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PM launches negotiations to expand free trade with Israel

Posted on:
January 21, 2014
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Economy, Relations
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Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, today announced the launch of negotiations to expand and modernize the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), a cornerstone of the commercial relationship between the two countries. The announcement was made during an official visit by Prime Minister Harper to Israel.

An expanded and modernized CIFTA will enhance bilateral commercial flows by reducing technical barriers, enhancing cooperation, increasing transparency in regulatory matters and reducing transaction costs for businesses. In the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, a modernized agreement will provide new mechanisms to increase cooperation and resolve market access irritants more expeditiously. This initiative will also create new opportunities for Canadian agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood companies in the Israeli market. The first round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Israel from February 3-9, 2014.

Quick Facts

CIFTA is a cornerstone of Canada’s commercial relationship with Israel.
The Agreement came into force on January 1, 1997, and amendments were brought into force on November 1, 2003, to implement further tariff concessions on agricultural and fish and seafood products.
Since CIFTA came into force, Canada’s two-way merchandise trade with Israel has more than doubled.
Quotes

“Our Government is committed to providing Canadian businesses with the market access they need to compete and succeed internationally. An expanded and modernized trade agreement with Israel will generate more jobs and economic growth at home and in Israel, while strengthening the clos

- See more at: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/01/21/pm-launches-negotiations-expand-free-trade-israel#sthash.tuzz5uY3.dpuf

Norway: Boycotting Israel will not promote positive change

Posted on:
January 20, 2014
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Economy, Relations
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Norway

Country with record of enmity towards Israel is now assuming more balanced policy in region, enhancing cooperation in various fields such as energy, television. Norway’s prime minister is expected to make first visit to Israel this year

The new Norwegian government, which so far was considered one of the most hostile administrations facing Israel, is working towards bracing the ties between the two countries and enhancing mutual cooperation in an array of fields.

The conservative-progressive minority government, which was established some three months ago, included an article in its elections platform that states that the government will change its Middle East policy and implement a more balanced course of action. This is in stark opposition to previous leftist administrations, whose policy was clearly pro-Arab.

As part of the new policy, Norway’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader Erna Solberg is expected to make a visit to Israel later this year. It will be the first visit of a Norwegian prime minister in over a decade. Solberg was also among the first world leaders to issue a letter of condolences following the passing of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

“There are indications of a significant improvement in the ties between the two countries,” said Israeli Ambassador to Oslo Naim Araidi. “The public and the authorities are beginning to understand that relations with Israeli do not necessarily have to be defined by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the two nations can develop normal ties in every field irregardless.”

Immediately following the establishment of the new government, the Israeli embassy to Norway initiated a preliminary meeting between Israeli and Norwegian companies, who discussed opportunities to promote business interactions between the well-developed Norwegian oil sector and Israel’s developing natural gas industry. The acting finance minister, who is the leader of the Progressive Party, has expressed public support of a tighter cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy over the past.

Despite calls made in recent years in Norway – inter alia among local artists – to boycott Israel, the new Norwegian Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey said: “We don’t see the boycott as an effective tool to promote positive change. The Norwegian government is interested in tighter cultural relations between the two countries. I am certain that a deeper mutual understanding is a prerequisite for achieving progress on political matters.”

Last week, Widvey opened a conference for Norwegian television producers, which was dedicated to the success of the Israeli television industry in exporting drama series.

About 160 Norwegian televison producers and both private and state networks heard lectures by two of the Israeli industry senior personalities: Karni Ziv, director of the drama and comedy department at the Keshet franchise, and Reshef Levi, a producer and screenwriter. The sides discussed future cooperation opportunities.

“I am impressed by the achievements of the Israeli television and film industry, development of television series that were a national and international success, series that were exported and highly praised around the world – like ‘In Treatment’ and ‘Homeland’,” said the Norwegian culture minister.

“I believe that the success of Israeli productions could inspire the Norwegian industry. It shows that even a relatively small country can achieve great accomplishments. The key to success is a good story and quality directing.”

Source: Ynetnews.com

Wounded Syrian couple treated in Israel

Posted on:
January 20, 2014
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Syria War

(JNS.org) Israel Defense Forces troops brought a wounded Syrian couple to Poriah Hospital near Tiberias last week. The couple, residents of the embattled town Daraa, arrived with gunshot wounds in their legs. The male is 27 years old, and his wife is 23.

Two months ago, the couple lost their daughter two weeks after she was born.

“Because of the gunfire and the siege on our town in the Daraa area, we were left with no choice but to deliver the child at home—and the medical condition of my baby deteriorated,” the woman told Israel Hayom. “All our pleading at the [Syrian] army checkpoint to go to the hospital did not help. We went back home and our daughter died there.”

While the couple remains hospitalized, their wounds are not life threatening.

Israel’s Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom attends international energy conference in Abu Dhabi

Posted on:
January 18, 2014
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Silvan Shalom

First time Israel has sent a minister to a meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom attended a meeting on Saturday of the International Renewable Energy Agency in the United Arab Emirates, with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.

It was the first time Israel has sent a minister to a meeting of IRENA since the organization’s founding in 2009.

“Shalom is representing Israel, which is taking part in the meeting like all the other member states of this international agency,” according to a member of the Israeli delegation.

He declined to comment on whether Shalom hoped to hold any contacts on the sidelines with Gulf Arab officials.

Over 1,000 delegates are attending the organization’s annual assembly in Abu Dhabi, including heads of state and ministers from some 150 countries and representatives from over 120 international organizations.

Haaretz revealed in May last year that Israel had allocated a budget for a diplomatic mission in one of the Gulf states, without specifying which.

The UAE hosted an Israeli delegation for the first time in 2003 for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. But, unlike fellow Gulf states Oman and Qatar, it has never hosted an Israeli trade office. Both missions have since been closed: that in Oman in 2000, and the Qatar one in 2009.

Continue reading via Haaretz

Israeli flag to fly at CERN in mark of full membership

Posted on:
January 15, 2014
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CERN

Blue Star of David joining flags of 20 other members of international physics laboratory.

The Israeli flag will be flying from the international particle physics laboratory CERN as of Wednesday.

The blue Star of David will be joining the flags of 20 other countries at the Globe of Science and Innovation, the spherical building near Geneva that has become CERN’s most publicly identifiable landmark, to mark Israel’s having become the 21st member state – and the non-European full member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

This is a happy moment,” said Eliezer Rabinovici, a physicist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who heads the Israeli Academy of Science’s National Committee for High Energy Physics as well as the Israeli research team at CERN. “The Israeli scientists have cleared a path for Israel to become full members of a scientific enterprise aimed at studying the secrets of the universe while engaged in global collaboration.”

Rabinovici will be speaking at the flag-placing event, as will Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Source: Haaretz.com

Sri Lankan president makes first-ever visit to Israel

Posted on:
January 9, 2014
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Peres

Mahinda Rajapaska visits President Peres in Jerusalem to offer his help in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

n the past, Nelson Mandela, the former and recently deceased president of South Africa, wanted to help Israel and the Palestinians to resolve their conflict. Now, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaska wants to help in that direction as well.

Rajapaska, who is on an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is his country’s first head of state to come to Israel even though diplomatic and other ties between the two countries have existed almost as long as their independence, which in each case was gained in 1948.

In welcoming his Sri Lankan counterpart to his residence on Thursday, President Shimon Peres hailed him as a great leader who was successful in bringing peace, reconciliation and restoration to his people “which is not a small achievement.”

Acknowledging that his guest was well aware of the difficulties of bringing peace to people who have long experienced hostility and violence, Peres told Rajapaska that Israel follows his achievements with great admiration.

“You have come here as a leader with an impressive record. You have invested your heart and mind and days and nights in peace, and you are seeing the fruits. You have come to a region still in search of peace and reconciliation. Israel is determined to make peace.”

Reviewing the seven wars in which Israel had triumphed and noting the peace agreements that Israel had reached with Egypt and Jordan, Peres conceded that while the peace is not perfect, “we prefer an imperfect peace to a perfect war.”

Israel has to conclude the first chapter of peace by concluding an agreement with the Palestinians, before it can hope for peace all over the Middle East, he said, adding that Israel wants to use the potential of peace and of a modern economy and science to help not only its own people, but also the Palestinians.

Peres noted that despite having limited territory, Israel had built up a flourishing economy which answers the needs of the Israeli population, and also enables Israel to help others. “We did not gain land, but we gained knowledge,” he said.

Peres also related to Israel’s sometimes rocky relationship with Sri Lanka, which he said, had its ups and downs, and commented that it was better to forget the downs and remember the ups.

Responding to president’s remarks, Rajapaska said that his country supports peace for all people. Sri Lanka had suffered thirty years of war with terrorists and had enjoyed peace only in the last four years, he said.

In that brief period, it has succeeded in eradicating terrorism and developing economically. It released 14,000 former combatants from prison, some who had been child soldiers, and sent them back to society, he said.

Moreover, 300,000 displaced people had been resettled, minefields had been neutralized, railway lines, roads, hospitals and schools had been built, electricity had been installed and the people in the new areas had been given water. The cost factor had been US$400 billion. In addition people from the army had been recruited for the police force.

Mahinda Rajapaska’s visit to Israel is characterized as official rather than state. For this reason there were no Sri Lankan flags in the streets on the route leading from his hotel to the President’s Residence; there was no honor guard and no army or police band to play the national anthems of both countries. There was however, the usual police motor cycle escort. There was also the red carpet, with Peres waiting at the edge to greet the smiling Rajapaska as he literally leapt from the car to meet him.

Rajapaska did not always entertain a warm attitude towards Israel according to an article by Upul Joseph Fernando which was published on Wednesday in The Sri Lanka Guardian.

Referring to a period in 1970 in which Sri Lanka had severed its ties with Israel, Fernando quoted Rajapaska as saying in a speech at that time: “The establishment of diplomatic relations with German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Provincial Revolutionary Government of Vietnam, and also abrogation of diplomatic ties with Israel are encouraging signs that the government is committed to a non-aligned foreign policy, which is the aspiration of the people.”

More importantly, Fernando continued, “When the Palestine Friendship Association was established in 1975 Mahinda became its first President. In this capacity, Mahinda worked assiduously to raise awareness about the Palestinian problem among the people of this country and mobilize support and sympathy for their cause”

Even though the government closed the Israeli embassy he wrote, the government was buying weapons from Israel through an Israeli agent, who curiously was selling the same kind of equipment to the LTTE.

Future efforts to reopen the Israel Embassy, he added, were opposed by Rajapaska.

The article also mentions help that Sri Lanka received from Mossad, even during those periods in which diplomatic relations had been cut.
For the time being, Sri Lanka has mended its fences with Israel and the two countries have a very good relationship, particularly on matters of defense.

Rajapaska met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the two agreed to expand bilateral relations, especially in agriculture and water technology.

Unlike most official visitors to Israel, Rajapaska met with Palestinian Authority leaders before calling on Netanyahu and Peres.

There are some 7,000 Sri Lankans working in Israel, primarily as caregivers.

Source: Jpost.com