Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen have arrive in Israel today (Sunday) on an official four-day visit. The Canadian Prime Minister is accompanied by ministers, MPs and business people. This is Harper’s first visit to Israel and the first by a serving Canadian Prime Minister since 2000.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah will welcome Harper and his wife in an official ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The Netanyahus will later host the Harpers for dinner at their official residence in Jerusalem.

On Monday, Prime Minister Harper will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the Knesset.

On Tuesday morning, the Canadian PM will meet with President Shimon Peres and attend a joint meeting of the Israeli and Canadian governments at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The Netanyahus will, afterwards, accompany the Harpers to Yad Vashem. An official dinner for Prime Minister Harper, his wife and the accompanying delegation will be held Tuesday evening in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, the Harpers will tour Christian holy sites in northern Israel, after which they will go to Tel Aviv University, where Prime Minister Harper will receive an honorary doctorate and meet with students.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Harper have previously met in London in April 2013 and in Ottawa in March 2012.

Harper: Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you

Canadian PM met with many standing ovations, but in the end, was treated like family and interrupted by Arab MKs who relegated him to the Likud’s benches.

Stephen Harper, January 20, 2014

Stephen Harper, January 20, 2014 Photo: GPO/AMOS BEN GERSHOM

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper received a very warm welcome in the Knesset Monday.

The first speech in the Knesset by a Canadian prime minister was peppered with standing ovations, the enthusiastic likes of which may not have been seen since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the US Congress in 2011.

Statements like “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you” were met with rousing rounds of applause, and though clapping is against Knesset protocol, even Speaker Yuli Edelstein joined in.

The Canadian premier said he believes “it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland.

“Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so,” he emphasized. “It is… a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.”

“The friendship between [Israel and Canada] is rooted in history, nourished by shared values, and it is intentionally reinforced at the highest levels of commerce and government as an outward expression of strongly held inner convictions,” Harper said in French and English.

Some of those shared values are “freedom, democracy and rule of law,” in which Israel “has long anchored itself,” he said.

“These are not mere notions,” he added. “They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability and economic prosperity may flourish.”

Palestinians also deserve these things, Harper said, expressing support for “a viable, democratic Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish state of Israel,” though, “sadly, we have yet to reach that point.”

“I believe that a Palestinian state will come, and one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence,” Harper stated.

Despite the nearly wall-towall support for Harper’s words as expressed by the many standing ovations, the “robustness of Israeli democracy,” as Netanyahu called it, was demonstrated several times with Arab MKs interrupting the Canadian minister as he spoke about anti-Semitism in some criticisms of Israel.

“We have witnessed in recent years the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain…. People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East. As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel,” Harper stated.

“Don’t mislead; we want to boycott settlements,” MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) interrupted in English.

“Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state,” Harper continued, as MK Taleb Abu Arar (UAL-Ta’al) shouted: “It is.”

“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, [a state] that is condemned – and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening. But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism,” Harper went on.

Tibi pointed at the coalition’s side of the plenum, shouting “That’s where the Likud sits; you should be there,” and then he and Abu Arar demonstratively walked out as the audience cheered Harper for his comments against anti-Semitism.

“What else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?” the Canadian prime minister asked. “What else can we call it when Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations, and when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its human rights council?” Edelstein, who spoke before Harper, commented to him after his speech: “You’re not a guest, you’re family, because there were interruptions, which is unusual for foreign guests.”

Earlier, Netanyahu gave a speech in support of Harper, breaking protocol to give large swaths of it in English.

“You are a true friend in Israel,” he said. “The people in Israel thank you for your steadfast support.”

Netanyahu commended Harper for his “courage to stand for the truth and courage to say it” when faced with people “who try to deny the connection between [the Jewish people] and our land. You know the facts of our past well.”

Describing the necessity of security arrangements in the event of a peace agreement, Netanyahu quipped: “If I’m not mistaken, Yonge Street [in Toronto] is longer than the State of Israel, so we have no margin of error.”

“There are thousands of miles between the large Canada and the small – larger than life but physically small – Israel, but our nations are close.

It’s deep in our hearts,” Netanyahu stated. “We will always see Canada as a close friend.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) dedicated much of his speech to the Toynbee- Herzog debate at McGill University in 1961, in which his uncle, then-ambassador to Canada Yaakov Herzog, debated notoriously anti-Semitic British historian Arnold Toynbee.

“Since you’re part of the family, I won’t hide our disagreements,” Herzog said. “I believe we need to separate ourselves from the Palestinians while protecting Israeli security.

We need a Palestinian state near an Israeli one, based on 1967 lines with land swaps while annexing settlement blocs… We have to try everything for peace and back the great effort US Secretary of State John Kerry is investing and give him a chance,” Herzog stated.

“Enough is enough,” he added in English, and in a reference to Canadian-Jewish singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen called to “let the dove free.”

Herzog also did not miss the chance to take a dig at Netanyahu and his breach of protocol, pointing out that “the official languages here are Hebrew and Arabic, not English.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday, “Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a great friend of the State of Israel. He has strongly opposed against attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and has taken a praiseworthy moral stand against these attempts. I welcome his arrival together with his wife and the members of his delegation. We will work together to further enhance the important relations between our two countries.”

Pressure builds to set exchange rate floor ( Reblogged)

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English: Map of the north Samaria area, west b...

English: Map of the north Samaria area, west bank/Israel. עברית: מפה של צפון השומרון (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer

Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pressure builds to set exchange rate floor

A senior financial system source told “Globes” that a shekel-dollar “floor rate” requires a government and Knesset consensus.

25 December 13 13:09, Adrian Filut

“The Bank of Israel’s policy regarding the dollar has been relatively successful until today, but must be considered anew and adapted to the new circumstances,” a senior source in the financial system told “Globes” after the US currency dropped beneath the psychological threshold of NIS 3.5/$. This follows the US Federal Reserve’s announcement that it will start tapering its bond purchasing program.

According to the source, “The Bank of Israel has employed the same policies for five years already, and it seems they have reached the end of their road.”

Last Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve announced that it will taper its bond purchases in the open market, but that, in parallel, interest is expected to remain near zero for a long time. Following the announcement, the dollar strengthened slightly against the shekel, but then began weakening again.

Under former Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, the Central Bank employed a policy of discreet intervention when there was volatility in the nominal effective exchange rate (unadjusted weighted average value of Israel’s currency relative to the currencies of Israel’s primary trade partners) that could not be explained by market forces. Currently, the Bank of Israel is consistently refusing to adhere to this policy, and is ignoring the crisis facing exporters and its possible effects on the economy. The Bank of Israel points out that the dollar’s effective exchange rate has not changed significantly since May.

According to the same senior source, there are several possible ways to act: “One way,” he says, “is to set a floor for the exchange rate. However, this is dangerous process, because it does not allow for its results to be blurred, and it puts the Bank of Israel’s reputation and credibility on the line.”

According to him, in order to take such a measure, wall-to-wall support would be necessary, from all sources related to fiscal policy – the Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister, and the Knesset. “A strong, unified front is required to implement such a policy,” he says.

However, “Globes” was informed that there are objections to the idea at the Bank of Israel, particularly around Governor of the Bank of Israel Dr. Karnit Flug.

Another means he suggested is to halt intervention and to “allow the rate to reach its level.” But, in such a case, he emphasizes, “We don’t know what the rate will be, or what the consequences will be for the Israeli economy, exporters, and the manufacturing sector.” He also raises the possibility of “thinking outside the box,” and says that “to the extent that the problem is rooted in exports and the competitiveness of Israeli services and products in the world, we must take steps that won’t disrupt the whole macro-economic system, and extend special aid to the export sector,” but, he adds, “This aid must be extended without violating international agreements.”

Regarding the question of what is behind the continued strengthening of the shekel versus the dollar, he says: “There is the effect of the [natural] gas, alongside our success in exports. Fischer always said it is hard to attain a strong economy and a weak currency. Moreover, Israel is attractive for investment. That said, I don’t think the issue here is extensive speculation, as a few market sources have described.”

Inflated rate

The senior source’s statements join the idea that Bank of Israel Monetary Committee member Prof. Alex Cukierman shared with Bloomberg. “Setting a floor for the dollar is a policy that I would not reject out of hand,” Cukierman said, breaking the taboo, and standing up as the first formal source who agreed to address the burning issue “on the record.”

Cukierman qualified his statements and explained that this is a step that should only be considered in “extreme situations,” as a result of sharp shekel appreciation, but did not specify what an “extreme rate” would be.

The Monetary Committee member also said that there are tools that he would prefer to employ first, for example, imposing taxes (what he called fiscal measures), in order to slow the short-term flow of capital.

Cukierman also admitted that the shekel-dollar exchange rate is inflated, and said that a significant part of the shekel’s appreciation over the past year is temporary, and not a direct result of fundamental market forces.

Last week, the Central Bureau of Statistics published a report on the balance of payment current account, according to which a sharp drop was recorded in the third quarter of 2013 – from a surplus of $1.5 billion to a deficit of $300 million in the current account. Such a drop should have caused a sharp depreciation of the shekel, but did not.

Exporters and manufacturers are calling upon the Bank of Israel to set a minimum rate, at least for the short term, until the long-term measures take effect and begin to show real signs that they are working.

The pressure was redirected towards Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, who is very troubled by the goings on in the foreign currency exchange and their impact on exports, and in recent weeks he has held numerous discussions that revolved around the issue of the “dollar floor.” However, the topic has been dropped from the Ministry’s agenda.

The Bank of Israel and the Ministry of Finance declined to comment on the report.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on December 25, 2013

The Shakshuka System

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The Shakshuka System

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Shakshuka System
שיטת השקשוקה
Directed by Ilan Abudi
Produced by Sharon Carney
Gili Dickerman
Written by Ilan Abudi
Uri Weasberod
Cinematography Ilan Abudi
Editing by Martha Wieseltier
Release date(s) 2008
Running time 93 minutes
Country Israel
Language Hebrew

The Shakshuka System (Hebrew: שיטת השקשוקה‎) is a 2008 Israeli documentary filmcreated by the Israeli investigative journalist Mickey Rosenthal and the Israeli director Ilan Abudi. The film focuses on the connection between private capital and government in Israel and suggests that a system exists whereby the State of Israel sells its limited resources, cheaply, to a handful of wealthy families. The film shows this by specifically focusing on the business relationship between the political leadership in Israel and one of the wealthiest families in the Israeli economy – the Ofer family.

The film won the Ophir Award for Best Documentary film in 2009.

While the film was being produced, the Ofer Brothers Group filed a lawsuit against the creators of the film and no Israeli TV channel would show it. Initially the film was screened in Cinematheques, different events, and in the Knesset. A year after the premiere, it was broadcast on Channel 1, followed by a film produced by the Ofer Brothers in response. In February 2010 the lawsuit was dismissed.

Overview[edit]

The film explores the sale of state assets, such as the Dead Sea WorksZim and the Oil Refineries Ltd, to the Ofer Brothers Group. Government officials who carried out these transactions on behalf of the State of Israel became senior employees of the Ofer group after retiring from the public sector. The film tracks the interaction between seniors in the public sector, the media and the Ofer group, claiming the Ofer Brothers managed to avoid scrutiny due to their ties with key people in the media such as Rafi Ginat.

A central part of the film deals with a donation attempt by Sammy Ofer to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in exchange for the renaming of the museum after him and his wife, and for provisions which would entitle him, according to the film, to ownership rights to the structure of the museum.

The film presents a report of the Ministry of Environment which claims that the factories of the Ofer Brothers Group, such as the Oil Refineries, are polluting the environment and shows the negative effects which their pollution causes. In the film Mickey Rosenthal also confronted a senior in the Israeli Cancer Association after the association gave a certificate to Sammy Ofer for his contribution.

The film’s name is a culinary metaphor which refers to the alleged deal made which resulted in Ofer Brothers Group acquisition of Zim, the national shipping company, for a seemingly very low price. The metaphor made during the film by the Israeli lawyer Ram Caspi, whom represented the Israel Corporation (controlled by the Ofer Brothers Group) in the negotiations over the acquisition of the government shares in Zim. In the film Caspi claims that the Ofer Brothers Group, which were the only company to participate in the auction over Zim’s shares, closed the deal after the sides agreed on a final price which was much lower than the real worth of the shipping company. According to the film, a few months after the sale, Zim was appraised at three or maybe four times the price at which the state sold its interest.[1]

Controversy[edit]

While the film was being made, a libel lawsuit was filed against Rosenthal and his wife by Ariel Shemer, the lawyer of the Ofer family.[2]Rosenthal also received several death threats. Rosenthal was not deterred but the Yes company, which helped finance the film, later withdrew its finance backing and refused to broadcast it. According to Yes, this decision was made because of scenes relating to people suffering from Cancer as a result of pollution, which Rosenthal added to the film contrary to the agreement the company made with him. According to the filmmakers, they agreed to cut out several parts from the film so that Yes would approve the broadcasting of the film, yet it was eventually decided that the film would not be broadcast.[3]

The banning of the film created a public uproar. Among others, a number of filmmakers unions organized and held a press conference about the censorship made due to pressure from the wealthiest people in Israel’s economy. Eventually the film was approved for screening at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv, despite cease and desist letters sent by the lawyers of the Ofer family. Later on the film was screened at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

Channel 10 and Channel 1 expressed interest in the film, but were also pressured not to broadcast it. As a result, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel contacted the management of the Israel Broadcasting Authority claiming concern for the freedom of expression and democracy in Israel. Channel 1 announced that the film would be broadcast with a few corrections but decided to show it in full, followed by a response movie produced by the Ofer family.[4] In July 2009, both films were shown on Channel 1 in a special broadcast hosted by Oded Shachar.

A compromise agreement was reached in September 2009 between Rosenthal and the Ofer family, in which the family agreed to pay Rosenthal NIS 40,000 for court costs.

Reactions[edit]

The attempts to prevent the screening of the film led to a substantial media interest. “This is the film that nobody wants you to see. Now everyone should see it” wrote Yaron Ten-Brink, a television critic of Yediot Aharonot. “Drop everything and go see this movie. You would get a more detailed accurate explanation of how the state steals from us and transfers the gains to the Ofer brothers,” wrote the Israeli journalist Guy Meroz in Maariv. Haredi journalist Koby Arieli urged readers to “Go see The Shakshouka System. Do not miss it.”[5][dead link]

Awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]