Middle East. Personally. Yours.

05/24/2017 01:55 am ET | Updated 26 minutes ago

GETTY IMAGES
Trump in Saudi Arabia with king Salman

The United States President, Donald Trump, was all smiles as he strode down the red carpet in Al-Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. He clearly enjoyed the royal welcome, the gold, the glitter, the huge weapon deal and the generous donation made to Ivanka Trump’s new fund for women entrepreneurs. And so, the idea promoted years ago by former U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, of creating an alliance between Arab states, Israel and the United States against Iran, was brought back to the table. Saudi Arabia assumed a leading role in the alliance, namely, to combat Islamist terrorism worldwide. It is no secret that to this very day Saudi Arabia invests vast sums of money in spreading Wahhabism – the most puritan and radical of all Islamic Sunni streams – in many countries in African and Southeast Asia, thereby nurturing future generations of jihadist terrorists. One may also recall that shortly before President Trump’s visit to Al-Riyadh, the Saudis effectively blocked a proposal made by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on a Saudi branch of ISIS. The motion to add the Islamic State’s Saudi affiliate to a list of terrorist groups in the UN Security Council was sabotaged by Trump’s newly acquired best friends. It seems the Saudis did not wish to acknowledge the existence of an ISIS branch in their Kingdom, despite evidence to show otherwise. This was quite a peculiar move for a country that intends on playing a vital role in a newly formed anti-terror alliance. However, this doesn’t seem to bother Donald Trump.

Furthermore, the new American agenda for the Middle East, as presented by President Trump, will greatly impact the region’s ability to attain stability, or otherwise collapse. To date, the region’s prospects are not promising. The conditions that led to the rise of the Arab Spring have remained as they were, including unemployment, frustration, despair, and sparse opportunities for the younger generation, which make up a majority of the population. Top that off with corruption, a failing economy, and incompetent ailing Arab monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, who were forever supported by the United States, and occasionally Europe, and you have an estimate as to how well prepared the region is to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was nicknamed “The Sick Man of Europe”. Today, most countries in the Middle East, excluding Israel and perhaps Tunisia, fall under a similar category. The wave of revolutions in 2011 was sparked from what were possibly the most personal stories in the history of humankind, with figures such as the Egyptian blogger Khaled Saeed, and the Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi. People easily identified with their personal suffering and took to the streets in mass protests. However, it appears the leaders of the Arab states, followed by their Western friends, continue to turn a blind eye to the individual needs of their people. They have yet to take a close and careful look at the region and shape their policy vis-à-vis the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Middle East isn’t only suffering from bloodshed. It is also suffering from insufficient medical care, meagre wages, unemployment, power outages, rising costs of basic staples, rampant corruption, and a constant threat to people’s personal safety. If no one addresses these issues, or takes notice of the next Mohamed Bouazizi or Khaled Saeed, we will find ourselves back at square one. We will witness the chaos that serves the precise dark powers of extremism, which Donald Trump has promised to fight.

Is the Middle East capable of evading such a gruesome fate? The answer can’t be summed up with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but rather a ‘perhaps’. Perhaps with sufficient combined efforts, cooperation and critical thinking that address the region’s problems, a suitable Marshall Plan can be devised for the Middle East. Perhaps if the American President refrains from sweeping the human and individual rights of the region under the rug and takes a closer look at what’s really going on, the situation will improve. The young people of the Middle East deserve his time, efforts and close attention, so that he truly sees them. A good deal in the Middle East must benefit actual people, real women and men. It must include and apply to individuals. In the words of the Godfather: “It’s all personal, every bit of the business”.

CALLS MOUNT FOR PROBE INTO UMM AL-HIRAN OPERATION

Jerusalem Post

BY BEN LYNFIELD
24 JANUARY 2017 05:09

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said the Post report and other reports emerging about the incident appear to show that the scene of the police operation was a “complete mess.”

 Umm-al-Hiran
 Police in Umm-al-Hiran. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Eyewitness accounts published in The Jerusalem Post in which residents of the Negev Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran said police fired at a police vehicle during the January 18 demolition operation there have sparked sharp criticism by an opposition lawmaker of the government’s handling of the incident.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said the Post report and other reports emerging about the incident appear to show that the scene of the police operation was a “complete mess.” She also blasted Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for rushing to say that it was a terrorist ramming attack that killed Sr.-St.-Sgt.- Maj. Erez Levi and wounded at least one other policeman.

The accounts published in the Post contradict the police version of events that led to the deaths of Levi and driver Yacoub al-Kaeean during the court-ordered demolition operation.

In remarks to the Post, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld implied that the eyewitness accounts of Sabri Abu al-Kaeean and Tayseer Abu al-Kaeean, which were reported in the Post on Monday, were not credible. “The incident is being looked at and examined. It has nothing to do with Beduin who were there. Beduin also said there were no stones [thrown during the operation] and we know that there were stones thrown at police.”

Asked if police had fired on fellow officers, Rosenfeld said: “The incident is still being examined and looked into, but in terms of the Israel Police, they responded based on the threat, the incident and what was taking place at the scene.”

A policeman who was injured during the incident is recovering in Soroka-University Medical Center, where staffers described him as “lightly wounded.” The policeman, whose identity is not being revealed, may have information about what happened during the operation, but Rosenfeld said that he is barred from giving interviews to the media.

He added that the incident in which the policeman was hurt “is still being looked into and examined, but as far as I know, he wasn’t hurt by ‘friendly fire.’” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Police Commissioner Insp-Gen. Roni Alsheich and Erdan have all said it was a terrorist ramming attack by Yacoub that killed Levi and wounded other policemen. Police said they are investigating whether Yacoub was a member of Islamic State. Umm al-Hiran residents dismiss this and say Yacoub’s car went out of control only after he was shot by police. Police aerial footage from a drone appears to support that conclusion.

On Monday night, the High Court of Justice ordered police to release Yacoub’s body to his family for his funeral to take place on Tuesday. The court rejected the state’s position that “due to tensions in the Negev area” the body should be returned only if the family agreed to a nighttime burial with a limited number of participants.

Svetlova said the Post’s report underscores the need for an independent commission of inquiry into the Umm al-Hiran affair.

“The matters revealed now and coming out to the press and public, and the report that it’s possible police fired on a police vehicle and that there was a complete mess there, points at how much Likud ministers and other irresponsible politicians rushed to draw premature conclusions.

“Who will pay the price for their incitement against the Arab public and who will bear responsibility for the things that were said?” she asked. “It was said with complete certainty that it was a terrorist attack and it was also attributed to ISIS. But the more we learn, a much more complex picture emerges. Mahash [the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation’s Department] is investigating it, but I would prefer an independent inquiry commission that will arrive at the truth. The citizens of Israel deserve to know the whole truth.”

The Public Security Ministry declined to comment.

Criticism of the operation also emerged from the Right on Monday.

Former defense minister Moshe Arens termed the demolitions “a human tragedy that should not have been permitted to occur.

“We are in the process of having the Beduin population become loyal citizens of the State of Israel and that doesn’t move things in that direction at all,” he told the Post. “From a human point of view, it’s a very unfortunate incident, something that should not have been done. Even if the High Court of Justice gave its okay, it should not have been done.

“Although there are many differences with Gush Katif, there’s a common denominator of people living in their homes for many years and suddenly being forcibly uprooted. There are High Court decisions that don’t take into account the suffering involved in carrying out the decision, and in Umm al-Hiran, it led to loss of life as well.”

Arens said of Yacoub: “He could be innocent. There’s an investigation, so I’m trying to keep an open mind, but right from the beginning it was not at all clear exactly what happened. I can see that in this situation maybe mistakes have been made and possibly, [Yacoub] Abu al-Kaeean had no intention of hurting anyone, and people misinterpreted the movement of his car as an attempt to hurt the police.

“It’s quite possible there was a misunderstanding there, a mistake was made and two lives were lost in the process.”

Meanwhile, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and Adalah, the Arab rights organization, have asked the police to investigate the circumstances of the wounding of Joint List leader Ayman Odeh during the demolition operation. Police said at the time that Odeh was injured by a stone.

But in a letter to the Justice Ministry, the two rights groups wrote that when Odeh and other activists heard gunfire, they tried to make their way to the scene of the shooting to understand what happened. “They were blocked, however, by police officers who cursed and struck them even after it was made clear an MK was among the group,” they said in a press release.

“One officer sprayed MK Odeh in the face with pepper spray at point-blank range. Subsequently, as MK Odeh and the activists were retreating from the village, police fired rubber bullets and illumination flares at them, at which time MK Odeh was struck in the head and the back.”

Umm al-Hiran resident Aga Abu al-Khaeean, whose house was demolished in the January 18 operation, told the Post that day that she saw policemen hitting and shooting at Odeh.

Insights from an Israeli Member of Knesset – A Frank Discussion with MK Ksenia Svetlova

04.07.2016

 

 

“Israel has strayed from the route”

 Ksenia Svetlova

Ksenia Svetlova. Photo Twitter

“I am a product of this country,” 38-year-old Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova exclaims proudly, “I have been living here for 25 years.” A Russian-born immigrant to Israel, she studied Middle Eastern History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and went on to become a respected Arab affairs correspondent for a number of international media. She speaks four languages and is currently completing a doctorate. Her decision to enter politics, as a member of the Zionist Union party, was the “intolerable” diplomatic and socioeconomic situation in the country. “The time came for me to roll up my sleeves and try to improve the situation from the inside.” Listed in 21st place, she found herself in the Knesset when the party won 24 seats in the March 2015 elections.

Svetlova’s story is an amalgamation of parcels of history of Jewish immigration to Israel. Israel comprises many immigrant communities, yet her story stands out for its remarkable achievements. She explains that her mother decided to move to Israel when she was 14, feeling “something bad would happen in Russia”. She alludes to the fact that they were Jewish. They immigrated to Israel to reach their motherland. “You always lose something when you leave a place,” she says of her native Moscow.

A leftist and a reformist, Svetlova is considered a ‘rare breed’ of a politician at a time when being in the opposition is not easy. Yet she has remained true to her instincts. She opposes religious coercion and endorses progressive denominations of Judaism. She does not subscribe to the non-egalitarian nature of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel, and believes that people should be able to choose a pluralistic form of religion. This outlook evolved after she was refused a divorce for two years by the Chief Rabbinate. In Jewish religious law, a husband must present his wife with a “get” (divorce) document to effect the divorce, a system perceived by some as favouring men and being open to abuse. “I am trying to raise awareness of how intolerant the religious parties can be towards those different from them.”

“We cannot give up. It is not easy to be in the opposition but I am an optimist. Today, we have more hate for the other than we have love for ourselves,” she says of the current climate of racism and xenophobia.

She recently returned from a J Street conference in Washington DC. “It was the highlight of my trip,” she says of the annual event organized by the US-based lobby group that seeks to end the Israeli-Arab conflict through diplomatic means. “Although in 2015 there was gloom at the J Street conference after the Zionist Union, a centre-left party, lost the elections, our position has not changed.” She stresses the shared values between her party and J Street. “I have no magic solution,” she says honestly about the ongoing conflict, “but hope comes out of despair.” She supports the two-state solution and regional discussion towards peace with all of Israel’s Arab neighbours.

Her decision to study Arabic at university stems in part from the fact that her father was an art historian and she was impressed in her youth by Islamic architecture and the art of Ancient Egypt. “How can we live in a region and not understand the language which is spoken there?” she wonders, incredulously. “We must try to learn history and not just through the eyes of the conflict.”

As a mother of six-year-old twins, she ponders what type of country she is leaving for her daughters. She hopes that they will be able to live in Israel and not be “forced to leave in 20 years’ time. We should not lose our humanity or empathy due to the conflict. We should not forget who we are.”

She continues: “Israel is in free fall. Look at who our allies are today: Saudi Arabia and Russia.” She believes Israel should draw inspiration from more democratic allies. She recognizes that no country is perfect but believes there is a lot to fix in Israel. One thing is certain, she and her regional parliamentarians have their work cut out for them.

‘With Muslim influx, Europe will have these attacks daily’

MK Svetlova says integration of Muslims ‘has failed’ in a call to rethink paradigm, says ‘ISIS declared war on Israel’ in Istanbul.

By Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 3/22/2016, 9:11 PM

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) spoke to Arutz Sheva on Tuesday about the lethal Islamic State (ISIS) bombings in Brussels earlier in the day in which 34 people were murdered, and called on Europe to rethink its future.

The MK also discussed the ISIS bombing in Istanbul on Saturday whichtargeted Israeli tourists, murdering three of them as well as an Iranian, and called the attack “a declaration of war by ISIS against Israel.”

Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels were expected, she told Arutz Sheva, adding, “the Belgian and French authorities knew that there were ISIS activists planning attacks of this type.”

“The security situation needs to set off red warning lights in the Jewish and Israeli institutions. I think that we need to create a new security outlook paradigm, especially in Europe but not just there. In order to solve the problem, other than the specific solutions of raiding one house or another, Europe will need to work on a master plan of close security and intelligence cooperation, and a multi-system program dealing with education and integration. The program needs to also include other states around the world.”

Svetlova warned about the ever growing Muslim population in Europe, which has been fueled by a recent massive migration influx, saying, “we are seeing a collective that is constantly creating negative qualities and supporting terror sources in its midst.”

“There are whole neighborhoods in which this terror continues to blossom and increase. The concept of the integration of the Muslims in Europe has failed. The states need to look the truth in the eyes and think what to do now. If they continue in the same direction we will see attacks like these every day.”

The MK said that Israel needs to be concerned regarding the rising terror in Europe, saying, “the attack in Istanbul which, as became clear, targeted Israel, is a declaration of war by ISIS against Israel, and against everything Israeli and Jewish, and therefore we need to know that the attack could come in any place, and the readiness needs to be at peak levels.”

“We need to treat those identified with ISIS who work among us, in the state of Israel, with more seriousness,” she said, noting on the large number of Arab citizens who support ISIS, with many having gone to Syria to fight for the jihadists and others establishing local terror cells.

“They are here, they are active and they are planning. I hope that these weren’t the opening shots, because if so we need to reorganize.”

Israeli ties with Egypt may be thawing, but no ‘love and warmth’ just yet

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Zionist Camp Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova claims that while progress is being made, Egyptian society is still influenced by anti-Israeli discourse and not yet ready for normalization.

Activists shout slogans against Israel during a protest in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Aug. 2, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Israeli ties with Egypt may be thawing, but no ‘love and warmth’ just yet

“We should not be looking for love and warmth from the Egyptians. We should be looking for quiet and helpful cooperation instead,” Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Camp told Al-Monitor in response to the suspension of Tawfik Okasha from the Egyptian Parliament. The parliamentarian was punished for inviting Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, to his home for dinner. Okasha also had a shoe thrown at him in parliament, an incident that received wide coverage in the Egyptian media. The Israeli media also made much of the incident, and there has been speculation that Okasha had actually been sent to meet with the ambassador by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. If so, he would have been a test balloon, sent to see if it was possible to tighten relations between Egypt and Israel. Today, those relations consist primarily of military cooperation.

Svetlova, who was born in Russia, is an expert in Middle East affairs and a former commentator on Arab affairs for Channel 9. While working as a journalist, she covered the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Today she is completing a doctorate, writing her dissertation on coverage of Israel in the Egyptian media from the dawn of peace in 1977 up until 2011.

The rest of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor:  Do you see the incident involving Okasha and the Israeli ambassador as indicative of the normalization of Egypt’s ties with Israel?

Svetlova:  No. There is still a long way to go before that. The truth is that I was very surprised that anyone even expected normalization between Egyptian and Israeli society now, of all times. The Egyptians are willing to accept Okasha’s attacks on Hamas, but they are not willing to accept his support for Israel. The fact that he opposes Hamas does not mean that he can support Israel. A distinction must be drawn between military and agricultural cooperation, which always exists, and normalization between the two societies themselves. Egyptian intellectuals have not changed their position, which is a classic Nasserite position that advocates struggle until the ends are achieved — and that includes the goals of the Palestinians. The circles of hatred toward Israelis have not disappeared, and no one is trying to dismantle them. That is why I was so surprised by Israel’s optimism.

Nevertheless, I also want to note that there have been a lot of improvements in the relationship between the two countries. Security and intelligence cooperation are currently more significant, and there are even slightly fewer manifestations of open hatred and incitement in the Egyptian press. That is the impression I get from reading the daily papers. There are fewer expressions of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric compared to the 1990s. Obviously, that is a positive change. When I speak to my friends there, some of them business people, they tell me that personally, they would like to see a thawing of the relationship between the two countries, and that they could benefit from that economically. Nevertheless, they note, they are also realists, so they don’t think that such a change is possible right now.

Al-Monitor:  What are the reasons for that?

Svetlova:  It stems from the fact that ever since the revolution in Tahrir Square, the Egyptians have been much more focused on what is happening in their own country. They have plenty of problems with the Islamic State. Furthermore, the media is much freer. It is more independent and not managed by the regime itself. That is a significant change. Perhaps over time that will slowly bring about change, but it certainly won’t happen all at once, and definitely not when the education system hasn’t changed, when the entire media hasn’t changed. There is almost no pro-Israel coverage, or coverage of Israel’s intellectual and economic achievements. They still sell “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” at Egyptian book fairs. The hatred toward us exists, and there are people in Egypt who make a point of feeding it, including both Islamists and radical leftists. Right now, no one has it on their agenda to change attitudes toward Israel; so yes, they cooperate with us when it is convenient, but they make a point of not appearing too close to Israel.

Al-Monitor:  Does it have to do with Israel’s policies in the territories and the occupation?

Svetlova:  I wouldn’t connect everything that is happening in Egypt to what is happening — or not happening — here. What we must remember is that even in the 1990s, when the PLO recognized Israel and peace accords were signed, it really had no impact on the way Israel was covered by the Egyptian media or the public in general. Reservations about us never really disappeared. There were cases of Israeli flags being burned and anti-Israel songs being performed. I can’t say that things would be different if we would only act differently. The situation is much more complicated than that. I sometimes see Egyptian bloggers writing that they have to contend with the Islamic State. They say that they have plenty of problems and that Israel isn’t their enemy. On an individual level, however, all that hasn’t clicked yet, and I don’t expect it to click soon. During the Arab Spring, there were conspiracy theories that Israel is behind the revolution and that it was intending to tear Egypt apart. In other words, the problem runs very deep.

Al-Monitor:  Isn’t the younger generation instigating change? Don’t the social networks have an impact?

Svetlova:  Only a small fraction of Egypt’s 90 million citizens are hooked up to the social networks. At the same time, exposure to new media actually often serves to reinforce prejudices against Israel. Nevertheless, I detect a glimmer of change. It is very slow, but it is still possible to point to the beginning of something. So, for example, the Egyptian TV series “The Jewish Quarter,” which aired during Ramadan, depicted the relationship between Jews and Egyptians before 1947 in a positive light. That is a ray of hope, as far as I am concerned. It was something about us that wasn’t negative. It showed Jews without horns and a tail. Nevertheless, it is still far from being part of the general consensus.

Al-Monitor:  Do you mean it won’t happen in our generation?

Svetlova:  I don’t get the impression that the change will happen in this generation. It will take time. In order to bring about such changes to the popular consciousness, it is first necessary to destroy the seeds of hatred through education and the media. That is nowhere near happening. This is true even if there is no fighting or even open hostility between Egypt and us, and in fact, we cooperate in certain areas.

At present, we are in a situation in which the Egyptian government is maintaining and preserving its relationship with us, but on the other hand, it doesn’t want to declare itself our friend. Former President Hosni Mubarak also went through all sorts of stages in his relationship with Israel. For example, when there was agricultural cooperation, there was an article in one of the Egyptian newspapers that Israel was poisoning Egyptian farmers. The editor of that paper was actually appointed by Mubarak. Incongruities like that have always existed.

Al-Monitor:  What is Sisi’s position? In an interview with The Washington Post, he said that he speaks frequently with Netanyahu.

Svetlova:  It is in Egypt’s interest to cooperate with Israel, because what is happening in Sinai — the infiltration of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations — is important to Sisi, and he needs Israeli intelligence to counter it. It is all a matter of survival. Sisi is a very clever man. If Israel would take positive steps toward the Palestinians, it would certainly make it easier for him to take small but positive steps in our direction. Even then, however, these steps could not be dramatic. I do not believe that the public opinion in Egypt will change dramatically the moment we relaunch peace talks.

Al-Monitor:  Do you see any chance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paying a historic visit to Cairo? There have been reports of that possibility recently.

Svetlova:  I would really love to see that, but I don’t think it will happen now. This is not the time for it, either. The relationship between the two states is good, but it is not a good idea to publicize that. Sisi has a lot on his plate, including Islamic State attacks, even in Cairo. This poses a big challenge to him, especially after he boasted that he restored security to the streets of Cairo. Politically, I think that we should stop looking for love and warmth, not from the Egyptians, and not from the Palestinians either. We need to focus on realpolitik, to consider what is best for our country and the advantages we stand to gain from partnerships, even quiet partnerships. Sometimes, the rush to announce something that doesn’t exist yet and isn’t even ready is actually detrimental to us. We have to accept things as they are. The Arab states, and Egypt in particular, are in the middle of an enormous struggle. They really aren’t that interested in us now, so we should let things calm down first.

 

MKs, IDF accuse media of fomenting conflict in West Bank; journalists’ groups say security forces are increasingly violent towards reporters.

“With all the importance of the press in a democratic country,” MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) began, “we cannot get confused and must always give priority to the IDF’s operational freedom of action, because they are acting to save lives.”Yogev accused the press of behaving like an “imbalanced theater.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) compared the press to a car, saying that in some cases it is helpful and brings progress, and in other cases it can be destructive.

According to Eichler, a former journalist, objective reporters should be given freedom of action, but reporters who “take a side in the conflict” should be given less access.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) said there is no justification for violence against journalists, but added: “We cannot ignore the fact that the press takes an active, one-sided and tendentious stance in covering the conflict, and therefore, it is part of the game.

“We know with certainty about many cases that were staged and orchestrated, so the media needs to ask itself if it is truly balanced,” Oren stated.

IDF Spokesperson’s Unit representative Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said forces in the field sometimes have to deal with “media traps” or events that would not have happened if the press was not present.

Lerner explained that the IDF works to allow the press to act freely, while considering operational limitations, and that aim is backed by military orders and regulations.

“We make sure to be in the field to help the press and when necessary, we act to prevent violent incidents,” Lerner stated. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit gives instructions and simulations at all levels in the field, under the assumption that [operations] will be covered [by the press] and documented.”

Lerner admitted that there was an increase of violent incidents in recent months, but said they are exceptions that do not reflect the general situation.

He also pointed out that an officer who was violent toward the press was fired.

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, a former Arab affairs reporter for Russian-language media who has written for The Jerusalem Post, initiated the discussion and said, “Freedom of action for the media is a central component in a democratic state. Unfortunately, recently, it seems that some reporters are seen as the enemy or as a foreign agent acting against the State of Israel.”

She added, “Violence against the press hurts Israel’s good name in the world.”

Foreign Press Association secretary Gila Sugarman said that in the past two years there has been an increase in physical violence against journalists and their equipment.

Union of Journalists in Israel chairman Yair Tarchitsky called the phenomenon fairly common and said the violence generally comes from low-level soldiers or police officers who are not aware of the way they should treat the press.

“The general feeling is that they see journalists as an annoyance,” he said. “Security forces have to understand the job of the press in a democratic country, even if the truth is uncomfortable for the country.

Our job is to reflect reality as it is to the broader public.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) closed the meeting by calling the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to review the complaints from press representatives and make sure that they are present in sensitive situations to hold a dialogue with reporters.

“IDF commanders are not trained or authorized to deal with the press; it’s not their responsibility,” Hanegbi said.

“They are focused on security and executing their operational orders. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit must send people to events with the potential for conflict, in order to avoid obstacles to reaching operation goals, on the one hand, and harm to journalists’ work, on the other.”

Hanegbi also said he will discuss the issue with Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud), whose panel is responsible for overseeing police and border police actions, to hold a similar discussion about complaints of police treatment of the press.

According to Bayit Yehudi MK, the lack of policy in Judea and Samaria has allowed for a situation of lawlessness

The IDF has failed to tackle the issue of illegal Palestinian building, particularly those projects funded by the European Union, charged MK Moti Yogev during a stormy meeting Wednesday of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subgroup on Judea and Samaria.

“Officers in uniform are not doing their job, and we will insist on a commission of inquiry to deal with it,” Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) angrily stated.

The lack of policy has simply allowed for a situation of lawlessness, added Yogev, who chairs the committee subgroup.

Hundreds if not thousands of illegal Palestinian homes were built on state land in Area C of the West Bank, he said.

The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria “has abandoned that territory,” Yogev said.

“This is simply construction terrorism directed by the Palestinian Authority with funding from the European Union that amounts to “110 million euros annually,” Yogev said.

The EU has also supporting the illegal construction of Palestinian infrastructure, such as roads, in Area C, Yogev charged.

Representatives of the civil administration, the Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office for Judea and Samaria took issue with Yogev’s words.

Civil administration deputy head Uri Mendes said that his office is cracking down on illegal Palestinian building. It is destroying all such structures, save for those that are the subject of legal cases or are protected by a court injunction.




Civil Administration deputy head, Col. Uri Mendes, Brig. Gen. (ret) Dov Sedaka and MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi)

He explained that there is a fair amount of illegal building on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians in Area C. In 2014, 904 illegal structures were built, of which 408 were destroyed, Mendes said.

But Merav Ettinger, the legal adviser for the Judea and Samaria police, took issue with his words.

“Enforcement [of building laws] is a top priority for us. We are disappointed that the civil administration has not asked for more help from us on this matter,” she said.

Foreign Ministry Department for European Organizations director Avivit Bar-Ilan said that her office has persistently brought up the matter with the Europeans, who have characterized their activities as humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) seemed surprised by her words.

“Why are we letting EU equipment into Area C?” she asked. “Why aren’t we confiscating it?” She added, “You are talking and talking. I have never heard so many words that amount to nothing. Such behavior is intolerable. If you can’t do your work, you should return your keys.” At some points the debate turned into a screaming match, with Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Nurit Koren (Likud) yelling at each other in rapid-fire fashion.

Koren took issue with the Svetlova’s use of the words “occupied territory.” “We’re the sovereign power there,” Koren said.


Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Nurit Koren (Likud) at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee sub-group on Judea and Samaria.

“What are you talking about?” yelled Svetlova. “We aren’t ruling over a population there. Are you saying that everyone is Israeli there?” MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) attempted to clarify that Israel has authority over the area but is not the sovereign power there.

“We rule there according to international agreements. We have the responsibility and the authority to prevent illegal Palestinian building there, including from the EU,” he said.

He charged that the EU was “blatantly creating facts on the ground” with the aim of helping the Palestinians create a state without negotiations.

The matter needs to be dealt with at the policy level and the responsibility for it rests with the government, Oren said.