In an unexpected escalation that was not the result of Israel's angry response to Friday's UN vote which passed a resolution condemning the country's settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, and which the US refused to veto, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday called on French Jews to leave their country to protest a Paris-hosted conference planned for next month aimed at restarting Palestine-Israel peace talks, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth has reported.
According to Turkey's Anadolu news agency, the Israeli government has repeatedly stated in recent months that it would not participate in the conference, which is scheduled to be held on Jan. 15 with the participation of representatives from 70 countries. Speaking at a meeting of his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, Lieberman reportedly said: "Perhaps it's time to tell the Jews of France, ‘This isn't your country, this isn't your land. Leave France and come to Israel’."
"That's the only response to this plot," Lieberman added, in reference to the planned conference.
He also criticized the timing of the event, which will be held shortly before French presidential elections. "With France going to elections soon, this is not the time for a peace summit," the newspaper quoted Lieberman as saying. "It [the planned conference] is a tribunal against the State of Israel." He added: "This summit's entire purpose is to undermine the State of Israel's security and tarnish its good name."
According to the website of the Jewish Agency for Israel (a para-statal organization responsible for Jewish immigration to Israel), an estimated 1.5 million Jews live in Europe, roughly 600,000 of whom reside in France. According to Jewish Agency data, some 8,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel last year. An earlier report issued by the Israeli prime minister’s office found that 6,655 Jews had departed France for Israel in 2014, compared with 3,293 the previous year.
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Then, in an expected escalation that was the result of Friday's UN vote, CNN's Jim Sciutto reported that Israel has suspended “working ties” with 12 nations that voted for a United Nations resolution condemning settlements. The suspension of diplomatic ties comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow last week to exact a “diplomatic and economic price” from the countries on the UN Security Council that passed the resolution, 14-0.
Those countries are: Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand https://t.co/NBpHt9PpZd— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 26, 2016
What it means: PM Netanyahu will not meet w/foreign ministers of those countries & their ambs will not be received at Israel's FM— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 26, 2016
The countries were Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand, Malaysia. Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Venezuela or Malaysia, which also voted for the resolution.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Newt Gingrich continued his outspoken ways, and slammed President Obama for not vetoing the resolution, likening the move to a “war” against the key ally in the Middle East. “Why is the Obama team waging war against Israel? Why are they taking steps to isolate and then kill a democracy and an ally?” Gingrich tweeted.
“President-elect Trump must prepare a comprehensive offensive for Jan 29 to undo the damage to Israel the Obama team is inflicting."
“Congress should pass resolutions January 3-4 condemning Obama attacks on Israel and demanding he not participate in French or (U.N. Security Council) attacks,” Gingrich, a key Trump ally, wrote online.
The move was the culmination of years of strained ties between the White House and Israel over the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump was fiercely opposed to the resolution and vowed U.S. policy toward Israel will change when he takes office.
Then again, one wonders how much of the drama in the last few days is merely spoon-fed for public consumption: despite the alleged tension between the US and Israel, Obama approved a $38 Billion military aid package to Israel in September, the largest in U.S. history.
The 10-year aid packages underpin Washington’s Congressionally mandated requirement to help maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region. According to the MOU, at least $3.8 billion a year in aid, up from $3.1 billion annually under the current pact, would be provided to Israel. Netanyahu had originally sought upwards of $4.5 billion a year. The new package for the first time will incorporate money for Israeli missile defense, which until now has been funded ad hoc by Congress. U.S. lawmakers have in recent years given Israel up to $600 million in annual discretionary funds for this purpose.
In short, ignore the pointed rhetoric and focus on the actions.