SYDNEY, December 16 -- Australia has decided to formally recognize west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but won't move its embassy until there's a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday.
Morrison said in a speech that Australia would recognize east Jerusalem as Palestine's capital only after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution. The Australian Embassy won't be moved from Tel Aviv until such a time, he said. While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison said his government would establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and would also start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy.
"The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel," Morrison said. He said the decision respects both a commitment to a two-state solution and long-standing respect for relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. Australia becomes the third country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, following the U.S. and Guatemala.
Unlike its predecessors, however, Australia recognized only the western part of the city. The move, therefore, is unlikely to please either side entirely. For the Palestinians, it offers a partial resolution to an issue that they believe should be resolved through negotiations. That decision is softened, though, by recognizing their claim to east Jerusalem. The Israelis welcome recognition of Jerusalem as their capital, but the Australian decision falls far short of their claim to all of the city. Refusing to include east Jerusalem, home to the city's most important religious sites, is likely to upset Israeli nationalists who dominate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition. Israel's foreign ministry commended Australia's move as "a step in the right direction." In a statement, it also praised the Australian government's stance against anti-Semitism and its pro-Israel position at the U.N. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat slammed Australia's "irresponsible policies" that led to the recognition.
"The policies of this Australian administration have done nothing to advance the two-state solution," Erekat said in a statement, stressing the Palestinian view that the holy city remains a final-status issue in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have run aground. Morrison had earlier floated the idea that Australia may follow the contentious U.S. move of relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, but it was seen by many Australians as a political stunt. Critics called it a cynical attempt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population. The consideration had sparked backlash from Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening a free trade deal that has now been delayed.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the decision to recognize west Jerusalem as Israel's capital but not move the embassy there was a "humiliating backdown" from the October by-election campaign. "What I'm worried is that Mr. Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest," Shorten told reporters.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers east Jerusalem an indivisible part of its capital, while the Palestinians seek the area, home to the city's most sensitive holy sites, as the capital of a future state.
MOSCOW, December 5 -- The Russian government endorsed Israeli efforts to seek out and destroy tunnels constructed by the Hezbollah terrorist organization from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, but also urged the Jewish state not to take military action inside of Lebanon.
On Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had launched Operation Northern Shield to locate and neutralize ‘terror tunnels’ along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier. Within hours of the initial announcement, the IDF reported that it had uncovered a terror tunnel originating in the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kila, and leading into Israeli territory.
“IDF troops located a cross-border attack tunnel in the southern area of Kafr Kela. At this time, the IDF is carrying out an operational and engineering process to neutralize the tunnel,” an army spokesperson said Tuesday. A day after the discovery, the Russian government said that it backed Israeli efforts to neutralize the Hezbollah tunnel network. "There is no doubt regarding Israel’s right to ensure its national security, including by preventing anyone from entering the country," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
But Russia also signaled that it would not back the use of force by Israel inside of Lebanon, saying that any efforts to neutralize the terror tunnels must be in keeping with the United Nations Security Council resolution which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
"At the same time, we hope that no actions taken to achieve this purpose will be in conflict with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.” The US condemned Hezbollah’s attempts to tunnel into Israel, and expressed support for Israel’s Operation Northern Shield.“The US strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence,” said US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday. “More broadly, we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.”
JERUZALEM, December 3 -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Brussels on Monday, his office said, for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Netanyahu's office said the meeting had been set last week, but provided few other details.
"The two will discuss regional developments," a statement from Netanyahu's office said, noting he will be accompanied by the head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, the head of his national security council and his military secretary.
He was expected to leave Israel at around midday and meet this evening with Pompeo, who will be in Brussels for a NATO meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday. Netanyahu's trip comes a day after police recommended indicting him and his wife Sara for bribery and other offences, the third such move against him in recent months. The attorney general must now decide whether to indict Netanyahu, who rejects the accusations against him in all three cases.
Israel and the United States have worked closely on a range of issues, particularly regarding Iran.
Both have warned of Iran's presence in Syria, which neighbours Israel. Netanyahu has pledged to stop arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and to keep it from transferring advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
President Donald Trump has pledged his unwavering support for Israel and has pushed ahead with controversial policies such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
TEL AVIV, November 13 -- The Israel Defense Forces have hit about 150 military facilities in the Gaza Strip in response to missile attacks by radicals, the army press service reported on Tuesday.
"A massive missile and mortar attack on Israeli civilians out of the Gaza Strip continues. In response, fighters and drones of Israel’s army have just ended a strike on 50 military targets of Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movement [outlawed in Russia - TASS]," the army said in a statement. "A total of about 150 military targets owned by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement have been destroyed [in the Gaza Strip,] including three government facilities that were used for military purposes. Currently the Israeli army continues the strikes," the military added.
Since Monday evening radicals in the Gaza Strip have fired at least 370 missiles on Israel; 100 of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Seventy missiles were fired in the last seven hours, the army added.
JERUZALEM, November 12 -- At least three Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, according to health officials, in the latest escalation less than 24 hours after a deadly covert Israeli operation in the besieged enclave.
The air raids on Monday followed a barrage of rocket fire from the Strip into Israel earlier in the day.
Israel said its Iron Dome system intercepted many of the more than 100 missiles fired from the Palestinians. One, however, hit a bus and another struck a building in southern Israel.
Along with the air raids, Israeli artillery units also shelled positions across the enclave.
The rising tensions came as thousands of people took part in rallies in the Hamas-administered enclave following the killing of seven Palestinians - including Nour Baraka, a prominent commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas - in the secret Israeli military raid on Sunday evening.
One Israeli lieutenant colonel was also killed and another one was seriously injured in the attack.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya led a funeral for Palestinians killed on Sunday as mourners called for revenge. Later, Palestinian factions said in a joint statement that they had begun firing rockets into Israel in response to the Israeli military incursion.
"Over the past two hours, the Israelis have targeted many resistance training camp and many buildings," Mukhaimar Abusada, professor at Gaza's al-Azhar University, told Al Jazeera on Monday evening. "It seems to me that we are going to witness a very hard night as a result of the ongoing Israeli retaliation."
TEL AVIV, Februari 15 -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for "massive immigration" of European Jews to Israel following the shooting attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a Danish Jew.
Netanyahu said the government on Sunday will discuss a $46M plan to encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine.
Denmark's Jewish Community identified the victim at the synagogue as 37-year-old Jewish man Dan Uzan, who was guarding a building during a bar mitzvah when he was shot dead at about 1am local time on Sunday morning.
Jair Melchior, Denmark's chief rabbi, said he was "disappointed" by Netanyahu's call for immigration following the attack.
At the weekend, Israeli Arabs threw stones at police in mainly Arab towns in Israel after police shot dead a young Arab man, who had attacked them with a knife.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crack down on the violence. Serious condition'Monday's West Bank attack took place at the entrance to the Alon Shvut settlement. The attacker tried to run over people in his car, hit a concrete barrier then got out of the vehicle, reports said. He then stabbed the woman along with two other Israelis at a bus stop. The two injured men were taken to hospital. The attacker was shot several times by a security guard and was taken from the scene in a serious condition, emergency services said.
Earlier reports had said the woman was a 14-year-old girl. The attack took place close to where three Israeli students were abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in June, an incident which led to the revenge killing in Jerusalem of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists. Tensions then escalated into a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
Deteriorating securityMonday's earlier incident in Tel Aviv took place at a busy train station and was described by police as a "terror attack".
Israel said it responded to the "unprovoked aggression" by firing artillery at two Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. The army said the attack took place on the Israeli side of the border, calling the attack "a blatant breach of Israel's soverignty" and vowed to protect its northern borders.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in southern Lebanon in 2006, wich ended with a UN-brokered ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. The ceasefire line between the two countries is often tense. Israeli troops shot and wounded a Lebanese on Sunday.
"Avigdor Lieberman said that he regrets that the new prime minister was in a hurry to make statements on Sweden's position regarding recognition of a Palestinian state, apparently before he had time even to study the issue in depth," Lieberman's office quoted him as saying, in a statement issued late on Saturday.
It added that Sweden's ambassador to Israel, Carl Magnus Nesser, "will be invited for a talk at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem," but did not say when.
A Swedish foreign ministry spokesman said Nesser had been summoned to the ministry on Monday. Social Democrat leader Lofven - who narrowly won last month's general election - said in his inaugural speech on Friday that his government wanted to bolster a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No timeframe for the formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been announced. The decision does not need parliamentary approval to be enforced.
"A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and the will to co-exist peacefully," Lofven told parliament.
This should take place with respect for the "legitimate demands of the Palestinians and the Israelis as regards their right to self-determination and security", he added.
Lofven met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah in 2012 and told him that Sweden would regonise Palestine should the Social Democrats return to power.
Sweden voted in favour of Palestinian observer status at the UN in 2012, which was granted despite opposition from the US and other countries.
JERUSALEM, September 23 -- The Israeli military has shot down a Syrian aircraft that it said had infiltrated its airspace over the Golan Heights.
Tuesday's incident was the most serious incident to take place on the strategic plateau since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
Army radio said it was apparently a MiG-21 fighter jet which was shot down by a surface-to-air Patriot missile, with the wreckage landing on the Syrian-controlled side of the plateau.
There was no official confirmation over the type of the aircraft.
Israel has largely stayed on the sidelines of Syria's civil war raging across the border, but its leaders appear increasingly nervous about the possibility of al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupying the Golan's high ground over northern Israel.
Syrian state TV quoted a military source saying the downing of the plane, which coincided with US-led air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria(ISIL), came "in the framework of [Israel's] support for the terrorist [ISIL] and the Nusra Front".
Since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government erupted more than three years ago, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, most of them stray, prompting occasional retaliatory fire.
But there have been several incidents of intentional fire, one of which killed an Israeli teenager in June.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan in 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.
About 510 square kilometres of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with UN forces overseeing a buffer zone stretching some 70km from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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