A7News: Israel’s Response to Obama’s Criticism? Keep on Building!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Shevat 5, 5773 / Wednesday, Jan. 16 ’13

 

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Headlines

  1. 1.      Israel’s Response to Obama’s Criticism? Keep on Building
  2. 2.      New Online Israel Archaeology Archive
  3. 3.      AARP Warns Tough Economy Threatens 50+ Retirement
  4. 4.      Kinneret Waters Continuing to Rise
  5. 5.      Bennett on Criticism from US: We Will Do What’s Good For Israel
  6. 6.      Report: White House ‘Concerned’ About Bennett
  7. 7.      Sources: PM Unshaken by Obama’s Criticisms
  8. 8.      Hotel Security Guard Arrested for Vandalizing Yeshiva’s Torah

 

1. Israel’s Response to Obama’s Criticism? Keep on Building

by Annie Lubin

It seems like the Israeli government responded in kind to a scathing report which circulated Tuesday about Washington’s frustration over construction in Judea and Samaria. The message they sent – keep on building.

Sources close to Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Prime Minister would remain solid in his policies and the proof came Wednesday as the Housing Ministry issued tenders for 198 new residential homes in Judea and Samaria – 114 housing units in Efrat and 84 units in Kiryat Arba.

The announcement comes at a very strategic time. With less than one week before national elections, Netanyahu wants to send a clear message to the nationalist camp that his policies towards construction will not change and that he will not cave to international pressure.

However, for some, announcements of construction plans at a time like this are seen as empty promises in an attempt to gain votes.

Otzma LeYisrael party leaders MK Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari responded by saying that Netanyahu usually makes big promises but then fails to follow through.

“I wish there was an election twice a week,” the party stated. “If Netanyahu, during the past four years of his reign, would have built as he promises now, just before the elections, to build, there would no longer be a housing problem in Israel, and attempts to establish a Palestinian state would be classified as science fiction.”

“Right before the elections, Netanyahu is trying to steal the votes of settlers even though he agrees even today to establish a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. Hopefully those faithful to the Land of Israel have learned their lesson and will not lend their voices to someone who will displace them from their homes in the future,” they added.

The announcement also comes one day after a report surfaced alleging that US President Barack Obama, in private conversations, slammed Israeli decisions to build in Judea and Samaria and repeatedly said, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

Yesh Atid also responded to the announcement, criticizing Netanyahu for what the party claims is warped values.

“Instead of investing in housing, education and the difficulties with the cost of living, the Prime Minister, just before the elections, chose to invest in the settlements, thus enhancing the isolation of Israel in the world,” the party stated.

On Wednesday, the radical left-wing watchdog Peace Now released a report stating that 2012 saw a record number of approvals and proceedings for construction projects in Judea and Samaria.

According to the group, construction on over 1,400 housing units beyond the Green Line has already begun and plans for another 6,000 new housing units in the region have been approved.

“This report makes it clear why this government is good for the settlers but is bad for Israel,” the group said.

The Yesha Council praised the report, saying, “We hope that in the following years construction data will be twice as much.”

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2. New Online Israel Archaeology Archive

by Chana Ya’ar

Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) has launched a new Israel Archaeological Archive, to be accessible on the Internet in English, with a general explanation also available in Hebrew.

A Heritage Program jointly initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office and the IAA, the digital archive will feature tens of thousands of documents, photos, maps and plans from the period of British Mandate (1919-1948), ranging from Akko to Jerusalem.

“The archive is an invaluable project, a site that will consolidate some 30,000 Israeli antiquities web sites into one location for worldwide access,” explained Dr. Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Antiquities Authority. “The scientific importance of the archive is invaluable; it is the only one of its kind in Israel and in the world. In Israel there are approximately 30,000 known and declared antiquities sites that constitute our heritage – the largest and most important asset of the State of Israel.”

Uploading the material to the site required special preparations, with the task of scanning entrusted to ImageStore Systems Ltd. “This is because the archival material is especially delicate and sensitive and cannot be scanned with industrial equipment, rather it can only be done individually and manually,” the IAA said in a statement.

“The information constitutes the principal foundation of archaeological research of the past one hundred years,” noted a spokesperson at the Heritage Program in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The project is funded under the PMO’s “Landmarks” heritage program. “We will make this extraordinary information accessible to the general public in Israel and abroad,” affirmed the IAA spokesperson.

The new archive may be accessed at www.iaa-archives.org.il.

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3. AARP Warns Tough Economy Threatens 50+ Retirement

by Chana Ya’ar

A new report from the AARP (American Association for Retired Persons) warns the drooping U.S. economy is threatening future retirement for middle class workers ages 50-plus.

The issue is one that also affects Americans living in Israel, many of whom receive Social Security benefits upon their retirement through direct deposit into their Israeli bank accounts. More than 30,000 immigrants have come to Israel on aliyah from North American and the UK — the majority having moved from the U.S. — since 2002 alone, with the assistance of the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization.

The report, published Tuesday by group’s Public Policy Institute, said that falling incomes, deeper debts and shrinking savings have all contributed to the specter of an unstable future for most aging middle class employees at the tail end of the Baby Boomer era.

The AARP is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country, a nonprofit organization representing Americans age 50 and up. With a membership of more than 37 million people, the group has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rising health care costs combined with the likelihood that social security stipends will comprise the bulk of most retiree incomes further darkened an already grim picture, the organization warned Tuesday.

According to the AARP, health care costs currently are rising faster than wages. When one takes into account the fact that many people have to pay out-of-pocket for health care due to repeated insurance denials, plus a recent prediction by the Urban Institute that the average retirement income will drop to 73 percent of average wages, the AARP pointed out that middle class retirees may face an uphill battle for survival.

AARP CEO Barry Rand urged the U.S. government to separate the issues of Social Security and Medicare from the rest of the budget debate.

“We need a full-blown national discussion of how to ensure that Social Security continues to contribute to the retirement security of older Americans in the future,” he told ABC News.

“Social Security remains the critical foundation of income security for the overwhelming majority of people… It’s all about people and not just numbers,” he added. “We feel the recent debate in Washington has forgotten that.”

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4. Kinneret Waters Continuing to Rise

by Chana Ya’ar

With at least two more months to go till the end of the rainy season, the waters of Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee are continuing to rise in what has been the wettest winter in the past 10 years.

Over the past 24 hours, the level of the lake has risen by another two centimeters, to 210.99 meters below sea level.

But with eight more feet (2.438 meters) to go before the lake reaches its maximum capacity, it is still unlikely authorities will need to open the Degania Dam this year in order to keep the lake from cresting.

Located in the northern part of the Dead Sea rift in the African-Syrian Rift valley, the Kinneret is Israel’s only natural freshwater lake, and a crucial source of water for the country. It provides more than half of the country’s water demand.

The northern Jordan River provides most of the lake’s water supply, entering the Kinneret from the north and flowing out again from the south.

At its highest water level, the surface area of the lake is 168 square kilometers, with a maximal water depth of 46 meters, and a volume of 4,150 million cubic meters (MCM). The average depth of the lake is 25 meters. Much of the data collected on the operation of the lake and its drainage basin is gathered by scientists from the Kinneret Limnological Laboratory (KLL), established in 1968.

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5. Bennett on Criticism from US: We Will Do What’s Good For Israel

by Annie Lubin

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett commented Wednesday morning on reports that the White House is deeply concerned about growing support for his party, which represents very nationalist interests, and is worried about the potential sway he may have in dealing with issues such as construction in Judea and Samaria and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

“We will listen to the Americans, but we will do what is good for Israel,” Bennett wrote on his Facebook page, arguing that Israel must first and foremost do everything in its power to make sure the country is safe before taking into account how the international community may react.

Bennett wrote that the United States is an important ally of Israel, but added, “Israeli citizens must first of all think about the Israeli interest –  a secure Israeli state. A State of Israel without terrorist attacks in its cities. A State of Israel not flooded by Palestinian refugees.”

He said that when Israel gave central cities in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians in 1994, encouraged by the United States, “We took the first wave of bombers in Israeli cities: In Tel Aviv, in the Beit Lid junction and in the rest of the country,” referring to terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and Islamic Jihad which claimed the lives of dozens of Israelis.

“When, under American pressure, we held talks at Camp David between (Ehud) Barak and (Yassar) Arafat, the second intifada began immediately and over 1,000 Israelis were murdered. Yes, a thousand Jews were murdered here. It was hell.”

“When we gave Gaza to the Palestinians, and under U.S. pressure we also gave up the Philadelphi crossing, in return we got thousands of rockets on southern Israel – until this very day.”

Bennett added that Israel should respect the United States, but “above all” the country has to protect it’s own interests and must do what is necessary to ensure security within the state. “A weak Israel, under a barrage of missiles and attacks, is not in America’s interests either,” added Bennett.

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6. Report: White House ‘Concerned’ About Bennett

by Elad Benari

The White House is closely following the elections in Israel, Channel 10 News reported on Tuesday. Obama’s remarks, as quoted by Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, show that he is also attempting to interfere with them.

According to the report, the U.S. is particularly concerned over the growing strength of the proudly nationalist Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) in the polls and over the fact that there is hardly talk about negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as part of the election campaign.

The U.S. is concerned, according to Channel 10, that Bennett’s strengthening will cause Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in turn, to strengthen the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The report comes on the heels of the harsh criticism by President Barack Obama at Netanyahu, as reported by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

According to Goldberg, Obama said repeatedly recently that Israel does not know what its own best interests are.

When informed about the Israeli decision to approve construction plans in the E1 area, “Obama, who has a famously contentious relationship with the prime minister, didn’t even bother getting angry,” wrote Goldberg. “He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.

According to Goldberg, Obama “has become convinced that Netanyahu is so captive to the settler lobby, and so uninterested in making anything more than the slightest conciliatory gesture toward Palestinian moderates, that an investment of presidential interest in the peace process wouldn’t be a wise use of his time.”

In response to the criticism, sources close to Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Prime Minister would remain solid in his policies, especially regarding Israel’s determination not to return to the 1948 armistice lines, despite the comments by Obama and his attempts to affect election results in Israel.

A senior Likud official told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that Netanyahu has indicated in private conversations he would prefer to form a coalition Lapid and Livni and that he “fears a strong Bennett”, because his party will make it difficult for him to make diplomatic moves. This, however, is possibly a planted rumor, say other Likud sources, which, perversely, gives Bennett more support as most Israelis, polls show, do not want Israel to make concessions to the PA.

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7. Sources: PM Unshaken by Obama’s Criticisms

by David Lev

Sources close to Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Prime Minister would remain solid in his policies, especially regarding Israel’s determination not to return to the 1948 armistice lines, despite the comments President Barack H. Obama reputedly made. The comments, published Tuesday by The Atlantic magazine, have Obama slamming Israeli decisions to build in Judea and Samaria. “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,” Obama is quoted as saying by author Jeff Goldberg. “With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation,” Goldberg writes.

According to Goldberg, Obama “has become convinced that Netanyahu is so captive to the settler lobby, and so uninterested in making anything more than the slightest conciliatory gesture toward Palestinian moderates, that an investment of presidential interest in the peace process wouldn’t be a wise use of his time.”

“For Israel,” Goldberg predicts, “the short-term consequences of Obama’s frustration are limited. The U.S. won’t cut off its aid to Israel, and Obama’s effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions will continue whether or not he’s fed up with Netanyahu. “But it is in terms of American diplomatic protection – among the Europeans and especially at the UN – that Israel may one day soon notice a significant shift.”

But a report in Ha’aretz Tuesday quoted officials close to the Prime Minister as having Netanyahu dismiss the President’s comments. “Netanyahu will continue to stand up to international pressure, as he has for the past four years,” the officials said. “He will continue to look out for Israel’s interests and he will not undertake any compromises that could endanger the security of Israel.” He will certainly not agree to return to the 1948 armistice lines, the officials said, “and he will ensure that Jerusalem remains united.”

Likud campaign chief Gideon Sa’ar responded to the implicit attacks on his party’s leader, defending the PM while assuring the Israeli public that Netanyahu, who is slated to be elected prime minister for another term, will be able to balance the tricky relationship the two countries enjoy. “Netanyahu will know how to work with Obama very well while at the same time safeguarding Israel’s interests,” Sa’ar said. “Netanyahu has the edge over all the other candidates in the diplomatic arena too, not just the security and economic spheres,” he added.

Likud officials would not comment on Obama’s apparent attempt to intervene in Israel’s elections, with the comments coming just a week before Israelis go out to vote.

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8. Hotel Security Guard Arrested for Vandalizing Yeshiva’s Torah

by Rachel Hirshfeld

A hotel security guard was arrested in Tennessee for vandalizing a Torah scroll and other property belonging to the Margolin Hebrew Academy of Memphis.

Justin Shawn Baker, 24, an armed guard working for the Maxxguard security firm, was charged with vandalism between $60 and $250,000, which is a Class B felony, after police found  that several Jewish books, musical instruments, electronics and a Torah scroll, as well as several religious venerated items, had been “marked on, torn or otherwise damaged or defiled,” said a police department press release.

“The crime appears to be specifically directed at the objects representing the Jewish faith,” the release said. “The crime was opportunistic in nature and limited to the involvement of Mr. Baker. The motive for the crime is still under investigation.”

After his arrest, Baker provided police with a statement in which he admitted to “knowingly and intentionally vandalizing the religious artifact” in the hotel “because they belonged to the Hebrew Academy and represents (sic) Judaism,” The Jackson Sun reported.

Baker was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and received several service medals during his time in the military, said Frankie Lax, a local radio personality and owner of Maxxguard Incorporated.

Approximately 50 high school students and faculty from the school were reportedly spending Shabbat at the motel on their way to a ski trip in the Smoky Mountains.

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