Posts Tagged ‘Israel’


Despite tensions over migrants, a relationship that dates back to 1967 — when rebels first contacted Israeli PM Levi Eshkol — is flourishing

By  May 18, 2012 
President Shimon Peres presents South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit with a menorah in Jerusalem in December. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)

JUBA, South Sudan (JTA) – This city in the world’s newest country is not your typical Arabic-speaking capital.

For one thing, most of the city’s inhabitants are Christian. For another, the Israeli flag is ubiquitous here.

Miniature Israeli flags hang from car windshields and flutter at roadside stalls, and at the Juba souk in the city’s downtown, you can buy lapel pins with the Israeli flag alongside its black, red and green South Sudanese counterpart.

“I love Israel,” said Joseph Lago, who sells pens, chewing gum and phone cards at a small wooden stall decorated with Israeli and South Sudanese flags. “They are people of God.”

Many South Sudanese are not just pro-Israel but proudly and openly so. There’s a Juba neighborhood called Jerusalem. A hotel near the airport is called the Shalom.

Perhaps most notable, South Sudan’s fondness for Israel extends to the diplomatic arena, where the two countries have been building strategic ties in a relationship that long preceded the founding of South Sudan last July.

“They see in us kind of a role model in how a small nation surrounded by enemies can survive and prosper, and they would like to imitate that,” Haim Koren, the incoming Israeli ambassador to South Sudan, told JTA.

South Sudan was created last year when its residents voted to secede from Sudan, a country with a Muslim majority and without diplomatic ties to Israel. The government in Khartoum accepted the secession, but in recent weeks a long-simmering dispute over oil revenues and borders has brought the two Sudans to the brink of all-out war.

With Sudan having often served as a safe haven for enemies of Israel and the West, the South Sudanese and Israel have had a common adversary.

In the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden found shelter in Sudan. In 1995, Sudanese intelligence agents participated in an attempt to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, an ally of Israel and the West. Khartoum signed a military cooperation agreement with Iran in 2008, and in 2009, Israeli warplanes reportedly bombed a 23-truck weapons convoy in Sudan bound for the Gaza Strip.

The first contact between militants from southern Sudan and the Israeli government was in 1967, when a commander with the Anyana Sudanese rebel movement wrote to then-Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. The officer explained that his militants were fighting on Sudan’s southern flank, and that with some help, the Anyana could keep Israel’s enemies bogged down and distracted.

According to James Mulla, the director of Voices of Sudan, a coalition of U.S.-based Sudanese-interest organizations, Israel’s support proved pivotal to the Anyana’s success during the first Sudanese civil war, which ended in 1972.

“Israel was the only country that helped the rebels in South Sudan,” Mulla told JTA. “They provided advisers to the Anyana, which is one reason why the government of Sudan wanted to sign a peace agreement. They wanted to finish the Anyana movement just shortly before they got training and advice.”

Over the years, there have been reports of the Israelis continuing to aid South Sudanese rebels during Sudan’s second civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2005 and resulted in an estimated 1.5 million to 2.5 million deaths.

Angelos Agok, a US-based activist and a 13-year veteran in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, recalls that the SPLM’s ties to Israel were kept discrete.

“It was an intricate case, where South Sudan was still part of Sudan, which is an Arab country,” Agok said. “We didn’t want to offend them, and we had to be very careful diplomatically.”

Agok said SPLA leaders traveled to Israel for training. The Israeli government declined to comment on the subject.

Koren says the relationship with South Sudan is consistent with Israel’s strategic interests in East Africa, where state failure and political extremism have provided terrorist groups with potential bases of operation.

“In the long run, we’re expecting that friendly countries like South Sudan could be an ally like other states that are built in a non-extreme way,” he said.

Agriculture is another reason for the alliance. South Sudan’s economic future likely depends on large-scale farming. There was little commercial development in the region during the war years, and the country still imports much of its food from Uganda, despite sitting on some of Africa’s richest potential farmland.

It’s an area in which Israel has deep expertise, and it shares that expertise in ongoing cooperative projects with numerous developing countries.

“We have the initiative and we have the abilities to contribute and to help,” Koren said of South Sudan’s agricultural potential.

Israel already has a small presence in the country in the form of IsraAid, an Israeli NGO coalition. In March, an IsraAid delegation helped South Sudan set up its Ministry of Social Development, which will provide social work-related services for a population traumatized by decades of war.

“Whenever you say you’re from Israel, they’ll open you the door,” said Ophelie Namiech, the head of the Israeli delegation. “When we say we’re Israeli, the trust has already been built.”

Eliseo Neuman, who is director of the American Jewish Committee’s Africa Institute and traveled to Juba with the SPLM when South Sudan was still under Khartoum’s control, says the close ties between Israel and South Sudan could complicate both countries’ relationships with the Arab world.

“The north was blamed by the Arab League generally for fumbling the secession, and some allege that now they have the Zionists on their southern frontier — meaning the South Sudanese,” Neuman said. “Any very overt strengthening of the relationship might be an irritant.”

The relationship faces another potential pitfall: the future of the estimated 3,000 South Sudanese living in Israel who fled to Israel via Egypt during the long civil war.

Israel has struggled with how to handle the migrants and differentiating between those who came seeking refuge from violence and those who came in search of economic opportunity.

Israel “takes its obligations as a signatory to the Refugee Convention very seriously, given the history of the Jewish people and the history of many people who ended up coming to Israel,” said Mark Hetfield, an official at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society who in two weeks will become its interim president and CEO. “But at the same time, they need to send a signal to people coming for economic reasons that they can’t sneak into the country under the guise of being asylum seekers.”

In February, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced plans to begin deporting South Sudanese who would not accept government financial incentives to leave the country voluntarily.

Hetfield, who is now senior vice president at HIAS for policy and programs, helped oversee a program in Israel that taught job skills to South Sudanese who planned on returning home, but the program was suspended when the threat of deportation loomed.

Hetfield says the group would like the Israeli government to grant South Sudanese a “temporary protected status” that would prevent them from being deported to their unstable homeland.

Mulla does not think that the Israeli refugee issue will have an impact on the broader strategic alliance between South Sudan and Israel. However, he said he has raised the issue of the possible deportations with the South Sudanese ambassador in Washington, and hopes that something can be done to halt the process.

“If Israel decides to deport them, of course it’s going to be devastating,” Mulla said.

Advocates for the Africans are appealing to Israel’s Supreme Court in an attempt to stall or halt the deportations.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/south-sudan-worlds-youngest-nation-develops-unlikely-friendship-with-role-model-israel/

UN council calls for Sudan agreement
Huffington Post
May 17, 2012 02:39 PM EST | AP UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council has called on Sudan and South Sudan to reach an agreement on the status of the disputed, oil-rich Abyei border region and extended the UN security force’s mission there by six 
South Sudan: Fuel Thirst
AllAfrica.com
By Victor Lugala, 17 May 2012 There is still an acute shortage of fuel in Juba. Long queues of vehicles and bodabodas are a common sight in petrol stations. Some motorists queue for as long as three hours and yet still go home without a drop of the 
UN council calls for Sudan agreement
Las Vegas Sun
AP The UN Security Council has called on Sudan and South Sudan to reach an agreement on the status of the disputed, oil-rich Abyei border region and extended the UN security force’s mission there by six months. The council passed a resolution Thursday 
South Sudan: SPLA Soldiers Hold Frontline Position
Voice of America
PANAKUAC, South Sudan – The border between South Sudan and Sudan is quiet, but tense after weeks of fighting in contested areas – which sparked fears of all-out war. South Sudanese troops are at a standstill as they await talks on a UN Security 
Flood of Nuba refugees hits camp near Sudan border
Austin American-Statesman
Amjuma Ali Kuku, 24, stands inside a compound for unaccompanied female minors in the Yida refugee camp, Unity State, South Sudan on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Amjuma, herself a refugee from South Kordofan, Sudan, took it upon herself to watch over and 
South Sudan, world’s youngest nation, develops unlikely friendship with Israel
St. Louis Jewish Light
By Armin Rosen · May 17, 2012 JUBA, South Sudan (JTA) – This city in the world’s newest country is not your typical Arabic-speaking capital. For one thing, most of the city’s inhabitants are Christian. For another, the Israeli flag is ubiquitous here.
Breaking the Standoff On Post-Independence Issues With Sudan
AllAfrica.com
By John A. Akec, 17 May 2012 Dr. John Garang de Mabior code-named the current President ofSouth Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, “tiger”. South Sudanese affectionately call him “Joshua” for taking over successfully from where Dr. Garang de Mabior or 
Walk to End Genocide
Huffington Post
400000 Nuba civilians have been trapped in the mountainous regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan since June 2011, on the brink of a government-orchestrated famine. The Khartoum regime has intentionally cut them off from their fields 
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By Al-Jazeera,

Israel and South Sudan share no borders. The distance between their capital cities Tel Aviv and Juba is more than 3,000 kilometres. The two countries do not have any real cultural, religious or ethnic links either.
And yet, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to recognise South Sudan’s independence earlier this year. In September, Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, met at the sideline of the United Nations general assembly. This week, Kiir has made an official visit to Israel.
What explains this close yet discreet relationship?
Both sides described Kiir’s trip to Israel as a historic visit, and it reveals the strength of the relationship between Tel Aviv and Juba. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, described it as a defining moment in the history of the Middle East.
Both sides have also agreed to boost their co-operation in all fields. Israel’s foothold in South Sudan is significant, as it continues its efforts to build a Christian alliance in Africa to fend off Arab influence and the growing Islamic trends there.
Observers say Israel has found fertile soil in Africa’s military conflicts to market its weapons industry and gain influence. But Israeli ties to Sudan’s southern region go back to the 1960s, when it offered aid and training to the rebels fighting the northern government. In that context, it is not surprising that it took less than 24 hours for Israel to recognise the newborn Republic of South Sudan this year.
An Israeli ambassador is due to arrive in Juba in the near future, but in a sign of just how deep the ties between the two countries are, Kiir recently told a senior member of Israel’s ruling Likud party that South Sudan would be one of a handful of countries to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, despite the city’s disputed status with regards Palestine’s claim.
So should Israel’s neighbours be worried about its ties with South Sudan? And what interest would Israel have in building another foothold in East Africa?
By Al-Jazeera,

http://news.sudanvisiondaily.com/details.html?rsnpid=204021

South Sudan, Israel Establish Strong Alliance

December 27, 2011 :

Maxine Dovere
Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Government of Southern Sudan. Photo: Jenny Rockett.

July 12, 2011, barely two weeks after it had declared its independence from the radical Islamic state of Sudan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Israel’s assistance to the new nation of South Sudan “in any way.”  The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced the establishment of “full diplomatic relations with the fledgling state, now the 54th member of the African Union. Israeli flags were fully visible during the celebration of independence, a gesture of gratitude for Israel’s support during South Sudan’s long struggle for freedom, and a tribute attesting to the warmth of the two nations’ relationship. In mid December, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was welcomed to Israel, meeting with government leaders, led by the Prime Minister.

President Kiir’s trip to Israel, one of the South Sudanese official’s first, made a strong statement. Following a visit to Yad Vashem with President Shimon Peres, Kiir said “I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land. With me are all South Sudanese people…Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan and we are interested in learning from your experience.” Peres responded saying “Israel has supported, and will continue to support, your country in all areas in order to strengthen and develop it,” calling South Sudan’s independence “a milestone” in the history of the Middle East. Christian and traditional African beliefs are dominant among South Sudanese.

In July, MK Danny Danon paid an official visit to South Sudan. He was assured then that South Sudan will maintain diplomatic relations with Israel despite Arab and Palestinian pressure. Quoted in Israeli newspapers, Kiir told Danon “I see Israeli embassies in Jordan and Egypt, and South Sudan is not an Arab state.” During that meeting, Daniel Akot, the Deputy Parliament Speaker, said “Israel is like a big brother to South Sudan.”

Neighboring Sudan continues to exhibit great hostility towards Israel – Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, former Sudanese Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) called the visit of President Salva Kiir “devilish.” He said the visit is “wrong and whoever thought about it is devilish and a traitor and let us down [we] who are keen on close relations between the states of north and south”. Speaking to the Sudan Tribune, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Kiir’s visit “is just a revelation of what was happening in secrecy between Tel Aviv and Sudan’s former southern rebels.” His ministry’s spokesman, Al-Obaid Marawih, had warned “that the visit poses a threat to Sudan’s national security.”

In an exclusive interview with South Sudan’s Deputy Head of Mission Deng Deng Nhial, Mr. Nhial responded to al-Mahdi’s comment, telling the Algemeiner that “after fifty years of warfare, South Sudan has become a free and independent country that will embrace democracy.” He continued, saying it is in his “country’s interest to establish friendly relations with any country that wants to be our friend. We have joined the community of nations.”

His comments were mirrored by those of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said South Sudan’s partnership with Israel is founded on “cooperation between the two countries… based on solid foundations, relations of equality and mutual respect.”

Salva Kiir, President of the newly established country, acknowledged the recognition by Israel in Juba, the country’s capital. According to the Jerusalem Post, he has met with Jacques Revach, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Africa division, and Dan Shacham, Israel’s nonresident ambassador to a number of African countries. Speaking to Al Hurra television, in Arabic, (translated by the BBC) South Sudanese Vice President, Riek Machar, said “we will have relations with all the Arab and Muslim countries and even with Israel…As a matter of fact, we look forward to playing a role in solving the existing issues in the Arab world, even the issues between Israel and the Arab countries.”

With an area of some 644,000 square kilometers, a small population of about 10 million and rich national resources, “it is important that South Sudan develop its capacity and continue the building of institutions,” said Deputy Director of South Sudanese Mission Deng Deng Nhial. He noted that the country has established “Vision 2040.” “To meet the challenge, technical assistance in the building of institutions is very, very important so that government will be able to deliver services for the people in a stable, prosperous country.”

Still at issue between the two countries is the problem of illegal immigration. Thousands of Sudanese, many from the area now incorporated as South Sudan, have entered Israel illegally during the last decade. Dialogue concerning the repatriation of many of these immigrants is likely to be on the diplomatic agenda.

Discussion of training for Sudanese refugees already in Israel, and extensive economic and technical assistance to be provided to ease their way home, were underway during Danon’s trip in July. The Minister said then that the “luck of the Sudanese people has improved with the establishment of a new, civilized state.” He stressed the need to help South Sudanese refugees “return safely to their new state.”
“Israel’s technological wealth and South Sudan’s wealth of natural resources are a sure recipe for prosperity in both states,” he said. The Sudanese government has already agreed to the return of 10,000 refugees.

Illegal immigration is a significant problem for the Jewish State. Border Authority Director-General Amnon Ben-Ami estimates that there are over 16,000 refugees from Sudan alone in Israel.  Prime Minister Netanyahu called illegal immigration “a nationwide plague” saying “there is no obligation to take in illegal infiltrators.” (A fence along the Egyptian border, scheduled for completion by October 2012, is under construction)

At the conclusion of President Kiir’s visit, an announcement was made of a study of the construction of a “refugee city” to be built in South Sudan – with Israeli assistance. Tomar Avital, writing in the Israeli magazine Calcalist, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “senior ministers” had expressed support for “the construction of a massive city-like facility” to which Sudanese refugees to their country would be repatriated.  Interior Minister Eli Yishai confirmed that “negotiations were being held with officials of the African country,” and that he “would pledge funding from his ministry’s budget for each refugee returned.” Refugees already returned to Sudan, have been given “a $500 adjustment payment”. There has been no confirmation by The Foreign Ministry.

As relations are normalized with the newly independent South Sudan, Israel has had to take measures to protect its security, even in “out-of-border” operations when required. Reports in the Sudanese media, recently restated by the BBC, say that the Israeli Air Force attacked convoys which originated in Sudan. The cargo of the two convoys was believed to be Iranian weapons slated for Gaza. Officially, there has been no response from Israel. The Sudanese army has denied this attack but its foreign minister has blamed Israel for a bombing attack on a car near the Port Sudan.

Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through the region to Gaza. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus called the strike “one more reminder of the shadowy war that is being waged along Sudan’s Red Sea coast.” which “pits the Israeli military against well-organized arms smugglers seeking to get weaponry into the Gaza Strip.”

There has been no comment from Israel.

http://www.algemeiner.com/2011/12/27/south-sudan-israel-establish-strong-alliance/

PIPES: South Sudan, Israel’s new ally

Five decades of solidarity cement relations

By Daniel Pipes

The Washington Times

Monday, January 2, 2012

Illustration by John Camejo for The Washington TimesIllustration by John Camejo for The Washington Times

It’s not every day that the leader of a brand-new country makes his maiden foreign voyage to Jerusalem, capital of the most besieged country in the world, but Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, accompanied by his foreign and defense ministers, did just that in late December. Israeli President Shimon Peres hailed his visit as a “moving and historic moment.” The visit spurred talk of South Sudan locating its embassy in Jerusalem, which would make it the only government anywhere in the world to do so. This unusual development results from an unusual story.

Today’s Sudan took shape in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire controlled its northern regions and tried to conquer the southern ones. The British, ruling out of Cairo, established the outlines of the modern state in 1898 and for the next 50 years separately ruled the Muslim north and Christian-animist south. In 1948, however, succumbing to northern pressure, the British merged the two administrations in Khartoum under northern control, making Muslims dominant in Sudan and Arabic the official language. Accordingly, independence in 1956 brought civil war as southerners battled to fend off Muslim hegemony. Fortunately for them, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s “periphery strategy” translated into Israeli support for non-Arabs in the Middle East, including the southern Sudanese. The government of Israel served through the first Sudanese civil war, lasting until 1972, as the primary source of moral backing, diplomatic help and armaments for the southern Sudanese.

Mr. Kiir acknowledged this contribution in Jerusalem, noting that “Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan.” In reply, Mr. Peres recalled his presence in the early 1960s in Paris, when then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and he initiated Israel’s first-ever link with southern Sudanese leaders. Sudan’s civil war continued intermittently from 1956 until 2005. Over time, Muslim northerners became increasingly vicious toward their southern co-nationals, culminating in the 1980-90s with massacres, chattel slavery and genocide. Given Africa’s many tragedies, such problems might not have made an impression on compassion-weary Westerners except for an extraordinary effort led by two modern-day American abolitionists.

Starting in the mid-1990s, John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International redeemed tens of thousands of slaves in Sudan, while Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group led a Sudan Campaign in the United States that brought together a wide coalition of organizations. As all Americans abhor slavery, the abolitionists formed a unique alliance of left and right, including Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, the Congressional Black Caucus and Pat Robertson, black pastors and white evangelicals. In contrast, the Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan was exposed and embarrassed by his attempts to deny slavery’s existence in Sudan. The abolitionist effort culminated in 2005 when the George W. Bush administration pressured Khartoum to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war and gave southerners a chance to vote for independence. They enthusiastically did so in January 2011, when 98 percent voted for secession from Sudan, leading to the formation of the Republic of South Sudan six months later, an event hailed by Mr. Peres as “a milestone in the history of the Middle East.”

Israel’s long-term investment has paid off. South Sudan fits into a renewed periphery strategy that includes Cyprus, Kurds, Berbers and, perhaps one day, a post-Islamist Iran. South Sudan offers access to natural resources, especially oil. Its role in Nile River water negotiations offers leverage vis-a-vis Egypt. Beyond practical benefits, the new republic represents an inspiring example of a non-Muslim population resisting Islamic imperialism through its integrity, persistence and dedication. In this sense, the birth of South Sudan echoes that of Israel. If Mr. Kiir’s Jerusalem visit is truly to mark a milestone, South Sudan must travel the long path from dirt-poor, international protectorate with feeble institutions to modernity and genuine independence. This path requires the leadership not to exploit the new state’s resources or dream of creating a “New Sudan” by conquering Khartoum, but to lay the foundations for successful statehood.

For Israelis and other Westerners, this means helping with agriculture, health and education and urging Juba to stay focused on defense and development while avoiding wars of choice. A successful South Sudan could eventually become a regional power and a stalwart ally not just of Israel but of the West.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/2/south-sudan-israels-new-ally/


TEL AVIV (Reuters) – It took a two week-long cottage cheese rebellion to get Israelis to question the power of the country’s tycoons.

Angry about high prices, consumers boycotted the beloved dairy product last month. As containers of cheese piled up on supermarket shelves, the country’s richest people became the focus of the sort of media attention normally given to politics and homeland security.

Newspapers and television stations, which civic groups have long criticized for ignoring the massive concentration of corporate power in a small group of Israeli business groups and families, made the boycott a top story for days.

“I woke up this morning smeared in cottage cheese,” Muzi Wertheim, a business magnate who controls one of the country’s largest dairy producers, said during a speech at a Tel Aviv university at the peak of the protest.

Cottage cheese might be just the beginning. Last October the Israeli government set up a committee to explore the level of competition in the economy. The committee is expected to present its findings in several weeks.

The Bank of Israel already says the country has one of the highest concentrations of corporate power in the developed world. A scathing parliamentary report from June last year found that 10 large business groups control 30 percent of the market value of public companies, while 16 control half the money in the entire country.

That’s far more than in western economies such as the UK, Spain or Germany. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which last year admitted Israel as a member, said Israel’s level of corporate concentration is problematic.

If the government committee agrees with those assessments it could recommend breaking up the biggest oligopolies and opening Israel’s market to new competition and investment, both foreign and local. Though nothing has been decided, change looks increasingly likely.

“These large business groups may have helped Israel’s economy when it was younger, but it’s now a developed market, and it will be hard to keep up the current rate of growth in this situation,” said one official familiar with the deliberations. “The committee members are aware of this. Breaking them up will help competition and growth.”

Such a move would have huge implications for tycoons such as Wertheim, whose dairy business is just one part of an empire that includes the country’s fourth-largest bank, Coca Cola bottling company and a primary share in one of its largest real estate firms. Like many of Israel’s other magnates Wertheim also owns a large stake in a popular media organization.

A number of the larger holding companies have fought back, arguing to the commission, Reuters has learned, that regulations are already so strict that they have forced Israel Inc. to invest abroad rather than locally.

In a rare public comment Nochi Dankner, chairman and controlling shareholder of IDB Holding which owns everything from a mobile phone operator to an insurance firm, told Reuters that Israel’s “robust financial system” was a result of “clever and strict” regulation.

“I cannot find any rationale to shake it,” Dankner said in his emailed comments. “The most important mission of the regulation is to keep and augment the stability, beyond any other consideration. Separation of financial holdings and real holdings definitely rocks the financial system, not stabilizes it.”

ISRAEL’S PYRAMIDS

Concentration in Hebrew is often called “hon v’shilton”, which means “fortune and governance”, but refers more to the close relationship between the two.

“We see the ‘fortune’ walking through the halls of parliament,” parliamentary speaker Reuben Rivlin said in a radio interview last month. “‘Fortune’ is more and more taking control of the judgment of the people sent by the public to safeguard the state of Israel and its interests.”

One of the problems, according to the OECD, is that Israel’s big business houses exert control through “cascading ownerships, pyramidal structures and cross-holdings”.

In a pyramid structure, a holding company controls a subsidiary, which then controls its own subsidiaries, and so on until the top of the pyramid can technically control a company at the bottom with less than 10 percent of the capital.

Dankner’s IDB is a classic pyramid, though he and his partners have stakes of at least 30 percent in all of the company’s major holdings. At the top sits IDB Holding which controls IDB Development which in turn controls several other holding companies. Consumers may not know it but they come into contact with the bottom of the pyramid when they do something as simple as walking into a shopping mall. They might visit Super-Sol, Israel’s largest supermarket chain, shop at Golf and Co., one of the biggest fashion and homeware chains, or buy a mobile phone from Cellcom, Israel’s largest mobile operator.

After that, they might visit an Internet cafe and go online using one of Israel’s top Internet providers Netvision, or stop by a branch of travel agency Diesenhaus to book a flight on Israir. The floor they walk on is likely to be built with cement from Nesher, Israel’s only cement producer.

Every one of those companies and products are ultimately controlled by IDB.

And IDB is not the only such company. The Delek Group, controlled by billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, boasts an impressive array of assets from several giant natural gas fields to automotive, cable TV, biochemical and insurance companies.

Israel’s richest family, the Ofers, control through their holding firm Israel Corp the world’s sixth-largest potash firm, Israel’s largest shipping company and oil refinery. They are also the biggest investor in the Better Place electric car venture.

Israel’s richest woman, Shari Arison, through the Arison group controls the country’s second largest bank and largest construction company, which is in talks to buy geothermal energy producer Ormat Industries.

Besides IDB’s Dankner, none of these groups agreed to talk to Reuters.

“PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES”

Last year’s parliamentary report pointed out that most of Israel’s banks are also controlled by such groups, offering the conglomerates access to easy credit, often at the expense of smaller businesses. This is a recipe for risky decision-making, the Bank of Israel said in its 2009 annual report, and because it is difficult to regulate these powerful groups with their complex structures, they pose a systemic risk.

A survey by the Calcalist financial news website showed that 10 of the biggest tycoons will have to pay back bondholders 24 billion shekels ($6.9 billion) in the next two years, raising concern that they may not be able to meet all of their obligations.

“People make mistakes, and if you don’t create a distribution of power and you allow one person to make mistakes for all of us, the likelihood is that when a mistake occurs it will be huge and very costly,” said Daniel Doron, founder of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress (ICSEP).

That could now change. According to one source with knowledge of the competition committee’s deliberations, the committee is likely to take aim at both the pyramid structures as well as the close links between financial institutions — banks and insurance companies — and “real” businesses such as supermarkets or refineries.

INDEPENDENT MEDIA?

Israel is well known for its raucous free press. Its newspapers and news broadcasts swing freely and mercilessly at politicians, and no one, not even the prime minister, is spared. But in the past decade newspapers and television news channels have become a popular investment for the country’s business elite, despite, or perhaps because of, the media industry’s financial woes.

Most Israeli media companies are now controlled on some level by one of the large business houses. Has that stifled debate about the concentration of power in the Israeli economy?

In a rare interview last September, Dankner dismissed the issue as part of the “populist agenda”. Asked by newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth whether he, as head of one of Israel’s largest holding companies, had too much power, Dankner replied: “Unequivocally no. There are dozens of other people in Israel with more power.”

Nine months later, Dankner bought one of Israel’s largest-circulating newspapers, Maariv. To assuage concerns about potential conflicts of interest in coverage, he wrote a letter to the paper’s staff urging them to, “please maintain your integrity, professionalism, independence and freedom of expression — including critical coverage of the IDB group, its subsidiaries and its managers, including myself.”

Just a few weeks after that, Russian oil tycoon Leonid Nevzlin bought a 20 percent stake in Haaretz, another leading newspaper. The two new media magnates joined Eliezer Fishman, who made his fortune in real estate and runs the financial newspaper Globes, and American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who founded the popular, free daily Yisrael Hayom.

Some of Israel’s main television stations are also controlled in one form or other by the business elite. Yossi Maimon, primary shareholder of energy companies Ampal and Merhav, is chairman of Channel 10 television. Its main competitor Channel 2 is partly owned by dairy king Wertheim, the Tshuva family, and the Ofers. Israel’s Russian-language TV station is run by billionaire Lev Leviev, owner of holding company Africa Israel Investments.

While it is not unusual in other parts of the world for media companies to be part of much bigger conglomerates, critics in Israel say the tremendous influence wielded by a handful of business groups has weakened the country’s media in recent years.

“Israel needs today, more than ever, an independent, professional press that will protect the free market and meritocracy, and will not bow to the interests of a handful of groups,” said Guy Rolnik, founder and editor in chief of TheMarker, one of Israel’s most influential financial newspapers, and a leading critic of the concentration of economic power. “Without an independent press, Israel will become a sad version of the crony-capitalism that we see in many lagging countries in the world.”

Well-known Israeli reporter Micky Rosenthal said he faced intimidation and harassment while working on a 2008 documentary “The Shakshuka System” that investigated the connection between money, governance and media in Israel.

“The commercial television stations, which are controlled by the business magnates, refused to broadcast the movie,” the filmmakers wrote on their website. The documentary was eventually aired on a less popular state-run channel.

The major newspapers and television stations all argue that their news operations are unaffected by corporate stakeholders, old or new. Maariv said its editorial staff is “independent and enjoys total journalistic freedom”. Haaretz, Channel 2 and Channel 10 offered similar comments.

PUSH BACK

Not every Israeli company is part of a pyramid or conglomerate, of course. Pharmaceutical giant Teva, Israel’s most actively traded company, has no controlling shareholder and is not connected to any holding company. Much of Israel’s fast-growing high-tech and biotech sectors are backed by foreign and Israeli venture capital rather than local tycoons.

And some see benefits in Israel’s top-heavy economy. Colin Mayer, a professor at Said Business School at the University of Oxford, says that a concentration of power in a few holding companies can lead to poor corporate governance. But he also believes that such groups emphasize long-term goals and encourage economic stability, in contrast to the focus on short-term gains in places such as the United States and Britain.

For their part, Israel’s big holding companies argue that regulations already discourage investment in the country and hope any reform is minimal.

Dankner told Reuters that the government should “look abroad” before it breaks up Israel’s holding companies. “There is no such separation in Europe, and also the U.S. leading business groups — such as Berkshire Hathaway and GE — hold financial and real holdings side by side,” he said.

The government has hinted that it will take such facts into account. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters earlier this month that while the government wants to increase competition, “we have to be very careful, very calculated, in order not to cause any damage in this process. Not every proposal that seems rational at the outset is really positive.”

If there is a move to break up some companies, there could be opportunities for foreign investors wary of the complex structure of holding companies, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Gussow.

And if not, expect more consumer boycotts. In late June, aware that public opinion was moving against them, Israel’s three big dairy companies simultaneously dropped the price of cottage cheese. But rather than appease consumers, the move fueled public distrust that the prices had been bloated.

A popular public advocacy group called the Civic Action Forum is now running a campaign against concentration in the economy. It’s slogan: “It’s not the cheese, it’s the system!”

($1=3.47 shekels)

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Edited by Simon Robinson and Michael Williams)

(Created by Simon Robinson)

From Juba to Jerusalem

Posted: July 25, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël in Junub Sudan
Tags: , , ,

By Aidan Fishman
07/23/2011 23:52
Israel has the opportunity to midwife the birth of the UN’s newest member.

As most already know, the international community welcomed a new nation on July 9, as South Sudan officially gained independence from its former Northern overlords. On July 14, the UN accepted South Sudan as its 193rd member state. But behind the jubilation throughout that country and among its exiles worldwide lurk feelings of doubt and even despair.

Their newborn state is one of the poorest in the world, with economic and public-health shortcomings that dwarf other international causes for concern, such as Gaza’s so-called humanitarian crisis. More than one in 10 children in South Sudan die before the age of five due to easily preventable diseases, while 90 percent of the population lives on less than $1 per day.

Although there is abundant cause for concern, there are also reasons to be grateful for the opportunity that now lies before the people of South Sudan and the international community. The country will serve as a critical test case for Western nations as they seek to learn the lessons of previous failures in Africa and the Third World. Israel can play an important role in transforming South Sudan into a shining beacon of peaceful development for the region.

As World War II ground to a halt in 1945, the two new superpowers, the US and the USSR, made it known that the era of colonialism was over. Although their ideological and pragmatic disputes would soon lead to the Cold War, both victors agreed that European nations such as France and Britain needed to grant independence to their erstwhile African and Asian colonies.

Teh colonialist nations left their former possessions in shambles – hobbled by poor infrastructure, ethnic disputes, arbitrary borders and economic systems designed for the benefit of the colonial power, and not the denizens of the colony.

Nations like Senegal, Nigeria and Angola were abruptly cast off, left to fend for themselves like the infant boys Romulus and Remus in Roman mythology.

And like Romulus and Remus, these countries were then raised by wolves.

Demagogues like Nasser and Castro molded the newly independent states into the Non-Aligned Movement, and set them firmly on the path of left-wing kleptocracy, authoritarian paranoia, and hatred for the US and its allies, notably Israel. This bloc became the “automatic majority” in the UN General Assembly – nations that, in the immortal words of Abba Eban, would pass a resolution “declaring that the Earth was flat, and that Israel had flattened it” by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.

WITH SOUTH Sudan, the West has an opportunity to show that it has learned the lessons of over-hasty decolonization.

At a time of debt crisis in the EU and wrangling over the debt ceiling in the US, it will not be easy to dedicate millions of dollars to feeding the starving children of South Sudan. But if the developed world is serious about bridging the massive equality gaps that plague our planet, now is the time to do so.

Israel has a critical role to play. Both Israel and South Sudan earned their sovereignty only after traumatizing and hard-fought wars of independence. And both nations are saddled with question marks over their borders, as South Sudan prepares for a drawn-out struggle with its former Northern overlord over the provinces of Abyei and South Kordofan.

South Sudan will need a modern, professional military to defend itself against the bloodthirsty dictator and alleged war criminal in Khartoum, and Israel can certainly help in that regard. But more importantly, the Jewish state can also nurture democracy and sustainable development.

In recent years, Israel has become home to approximately 15,000 refugees from East Africa, although exact figures are difficult to determine. About 2,000 are said to be from South Sudan. As Israeli politicians from across the spectrum hailed South Sudanese independence, Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas was quick to propose the repatriation of these migrants, who are seen in some quarters as an economic and demographic boondoggle.

YISHAI’S APPROACH is foolish and wrong-headed, especially since most of the refugees have no desire to return immediately. Rather than shipping the South Sudanese asylum seekers back to their newly sovereign homeland, Israel and international Jewish organizations should team up to provide them with the best education Israel has to offer. After a few years at Israeli universities in fields such as agriculture, politics, medicine and communications, these former refugees can then return to South Sudan and use their newfound skills to build the country.

Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, can help breed the political class that will make South Sudan the only true democracy in East Africa.

Farming techniques that help grow fish in Israel’s Hula Marshes can help raise fish in the Sudd, the giant marsh that dominates South Sudan.

Israel’s extremely advanced solarpanel technology can be easily transplanted to South Sudan, one of the sunniest nations on Earth.

The massive benefits to South Sudan are clear. The world’s newest nation will receive tangible and desperately needed help from Israel in the form of cash, technology and even human capital. Who better to help the South Sudanese “start up” their nation than the Middle Eastern state famously dubbed the “Start-up Nation”? In its own small way, South Sudan can also begin to reward Israel’s massive investment in its future. At some point in September, the UN will hold its muchanticipated vote on a unilateral Palestinian bid for independence, in direct violation of the 1996 Oslo Accords.

If the UN’s newest member bucked the Third World trend and voted against the Palestinian bid, or even abstained, the symbolic boost to Israel and its allies would be immense.

To be sure, the motion would still pass by a large margin in the General Assembly, and would still likely be vetoed by the Americans at the Security Council.

But this gambit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was never about attaining real independence, because even he knows that fine words and meaningless UN resolutions will not give his people a state. Rather, the Palestinian campaign is all about empty rhetoric and advancing the goal of delegitimizing the Jewish state. A fiery, impassioned speech by the South Sudanese delegate decrying Arab duplicity and expressing solidarity with Israel would work wonders to take the wind out of anti- Zionist sails.

Befitting their status as a newborn nation, South Sudanese leaders will find themselves with a host of foreign-policy decisions that require urgent attention.

For this reason, it is essential that Western nations act quickly to prop up this new African state, and do their part to expunge the sins of mismanaged decolonization from their collective conscience.

Israel, too, needs to approach South Sudan immediately, before the Arab League can beguile its politicians with bribes and false promises of aid. The events of the past weeks represent a critical foreign-policy opportunity for the West, for Israel and for South Sudan.

From Juba to Jerusalem, let freedom ring!

The writer is a student at the University of Toronto specializing in International Relations and Near and Middle Eastern Studies.


July 22nd, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Ofer Petersburg, Israel Business

Just days after independence declaration, Israeli businesspeople seeking economic cooperation with world’s newest country in fields of security, infrastructure, medicine and agriculture.

Just days after South Sudan declared independence, Israeli companies are already storming the world’s newest nation – and receiving a warm welcome.

An Israeli businessman has even managed to schedule a meeting with the new trade minister. “I haven’t seen such openness anywhere else in the world,” he says. According to Attorney Adi Braunstein, the legal advisor of the Israeli-Arab Friendship Association, Israel’s military and moral support to the South Sudan rebels throughout the years is now expressed in economic cooperation.

This cooperation, he says, will lead to deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the payment of which will be guaranteed by the international community.

The required fields of cooperation include security, agriculture, medicine and even the capital market, as the South Sudan government is looking to establish a stock exchange in the new country.

The foundation for the ties with South Sudan was laid by former rebel leader John Garang, who was hospitalized in Israel in the past following an eye injury in one of the incidents involving the Sudan army.

Israeli defense experts have already contacted the country’s officials in a bid to train police and army officers, and a company from Ramat Hasharon has been asked to put forward a quotation for fortifying the convoy of the new South Sudan president.

Vacation packages in works too

The Solel Boneh Overseas company is looking into paving roads and building infrastructure. The Sarel company, which supplies medication and medical equipment to hospitals, is also examining the new market in order to train a governmental medical system in South Sudan.

Superlock, which specialized in the development, production and marketing of security doors, has given its franchiser in Nigeria permission to open an office in the South Sudan capital of Juba.

Eli Kimchi, CEO of Fujicom Israel, which markets computers and electronic goods, is in negotiations towards opening a sales office in Juba with the aim of creating a series of produces for the residents of South Sudan.

A dairy farm in the Golan Heights has been asked for advice on cattle herds for milk production.

Tourism is also on the agenda: Aharon Efroni, Jewish-Arab institute at Beit Berl College, has begun preparing vacation packages to South Sudan. Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor congratulated South Sudan on its independence recently, saying that “the State of Israel and the people of Israel salute your courage and wish you peace and prosperity on your new journey. Israel will stand beside you and extend its hand in cooperation with your new nation.”

South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar said in response that he valued the cooperation with Israel and would work to strengthen ties with the Jewish state in the coming years.


South Sudanese celebrated the birth of their new nation in Israel. Photo: faithfreedom.org

By PaanLuel Wel, Washington DC, USA

“We have the discretion to deal with any nation we want to deal with; we will establish good relations with Israel and open an Israeli embassy in South Sudan.”—Anya-Anya One Leader General Joseph Lagu.

July 21, 2011 (SSNA) — The present of an Israeli flag on Juy 9th, 2011, as South Sudanese were marking the birth of their new nation, raised many eyebrows from certain quarters both within and outside the Sudan. That some South Sudanese would celebrate their independence by waving Israeli flag alongside theirs seemed to have stunned many South Sudan observers as well as angering the Northern Islamists who are long used to the racial dehumanization and political caricaturing of the state of Israel.

And nowhere is that propaganda of lies, hatred and racism more pronounced and registered than within the pages of the country national passport: this document is valid to all countries except Israel. For the millions of South Sudanese Christian communities who considered the Jewish state of Israel as their spiritual homeland—the cradle of their faith, being issued with and using the old Sudanese passport was not only a humiliating smack in their face but it would essentially tantamount to, for instance, the newly independent state of South Sudan issuing her Muslims population a national passport that read: to all countries except the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—the birthplace of Islam.

The Islamist age-old seething against the Jewish state is often publicly projected as a solidarity posture towards the Palestinian Arabs whose land is said to have been occupied by the Jews. Yet, it is the very Jews, now internationally paraded as settlers and occupiers of their own ancestral land, who gave birth to both Christianity and Islam (Islam might have been born in Saudi Arabia but three-quarter of the Quran is from the Bible) in the presently contested land of the state of Israel, Judea and Samaria or West Bank as it was renamed by the British.

There would be neither Christianity nor Islam without Judaism, and that Judaism was born in the current Holy Land of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Galili, and Jericho etc till the Romans destroyed the temple and exiled the Jewish. Afterward, Islam conquered the land around 638 A.D and installed their mosque on the very spot where the famed Biblical Temple of Solomon once stood, after its destruction by the Romans.

Understandably, South Sudanese have no sympathy for the Palestinians’ cause because their judgment and stance is informed by the fact that they view Palestinians Arabs, just like the so-called Sudanese Arabs, as occupiers of the Jewish ancestral land rather than being victims as South Sudanese are at the hand of the northern Arabs. Thus, South Sudanese Christians could not bring themselves to comprehend how Muslims could, on the one hand, bar everybody else from their Holy Land of Mecca and Medina and yet, on the other hand, have the audacity to lie claim to Jerusalem and Bethlehem as theirs, let alone branding the Jews—their own Semitic kinsmen—as occupiers and settlers of their own Biblically land.

That the Bible and the Quran recorded that the Jews and the Arabs descended from Abraham in the present day Middle East does appear to be beside the point in the conflict. Even the veracity that the Quran and the Bible are full of Jewish references, not to mention the fact that the Holy Quran (just like the Bible) specifically prophesied the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland, could not save the Jews from being cast and portray as an invading alien race from Europe.

That narrative, however, has not been fully monopolized by the Arab and Islamic world; it has a considerable following in Europe and America too among the left-wing academic circles where anti-Semitism still rears its ugly head. To both camps, Israel is the single causative of all world problems and her delegitimization is deemed as a lifelong noble cause to pursue or/and a quick gate-path to Paradise.

Although the old state of the Sudan has been technically at war with the Jewish state of Israel, South Sudanese, nonetheless, have been long-time friends to and of the state of Israel since her founding in 1948. That friendship, besides its religious roots, can be traced back to the time of Anya-Anya One Movement under General Joseph Lagu. For many years during that first South Sudanese struggle of 1955-1972, the Jewish state of Israel was the main moral supporter of the Southern rebels and the chief supplier of physical materials such as arms and international maneuverings.

Consequently, it didn’t come as a big surprise when General Joseph Lagu was among the first world leaders to send a letter of congratulations to Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, after the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel launched successful, pre-emptive attacks on a combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan who had threateningly amassed their respective armies at the Israeli border ready to strike. To the Southern rebels led by General Lagu, Israel was fighting the very enemy that they have taken up arms against for discriminating against and oppressing them. As old adage demonstrate: your enemy’s enemy is automatically your friend.

But that cordial relationship between the Jewish states of Israel is not only consigned to the past: it was very much alive during the SPLM/A war of liberation and even today among current officials and leaders of South Sudan government as their statements attest. SPLM/A leaders, under the command of Dr. John Garang, were reported to have received some training in, and military backing from, Israel. As for today, the current vice president of the Republic of South Sudan, Dr. Machar, just before independence, announced that the future state of South Sudan would have formal relationship with the state of Israel.

It was the same sentiment reinforced by Hon. Deng Alor, the current acting foreign minister of the Republic of South Sudan, when he officially invited other countries to open embassies and diplomatic missions in Juba, the seat of the new state. Alor emphasized that the new Republic of South Sudan will have full diplomatic relationships with all countries of the world, a subtle message to Khartoum as regarding Israel relationship to South Sudan.

But it was Dr. Marial Benjamin, the current caretaker minister of Information in the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, who put it bluntly: “We will establish relations with any state that recognizes us.”

As a long time friend of the people of South Sudanese, the state of Israel was among the first nations that publicly recognized and welcomed the new-born state of the Republic of South Sudan, just a day after South Sudan officially declared her independence.

There are many potential benefits that South Sudan will accrue by associating herself with and cementing her long friendship with the Jewish state. For one, Israel is among the most economically advanced OECD member states—the richest and the most technologically advanced countries in the entire world. With our own naturally endowed abundance of resources, befriending such a country will open many doors of opportunities for the mining and exploitation of our own resources using our own domestically grown technologies and the economical know-how.

Unlike China which is hungry for African resources or the West that is known for economical exploitations and the breeding of the culture of dependency—be it on aids or on the technological know-how, Israel has no history of neo-colonialism that the West is known for nor the 21st century economic imperialism champions by China across Africa in collusion with some corrupt, dictatorial African leaders.

And with the ever-looming military threat from the North on the horizon, if not already on the ground in the occupied region of Abyei, South Sudan would be better secured if and only if it has close military relationship with such military superb nation as Israel. In term of military technology, Israel is only second to the USA—forget China, it is only muscle in numbers with no brain. (And did I mention that both the Atomic bomb and the Hydrogen Bomb were both invented by the Jews, though be they from the USA?). Who knows that Iran may be exporting her Atomic Bomb program to the Sudan and what kind of a nation would South Sudan be if it were to live in the dark shadows of a nuclear armed North Sudan?

Of course, South Sudan has no intention, whatsoever, to create an arm race in Africa akin to the one that evolved between India and Pakistan after their bitter separation. South Sudanese just need to be secured, be confident and capable of safeguarding their own national security and territorial integrity. Our close friendship to the state of Israel is one surest way to wean ourselves from the perpetual danger of being invaded or even re-occupied by the better armed, much bigger, merciless northern army.

And if it is not about Israeli’s enviable economy, advanced technology or the superb military, then it is about their excellent system and level of education—the very fabric that underlie their economic, technological and military successes. Owing to deliberate oppressive policies from successive regimes in Khartoum and decades of war, South Sudan system of education is in a pathetic condition that is crying out for refurbishment. What is needed is a technologically-based system of education, one that befit the 21st century we are in. The state of Israel has it and, as our long time friend, it is willing to help us getting on our own feet, after decades of painfully crawling on the rough edges of illiteracy, poverty, desolation, and disillusionment. To paraphrased the Christian’ hymn, there is no better friend than in Israel when it come to the renovation of our educational system.

With good education in place, our economy would prosper and flourish just like the Israelis’ because, owing to their system of learning, Israel has effectively turn the desert of the Middle East into the real Promised Land that flow with milk and honey. Instead of experiencing resources curse as it is the case in many African countries like DRC Congo where the present of resources engender more wars and death than peace and economic prosperity, South Sudan would thrive long enough to demand a seat at the high table of well-to-do emerging economies.

Such emerging countries, or the newly industries nations or the Asian Tigers as they are also known—China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan—were once socially and economically destitute and politically unstable as South Sudan is today. But because of their nationally well-planned-out and focused economic policies, stable political environment, and technologically-oriented system of education, they were able to surpass most pundits’ forecasts and propelled themselves out of social decadence, economic impoverishment and political oblivion into world economic and political powerhouses.

Though our friendship with Israel would come with a price in terms of rhetoric or real actions from the north, the benefits awaiting us are much more indispensable compare to the short-term setbacks such threats might embody. After all, South Sudanese are not entirely oppose to the roadmap of two states solution as outlined by President Bush provided that the security of Israel is guaranteed and there is willingness among the Palestinians to abide by the final agreement rather than using the future state of Palestine as a launching ground to attack the state of Israel in the proverbial quest to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea as Hamas professes. Therefore, our friendships with Israel will not circumvent any international law.

However, with constant harassments and an ever-present threat of deligitimization from some Western elements and the Arab-Islamic world over the millennia-old Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel would need us politically and diplomatically to shield itself from the weapon of political isolation and deligitimization being wielded by its enemies who have the numbers on their sides.

It would be a win-win situation among two allies that made it through the wars. If anything, the memories of our mutual sufferings would bind us together. We suffered under the Arab oppression for over 190 years. The Jews too were persecuted in Europe for millennia till it culminated in the holocaust that was masterminded by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler.

Like no any other race on planet earth, the Jews were considered foreigners and wanderers, and hence, persecuted in Europe and told to go home, only to be branded as  settlers and occupiers (by the world) in the same home they were told to go to. Yet none of their tormentors is prepared to declare them as an alien race that came from another planet and are therefore not entitled to any piece of land on this planet to be called their homeland. Can anything be more absurd than that?

As evidently clear, maintaining and promoting our mutual friendship with the Jewish state of Israel is vital to the success of our young state. Israel is our old friend and we are their friends too. We should never allow the north to dictate our international associations, lest there is no independence per se, for to be independence is to have the freedom to chart your own destiny in whichever way or direction you see fit and with whoever you feel like associating with.

South Sudan has a good friend in the USA whose pressure and constant support and vigilance led to the materialization of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement under President George W. Bush. The next dear friend is the Jewish state of Israel! In the words of our Anya-Anya One war veteran and leader, General Joseph Lagu, Israel must have an embassy in Juba city.

You can reach PaanLuel Wël at paanluel2011@gmail.com , Facebook, Twitter or through his blog at: https://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com/