and form a government. If she fails, then the country is automatically thrown into an election period.

Until this moment the gap between her Kadima party and Shas is so wide, that it seems she has much work to do if she wants to bridge the differences. But I also think that Shas is just as eager to remain in the coalition, and as time progress, they will become more and more flexible in their demands.

And Tzipi Livni knows that. So perhaps that’s the game she’s playing. Is she a poker-face player (as evident by her past in the Mossad) or a weak politician (as her opponents claim)?

Hold Me Back

Iran and Syria CelebrateThis is not the typical post I would have in mind for the New Year and in case I forget later SHANA TOVA folks… I just can’t help it, as I am sitting here waiting to get into the car and drive with the masses to my in laws I hear about the Syrians calling in their reserve army units and escalating their air defense troops. It reminds me of these guys that after they get pushed or shoved, tell their friends to hold them back or they will just go ballistic (pun ??) on their would be opponents. These are also usually the guys that after the smoke clears are the ones on their way to hospital.

Another school yard antic is this delayed response, and getting all riled up a week after the deed. When this alleged attack happened Wednesday night last week the Syrian papers and media said nothing. The Israeli side, in an uncommon act of control, didn’t even acknowledge anything happened (I am so proud of this quiet by the way). But then the local papers and the media started heating things up. The Turkish government wasn’t happy with the silence from Israel, then the North Koreans came out with a scathing statement about how shitty we are and how we deserve to get our ass kicked (back to that later).

Assad Bad BoyYesterday, CNN laid out the whole thing and Christian Amanpour started giving us all a play by play of what happened in the desert that night. By last night CNN said:

“One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea,” the paper wrote. “The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria”.

So today, a week after the attack, the Syrians are going on alert. Basically after the cow was taken out of the barn, screwed up the ass, milked and tattood, they are now locking down the barn….Interesting.

I am not sure about the details (and like it that way), but I like the connection with North Korea and it explains why they got all huffy. I mean they got all that cash to stop their nuclear program and they quickly turned around and gave whatever they had to the one group of idiots that is likely to use it (I want to suggest the North Koreans get the Noble Peace prize by the way). What I like even more is the fact that now the Hamas and Hezbollah are supporting Syria and encouraging it to take action. Assad is behaving like he is asking his friends to hold him back.

Last night our new president Shimon Peres spoke and you know what, he was great. I think he finally found his true calling. He was asked about the Syrians and he smiled and said, Assad doesn’t want peace. We wanted to talk and he refused. He is constantly trying to help Hezbollah turn Lebanon into another Iran and we won’t let that happen. For the first time I can remember Peres was clear, concise and down to earth.
And that’s the bottom line. Assad has been cruising for a bruising for a long time and last week he got it. He has been playing the field on behalf of the Iranians, killing off any chance for a stable Lebanon and lately making threats of war towards Israel. So last week, we allegedly, smacked his ass silly!

The 2 caricatures are from Moshik – One is Assad celebrating the Second Lebanon War and getting the blessing “May the next war be yours”, the second is Assad writing on the blackboard that he promises to be a bad boy. These were sent to me a while ago and I never used them. I think that now they are relevant reminders as to why Assad got smacked.

Shana Tova Everyone 🙂

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