Israel, Greece, and Cyprus agreed Thursday to create a regional emergency task force to respond to emergencies such as the fires that ravaged Israel a few weeks ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. While the regional response team would start with these three countries, they said they “want to add additional countries to a joint operations center for emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, flooding…” Both Cyprus and Greece sent teams to assist Israel in putting out the blazes last month. Netanyahu expressed Israel’s deep gratitude for the two countries’ help and said the response team “would greatly help security and assuring the lives of citizens of all countries here in the region as well as in other countries.”
A strategic relationship has recently developed between the three countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, which Netanyahu called one of “genuine friendship and sympathy of our three peoples to each other.” The three leaders met in the Cypriot capital Nicosia in January to discuss opportunities to leverage newly discovered gas fields in Mediterranean Sea with the aim of increasing regional stability and security. These burgeoning ties are particularly significant because, as The Jerusalem Post notes, “Up until the early 2000’s, Greece and Cyprus were among the most critical countries toward Israel in Europe.”
Such ties were “unthinkable” a decade ago. Relations improved after the discovery of the natural gas fields and in reaction to Israeli diplomatic tensions with Turkey, a rival to the other two countries. (Israel has in recent years largely restored its ties with Turkey, and returned an ambassador to Ankara this week after a six-year absence.)
Israel is working hard to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a Knesset committee Thursday.
Israel does not usually acknowledge foreign military actions, but Liberman told European diplomats Wednesday—the same day that the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus was reportedly hit by surface-to-surface missiles, and a week after two strikes elsewhere in Syria—that his country was taking action to keep Hezbollah from acquiring “advanced weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction.” His latest comments to the Knesset seemed to suggest that at least one of the strikes was in order to stop Hezbollah from acquiring chemical weapons.
“Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: We won’t allow any harm to the citizens of the State of Israel, we won’t allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel, and we will not allow the smuggling of high-quality advanced weapons and chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah,” Liberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Liberman added that Israel has no interest in immersing itself in Syria’s civil war, but the country would enforce its “red lines” as necessary “without considerations for any other circumstances or limitations.” Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.
The citizenship process for foreign same-sex partners of Israelis will soon be the same as that of heterosexual partners, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday.
Mandelblit’s decision came in response to a petition from the Israeli Gay Fathers Association, which complained that same-sex couples were forced to wait seven years before their marriage would be recognized, compared to four years for heterosexuals. The non-Israeli partner in a same-sex partnership was also forced to give up his or her foreign citizenship to become an Israeli citizen, whereas a non-Israeli in a heterosexual partnership could keep his or her foreign citizenship.
“The mere presentation of foreign marriage documents and the couple’s intention to receive legal validity, is a significant indicator in relations to the seriousness of the relationship and to justify shortening the process,” Mandelblit explained.
Mandelblit’s announcement was “a huge victory against discrimination for same sex couples,” the Israeli Gay Fathers Association said in a statement. “The decision will ease the process for many couples with mixed citizenship that have suffered until today, which many times does not end with Israeli citizenship.”
For more on Israel’s strides in granting rights to its LGBT citizens and residents, read The Persistent Progress of Israel’s LGBT Community, which discusses the advances LGBT Israelis have made in gaining mainstream societal acceptance, and the challenges their community continues to face.
Upwards of 30,000 children in Iran are denied basic rights because their fathers are not Iranian, according to an article published Monday in Al-Monitor. Only children born to an Iranian father are considered Iranian citizens.
Children born to Iranian mothers are not granted citizenship rights, and many fear deportation. In an interview with Iran-based news outlet Parsineh in April last year, an Iranian Baluchi woman detailed her plight: She was married off to an Afghan man at the age of 12. He fathered seven children with her, then fled back to Afghanistan. She now lives in hiding without running water or electricity because she wants to protect her children from being uprooted by the state.
Ali Younesi, the presidential adviser for religious and minority affairs, has called Iran’s current nationality law “strict, old-fashioned and racist.” The code also cements a woman’s status as a second-class citizen: Men determine the nationality of her own children.