Category: Politice

This category covers all news related politics

Getting schooled (The Times of Israel)

It’s back to school day for some two million Israeli students on Tuesday, and in the Hebrew newspapers, politicians and columnists wax sentimental. And, as with everything else in Israel, the grand educational sendoff is tinged with politics.

“Good Luck!” reads Israel Hayom’s headline. “We are all first graders,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s nonsensical headline says.

Both Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth lead with letters from Israeli leaders to the schoolchildren. Over in Israel Hayom, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urges the students to be curious and work on their friendships, President Reuven Rivlin encourages leadership, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett – addressing the apparently precocious six-year-olds reading the daily – tells first-graders to ask questions and speak up in class.

“Here is some advice from my experience: Be hungry for knowledge and be good friends, because this is what characterizes us as human beings, this is gives us our special strengths, and this is what unifies our nation — a love of knowledge and morality, internal unity and mutual responsibility,” Netanyahu writes.

Rivlin writes: “Dear students, in another 20 years you and your friends will be the next leaders of the State of Israel. Maybe you’ll be Knesset members, maybe you’ll be teachers, and maybe you’ll be engineers. In order to be the leaders of the future, it’s important that today you start asking good questions. A lot of questions.”
And in his letter, the now outspoken Bennett says that when he young, he was shy.

“”I have just one request from you: Be curious, ask questions — don’t be shy. I remember that I was shy, and I was afraid to ask questions when I didn’t understand, but in the end I got over it, I asked, and I understood.”

Over in Yedioth, alongside letters from Rivlin, Bennett, and Miriam Peretz – who lost her two sons in Israeli wars — acclaimed poet Erez Biton pays tribute to the elementary school teacher who taught him to love literature, “the beautiful encounter with Hebrew in all its treasures,” and features a poem about her.

Yedioth touts the various educational reforms being implemented this school year, which include smaller classes, a ban on discriminating against gay students, mandatory Hebrew classes for Arab students, and laws enforcing that three-year-olds and four-year-olds be in an educational framework.

But putting a damper on things, Haaretz’s front-page report says that in the past decade, the educational gaps between Israel’s stronger and weaker populations have only widened. The paper’s Yarden Skop writes that “despite efforts to reduce educational gaps caused by socioeconomic disparities, socioeconomic status still determines one’s educational fate in Israel, according to data from the past decade collected and analyzed by Haaretz.

“Socioeconomic background, in fact, has a greater influence than one’s ethnic origin. The gaps between Arab and Jewish pupils from wealthy backgrounds are significantly smaller than the gaps between the two groups overall. Among middle class pupils from both groups, in some cases the Arabic-speaking pupils do better on standardized exams than Jewish pupils.”

Haaretz’s editorial takes aim at Bennett’s investment of NIS 50 million toward “values programs” in schools, in which “the risk of religious-nationalist indoctrination greatly outweighs the probability of a pluralistic policy.”

“Bennett’s ‘strengthening identities’ program isn’t meant to serve as a basis for dialogue among the various groups in Israeli society, but to promote one and only one worldview, one that undermines Israeli secularism. The state education system doesn’t need such preaching. What it needs is to emphasize the liberal values that are the cornerstone of any country that seeks to be enlightened and democratic,” it writes.

All the Hebrew papers feature the following figures about Israel’s educational system: There are 2,194,931 students overall, and 166,208 teachers. There are 157,477 first-graders and 118,721 twelfth-graders in 2015.

Columnist Yoaz Hendel writes a letter in Yedioth to his son entering first grade.

“I don’t want you to learn from teachers who say your country commits crimes – but I also won’t let them teach you that Judaism is a monopoly belonging to one group,” he writes. “You will learn that there are a lot of question marks and opinions, but in the end, without a clear path, one can’t move forward. Before they teach you about all the evil in the world, before you encounter the bitterness of the radical left and the insanity of the radical right, I want you to first see the goodness around you. That you understand where we came from and where we’re heading. Combating the troubles, problems, and lunatics in our region – that you’ll have time to do later in life.”

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In 2010, US envoy said Netanyahu lacks ‘generosity of spirit’ (The Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to “lack a generosity of spirit” with regard to peace talks with the Palestinians, and a fear of being considered a “sucker” by his public inhibits him from making concessions and complicates the negotiation process, then-American envoy to Israel Martin Indyk wrote in a 2010 email recently declassified by the US State Department.

“The process of bringing [Netanyahu] down to a reasonable price uses up a lot of energy, uses up a lot of goodwill, humiliates his Palestinian negotiating partner, and raises doubts about his seriousness,” according to Indyk, who served as a senior member of the Brookings Institution at the time the email was sent.

“In the end, under great pressure from all quarters, he will make the final concession, but only after wasting a lot of time, making everybody furious with him, and thereby securing no credit either with his supporters or negotiating partners,” the email continued.

“At heart, he seems to lack a generosity of spirit. This combines with his legendary fear of being seen as a ‘freier’ (sucker) in front of his people to create a real problem in the negotiations, especially because he holds most of the cards.”

Indyk recommended that American officials convey their support for Netanyahu in order to assure that the Middle East peace process moves forward.

“Put your arm around [Netanyahu,] he still thinks we are out to bring him down,” Indyk advised State Department representatives. “There is no substitute for working with him, even though he makes it such a frustrating process.”

He emphasized, however, that “the purpose of embracing [Netanyahu] is to nudge him forward, not to buy into his exaggerated political fears or accept his inflated demands.

“As his friend, paint a realistic picture of the strategic consequences of his negotiating tactics, particularly in terms of what is likely to happen to the PA leadership if he worries only about his politics and not at all about [Mahmoud Abbas’s] politics,” Indyk continued.

“If all else fails, avoid recriminations in favor of a ‘clarifying moment.’ The world will of course blame [Netanyahu]. But you should avoid any kind of finger-pointing in favor of a repeated commitment to a negotiated solution and a willingness to engage with both sides in trying to make that happen, when they’re ready. The Israeli public and the American Jewish Community should know how far [President Barack Obama] was prepared to go and they should be allowed to draw their own conclusions. [Netanyahu], [Abbas], and the Arab states need negotiations and time is not on the side of any of them. They will come back to the table sooner rather than later as long as we keep the door open,” he concluded.

Earlier this year, Indyk, who served as the Obama administration’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace in 2013 and 2014, assessed in a interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that Netanyahu suffers from dysfunctional relationships with world leaders, citing tensions between Netanyahu and European leaders otherwise seen as Israel-friendly.

“It’s that mutual lack of trust which has poisoned the relationships,” Indyk said.

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Supreme Court upholds Syria trip conviction for Druze ex-MK (The Times of Israel)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the conviction of a former Knesset member who was sentenced to a year in prison for traveling to Syria and meeting with the head of a terror organization.

A three-judge panel unanimously rejected Said Nafa’s appeal, in which he claimed that other delegations from the Druze community also went to Syria without his assistance, indicating he did not play a significant role in organizing the trips.

However, the court noted that according to testimony given in the Nazereth District Court, Nafa had taken a central and dominant part in arranging delegations to visit Syria, a country considered an enemy state.

Nafa was convicted in April 2014 of meeting with a foreign agent and traveling to an enemy country over trips he made to Syria and Lebanon when he was still a member of the Israeli parliament.

Adalah, the legal center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which filed the appeal against the conviction on behalf of Nafa, denounced the ruling as political.

In 2007, while a serving Knesset member for the Balad party, Nafa traveled to Syria where he met with Talal Naji, the deputy director of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP is designated a terrorist organization by the EU, US, Israel and Canada.

“The court decision is a most notable example of how politics overcomes justice and the rule of law,” Adalah said in a statement. “Even though the court recognized that there was no security-related aspect to the meeting that Nafa had with Naji, and the conversation was about the internal Palestinian disagreement between Hamas and Fatah, it convicted MK Nafa for meeting a foreign agent, while disregarding his immunity and previous court rulings. Therefore, it is a political decision.”

Adalah called for an end to the ban on Israeli travel to certain Arab countries such as Syria and Lebanon, which, it claimed, is “tantamount to discrimination and oppression” against Israel’s Arab citizens and “prevents a national minority from coming into social, political, and cultural contact with its own people.”

“It is a sweeping and draconian order that is directed against the Arab minority, and gives no weight to its legitimate interests as part of the Arab nation,” Adalah said.

The court upheld the opinion that there were aggravating circumstances in Nafa’s case he had met with the head of a terror organization in a pre-planned encounter held in an enemy state to which he had traveled illegally.

Nafa also organized a trip of 282 Druze religious figures to Syria in September of that year. He was told by the Interior Ministry at the time that he would not be given permission for the trip but proceeded with his travel arrangements anyway, with the help of then-MK Azmi Bishara, now a fugitive from the Israeli law accused of passing sensitive information to Syria. Nafa and his entourage reached Syria after coordinating with the Syrian embassy in Jordan, and he later met with Naji.

The court rejected Nafa’s claim that he was being singled out and discriminated against compared to others who were guilty of similar actions.

In 2014 charges were dropped against more than a dozen Druze sheikhs who had traveled with Nafa to Syria and visited the same destinations. The court noted that the actions take by the other Druze travelers to Syria were less serious or were carried out before authorities decided to more strictly enforce law against such trips.

Druze communities are scattered over the Israeli Golan Heights, Lebanon, and Syria. Israeli Druze are occasionally able to travel to the neighboring countries to visit family and other communities who are separated by international boundaries.

Nafa, a Beit Jann resident who served in the Knesset from 2007 to 2013, has advocated that Israel’s Druze population abandon its traditional loyalty to Israel, adopt a Palestinian and pan-Arab identity, and stop performing mandatory IDF service alongside Israeli Jews. He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in 2010 by a Knesset committee.

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Cries of ‘Revolution’ at Lebanon rubbish rally (euronews)

It started as a protest against rubbish piling up. Now they are chanting ‘Revolution’.

Back on the streets of Beirut again on Saturday night, thousands of people denounced political paralysis – claiming those in charge of Lebanon are incompetent and corrupt.

“People want the downfall of the regime” cried groups of marching protesters, employing the slogan of mass movements that shook the Arab world in 2011.

The crisis started when Beirut’s main refuse tip closed last month. For demonstrators, the government’s failure to find a solution reflects the rot inside the system.

Anger over garbage in Lebanon blossoms into demands for reform— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) 28 Août 2015

The mostly peaceful rally flared when a group of youths tried to break through barbed wire barricades in front of government headquarters.

Security forces were quick to react.

But there was no repeat of clashes in last weekend’s rally which sparked calls by Amnesty International for authorities to investigate claims that police used excessive force.

Campaigners are calling for the environment minister to resign, for snap parliamentary elections and a resolution to the rubbish crisis. They want better public services in a country with daily electricity cuts and summer water shortages.

But parliament has extended its own term until 2017. Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year and the last parliamentary polls took place in 2009.

“We need a revolution to free ourselves from these politicians,” said Hani Abu Hamdan, a 23-year-old unemployed civil engineer.

“We want power, we want water, we don’t want rubbish in the streets. We want these politicians to get lost.”

What started with the ‘You Stink’ campaign is now seen as the biggest protest movement in Lebanon’s history organised independently of the sectarian parties that dominate politics.

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Pro-Iran Deal Resolution Shot Down in Democratic Natl. Committee (Arutz Sheva)

While President Barack H. Obama tries to sell his Iran deal to the American people, he is having some trouble selling it to members of his own party. In what political pundits termed an “embarrassment” for the president, a resolution supporting the deal was suppressed over the weekend at the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The resolution was halted by none other than the chairperson of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, normally a strong supporter of Obama’s policies. The intent of the resolution had been to express official DNC support for the Iran deal. A party spokesperson said that the failure of the resolution to be brought up for a vote was due not to politics, but to “procedural issues.”

As a fallback, the chairman of the Resolution Committee, James Zogby – the well-known Arab lobbyist and head of the Arab American Institute – drafted a letter declaring the DNC’s support for the Iran deal. Zogby said that as far as he was concerned, this was an acceptable substitute.

“We found that the best way to show support was a letter that members would sign on to, and the overwhelming majority of DNC members signed onto the letter,” the Post quoted Zogby as saying. “This is the President Obama we elected in 2008 who said, “I choose diplomacy over conflict,” and he did it.”

Wasserman Schultz, whose Florida district has a large Jewish population, has not announced whether or not she herself supports the deal.

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Young Lebanese activists challenge old political class (The Times of Israel)

BEIRUT (AP) — First they egged the prime minister’s building. Then they dumped some of the garbage piling up on Beirut’s streets outside the home of the environment minister, furious the government couldn’t get its act together to find a solution when Lebanon’s main landfill shut down.

But perhaps the most electrifying move by the young, tech-savvy group of activists was when they spread their catchy slogan “You Stink” across social media. It helped turn the trash crisis into a popular uprising against a political class that has dominated Lebanon since its civil war ended in 1990.

The core founders of “You Stink” include one of the Middle East’s most influential bloggers, as well as a creative media strategist, a rights lawyer, journalists and an actress whose film was banned by authorities for addressing touchy sexual issues. The group quickly picked up supporters from across the spectrum of Lebanon’s divisive politics and sects.

“We are the future of this country and the agents of change. If the youth didn’t do this, no one will do it,” said Nadyn Jouny, a 25-year-old freelance journalist who is among the group’s founding members.

She said the movement was a reflection of the growing frustration with an aging and corrupt political class that has failed to even show concern for people’s woes. She called it “the regime of the warlords.”

“You Stink” claims to have set aside ideology in its effort to mobilize support for an uprising against the political establishment. It says it seeks to ditch a patronage system that divvies up power to each of Lebanon’s multiple communities — Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Druze and more — in favor of a non-sectarian culture.

That system has been the center of Lebanese politics for decades and helped fuel the 15-year civil war — and critics say it leads politicians to spend more time cultivating their sectarian fiefdoms than actually governing.

“You Stink” is up against aging warlords and oligarchs who have passed power on to their sons and relatives for generations — and continue to hold the country’s top positions with expansive business interests and powerful militias that helped them survive the war. Consecutive governments neglected to improve the country’s infrastructure, leading to chronic water shortages and electricity cuts that continue 25 years after the war ended.

A Lebanese protester holds a placard in Arabic thats reads “You Stink,” during a demonstration against the ongoing trash crisis, at the Martyrs square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, August 8, 2015 (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

“The corruption has been around for so long. But the people have also now smelled it,” said Tarek Sarhan, a 17-year-old “You Stink” supporter.

Jouny said the stench from the mounds of trash that blocked Beirut streets was a wake-up call to residents who took pride in their beautiful city. Two major rallies over the weekend brought some 20,000 people into the streets of the capital, numbers rarely seen in a country wary of the chaos in neighboring Syria.

The last time large numbers took to the streets was a decade ago, after the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hundreds of thousands of people from all sects demonstrated in peaceful rallies that were dubbed the “Cedar Revolution.” Those protests eventually led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a decades-old presence — but sectarian politics quickly returned.

The idea for “You Stink” began on Facebook, and the group has tried to avoid the mistakes of other Arab protest movements by reaching out to existing youth organizations to help coordinate, Jouny said.

Neamat Bader al-Deen is a leftist activist with a group that calls itself “We Want Accountability,” one of several organizations collaborating with the movement.

“We are asking the government to resign because it failed to resolve the crises,” the 34-year-old Bader al-Deen said. “We will not let this pass. This is robbery.”

Sarhan said his father initially ridiculed the group’s symbolic protests. But when thousands turned up at the allies last weekend, his father called to offer support.

“Keep it up, son,” he says his father said.

At first the veteran politicians ignored the protesters. But after the crowds grew and turned violent over the weekend, the government erected a concrete wall Monday outside its main building to keep them at bay.

Within hours, the wall was filled with anti-government grafitti. On Tuesday, authorities took it down, just 24 hours after it went up.

Now, politicians are trying to co-opt the young grass-roots movement. A main Christian party has called on its supporters to join the next “You Stink” protest on Saturday.

“The parties want to spoil the movement … because it is becoming popular and that is scaring them,” Jouny said.

She said to ensure the group reflects the mood on the street it scans views on social media before making decisions. Several hundred volunteers have been prepped on strategies to ensure violent clashes don’t erupt at Saturday’s rally, which is being promoted with a video decrying Lebanon’s endemic electricity shortages.

Assad Thebian, one of the country’s best-known bloggers and the winner of an Arab creative digital campaign award, said attempts to stymie the movement will fail. That’s because young men and women fed up with the sectarian system are its backbone, he said.

“They are disgusted with the same political class robbing them, and sucking their blood all their lives, same as their fathers and their grandfathers,” he said. “This is something we want to get rid of. We want to all become children of the state.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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