Jordanians Dash Over for Cheap Shopping at Syria Border

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

 

Jordanians Dash Over for Cheap Shopping at Syria Border

Monday, 12 November, 2018 – 09:30
Vehicles are being checked by custom officers at the recently reopened Nassib border post in the Daraa province, at the Syrian-Jordanian border south of Damascus on November 7, 2018. LOUAI BESHARA / AFP
Nassib (Syria) – Asharq Al-Awsat
Near the recently reopened border with Jordan, former Syrian opposition fighter Bahaa al-Masri sells date-filled pastries and sesame biscuits to Jordanians flocking across the frontier to snap up bargains.

Syrian regime forces retook control of the Nassib border crossing from the opposition in July, and last month reopened it after a three-year closure.

Just several hundred meters from the frontier, 26-year-old Masri counts the boxes of biscuits he still has left in a green plastic crate strapped to the back of his motorbike.

“For two weeks I have been bringing sweets from Damascus and selling them to Jordanians who come to buy them here because they’re cheaper,” says the ex-combatant, wearing a black jacket and woollen hat.

“I sell 27 to 30 boxes a day.”

Masri hawks the pastries every day in a rest area on the edge of Syria’s southern province of Daraa for three Jordanian dinars each (around $4, 3.5 euros).

“Thank God, when the border opened there was work again here, after I spent around six years without a job,” Masri tells AFP.

Also looking to cash in are Jordanian drivers, jokingly dubbed “sailors”, who ferry goods from Syria across the frontier for a small commission.

A whole economy has sprung up again since the border begun working.

At the crossing itself cars sit side by side in several long queues waiting to cross over into Syria.

Large trucks, some refrigerated, also wait their turn.

Before the war, “we used to come over to Syria every day — sometimes just to have breakfast”, says Mohammed Sayes, a 25-year-old from Jordan’s adjacent border town of Ramtha.

It was his second such trip since the border reopened “to see the sights, go out and eat” cheap, he says.

“Yes, Syria lived through a war, but we suffered a siege,” says the specialist in tourism management.

“When the border reopened, it was like paradise opened up again.”

Further up, dozens of people stand in line outside a row of small pre-fabricated buildings to have their Jordanian passports stamped by Syrian officials.

Jordanian driver Muflah al-Hurani, 53, is crossing the border to drive a family back home from the Syrian capital Damascus just over 100 kilometers to the north.

He has been going in and out of Syria on an almost daily basis since Nassib reopened, to transport passengers or shop for relatives.

“I bring back fruit and vegetables including potatoes, onions, garlic, as well as children’s clothes made of cotton,” he says.

“And I fill up my car will fuel… It’s less than half the price (in Syria) despite the war.”

Not far off, the former arrivals hall is being repaired after it was damaged in the war.

Damascus hopes the reopening of Nassib will boost its war-ravaged economy.

Before the conflict, the crossing was a key passage for trade, linking Syria — but also Lebanon and Turkey — with Jordan and the Gulf beyond.

Syrian officials have registered more than 33,000 arrivals since October 15, against 29,000 departures.

Among those waiting to head across the border are also Syrians returning home, car roofs piled high with suitcases and blankets.

Last week, a Jordanian official said 6,000 Syrians had gone back to their country, among them 517 registered refugees.

The head of the Nassib crossing Colonel Mazen Ghandour says the number of people heading into Syria is increasing daily, and that most of those coming are Jordanians.

“Most Jordanians come to shop and then go home,” Ghandour says. “Others go to see Damascus.”

A few meters away, a Syrian woman living in Jordan smiles as she waits to cross over with her family for a two-week visit.

“Damascus is a blessing… That’s why everybody wants to visit after being cut off for so long,” she says.

At Least 18 Children Die in Jordan Flash Floods

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

At Least 18 Children Die in Jordan Flash Floods 

Thursday, 25 October, 2018 – 18:00
At least 14 children were killed in flash flooding near the Dead Sea in Jordan. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
At least 18 school children died on Thursday in flash flooding in Jordan, rescuers and hospital workers said.

The students from a private school and their adult chaperones were touring near the Dead Sea when heavy rains led to flash floods in the area, Health Minister Ghazi al-Zaben and official media said.

Twenty-two people were also wounded.

Jordan’s state news agency Petra said Prime Minister Omar Razzaz was at the scene to oversee the rescue mission.

Hundreds of families and relatives converged on Shounah hospital a few kilometers from the resort area. Relatives sobbed and searched for missing children, a witness said.

Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to assist, an Israeli military statement said adding the team dispatched at Amman’s request, was operating on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

Civil defense spokesman Captain Iyad al Omar told Reuters the number of casualties was expected to rise.

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA)

 

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

King Abdullah II says Amman will terminate parts of peace treaty which allowed Israeli farmers to use Jordanian land.

by

Jordan's King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]
Jordan’s King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]

Jordan has told Israel that it intends to reclaim two tracts of territories leased under a 1994 peace treaty, King Abdullah II has announced, in a move that was welcomed by activists and civil society groups opposing the deal.

As part of the agreement, Israel leased about 405 hectares of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan called al-Ghumar, as well as the small al-Baqura area near the confluence of Jordan and Yarmouk rivers.

The territories – water-rich farmlands currently cultivated by Israeli farmers – were leased for 25 years, with a 12-month notice period needed to prevent an automatic extension. The deadline for renewing the leases is Thursday, October 25.

“We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar,” the king said on Sunday, according to Petra state news agency.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar have always been on top of my priorities. Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians,” the king added.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.”

عبدالله بن الحسينPrime Minister 

@KingAbdullahII

لطالما كانت الباقورة والغمر على رأس أولوياتنا، وقرارنا هو إنهاء ملحقي الباقورة والغمر من اتفاقية السلام انطلاقا من حرصنا على اتخاذ كل ما يلزم من أجل الأردن والأردنيين

Following the king’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would negotiate with Jordan an extension of the leases, which expire next year.

“We will enter into negotiations with [Jordan] to option an extension of the existing lease agreement,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.

It is unclear how and when the territories will be returned back to Jordan’s ownership. The territories have been under Israeli control since 1948.

Growing pressure

Jordan is only one of two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel – the other being Egypt.

Observers said the king’s announcement is expected to be positively received by the Jordanian public amid increasing efforts by activists and civil society groups aimed at forcing the government to end the leasing of Jordanian territories to Israel.

It also comes a week after 85 Jordanian members of parliament signed a petition urging the king to intervene so that the lease agreement would not be renewed, according to MP Khalil Atiyeh.

“For over a year, we have been demanding the scrapping of this agreement that was not in the interest of Jordan or the Jordanian people,” Atiyeh told Al Jazeera.

Oraib al-Rantawi, a political analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman, said “the king saw the popular rejection against keeping this agreement with Israel, especially in the last few months where economic decline in the country has led to mass protests – and he wisely decided against it”.

Thousands of angry Jordanians took to the streets in June to protest against price hikes, an income tax reform bill and official corruption, in a country where national poverty and unemployment rate stand at around 20 percent.

Political activist Hussam Abdallat praised the king’s decision as one that would “endear him to the public”.

Sufyan al-Tell, a former United Nations environmental official and outspoken critic of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, told Al Jazeera the king’s announcement is “timely and reflects the will of the people of Jordan”.

Public sentiment in Jordan against Israel is strong because of its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

2017: U.S. Embassy In Riyadh Saudi Arabia Issued More Than 106,000 Visas

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

 

US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch reaffirmed on Tuesday that the United States and Saudi Arabia share strong and positive relations that have been going on for decades, especially when it comes to consular affairs.

He revealed that there are ongoing discussions to develop and strengthen them in the coming years.

Responding to Asharq Al-Awsat, Risch revealed that more than 106,000 visas, 70 percent of which were granted to Saudi citizens, were issued in 2017. He stressed that restless efforts are spent on developing visa mechanisms and providing timely and reliable services for the embassy.

Risch expressed pride over strong and positive relations shared with Riyadh.

About 70 percent of US visas issued in Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah were for Saudi nationals. Some 77,910 visas issued to Saudis included visitation, work, and study passes.

Risch is on a tour to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Meeting with counterparts, Risch will discuss a range of consular issues. While in the region, the diplomat also plans to review consular operations at US Embassies and Consulates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Amman, and to meet with inter-agency partners.

Stressing that US national security is a priority when issuing visas, Risch said that a vetting system looks into applications, making sure the applicant is eligible.

On the time it takes to land a US visa, Risch said that some requests are completed quickly, while others take longer. “But we want to be a reliable source for those who want to get visas from our representations anywhere in the world.”

He pointed out that all types of US visas are issued to Saudi citizens, but the most common are tourist visas and work visas for attending meetings.

Requests to visit families or friends and visas issued to Saudi students stand to prove the long history between the two countries, Risch added.

Jordan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jordan

Introduction Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, despite several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007, King Abdallah instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform, developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel, and improving the educational system.
History Beginnings

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 90% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as “Transjordan”. In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future King Abdullah I of Jordan, of the Hashemite family. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 on the steps of the Mosque of Omar. At first he ruled “Transjordan”, under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, which had been under its control since the armistice that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (de facto in the case of East Jerusalem).

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a mutual defence pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Refugees and Black September / AKA White September

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population — 700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The fedayeen were targeted by King’s (Hussien) armed forces, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September, it is also known as white September to many.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. The Syrian army battled the Jordanian army in Amman and other urban areas. The global media portrayed King Hussein as a corrupt King slaughtering the Palestinian refugees. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated. It is said by some people, such as Ahmed Jibril, that King Hussein asked for help from Israel,[1] then Israel threatened that it would invade Jordan if Syria intervened. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali with the help of the Iraqi forces (who had bases in Jordan after the war of 1967),[1] won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them from the country.

At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

Post Black September and Peace Treaty

Fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994. Following the outbreak of Israel-Palestinian Authority fighting in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its good offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Recent events

On November 9, 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.

Geography Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 92,300 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
water: 329 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 1,635 km
border countries: Iraq 181 km, Israel 238 km, Saudi Arabia 744 km, Syria 375 km, West Bank 97 km
Coastline: 26 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m
Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil
Land use: arable land: 3.32%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 95.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.01 cu km/yr (21%/4%/75%)
per capita: 177 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
People Population: 6,053,193 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33% (male 1,018,934/female 977,645)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,037,550/female 1,777,361)
65 years and over: 4% (male 117,279/female 124,424) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.5 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 22.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.412% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 2.68 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.146 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.943 male(s)/female
total population: 1.102 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.55 years
male: 76.04 years
female: 81.22 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.55 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
adjective: Jordanian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi’a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 95.1%
female: 84.7%

(Theology) The War Will Never Ever End

THE WAR WILL NEVER EVER END

(I FIRST PUBLISHED THIS ARTICLE OF NOVEMBER 18th OF 2012)

Today the headlines from Israel and Gaza, war, more deaths and destruction. In 1948 the Jewish people took back about 1% of the Holy Land and renamed it Israel, as it was, is, and will always be. The people that later became known as the Palestinians were displaced into the other 99% of the Middle-East. None of their Islamic brothers wanted them and they became know as a people without a Nation, displaced. The Arab people who did take them in like the people of Jordan soon threw them out because of the ways in which they acted toward their hosts. Even though their brothers who possess 99% of all the land, no one wants them in their countries. Instead, these “brothers” used them as a pawn for over sixty years, not supporting them, just using them.

Then the Israeli PM did that which he had no authority to do, he gave up some of the Israeli land in an effort to obtain peace with the Palestinian people and their Islamic neighbors. The PM gave them what is now called the West Bank and Gaza, hoping for peace. As I wrote then, Israel only accomplished giving these hate filled people closer bases into which to use to attack Israel and their people from.

God gave to the Israeli PM his just reward for giving away land that is no mans property to give away. He was told not to do it, he did it anyway. He quickly stroked, suffered, never repented and died. This is called the Holy Lands for a reason, this land above all of earths land is called Holy because it is where Christ will rule from the NEW Jerusalem after Satan and his angels are put into hell for ever.

Toward the end of times the ten demons who possess the ten human rulers here on earth new Jerusalem will be sub-planted by the three demon generals who sit at Satan’s left hand. These three “super leaders” will come from the three divisions of human powers. 1) the Americas, 2) Europe/Russia, 3) Asia. You see yet, the sign of God is 3, the sign of man is 6. The three men who would be gods, three of the last four “super” anti-Christs. Have you figured out yet who “The” anti-Christ is, The Root who sub-plants them from beneath is? Should be obvious, their boss, Satan himself, The Anti-Christ. He who would be God but who will instead only rule Hell once the trumpet of God sounds. He comes from beneath for two symbolic reasons. One is because where he now is “god” is geographically beneath the current world super powers where his base is. His throne is now upon the Temple Mount above the Wailing Wall as he demands “Submission” from all.

When Gods’ trumpet sounds, the world will then see and understand that they have been duped by their leaders and that these “super” leaders have been Satan’s henchmen. Friends, it will be too late for those who bowed to the will of Satan to repent. The demons will be cast straightway into Hell because they have already been judged. Satan will be cast into his new Kingdom after the last humans have had their turn before the  judgement seat of Christ. Unfortunately, billions of duped humans will spend forever there in the fire with him. This religion IS NOT a “great and peaceful religion” no matter what the buffoons say on TV. IT IS the most powerful attack on the people of earth that has ever been established.——-“THE WAR WILL NEVER END—UNTIL GODS’ TRUMPET SOUNDS”…..People wake up, or you are going to die twice, 1) the physical death, 2) Eternal separation from the presence and grace of God in Hell with Satan and his followers…… People, Please wake up!!!

Egypt’s Hamas-Israel Peace Deal: Only If President Abbas Is A Total Idiot

 

Earlier today I read an article in the Times of Israel whose headline was about Egypt being upset with President Abbas because he was not in favor of the peace program they sculpted between Israel and Hamas. My commentary to you today on this issue will be a short one because the reality to the situation on the ground between Hamas and Fatah is short and un-sweet. I believe it was in 2007 when Hamas split with Fatah and by force took control of the Gaza Strip in south-west Israel. Israel if they had known that Hamas would rise up and take control of one of the two Conclaves they were going to give to the Palestinian People in the so called “land for peace” deal they would not have given up this land in the first place. My thoughts then and now is, how could the leaders of Israel at that time have been so naive as to believe that Hamas would not rise up against Fatah and take control of the Gaza Strip? A couple of years ago Mr. Abbas canceled elections that were suppose to unite Fatah and Hamas once again but when the leaders of Fatah realized that Hamas was going to easily win this election, they canceled the election.

 

Reality is this simple, any deal, no matter who brokers it, whether it be Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran or even Fatah themselves is a death sentence to Fatah and to Mr. Abbas. Hamas is only interested in one thing, total control, both of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and of all of modern-day Israel. Hamas does not play well with others, only an idiot or a fool does not realize this reality. Israel does know this now, this is why they are also against this Egyptian brokered plan. Israel’s leaders played the fool once, they are not going to play it again. Mr. Abbas has proven that he has learned from his experiences in his dealings with Hamas also and as the title of this letter to you states very plainly, only if Mr. Abbas is a total idiot would he ever go along with this Egyptian so-called peace plan. It does appear that the leaders of Egypt who brokered this plan have not learned this basic lesson.

Kushner said pushing to close UNRWA, end refugee status for Palestinian millions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Kushner said pushing to close UNRWA, end refugee status for Palestinian millions

Report quotes Palestinian official saying US peace envoys asked Jordan to move toward halting UNRWA’s operations there as part of wider apparent efforts to shutter agency

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 18, 2018. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 18, 2018. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, has been pushing to remove the refugee status of millions of Palestinians as part of an apparent effort to shutter the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, a report on Friday said.

Under Trump, the US has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, with the US president linking the decision to the Palestinians’ refusal to speak with his administration after he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

According to emails published Friday by Foreign Policy magazine, Kushner has been highly critical of UNRWA, with he and other White House officials weighing its closure as part of their peace efforts.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote in an email dated January 11, just days before the US froze $65 million in funding for UNRWA. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”

“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are… Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there,” he added in the email, according to Foreign Policy.

Uniquely, UNRWA grants refugee status to all descendants of Palestinians who left or fled Israel with the establishment of the state in 1948, swelling the number to an estimated five million at present, when the number of actual refugees from that conflict is estimated to be in the low tens of thousands. In peace talks, the Palestinian leadership has always demanded a “right of return” to Israel for these millions — an influx that, if accepted by Israel, would spell the end of the Israel as a majority Jewish state.

Israel argues that the Palestinian demand is an UNRWA-facilitated effort to destroy Israel by demographic means. The Palestinians also seek an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Months of ongoing violent protests fueled by Hamas at the Gaza border with Israel were initiated under the banner of a “March of the Return,” and encouraged by Hamas leaders with the declared ultimate goal of erasing the border and destroying Israel.

Israel argues that an independent Palestinian state, if agreed upon in negotiations, would absorb Palestinian refugees and their descendants, just as Israel absorbed Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern and north African countries over the decades.

Palestinians collect food aid at a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In an email from later in January, an adviser to Jason Greenblatt — Trump’s Middle East peace envoy — suggested UNRWA’s closure as part of the US peace push.

“UNRWA should come up with a plan to unwind itself and become part of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] by the time its charter comes up again in 2019,” wrote Victoria Coates.

Coates described the proposition as one of the “spitball ideas that I’ve had that are also informed by some thoughts I’ve picked up from Jared, Jason and Nikki,” referring to Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

Other proposals raised were moving UNRWA to a monthly operating budget and coming up with “a plan to remove all anti-Semitism from educational materials.”

The report also quoted Palestinian officials saying Kushner and Greenblatt in June asked Jordan to remove the refugee status of some 2 million Palestinians in order to end UNRWA’s operations in the country.

“[Kushner said] the resettlement has to take place in the host countries and these governments can do the job that UNRWA was doing,” said Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi, according to Foreign Policy.

“They want to take a really irresponsible, dangerous decision and the whole region will suffer,” she added, claiming the White House wanted Gulf states to pick up the tab for whatever this would cost Jordan.

Saeb Erekat, speaks at the Haaretz and New Israel Fund conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York on December 13, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)

Shortly after the reported request, top Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Kushner and Greenblatt of seeking the “termination” of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

“They want to terminate the role of UNRWA by proposing direct aid to the countries hosting the Palestinian refugees and sideline the UN agency,” Erekat said at the time. “On top of this, they are planning financial aid to the Gaza Strip worth one billion dollars for projects, also separate from UNRWA and under the title of solving a humanitarian crisis.”

He added: “All this is actually aimed at liquidating the issue of the Palestinian refugees.”

The White House would not directly comment on the Foreign Policy report, though an official told the magazine that the US position on UNRWA “has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion. The administration will announce its policy in due course.”

Israel, which has also sometimes accused UNRWA of employing Palestinians who support terrorism, says UNRWA’s definition of Palestinian refugees helps to perpetuate the Palestinian narrative of Israeli illegitimacy. It notes that UNRWA’s policy of granting refugee status to the descendants of Palestinian refugees, even when they are born in other countries and have citizenship there, does not apply to the refugees cared for by the UN’s main refugee agency, UNHCR, which cares for all other refugees worldwide. The population of Palestinian refugees thus grows each year, even as other refugee populations in the world shrink with each passing generation.

A spokesman for the Israel Embassy in Washington, Elad Strohmayer, told Foreign Policy: “We believe that UNRWA needs to pass from the world as it is an organization that advocates politically against Israel and perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem.”

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The Foreign Policy report came as US officials say the Trump administration is staffing up a Middle East policy team at the White House in anticipation of unveiling its long awaited but largely mysterious Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The National Security Council last week began approaching other agencies seeking volunteers to join the team, which will work for peace pointmen Kushner and Greenblatt, according to the officials.

The creation of a White House team is the first evidence in months that a plan is advancing. Although Trump officials have long promised the most comprehensive package ever put forward toward resolving the conflict, the emerging plan has not been described with even a small amount of detail by Kushner, Greenblatt or any other official.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

Sergey Lavrov says Putin and Trump will discuss situation in southern Syria on July 16; US said seeking full Iranian pullout

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Jerusalem has accused Tehran of seeking to gain a foothold in the border area as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in clearing out rebel groups there. The US and Israel view Iran’s extensive military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad’s forces, helping them turn the tide in the civil war, but Israel has also coordinated its military strikes in the territory with Iran-allied Moscow.

Lavrov on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

US officials, the diplomat was quoted as saying, are convinced that Russia would be unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in Syria.

The diplomat, who was not identified in the report, also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks as the Russian-backed regime offensive in the south of Syria was pushing tens of thousands of refugees toward the borders with Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Ahead of the trip, Safadi said he hoped there would be “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”

He added that Amman has open channels with Damascus and Moscow and the talks will focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were facing a deadline Wednesday in negotiations with regime ally Russia to either agree to tough surrender terms in the south or come under a renewed military onslaught.

Moscow has been backing a two-week offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

But it is simultaneously brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that Russia and the regime have successfully used in the past.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control and talks were focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city.

Rebels were set to meet with a Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon to deliver their decision on Moscow’s proposal for a regime takeover of the rest of the south, a spokesman for the opposition’s southern operations said.

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‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HAARETZ NEWSPAPER AND AL JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

Israeli daily Haaretz alleges the three Arab states have warned Israel of creeping Turkish influence in East Jerusalem.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was "extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem." [EPA-EFE]
The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.” [EPA-EFE]

Saudi ArabiaJordan and Palestine have warned Israel on separate occasions about Turkey’s creeping influence in East Jerusalem, according to a reportby Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem” which they said was “part of an attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue.”

Israeli sources claimed to have been aware of Turkey’s expanding influence and say they have been monitoring Ankara’s efforts for more than a year.

According to the report, Jordanian officials are said to have been upset with Israel‘s slow response which they described as “sleeping at the wheel”, especially since the signing of a 2016 reconciliation agreement which Israel is adamant to maintain.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority also expressed concern at Turkey’s drive to further its influence in East Jerusalem which comes in the form of donations to Islamic organisations in Arab neighbourhoods or through organised tours by Turkish Muslim groups with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Israeli defence officials told the Israeli daily that the phenomenon had reached its peak in 2017 with hundreds of Turkish nationals establishing “a regular presence in and around the city” and increasingly clashing with police forces during Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

“They’re trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” an unnamed police source is quoted as saying.

“It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem.”

Jordan’s concerns stem from the fact that Turkey’s efforts to widen its influence risk compromising the Hashemite Kingdom’s position as the custodian of Islam’s third holiest site.

Saudi Arabia for its part is worried that Erdogan’s ambitions in Jerusalem may help boost his image in the Arab and wider Muslim world which would, in effect, present him “as the only leader truly standing up to Israel and the Trump administration”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES