News Nosh 1.21.14

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday January 21, 2014
Quote of the day:
"What about the settlements?"
--Arab MK Ahmed Tibi yelled out during a historic speech by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Knesset that praised Israel at length and called critics anti-Semites.**

Front Page News:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Israel Hayom

Peace Talk Highlights:
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proved himself to be the most ardent of Zionists and supporter of the right-wing Netanyahu government in a jaw-dropping Knesset speech, after making a seemingly perfunctory visit to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Meanwhile, Abbas said that while US Secretary of State John Kerry was serious about peacemaking, but Israel was problematic. Indeed, an Israeli pro-settler minister declared a Palestinian state would destroy the Israeli economy.

**Harper told the Knesset that anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel were the new face of anti-Semitism. In other words, Israel can do no wrong. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi yelled out, "What about the settlements?"  while Harper, the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, lauded Israel at length. Tibi and MK Talab Abu Arar eventually stormed out of the hall. Harper devoted a couple sentences to peace, saying vaguely that Canada supports "peace for the Palestinians," and adding: "I believe that a Palestinian state will come when the people will realize that peace is the way." Haaretz+ reported that on the eve of Harper's visit, Canada's Foreign Ministry released a report saying that settlements were illegal and an obstacle to peace and that Ottawa doesn't back almost any of Israel's demands.

Nevertheless, Harper dodged questions on Israeli settlements during his visit to Ramallah, but pledged financial support for the Palestinian Authority, in a meeting with Abbas ($66 million - less than has been given in previous years). He also said that Canada may take in Palestinian refugees as part of a peace agreement, NRG Hebrew reported. His visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was mired in controversy as local journalists claimed that the premier's bodyguards assaulted them as they tried to cover his visit: one journalist was punched in the face and another was hit with a metal object. Canada was one of the few countries that opposed a successful Palestinian bid for upgraded status at the United Nations in 2012.
Maariv/NRG Hebrew reported that Abbas said in an interview on a Moroccan TV channel over the weekend that "Kerry is serious, but Israel is problematic" about peacemaking.

Meanwhile, the leader of the settler Habayit Hayehudi party, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, slammed the two-state solution and those who claim (Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid) that peace talks are in Israel's economic benefit. "For decades there has been a desire to divide Israel. The excuse keeps changing: First it was peace, then demographics, now economics."

Quick Hits:
  • Activists remove Israeli flags from settler roads near Bethlehem - Palestinian popular resistance activists removed Israeli flags from two Israeli bypass roads near Bethlehem on Monday morning as part of a new nonviolent campaign to "resist" settlements. (Maan)
  • Settlers sue Bedouin over outdoor oven fueled by livestock manure - Judge says Israel ought to grant retroactive building permit for taboun in south Hebron Hills, which Bedouin say is 20 years old. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli troops detain 2 teenage shepherds - Israeli forces denied Palestinian shepherds in the southern West Bank access to their lands on Monday and detained two teenage shepherds from Um el-Kher village east of Yatta while they were steering their herds to pastures. (Maan)
  • Israelis 'force bulldozer driver to damage road' in Abu Dis - A Palestinian man from E. Jerusalem, whose bulldozer was seized by Israeli forces two weeks ago, was forced to dig up a road in the village of Abu Dis in order to get it back. (Maan)
  • Students show support for 'leftist' teacher facing dismissal - Civics teacher faces possible dismissal after allegedly telling students 'IDF isn't most moral army in world'. Some 200 students riot on his behalf, 'we talk about these subjects, isn't that democracy?' student asks. (Ynet)
  • Rockets hit open area in south -Two rockets hit open areas near Eilat, one in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries reported. (Ynet)
  • Settlements prompt European investors to rethink ties with Israeli banks - Three major European pension funds want more details about extent of Israeli banks' financing in the settlements, the Financial Times reports. (Haaretz+)
  • Norway: Boycotting Israel will not promote positive change - Country with record of enmity towards Israel is now assuming more balanced policy in region, enhancing cooperation in various fields such as energy, television. Norway's prime minister is expected to make first visit to Israel this year. (Ynet)
  • MKs accuse Netanyahu of power grab in raising electoral threshold - Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed to raise the electoral threshold from two to 3.25 percent, bypassing the Knesset committee assigned to discuss the matter. MKs: We have to watch the news just to learn what's going on. (Haaretz+)
  • Ex-UN watchdog: Iran 2-3 weeks from nuclear bomb - Olli Heinonen, former IAEA deputy director general, responds to Iranian claim it could resume uranium enrichment in a day's time. (Haaretz+)
  • Senior U.S. officials visiting Jerusalem to allay Israeli fears over Iran plan - Senior Obama adviser on Middle East affairs, Philip Gordon, is headed to Israel to discuss implementation of interim nuclear agreement with Iran. (Haaretz+)
  • Stone-throwers in East Jerusalem getting away with light sentences - The police increased enforcement, the prosecution revised guidelines, but the courts cut the defendants light sentences. Police angry. (NRG Hebrew)
  • Israeli leaders heading to Davos - to talk peace - World Economic Forum to dedicate entire day to discussing Israeli-Palestinian issues. (Haaretz)
  • Left-wing protesting the use of Rabin in a campaign against Kerry - Labor Party outraged by use of image of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in posters and ads, as well as a quote in a speech against the withdrawal from the Jordan Beqaa Valley. (Maariv, p. 1/NRG Hebrew)
  • Israeli army shelling out over $28 million a year to rent extra office space - Defense Ministry says number of rentals in civilian areas is decreasing as part of effort to move units to three locations and cut down on costs. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli police detain recently freed prisoner over 'unpaid taxes' - Israeli police detained Sunday Mahmoud Daajnah, a 66-year-old veteran prisoner who was released three weeks ago after having been held in jail for over 20 years. Israel claims he did not pay taxes. (Maan)
  • State: Testimony of former Israeli security establishment figure against the Bank of China would harm Israel's security - State tries to prevent Uzi Shaya from testifying against the Chinese bank, which allegedly transferred funds for terror. Prosecution: "Israel uses the word 'security' to no avail. This is only an issue of economic interests." (Maariv, p. 3/NRG Hebrew)
  • Ancient train line to Damascus rediscovered in Israel - Obsessed with finding the missing route, Yehuda Levanoni even found three people born on it. (Haaretz+)
  • U.S. suspends some sanctions as Iran halts sensitive nuclear activities - Iran, world powers implement first phase of interim nuclear deal; EU and U.S. will suspend sanctions against Iran once IAEA confirms Tehran is scaling back nuclear enrichment. (Agencies, Haaretz)

'Women-only’ hangouts could break - or bolster - the Palestinian glass ceiling
Social venues catering to women offer a safe space for customers, but critics worry about the risk of voluntary segregation. (Haaretz+)

The slippery slope of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) The demand to recognize Israel's Jewish character has never before been included in peace talks, says a former Palestinian negotiator. So why is it now a major issue?
Israel's economy can’t grow without peace (Sever Plocker, Yedioth/Ynet) Israel's business leaders have finally realized they cannot let the last chance for a peace agreement go down the drain.
Harper proves a good friend of Netanyahu, but not necessarily of Israel (Barak Ravid, Haaretz+) In an historic Knesset address, Canada's PM missed out on a few truths, while earning first class berths on the Titanic that is the Israeli government.
Analysis: How Stephen Harper weakened Canada's status in Palestine (Dr. Nabeel Shaath, Maan and Globe and Mail) Prime Minister Stephen Harper has visited Palestine and met with President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Harper will be able to say that he visited Mr. Abbas. But other than this official meeting, nobody else is asking to meet Mr. Harper. This would not have been the case with a Canadian leader only a few years ago, and it is a shame that it has become the case today.
Continued increase in rocket fire would demand solution (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) Will Israel launch a more extensive response if rocket fire at south continues? Ynet commentator Ron Ben-Yishai maps out strategies vis-à-vis understandings with Hamas, agreements with Egypt. 
Yaalon crisis and the Iran connection (Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Israel Hayom) The defense minister's harmful and inconsiderate comments -- albeit not meant to be aired -- gave the White House the leverage it needed to put the breaks on the Iran sanctions law.
Israel will be hard-pressed to respond to Sinai rocket attack (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Rocket fire on Israel's south is liable to escalate, even against the will of all the major players in the region.
Did diplomacy succeed in preventing an Iranian bomb? (Nadav Eyal, Maariv/NRG Hebrew) A wave of cynicism and pessimism is enveloping the (engagement) process with Iran. Pessimism assumes it will be difficult to reach a final settlement, under which the Iranians would give up military nuclear capabilities. Cynicism is based on the belief that this is all bluff. Pessimism is justified, cynicism is stupid.
We won't dance to the European flute (Dr. Haim Shine, Israel Hayom) If the peace process fails to bear fruit, Abbas will get Europe's full backing to crush Israel through international organizations and to paralyze its economy with endless boycotts.

Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.