ISRAEL: Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Trump, wearing a yarmulke, placed his right hand on the wall and swayed slightly back and forth with his eyes closed. He was flanked by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich.
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a white folded up note, and placed it into a crack in the wall.
Despite requests from Israeli officials, Trump visited the Western Wall without any Israeli government officials by his side.
The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

21 Year Old Female British Student Stabbed To Death In Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.

Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.

Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.

Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.

The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.

The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.

Egyptian President Sisi Declares 3 Month State Of Emergency Following Church Bombings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday.Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 40 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

IS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

– String of attacks –

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilise security and… the unity of Egyptians”.

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

In October 2011, almost 30 people — mostly Coptic Christians — were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt.

In May that year, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba where two churches were attacked.

A few months earlier, the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

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Stockholm Truck Attack Kills 3; Many Seriously Injured: Terrorism Is Suspected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Police officers near the site where a truck crashed into the Ahlens department store in central Stockholm on Friday. Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A man steered a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store, killing at least three people in what officials were calling a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon.

“Sweden has been attacked. All indications are that it was a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.

The suspect in the attack was still at large. But at a news conference later in the evening, the Swedish police released a photo of a man being sought in connection for questioning.

The authorities said they did not know if it had been an isolated assault, or something bigger. The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been wounded.

Photo

A picture showing a man who is wanted in connection with the truck attack in Stockholm was released by the Swedish police on Friday. Credit Stockholm Police

Mats Löfving, the head of national operative department of the Swedish police, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.

The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports. Train service in and out of the city grounded to a halt, and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and to avoid the city center.

The police said the first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.

“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

 STOCKHOLM
Drottninggatan
Mäster Samuelsgatan
Crashed here
Ahlens Department Store

Bystanders fled after a truck rammed into a store on a busy shopping street on Friday afternoon.

By TWITTER/JOHNNY CHADDA on Publish Date April 7, 2017. Photo by Twitter/Johnny Chadda.

At first, she said, she thought the noise was people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told her and other shoppers to get out of the building.

“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”

Ms. Libert, who followed others as they were guided by officials to shelter, added, “My sister in law and some friends are close to the scene and at lockdown, can’t leave their office.”

Photo

The front part of the truck ended up inside the department store.Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.

“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”

After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.

A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a national public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.

The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man stole the vehicle, and that he was injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.

Photo

The police outside Stockholm’s central train station. Security was increased on Friday after the attack at a department store nearby. Credit News Agency/Reuters

At the news conference, officials released a photo of a man wearing a hoodie. They did not name him as a suspect, saying only that they wanted to question him in connection with the attack.

The national police chief, Dan Eliasson, said, “We have the truck and the driver who usually drives it, but we do not have contact with the person or persons who drove it.”

Mr. Löfving, also of the police, asked for the public’s help in sharing the photo: “We want to get in touch with this man.”

The authorities also said that they could not confirm the number of dead or injured until they received more information from the hospitals.

Photo

People reacted after the attack at a department store in Stockholm. Credit News Agency/Reuters

The chief medical doctor at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.

“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.

Previous accounts of shots being fired in parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.

The attack reverberated as far away as Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice following the attack in Stockholm.

Photo

Some of the wounded in a street near the site of the attack. Credit Per Haljestam/Reuters

The assault came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.

The Islamic State group revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.

In France, a man drove into a crowd on a busy seaside promenade during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

Another attacker plowed a truck into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin.

And last month, an assailant drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament in London.

Other attempts, including an episode in which a man tried to drive over pedestrians in Antwerp, Belgium, claimed no victims, but have contributed to a sense of dread across the Continent.

Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.

The most notable exception came in 2010, when an assailant killed himself and wounded two others after detonating two bombs in central Stockholm, on a side street not far from where the attack on Friday took place.

The attack in 2010 was said to be the first suicide bombing in Scandinavia, and it caused consternation in Sweden. It was linked to an Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.

On Friday, the police said they were well-trained for these types of episodes. “Last week we rehearsed a similar scenario,” said Anders Thornberg, chief of national intelligence.

Continue reading the main story

Israeli Jets Strike Inside Syria; Military Site Near Palmyra Reportedly Targeted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted

An Israeli fighter jet takes off from the Ramat David ar base, southeast of Haifa, in June.

Story highlights

  • Syria says strikes targeted military site near Palmyra
  • Israeli jets make incursions inside Syria, but IDF rarely confirms it

Jerusalem (CNN) In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of the Syrian conflict six-years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight, the Israeli military said Friday.

Israel targeted a military site near the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian military said, in what would be one of its deepest airstrikes inside Syrian territory since the civil war began there.
Palmyra, once held by ISIS and retaken by the Syrian government, is strategically important to both the regime and its opponents.
Most of Israel’s reported strikes have been around the capital of Damascus, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions, calling them “absolutely not true.”
“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. The statement is unusual in that Israel rarely comments on airstrikes in Syria.
The intercept triggered alarm sirens in the Jordan Valley. Shrapnel from the explosion, which was heard as far south as Jerusalem, landed in western Jordan, the Jordanian military said.

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed Israeli plane

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed an Israeli plane
Syria’s latest claims are reminiscent of its statement in September about downing an Israeli aircraft near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights. Israel seized parts of that region from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said then that Syria fired two anti-aircraft missiles at its jets targeting artillery positions, but both missiles missed. They were fired long after Israeli jets left the area, the military added.

Arrow missile defense

One of the missiles overnight was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use. Arrow, Israel’s ballistic missile defense system and the long-range version of its Iron Dome, is designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere.
The use came more than a year after the first successful Arrow-3 intercept test was carried out in December 2015. At that time, Israeli officials would not say when the missile would become operational.
The Israeli military would not explain why Arrow was used against an anti-aircraft missile, fueling speculation that Israel was either testing the Arrow missile or that its Iron Dome missile defense system wasn’t within range of downing the anti-aircraft missile.

Taking aim at weapons smuggling

Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.
In December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a delegation of European Union envoys that Israel will “prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
It was another acknowledgement of Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. Last April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel has struck Syria “dozens of times,” breaking with the policy of remaining quiet about involvement in its war-torn northern neighbor.
Netanyahu returned last week from Moscow, where he reaffirmed Israel’s military coordination with Russia in the skies over Syria. The two countries established the coordination last year to avoid conflicts in Syrian airspace, ostensibly to allow both countries to operate freely. Netanyahu also expressed his concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria.

Repeated incursions

Israel has attempted to stay out of Syria’s civil war but has reportedly struck the country multiple times in the past, often taking aim at weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As recently as late February, Syrian media reported that Israeli jets hit military positions and weapons convoys near Damascus.
In November 2012, Israel fired warning shots toward Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli military post, the first time Israel had fired on Syria across the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israeli jets have been hitting targets in Syria since at least 2013, when US officials told CNN they believed IDF jets had struck nside Syrian territory.
In 2014, the Syrian government and an opposition group both said an IDF strike had hit Damascus’ suburbs and airport.

Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria

 Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency characterized those strikes as “a flagrant attack on Syria, targeting two safe areas in (the) Damascus countryside in Dimas and near Damascus International Airport.”
Israeli strikes have also gone after ISIS fighters inside Syria. Late last year, IDF troops operating in the disputed Golan region came under fire from militants of the ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The soldiers fired back, triggering an exchange of gunfire. A subsequent Israeli airstrike destroyed a vehicle carrying four militants, Lerner said.

US Releases $221 Million Fund To Palestine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

US Releases $221 Million Fund to Palestine

USAID

Ramallah – US has announced the release of the $221 million for Palestinians, which President Donald Trump had previously frozen and put under review after former US President Obama had ordered at the “last minute” of his presidency.

US State Department had confirmed that the money will be used for services in the West Bank and will not go directly to the authorities’ treasury.

A Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat that most of this money had been allocated to foreign organizations working within the Palestinian territories.

Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that to his understanding the money had been released, but also said that the issue was still under review.

“220.3 million that was released was for West Bank programs such as water, infrastructure, education, renewable energy, civil society, municipal governance, and the rule of law, as well as Gaza recovery. And a smaller amount was to go directly to Israeli creditors of the Palestinian Authority as well as East Jerusalem hospitals. None of the funding was to go directly to the Palestinian Authority,” explained Toner.

The official stated that these funds were never assigned to the authority and were not a donation from former President Obama.

“We don’t know why Trump decided to freeze them, and then released them,” said the official.

He added that the majority of these funds will be given to international organizations in Palestine. “Most of the money will be given to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for projects within the Palestinian authorities,” according to the official.

The funds included $180 million from USAID, $25 million to support Palestinian hospitals and $45 million to pay for fuel purchased from Israel.

He then explained that the funds were supposed to be given before the end of 2016, but they were delayed until Obama ordered the transfer, few hours before leaving the White House.

On January 20, and just few hours before Trump’s inauguration, Obama informed the congress that he will send the money. The money was frozen after the Congress’ recommendation as a punishment for the authorities’ attempts to join UN organizations and for instigation.

Though it is not legally binding, the White House abode by the Congress’ decision. Hours before Trump’s arrival, former US secretary of state John Kerry informed the Congress of the transfer.

Trump’s administration then announced it had frozen the grant in order to make adjustments to ensure it complies with the new administration’s priorities.

The relations between Trump’s administration and the Palestinian authority are not exactly strong, despite the few meetings made. Major conflict rose when Palestine stated it won’t accept any solution other than the two-state solution, while Trump declared it is not the only solution available.

Palestinians are afraid Trump will transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that this will be an admission that Quds is Israel’s capital, thus ending any US role in the peace process.

Yet, Palestinians are seeking better relations with the US. Chief of Palestinian Intelligence Majid Faraj met with US security officials.

Then, US Director of CIA Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But, till now, no contact has been established at the level of the White House or the State Department.

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Two very different dialogue proposals are on the table for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, one from a historic enemy, Israel, proposed in conjunction with a crucial partner, the United States. The other is from a historic rival, Iran, which shares the same neighborhood and faith.

The choice the Arab countries ultimately make could determine the future peace and prosperity of the region.

On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and during a press conference, both leaders hinted at an approaching Arab-Israeli cooperation.

A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s previously proposed regional platform for dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Persian Gulf neighbors during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

The U.S.-Israel proposal encompasses almost all Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon and Tunisia.

This proposal’s principal objective is a wider Arab-Israeli peace agreement and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the key selling point behind this initiative is mutual concerns regarding Iran, and the proposal has a goal to present a unified front against the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu stated during the press conference that “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” He further stated that “the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach involving our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace with the Palestinians.”

Related: Michael Dorf: Trump’s Deal-Making Skills Won’t Help Israel

While there has been no official confirmation of back channel talks between Israel and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Trump and Netanyahu’s statements indicate that previous reports alleging secret direct interactions between high-level Israeli and GCC officials have indeed taken place in the past six years if not longer.

The perception left by the Barack Obama administration, that the United States is leaving the region and that an increasingly emboldened Iran is exerting power across the Middle East after the implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, has revived longstanding hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and presented an opening to realize mutual interests and foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis.

Israel has long seen Iran as its major adversary because of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and nuclear advances.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia along with its GCC partners were alarmed when Iran took advantage of the US invasion of Iraq to become influential in Baghdad. The GCC states also grew intolerant of Iran’s perceived links to the uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and for the Houthis in Yemen.

03_03_Iran_Israel_01Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi arrive at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016, in Hangzhou, China. Mehran Haghirian writes that if the United States goes forward with plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.ETIENNE OLIVEAU/GETTY

At the Munich conference, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted without naming him an old remark by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that “in the Middle East we are facing three challenges: Iran, Iran and Iran…and I can only repeat and confirm this approach.” Lieberman reiterated that Israel would continue efforts to hinder the Islamic Republic’s reintegration into the international community in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also reaffirmed his country’s objections to Iranian actions across the region. “The Iranians do not believe in the principle of good neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others,” Jubeir told the Munich conference. “This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”

While the prospect for Iran-Saudi détente looks dim at present, it is crucial to remember that the future of Palestine is an issue that not only unites Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but all people in the Muslim world. The outlook for the US-Israeli proposal to solve the Palestinian issue is unclear and most likely not possible to be implemented.

If the United States goes forward with plans to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.

Countering the US-Israeli proposal, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic’s proposition for creation of a regional platform for dialogue between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors, or as he called them “brothers.”

“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction erecting realistic regional arrangements,” Zarif told the Munich conference. To implement this proposal, he said it must start with a regional dialogue forum that encompasses the littoral neighbors of the Persian Gulf, and under the framework of shared principles and objectives.

The primary goal of Iran’s proposal is to decrease tensions and increase cooperation between neighbors.

“The forum can promote understanding under a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism,” Zarif said. “It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from the protection of the environment to join investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements.”

This proposal is not new. Zarif put it forward shortly after finalizing the nuclear deal in an article on Al-Monitor titled “Choose your neighbors before your house,” and traveledto Qatar and Kuwait shortly afterward.

More recently, on January 24, the foreign minister of Kuwait met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a letter on behalf of the GCC. While the details of the letter have not been made public, Rouhani followed with state visits to Oman and Kuwait on February 15, coincidentally the same day Trump and Netanyahu held talks.

Oman and Kuwait, which historically have had less troubled relations with Iran than other GCC members, have indicated a desire to take part in the dialogue forum with Iran, and have repeatedly attempted to mediate tensions between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

The disagreements between rival powers should not preclude comprehensive and inclusive arrangements that address mutual concerns, and that benefit all participating countries. The Iranian proposal will ensure a sustainable relationship between neighboring states based on mutual respect, and eventually, the cooperation could facilitate an end to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

The Israeli proposal might lead to a wider peace agreement between Arab states and Israel. However, it will most definitely exacerbate tensions with Iran and increase the chances of a wider military conflict.

There has been no substantial conflict between the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Israel in the past decade or more, and while a wider Arab-Israeli peace would undoubtedly have a positive impact in the region, it is contingent on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Meanwhile, the rise in contention between some GCC states and Iran in the past decade has arguably had more dire consequences for the region than the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Agreeing to sit at the same table with Iran for dialogue based on a mutually acceptable and beneficial outlook will lead to greater peace in the region and beyond. It is crucial for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf to weigh the rewards and consequences of each proposal before going forward with either approach.

Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

Fatah Deputy Chief: We Accept A One-State Solution—Where Israel Does Not Exist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASHARQ AL-AWSAT SAUDI NEWSPAPER)

Interviews

Fatah Deputy Chief: We Accept a One-State Solution

Ramallah – Since I met him a few months ago, nothing has changed in Mahmoud el-Aloul’s entourage even though he has been elected the deputy party chief of Fatah, which means he could become leader of the movement in case of any surprises, and consequently president of Palestinian Authority.

On our way to his office for an interview, we were not questioned once and we were received by his office manager who delayed our interview several times due to unorganized appointments. Many members of Fatah believe this is a “creative chaos”.

Before the interview, I asked Aloul about his few security guards. His answer was that he didn’t like the fuss they create and wished he could carry out his duties without any assistants.

The first question was about US President Donald Trump and his numerous statements about Palestine and Israel.

Aloul acknowledged that it’s the question asked by everyone. No one can understand Trump’s policy, which he said is “mysterious and confusing.”

“As soon as he got into office, he created problems with the US and international community including Europe, China, and Japan. His policies are completely different from all his predecessors, so we are faced by a mysterious case. We have to wait and we are doing our best,” Aloul said.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Fatah is trying to contact the Trump administration and has sent direct messages and via Arab leaders.

He said Fatah advised Trump not to rush into any decision concerning the region. But, regardless of anything, Abbas’ deputy stressed that Fatah holds onto the people’s rights and will defend them.

When asked if the movement received any response to its demands, Aloul said a number of Fatah figures had met with senior officials at the US administration and confirmed that discussions touched on both political and security matters.

Concerning what Trump had stated about moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Aloul said there might be some changes in the president’s stance, but, like the rest of the world, nothing can be predicted.

Trump retracted from the two-state solution, which Aloul is not entirely against given that it protects Palestinians’ rights and grants them freedom, independence and sovereignty.

Whereas, he added, a one state democratic solution has been proposed by Palestinians.

Concerning Trump, Aloul said that negotiations are an inevitable part of any war or conflict in the world and the Palestinian conflict with Israel has been ongoing for years.

The VP said that resistance is legitimate, as Fatah has said in its political declaration that resistance is a right. But, Aloul, didn’t deny that each phase has its own requirements and the current stage requires public resistance.

Such resistance is necessary as long as there are crimes and there is occupation, he said, adding that it should be a way of life for all Palestinians.

When asked about his position of Fatah deputy chief, Aloul said the position has certain authorities in line with the movement’s bylaws. He also mentioned that this post is up to review a year after it was created.

He said his main goal is to move forward with the movement and reconcile with the Palestinian people in order to create a state of unity within the movement itself and between the movement and the society.

He added that choosing him for this position put an end to a number of foreign interventions that had been going on for a long time.

Certain observers expected Marwan al-Barghouti to be chosen for the position of Abbas’ deputy. Aloul expressed his pride in everything Barghouti has done and confirmed that Fatah will continue battling for his freedom. He did however explain that not choosing Barghouti for the post was due to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to perform any executive duties from his prison cell.

He criticized the people trying to create strife out of this issue.

When asked about Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) elections, he said a committee is preparing for the polls but negotiations are ongoing on where they should take place.

Concerning the elections, Aloul explained that the election of a PLO deputy chief is under discussion. However, Hamas announced that the head of council can be the head of authority, to which Aloul said that Hamas has to determine first if it wants to be part of the Palestinian Authority or not.

Aloul said Fatah is a national liberation movement that hasn’t achieved its goals and will remain active until it does.

He also expressed his lack of interest in what Israelis think about his statements.

Finally, the Fatah deputy leader ruled out an Arab Spring in Palestine, saying the people are not against the government, they are all against one enemy: the occupation.

1800-Year-Old Hebrew Inscriptions Discovered In Galilee Village

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS, CHANNEL #7)

1800-year-old Hebrew inscriptions discovered in Galilee village

Limestone column from Roman period engraved with Hebrew inscriptions discovered in Peqi’in during restoration work on ancient synagogue.

Contact Editor

Yoel Domb, 21/02/17 11:38

Margalit Zinati and the ancient column

Margalit Zinati and the ancient column

Ritvo, with permission from Beit Zinati

An 1,800 year old limestone capital dating to the Roman period that is engraved with two Hebrew inscriptions was discovered during the course of restoration and conservation work being carried out in the ancient synagogue and neighboring Beit Zinati visitor center at Peqiʽin, in the Western Galilee.

Pequ’in is not only a quaint village in the beautiful hills of the Galilee, it is a village that has an unbroken record of Jewish residence for over two thousand years.

The work is being conducted by the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel as part of a heritage project by the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage.

The stone was found upside down in the building’s courtyard, and upon discovery of the inscriptions archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority arrived at the site in order to examine the special find. A preliminary analysis of the engraving suggests that these are dedicatory inscriptions honoring donors to the synagogue.

According to Yoav Lerer, the IAA inspector in the Western Galilee, “The Talmudic and Midrashic sources tell of the Galilean sages that lived in Peqiʽin, including Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who hid from the Romans in a cave. However, there are those who disagree with the identification of the location of Peqiʽin. I believe that these inscriptions will add an important tier to our knowledge about the Jewish settlement in the village of Peqiʽin during the Roman and Byzantine periods”.

In the past year, rehabilitation and conservation work was carried out in Peqiʽin’s ancient synagogue and nearby Beit Zinati in order to upgrade the visitor center located there. The visitor center will tell the unbroken two thousand year long history of the Jews in the village, and the unique story of the Zinati family – the village’s oldest Jewish family. Margalit Zinati, the last member of the Jewish Zinati family to “keep the flame alive”, still resides in the house next door to the synagogue, as she has for decades.

Ze’ev Elkin, the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, said “Peqiʽin is one of the most significant sites in the Galilee, and is a place where there has always been a Jewish presence. It is a great honor for me that during my tenure in office such an important discovery has been made that tells this 2,000 year old story of the Land of Israel”.

The Beginning Of Sorrows

 

For those who seek God in all they do

Fear not when you are brought before the judges

When you are beaten and jailed, fear not

Speak what God’s Spirit gives you to speak

These words shall be a testimony against them

Your words will give Spiritual freedom to you

Brother shall for sport, kill their own brothers

Fathers filled with rage shall kill their own kids

You Child, be wise , seek Jesus in all that you do

Fear not even though you will be hated above all people

The Lord fulfilled The Law, now His rest He is taking

Do not live like a fool, await His return through love and faith

Stand fast, live your life with your heart and Soul ruled by love

Before the final Tribulation, horrors we shall all see

Upon the Temple Mount, the Devil will plant His feet

Upon Earth’s skies, no light shall be seen, Evil’s Reign Begins

The Lord will shorten the days or upon the Earth, no Saints to be seen

God’s Holy City, Jerusalem, not one stone shall remain upon another

These Child are the beginning of the Human Race’s greatest sorrows

Now, question your own mind, are these Beginnings what we see now

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