German minister warns Israel it faces growing frustration in Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Reuters)
Updated 01 February 2018
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German minister warns Israel it faces growing frustration in Europe

TEL AVIV: German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned Israel on Wednesday that it faced growing frustration in Europe amid concern for the future of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Gabriel adopted a markedly different tone to that of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who on a visit to Israel last week embraced President Donald Trump's Dec. 6 announcement that his administration recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that it will move the U.S. Embassy to the city.
"With regard to the Palestinians and the Iran question the Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before. But is this really only a good thing?" Gabriel said in Tel Aviv.
Citing past successes of U.S. diplomacy in the region, he asked: "Can the Americans still play such a role if they take sides so openly? Will others try to step into their shoes?"
In a thinly veiled threat about cutting off aid, he said some members of Israel's cabinet were "explicitly against the two-state solution" but that such a solution "has always been the foundation of our engagement for Israeli-Palestinian peace and for the large amount of funding" from Germany and Europe.
"These – at best mixed – signals do not go unnoticed in Europe, where there is clearly growing frustration with Israel's actions," he told an Israeli security conference. Gabriel cited disagreements even within his own Social Democratic Party about what some see as "unfair" treatment of the Palestinians.
"NO SHORTCUT"
"It is increasingly difficult for people like me to explain to them the reasons why our support for Israel must persist," he said. Gabriel pointed to concerns about violence, hatred, and Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a future independent state.
"Germany is looking forward to the day when it will be able to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But let me add: in two states with Jerusalem as their capital. There is no shortcut here."
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israeli in a 1967 war, for their future capital. Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital.
Gabriel spoke after meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier in the day Netanyahu corrected the record during a joint news conference held with his German visitor after Gabriel said he was encouraged that Netanyahu's government supported a two-state solution "with secure Israeli borders".
"That we will control security west of the Jordan (river). That is the first condition," Netanyahu objected, cutting Gabriel off and adding, "Whether it’s defined as a state when we have the military control is another matter. I'd rather not discuss labels, but substance."
Gabriel suggested that the discussion might be revisited at another time, "far away from now".
Gabriel has been an outspoken supporter of greater efforts to combat anti-Semitism in Germany, including creation of a new government commissioner post to oversee such initiatives.
At the same time, he is under pressure at home to take a hard line on the continued building of Israeli settlements in violation of international law.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.