PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

PM Narendra Modi leaves for home after concluding visit to Saudi Arabia

PM Narendra Modi, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

INDIA Updated: Oct 30, 2019 06:26 IST

Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Riyadh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets H.M. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.(PTI photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, during which he held extensive talks with the top Saudi leadership and addressed a key financial forum here.

Modi, who arrived here Monday night, held wide-ranging talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues.

A memorandum of under standing was also signed to roll out RuPay card in the Kingdom – making Saudi Arabia the third country in the Persian Gulf after the UAE and Bahrain to introduce India’s digital payment system.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Leaving with a marked upswing in bilateral relations. PM Narendra Modi departs from Riyadh after steering the India-Saudi relationship on a upward trajectory pointing towards greater collaboration in future.” Prime Minister Modi also delivered a keynote address at the high-profile Future Investment Initiative (FII), dubbed as ‘Davos in the desert’, where he pressed for the United Nations reforms while expressing regret over some “powerful” countries using the global body as a “tool” rather than an “institution” to resolve conflicts.

At the fort, he said that India will invest a USD 100 billion in oil and gas infrastructure to meet energy needs of an economy that is being targeted to nearly double in five years. He also sought investment from the oil-rich Saudi Arabia and other nations to boost supplies.

India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last few years based on burgeoning energy ties. India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was at USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.

This was Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to the country. During his first visit, King Salman conferred Saudi’s highest civilian award on him. The Crown Prince visited India in February 2019, giving a further fillip to the bilateral ties.

Saudi Arabia last month said that it was looking at investing USD 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining.

First Published: Oct 30, 2019 06:13 IST

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip

ImageAyman Odeh, center, with other candidates from the Arab Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties.
CreditCreditAhmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — After 27 years of sitting out decisions on who should lead Israel, Arab lawmakers on Sunday recommended that Benny Gantz, the centrist former army chief, be given the first chance to form a government over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a watershed assertion of political power.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed published on Sunday that the alliance’s 13 incoming lawmakers — the third-largest faction in the newly elected Parliament — had decided to recommend Mr. Gantz because it would “create the majority needed to prevent another term for Mr. Netanyahu.”

“It should be the end of his political career,” Mr. Odeh wrote.

The Arab lawmakers’ recommendation, which Mr. Odeh and other members of the Joint List delivered to President Reuven Rivlin in a face-to-face meeting Sunday evening, reflected Arab citizens’ impatience to integrate more fully into Israeli society and to have their concerns be given greater weight by Israeli lawmakers.

“There is no doubt a historic aspect to what we are doing now,” Mr. Odeh said in the meeting with the president, which was broadcast live.

It was also a striking act of comeuppance for Mr. Netanyahu, who for years had rallied his right-wing supporters by inflaming anti-Arab sentiments. Before the Sept. 17 election, he accused Arab politicians of trying to steal the election and at one point accused them of wanting to “destroy us all.”

Israeli Arabs “have chosen to reject Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade,” Mr. Odeh wrote in the Op-Ed for The Times.

Still, Mr. Odeh wrote that the Joint List would not enter a government led by Mr. Gantz because he had not agreed to embrace its entire “equality agenda” — fighting violent crime in Arab cities, changing housing and planning laws to treat Arab and Jewish neighborhoods the same, improving Arabs’ access to hospitals, increasing pensions, preventing violence against women, incorporating Arab villages that lack water and electricity, resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and repealing the law passed last year that declared Israel the nation-state only of the Jewish people.

The last time Arab lawmakers recommended a prime minister was in 1992, when two Arab parties with a total of five seats in Parliament recommended Yitzhak Rabin, though they did not join his government.

“We have decided to demonstrate that Arab Palestinian citizens can no longer be rejected or ignored,” Mr. Odeh wrote.

In the 1992 election, Mr. Rabin initially held a narrow majority in the 120-seat Knesset even without the Arab parties’ support, though he came to rely on it a year later after Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party, quit the government when Mr. Rabin signed the Oslo peace accords.

Mr. Odeh wrote that the decision to support Mr. Gantz was meant as “a clear message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Palestinian citizens.”

Mr. Gantz narrowly edged the prime minister in the national election last Tuesday. Afterward, both candidates called for unity, but differed on how to achieve it.

The former army chief appears to lack a 61-seat majority even with the Joint List’s support. He emerged from the election with 57 seats, including those of allies on the left and the Joint List, compared with 55 seats for Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies.

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won eight seats, is in the position to be a kingmaker, but said on Sunday that he would not recommend any candidate. He said that Mr. Odeh and the Joint List were not merely political opponents, but “the enemies” and belonged in the “Parliament in Ramallah,” not in the Knesset.

Mr. Rivlin began hearing the recommendations of each major party Sunday evening and was to finish on Monday, before entrusting the task of forming a government to whichever candidate he believes has the best chance of being successful.

In remarks at the start of that process, Mr. Rivlin said the Israeli public wanted a unity government including both Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party and Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud.

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

British lawmakers take control: What it means for Boris, Brexit and Britain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

BRITAIN

British lawmakers take control: What it means for Boris, Brexit and Britain

The House of Commons took the unprecedented step of usurping government control of Parliament — a dramatic move that raises more questions than it answers.

Updated 

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons has usurped government control of Parliament.

It’s an unprecedented step — achieved with a dramatic vote Tuesday night — that could have far-reaching ramifications for the country’s future.

The immediate goal is to stop British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from taking the country out of the European Union at the end of October without a formal deal to manage that departure — something he has repeatedly threatened to do. But the effects of the thunderous vote could be heard for years to come.

So where does Tuesday’s vote leave Boris Johnson, Brexit and Britain?

BORIS

The vote means the embattled British prime minister could become the shortest-serving tenant of No. 10 Downing Street since the office was created in 1721. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, served 23 days as a caretaker prime minister in 1834.

Traditionally, when a British prime ministers lose their ability to win votes in Parliament, they are ejected via a vote of no confidence — or they call for an early election to decide their fate.

Johnson’s preference is for an election on Oct. 14, hoping that his Conservative Party will gain seats in the House of Commons and give him more backing for his preferred approach to Brexit.

Calling an election would be a big risk, though. It would essentially amount to a second referendum on Brexit in all but name and serve as a first referendum on Johnson. The previous prime minister, Theresa May, called an early election in 2017, only to have it misfire, leaving her with a wafer-thin majority.

While Conservatives top national opinion polls, that support is stuck in the low 30 percent range and they face surging opponents on both their left — Liberal Democrats — and right — Brexit Party — in addition to their traditional rivals, the left-wing Labour Party.

And to even get an election called, Johnson would need support from the opposition Labor Party. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has flip-flopped on whether he would support such a move. After insisting for months on calling an early general election, he backtracked Tuesday. His new condition: no-deal Brexit must be off the table before he agrees to an election.

Parliament could also attempt to remove Johnson without turning to the voters — via a vote of no confidence. But because Johnson succeeded in getting the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks starting on Sept. 9, there’s likely no time for Johnson’s Parliamentary opponents to pull off that maneuver.

Who could replace Johnson?

If there’s no election, but Johnson goes down via a no-confidence vote or resigns, a front-runner to lead a temporary administration to handle Brexit would be Kenneth Clarke. A former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Clarke is a moderate Conservative who supports EU membership but has three times voted for softer forms of Brexit out of respect for the 2016 referendum result.

If the Conservatives lose any election, the most likely new prime minister would be Corbyn. Corbyn would either run a minority government or unite with other pro-EU parties such as, the Liberal Democrats, to lead a coalition government.

BREXIT

Will Brexit be delayed? That depends on whether there’s an election and how far Johnson is willing to push constitutional norms. With no written constitution, Britain is on shaky ground here.

Johnson has said Britain is leaving the EU on Oct. 31, regardless of what Parliament says. If he sticks to that line of defying Parliament and avoids an October election, the Queen is likely the only person who could stop Johnson. While “The Queen versus Boris Johnson” might be a dream story line for scriptwriters at “The Crown,” it’s a far-fetched scenario, given it would represent the most direct political play by a British monarch in nearly 200 years.

In an October election, the three choices for voters would be: back Johnson’s Brexit-by-any-means policy, elect a Labour-led government that would pursue a managed Brexit, and enter the uncharted territory of a minority government led by a pro-EU party such as the third-placed Liberal Democrats.

Can Brexit be stopped? Probably not.

Opinion polls show the country to be as divided as it was in 2016 on Brexit. The opposition leader, Corbyn, has committed to deliver Brexit since the referendum. Meanwhile, the nationalist Brexit Party has at times risen to the top of national polls in recent months. In addition: most leading Conservatives are committed to Brexit, though many want it to be softened and managed in cooperation with the EU.

Does that mean Britain is headed for a managed Brexit? That is a message Parliament has regularly sent to Downing Street and is the preference of EU officials. That’s why May’s government and the EU spent two years working toward the deal agreed in December.

But to get there, the EU may have to smooth the edges of the existing deal — something it has so far refused to do.

What does the EU think?

The EU looks on with sadness and fear in equal measure and will not alter the core elements of the existing deal. The bloc prizes maintaining the integrity of its single-market system over all else and has been keen to make an example out of Britain’s choice to leave — so other EU members aren’t tempted to follow.

Given those fundamentals, the EU has shifted to treating a no-deal Brexit as its default expectation.

Officials in Brussels on Wednesday will propose two budget instruments to support the companies and workers who would be most affected by a no-deal Brexit. The EU’s goal: prevent the U.K. tearing a hole in its single market.

In contrast, Michael Gove, Britain’s minister in charge of preparing for Brexit, refuses to publish his own governments’ planning scenarios — known as Operation Yellowhammer. The presumed reason, based on leaked versions of the plans, is that they paint a devastating picture of the effects of a no-deal Brexit.

BRITAIN

The long-term effects of this week’s debate could be significant. It’s now clear Johnson will be unable to unite his country, even if he can hang on and find a way to deliver Brexit.

Johnson’s government now has a choice between fomenting a constitutional crisis — if the government ignores Parliament — or managing a policy crisis — given Parliament is on track to overturn the government’s key policy in a second critical vote Wednesday.

The political and cultural divisions run deep across Britain.

Moderate Labour MP Liz Kendall tweeted Tuesday that she had “never seen such cold hard anger” among her Parliament colleagues as she did watching Conservative moderates react in fury as hard-line Brexiteer Jacob-Rees Mogg addressed Parliament.

The politically neutral Queen is also getting uncomfortably close to the action: Last week, she was roped into suspending Parliament for five weeks via a secretive constitutional forum known as the Privy Council, convened at her summer castle in Balmoral, Scotland.

While protesters have reached for extreme daily slogans like “Stop the coup,” there are plenty of other sharp realities at hand that require no exaggeration.

The Scottish government, which has similar powers to the state government in the United States, is pushing for a referendum on leaving the U.K. London, a bastion of pro-EU support, is splintering further from the rest of the country. And the inability to avoid recreating a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is threatening to destabilize a peace agreement reached more than 20 years ago.

In other words, the longest-term effect of Brexit could be the breakup of the United Kingdom.

Israel: PM aims for Trump backing for Israel sovereignty at settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Before election, PM aims for Trump backing for Israel sovereignty at settlements

Officials in Netanyahu’s office confident US president will make declaration ahead of September vote, shoring up right-wing support for premier; PMO denies report

US President Donald Trump smiles at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, after signing a proclamation formally recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Susan Walsh)

US President Donald Trump smiles at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, after signing a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2019. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump ahead of the September elections backing an Israeli move to extend its sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, on Sunday.

While Netanyahu cannot himself take the far-reaching diplomatic step of extending Israeli sovereignty to the settlements while he is leading the current caretaker government, the Prime Minister’s Office is lobbying for public support from Trump for such a move. This would enable Netanyahu to credibly assure right-wing voters that he can and will move quickly to apply sovereignty to the settlements if he is again elected premier.

If issued, such a declaration by Trump would mark the third far-reaching diplomatic shift by the White House in under two years, after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved its embassy there, and recognized Israeli control over the Golan Heights earlier this year, shortly before the previous elections.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday told The Times of Israel that the claim that Netanyahu had asked for an US affirmation of Israel’s right to sovereignty in the West Bank is “incorrect.”

During his election campaign in April, Netanyahu pledged to gradually annex West Bank Jewish settlements, a move long backed by nearly all lawmakers in his alliance of right-wing and religious parties, and said he hoped to do so with US support.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), US National Security Advisor John Bolton (C) and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tour the Jordan Valley on June 23, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In an interview published by The New York Times in June, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that some degree of annexation of the West Bank would be legitimate. “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” he said.

An anonymous American official later said that Israel had not presented a plan for annexation of any of the West Bank, and that no such plan was under discussion with the US, while Friedman insisted the discussion was entirely theoretical. Friedman’s comments were backed by US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, though days later the special envoy said such steps should not be taken unilaterally or before the unveiling of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

US Ambassador to David Friedman (L) speaks with White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt during the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological and tourist site in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem on June 30, 2019.(Tsafrir Abayov/AFP)

“Ahead of the elections, something will happen. President Trump will repeat the statements by Friedman and Greenblatt in his own words. It will likely be dramatic,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office told Zman Yisrael.

Settler leaders said Sunday they would welcome a Trump statement to that effect, even if it applied only to settlements rather than much or more the entire West Bank territory, which Palestinians see as the core of their future state.

“We want to extend sovereignty over all areas of Judea and Samaria, but we’ll go out and dance if the Trump declaration speaks of the settlements alone,” sources in the Yesha Council umbrella group told Zman Yisrael, referring to the West Bank.

Yigal Dilmoni, the head of the Yesha Council, recently told The Times of Israel that support from Trump for the move was merely a matter of time.

“If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional,” he said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (L) raises a glass at a new year’s toast with Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani and director general Yigal Dilmoni (R) on September 17, 2018. (Yesha Council)

“Now, the American ambassador says it.  Jason Greenblatt says it. In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. He doesn’t say it as election propaganda; he says it because that is what is going to happen. This thing is getting closer,” said Dilmoni.

The White House has yet to reveal the political vision of its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, though US officials have refrained from endorsing statehood for the Palestinians under a two-state framework while favoring Palestinian “autonomy.” The economic portion of the plan, which has been rejected by the Palestinians, was unveiled in Bahrain in June.

READ MORE:

Israel: Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

Even rightist Israeli governments used to subconsciously regard them as potentially temporary, settler leaders say. Now, they claim, that’s all changed. Next stop: Full integration

SHILOH, West Bank — On the road leading to Shiloh stands a large sculpture, Dovecote, erected at the time that the settlement was founded in 1978. The work of Igael Tumarkin, it was implanted by Peace Now activists to symbolize their contention that the settlement enterprise in general, and Shiloh in particular, were obstacles to any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace. An inhospitable concrete and metal structure, the sculpture looks like anything but a home for the doves that symbolize reconciliation and harmony.

As we drove past Dovecote last week in the company of Yigal Dilmoni, the CEO of the Yesha (Settlements) Council, he pointed it out with an indulgent chuckle. Rather than the towering reprimand it was intended to constitute, it is regarded by the Jews of modern Shiloh, he indicated, as a symbol of their endurance and maybe even their triumph. Dovecote is still here. But so, too, is Shiloh. Established by a handful of families and a few hundred yeshiva students 41 years ago, the settlement today has a population of about 4,000.

In the intervening decades, a succession of archaeological digs have unearthed storage jars, pottery and evidence of sacrifices here, among other findings attributed to pre-Temple-era Israelite’s, and work continues in and around an area that some archaeologists believe may have been the location of the Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant sat for 369 years when the ancient Israelite’s first entered the Holy Land.

Tourists watch a movie during a visit to the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The Shiloh archaeological park now draws some 120,000 visitors a year from around the world, one of our hosts told us proudly when a small group of Times of Israel editorial staffers visited on Wednesday.

She herself grew up here, the daughter of one of those initial pioneering families, she said, as she pointed out the key finds and showed us two multi-media presentations underlining the site’s centrality to Jewish history.

Dr. Scott Stripling, head of the current excavation at biblical Shiloh, exhibits a find. May 22, 2017. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

With the Jewish people belatedly restored to their ancient homeland in today’s Israel, the desire to revive a vibrant Jewish presence at a place like Shiloh, with its pivotal Biblical resonance, is easily appreciated. Except, of course, that Shiloh lies in the West Bank, in the Biblical Judea and Samaria, outside modern Israel, and home to anywhere from two to three million Palestinians, depending on who’s counting.

For the four decades that Shiloh gradually expanded, therefore, it did so — like the rest of the West Bank settlement enterprise — in an ongoing twilight zone of dubious legitimacy, encouraged less and more openly by different Israeli governments, fighting to make its way closer to the mainstream Israeli political consensus.

Construction of new homes in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh. November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Not annexation. Sovereignty

Over the last few years, though, that quest for Israeli legitimacy seems to have made unprecedented progress. Traumatized by the strategic onslaught of West Bank-hatched suicide bombings known as the Second Intifada, by Hamas’s takeover of Israeli-evacuated Gaza, and Hezbollah’s dominance of the former Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon, mainstream Israel has become increasingly disinclined to relinquish adjacent territory in the unreliable cause of peace.

And in the final weeks before the last elections, in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began speaking about plans to gradually annex all of the West Bank settlements — home to some 450,000 Jewish Israelis — evidently regarding such a declared policy as a vote-winner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a new promenade in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 31, 2019. (Courtesy)

Netanyahu has maintained the stance in the run-up to September’s election redo — declaring on a visit to Efrat last Wednesday that not a single settlement home or settler will be uprooted on his watch, and that the settlers will remain “forever.”

While this position is anathema to much of the international community and to many of those in Israel who see some kind of separation from the Palestinians as essential if Israel is to maintain both its Jewish and its democratic nature, Netanyahu may have an ally in the Trump administration, whose diplomatic team has said it is not predicating its much-anticipated peace deal on a two-state solution.

Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, settler leaders decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence

As Dilmoni made clear in his conversation with us, however, Netanyahu’s talk of the gradual annexation of all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements — blocs, isolated settlements, illegal outposts and all — which might until relatively recently have been regarded as a sensational victory — is now deemed insufficient. The vision being advocated by his Yesha Council, he said firmly, “is sovereignty.” He repeated for emphasis: “Not annexation, sovereignty.”

The way Dilmoni told it, as we sat around the table at the Shiloh visitors center and gift shop, settler leaders made a strategic decision about five years ago: Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, they decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence.

Yesha Council leaders Shilo Adler, Hananel Dorani and Yigal Dilmoni (right), pictured on May 9, 2018. (Flash90)

Along with the diplomatic challenge to their legitimacy, he said, the settlers had faced “a perception challenge. Even though we were marking 50 years of settlement,” he explained, “in the subconscious, this area was considered by government ministries to be temporary… There was no strategic planning. No ministry had plans for this area.”

The settlers’ potentially transient presence was reflected, for instance, by the “black hole” where Judea and Samaria should have been on the government’s master plan for transportation, said Dilmoni.

Tourists visit the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

At one point, he recalled, the Yesha Council was allocated NIS 300 million for road improvements, “but we couldn’t spend it,” because there was no official plan. “We could add an extra lane to an existing road; install a traffic light, but that was about it… Band-Aids.”

Development was continually being planned for the periphery — the Galilee to the north, and the Negev to the south — “but nobody was looking to the east… even though, obviously, if you want to reduce housing prices in the Tel Aviv area, the place to build is to the east, in Judea and Samaria.”

Today, all that is changing, he said. As part of their effort to assert their permanence, they hired their own experts to draw up a master plan for transportation throughout Judea and Samaria, with major roads and highways integrating West Bank transportation into the Israeli transportation system. Now the government has taken over, and is currently preparing a plan that includes the West Bank in the national vision, he said, which will solve the acute traffic problems on West Bank roads, reduce fatalities, and smooth the access from the settlements to the employment heart of central Israel. Two and a quarter billion shekels has already been allocated to West Bank transportation in the past few years, he said. The Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem, for instance, will have a second tunnel/bridge access road constructed in three to four years, he predicted.

The same integrated strategic planning is now taking shape for electricity, water and environmental issues, said Dilmoni, again essentially incorporating the settlements and their infrastructure into Israel.

‘If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional. Now, the American ambassador says it. In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. This thing is getting closer’ — Yigal Dilmoni, Yesha Council CEO

What this all adds up to, said Dilmoni, a friendly, fast-talking and dynamic personality, is “strategic planning for a permanent presence.”

“We’re staying here; we’re not moving,” he said. “And the Arabs are here; maybe some will move, or not; but they’re not going anywhere.”

Practical integration is not all, however.  What “completes the vision,” he said, is that sought-after formal status, that goal of Israeli sovereignty, which he insisted is increasingly realizable. “If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional,” he said, smiling.

“Now, American Ambassador [David Friedman] says it. [Friedman said in June that Israel, under certain circumstances, has the “right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”] [White House special envoy] Jason Greenblatt says it. [Greenblatt has rejected the designation of  the West Bank as illegally occupied.] In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. He doesn’t say it as election propaganda; he says it because that is what is going to happen. This thing is getting closer.”

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Asked “sovereignty over what precisely,” Dilmoni says that’s up for discussion, but is adamant that the Yesha Council is “opposed to sovereignty on the specific settlements only, and opposed to [sovereignty] just on the [major] blocs” — such as the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim. “We won’t agree to that.”

In the course of a series of stops during our settlements tour Wednesday, various officials and ordinary settlers with whom we spoke advocated different variations of this same confident vision. Some argued for Israeli sovereignty over the approximately 10% of the West Bank that takes in the settlements and their potential wider footprints; others called for sovereignty throughout Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that includes all settlements and perhaps 150,000-300,000 Palestinians; still others backed sovereignty throughout the West Bank.

Window of opportunity

But what, then, in a reality where Israel is permanently intertwined with the Palestinian populace — in a formal or de facto single entity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River — would become of Israel as a majority Jewish country? Or would this enlarged Israel, newly sovereign in parts or all of the West Bank, subvert its democracy by denying those now rather “Israeli” Palestinians equal rights? “The questions of political issues, citizenship, the vote issues, we can discuss separately,” said Dilmoni.

“To my happiness, when Trump speaks of economic development before political, he’s right. That world view — economic development before trying to solve political issues — I think that’s the right approach.”

Right now, several officials told us, there’s a ‘window of opportunity’ — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights

When we pointed out that this is not exactly what the administration is saying, and that it has in fact made clear that its multi-billion dollar economic ideas package, as unveiled at June’s Bahrain workshop, requires a political framework, Dilmoni recalibrated a little: “I hear [them saying] the economy is a very important element, before we get into the political element.”

Plainly, the advent of a US administration so empathetic to the settlement enterprise has furthered the settler leaders’ confidence in their permanence. But they also recognize that in America’s politics, if not recently in Israel’s, the pendulum swings. Right now, several officials told us, there’s a “window of opportunity” — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue at his home settlement of Nokdim, October 23, 2014. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Hence, noted Dilmoni, the “anger” among many at Avigdor Liberman, the Yisrael Beytenu leader who condemned Israel to September’s repeat elections by declining to provide Netanyahu with a coalition majority. “There could have been a right wing government now, with a supportive US administration,” making key strategic decisions on the status of settlements that the current, transitional government is not allowed to take. Half a year of the precious two-to-six more Trump years has been lost, he lamented.

Withdrawal? What withdrawal?

Still, the fact that such fury is reserved for Liberman, himself a fellow settler, underlines the extent to which potent, genuinely ideological opposition to the settlers and their goals has become marginalized. Where the Labor party under the likes of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak was intermittently supportive, ambivalent and hostile, and sometimes governed the country, today’s Labor barely exists. Meanwhile, the main political opposition to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, includes champions of settlement alongside more dovish members whose only common cause is ousting the prime minister and the ills for which he is perceived to stand.

Ayelet Shaked speaks to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Indeed, the main ideological opposition to the pro-settlement Netanyahu going into September’s elections comes not from the left or center-left, but from the still more pro-settlement, Ayelet Shaked-headed, United Right alliance.

The political shift is nothing short of extraordinary. Barely a quarter-century ago, after all, Rabin was warily shaking hands with Yasser Arafat on an agreement-in-principle to gradually withdraw from much of the West Bank. By 2000, Barak was offering to relinquish some 90% of the territory, involving the uprooting of most of the settlements. Only a decade ago, Ehud Olmert was ready to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank, with one-for-one land swaps.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. (Courtesy GPO)

Now settler leaders, rather than battling against governments advocating withdrawal, are divided over whether to demand Israeli sovereignty in 10%, 60% or 100% of the territory.

Dilmoni and his colleagues are patently upbeat, believing that their “planning for permanence” strategy is paying off, and with good reason: Polls show the Israeli public is divided and uncertain over the fate of the West Bank, but some are clearly moving in their direction, not just empathetically but literally: “We had 3% growth in the settlements last year, with an average of 4.2% over the past decade — and that’s more than double the national average,” he said, reeling off a list of key statistics. The 450,000-470,000 settlers are diverse — a third ultra-Orthodox, a third modern Orthodox, and a third secular, he said. It’s a very young population — 48% aged 18 and under; 53% with the right to vote, compared to 72% nationwide. “Classrooms are overflowing. Birth rates are high. Demand to move here is huge,” and not only to settlements close to the pre-1967 lines.

“Why not?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s affordable, there’s clean air, good schools, we’re close to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It’s nice if people move for ideology; but it’s also great if they move for economy.”

***

Igael Tumarkin’s Dovecote sculpture outside Shiloh (Ovedc Elef Milim / Wikipedia)

Outside Shiloh, Igael Tumarkin’s “Dovecote” sculpture was recently spruced up and freshly painted — an act of somewhat ironic renewal that reflects the local residents’ sense of confidence, and of permanence. Far from an intrusive, reproving presence, it’s something the residents enjoy looking at as they pass.

Proof of your victory, I suggested to Dilmoni. He smiled and half-demurred. “I don’t want to brag that we’ve won,” he said softly. “Others would say it appears that we’re winning.”

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

India: Piped water to be Modi 2.0 priority, the blueprint is in place

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Piped water to be Modi 2.0 priority, the blueprint is in place

The Jal Jeevan Mission, announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first budget on July 5, is ready for cabinet approval and will be launched by the Prime Minister, Hindustan Times has learnt.

INDIA Updated: Aug 03, 2019 08:34 IST

Sunetra Choudhury
Sunetra Choudhury

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.
The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

What toilets were to the Narendra Modi government in 2014 — the symbol of a nationwide crusade to end open defecation and build a cleaner India — piped potable water could well be for Modi 2.0.

The Jal Jeevan Mission, announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first budget on July 5, is ready for cabinet approval and will be launched by the Prime Minister, Hindustan Times has learnt.

It may even find pride of place in his Independence Day speech.

The objective of the mission is to give access to piped potable water to every rural household by 2024. Only 18% of households in the countryside now have piped water supply, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is aiming for an over fivefold jump in five years.

The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission, which has been publicised with the tagline “har ghar, nal se jal”, translating as “water from the tap in every home,” is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.

Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Shekhawat said: “The day the scheme is approved, we will start working on it. The blueprint of this is absolutely ready.”

Water is a state subject, and Jal Jeevan won’t be an easy mission for the central government to accomplish. Shekhawat’s big idea is to present it as a challenge to local administrations, and turn it into a contest between state governments for central funds. “Whichever state does the maximum amount of work, will get the maximum amount of funds,” he said.

There is a catch. To receive central funds for water projects, the states and their district administrators will have to fulfil some tough conditions — create an underground storage facility with a sustainable source of water, ensure that the water is piped to households and devise ways for treatment and reuse of discharged water in activities like agriculture.

“We have spoken to all chief secretaries and secretaries to do all three things together. They should start preparing their respective plans,’’ said Shekhawat .

“Since water is a state subject, implementation has to be done by states. They will have to work with commitment and priority and we are here to support them,” the minister added.

He is right in projecting the scheme as a challenge. Nearly 163 million Indians lack access to clean water, the highest number for any country, according to WaterAid, a non-government organisation. Frequent droughts have led to crop failures and led to rural distress in parts of India, where only around a third of the cropland has access to reliable irrigation systems.

According to data from the Jal Shakti ministry, in states like Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand, fewer than 5% of rural households have piped water. That compares with 99% of rural households that have piped water supply in Sikkim.

For the rural drinking water mission, the government raised its allocation by 22% to Rs 10,001 crore in 2019-2020 from Rs 8,201 crore last year.

A note prepared the Jal Shakti ministry and reviewed by HT says the plan is to co-opt NGOs to help village councils and their subcommittees manage the planning and running of the local water supply system. In cases where there isn’t enough water supply for a single village, water from multiple villages will be pooled and shared.

Experts pointed out the importance of groundwater in any national policy on water.

“There are two things. One, any national policy on water has to pivot around groundwater because groundwater is India’s water lifeline. Secondly, there is a complete policy vacuum on the urban water sector. The impact of urban use is directly felt, both downstream and upstream, in terms of availability in rural areas,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

First Published: Aug 03, 2019 05:44 IST

Israel: ISIS fighter captured in Syria asks Netanyahu to bring him home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli Islamic State fighter captured in Syria asks Netanyahu to bring him home

Speaking Hebrew, Sayyaf Sharif Daoud requests PM’s intervention, noting that Jerusalem works to secure release of IDF soldiers held in captivity

Sayyaf Sharif Daoud, an Arab Israeli who traveled to Syria to join IS, speaks with Al Arabiya. (video screenshot)

Sayyaf Sharif Daoud, an Arab Israeli who traveled to Syria to join IS, speaks with Al Arabiya. (video screenshot)

An Israeli citizen captured in Syria while fighting with the Islamic State terror group asked to return home this week, telling news outlet Al Arabiya that he wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repatriate him.

In an interview with the network broadcast Wednesday, Sayyaf Sharif Daoud beseeched the premier to work to bring him back, noting Israel’s policy of making deals to return soldiers captured by the country’s enemies.

“I am an Israeli citizen. I know you are the prime minister of a democratic state that does not differentiate between Jews and Arabs,” Daoud said at the end of his interview, switching from Arabic to Hebrew.

“Many countries removed their citizens from here. Everyone knows what you did for one Israeli soldier, your country is large and scary,” Daoud said, presumably referring to the deal made to return Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza for five years before being released in 2011 as part of a controversial deal with Hamas in which Israel freed over 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.

“I request that you return me to Israel. It is very hard, this jail. It is very, very hard. This is my request and I know it is not hard for you to do. And by god I promise to not go back to how I used to be and to become a respectable person,” Daoud added.

In this undated file photo released online in the summer of 2014, terrorists of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, in Raqqa, Syria. (Militant photo via AP, File)

Captured in Deir Ezzor, the 30-year old Israeli citizen claimed that he had not participated in war crimes, serving instead as a nurse.

He told Al Arabiya that at one point IS had imprisoned him because he was Israeli.

“Any person I have any problems with, could go to the security forces and tell them that I’m Israeli. I would get imprisoned immediately,” he said.

“Imagine, after three years of being in the state, they imprison you and tell you ‘you’re Israeli,’” Daoud continued. “I used to feel ashamed of calling it [a state] that’s following the prophet’s steps. They wanted to record my voice speaking against Israel [but I did not] want to cause Israel or [my] family any trouble.”

“Many of us, not only me, were opposed to the slaughtering style. There are children, there are pregnant women,” he said, denying any role in the mass killings perpetrated by the terror group. “I founded a rescue team to help the injured from strikes. Whenever there was a strike, I’d be there.”

Asked if he had been armed, he replied “I carried a gun. Every person in the state, whether they’re a nurse, or working in the oil field, they need to carry a gun.”

Men suspected of being Islamic State fighters are searched by members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after leaving the Islamic State’s last holdout of Baghouz in Syria’s northern Deir Ezzor province, February 22, 2019. (Bulent Kilic/AFP)

In a previous interview with BBC Arabic that was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Daoud praised Israel, explaining why he chose to join Islamic State rather than any of the Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“I lived through the Second Intifada. I have seen war. I lived in the West Bank and in Israel. Israel has not done one percent of what Bashar Al-Assad has done,” he said, referring to Syria’s president. “There was fighting and all that, but Israel has not raped women or stripped them naked on TV, and it has not killed with such barbarity.”

Noting that his father had warned him against Hamas and Fatah, Daoud said that “Israel is a democratic state. I have not seen injustice there. We Arabs live together in Israel with the Jews. There is no injustice. We are treated just like the Jews.”

Daoud apologized to his parents, saying in Hebrew that he had “made a big mistake” and was sorry for the problems he had caused them.

“I know that my mother thinks of me every day and she is angry and that is very difficult for me because I always think of her.”

Foreign volunteers from around the world have served with Islamic State and many have requested to be allowed to return home. Australia recently moved to bar the return of Islamic State supporters who are demanding to be repatriated from crowded refugee camps in Syria.

In April, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri moved to strip an Israeli man of his citizenship for traveling to Syria to join Islamic State six years ago. Deri instructed ministry officials to take action in absentia against Abdallah Hajleh at the recommendation of the Shin Bet security service. The revocation must be approved by a special citizenship court. According to reports in Hebrew-language media, Hajleh has a citizenship in a second country.

The Shin Bet security service has in the past estimated that several dozen Israeli nationals had fought for IS in Iraq and Syria. Most were either killed in action or returned to Israel, where they were arrested.

READ MORE:

India: Talks with Pak won’t be only on Kashmir, also PoK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Talks with Pak won’t be only on Kashmir, also PoK: Rajnath Singh

Both houses of Indian Parliament —Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha—witnessed protests over Trump’s stunning claim. The opposition, led by the Congress, demanded a statement by PM Modi.

INDIA Updated: Jul 24, 2019 15:35 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Rajnath Singh,Kashmir,Donald Trump
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (PTI photo)

Defence minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Wednesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t discuss Kashmir with US president Donald Trump and ruled out any possibility of mediation on the issue.

“As S Jaishankar ji (External Affairs Minister) said Kashmir issue was not discussed in President Trump and PM Modi meeting. There is no question of mediation in Kashmir issue as it will be against the Simla agreement,” Rajnath Singh said in Lok Sabha.

“Kashmir is an issue of national pride for us. We can never compromise with it… if there would be any talks with Pakistan over Kashmir, it will also include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” Singh said.

Watch | Uproar in LS: Oppn insists PM Modi must clarify on Trump’s Kashmir remark

Uproar in LS: Oppn insists PM Modi must clarify on Trump’s Kashmir remark
Opposition demanded PM Modi’s clarification over Trump’s claims on Kashmir issue in Lok Sabha today. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned PM Modi’s silence over the issue.
Play

Unmute

Current Time 0:18
Duration 5:16
Loaded: 21.97%

Fullscreen

Trump, speaking to reporters during Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s US visit, had claimed that PM Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. India was quick to rebut the US president’s claim with external affairs minister S Jaishankar confirming that no such request was made.

Click here for live updates

The US did backtrack later, saying that it would assist in talks between India and Pakistan and that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.

When asked about Trump’s claim on Wednesday, a top advisor said the president “does not make up things”. “The President does not make anything up. That’s a very rude question in my opinion. I am going to stay out of that. It’s outside of my lane. It’s for Mr (National Security Advisor John) Bolton, Mr (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo and President,” Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow said.

Both houses of Indian Parliament —Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha—witnessed protests over Trump’s stunning claim. The opposition, led by the Congress, demanded a statement by PM Modi. The opposition continued its demand on Wednesday and staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha.

Rahul Gandhi tweeted that PM Modi must “must tell the nation what transpired” in his meeting with Donald Trump. “President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Simla Agreement. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won’t do,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

First Published: Jul 24, 2019 12:24 IST

England: Letter From Jerusalem: Boris the kibbutznik

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LONDON TELEGRAPH)

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Letter From Jerusalem 

Boris the kibbutznik

By Raf Sanchez Jerusalem Correspondent

Boris Johnson

Stefan Rousseau / PA

It was the summer of 1984 and in a kibbutz kitchen in the upper Galilee a sweaty Boris Johnson was washing dishes.

The future prime minister was 20 years old and his father had arranged for Boris and his sister Rachel to spend some time on Kibbutz Kfar HaNassi.

“He was so socially low on the pecking order,” Rachel told Haaretz that summer. “He was not a kibbutznik. He was not a soldier. And he was so pale he couldn’t even go in the sun.”

Notwithstanding his hardship posting, Johnson today describes himself as a “passionate Zionist” and an admirer of the Jewish state.

Does that mean he will shift UK policy when it comes to Israel?

The short answer is that Johnson’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are mainstream for UK politics and similar to those of his recent predecessors. (See Bicom’s briefing for a detailed breakdown.)

In a Telegraph article in October 2017, Johnson said he was committed to a Two-State Solution based on the 1967 borders.

“For Israel, the birth of a Palestinian state is the only way to secure its demographic future as a Jewish and democratic nation,” he wrote.

Like Theresa May, he doesn’t believe it is the right time to either move the UK embassy to Jerusalem or to recognise Palestine as a state.

Johnson criticised Israel for using disproportionate force in Gaza in 2014 but said Israel had a right to defend itself.

Like other British ministers, he is a supporter of the Iran nuclear deal but critical of Iran’s regional behaviour.

He said he was open to reimposing sanctions on Iran for breaching the nuclear agreement but would prefer to see them return to compliance with deal. War with Iran was not “a sensible option,” he said recently.

But the key question with Johnson is not what he believes now but what he might believe in the future if it is politically expedient.

It is possible that Johnson will try to flatter Donald Trump by shifting UK policy closer towards America’s position on Israel. You could see him supporting Jared Kushner’s peace plan if he thought it might help secure a US-UK free trade deal.

Similarly, you can see how he might use relations with Israel to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and exploit the anti-Semitism crisis shaking Labour.

Johnson may also be forced to take a harder line on Iran if the tit-for-tat tanker war between Iran and the UK escalates.

Those shifts may come in the future. For now, British policy in the Middle East is unlikely to change dramatically.

I welcome your feedback at [email protected] and @rafsanchez.

www.Everydaypoliticalthoughtsnews.wordpress.com

My site is about people's political thoughts about politics and what's going with the people rights and with everything...

friendwise

Seeking wisdom in a curiously perplexing world

France & Vincent

Writing Magic, Myth and Mystery

allenrizzi

Sempre in Movimento! Published Every Monday and Friday at 12 PM EST

Italy Translated

Italy trip planning

Frontier Market News

News & Analysis on Frontier Markets

Elena Dragomir

Archives, documents and history in Romania

odysszehome.wordpress.com/

Life is like an odyssey ~

%d bloggers like this: