Tuesday, November 20, 2012
JERUSALEM—An Israeli man wielding an ax and a knife attacked and lightly wounded an Israeli security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday before he was apprehended at the scene, police said.
The man, in his early 40s, attacked the guard outside the embassy gates, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. He said the man's motive was unknown, but political motives were not suspected and the incident had nothing to do with Israel's battle with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to arrive in Israel later Tuesday to try to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Geoff Anisman said the "situation in under control."
Security was increased after the attack, and the suspect was being questioned, Rosenfeld said.
The beachfront embassy is one of the most secure locations in Israel, guarded around the clock by teams of Israeli and American security guards.
Read more:Israel police: Armed man attacks US Embassy guard - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22031936/israel-police-armed-man-attacks-us-embassy-guard#ixzz2CmKAHoa9
Ankara: Nato member states have agreed to supply Turkey with a sophisticated Patriot missile defence system to counter a potential threat from Syria and talks on its deployment are in the final stage, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“The countries who supply Nato with Patriot systems are known, we have reached an agreement with those countries. The official application will be completed as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.
“Intensive work is underway and the talks have reached the final stage.” He added: “The formal negotiations will be concluded at the shortest time possible. They won’t last much longer.”
Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday in Brussels that Nato would consider Turkey’s request as a matter of urgency. He said Nato has drawn up plans to defend Turkey.
Nato installed anti-aircraft batteries in Turkey during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. They were never used and later removed. Within the alliance, only the United States, Germany and the Netherlands have Patriots in their arsenals. Rasmussen noted that the deployment of the US-built Patriots would not mean imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory, a key demand of Syrian opposition groups. “If we are to deploy Patriot missiles it would be purely a defensive measure to defend and protect Turkey,” he said. He had also said it was “premature” to comment on German reports that Berlin planned to send 170 soldiers to Turkey to man the missiles but added that “Turkey can count on allied solidarity”.
Turkey’s air defences consist mostly of short-range Rapier and Stinger systems, and US-made Hawk low-to-medium-altitude missiles, according to US media report. Ankara has been looking to acquire a new high-altitude defence system to replace its Cold War-era Nike-Hercules batteries.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he feared that the militarisation of the conflict in Syria could turn the country into a “regional battleground.”
“We are deeply concerned about the continued militarisation of the conflict, horrendous violations of human rights and the risk of Syria turning into a regional battleground as the violence intensifies,” Ban told reporters during a visit to Cairo.
He urged the international community to support the efforts of UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi for “an inclusive Syrian led political transition that will address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, Ban also appealed to countries “to generously contribute more to our humanitarian programmes inside Syria and in the region and to assist Syria’s neighbours in dealing with the refugee crisis.”
The Syrian conflict, which has raged since March 2011, has killed over 39,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Ban was in Cairo as part of a regional visit focused on the conflict in the Gaza Strip. He will also travel to Israel and the West Bank.
WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A top Turkish official has claimed that Israel is committing acts of terrorism by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Eurasian Islamic Council conference in Istanbul that the Jewish state is systematically mass-killing Muslims.
“Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza,” Erdogan said, according to Reuters. “For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts.”
The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated last Wednesday after an Israeli airstrike killed the terror group’s military commander, Ahmed Jabari.
CBS News reports 87 Palestinians, 50 of them civilians, have been killed in the six-day conflict so far.
Hamas is demanding Israel stop its five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to get a cease-fire deal done.
The White House says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Barack Obama Friday to provide an update on the situation. Netanyahu expressed appreciation to Obama and the American people for U.S. investment in the Iron Dome rocket and mortar defense system, which has been used to defend Israel against rocket attacks from Gaza, saving many Israeli lives, the White House said.
Obama reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense and discussed possible ways to scale back the conflict, the White House said. It did not offer specifics.
Separately, Obama called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Friday and praised Egypt’s efforts to ease tensions in the region, the White House said. Obama expressed hope that Egypt’s efforts would be successful, officials said.
In both calls, Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives and underscored the importance of resolving the situation as quickly as possible.
Obama also spoke with the Israeli and Egyptian leaders last Wednesday.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday during Panetta’s flight from Bangkok to San Francisco as he returned to the U.S. from an Asia-Pacific tour, a senior Pentagon official said. In their second phone conversation this week, Barak briefed Panetta on the situation with Gaza and the prospects for de-escalation of the violence.
Militant groups have staged rocket attacks against Israel, which has responded by assassinating the military chief of the ruling Hamas militant group and conducting dozens of airstrikes on suspected rocket-launching sites and other Hamas targets in Gaza.
The IDF is looking into the possibility that rockets which exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council Friday evening were fired fromEgypt's Sinai Peninsula, army official said.
If the suspicions prove true, the attack would mark the second time in two days that rockets were fired toward Israel from Sinai. On Wednesday, shortly before the IDF killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari in Gaza and launched Operation Pillar of Defense, four rockets exploded in an Israeli community located near the Egyptian border. Israel suspects that they were fired from Sinai. There were no reports of injury or damage in the attack. The Color Red siren, which alerts residents of incoming projectiles, was not sounded.
Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk reported Friday that the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in the Environs of Jerusalem, an al Qaeda-linked group in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the launching of five rockets. These were apparently the rockets that were fired at Israel on Wednesday.
The report said the rockets were launched from the northern part of Sinai, adding that a video clip shows that the rockets were fired from 107-millimeter rocket launchers, similar to the ones being used by Palestinian terror groups in Gaza. Al-Shorouk further reported that the rockets "hit their targets."
The past three years have seen a number of rocket attacks emanating from Sinai, but most of those attacks have targeted Eilat, Israel's southernmost city. The Sinai Peninsula has become a hotbed of terror activity and lawlessness since the ouster of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak. Terror groups in the region have carried out several attacks against Israeli targets.
In August 2011 eight Israelis were killed in a terror attack on Route 12 leading to Eilat, and in August of this year terrorists in Sinai murdered 15 Egyptian policemen and broke through Israel's border fence with a stolen armored carrier.
An unidentified man injured the US embassy guard in Tel Aviv with an axe and knife Tuesday, Nov. 20. He was captured.
Three amphibious warships with 2,500 Marines aboard back to the eastern Mediterranean to remain on standby off Israel’s shore in case they are needed to evacuate American citizens. The USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Gunston Hall, were sailing west of Gibraltar on their way to back to Norfolk, Virginia, when they were turned around.
DEBKAfile: The United States have never before evacuated American citizens from Israel. The US notice does not say whether a possible evacuation would include the US forces posted in American bases in Israel. A mass evacuation would entail a Marine shore landing in order to lead the evacuees to the amphibious craft.
The Iwo Jima is a helicopter carrier, while the New York, one of the newest vessels of its kind in the US Navy, is a primary class of amphibious transport dock.
Although a decision to evacuate nationals was defined in the CNN report as a “remote contingency,” our sources stress that it is extreme enough to be taken only when a war situation is envisaged capable of endangering Americans.
This step negates the expectation articulated widely in Israel Monday, Nov. 19, that a ceasefire with the Hamas is within reach. It rather indicates that Washington sees the situation surrounding the Gaza Strip in a far different light, more like a situation holding the threat of a general conflagration beyond the confines of the Israel-Hamas contest in Gaza.
According to the same report, the US military also maintains three to four ships off the coast of Israel that are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles. That deployment has stretched for some months in the face of a potential ballistic threat from Iran.
Egypt’s newly elected Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II, has announced that he will maintain the policy of his predecessor Pope Shenouda III of discouraging Coptic worshippers from visiting Jerusalem until it is liberated. He said that Christians and Muslims will visit Jerusalem together, after its liberation.
The issue of Egyptian Copts visiting Occupied Jerusalem has been a continuous challenge for the Orthodox Coptic Pope over the years. Following Pope Shenouda’s death in March, the issue has been at the forefront of the challenges facing his successor alongside other issues arising from the new political situation in post-Mubarak Egypt.
When asked about the political developments, Pope Tawadros insisted that the Coptic Church does not fear Islamist rule, noting that the Church is proud of Egypt’s first democratically-elected civilian president. He expressed his hope that President Morsi will lead the country through a real renaissance so that Egyptians feel the benefits on the ground and not just in theory.
The Pope said that what Egypt’s Copts demand is real citizenship, adding that they are being marginalised. He didn’t rule out that the Church, even though it is primarily a spiritual institution, may adopt a stance on the presidency.
The United Kingdom has recognized the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, British Foreign Minister William Hague said on Tuesday in parliament.
France recognized the Syrian Opposition in a similar way on November 14, a move Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister denounced as "immoral."
The European Union's ministerial council for foreign affairs said on Monday it had recognized the opposition coalition as a legal representative of the interests of the Syrian people but held back from extending it diplomatic recognition, leaving that to be decided by individual EU member states.
The coalition, formed following an opposition conference in Qatar earlier this month, claims to represent 80 percent of all opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Some hardline Islamist rebels fighting in the northern city of Aleppo stated earlier this week they do not recognize the National Coalition opposition leadership.
Euro tumbling. In other news, UK: AAA/Aaa; France: AA+/Aa1... Let the flame wars begin
From the release:
Moody's decision to downgrade France's rating and maintain the negative outlook reflects the following key interrelated factors:
1.) France's long-term economic growth outlook is negatively affected by multiple structural challenges, including its gradual, sustained loss of competitiveness and the long-standing rigidities of its labour, goods and service markets.
2.) France's fiscal outlook is uncertain as a result of its deteriorating economic prospects, both in the short term due to subdued domestic and external demand, and in the longer term due to the structural rigidities noted above.
3.) The predictability of France's resilience to future euro area shocks is diminishing in view of the rising risks to economic growth, fiscal performance and cost of funding. France's exposure to peripheral Europe through its trade linkages and its banking system is disproportionately large, and its contingent obligations to support other euro area members have been increasing. Moreover, unlike other non-euro area sovereigns that carry similarly high ratings, France does not have access to a national central bank for the financing of its debt in the event of a market disruption.
The first driver underlying Moody's one-notch downgrade of France's sovereign rating is the risk to economic growth, and therefore to the government's finances, posed by the country's persistent structural economic challenges. These include the rigidities in labour and services markets, and low levels of innovation, which continue to drive France's gradual but sustained loss of competitiveness and the gradual erosion of its export-oriented industrial base.
The rise in France's real effective exchange rate in recent years contributes to this erosion of competitiveness, in particular relative to Germany, the UK and the US. The challenge of restoring price-competitiveness through wage moderation and cost containment is made more difficult by France's membership of the monetary union, which removes the adjustment mechanism that the ability to devalue its own currency would provide.
Apart from elevated taxes and social contributions, the French labour market is characterised by a high degree of segmentation as a result of significant employment protection legislation for permanent contracts. While notice periods and severance payments are not significantly higher than they are in other European countries, some parts of this legislation make dismissals particularly difficult. This judicial uncertainty raises the implicit cost of labour and creates disincentives to hire. In addition, the definition of economic dismissal in France rules out its use to improve a firm's competitiveness and profitability.
Moreover, the regulation of the services market remains more restrictive in France than it is in many other countries, as reflected in the OECD Indicators of Product Market Regulation. The subdued competition in the services sector also has a negative effect on the purchasing power of households and the input costs of enterprises. France additionally faces significant non-price competitiveness issues that stem from low R&D intensity compared to other EU countries.
Moody's recognises that the government recently announced measures intended to address some of these structural challenges. However, those measures alone are unlikely to be sufficiently far-reaching to restore competitiveness, and Moody's notes that the track record of successive French governments in effecting such measures over the past two decades has been poor.
The second driver of today's rating action is the elevated uncertainty with respect to France's fiscal outlook. Moody's acknowledges that the government's budget forecasts target a reduction in the headline deficit to 0.3% of GDP by 2017 and a balancing of the structural deficit by 2016. However, the rating agency considers the GDP growth assumptions of 0.8% in 2013 and 2.0% from 2014 onwards to be overly optimistic. On top of rising unemployment, France's consumption levels are being weighed down by tax increases, subdued disposable income growth and a correction in the housing market. Net exports are unlikely to drive economic activity in light of reduced external demand, in particular from euro area trading partners such as Italy and Spain.
As a result, Moody's sees a continued risk of fiscal slippage and of additional consolidation measures. Again, based on the track record of successive governments in implementing fiscal consolidation measures, Moody's will remain cautious when assessing whether the consolidation effort is sufficiently deep and sustained.
The third rating driver of Moody's downgrade of France's sovereign rating is the diminishing predictability of the country's resilience to future euro area shocks in view of the rising risks to economic growth, fiscal performance and cost of funding. In this context, France is disproportionately exposed to peripheral European countries such as Italy through its trade linkages and its banking system.
Moody's notes that French banks have sizable exposures to some weaker euro area countries. As a result, despite their good loss-absorption capacity, French banks remain vulnerable to a further deepening of the crisis due to these exposures and their significant -- albeit reduced -- reliance on wholesale market funding. This vulnerability adds to the government's contingent liabilities arising from the French banking system.
Moreover, France's credit exposure to the euro area debt crisis has been growing due to the increased amount of euro area resources that may be made available to support troubled sovereigns and banks through the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the facilities put in place by the European Central Bank (ECB). At the same time, in case of need, France -- like other large and highly rated euro area member states -- may not benefit from these support mechanisms to the same extent, given that these resources might have already been exhausted by then.
In light of the liquidity risks and banking sector risks in non-core countries, Moody's perceives an elevated risk that at least part of the contingent liabilities that relate to the support of non-core euro area countries may actually crystallise for France. The risk that greater collective support will be required for weaker euro area sovereigns has been rising, most for notably Spain, whose economy and government bond market are around twice the combined size of those of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Highly rated member states like France are likely to bear a disproportionately large share of this burden given their greater ability to absorb the associated costs.
More generally, further shocks to sovereign and bank credit markets would further undermine financial and economic stability in France as well as in other euro area countries. The impact of such shocks would be expected to be felt disproportionately by more highly indebted governments such as France, and further accentuate the fiscal and structural economic pressures noted above. While the French government's debt service costs have been largely contained to date, Moody's would not expect this to remain the case in the event of a further shock. A rise in debt service costs would further increase the pressure on the finances of the French government, which, unlike other non-euro area sovereigns that carry similarly high ratings, does not have access to a national central bank that could assist with the financing of its debt in the event of a market disruption.
Today's rating action on France's government bond rating was limited to one notch given (i) the country's large and diversified economy, which underpins France's economic resiliency, and (ii) the government's commitment to structural reforms and fiscal consolidation. The limited magnitude of today's rating action also reflects an acknowledgment by Moody's of the French government's ongoing work on a reform programme to improve the country's competitiveness and long-term growth perspectives, with key measures expected to be outlined in the National Pact for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. Moreover, on the fiscal side, the European Treaty on the Stability, Coordination and Governance of the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG), known as the "fiscal compact", will be implemented through the Organic Law on Public Finance Planning and Governance.
RATIONALE FOR CONTINUED NEGATIVE OUTLOOK
Moody's decision to maintain a negative outlook on France's government bond rating reflects the weak macroeconomic environment, and the rating agency's view that the risks to the implementation of the government's planned reforms remain substantial. Moreover, Moody's currently also holds negative outlooks on those Aaa-rated euro area sovereigns whose balance sheets are expected to bear the main financial burden of support via the operations of the EFSF, the ESM and the ECB. Apart from France, these countries comprise Germany (Aaa negative), the Netherlands (Aaa negative) and Austria (Aaa negative).
WHAT COULD MOVE THE RATING UP/DOWN
Moody's would downgrade France's government debt rating further in the event of additional material deterioration in the country's economic prospects or difficulties in implementing reform. Substantial economic and financial shocks stemming from the euro area debt crisis would also exert further downward pressure on France's rating.
Given the current negative outlook on France's sovereign rating, an upgrade is unlikely over the medium term. However, Moody's would consider changing the outlook on France's sovereign rating to stable in the event of a successful implementation of economic reforms and fiscal measures that effectively strengthen the growth prospects of the French economy and the government's balance sheet. Upward pressure on France's rating could also result from a significant improvement in the government's public finances, accompanied by a reversal in the upward trajectory in public debt.
France's foreign- and local-currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at Aaa. The short-term foreign-currency bond and deposit ceilings remain Prime-1.