Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

Clashes erupt in Jerusalem

Jerusalem (CNN) Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions soared in the region after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza — early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF news release.
The two Palestinians killed were a 27-year-old man and a 30-year-old man, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told CNN.
The IDF said Israeli aircraft had also struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse in Gaza late on Friday.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
One of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Sderot, according to the IDF. There was no mention of casualties.

Palestinians on Saturday look at the damage from an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were also killed Friday in Gaza in clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces over Trump’s controversial move. Thirty-year-old Mohammad Masry was killed when fired on by Israeli forces and 54-year-old Maher Atallah died of injuries sustained in the clashes earlier that day, al-Qadra said.

A relative of Mohammad Masry, who was killed Friday in clashes with Israeli troops, mourns during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Sporadic clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on a busy shopping street in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as small groups of protesters threw rocks.
Seven people were arrested during the clashes on Salah el-Din Street in Jerusalem, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 injured after police dispersed the demonstrators there.
Meanwhile, crowds of mourners gathered in Gaza for the funerals of the four men killed there.

Relatives of 30-year-old Mohammad Masry mourn over his body during his funeral in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza on Friday. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.
More than 300 people were injured across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem on Friday, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said.
At least 49 people were also injured Thursday during protests over Trump’s decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

US envoy to UN defends Trump move

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.
She also said the US has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be “signed on the White House lawn.”
“The United States is not predetermining final status issues,” Haley said.
“We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”
Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley’s comments, including France and Egypt.

Egypt’s Coptic Church won’t meet Pence

Egypt’s Coptic Church on Saturday issued a statement “excusing” itself from receiving US Vice President Mike Pence during an upcoming visit to the region, state-run Al-Ahram reported, citing a church statement.
“In consideration of the decision that the US administration took regarding Jerusalem, which was inappropriately timed and took no consideration of the feeling of millions of Arab people, the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church excuses itself from this meeting,” Al-Ahram cited the statement as saying.
A day earlier, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt on whether he would receive Pence during his planned visit in mid-December.
Speaking to broadcaster Al Jazeera, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “Jerusalem is more important than Mike Pence — we will not abandon Jerusalem just to receive Mike Pence.”
Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year.”
He also said that Trump’s decision did not “indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” adding that the “final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide.”
This story has been updated to correct a Palestinian Health Ministry report that originally stated one person was killed in an airstrike Friday. The report was later updated to say that the person died from injuries suffered in clashes, not an airstrike.

Palestinian Official: U.S. Threat to Close Washington Office Is ‘Extortion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Oct. 30, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Oct. 30, 2017
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration has put the Palestinians on notice that it will shutter their office in Washington unless they’ve entered serious peace talks with Israel, U.S. officials said, potentially giving President Donald Trump more leverage as he seeks an elusive Mideast peace deal.

The Palestinian foreign minister denounced the U.S. move as an attempt at “extortion.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined that the Palestinians ran afoul of an obscure provision in a U.S. law that says the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. A State Department official said that in September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crossed that line by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.

But the law leaves Trump a way out, so Tillerson’s declaration doesn’t necessarily mean the office will close.

Trump now has 90 days to consider whether the Palestinians are in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” If Trump determines they are, the Palestinians can keep the office. The official said it was unclear whether the U.S. might close the office before the 90-day period expires, but said the mission remains open at least for now.

Even if the office closes, the U.S. said it wasn’t cutting off relations with the Palestinians and was still focused on “a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The State Department official said in an email that “this measure should in no way be seen as a signal that the U.S. is backing off those efforts.” The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the developments and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riad Malki, told Palestine Radio that the Palestinian leadership “will not accept any extortion or pressure.” Malki said the Palestinians were waiting for further communication from the U.S. government. “The ball is now in the American court,” he said.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump’s administration has been working all year to broker a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time.

The Palestinians, though publicly supportive of the U.S. effort, have been skeptical because Trump’s close ties to Israel suggest whatever deal he proposes might be unfavorable to them. The threat of losing their office in the U.S. capital could become another pressure point as the Trump administration seeks to persuade the Palestinians to come to the table.

The PLO is the group that formally represents all Palestinians. Although the U.S. does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO maintains a “general delegation” office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials’ interactions with the U.S. government.

The United States allowed the PLO to open a mission in Washington in 1994, a move that required then-President Bill Clinton to waive a law that said the Palestinians couldn’t have an office. In 2011, under the Obama administration, the United States started letting the Palestinians fly their flag over the office, an upgrade to the status of their mission that the Palestinians hailed as historic.

Israel opposes any Palestinian membership in United Nations-related organizations until a peace deal has been reached.

The Trump administration has not revealed any details about its effort to bring about a peace deal that would ostensibly grant the Palestinians an independent state in exchange for an end to its conflict with the Israelis. But Kushner and other top Trump aides have been shuttling to the region to meet with Palestinians, Israelis, and officials from neighboring Arab nations as it prepares to put forward a peace plan.

The requirement that the PLO office be closed if the Palestinians back an International Criminal Court move came in a little-noticed provision in U.S. law that says the United States can’t allow the Palestinians to have a Washington office if they try to “influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorized investigation, or to actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

Abbas, the Palestinian leader, said in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September that the Palestinians had “called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggression against our people.”

The U.S. law says that if the government determines the Palestinians have breached that requirement, it triggers a 90-day review period in which the president must decide whether to let the office stay open anyway. The president is allowed to waive the requirement only if he certifies to Congress “that the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The provision doesn’t explicitly define what would constitute direct or meaningful negotiations.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Yehya al-Sinwar: New Hamas Face with Different Rhetoric

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

 

Yehya al-Sinwar: New Hamas Face with Different Rhetoric

Monday, 23 October, 2017 – 09:00
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yehya al-Sinwar. (Getty Images)
Ramallah – Kifah Ziboun

Yehya al-Sinwar, the head of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, has adopted a political rhetoric that advocates reconciliation. This is a language that the Palestinian public is not used to hearing from Hamas leaderships. Many have started to look to him as the leader who will change the movement’s image.

Despite the hierarchical structure of Hamas and several members occupying higher posts than him, Sinwar’s charisma, manner in which he carries out his work and surprising statements have garnered him local, Israeli and regional attention.

It can be said that his reputation preceded him before he was released from Gaza prison and assumed the command of the Hamas movement in the coastal strip. Hamas has gone so far as to assure its followers that his election as Gaza chief will not alter the movement’s policy.

It wanted to assure that the military man, who is few on words and who Israel labels the “sheikh of murderers,” will not drag the movement into new rounds of internal and external violence.

Eventually however, it became clear that Sinwar is leading Hamas in another direction – one of regional and internal reconciliation – by adopting a balanced approach and rhetoric.

Prior to assuming his current post, he had voiced his regret over the years of Palestinian division, adding that he was willing to cater to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ concerns. He even told some Gaza youths that he will “break the neck of anyone who obstructs the reconciliation.” He also added that he was ready to meet the demands of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and that he was ready to “run after” Fatah in pursuit of reconciliation.

Before this, Hamas had often adopted an occasionally arrogant approach. It made accusations and threats that did not serve reconciliation efforts.

Political activist Salim al-Hindi, who had met Sinwar, said that he has a lot of charisma.

“He is very honest and persuasive. He answers all questions and does not leave room for doubt,” he continued.

Many look at him as the leader who will help Gaza out of its crisis, he added.

Sinwar, who previously shied away from media appearances, has in a short period of time met two youth groups.

Yasmine Abou Harb was present at one of those meets. She described him as being “more flexible than another Hamas leader.”

“He led the movement towards reconciliation with Fatah and to restoring its ties with different countries,” she noted.

Saleh Hmeid agreed with her, adding that Sinwar’s stances demonstrate that he has a real national vision and that he prefers reconciliation to division.

The public was surprised when Sinwar said that he wants Abbas to become a strong president. He also called on women to become involved in political life.

This stands in stark contrast with the image painted by Israel of a man with a bloody and violent past. It had warned against Sinwar assuming Hamas’ leadership once he was freed from prison.

Israel had indeed succeeded in raising these concerns. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that it would only be a matter of time before a new confrontation erupts between Israel and Hamas due to Sinwar’s approach.

These concerns were heightened with Sinwar being listed as a terrorist by the United States.

Whether or not Israel had exaggerated in its bloody depiction of Sinwar, it appears that he would not hesitate to resort to violence in the name of the nation. There are records of him killing four Israeli collaborators.

As his star continues to rise, observers insist that Sinwar is part of the change and not the actual change itself.

Political analyst Mustafa Ibrahim said: “He has major influence within Hamas, but he is not leading a complete change in its policy.”

“He is influential and has contributed to the movement taking decisions since the reconciliation was signed …. but these moves are not isolated from Hamas’ work as a whole, which is structured and based on a Shura Council,” he added.

“One person alone cannot change the movement’s course,” he stressed.

Several Scenarios for Safe Transition of Palestinian Presidency after Abbas

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

 

Several Scenarios for Safe Transition of Palestinian Presidency after Abbas

Palestine

Ramallah- Hamas movement has ignited the battle over the early succession of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by announcing that the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council would assume his position if Abbas could not carry out his duties.

“The Palestinian basic law stipulates that if the president’s health deteriorates, if he dies or can not carry out his job, then the president of the Legislative Council (parliament) should assume his position for 60 days in preparation for holding elections,” said Ahmad Bahar, a leader in the Islamic Movement that governs Gaza Strip.

Bahar recalled a similar incident in 2004, when former President Yasser Arafat passed away and was replaced by Speaker of the Parliament – back then Rouhi Fattouh. He stressed that the National Council has nothing to do with this matter.

Bahar’s statements came amid rising fears of a vacuum in the Palestinian political system after Abbas, especially following a slight setback in his health that demanded him to do some medical tests in Ramallah.

While Hamas says that Speaker of the Legislative Council Aziz Duwaik, pro-Hamas, will succeed Abbas, Fatah is preparing for a totally different plan and is discussing different scenarios, but it will first elect a new executive committee for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The National Council will convene a meeting at any time before the end of the year to elect a new Executive Committee for the PLO. Fatah officials say the election of a new committee comes within the framework of renewing Palestinian legitimacy. Yet, observers say that it also paves the way for a safe and smooth transition of power.

They are not only Palestinian concerns but also Arab as well as Israeli. The Israeli security services have put forward several post-Abbas scenarios.

It is believed that Fatah movement will elect one of its members in the Central Committee for membership of the Executive Committee of the PLO, and this will be, according to the Fathawi Khales’s concept, the closest person nominated to succeed Abbas.

Notably, there is still no vice president for Abbas since the basic constitution of the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not include the position of vice president, but there is a deputy to the president of Fatah movement, who is Mahmoud al-Aloul, the former governor of Nablus.

The other scenario might lead to reconciliation with Hamas and carrying out new public elections.

With this legal dispute and with the absence of a vice president, fears of a vacuum in the Palestinian political system are growing.

These concerns are not only limited to Palestinians but also to Arabs and Israelis as the Israeli security services put several scenarios for the post-Abbas era.

Terrorist President Abbas Calls For ‘Day Of Rage’ Over Israel Security Measures At Temple Mount

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.

Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email
and never miss our top stories
   FREE SIGN UP!

The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday in protest against the new measures, including metal detectors installed following a terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount on Friday.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevi said the city was tense but quiet on Tuesday morning after what he described as a difficult night of protests, with youths throwing stones at officers and setting dumpsters on fire.

Halevi said that many of those who took part in the rioting were encouraged to do so by the provocative statements that came from the Palestinian leadership.

He said despite the protests Israel would not back down on the new security measures.

“We are determined to create [a situation of] security after the killing of two police officers,” Halevi said. “While the families are still sitting and mourning, we can’t let this just pass.”

The placement of the metal detectors at the Temple Mount has also been met with outrage by the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority charged with managing the Temple Mount. Muslims have held prayers outside the metal detectors to protest their placement at the gates.

Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion's Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 16, 2017, after security forces reopened the ultra-sensitive site, whose closure after a deadly attack earlier in the week sparked anger. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)

Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion’s Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 16, 2017, after security forces reopened the ultra-sensitive site, whose closure after a deadly attack earlier in the week sparked anger. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)

During the night there was rioting at two focus points in and around the capital, police said in a statement.

In Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and targeted them with fireworks.

A police officer was taken to the hospital in after being hit in the leg with a rock. His condition was described as good. A police squad car was damaged in the clashes, the statement said. Cops arrested one suspect who was holding a knife.

Police used riot dispersal methods to counter the protesters during which police “identified a hit” on one of the rioters, the statement said. Police did not say what the incident involved but noted that they later received a report that the suspect made his own way to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

In Issawiya, another East Jerusalem neighborhood, youths threw Molotov cocktails and shot firecrackers at police. Two suspects were arrested. In addition, another four suspects from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi Goz and Sur Baher were detained for taking part in the rioting during the night.

Earlier Monday there were clashes at the Lions Gate to the Old City, the scene of the shooting and knife attack during carried out by three Arab Israelis. After shooting officers Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, who died of their injuries, the attackers retreated into the Temple Mount compound where they were shot dead by pursuing police.

The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said in a statement Tuesday that 50 were injured during the confrontations at Lions Gate and in other clashes during the night.

Of those injured 15 were transferred to the Makassed Hospital and 35 were treated by paramedics on the ground. Sixteen people were injured by rubber-coated bullets, nine by stun grenades and 25 had injuries caused by beatings from police, the statement said.

Four members of the Red Crescent were also injured while treating other people, the organization said.

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Following Friday’s terror attack Israel closed the Temple Mount compound for the first time in decades, only reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.

As part of the security measures taken in the wake of the shooting to prevent further such attacks, police installed metal detectors at the entrance to the site, which Halevi said were necessary for it to reopen. Friday’s gunmen, residents of the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, had emerged armed from the compound and opened fire on the police officers stationed outside.

Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.

The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

The officials called for maintaining the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, denouncing a “fierce and organized attack” by Israel against East Jerusalemites.

Along with other Islamic groups, the Waqf trust, which administers the site, on Monday called on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”

In its statement, the Waqf called on the faithful not to enter the mosque by passing through the metal detectors, adding, “If the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”

Jews revere the site, where the two Jewish temples stood in biblical times, as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a retaining wall of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Muslims regard the same hilltop compound as the Noble Sanctuary. Home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. It is Islam’s third-holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

A picture taken on July 17, 2017, shows the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Thomas Coex)

The fate of the compound is an emotional issue and forms the centerpiece of rival Israeli and Palestinian national narratives. Any perceived changes to the delicate arrangements at the site can spark tensions. Its closure after Friday’s attack prompted condemnations from the Arab world, many of which made no reference to the terror attack that prompted the closure.

Dov Lieber and AP contributed to this report.

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

President Trump discussed how to fight terrorism and improve international relations during a speech alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 23 in Bethlehem. (The Washington Post)
May 23 at 9:40 AM
President Trump told Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday that he knows they are eager to reach a peace agreement with each other and that he is committed to helping them “make a deal.”In a speech at the Israel Museum as he prepared to end his four-day trip to the Middle East and depart for his next stop in Rome, Trump repeated his call for Arab countries and Israel to form a grand coalition with the United States to “drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst” and “defend our citizens and the people of the world.”

“This trip is focused on that goal,” he said.

Trump recognized that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a key component of cooperation in the region, although he has not outlined how he hopes to achieve an agreement that has eluded many presidents before him.

Trump on Middle East peace deal: ‘We’re going to get there eventually, I hope’
Speaking in Jerusalem, May 22, President Trump lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “commitment to pursuing the peace process.” (The Washington Post)

In some respects, his effusive praise for Israel during his two days here — which also included a Tuesday morning visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — appeared to endorse Israeli claims to a united capital in Jerusalem.

Noting that Jerusalem is a “sacred city,” and that “the ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal,” Trump recalled his Monday visits to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sites sacred to Jews and Christians in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, and claimed by Palestinians as the capital of their envisioned state.

To sustained applause, Trump cited the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, a place he called “a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.” He spoke of “a future where Jewish, Christian and Muslim children can grow up together in peace.”

“America’s security partnership with Israel is stronger than ever,” he said. “Under my administration, you see the difference. Big, big beautiful difference, including the Iron Dome missile defense program . . . [and] David’s Sling,” an aircraft interception system. The former was established here under the Obama administration, the latter under President George W. Bush.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, who introduced him and praised “the leadership that you bring,” condemned Monday night’s terrorist attack in Britain, claimed by the Islamic State.

But in describing the authors of global terrorism, Trump focused nearly all his attention on Iran and the anti-Israel organizations it supports, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s leaders, he said, “routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump,” he said. “Believe me.”

Key moments from Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu
Here is President Trump’s May 22 joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in less than two minutes. (The Washington Post)

“The United States is firmly committed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorism and militias,” Trump said to sustained applause as Netanyahu stood and pumped his fist.

The audience included U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as prominent citizens from both. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated millions of dollars to support Trump’s campaign and then his inauguration, were seated just behind the stage, near first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Before his speech, Trump and his delegation visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at Yad Vashem, where he said the Jewish people had built the state of Israel out of the “depths of suffering” as “a testament to [their] unbreakable spirit.”

Earlier, he had traveled to Bethlehem for a private meeting with Abbas to discuss the peace process and his vision for anti-terrorism cooperation.

In joint remarks afterward, Abbas said he welcomed Trump’s efforts, which had “given all the nations across the region so much hope and optimism of the possibility of making a dream come true.”

“Our commitment is to cooperate with you in order to make peace and forge a historic peace deal with the Israelis,” Abbas added.

But while Trump spoke in generalities about the goal, Abbas laid out the specifics of Palestinian demands — which have been supported by the Arabs and rejected by Israel through decades of unsuccessful peace negotiations shepherded by American presidents.

“We reassert to you our positions of a two-state solution along the borders of 1967, a state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, living alongside of Israel,” he said, referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following a war against three Arab armies.

During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the plan has been shelved, at least temporarily.

Abbas said he had also drawn Trump’s attention to more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who have been on a hunger strike for over a month, led by Marwan Barghouti, whom supporters call the Palestinian Nelson Mandela.

Abbas delivered to Trump a letter from the families of the strikers, who have demanded more family visits, access to telephones, medical care, the freedom to study and cessation of isolation as a punishment.

Israel and some U.S. lawmakers have objected to American aid to the Palestinians, claiming the money is used to make payments to the families of prisoners, who are considered “freedom fighters” among many Palestinians. Trump did not mention the aid or the payments in his public remarks.

Abbas also spoke of Palestinian insistence that all “final status issues” be resolved “based on international law” and United Nations resolutions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative first offered more than a decade ago. It promised Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state.

Escorted by Israeli police and helicopters, Trump and his delegation sped down Hebron Road and found themselves, just minutes from their Jerusalem hotel, at the gates of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

The closeness of Bethlehem — the physical proximity between Israel and the Palestinian territory — surprised most first-time visitors in the entourage.

Trump and the convoy passed through the 26-foot-tall concrete wall with watch towers that is Israel’s barrier and past “Checkpoint 300,” where thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel each morning to reach their jobs on construction sites.

Trump has cited the Israeli barrier as an example of the kind of wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico, but many Palestinians view it as a symbol of oppression.

Bethlehem is lively and crowded, home to Palestinian Muslims and Christians and the Church of the Nativity, the Byzantine-era sacred site built over the grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.

The city is also surrounded by hilltop Jewish settlements on three sides, built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, communities that most of the world considers illegal, though Israel disputes this.

Later, Trump told his museum audience that after his meeting with Abbas, “I can tell you the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace … I know you’ve heard it before. I’m telling you, they are ready to reach for peace.

“My good friend Benjamin [Netanyahu], he wants peace.” Both sides, he said, “will face tough decisions. But with determination and compromise … Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”

There was no applause from the audience.

Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this article.

Is President Trump Bluffing Again? Or, Does He Actually Know Something?

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

Opinion

If Trump has a Strategy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace, it’s Remaining a Secret

If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said last week. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of that statement, what’s clear is that the White House is willing to devote time and attention to new Middle East negotiations and the president wants to be personally involved.

The problem is there’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.

Last week, a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat traveled to Washington to prepare for the visit. The group met with Trump’s envoy on Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, as well as with White House and State Department officials.

Both sides are keeping expectations for the Trump-Abbas meeting low. Palestinian officials tell me the Trump team doesn’t seem to know exactly what Trump wants to discuss or propose. White House staff declined to say anything at all about their goals for the meeting. Some experts think that’s because there’s no depth to Trump’s approach.

“How you deal with Abbas is directly related to a broader strategy, which unless they haven’t announced it, they simply don’t have,” said former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. “It’s hard to see that this is going to turn out to be much more than a stage visit.”

In truth, there really isn’t much Trump and Abbas can agree to. There’s little hope that Abbas will give Trump what the US side wants, namely a promise to address the issue of incitement in the Palestinian territories or a pledge to curb the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s policy of paying families of terrorists who have attacked Israelis and Americans.

Likewise, there’s no prospect that Trump will deliver what Abbas wants — a commitment to press the Israelis into a freeze of settlement-building that would meet Palestinian standards. The United States has secured an informal agreement with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to place some limits on building new settlements, a version of the “build up, not out” framework from the George W. Bush administration. But that falls short of what Abbas says is needed before negotiations can begin.

The meeting could be significant by itself, if Trump and Abbas can establish a personal rapport to build on in the future. But therein also lies a risk.

“The president has never met Abbas and that makes it an important meeting,” said former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams. “But if he forms the opinion that Abbas is not strong enough to do a deal and then implement it, that will have a real impact on American policy.”

Sure to be present at the meeting is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Greenblatt’s work. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will reportedly join Donald Trump for a trip to Israel in late May.

Administration officials sometimes talk about an “outside-in” approach whereby a framework for peace negotiations would be arranged with Arab states and then folded into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Details of that plan are hazy, and the Trump team has yet to explain how it plans to incentivize Arab states to buy in.

Martin Indyk, who served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy on this issue, said Trump’s approach of trying to find avenues to pursue is positive but cannot overcome the inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the political compromises necessary for real progress.

“Based on experience, there’s one principle that I operate on. By American willpower alone, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved,” he said.

There are things the Trump team can do constructively, including bolstering Abbas by promoting economic development in the West Bank, Indyk said. Making small progress on the margins could improve the chances for peace down the line.

But by going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk. There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing.

The Washington Post

Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel are intact, says official

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PALESTINIAN NEWS AGENCY ‘WAFA’)

Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel are intact, says official
RAMALLAH, May 2, 2017 (WAFA) – Allowances for families of Palestinians killed by Israel will not be touched and they will be dispersed on Thursday, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

The official, Mohammad Sbeihat, secretary general of the National Coalition for Families of Martyrs, was dispelling reports that President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered a halt to these allowances.

“I checked with all official parties related to his issue and they all confirmed that these are just rumors and that the allowances will be distributed on time on Thursday morning,” he told WAFA.

The reason for these rumors is to create confusion and to hurt the Palestinian Authority, he said, and “to shift attention away from efforts by President Abbas in Washington to achieve the dream of independence and statehood.”

Abbas is expected to hold talks on Wednesday in Washington with US President Donald Trump on revival of the moribund Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been using the allowance issue to discredit Abbas before his US visit by claiming that he pays from money provided as foreign aid for families of Palestinians involved in attacking and killing Israelis.

Reports said three  US Republican senators wrote Trump on Tuesday asking him to pressure Abbas to stop these allowances, and one of them has proposed legislation to stop all US funding for the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt them.

M.K.

Unprecedented Verbal Attack between Palestinian Authority, Hamas

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

Middle East

Unprecedented Verbal Attack between Palestinian Authority, Hamas

Palestine

Ramallah, Gaza – An unprecedented verbal attack has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on the eve of a planned meeting between the two sides in Gaza in order to put an end to the Palestinian division.

Hamas Movement said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is leading a fourth aggression on Gaza on behalf of Israeli occupation authorities with his latest decisions on Gaza salary cuts.

Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement, on Saturday, that Abbas is responsible for Gaza siege and isolation as well as the power and water crises other than the lack of health services.

Barhoum also held Abbas responsible for denying workers of their basic rights and suspending allocations of martyrs, the wounded and other needy categories.

This language is different from that spoken by Hamas in the past few days as they welcomed the delegation from the central committee of Fatah movement that is supposed to arrive to Gaza any time before the end of April to hold talks with Hamas movement and other factions.

Notably, Fatah delegation carries with it a specific initiative from Abbas, which calls for dissolving Hamas’s committee it has established earlier to manage Gaza and then carrying out public elections, otherwise the alternative would be to enact more difficult measures against Gaza.

Hamas escalated its speech against President Abbas following the latter’s threats to take unprecedented measures in case Hamas refused the options that will be suggested by the central delegation.

The Palestinian authority government started last month to cut salaries of Gaza employees by 30 to 50%, which sparked a wave of anger among the Fatah leadership in Gaza and their staff before the president threatened to take unspecified further steps.

Abbas warned that he will take “unprecedented steps” to end the political division between his West Bank-based autonomy government and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Abbas told Palestinian diplomats in Bahrain during conference of the ambassadors of Palestine to Arab and Muslim countries: “These days, we are in a dangerous and tough situation that requires decisive steps, and we are to take these decisive steps.”

“Therefore, we are going to take unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division.”

Gaza’s Energy Authority went on strike on Friday in protest of the unjust measures taken against Palestinians in the besieged strip.

During the protests, several participants carried candles in a message to Abbas and his government that Gaza would never yield to their extortions and threats.

For his part, Mushir al-Masri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told demonstrators: “We are not blind to the enemy’s use of tricks including tightening the siege using its cheap tools: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Tightening the siege will blow up in the occupation’s face.”

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.

The Mind Of a Misunderstood Soul

Spreading love and peace to all those who need it

hilalachmar

In Definitely True Knowledge

ArtToday

Искусство. Взгляд изнутри.

IMPREINT journal

The official bulletin of the artist IMPREINT created to repost excerpts from 'En plein air'.

Belly of the Soul

This is what the Lord says ~

Grace & Grit

The Back Side of Fifty

Meraki Forever

Put All Of You❤Thats MERAKI

%d bloggers like this: