Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

The soar-away success of the vigorously anti-EU Front National in France’s regional elections may well give David Cameron a boost in his efforts to renegotiate Britain’s membership. “What is going on…should make those running the EU realise that their great ideal is facing an existential crisis,” writes Philip Johnson in today’s paper. “Perhaps they simply cannot see it. But they would be mad not to give Mr Cameron enough wriggle room to claim some sort of triumph on which he can campaign to stay in.”

If EU leaders are planning to cave in to Cameron, they are not rushing to do so yet, as European Council chief Donald Tusk has given a mixed assessment of his four key renegotiation demands. The EU chief, in a letter to leaders of member states, insists “we have made good progress”, indicating support for Cameron’s demands for an opt-out from the EU’s “ever closer union” and a commitment to cutting away red tape. But these aren’t much as concessions, James Kirkup points out, as they are “nebulous” and easy to portray as significant.

Tusk is decidedly less receptive towards Cameron’s other two demands, suggesting that Britain may only get a brake mechanism to “raise concerns” about Eurozone migration, rather than a veto. He also said Cameron would have to “compromise” as there is “no consensus” and “substantial political differences” over his demand to strip EU migrants of in-work benefits for their first four years in Britain. The Prime Minister has also been given a deadline of two months to conclude a deal, with Tusk indicating that there would be a big debate about the welfare plans at the European Council’s summit next week, followed by a final deal in February.

Agreement won’t mean much if David Cameron hasn’t passed his referendum into law. The bill is coming before MPs today, after being sent back by the Lords – with a demand for 16 and 17 year olds to be given the vote attached. However, ministers are preparing to invoke the “financial privilege” of the Commons in rejecting votes for under 18s, as a way to ram it back through without getting the bill caught up in a legislative “ping-pong” between both houses. The Speaker’s Office, on advice from the Commons’ Clerk of Legislation, has agreed the matter is “financial”, with the government estimating that extending the franchise would cost £6m. This is being fiercely contested by Labour, who accuse the government of trying to “deny a full and proper debate” on giving under 18s the vote. Some Tories are concerned too, with Conservative peer Lord Lucas lamenting: “More power to government, less to parliament’ was not my party’s cry in the Blair/Brown years.”

“The institutions must show readiness for compromise for this process to succeed,” Donald Tusk

On England’s Green And Pleasant Land
Thousands of new homes are set to be built on the Green Belt in the biggest relaxation to planning protections for 30 years. A new Government consultation proposes to change strict rules that only allow building on the ribbon of greenfield land around towns and cities which prevents urban sprawl in exceptional circumstances.

Flood Spending Review
Flood defences may be reviewed after the Government admitted it had underestimated the potential strength of severe weather events. Michael Deacon watched Liz Truss, the environment secretary, take questions from MPs about the floods caused by Storm Desmond. “Not all her answers were entirely convincing,” he writes. “Dennis Skinner, the perpetually apoplectic Labour MP for Bolsover, asked whether the Government would reverse its cuts to the fire service. “Well,” replied Ms Truss, “what I would say is that we’ve seen fantastic support from the firefighters.” Yes. Fantastic support that we’d like to pay less for.

True Labour?
Hard-left activists are using the pro-Jeremy Corbyn Momentum campaign group to try to take over the Labour party, Tom Watson has claimed, as he warned of “an entryist problem” in some branches. Dan Hodges sympathises with Watson, writing in today’s paper that Corbyn’s plan “involves shunting the Labour Party aside and allowing the “real Labour movement” a free run at fighting for a genuine socialist alternative”.

Trump’s Muslim Ban
Donald Trump sparked a furious backlash on Monday when he called for all Muslims to be barred from entering the United States in the wake of terrorism attacks in Paris and California. It was a bombshell even by the outspoken candidate’s standard of bombast, and brought the immediate condemnation of his rivals for the Republican nomination.

YBF Postponed
A three-day conference for young conservatives has been postponed after being caught up in the bullying row involving “Tatler Tory” Mark Clarke. The Young Britons Foundation conference was due to be held this weekend at Churchill College, Cambridge University, attended by 120 young people. Six Cabinet ministers had already pulled out of the event, citing diary clashes.

13p On The Taxpayer
MPs continue to claim expenses for negligible fuel mileage worth as little as 13p, the latest figures from the expenses watchdog Ispa have revealed. There have been 117 separate mileage claims for under £1 since the election in May, with one Conservative MP responsible for 17 of the MPs expenses requests. Ben Howlett, the MP for Bath, made one claim for just 13p after travelling 0.3 miles for an office viewing, before claiming as little as 27p on two other occasions.

Brown Gets A New Job
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been appointed to a new advisory board at Pimco, the world’s largest bond manager. It will be Mr Brown’s first major corporate role since leaving Downing Street five years ago.

FOI: The Price To Pay
Suspected plans to clamp down on Freedom of Information rules will take Britain back to the “dark ages” and risk undermining democracy, the Information Commissioner has said. Christopher Graham told MPs that the Freedom of Information Act is the price the government must pay to be a “modern” and “accountable” democracy in the 21st century.

Vaz For Speaker?
Keith Vaz has rubbished reports that he wants to succeed John Bercow as the next Commons speaker. The Home Affairs Committee chair dismissed as “complete nonsense” Exaro News’ report that he was eyeing Bercow’s job. Vaz’s name was first floated by Chris Hope in 2013, who said he was seen as “close to Mr Bercow”.

Look, up in the sky…

9999899999The Skystar 180 tactical aerostat system developed by RT Ita Systems was recently used to protect world leaders at the UN climate summit in Paris.
Photo credit: (Photo courtesy RT Ita Systems)

According to Globes:

Dec. 02–Leaders from all over the world gathered this week in Paris for the Climate Change Conference, which was clearly also utilized for diplomatic and security meetings.A surveillance balloon made by Israeli company RT Ita Systems — a small mobile tactical balloon system suitable for tactical intelligence missions and military and civilian security missions — provided security for this high-level event.

The Skystar 180 tactical aerostat system developed by RT is already in use in communities near the Gaza Strip and on Road 443 between Jerusalem and Modi’in. The system can carry up to 20 kilograms, and provide prolonged intelligence coverage of all events from a height of up to 300 meters. The system is operated by only two people, and can operate in different weather conditions and remain airborne continuously for up to 72 hours.

The balloon system used in Paris is equipped with a special TR-Stamp load for surveillance made by Controp — an independent light balloon that is easy to change and economical to use for diverse military operations, and also for civilian purposes.RT Ita emphasized that the Skystar 180 balloon is being used for intelligence tasks in a number of countries, and is regularly operated by the IDF and Israel Police.

For the Climate Change conference, the company trained local police personnel and cooperated with French company SSI. Skystar surveillance balloon systems are independent, economical to use, and very easy to transport. RT Ita’s products are patent protected. 40 of the company’s balloon surveillance systems are in use in 10 countries, including Israel, Canada, the US, Russia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Mexico, Columbia, and African countries, where they have accumulated over 500,000 operational hours.

Copyright 2015 – Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel

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The collapse of the PA may already be here

United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s scenario outlining a potential collapse of the Palestinian Authority, laid out Saturday at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC, sounds more than realistic.

For a change, the US administration, an expert at making fatal mistakes in the Middle East, seems to read the state of Palestinian affairs correctly, though the secretary errs in using the word “collapse.”

Instead, it should be substituted with the term “disintegration,” which in some ways has already begun.

The shooting attack on Thursday, in which Preventive Security Services member Mazen Aribe opened fire on Israel Defense Forces soldiers near the Hizme checkpoint, marks a crossroads.

Aribe was killed by fire from soldiers at the scene. The Palestinian Authority, instead of condemning or at least not supporting the action, sent head Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat and the mayor of Jericho to visit the home of the attacker’s family.


Paul Berman Explains Trump and the Joys of Hatred

Donald Trump’s supporters turn out to be (as discovered by the statisticians, as reported by the political analysts) 55 percent white working-class, many of them males from age 50 to 64, without college degrees. And, in the analysts’ view, a political logic accounts for these people’s sympathies. The white workers are submerged in economic insecurity, and they blame their circumstances on illegal immigrants from Mexico, and they appreciate their candidate’s forceful anti-immigrant hostility. Nor do they want the United States to accept refugees from Syria. Their feelings on this matter draw them to Trump yet again. Such is the explanation. It makes sense. But I worry about explanations that make too much sense.

The whole phenomenon of people being upset over the Mexican immigration, to begin with—isn’t there something odd in this? We are right now experiencing an unemployment rate nationally of 5.5 percent, which really isn’t bad. Naturally people feel insecure economically, but the grounds for this are multiple: the competition from other countries (e.g., from Mexicans who do not immigrate); the fact that technological advances are always rendering one craft or another obsolete; the likelihood that one of these days the entirely American banks or the stock market will bring about still another financial crisis. And so forth. Why the emphasis on Mexican immigrants, then?

The first of the primaries will take place in a few weeks in New Hampshire, where Trump is said to be doing well. Is there something special to be learned from New Hampshire? Googling about, I discover that, at the University of New Hampshire this past July, the Carsey School of Public Policy issued a report saying that—I quote—“migration from Mexico to the U.S. dropped more than 50 percent in the last five years.” Other reports go further: More Mexicans are returning to Mexico than are coming to the United States. Immigration has mutated into emigration. However terrible the competition from Mexican immigrants may have been in the past (but how terrible was it?), the terribleness appears to be diminishing. You will recall Trump’s much-discussed outburst about Mexico: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people!” To judge from the University of New Hampshire report, though, rather a lot of the immigrants are “good people”: “Those migrating tend to have higher socioeconomic status, are older, and are more likely to be women.” The crisis of immigration appears to be, in short, substantially a non-crisis.


Visiting Hungary and ‘The Grand Hotel Budapest’

My family and I were recently looking for someplace to visit. When Hungary’s leader said he would not discriminate against Israel or its products, we put aside the jokes my dad used to relate about Hungarians, and we bought cheap tickets for a four-day R&R at “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

We were not seeking to walk in the steps of the movie stars, because we’ve rubbed elbows with enough celebrities to know that real life usually beats what’s on screen. In Europe, real life — and very real death — have been grand and tragic.

As a proud Jew, I don’t want to visit a country club or a country that doesn’t want to welcome me as a member, a tourist, or a visiting professor.

As Paris and London have become more uncomfortable for Jews, our family has stayed away from them. As people masquerading as Europe’s leaders hold parades to fight Arab-Islamic terror, Arab-Islamic terror grows. Many “leaders” prefer to hug each other in public as a sign of combating allegedly man-made global warming rather than fighting a real and proven terror danger.


Egypt: Highest Islamic authority refuses to denounce the Islamic State as “un-Islamic”

During an open discussion at Cairo University held on December 2, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Sheikh and Grand Imam of Al Azhar — and thus Egypt’s foremost authority on all things Islamic — was again asked why Al Azhar refuses to issue a formal statement denouncing the Islamic State of lapsing into a state of kufr, that is, of becoming un-Islamic, “infidel.”

In response, Tayeb said that the only way Al Azhar could do this is if a Muslim formally rejected the fundamental principles of Islam, such as the shahada—that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger—and Islamic scriptures.

He then rhetorically asked what would be the situation (according to Sharia) of a Muslim who accepts the fundamentals of Islam but who also commits great sins, such as drinking alcohol: would they be denounced as “infidels”?