Israel has been accepted as an observer state of the Pacific Alliance, the Prime Minister’s Office stated on Tuesday.
The Pacific Alliance is an integration initiative, created in 2011, dedicated to deepen economic cooperation of its member states, which include Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The alliance’s observer states include the United States, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Honduras, Paraguay, Portugal, Finland, India Israel, Morocco, and Singapore.
According to the PMO, Israel’s accession was made possible as a result of efforts led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the leaders of the alliance’s member states, in a bid to promote Israeli cooperation with world markets.
Netanyahu is to visit Colombia and Mexico in the coming months.
The PMO stated that the combined GNP of the Pacific Alliance member states amounts to over $2 trillion and constitutes 36% of the GNP of Latin America. It is the eighth largest economy in the world, accounting for 50% of Latin America’s trade and 26% of its foreign investments (over $70 billion).
Israel currently exports $864 million worth of goods to the Pacific Alliance countries per annum, approximately 1% of Israel’s total exports.
The statement noted that the decision to accept Israel as an observer state was on Monday at a Pacific Alliance summit in Cartagena, Colombia with the participation of the member state presidents.
Netanyahu’s office added that Israel will be invited to take part in the staff work of the Pacific Alliance and attend its conferences.
Prior to the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who confirmed their support for Israel’s accession. Last month, the prime minister met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Davos, and the Mexican president acceded to the Israeli premier’s request that Israel be accepted as an observer state.
In response to the announcement, Netanyahu said: “I thank the leaders of the Pacific Alliance member states for accepting Israel as an observer to the important organization that they head. This is an additional step in ensuring the continued growth of the Israeli economy. We are diversifying the State of Israel’s international markets.”
Ambassador-designate of Israel to Jamaica, Bahij Mansour, told The Sunday Gleaner that the vast expertise and experience of world-renowned ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, with its extensive network, will be brought to bear on the preparation and construction of the hub.
According to Mansour, Jamaicans will be invited to Israel to be trained while the hub is being constructed.
“As we look at how we can deepen the cooperation between the two countries, our government will be hosting Jamaicans to get some experience from Israel. I have high hope for this,” said Mansour.
To this end, Mansour said he has met with Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke, as well as Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton; Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna, and Education Minister Ronald Thwaites.
“I met with them (last) week and offered them a lot of avenues on how to go forward in the fields of agriculture, trade and energy,” said Mansour. “Cooperation is supposed to be two sides and we are offering much of the potential that we have.”
Mansour said he spoke with Hylton only minutes before he spoke with The Sunday Gleaner. He said part of the discussions involved the planned inclusion of ZIM being a major part of the logistics hub and centre.
“ZIM will be part of this project because of its experience. They have been working on projects like these for many years,” added Mansour of the company which was once public owned but has been divested in private hands.
Massive boost for businesses
Hylton has said that the development of Jamaica into a global logistics hub will prove a massive boost for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that wish to invest in, or grow their existing operations on the island.
The industry minister said the Government is seeking the support of its international development partners to develop the hub.
Mansour said the Israeli government has given a firm commitment to continue to support ZIM in the building of the hub and support the Jamaican Government.
He added that ZIM, a company that has covered all major international trade routes and complemented by an extensive array of regional shipping lines connected by 10 major hubs, will turn its attention to Jamaica after it is done with the expansion of the Panama hub.
As a first step, Mansour said ZIM will carry out extensive work in Jamaica in preparation for the hub, with containers from across the globe stopping over in Jamaica, from which distribution will be done.
In agriculture and energy, Mansour declared that there are companies with the expertise that will be promoting new development in areas such as greenhouses for irrigation and energy. “I hope that clean energy will be one of the policies in the future of the Government of Jamaica,” he said.
Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production.
Imports to Israel, totalling $77.59 billion in 2012, included raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, and consumer goods.
Israel, a leading country in the development of solar energy, is also a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences.
The country has embraced solar energy as its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology, and its solar companies work on projects around the world.
Over 90 per cent of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita in the world.
Approximately 700 Syrian citizens, most of them injured in the civil war, have received medical treatment in Israel. At present around 490 Syrian nationals are inpatients at hospitals in northern Israel. Of these, 233 are at the Rebecca Sieff Hospital, Safed; 200 at the Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya; 38 at Poriya Hospital, Tiberias; and 20 at the Rambam Medical Center, Haifa.
The remainder, about 210, were treated on the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights, at a field hospital set up at an Israel Defense Forces base. The field hospital has been inactive for the last few months.
Most of the patients, including a week-old baby girl, were civilian noncombatants. In some cases, their injuries were not connected to the war. Some of those in need of treatment arrive in Israel with their medical records.
When the patient is a minor, an adult family member is generally allowed to stay with them in the hospital.
In most cases, the patients are returned to Syria after being discharged from the hospital, after receiving a copy of their treatment and hospitalization history as well as a supply of any drugs needed. A small number of patients have returned to Israel for continued treatment.
The Israeli humanitarian effort has been under way for around a year; some human-rights activists are now saying that Israel should also offer asylum to the Syrian patients.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has recently taken up the cause of the Syrians receiving medical treatment in Israel.
The organization’s director of public outreach, Hadas Ziv, says it has two main demands. First, she says, protocols must be established “that would ensure every injured Syrian receive a meeting with a representative of the Red Cross or the UN refugee agency, and that each and every patient be informed of the possibility of remaining in Israel as an asylum seeker.”
Ziv’s organization is also concerned about what happens to the patients after they are sent back to Syria.
“Many dilemmas arise from this situation, and they should be looked into. Hospitals are engaging in lifesaving work and giving excellent care, but it could all be for naught,” Ziv says, adding, “What happens afterward? What about rehabilitation? What happens to someone whose legs have been amputated, for example?”
The general director of Western Galilee Hospital, Dr. Massad Barhoum, says, “Every patient that comes through the hospital doors is first and foremost a person in need of lifesaving medical care. In the eyes of our staff, treating Syrians is a moral obligation, as well as a professional and humane honor. We see more and more injuries from the civil war in Syria: infants, children, teenagers, men and women alike. All of them, in one terrible moment, become part of the harsh reality in a neighboring country.
“It’s fully clear to me that saving the lives of these people is just a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of life in this conflict, the end of which isn’t in sight. All of the hospital departments have joined together in their commitment to continue dispensing dedicated and professional care, including complex treatments and surgeries, some of which haven’t been performed in Israeli hospitals for years,” Barhoum says.
So far only one Syrian citizen who was treated in Israel has applied for asylum. Her request is being reviewed by the High Court of Justice; details have not been released.
Hospital staff members who have been in contact with Syrian patients told Haaretz that they have not heard any of them talk of wanting to remain in Israel rather than return to their homes in Syria. “They’ve asked to go home, in private talks with me,” said one hospital staffer. He recalled a case in which a man who lost his eyes turned down an offer to stay in Israel for rehabilitation, preferring to return home to Syria.
“The UN refugee agency recommends against sending refugees back to war-torn areas,” Ziv notes, adding, “The agency has even asked that Syrian citizens not be sent to Lebanon or to Turkey, as those nations are flooded with refugees and have asked for help in dealing with the burden. Israel has no obligation to accept refugees, it’s its decision whether to accept the recommendations. My sense is that because Syria is a hostile state, the agency does not want to pressure Israel in fear that Israel might cease hospitalizing and treating patients.”
Continuing, Ziv says that “We can’t minimize Israel’s contribution, but we also mustn’t make assumptions, we should make patients aware of the possibility to stay here. Not all of them have meetings with any UN or Red Cross representatives. The hospital staff members, as good as they are, haven’t the slightest idea about refugee rights, or international treaties. These people must be interviewed by official organizations, that should make regular visits.
“Larger questions must also be asked – for example, how can we help Jordan? How can we do our part in the regional effort? If we sent aid delegations to Haiti, we can’t help in Jordan?”
While it’s the hospitals that are responsible for treating the patients, after they are discharged it’s the Israel Defense Forces that return them to Syria. The Interior Ministry, which has nothing to do with the process. The patients’ entry and exists are not registered, and they are not granted any kind of status.
Attorney Tamir Blanc, legal consultant for Physicians for Human Rights, says that Israeli law affects the injured Syrians in two ways: It is prohibited to return individuals to a place where their lives are in danger, and Israel is bound by the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a treaty signed in 1951.
According to Blank, “Of course there’s no kind of consensus that they should all be allowed to stay in Israel, but the claims made by those who say that their lives are in danger if they return to Syria should be fully and seriously investigated. Israel has no obligation to initiate a request for asylum, but if someone makes such a request, it must be considered,” Blank says.
Prime Minister Garibashvili said, “Israel is a friend, and Georgia attaches great importance to the relationship between the two countries. We know that the bond between the Georgian and Jewish people goes back 2,600 years, when the Jewish people first came to Georgia after the destruction of the First Temple. Since then Jewish people became like family, they were accepted, loved and respected and became part of Georgian society throughout history.”
Garibashvili said, ”Israel is a very important country for Georgia. I came here to confirm once again that Israel is a friend and partner. We’d like to strengthen our bilateral cooperation. Georgia is a small country and is a contributor to global peace and a small contributor but wherever we go, we are contributing and we are dedicated.”
Peres said, “I’m delighted to see you here, the Prime Minister of Georgia, which is a very dear country to us. We are now celebrating 2,600 years of friendship. It was great to see Georgia coming back to herself, at her best full of hope and contribution.”
Addressing the current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, President Peres said, “Peace is both our heritage and our strategy. We know it’s not simple but we will continue to make major efforts to reach the right conclusion and bring peace to this part of the region. We must not let history gallop past and lose this opportunity.”
“There are many in the Arab worlds who already know that we are not the problem, the real problems are terror and division and that has nothing to do with us. Terror is today the greatest problem for many countries in the Middle East,” Peres said.
(By Hanna Kamionski, Director of Consumer Products at the Israel Economic Mission in NYC)
On January 14, A delegation of Egypt’s top textile and apparel manufacturers, operating in the Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ), showcased their products to U.S. garment companies seeking duty-free sourcing opportunities in the Middle East. This B2B presentation, organized by The Egyptian Ready Made Garment Export Council, took place at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in NYC. Israeli suppliers working with the Egyptian producers were also present. This was the third in a series of road shows planned by the Egyptians and Israelis in an effort to increase exports for QIZ producers.
According to the QIZ agreement signed in 2004 by Israel, Egypt and the U.S., products manufactured in the QIZ are allowed duty-free entry into the U.S., if they contain at least 10.5 percent of Israeli input and at the same time comply with the rules of origin, which require 35 percent added value and substantial transformation. Most of the goods exported from the QIZ comprise of textiles and garments due to the high level of custom duties in the U.S. and the Egyptian expertise in the textile field. As a result of the direct joint interest of Israel and Egypt to promote exports to the U.S., the QIZ project has been continuously operating, even during the turbulent times since Egypt’s revolution in 2011.
On January 15th, The Egyptian Export Council hosted a lunch, at the Marriott Marquis, honoring the Egyptian – Israeli delegation. Guest of Honor, Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary For Near East Affairs, at the U.S. State Department, delivered a speech on “Mid-East Economic Diplomacy: Expanding U.S. Trade Connections.” In her message, she encouraged U.S. companies to expand production in the QIZ, claiming that “in spite of the political upheavals that have taken place in recent years, there has been very little disruption of critical business activities. Deliveries have largely continued on time and there has been very little labor unrest in this sector.” In attendance at the conference, which as become an annual tradition, were officials from the Egyptian Consulate and also the Israel’s Economic Minister in NYC, Ms. Nili Shalev. -
A song from an Israeli singer with Yemenite roots – but who has never visited the country – has become a surprise hit in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, the Economist reported on Tuesday.
Zion Golan’s song “Sana’a al-Yemen” is frequently heard blaring from stereos and minibus speakers. “Come with me to Sanaa,” Golan sings in Yemeni Arabic. “Sanaa, my home, you’ll like it.”
But although the lyrics refer to Sana’a as home, Golan has never been there. As an Israeli Jew he is forbidden to travel to Yemen.
Golan is one of more than 300,000 Israelis who trace their roots to Yemen, once home to a significant Jewish community dating back to at least the 2nd century, the Economist writes.
The bulk of Yemen’s Jews left when Israel was founded in 1948, escaping Yemen’s instability, poverty and instances of anti-Jewish violence. Today barely a hundred Jews remain.
But cultural ties have survived. Yemeni restaurants in Israel’s Tel Aviv serve traditional cuisine and some markets discreetly stock qat, a leafy mild narcotic popular in Yemen.
Israelis of Yemeni descent such as Golan and the late Ofra Haza, a pop star famed for her fusion of western and eastern sounds, continued to write music that found an audience in Yemen, since it is grounded in the traditions of their ancestral home.
The artists’ bootleg albums have long been bought and sold underground (trade with Israel is illegal in Yemen). More recently, the internet has made the songs more accessible. Young Yemenis watch performances on YouTube, sharing them on social networking sites such as Facebook, where they often express astonishment at the resilience of Yemeni culture and lament the Jewish community’s near-extinction in Yemen.