Epicenter Update: 1) Abbas at White House rejects Israel as “Jewish State.” 2) Kerry says Israel wrong to insist on “Jewish state” recognition.” 3) Iraqi oil production surges to highest level in 30 years.

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with President Obama today at the White House.

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with President Obama today at the White House.

(Washington, D.C.) — Here’s a snapshot of some of the most important developments in the epicenter in recent days.

SECRETARY KERRY SAYS ISRAEL WRONG TO INSIST THE PALESTINIANS RECOGNIZE ISRAEL AS A “JEWISH STATE” — “In his appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry, convener, main proponent, and mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, found it necessary to make a surprisingly one-sided comment and prejudgment on one of the central and most delicate issues on the negotiating table – Israel’s basic and principled requirement of recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People,” notes Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker, who helped craft the Olso Accords, in an analysis for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “Kerry opined that he views Israel’s position ‘as a mistake,’ considering that the ‘Jewish State’ issue was ‘sufficiently addressed by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which recommended the establishment of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine.’ He said there are ‘more than 30–40 mentions of a ‘Jewish state’ in the resolution, and added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ‘confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state’ in 1988 and in 2004. It would appear that once again, as with previous one-sided and pre-judgmental statements, Secretary Kerry has either been ill-advised or is deliberately engaged in an effort to neutralize the ‘Jewish State’ issue in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He is doing so by attempting to determine that the question of Palestinian support for a Jewish state was already resolved by PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1988, and is therefore redundant and unnecessary…..”

PALESTINIAN LEADER ABBAS AT WHITE HOUSE AGAIN REJECTS ISRAEL AS “JEWISH STATE” — “U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would have to make tough political decisions and take ‘risks’ for peace, as would Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” reported the Times of Israel. “Abbas, for his part, reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand that its status as a Jewish state be enshrined in a future peace accord, asserting that previous Palestinian recognition of Israel was sufficient….Speaking to Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said that ‘since 1988 and into 1993, we have been extending our hands to our Israeli neighbors so that we can reach a fair and lasting peace to this problem. Since 1988, we have recognized international legitimacy resolutions and this was a very courageous step on the part of the Palestinian leadership. And in 1993, we recognized the State of Israel.’”

IRAQI OIL PRODUCTION SURGES TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN 30 YEARS – “Iraq’s oil production surged to its highest level in over 30 years last month, surprising skeptics of the country’s efforts to restore its oil industry after decades of war and neglect,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “In its monthly oil report published Friday, the International Energy Agency said Iraq’s oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country hasn’t pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. The Iraqi output surge came as the IEA also predicted oil supply from the U.S. and Canada would continue its “relentless” increase this year, easing concerns that higher global demand and geopolitical issues caused by the crisis in Ukraine could push oil prices upward….Iraq’s oil minister said in December the country would target oil production of 4.1 million barrels a day this year. New fields coming on stream are expected to add 500,000 barrels a day of output in the next few months. Last month’s surprise jump in oil production came as a major bottleneck at Iraq’s southern export terminal Basra was finally removed. Shipments of oil from the country rose to 2.8 million barrels a day in February, up by 600,000 barrels a day compared with a year ago.”

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Epicenter, Chapter 7 (2006): “Future Headline: A Czar Rises In Russia, Raising Fears of a New Cold War.”

A Czar is born.

A Czar is born.

(Washington, D.C.) — Recently, I was criticized for describing Vladimir Putin as a “Czar” and a danger to the U.S., Europe and Israel. On that charge, I plead guilty.

I do believe Putin is a Czar, and I believe he sees himself that way. It’s a case I’ve been making going back at least as far as 2004.

In the fall of 2006, I published my first non-fiction book, Epicenter. Chapter Seven was titled: “Future Headline: A Czar Rises In Russia, Raising Fears of a New Cold War.” (I’ve included excerpts from that chapter below.)

We are certainly seeing such headlines and commentaries today. Consider a brief sampling:

That said, let me be clear that it is too early to say that Vladimir Putin is in any way connected to the figure of “Gog” that Bible prophecy speaks of building a Russian alliance with Iran and other nations in the “last days” to surround and attack Israel. Such prophecies are found in Ezekiel 38 & 39. At this point, I cannot rule out the possibility that Putin could eventually prove to be “Gog,” but much more would have to happen before we could fairly draw such a conclusion.

Nevertheless, Putin poses a serious threat to U.S. and allied interests.

SELECTED PAST BLOG COLUMNS ABOUT PUTIN:

EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER SEVEN OF EPICENTER:

In September I was in Russia for ten days doing research for my next novel. I met with a senior member of the State Duma (legislature), senior officials at the U.S. Embassy, leading Russian political analysts, and the New York Times’ Moscow bureau chief and an economic reporter for the Times.

To each one, I tossed out a possible scenario: a fascist, ­ultra-nationalist coup in Moscow leads to the assassination of the democratically elected leader of Russia and leaves a ­nuclear-armed dictator in power itching for a dangerous new confrontation with the West. One by one, each told me there was no need for a coup; the dictator is already in place. And so he is.

Over the past eighteen months or so, Vladimir Putin has steadily turned the clock back on Russian democracy, centralizing power back in the Kremlin and slowly morphing himself into an all-powerful Czar.

He has nationalized Russian television networks; thrown political opponents in prison on suspect charges; all but threatened to seize and nationalize one of Russia’s largest petroleum companies; announced Russia’s governors will no longer be popularly elected but rather appointed by the Kremlin; and steadfastly supported a presidential candidate in Ukraine even after international observers protested the candidate was trying to steal the election.

Meanwhile, Putin is selling nuclear power plants, fuel, and technology to Iran—the most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism on the planet—has announced a 40% increase in the Russian military budget, and just announced the development of a new class of Russian strategic nuclear missiles.

“We are not only conducting research and successful ­testing of the newest nuclear missile systems,” Putin told commanders at the Ministry of Defense, according to the New York Times (11/17/04). “I am certain that in the immediate years to come we will be armed with them. These are such developments and such systems that other nuclear states do not have and will not have in the immediate years to come.”

The Times added that the Russian military “is widely ­reported to have been trying to perfect land- and sea-based ­ballistic missiles with warheads that could elude a missile-defense system like the one being constructed by the Bush ­administration.”

Which brings us to today.

During a speech in India, Putin lashed out at Washington, accusing the Bush administration of seeking a “dictatorship of international affairs.

“Even if dictatorship is wrapped up in a beautiful package of pseuo-democratic phraseology, it will not be in a position to solve systemic problems,” Putin said in New Delhi.

Dictatorship?

To be sure, the situation in Russia isn’t nearly as bad today as it was during the Cold War. And Putin has done some things right; he has, for example, been supportive of U.S. efforts in the war on terror; has permitted U.S. and NATO planes to fly over Russian territory to support war efforts in Afghanistan; opposed but didn’t directly attempt to block the U.S.-led war against Iraq; and his 13% flat tax plan, among other pro-market economic reforms, has, in fact, helped the Russian economy grow significantly in recent years and attract U.S. and Western foreign investment and companies.

That said, however, the trend lines are disturbing. Russia is lurching back in the wrong direction. Putin is a dictator in the making.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Netanyahu calls Israel “epicenter” of innovation at World Economic Forum in Davos. Cites Bible as a reason for Israel’s strength.

netanyahu-DavosSo often there are war or rumors of wars to report from the Middle East. But this week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a fascinating speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was chock full of good news.

You can read it here, or watch it here.

Several elements caught my attention.

  • One: Netanyahu said “Israel is the epicenter of world innovation right now.”
  • Two: The Prime Minister cited the Bible as one of the reason’s for the strength of the Jewish people and the Israeli economy.
  • Three: He gave interesting examples of Israeli innovation — including how scarce water resources has inspired Israelis to develop the world’s most advance technologies for re-using water, and how scarce agricultural land has inspired Israelis to learn how to get more milk out of every cow (“Whose cows produce the most milk? Don’t guess: it’s Israel. It’s a computerized cow. Every ‘moo’ is computerized and we increased the productivity.”)

I encourage you to read or watch it for yourself.

Excerpts from a Jerusalem Post story about the speech:

  • Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday at the Davos World Economic Forum that investing in the Israeli economy is a way to facilitate peace in the region.
  • In a speech that largely focused on the strength of Israel as a hub for innovation, as well as research and development, Netanyahu said that the advancement of the Israeli economy would help Israel’s Arab neighbors, specifically the Palestinians.
  • The prime minister stated that “Israel is not what’s wrong in the Middle East, it is what’s right with the Middle East.”….
  • The premier used his remarks to praise his country’s economic prowess, which he credited to “the indispensable element of entrepreneurship” as well as “sound macroeconomic policies.”
  • “Israel is often called the ‘start-up nation,’ but I call it the ‘innovation nation,’” Netanyahu said.
  • The premier touted an economic policy of “cutting taxes and removing barriers to competition so that the private sector could run forward and compete.”
  • Netanyahu said that in the ten years since he took over as finance minister during the administration of Ariel Sharon, Israel managed to bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio to 67 percent while reducing inflation and cutting down unemployment.
  • The premier said that Israel’s small size and the Jewish culture of “asking questions” has contributed to the country’s strong economic performance.
  • “From the Talmud to Einstein, Jewish people were always asking questions,” the prime minister said. “The questioning mind is something in our culture and adds very much to our capacities. We’re very small, everything is close by, and everyone competes and collaborates with each other.”
  • “This is an invitation to innovation nation, it’s open for business, it’s open for your business, please come join us,” he stated.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Canadian PM Harper visits the epicenter. Tells Israel: “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.” Brings delegation of 208 Canadians, including Rabbis & Pastors. Also, read full text of Harper address.

harper-net-flagsAt a time when so many world leaders are turning away from Israel and trying to isolate the Jewish state, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – an evangelical Christian and the most pro-Israel world leader on the planet at this time — arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday for his first visit, telling the Israeli people, “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”

Harper was given the red carpet treatment by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with whom he has become a close and personal friend, as well as a staunch and reliable ally. He and his wife, Laureen, dined with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. The Harpers also toured several Christian holy sites, and plan to visit several more — including sites around the Sea of Galilee — during their trip.

Harper brought with him a delegation of 208 Canadians, including 21 Rabbis, 27 CEOs of Canadian companies, as well as numerous evangelical pastors and Catholic priests.

On Monday, Harper became the first Canadian Prime Minister in history to address the Israeli Knesset. He reaffirmed the importance of Israel as ”a Jewish state,” and was given a standing ovation for his long-standing and warm friendship and support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

“It is right to support Israel because after generations of persecutions the Jewish people deserve their own homeland,” Harper told the Israeli parliament. “I believe the story of Israel is a great example to the world. It is a story, essentially, of a people whose response to suffering has been to move beyond resentment and build a most extraordinary society, a vibrant democracy, a freedom-loving country with an independent and rights-affirming judiciary. An innovative, world-leading ‘start-up’ nation. You have taken the collective memory of death and persecution to build an optimistic, forward-looking land, one that so values life, you will sometimes release a thousand criminals and terrorists, to save one of your own. In the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our Government takes as articles of faith, and principles to drive our national life. And therefore, through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”

To read the text of his extraordinary speech, please click here (scroll to the bottom of the Haaretz article where the video of the speech is located).

Harper met with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday morning. Later this week, he will visit Jordan and meet with King Abdullah II in Amman, deeply committed as he is to encouraging peace between Israel and the Arab people.

“Prime Minister Harper, my good friend Stephen, welcome to Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu said on Sunday upon welcoming Harper at his office, reported Israel Hayom. “I have to say, Stephen, that you are a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people. I’m not just saying that — I mean it deeply from the bottom of my heart and I speak for all the people of Israel….This world is often cynical and hypocritical, and you have shown great moral leadership. When it comes to fighting terrorism, you know that there cannot be any politically correct double talk, but only unequivocal condemnation and united international action….When it comes to anti-Semitism, you have stood up unabashedly at the side of Israel and the entire Jewish people, I think at the side of decency and fairness to everyone: Jews and non-Jews alike. And when it comes to Iran’s repeated calls for Israel’s annihilation and its unrelenting development of nuclear weapons — you and Canada have stood unflinchingly on the right side of history.”

“Touching on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations,” Israel Hayom noted, Netanyahu told Harper, “You recognize that a genuine peace, a lasting peace, must be based on mutual recognition and sound security arrangements on the ground. I think in all this and in so many other things, you have shown courage, clarity and conviction. And in standing up for the truth, your voice, Stephen, has been an indispensable one,” Netanyahu said. “So the people of Israel and I deeply appreciate your friendship and the friendship of the people of Canada to us.”


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

With Canadian PM visiting Israel, Palestinian leader heads to Moscow. Abbas wants Russia to play “bigger role” in epicenter.

Abbas heads to Moscow.

Abbas heads to Moscow.

With Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper being feted by the Netanyahu team, taking his 200+ person delegation all over Israel, getting standing ovations in the Knesset, and showing deep affection for the Jewish and Israeli people, the Palestinian leaders are turning to Moscow, urging the Russians to play a “bigger role” in the Middle East in the months ahead.

Harper met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday. In Ramallah, Harper announced $ 66 million in new foreign aid to the Palestinians. But Abbas seems little interested in lingering in the neighborhood while the most pro-Israel leader on the planet gets the red carpet treatment in the Holy Land. Abbas is, therefore, heading to the Kremlin for four days of high-level meetings with rising Czar Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Russian political and religious leaders during a four-day visit to Russia this week, the RIA Novosti news service reported Tuesday, quoting a senior Palestinian official,” reports Haaretz.

“Abbas, who arrives in Moscow on Wednesday, is expected to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss bilateral relations and the United States-mediated talks between the Palestinians and Israel,” the Israeli daily notes.

“Abbas’s visit takes place at the time when our talks with Israel are deadlocked,” said Nabil Shaath, Fatah’s Commissioner of International Relations.

“Russia has played a huge role in reaching agreement with Iran and we are also seeing progress [in talks] on Syria. This brings us hope that the visit [of Abbas] will ensure progress in settling the Palestinian-Israeli issue,” Shaath said.

“In an interview with the Voice of Russia radio,” Haaretz reports, “Shhath said that Russia had shown ‘that it can do much, including in the Middle East as in the case of the Iranian nuclear program and the search for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. We believe that Russia can play a still bigger role in tackling other international problems….We hope that Russia will be able to continue to play an important role in the Palestinian issue.”


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog