Kushner hints Palestinian refugees won’t return, says Trump ‘very fond’ of Abbas



Kushner hints Palestinian refugees won’t return, says Trump ‘very fond’ of Abbas

Promising a ‘pragmatic’ solution, president’s son-in-law says Jewish refugees from 1948 were looked after, but Arab states have ‘not absorbed a lot’ of Palestinian refugees

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Despite tensions and a total break in ties, US President Donald Trump remains “very fond” of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, senior White House official Jared Kushner said Wednesday.

But Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser to him, also lambasted the Palestinian leadership for refusing to engage with the administration on its forthcoming peace proposal, including at a recent economic conference in Bahrain, and said the administration could announce the next steps of its peace push in the coming days.

Speaking to reporters in a rare on-record telephone briefing, Kushner also indicated that his Middle East peace plan will seek to better integrate Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries rather than endorsing or advancing the Palestinian demand, rejected by Israel, for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians to today’s Israel.

Discussing the status of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced out of Israel when the Jewish state was established in 1948, as well as their descendants, Kushner noted that a similar number of Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries.

In this June 25, 2019, photo released by Bahrain News Agency, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner talks to the audience during the opening session of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop in Manama, Bahrain. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)

“Look, you have a situation when this whole thing started where you had 800,000 Jewish refugees that came out of all the different Middle Eastern countries and you had 800,000, roughly, Palestinian refugees,” he said. “And what’s happened to the Israeli, to the Jewish, refugees, is they have been absorbed by different places, whereas the Arab world has not absorbed a lot of these refugees over time.”

“This situation exists because it exists. And when we put out a political solution, we’re going to try to put forward the best proposed solutions that we think are pragmatic, achievable and viable in this day and age,” he said.

Asked about Lebanon — where Palestinian refugees are mostly denied citizenship and many live in squalid camps — Kushner went on: “The refugees, the Palestinian refugees who are in Lebanon, who are denied a lot of rights and who, you know, don’t have the best conditions right now, would also like to see a situation where there is a pathway for them to have more rights and to live a better life.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (center) meets White House adviser Jared Kushner (4th from left) and US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, (3rd from left) in Amman on May 29, 2019. (Petra News)

He said he believed “the people of Lebanon would love to see a resolution to this issue, one that is fair.”

Israel adamantly opposes the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, saying it amounts to a demand to overwhelm Israel as a Jewish state by demographic means. The Trump administration has slashed funding to the UN’s Palestinian refugee welfare agency, UNRWA, which Israel accuses of perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem by extending refugee status to the descendants of the original refugees. Thus, while there are only a few tens of thousands of refugees, the Palestinians put their refugee number at over five million.

‘In his heart,’ Abbas wants peace

Kushner said he believes PA leader Abbas genuinely seeks peace with Israel, but implicitly criticized outspoken senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat for saying “crazy things” in the context of the US efforts to jump-start the peace process.

“I have a lot of respect for President Abbas. I think that he devoted his life to trying to make peace,” Kushner said. “I do believe in his heart he wants to make peace, and my hope is that we’re going to be able to give him that opportunity to try and achieve that.”

The Trump administration is keen to avoid “the same mistakes” of previous peace initiatives, but has embarked on “different approach,” Kushner said. “We’re not getting into the same old tired discussions that, frankly, lead to nowhere.”

The White House last week unveiled the economic part of its two-pronged peace proposal, which promises some $50 billion in investments for the Palestinians and the wider Middle East in case a final-status peace deal can be reached. The second part, which will deal with the conflict’s political aspects, will be released at a later stage, Kushner said.

PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat addresses the media following a meeting with diplomats in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 30, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

“We haven’t allowed the process to be hijacked by people who have not been successful with it. President Abbas has certain people around him who are very uncomfortable with the way that we’ve approached this, and their natural instinct is to act and to say crazy things,” Kushner said, clearly referring to, but not explicitly naming, Saeb Erekat, who has been the PA’s most visible critic of the US’s peace initiative.

In particular, Erekat has publicly sparred with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt on Twitter.

“Quite frankly, we don’t find that to be terribly constructive,” Kushner went on.

“Our door is always open to the Palestinian people, to the Palestinian leadership. President Trump is very fond of President Abbas, he likes him very much personally,” he said. “And at the right time, if they’re willing to engage, I believe that they’ll find that they’ll have an opportunity. Whether they’ll be willing to take that opportunity will be up to them.”

Earlier during the half-hour conference call, Kushner had criticized the Palestinian leadership for boycotting last week’s workshop in Bahrain, during which the administration presented the economic part of its peace plan to some 300 delegates from across the world, including Arab ministers and Israeli business people.

“Obviously, they made a strategic mistake by not engaging on this. I think that they looked very foolish by trying to fight against this,” he said.

The conference in Bahrain focused on the economic portion of the American administration’s peace plan, which proposes billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure projects in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries.

The Palestinian leadership has asserted that the confab’s economic focus sought to undermine its aspirations for statehood by not putting a political solution first. It also has accused the US of attempting to use the gathering to normalize Israel’s status in the Arab world.

“Quite frankly, the Palestinian leadership — I’m not quite sure what they’re selling to the people, but their argument against it has not been one we found to be substantive or even comprehensible. So it’s been more hysterical and erratic and not terribly constructive,” Kushner said.

A poll published Wednesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 90 percent of Palestinians said they do not trust the Trump administration when it states that the goal of the confab in Bahrain was to improve Palestinian economic conditions.

Asked to choose between independence and economic prosperity, 83% of Palestinians opted for the former and a mere 15% selected the latter, the poll also found.

However, Kushner said a document detailing the economic part of the peace deal has been downloaded more than a million times. He added that he was surprised and encouraged by that number. The plan was originally published only in English, but this week the administration put out an Arabic version as well.

Kushner stressed that the economic vision laid forth in Bahrain could only work once a comprehensive peace agreement is in place. The political part of the peace plan is not expected to the released before a new Israeli government is in place, likely in November.

But Kushner indicated that he may have news regarding the so-called deal of the century much earlier than that.

“We will be announcing probably next week what our next steps are going to be, and then we will keep pushing forward,” he said, without providing any details.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

Palestinian-Israeli Meeting Fails to Resolve Tax Funds Crisis



Palestinian-Israeli Meeting Fails to Resolve Tax Funds Crisis

Friday, 28 June, 2019 – 11:00
A Palestinian demonstrator takes part in a protest against an Israeli decision to trim funds over prisoner stipends, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on February 19, 2019. (Reuters)
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
A new Palestinian-Israeli meeting has failed to end the Palestinian tax revenue crisis.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs and Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh said ongoing talks with Israel about the seizure of Palestinian deducted funds did not make any progress.

“I met with the Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bshara yesterday(Wednesday) and discussed means to solve the clearance issue,” he tweeted.

“We demanded that Israel release the funds,” he said.

Their meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Finance headquarters in Jerusalem was attended by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Palestinian territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon.

Israeli sources said they only discussed economic matters, explaining that it was one of a series of meetings that brought them together in an attempt to reach a solution to the crisis.

Israel wants to reach a settlement in this matter in a way that would prevent the collapse of the PA.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahlon have earlier discussed emergency plans, should the PA’s financial system collapse over its refusal to accept tax dividends collected by Israel.

Israel has tried to transfer large sums of money to the PA, which refuses to accept them without the deducted amounts, leading to a critical financial crisis.

Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and then it transfers the money to the PA.

In February, it decided to deduct around $10 million a month from those revenues, corresponding to the amount it said the PA paid families of prisoners or directly to inmates serving time in Israeli jails.

Palestinians responded by saying they would refuse any funds from which unilateral deductions had been made.

Israel: ‘I’m innocent!’ freed Palestinian rape suspect declares



‘I’m innocent!’ freed Palestinian rape suspect declares, hugging his family

55 days after police arrested him for alleged sexual assault of 7-year-old Israeli girl, Mahmoud Qadusa walks out of prison due to lack of evidence against him

Mahmoud Qadusa (R) hugs his daughter after being released from prison on June 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mahmoud Qadusa (R) hugs his daughter after being released from prison on June 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As he embraced his relatives for the first time in nearly two months, a Palestinian man released from jail on Tuesday due to a lack of evidence tying him to the alleged rape of an Israeli girl declared his innocence.

“I have so much to explain about what I went through,” said Mahmoud Qadusa, who was mobbed by Israeli reporters as he hugged his children and siblings at the Beitunia checkpoint. “I’m innocent! I know myself. I was telling them the entire time that I’m not that person.”

Dozens of supporters escorted Qadusa in a convoy back to his home in the central West Bank village of Dir Kadis.

There, speaking by phone to the Kan public broadcaster, he asserted that he had never met the alleged victim and that “someone was behind the whole ordeal who told her to identify me [as the rapist].”

Mahmoud Qadusa after being released from prison on June 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“For seven years I’ve worked in that city,” Qadusa said of the ultra-Orthodox settlement where the rape allegedly took place. “I have Jewish friends there. They know me. Ask them what they think of me,” he said, breaking into tears.

One of those friends was Zvika Golbanzitz, who sent Qadusa’s family a bouquet of flowers congratulating them on his release. When police concluded that the attack had taken place on April 5 in a home owned by Golbanzitz, where Qadusa worked, the former testified on his behalf, saying he was with him the entire time.

Qadusa told Kan that police should find the “real” culprit and when they do, “don’t put him in jail, kill him.”

Earlier Tuesday, the IDF’s military advocate general announced that he was pulling the indictment against Qadusa, 46, due to lack of evidence.

“The evidentiary infrastructure that underlies the indictment does not at this time amount to a ‘reasonable chance of conviction.’ Therefore, by law, the criminal process cannot continue, the indictment must be withdrawn and Qadusa released from custody,” the MAG’s office said in a statement.

Attorney Nashaf Darwish (L) speaks with the brother and son of Mahmoud Qadusa, a Palestinian man charged with kidnapping and raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl, at the Judea Military Court in the West Bank on June 19, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This case tells us a lot about how the legal system operates with regard to Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line,” the freed suspect’s attorney Nashef Darwish said in a statement, arguing that Israel’s military rule in the West Bank prevents Palestinians from receiving a fair trial.

An attorney representing the 7-year-old said the family was in “utter shock” and “the girl is heartbroken and unwilling to leave her home.”

“The country is waking up to a situation in which the person who a 7-year-old claims raped her is being set free,” said Yehuda Fried.

Qadusa, a maintenance custodian at the girl’s school, was arrested 55 days ago.

According to the dropped charges, sometime “between the months of February and April” Qadusa dragged the girl from her school to a vacant home in the settlement, where he raped her as at least two of his friends pinned her down.

Illustrative: Orthodox girls arrive at their school. (Flash90)

Shortly after the indictment was leaked, police came under fire for relying almost entirely on the testimony of the 7-year-old, forgoing forensic evidence in addition to being unable to determine the exact date that the alleged crime had taken place.

Last week, law enforcement announced that they were reopening the investigation in order to verify the suspicions against Qadusa.

On Monday, an official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that new details had called further into question the level of professionalism with which the probe had been conducted.

More than two months since the rape was believed to have taken place, only on Monday did police arrive at the home of the alleged victim to collect her clothes for DNA testing, the official confirmed, adding that detectives were skeptical as to whether any forensic evidence could be found.

The official also confirmed that the 7-year-old girl was only able to ID Qadusa in school after her mother pointed at him first and told her he was the man who had raped her.

Moreover, a failed polygraph test cited by the military court in successive decisions to extend Qadusa’s detention was carried out in Hebrew, rather than the defendant’s native Arabic, the official said.


Israel: Bahrain remains committed to Palestinians, rabbi with ties to king says



Bahrain remains committed to Palestinians, rabbi with ties to king says

Marc Schneier, a member of the kingdom’s delegation to the US-led workshop, says Manama and Jerusalem may normalize relations by the end of 2019, but only if there’s a peace deal

Rabbi Marc Schneier in Manama, Bahrain, June 24, 2019 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Rabbi Marc Schneier in Manama, Bahrain, June 24, 2019 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

MANAMA, Bahrain — The kingdom of Bahrain remains fully committed to efforts to improve the Palestinian economy, an American rabbi with close ties to the Gulf country’s ruler said Tuesday, hours before a US-led conference on the administration’s forthcoming peace proposal was set to open here.

The rabbi, Marc Schneier of New York, also said that a future normalization of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel is “possible” by the end of the year, though not in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“I think the conference will generate tremendous momentum that will propel things forward. It’s a very, very powerful consortium,” he said of participants of the Peace to Prosperity workshop, which is billed as the rollout of the first — purely economic — part of the US administration’s two-pronged proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is spearheading the peace initiative, said that the second part of the proposal, which deals with the political issues of the conflict, will likely be released toward the end of the year, after the Israeli elections.

“I think the focus on economics is the right way to go,” Schneier told The Times of Israel, sitting in the lobby of Manama’s Ritz Carlton Hotel while wearing his black knitted kippah.

“This conference is more of a Gulf initiative than a Trump initiative,” he said. “I’ve heard, for several years now, from different Gulf leaders, the importance of addressing the economic plight of the Palestinians, that that should be the first step of the process. I think the Trump administration has responded to what the Gulf leaders have been saying for several years. I think we’re on the right course here.”

Schneier, the founder and head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, has for many years conducted extensive ties with the rulers of many Muslim countries, including nearly all Gulf states.

Late last year, he was named a “special adviser” to the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. In this unpaid position, the rabbi was tasked with assisting the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence based in Manama, and helping in preserving and growing the country’s small Jewish community.

The rabbi, who established and runs a Jewish community in the Hamptons, is participating in this week’s Peace to Prosperity workshop as an official member of the Bahraini delegation.

The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the two-day conference, which will open Tuesday night with a brief speech by Kushner, arguing that one cannot discuss the Palestinian economy as long as the Palestinian people’s aspirations for statehood are not addressed. In light of Ramallah’s boycott, the White House decided not to invite Israeli government officials to the event, though a handful of Israeli businesspeople are here.

But according to Schneier, the Palestinian leadership’s resolute opposition to the event is “temporary.”

Schneier has long argued that the common enmity toward Iran, and a changing economic environment, is bringing Israel and the Gulf states closer to each other, predicting that Bahrain would be the first to formally establish relations with the Jewish state sometime in 2019.

“I believe that can happen,” he reiterated on Tuesday. “But I also know how committed the king of Bahrain is to the economic plight of the Palestinian people. For anyone to suggest that the Gulf is not committed is to the Palestinians is a very big mistake. It’s a balanced, fair approach.”

At the same time, full normalization of ties remains impossible in the absence of a peace deal, he added. “They are committed to a Palestinian state… There needs to be a peace deal. There needs to be some kind of resolution between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Schneier, who is married to an Israeli, said he’s optimistic about a deal that would grant the Palestinians some sort of statehood by the end of the year. “The direction, or the directive of this conference, and the trajectory of what’s happening, is spot-on,” he said.

“You can’t discuss statehood and territories if people are in a state where their economy is imploding. And that’s the whole logic here right now.”


Refugees Constitute 41% of Palestinian Population: Report



Refugees Constitute 41% of Palestinian Population: Report

Friday, 21 June, 2019 – 08:15
A Palestinian girl stands amid the ruins of destroyed houses on the outskirts of Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on January 19 | AFP
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
The population of refugees reached about 41 percent of total Palestinians residing in the State of Palestine at the end of 2018, revealed a report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) published on Thursday.

The total of persons aged less than 15 years reached 39 percent (refugees and non-refugees) at the end of 2018, while that of elderly people aged 60 years and above (refugees and non-refugees) was about 5 percent.

UNRWA records indicated that the number of registered Palestinian refugees in 2018 amounted to about 6 million. PCBS said Palestinian refugees in the West Bank who are registered with UNRWA as in 2018 accounted up to 17 percent of the total refugees registered with UNRWA against 25 percent in Gaza Strip.

In neighboring Arab countries, the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA reached about 39 of the total Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 9 in Lebanon, and 11 in Syria.

It said the poverty rate among the refugees was about 39% during 2017 according to monthly consumption patterns. This means that the monthly consumption of their households is below the poverty line which is NIS2,470 for a Palestinian household of 5 (2 adults and 3 children) while the percentage among the non-refugees was 22.

The poverty percentage among refugees was 15.7 in the West Bank and 54.1 in the Gaza Strip.

Data indicated a clear difference in the level of the unemployment rate among refugees and non-refugees, with the former reaching about 40% and the latter 24%. This is due to high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate among refugees in the West Bank is 19% compared to about 54% among refugees in Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, PCBS said the results of the Labor Force Survey in 2018 showed that the labor force participation for individuals aged 15 years and above among refugees was about 47 percent compared to about 46 percent for non-refugees.

Israel: Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy



Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

Monday, 17 June, 2019 – 11:30
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian volunteer paramedic Sajed Mezher was killed by Israeli troops, during his funeral in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Kifah Zboun, Asharq al-Awsat
Head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, recently met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to persuade him to agree to accept tax money collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources said that Argaman tried during the meeting to convince Abbas to accept the funds after the deduction of amounts paid to families of martyrs and prisoners. He informed the PM that the amount Israel intends to decduct is far less than the salaries.

But Abbas refused to give up any “dime” and asked that Israel deal with these funds as Palestinian funds that no one has the right to dispose of them.

“Any deduction from these funds is a theft,” Abbas said.

After his meeting, the Israeli Minister reported to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that Abbas firmly and categorically refused the proposal and called for a political decision to resolve this crisis.

Argaman said that the Authority is suffering from a severe financial crisis, which led to the reduction in salaries of a large number of employees, including tens of thousands of members of the Palestinian security services.

Military analyst Amos Harel indicated that Abbas believes he is facing a triple attack from the United States, Israel and Hamas. Washington has almost completely curtailed economic aid to the Palestinians.

The United States is now offering “economic peace” without resolving the issue of Jerusalem and borders, and trying to impose a permanent separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The military estimates that Abbas considers that Israel is economically affected by the prisoner crisis, but continues to build the settlements, rejects the political dialogue and seeks the opportunity to annex parts of the West Bank after the failure of the deal of the century.

Hamas is building a state in the Gaza Strip with a “silent US-Israeli approval.” It is also believed that a number of Arab leaders in the region support Trump’s plan.

Israeli security services top officials agree that the Authority will begin its economic collapse within two or three months.

In related news, Abbas stressed that “we reject the US peace plan,” better known as the “deal of the century,” in a meeting with the leaders of the Fatah Youth Movement.

He announced that Palestine will not participate in the US-sponsored economic workshop to be held in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25.

“Jerusalem and Palestine are not for sale,” asserted Abbas, adding that “the Palestinian leadership is sticking to the stable legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state.

Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection to receive the partial funds of the tax revenue dues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA from the Palestinian trade.

Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day



Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day

Palestinians on mount hurl chairs, rocks at police after rare decision to let non-Muslims in on final days of Ramadan; security high in capital as Israel marks city’s reunification

Clashes erupted between Palestinian rioters and police on Sunday morning at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, as hundreds of Jews were allowed into the holy site to celebrate Jerusalem Day — the 52nd anniversary of the unification of the capital in the Six Day War.

Later in the morning, hundreds of Palestinians rioters threw rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel. There were no immediate reports of injuries. By mid-afternoon, police reported that the situation was again calm.

It was the first time in three decades that non-Muslims were let into the site during the final days of the month of Ramadan, which coincided this year with Jerusalem Day. Police had earlier announced the contested compound would be closed to Jews and tourists, with the High Court of Justice rejecting a petition against the closure and leaving the final decision up to police.

Police said in a statement that “a riot began that included the hurling of stones, chairs and various objects.”

“Subsequently, Jerusalem District Commander Maj. Gen. Doron Yadid ordered police forces to enter the Temple Mount and deal with the rioters,” it added.

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Palestinian reports said at least one person was detained and removed from the site.

Police said later in the morning that clashes were renewed, with hundreds of Palestinian rioters throwing rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel.

Left-wing NGO Ir Amin said the violence was renewed after police closed the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, and worshipers attempted to gain entry.

Hundreds of Jewish activists showed up early Sunday morning at the Temple Mount entrance, demanding access to the site — the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest to Muslims, who refer to it as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary. Following a security assessment, police decided to let them in after suppressing the initial Muslim demonstration.

The flashpoint site is always closed to non-Muslims on the last ten days of Ramadan, when large numbers of worshipers are at the site. The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols.

Last year, more than 2,000 Jews visited the site on Jerusalem Day, under close police supervision.

Chairs and other objects hurled at police forces by Palestinian rioters at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on June 2, 2019. (Israel Police)

Meanwhile, thousands of Jews flocked Sunday to the nearby Western Wall — the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray — to mark the occasion.

Police were deployed in force and on heightened alert in Jerusalem Sunday, with tighter security inspections performed at checkpoints connecting the city to the West Bank in light of Friday morning’s stabbing terror attack in the capital’s Old City, in which two Israeli civilians were injured — one of them seriously.

A Palestinian teenager had stabbed two Israelis inside the Old City before being shot dead by Israeli police.

The most sensitive event is expected to be a parade that will go through the streets of the Old City in the afternoon and is frequently marked by tension with local Palestinians.

Many streets in the city center will be closed off between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to accommodate the parade and other festivities.

Israeli youths hold their national flag during a march to celebrate Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the city during the Six Day War, May 13, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

The so-called Flag March, in which primarily religious teenagers march through the Old City decked in white and blue, has raised tensions over its route through the Muslim Quarter.

Palestinian shopkeepers with stores along the route are forced to shutter their businesses during the parade, and residents of the Muslim Quarter are advised to stay indoors.

In previous years, the march has sparked sporadic incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israeli revelers.

The High Court of Justice last month threw out a petition by a left-wing group that sought to change the route of the nationalist march.

Later in the day, the Jerusalem Day state ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at Ammunition Hill, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Many celebrations and events will be held around the city in the evening and into the night, including a “White Night” concert at Sacher Park expected to be attended by thousands of students.


Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions



Israel Claims Easing Gaza Fishing Restrictions

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 – 10:00
Gaza fishing boats. (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED ABED)
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel announced Tuesday it had eased fishing restrictions off the blockaded Gaza Strip after a ceasefire with Hamas ended a deadly escalation earlier this month.

Israel extended the fishing limit to up to 15 nautical miles, said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

The move restores the fishing zone to the limits set in April ahead of Israel’s general election.

Gaza fishing union official, Zakaria Bakr, however told AFP on Tuesday morning it had yet to be informed of any changes.

COGAT did not provide further details, but in April the limit was set at six nautical miles in the north near the Israeli border, 12 off central Gaza and 15 in the south near the Egyptian border, according to the fishing union.

Israel banned fishing completely when the two-day flare-up of violence began earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following the truce, AFP said.

According to the news agency, the 15-nautical-mile limit is the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities did not say the move was linked to the truce reached earlier this month with Hamas.

But Palestinian officials said at the time of the May 6 ceasefire that it included Israel taking steps to ease its blockade.

Israel media reported late Monday that the ceasefire, brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, is a six-month deal that includes the expansion of the fishing zone as well as the transfer of medicines and other aid to Gaza.

Negotiations are to also take place on issues including Gaza’s severe electricity shortage and border crossings, the reports said.

In return, Hamas would calm protests along the border and halt maritime demonstrations aimed at breaking the blockade.

According to AFP, Hamas denied the reports and Israel did not immediately comment.

Islamic Jihad threatens to escalate Gaza violence to all-out war



Islamic Jihad threatens to escalate Gaza violence to all-out war

The spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad says the armed terror group in the Gaza Strip is poised to escalate deadly violence against Israel to an all-out war.

“The resistance is on the verge of a new level in facing aggression; a level that could lead to open war,” Mosab Al Braim tells the Hamas-linked al-Risala daily. “It will hurt the enemy like our people are hurting.”

Jordan Reviews Gas Agreement With Israel



Jordan Reviews Gas Agreement with Israel

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019 – 08:00
Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (Reuters)
Amman – Mohammed Kheir al-Rawashida
King Abdullah II has officially ordered the revision of the terms of the gas agreement with Israel, in a technical report that examines Jordan’s interests from the continuation or the freezing of the agreement, senior Jordanian political sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The signing of the gas agreement between Jordan National Electricity Company and the US Noble Energy for the transfer of Israeli gas has sparked a wide internal debate in the past months, after popular movements organized a series of events denouncing economic normalization with Israel.

The government said it is obliged to comply with the agreement, under a penalty clause of one billion dollars.

It added that the project was in progress and some gas pipelines are already installed in a number of northern villages adjacent to the border with the occupied Palestinian territories.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Khaled Bakkar, the head of the finance committee in the Jordanian parliament, said that the deal, in addition to being “blatant normalization” with Israel, is “economically weak” based on the feasibility studies.

He stressed that Jordan’s energy production surpassed the country’s needs, noting that the import of Israeli gas, through Jordan, was only for the benefit of Israel.