Tuesday 31 July 2012

Steinitz-Fayyad agreement

July 31, 2012

Press Release

Israeli Finance Minister Steinitz and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad Conclude Arrangements regarding Transfer of Goods and Related Tax Procedures

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "The new arrangements are part of our overall stated policy to support the Palestinian society and to strengthen their economy, and will hopefully further our relations with the Palestinians in other areas as well."

Israeli Minister of Finance, Dr. Yuval Steinitz, and Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, concluded today arrangements with respect to the transfer of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and related tax procedures. The arrangements are the result of professional consultations conducted between the parties over the past few months, and are intended to facilitate the implementation of previous agreements in the economic sphere, and in particular the "Paris Protocol".
The objective of the arrangements is to introduce mechanisms that better facilitate the movement of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and that support both parties' efforts in reducing illegal trade and tax evasion. The arrangements will further assist in enhancing the Palestinian tax system and thus aid in strengthening the economic base of the Palestinian Authority.
According to the arrangements, the tax clearance mechanism regarding Value Added Taxes (VAT), purchase taxes and import taxes will be based on the actual and accurate transfer of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, replacing the current practice of calculating such tax clearances on the reported transfer of such goods. To support these efforts, the Israeli and Palestinian tax authorities will enhance the exchange of information regarding the actual transfer of goods. Further, in order to improve monitoring and ensure efficiency in the movement of goods, advanced technologies will be employed, Palestinian storage facilities will be established, and the transfer of goods will be generally conducted via designated Israeli crossings. In addition, pipelines for the safe and exclusive transfer of petroleum products from Israel to the Palestinian Authority will be constructed.
The implementation of the new arrangements will commence on January 1, 2013, and will be monitored by a joint team of experts, comprising of representatives from both parties.
The Israeli Finance Minister Steinitz commented on the new arrangements: "This is an important step in strengthening the economic ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The cooperation between our two tax authorities will assist in fighting tax evasion, in increasing the revenues of the Palestinian Authority from the proper collection of taxes, and in reducing illegal trade. I am delighted that our consultations have been concluded successfully, and wish to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Fayyad for his forthcoming and constructive approach. I also wish to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Netanyahu for his ongoing support."
Following the conclusion of the new arrangements, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad remarked: "I am certain that the arrangements concluded will help to strengthen the economic base of the Palestinian Authority, through bolstering our tax system and increasing revenue from the proper collection of taxes.  I am pleased to say that these arrangements will also improve the economic relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. I wish to convey my appreciation and gratitude to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Steinitz for their efforts in working towards these arrangements."
Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, welcomed the conclusion of the new arrangements and added that they represent another component of his overall policy to support the Palestinian society and strengthen their economy. He expressed hope that the conclusion of the arrangements will help to further the relations between the parties in other areas as well.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Romney makes a stand in Jerusalem

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pictured in front of the Old City of Jerusalem as he delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim.
U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pictured in front of the Old City of Jerusalem as he delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim.
(Jason Reed/Reuters)

The Globe and Mail
Sunday, Jul. 29 2012

JERUSALEM — In a major foreign policy address in Jerusalem, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney staked his claim to the pro-Israel vote in the November election with a tough warning to Iran and a hint that as president, he would support an Israeli military strike to stop that country acquiring nuclear weapons.

“No option should be excluded,” Mr. Romney said on Sunday. “We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself and it is right for America to stand with you.”

Mr. Romney spent the day demonstrating his long friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, implicitly contrasting his warm reception with President Barack Obama’s often frosty relations with Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Romney also promised as president not to join critics of Israel, as Mr. Obama has on some issues. And he directly challenged White House policy by declaring Jerusalem “the capital of Israel.”

Mr. Romney’s message, delivered against the symbolic backdrop of the Old City of Jerusalem, ruled by Israel since 1967 and still disputed, was directed not at his Israeli hosts but at voters back home, designed to attract the tiny Jewish vote in swing states like Florida and Ohio. Mr. Obama made a similar trip to Israel as a candidate almost exactly four years ago, but has not returned as president.

Mr. Romney was hoping to duplicate the effect when the then-Democratic hopeful won the hearts of Israelis and their U.S. supporters by standing in shirtsleeves before a stack of exploded rockets in the bomb-scarred town of Sderot near Gaza to declare support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian attacks.

Since becoming president, Mr. Obama has been perceived as leaning away from Israel in an attempt to forge new relations between the United States and the Arab and Muslim world.

“Obama is considered a hostile president who supports the Arab side, while Romney is a ‘friend’ and even more,” noted Shimon Shiffer, diplomatic analyst for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Mr. Romney wants to demonstrate that he will be a better friend to the Israelis and he hopes that will win him support among pro-Israeli Jewish and Christian evangelical voters back home.

Tracking polls published last week by both Gallup and Rasmussen showed him steadily gaining on Mr. Obama’s slim lead, but a Gallup poll showed Mr. Obama’s Jewish support steady at around 68 per cent.

Following Mr. Romney’s Olympics debacle in London on the first leg of his foreign tour, Sunday’s visit was less about diplomacy than damage control. “As a direct result of his hapless British sojourn, Romney’s visit to Israel has assumed critical importance, but its main objective has changed: This is no longer about campaigning for American Jewish votes or bolstering Evangelical support; Romney’s main effort is now aimed at preventing any further mishaps that might cause the Republican candidate irreparable harm,” wrote Chemi Shalev in Haaretz.

However, the trip ran into trouble even before it began. Mr. Romney arrived on Tisha B’Av, a solemn day of fasting and mourning that recalls the destruction of the Temple and other disasters. Invitations to a $50,000-a-plate fundraising dinner on Sunday night – the first time a U.S. presidential candidate has held such an event in Israel – were hurriedly switched for an early-morning breakfast on Monday morning. But the gaffes continued. Mr. Romney went ahead with a photo-call at the Western Wall, site of the ancient Temple, with an entourage of media and security guards marching through the mourning congregation. “Vulgar? Very,” noted Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg.

David Ha’Ivri, a settler spokesman, said he was “very disappointed” at Mr. Romney’s decision to visit the Western Wall with a throng of photographers on such a solemn day. “I can’t figure out what Romney is doing in Israel on Tisha B’Av. We would like to help him but this is major disrespect,” he said.

Undeterred, Mr. Romney declared he was pleased to be in Israel on the day of fasting, linking the ancient disaster marked by Tisha B’Av to modern violence and more recent threats against the Jewish people and Israel.

Without publicly criticizing Mr. Obama while abroad, Mr. Romney suggested that the president was not pushing hard enough on the Iranian nuclear issue. Unlike Mr. Obama, a senior aide explained that Mr. Romney would “respect” an Israeli decision to attack Iran in self-defence.

“When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naive – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric,” Mr. Romney said in his foreign-policy address.

“It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word,” he said. “We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.”

“We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option,” he said, adding that the United States should “employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course.”

He also obliquely challenged the Obama administration for its public rebukes to Israel, primarily over West Bank settlements.

“Standing by Israel does not mean by military and intelligence cooperation alone,” said Mr. Romney. “We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms, and we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens our adversaries.”

Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz Party, accused Mr. Romney of harbouring “an extremist, dangerous, war-mongering agenda.”

“True friends, as Israel and United States are, tell each other the truth and don’t pretend there are no disagreements, as I’m sure Mr. Romney will do if he gets elected,” said Ms. Galon, who was not invited to meet Mr. Romney.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians and wider Arab world are unimpressed by Mr. Romney’s close ties to Mr. Netanyahu and the backing they share from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged $100-million to the Romney campaign and finances a free national daily newspaper in Israel that extols the virtues of the Netanyahu government.

This is also the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. In 2008, Mr. Obama made the symbolic journey to Ramallah, the effective Palestinian capital, to meet president Mahmoud Abbas. Yesterday, the only Palestinian on Mr. Romney’s schedule was the pro-Western prime minister Salam Fayyad, who was summoned to meet the candidate under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Romney arrives in Israel to pledge support for the Holy Land and meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu

Presidential candidate is putting his gaffe-filled visit to London behind him as he arrives for the main event of his international trip: Israel.



 Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)


Romney and wife Ann arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel on Saturday.

Mitt Romney will pledge his support for Israel - and make his pitch for Jewish voters back home in America - during a closely-watched visit to the Holy Land Sunday.

Romney, likely grateful to put his gaffe-filled stop in London behind him, arrived in Tel Aviv late Saturday a day before he is set to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A day full of meetings will also include a sitdown with Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, as Romney attempts to bolster his thin foreign policy credentials.

His situation is reminiscent of another presidential candidate who made a similar trip to Israel four years ago: Barack Obama.

Obama, then an Illinois Senator with little international experience, was lauded for voicing unwavering support for Israel as it was pummeled by Palestinian rocket attacks.

But Obama, who has not visited Israel since, has experienced somewhat frosty relations with Netanyahu - and Romney is trying to take advantage of a possible opening with Jewish voters, particularly those in the swing state of Florida.

In a move likely timed to Romney’s trip, Obama pledged more military aid to Israel during a bill signing Friday.

And while it would be difficult for Romney to suffer as many flubs in Israel as he did in the United Kingdom, his scheduling team did make one embarrassing error.

A $50,000 a plate fundraiser with Americans living in Israel was originally scheduled for Sunday, which is Ninth of Av, the solemn day of mourning and fasting that marks the destruction of both Temples in ancient Jerusalem.

After Romney’s advisors realized the conflict, the fundraiser was switched to a breakfast Monday morning.

Friday 20 July 2012


My authoritative story on the James ossuary trial in Jerusalem for The Jerusalem Report is now available on Kindle via Amazon. Click HERE