Islamist dominated Egyptian parliament convenes

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Posted on: 
23 Jan 2012
Islamist dominated Egyptian parliament convenes

Monday saw the opening session of Egypt’s newly elected lower house of parliament, with Islamist parties taking the lead. The first issue taken up was to elect Saad Al Katatni, the secretary general of the Moslem Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, to the post of speaker. “We want to build a new Egypt, a constitutional, democratic and modern Egypt,” Katatni said. “Democracy will be the source of our parliament’s power. “We say to the Egyptian people and to the world that our revolution continues.” Katatni also thanked “the great Egyptian army and the [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which stuck to its promise that it would hold elections that the world could boast about.” But not everyone agreed with the sentiment, as many gathered to demand that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces turn over power to an elected government sooner rather than later. Liberal opposition groups have also voiced concerns that between the SCAF and the Islamists their voices have little chance of being heard in the new Egypt.

Israel opens new chapter in relations with EU
In yet another sign of Israel’s continued engagement with the world despite talk of diplomatic “isolation”, Israel’s Ministry of Finance hosted the first meeting of the EU-Israel Sub-Committee on Economic and Financial Matters on Monday, with the EU delegations led by Mr. Andrew Standley, Head of EU Delegation to Israel and including Economic liason officers from the embassies of the UK France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Romania, and more. The talks focused on the crisis in the EU and how lessons learned by Israel during its own periods of financial difficulties could be applied to the current situation, as well as the effects of the EU’s problems could have on the Israeli economy. In related news, German diplomat Andreas Reinicke was named as the EU’s new envoy to the Middle East peace process on Monday. An EU statement said his task "will be to contribute to achieving the EU's policy objectives in the region, including a comprehensive peace, a two-state solution and a settlement of the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese conflicts."

Israel in need of hospital beds
The Israeli Health Ministry issued its annual Hospitalization Report for 2010 on Tuesday, showing some worrying statistics about the state of health care available to Israelis. In every category, the number of beds available for care in Israel’s hospitals were the lowest per capita in the OECD. The report showed 1.91 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, compared to 2.22 a decade ago. The statistics are even more alarming when considering that Israel’s growing population is at greater risk of needing hospitalization due to age and the likelihood of violence.

Rice reassures AJC about UN Security Council
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told a conference of the American Jewish Committee in New York on Monday that the new arrangement of the Security Council would not make a vote on Palestinian statehood more likely in the near future than it was last year after PA president Mahmoud Abbas first proposed it. Adding that the PA application had "essentially stayed there for the time being" Rice added that "I presume that is because the Palestinians decided that, given the voting likely outcome in the council, it wasn't timely to push it to a vote. The fact is, nobody knows for sure what the Palestinians will choose to do. I think that we are roughly in the same place now as we were last year, and potentially even in a better position." Rice also reaffirmed the oft-stated US position that a Palestinian state would come only through direct negotiations with Israel, not "through a short-cut at the United Nations."

Israel trains ex-rebels in agriculture
A highly successful program run by the Israeli government and the Galilee International Management Institute (formerly the Galilee College) near Nazareth works to rehabilitate criminals and even terrorists from several countries, including Afghanistan and Nigeria, by teaching them modern agricultural skills and techniques so they have an alternative way to support their families.  Speaking of the recent groups of Nigerians who have attended courses at the Institute, Joseph Shevel, president of the Galilee Institute explained “the government granted them amnesty and allocated land to each one of them; they surrendered their weapons to get the land. Since they only know how to shoot and not to be farmers, we have to train them." Shevel added that several Israeli kibbutzim are cooperating in the project, which has successfully hosted people from 160 countries, teaching courses in several languages.


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