December 8, 2022

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03/06 Links Pt1: Caroline Glick: Democrats and anti-democrats; Coronavirus: For Once, Israel and the Rest of the World Are on the Same Side; Jews and Saudi Arabia

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Democrats and anti-democrats
In Israel, the checks and balances move in only one direction. The Knesset and the government – that is, the elected branches of government – are fully checked by the legal fraternity. The justices, attorney general and state prosecutors, for their part, have no checks on their power at all. The reason they keep seizing the powers of the Knesset and the government is because they can.

Whereas Likud and its coalition partners are committed to pursuing significant reform to check the power of the prosecutors and justices, Blue and White’s platform dismisses outright all possibility of reform. The Left knows what its source of power is. And it isn’t the people.

On Wednesday, Blue and White announced it will seek the passage of a law barring indicted officials from serving as prime minister. In so doing, Blue and White formalized its rejection of democracy. If passed into law, Blue and White’s bill will do two things which are both antithetical to democracy.

First, it will give the unelected attorney general the power to decide who can run for office. If all that is needed to block a politician from running is a criminal indictment, then the only person who matters in Israeli politics will be the attorney general.

Second, the bill seeks to cancel Monday’s election. More than two million Israelis voted for Netanyahu, either directly by voting for Likud, or indirectly, by voting for its coalition partners. And the Blue and White bill intends to throw their ballots into the trash.

If the law passes, Israel’s parliamentary system will have more in common with Iran’s parliamentary system than with Britain’s. In Iran, the Guardian Council of the Islamic Revolution decides who can run for office. In Israel, the Guardian Council of the legal revolution will perform the same function, and to the same end.

It’s not at all clear how we can proceed from this point. But what is clear enough is that we have reached an inflection point. Either three members of the Blue and White coalition break ranks and join Netanyahu to form a government and save Israeli democracy, or Israel will cease to be a democracy.

Coronavirus: For Once, Israel and the Rest of the World Are on the Same Side

Israel is a country that has known more than its share of national emergencies. Over time its citizens have weathered Arab invasions, ballistic missiles and terror bombing campaigns. The sudden attack of coronavirus is something new. For once, we and the rest of the world are on the same side.

In the first stages of the virus, Israel’s aggressive instincts have kicked in as it has adopted emergency measures. Tourists from countries affected by the virus have been sent home. Foreigners from “contagious” nations were banned. Avoiding panic is central to the government’s strategy. Officials want to contain the virus as much as possible. It appears to be working. No Israelis have yet died from corona and less than two dozen are hospitalized.

“We are in control of the situation, thanks to the great caution we have adopted,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the country on Wednesday. “We have been forced to take very severe steps to slow the spread of the virus in Israel and that is what has happened. We have ordered quarantines and mass checkups that many other countries haven’t done.”

Critics say that the hardline virus defense policy is exaggerated. But that is unknowable in advance. Risking lives to placate treasury officials, tourist agencies, business travelers or disappointed children on Purim is a step responsible officials can’t contemplate.

El Al cancels flights to San Francisco, Europe amid ‘unprecedented’ virus crisis

El Al on Friday cut back flights to San Francisco and a number of European cities amid a global drop in travel over fears about the new coronavirus, with a senior company official calling it “an unprecedented crisis.”

Flights that left for San Francisco Friday morning were combined, according to El Al, due to the low number of passengers on each plane.

In Europe, the Israeli airline was cancelling some flights to Berlin, Barcelona and Zurich. All three cities are located in countries which Israel began restricting the entry of non-nationals to on Friday as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

“This is an unprecedented crisis,” a senior El Al official told the Ynet news site.

“The consequences of this crisis are huge and we are trying to do everything we can [to handle it],” he said.

El Al was also expected to cancel flights on Sunday to Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bucharest, Vienna and Marseille.

Amid Coronavirus, Netanyahu Asks Israelis to Use Indian Namaste Greeting instead of Shaking Hands

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday encouraged his countrymen to adopt ‘Namaste’ – the Indian way of greeting – instead of the normal handshake as one of the measures to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

At a press conference following a review meeting to fight the spread of coronavirus, Netanyahu said that several measures will be announced to prevent the spread of coronavirus but some simple measures like avoiding the normal handshake while greeting people may possibly be replaced with other forms of greetings like the Indian ‘Namaste’.

He also demonstrated at the press conference as to how the Indians do ‘Namaste’ while greeting people.

Netanyahu said that “we are in the middle of a global epidemic”, but Israel has done well as it was quick in taking action to prevent the spread of the virus in the country.

JPost Editorial: Jews and Saudi Arabia

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – the umbrella organization of some 50 American Jewish groups – traveled to Saudi Arabia last month.

The delegation, headed by executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein, newly installed CEO William Daroff, and chairman Arthur Stark, met a number of top Saudi officials. This was the first formal visit by an American Jewish organization since the American Jewish Congress visited the kingdom in 1993, during the diplomatic openings generated by the Oslo Accords.

The visit is a positive step, and the fact that the Saudis permitted publicizing a trip by a delegation of Jewish leaders known to have close ties with the governments of both the United States and Israel is even better.

Why? Because this adds another brick to the bridge that is slowly – oftentimes covertly – being built between Israel and Saudi Arabia. And that bridge is good for both countries.

Saudi Arabia is by no means an ideal state – far from it. It is an autocratic regime for which human rights is not – to say the least – its top priority. It represses gays, treats women poorly, discriminates against minorities, and was behind the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a perfect world, that is not the type of regime one would want to get close to. But this is not a perfect world. And in a highly imperfect Middle East threatened by Iran on one side, and radical Islamic fundamentalism on the other, being able to work with Saudi Arabia is very much in Israel’s interests – just as working with Jerusalem is very much in Riyadh’s interests.

Israel wants better and more open relations with the Saudis – warts and all. Visits such as that by the CoP help develop those relations.

In further sign of detente, Israel attends anti-terrorism conference in Morocco

In yet another indication of warming ties between Jerusalem and some Arab countries, an Israeli official this week actively participated in an anti-terrorism conference in Morocco.

The name of the Israeli official who attended the so-called Warsaw Process Counterterrorism and Illicit Finance working group in Marrakech on Wednesday and Thursday cannot currently be published, due to security reasons.

“Delegations discussed the ever-changing threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and acknowledged a range of efforts that can be employed to counter this still potent threat, including the promotion of a set of non-binding principles,” the US State Department said in a statement.

“Participants shared their regional perspectives on countering al-Qa’ida and discussed threats from other terrorist groups. A number of delegations also noted the destabilizing activities of Iran and its proxies, especially Hizballah, and the need to collectively confront Iran’s continued support to terrorist groups.”

Israel was one of more than 50 countries who are part of the Warsaw Process, which started with the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East that took place in the Polish capital in February 2019.

That conference, co-sponsored by Poland and the US, was originally billed as part of global efforts to counter Iran, but was later toned down and instead focused on the vaguer goal of seeking stability in the Middle East.

This week’s Counterterrorism and Illicit Finance working group is the final working group meeting of the Warsaw Process in advance of the 2020 Warsaw Ministerial to be held in Washington D.C.

The Threat of Hezbollah | LTC Jonathan Conricus | AIPAC 2020

On March 1st, 2020, IDF International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

Lt. Col. Conricus explained the threats posed by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to Israel and the IDF’s operations countering them.

Election is a victory for annexation, whether or not coalition can be formed

Yamina chairman Naftali Benett and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were in agreement on Monday night upon viewing the results of exit polls showing the right on the cusp of an all-out victory that could see it forming a coalition without having to reach across the aisle.

“With God’s help today, the government of Israeli sovereignty [over the West Bank] has been established,” Bennett declared in a victory speech to supporters in Ramat Gan.

“The right-wing camp has won and [Yamina] will ensure that the path of the right-wing will win as well,” he added, hinting at his intention to ensure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on his promises to right-wing voters, namely annexation.

On the other side of the Green Line, Erekat was drawing a similar conclusion, though he was not nearly as upbeat as Bennett.

“Settlement, annexation and apartheid have won the Israeli elections,” the senior Palestinian official tweeted. “Netanyahu’s campaign was about the continuation of the occupation and conflict.”

Annexation plans did earn a considerable boost if exit polls showing a 59- to 60-seat showing for Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc prove true. But not necessarily because the Likud leader will be able to form a coalition: While there may not be 61 MKs willing to sit with Netanyahu, there is a majority of lawmakers willing and eager to legislate Israel sovereignty over large swaths of the West Bank.

And luckily for backers of the controversial policy over the Green Line, a coalition is not needed to see it through.

Jpost Editorial: The big winner in Israel’s elections is the Joint List

While it is still unclear who will form the next government, or if we are heading to a fourth election, it seems like the big winner of this round is Israel’s third-biggest party – the Joint List.

In April, the four parties comprising the list ran in two lists, Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al, and received 10 seats together. In September, they ran as one list and regained their power from the 2015 election, garnering 13 seats.

This time they spiked to 15 – an unprecedented number for an Arab party.

This was the result of an all-out campaign intended to break the popular ban on participating in the general election and to locate people who usually do not vote and get them out to do so.

Members of all four parties – secular, nationalist and religious – took to the streets, held rallies and brought people to the polling stations.

They also focused, for the first time, on getting Jewish voters. Party leader Ayman Odeh and senior member Ahmad Tibi attended rallies and meetings with voters in Tel Aviv.

However, it seems one of the main reasons the Joint List campaign worked so effectively was the attention it received from Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party.

Report: Ya’alon gives nod to minority gov’t with Joint Arab List

In what could signal a major shift for Blue and White, MK Moshe Ya’alon, No. 3 on the center-left list and leader of the Telem party, now supports the establishment of a minority government under Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with the support of 12 Joint Arab List MKs – excluding representatives of Balad, Haaretz reported Thursday.

According to the report, Ya’alon has voiced his support for the idea in meetings with the four top officials in Blue and White. Ya’alon’s new stance opposes the positions of his Telem colleagues Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, who have rejected the idea of a government that depends on MKs from the Joint Arab List.

The Blue and White leadership has been seriously considering the option of a minority government even since it became clear that a bloc comprising the center-left and the Arabs would secure 62 seats, compared to the 58 seats that the rival camp, comprised of the right-wing and haredi parties, has assembled.

At least in theory, this would allow for the establishment of a government comprised of 40 MKs from Blue and White, Labor-Gesher-Meretz, with support from Yisrael Beytenu and 12 out of the 15 Joint Arab List MKs.

Balad, the most politically extreme of the parties that make up the Joint Arab List, is unlikely to support any scenario of a “government of generals,” which in any case would be unwilling to depend on Balad votes. Given the current distribution of seats, a government supported by 59 MKs, compared to the 58 the Right and the haredim have, is a possibility – if all the relevant potential partners can reach an agreement.

PA shutters West Bank, Israel quarantines Bethlehem after coronavirus found

The Palestinian Authority declared an unprecedented state of emergency in the West Bank Thursday after seven Bethlehem residents were confirmed to be carrying the coronavirus, shutting schools, banning tourists and and placing restrictions on gatherings and movement between cities.

Israel, which controls the West Bank, placed Bethlehem on lockdown, banning Israelis and Palestinians from entering or leaving the storied city, as officials from both governments race to contain the virus’s spread in Palestinian population centers.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday issued a presidential decree declaring a state of emergency in all Palestinian-controlled territory for 30 days beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, authorizing officials to take “all necessary measures to confront the risks resulting from the coronavirus and to protect public health.”

The move came after seven Palestinians from Bethlehem tested positive for the virus, the first cases reported in the Palestinian territories.

The PA said the seven worked at a hotel where a group of Greek tourists stayed during a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories in late February. The tourists tested positive for the virus after returning to Greece.

In response, Palestinians ordered the shuttering of the Church of the Nativity and other places of worship in Bethlehem for two weeks, and banned all tourists from the West Bank for an unspecified amount of time.

14 Americans stuck in Palestinian hotel due to coronavirus

At least 40 people have been quarantined against their will in a Palestinian hotel near Bethlehem, in the West Bank, due to an outbreak of coronavirus. They include 14 American citizens, as well as about 25 Palestinian guests and employees.

The Angel Hotel, in mostly Christian Beit Jala, just west of the city where Jesus is said to have been born, is where seven people were discovered to have the virus, making them the first known cases in the Palestinian Authority, a matter made public on Thursday morning.
“My staff and I are inside the hotel,” Maryana al-Arja, the manager, told The Media Line.

“The Americans left the hotel this morning, but the Palestinian Tourism Police brought them back because they could not secure [another lodging] place” in the Bethlehem area, she said. “The seven people who are infected or suspected of being infected are inside the hotel.”

She says that all the hotel guests are in private rooms and that PA health officials are present to make arrangements for transporting them to medical care.

“The American [guests] are aware of the situation and are in contact with their country’s embassy,” Arja continued. “Israeli authorities have asked that the Americans be quarantined for 14 days before being admitted to Israel. So far, no samples have been taken from the Americans. We call on health officials to inform us of their plan.”

The Israeli Defense Ministry ordered an end to crossings from the area until further notice.

There are currently 17 known cases of coronavirus in Israel, where harsh measures have been imposed in an effort to stop the spread.

How Hamas Has Turned to Cyber Warfare

MEMRI: UAE Cleric Waseem Yousef: Muslim Refugees In The West Are Obligated To Integrate, Coexist With Non-Muslims, Who Are Protecting And Providing For Them; They Are Friends And Compatriots

On January 18, 2020, a Syrian woman named Umm Muhammad called in to a show on Abu Dhabi TV (UAE) hosted by Jordanian-born UAE Islamic scholar Sheikh Waseem Yousef. She said that she is a refugee in Norway along with her family, and that she sends her six children to public schools in Norway, where they are being taught about Judaism, Christianity, atheism, and other non-Islamic religions. She said that the curriculum includes a visit to a church during the holidays, and she asked what she should do to prevent her children from leaving Islam. Sheikh Yousef responded that she should raise her children as Muslims and that she should teach them to integrate and coexist with members of other religions. Harshly criticizing Muslims who believe that saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” to non-Muslims is heresy, Sheikh Yousef elaborated that since Norway is welcoming Umm Muhammad’s family as refugees and providing them with education, healthcare, housing, protection, and financial support, her family is obligated to be grateful and to integrate and live in brotherly coexistence with the Christians and Jews who are welcoming them. He argued that the Muslims are the real infidels because they allowed sectarianism to destroy countries such as Syria in the name of God, and he instructed Umm Muhammad to not sow the seeds of sectarianism in the very country that is keeping her safe and providing for her family. Sheikh Yousef also said that Umm Muhammad should view the non-Muslims in Norway as her friends, compatriots, and brothers. He added: “Heresy is denying the grace you have been given.”

“To What Extent Can I Prevent My Children From Entertaining The Idea That There Is A Little Truth To The Jewish Or Christian Religions”

Umm Muhammad: “I live in Norway with my six children.
“At school, they have a course called ‘religions’ – not ‘religion.’ It includes Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and even atheism.
“To what extent can I prevent my children from entertaining the idea that there is a little truth to the Jewish or Christian religions, lest they convert from Islam to any other religion?
“During their holidays, all the children at school are taken to a church.”
“Why Would He Remain A Christian After Congratulating Me [On Ramadan], Yet I Become A Heretic If I Congratulate Him [On Christian Holidays]?”

Sheikh Waseem Yousef: “We are being swarmed by a wave of being condescending [towards others]. I used to be condescending myself, before Allah guided me.
“If [a Christian] congratulates me on Ramadan, does he become a Muslim?”

Umm Muhammad: “Of course not.”

Sheikh Waseem Yousef: “Right. He would remain a Christian. Why would he remain a Christian after congratulating me, yet I become a heretic if I congratulate him? Answer me. He does not acknowledge Ramadan or the holiday. He just said ‘happy holiday’ to me or ‘happy new year, Waseem.’ Has he become a Muslim because of that?”

The Problem of Egyptian Identity: A View from Within

Having toppled the Egyptian monarchy in the July 1952 coup d’état, the country’s new military rulers reshaped its identity. The Kingdom of Egypt became the Arab Republic of Egypt, moving farther toward pan-Arabism. This embrace of pan-Arab identity had far-reaching adverse consequences that stalled Egyptian progress while drastically affecting the way Egyptians see themselves, their neighbors, and the world.

I am an Egyptian, and I have some inconvenient questions.

How did Egypt descend from the status of a great civilization that once fascinated the world to a position of insignificance bordering on irrelevance? What principles and values do Egyptians stand for? What defines us as a nation? What shaped our beliefs and convictions? Why do we view Palestinians as friends and Israelis as foes? Why do we have a strategic partnership with the US though the average Egyptian believes, as do most Arabs, that the US is a vile state that conspires with Israel against them? We have a peace treaty with Israel, but to so much as contemplate visiting that country is considered an act of treason. Why do we say one thing and do another?

Egypt is in the state it is in because the Egyptian people embraced an identity that was imposed on them—an unnatural and unhealthy state of affairs. We maintain a strong attachment to the same people who almost completely obliterated our way of life, resulting in an Egypt that is a shadow of its former self.

If Egyptians are to regain the world’s respect and lay the foundations of a healthy, just community, we must reinvent our country. This will entail rethinking our alliances. We must abandon the pan-Arab identity imposed on us by our military rulers. We must moreover reject the convictions and beliefs that were foisted upon us during the many years of Arab occupation.

Scots don’t call themselves English. West Africans whose countries were once occupied by France don’t call themselves French, though, like us, they speak the language of their colonizer. Why do Egyptians identify as Arab despite factual evidence to the contrary, including recent DNA analysis that shows that we are no more than 20% Arab?

MEMRI: Iranian Researcher Dr. Sam Mehdi Torabi: We Should Develop Strategic Weapons; Only Iranian Pressure Can Expel The U.S. From The Region

Iranian researcher Dr. Sam Mehdi Torabi, the Director of the Risalat Strategic Studies Institute, said in a February 11, 2020 interview on Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh’s show on Ofogh TV (Iran) that American soldiers are committing suicide because they served in an oppressive army, because they have killed innocent people, and because the wars they have fought in, such as Vietnam and the Second World War, are unjust. He also said that pressure from Iran is the only thing that will lead to the expulsion of the U.S. from the Middle East and he elaborated that this should involve the development of strategic weapons and attacks against U.S. bases in the region. For a related interview on Talebzadeh’s show, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7839.

“I Do Not Know Of Any Cases Of Suicide Among Our Soldiers Or Warriors… When They Went Out To War, They Did Not Do Anything Bad; Even Those Who Went To Syria Or Iraq”

Dr. Mehdi Torabi: “[The suicide of U.S. soldiers] that you see now – it happened also in the Vietnam War, in WWII, and in the Korean War. When these soldiers… As a human being, any soldier who has to serve in an oppressive army that kills innocent people and that is not in a defensive situation, in a way that is unjust… We shouldn’t be surprised that this is how the soldiers react. That’s one point. Another point is that Trump himself has said that they are facing a crisis in this regard.
“I do not know of any cases of suicide among our soldiers or warriors. This is partly related to our faith in Islam. Although a person who is in fear may do this against his religious beliefs, but we do not have any such cases. This is because these people do not feel that they have done something wrong. When they went out to war, they did not do anything bad. Even those who went to Syria or Iraq – I’m not talking about the [Iran-Iraq] War of Holy Defense. This is one of the places where we can see how just are ways are and how false the other way is.”
On 9/11/2001 “They [The U.S.] Were Ready To Crush 3500 People Under Concrete In Order To Serve The Security Of Whom? Of Israel”

Nader Talebzadeh: “The plan they made for September 11… It was pre-planned, and they immediately entered the region. That is, they came to Afghanistan, and after two years they attacked Iraq. Few Iranians know that this event was very important.
“It is a big lie. They were ready to crush 3500 people under concrete in order to serve the security of whom? Of Israel.”

Iran says ‘no obligation’ to let UN nuclear watchdog into certain sites

Tehran has no obligation to grant the UN’s nuclear watchdog access to sites in Iran when it deems the requests are based on “fabricated information,” Iran’s UN ambassador in Vienna said Wednesday.

“Intelligence services’ fabricated information… creates no obligation for Iran to consider such requests,” said a statement from Iran’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Kazem Gharib Abadi.

It comes a day after a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reprimanded Iran for refusing access to two sites which diplomats believe could be connected to the country’s nuclear activity.

Gharib Abadi also accused Israel and the United States of trying to “exert pressure on the Agency… in order to distort the proactive and constructive cooperation” between the IAEA and Iran.

Israel has claimed that a trove of information obtained by its intelligence services contains new information on a previous nuclear weapons program in Iran.

The two sites that the IAEA was denied access to were among three locations that the agency had been raising questions over since the middle of last year.

The IAEA said in Tuesday’s report that it had been sent a letter by Iran saying Tehran did “not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations.”

Homosexuals in Iran are having Sex Reassignment Surgery to avoid execution

Life for gay men in Iran continues to be a psychological nightmare. In the Islamic Republic, homosexuality is illegal and punishments usually range anywhere from torture to public executions.

The Iranian regime’s treatment of transexuals, however, seems on the surface to be a different matter altogether..

Transsexuality was legalized in Iran in 1987 and the country has the second-highest number of sex reassignment surgeries (SRSs) per year, second only to Thailand.

However, in an interview with the British Sun newspaper, Iranian-born activist Shadi Amin claimed that the reason for this high number of SRSs in the country is not as accepting as it may seem on paper.
According to Amin, the Iranian government gives gay men the choice to go through the surgery in place of being tortured or executed.

Amin said that “they would rather carry out mass surgeries than executions because they know the world is watching them.”

In Iran, the regime believes that homosexuality is a disease that needs to be treated like any other, typically by physically changing a person’s sex.

“The government believes that if you are a gay man your soul is that of a woman and you should change your body.” Amin said.

Europe Must Not Fall Victim to Erdogan’s Blackmail

Turkey would apparently like to see more progress in the talks to grant it admission as a full member of the European Union…. Erdogan would most certainly like the West overlook his massive democratic deficit, and to help Turkey secure even more dominance over the Greek islands off its coast, as well as its claims on the gas fields beneath the eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan needed to find a non-Russian adversary to attack, to distract Turkish anger away from him and toward a different chosen target. What better target than the EU, with which most Turks have a love-hate relationship? Opening Turkey’s border gates and flooding Europe with migrants would be sure to please the average Turk….

Europe, unfortunately, to protect its liberty and sovereignty, needs to fight back. It must refuse to accept Erdogan’s hostages…. If the first groups in this mini-exodus from Turkey face a serious blockade rather than warm and welcoming locals, potential migrants would be discouraged from taking such a perilous trip. What Greece alone could achieve, without help from the EU, would be limited….

INSS: The Istanbul Canal: Erdogan’s “Crazy Project” Raises Concerns

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is promoting the idea of building the Istanbul Canal between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara as a waterway parallel to the Bosphorus Strait. The idea itself is not new, but Erdogan hopes that its realization will be one of the major achievements of his presidency. Facing him, Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu, who was elected to the post in spite of the President’s strong support for another candidate, is one of the leading opponents of the project. The main argument against the canal is that it will cause serious damage to the environment, and troubling scenarios also foresee an impact on the countries around the Mediterranean, including Israel. Historically, the issue of passage through the Straits has always been an international bone of contention. Building the canal could endanger the Montreux Convention of 1936, which regulates passage in the Straits, and stir up a dispute between Turkey and Russia. In addition, construction could increase Turkey’s already existing tension with Greece and Cyprus – countries that in recent years have recorded growing closeness to Israel – and thus also affect Israel’s interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Since 2011, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promoted the excavation of a canal between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, as a waterway parallel to the Bosphorus Strait. Last year, his determination to realize the project intensified, in spite of growing criticism of the plan. The idea of digging such a canal is not new; in fact it has arisen periodically since the 16th century, and was most recently mentioned in the early 1990s. The latest version of the canal, with a planned length of about 40 kilometers and a width of 150 meters, is intended to solve problems relating to the passage of ships through the Bosphorus Strait.

The relatively straight route of the artificial canal, compared to the sharp bends in the Bosphorus, should prevent accidents and damage to the city and the environment. An additional route between the two seas should also help reduce the traffic on the Bosphorus, which is used by over 40,000 ships every year (more than the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal combined), a number that the Turkish government expects to rise in the coming decades. This is in spite of the decrease in Strait traffic in recent years following the construction of new oil and gas pipelines. Moreover, the Turkish government claims that it will be entitled to collect a transit toll from ships crossing the canal – a charge that is not possible in the Bosphorus because of the Montreux Convention (1936). Turkey’s Minister of Transport estimates revenues from such a toll in the first phase as approximately one billion dollars annually, adding that this amount could grow to five billion dollars. Finally, the Istanbul Canal project includes not only excavation of the canal itself but also the construction of a new city along its shores, with housing for a million residents and various infrastructures that will be connected to Istanbul’s new airport.

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