Oct 15 2010

New setback, same problems

The American envoy for Middle East peace is not a man to envy. Senator George Mitchell is trying to remain upbeat while shuttling between Jerusalem and the surrounding Arab capitals, but his deepening wrinkles leave no place for doubt: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is – yet again – in dire straits.

Clinton, Netanyahu and Abbas (photo: State Department)

Clinton, Netanyahu and Abbas (photo: State Department)

Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were re-launched a month ago in Washington, so how come they’re derailing so quickly? The issue now in the forefront is Israeli settlements in the West Bank, after the Israeli government announced last November a 10-month moratorium on construction as a trust-building step. It took the international community nine of those months to get the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on board, and the Israeli prime minister is now under intense pressure to prolong the moratorium further. Abbas has threatened to leave the talks if it is not renewed. (more…)

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Aug 29 2010

Israel’s blossoming friendship with China

If you happen to be in Beijing these days, and CCTV-2 is your favourite channel, you might stumble upon the documentary hit of the season – Walk into Israel, a 12-episode HD TV series, produced by China’s national television. It is considered to be the most comprehensive (and expensive) attempt in recent years to document the history of the Jewish people and that of the state of Israel.

The Israeli pavilion in Shangahi, Expo 2010

The Israeli pavilion in Shangahi, Expo 2010

Love is in the air between Israel and China, no doubt about that. Data just released by the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute for the first half of 2010 indicates that China, which was previously ranked 11th among Israel’s export destinations, is now rated 5th, with $755m (€593m) worth of exports – a 115 per cent increase compared with 2009. Exports to China have surpassed those to long-time pillars of Israeli bilateral trade, such as Germany. (more…)

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Aug 14 2010

A reminder of the ‘Jewish catastrophe’

Just a month after playing host to a Russian-American spy swap, Vienna’s international airport was again last week the stage for a surprising secretive manoeuvre, this time involving the Libyan and Israeli governments, Europe’s most senior leaders and one of Austria’s richest businessmen.

Muammar Gaddafi (photo: James Gordon)

Muammar Gaddafi (photo: James Gordon)

The main protagonist of the night-time drama was Rafael Hadad, a 34-year-old Israeli photographer, who was arrested in Libya five months ago for allegedly spying for Israel. Two days before his arrest, he updated his Facebook status, writing, “I have just seen Muammar Gaddafi driving his own car, no bodyguards. Gaddafi is great”. The next day he updated again: “I’m in trouble”. (more…)

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Jul 9 2010

The politics of holidays

An interesting email message was sent the other day to a senior Israeli journalist by the press office of the Greek embassy in Tel Aviv. Under the headline “Greece will always remain beautiful” waited a PowerPoint presentation of some of the most stunning and tempting beaches of the Aegean islands, together with the classic touristic highlights of the mainland.

A Greek beach (photo: Revital Mozes)

A beach in northern Greece (photo: Revital Mozes)

Timing was no coincidence. Soaring temperatures and baking-hot afternoons in the eastern Mediterranean mean that the soundest thing to do is to look for a relaxing refuge. But this time around, due to the sinking relationships between Israel and Turkey, the holiday map is being redrawn, with all players trying to cash in. (more…)

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May 12 2010

Happy to join the club

It is not every day that some of Israel’s harshest critics raise their hands in favour of the Jewish State. So on Monday when Norway, Ireland, Turkey and the 28 other members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) officially accepted Israel as a fully fledged member, Israelis felt that they might be doing something right after all.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz

The OECD has hailed “Israel’s scientific and technological policies” that have produced “outstanding outcomes on a world scale”. Despite huge waves of immigrants from underdeveloped countries in the past six decades and even though a constant security threat has drained a large portion of the annual budget, Israel apparently boasts a much healthier economy than many of its new colleagues.

 (more…)

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