Turkey Accused of Jailing Israeli Couple For Political Gain; PM Bennett Nixes Meeting With US Special Envoy For Iran; BDS Fury Over Miss South Africa’s Refusal to Boycott Jewish State

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.

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The Israeli government is continuing intensive diplomatic efforts to secure the release of an Israeli couple being held in Turkey. Mordy and Natalie Oknin were arrested last week after taking photographs of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul. Jerusalem continues to deny allegations that the two are spies.

Erdogan’s history of politically motivated detentions has raised concerns in Israel and elsewhere that the couple could be imprisoned for a long period of time. An Istanbul court on Friday ordered the Oknins remanded for an additional 20 days, pending a possible trial for “political and military espionage.”

An Israeli diplomatic official said the Turkish authorities have not allowed an Israeli consular representative to meet with the couple. Israeli officials, meanwhile, were considering issuing a travel warning to Turkey.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that he spoke with the families of the two Israeli citizens to update them on efforts to bring the couple back home. “The most senior echelons in Israel dealt with this issue throughout the weekend, led by the Foreign Ministry, and will continue to work tirelessly with the aim of finding a solution as soon as possible,” the statement read.

The couple, Bennett added, “does not work for any Israeli agency.” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued his own statement denying that Mordy or Natalie Oknin are linked to “any Israeli security agency.”

   

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not meet with the US’s Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, because of the latter’s efforts to revive nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and world powers. “Bennett isn’t boycotting Malley. He believes that returning to the [negotiating] table isn’t the right thing to do,” a source close to the premier said in an interview with local media.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz will, however, be meeting with Malley.

The US special envoy is also slated to visit Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Discusssions will focus on coordinating with Middle East powers ahead of the resumption of nuclear negotiations on November 29.

Meanwhile, Bennett is expected to soon meet with US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greengield, who has also expressed support for renewing the nuclear agreement.

   

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Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin traveled to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the Dubai International Air Chiefs’ Conference, as part of the city’s airshow. It is the first time that the Jewish state is participating in the event, following the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020 that normalized relations between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

During his visit, Norkin met with the Commander of the UAE’s Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed al-Alawi, senior Jordanian Air Force officer Gen. Mohammad Fathi Hiyasat, German Air Force chief Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz and others.

Norkin previously met with Alawi in October, after the latter had landed in Israel for the first time during the large-scale international Blue Flag aerial exercise, to take part in a conference for countries that fly the F-35 fighter jet. The meeting between Norkin and Hiyasat came after Jordan was photographed taking part in the Jewish state’s two-week Blue Flag drill.

The five-day Dubai Airshow will have some 370 new exhibitors and welcome more than 85,000 visitors. There will also be civilian and military delegations from over 140 countries, including new additions from the Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil and Slovakia – in addition to Israel.

   

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Israel is set to ask donor countries to resume or increase their financial contributions to the Palestinian Authority at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHCL) meeting in Oslo on Wednesday, according to a source in the Ministry for Regional Cooperation.

Donations to Ramallah have dropped by 85 percent over the last 13 years, according to a World Bank report published last week. In 2008, the global community contributed $1.2 billion to the PA, which was an all-time high. This year, donor funds are only expected to amount to $184 million.

The AHCL meeting, held twice a year, is chaired by Norway. It involves representatives from 15 countries and entities including the Palestinian Authority. In Oslo, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej will meet with PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. It will be the first such face-to-face conversation between the two.

The PA has a looming $1.36 billion deficit and may not be able to pay its civil servants by the end of this year.

   

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The South African government has dissociated itself from a decision by the reigning Miss SA to take part in the annual Miss Universe competition in Israel. The move comes amid a fierce campaign aimed at forcing Lalela Mswane to boycott the pageant over what government officials called Israel’s “atrocities against Palestinians.”

Local beauty pageant organizers have been adamant that the recently crowned Miss SA should go.

South Africa has taken a hardline stance against Israel and staunchly supports the Palestinians. It downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and recalled its ambassador.

In a statement, South Africa’s ruling ANC party urged the organizers “to hear and listen to the overwhelming call for the Miss South Africa team to boycott the upcoming apartheid Israel hosted Miss Universe.”

   

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