Lebanese Prime Minister Resigns While In Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Yarzeh near Beirut, Lebanon in September.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Yarzeh near Beirut, Lebanon in September.
Hassan Ammar—AP

By Zeina Karam / AP

6:07 AM EDT

(BEIRUT) — Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia in a surprise move that plunged the country into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”

“The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it,” Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife and destruction throughout the region.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that included the Shiite militant Hezbollah. The government has largely succeeded in protecting the country from the effects of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The country is sharply divided along a camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, headed by the Sunni Muslim Hariri, and a camp loyal to Iran represented by Hezbollah. President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than two years of presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.

His election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint him as prime minister.

In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri’s return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly.

Hariri’s bombshell resignation Saturday was expected to raise tensions in the country and ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability. It comes amid a sharp escalation in Saudi rhetoric against its regional archrival Iran.

In his speech, he suggested he feared for his life and said the climate in the country is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia for the killing by a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s government. The group’s intervention in Syria is highly controversial in Lebanon.

Hariri said Hezbollah’s policies have put Lebanon “in the eye of the storm.” His attacks on Hezbollah come on the heels of new U.S. sanctions on the group that many fear will impact negatively on the Lebanese economy.

“Hezbollah was able in past decades to impose a reality in Lebanon by force of arms directed at the chests of Syrians and Lebanese,” he said.

“I declare my resignation from the premiership of the Lebanese government, with the certainty that the will of the Lebanese is strong,” Hariri said.

“When I took office, I promised you that I would seek to unite the Lebanese, end political division and establish the principle of self-sufficiency, but I have been unable to do so. Despite my efforts, Iran continues to abuse Lebanon,” he said.

Earlier this week, Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week. Hariri abruptly returned to the kingdom later Friday before his bombshell announcement Saturday.

In tweets after meeting Hariri, al-Sabhan described it as “long and fruitful meeting” that resulted in agreements over many issues that concern the Lebanese. “What’s coming is better, God willing,” al-Sabhan tweeted on Tuesday. In a series of tweets, al-Sabhan criticized the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah’s criticism of the kingdom.

He earlier said that those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be “punished.”

New Zealand’s new leader: We must be ready for ‘climate refugees’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

New Zealand’s new leader: We must be ready for ‘climate refugees’

New Zealand: We may have to take climate refugees 02:03

(CNN)New Zealand’s new leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, tells CNN that her country must be prepared to take in “climate change refugees” from surrounding island nations.

“We need to acknowledge that we are, unless we make dramatic changes, at the front of seeing refugees as a result of climate change,” Arden told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview, her first since taking office last Thursday.

Watch the full interview

  
Watch the full interview09:22
“We see a duty of care there — both to champion internationally the importance of acknowledging and responding to climate change, but also doing our bit.”
The country currently takes in about 750 refugees each year, per United Nations mandates, according to the government.
“We’re looking to ways to build in the responsibility we have on climate change and the way that we approach, potentially, climate change refuges in the future amongst our neighbors,” said the prime minister.
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In order to govern, Ardern’s Labour Party entered into coalition with a conservative, anti-immigration New Zealand First Party.
She denied, however, that her government’s policy would be affected in the area of refugees, saying she had worked “very hard” to build consensus, and was committed on doubling the country’s refugee quota.

‘Never too late’ to talk with North Korea

Ardern takes office at a dangerous time in her region.
US President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to Asia (though not New Zealand) is expected to focus extensively on North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs.
A senior North Korean official told CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang last week that the world should take “literally” a warning from North Korea’s foreign minister about a possible “strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.”
Ardern said her policy was simple: “It’s never too late to talk.”
“That is a message we’ll continue to send on the international stage,” while encouraging multilateral “dialogue.”

Questioning women in the workplace

At 37, Ardern is New Zealand’s youngest leader in 150 years, and its third female prime minister.
She has spoken openly about being a mother, but has forcefully condemned the idea that women should be questioned about how they balance work and home life. “Certainly it is an issue that’s come up for me personally in the role that I have in politics time and time again,” she told Amanpour.
“It will continue to be so until we speak only about the fact that it’s a woman’s decision when to chooses to have a family. It should not be something that’s raised when her future career prospects are speculated on or even if she enters into a job opportunity or an interview.”

PM Narendra Modi presents new projects, defends Demonetisation and GST

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

PM Narendra Modi presents new projects to election-bound Gujarat, defends demonetisation and GST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation for projects worth more than Rs 1,600 crore, addressed three public rallies, a road show and took a 31km ferry ride.

INDIA Updated: Oct 23, 2017 07:02 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad/ New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with the children during his maiden voyage on the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service in Bhavnagar, Gujarat on Sunday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with the children during his maiden voyage on the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service in Bhavnagar, Gujarat on Sunday.(PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Sunday to continue his economic reforms and asserted that the Indian economy is on the right track, defending his government’s major steps such as the demonetisation drive, and the goods and services tax.

His remarks are aimed at deflecting the Opposition’s flak after the economy decelerated to a three-year low of 5.7% in the quarter ended September.

“After all the reforms and hardcore decisions, the economy of the country is on track and is going in the right direction,” Modi said at a rally in Dahej, one of the three places he visited in Gujarat, his home state where assembly polls are due this winter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of the Ro-Ro ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej in Bhavnagar, Gujarat on Sunday. (PTI)

Modi’s assurance couldn’t cut ice with his rivals, though. As many as 13 opposition parties will meet on Monday to sharpen their strategy for a renewed attack on the government over the economy.

“GST is fast becoming ‘Grossly Scary Tax’ under Modi Govt as 40 lakh assesses fail to file September returns,” tweeted Randeep Surjewala, the Congress’s chief spokesperson.

The parties, led by the Congress, plan protests on November 8 when Modi’s decision to scrap two high-value banknotes in a shock recall completes a year. Programmes are likely to be held to highlight what they called the demonetisation aftershocks.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi prays at Ghogha Sea Ferry Point to mark the inauguration of the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service, in Ghogha in Bhavnagar on Sunday. (PTI)

The opposition parties also accused the government of persuading the Election Commission to delay declaring the poll schedule for Gujarat and help the ruling BJP dole out sops to voters.

Modi, who was Gujarat chief minister since 2001 till he became Prime Minister in 2014, announced a slew of projects for his state on Sunday.

He inaugurated or laid the foundation for projects worth more than Rs 1,600 crore, addressed three public rallies, a road show and took a 31km ferry ride from Ghogha to Dahej, and had lunch with disabled kids onboard the boat.

“The flood of promises from Modi in Gujarat, due to EC’s relief by not announcing the polls. Whither ‘One election?” tweeted CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, referring to Modi’s previous stand seeking simultaneous parliamentary and state elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed on stage at the public meeting in Ghogha in Gujarat on Sunday. (PTI)

But the theme of Modi’s speeches was economic stability that was meant to address concerns of his state’s large business community after the economy switched to GST this July. Traders are known to back the BJP, which is in power for two decades in Gujarat.

He criticised the Opposition for questioning his visit to the poll-bound state in his speech in Vadodara, where he inaugurated and dedicated several projects.

“Can’t I come to Vadodara after Diwali? Some people don’t like to see me coming here. As they can’t directly tell me anything, they are targeting the Election Commission,” he said.

He defended the projects, saying he was clearing stuck files.

Vadodara is the second constituency he won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but gave up to retain Varanasi. He dedicated housing, drinking water and fuel pipeline projects among others to the city.

“Those who managed to win (elections) after a recounting are today abusing the EC. They have no moral authority to do so,” he quipped a day after former Union minister P Chidambaram carped at the poll panel for not announcing dates for the Gujarat elections along with Himachal Pradesh, the other state going to the polls this winter.

The Prime Minister also blamed the Congress-led UPA, which ruled the country for a decade before the BJP regained power three years ago, for what he called a backlog of development projects in Gujarat.

At Ghogha in Bhavnagar, where he launched a ferry service, Modi accused the previous UPA government of trying to halt development along the state’s coastline giving environment as an excuse. The sea ferry route cuts 310km by road to 31km.

Gujarat faced difficulties but these “were solved one after another” after he became Prime Minister, he said.

He advocated blending economy with ecology and hailed his government’s signature decisions — demonetisation and GST. He said the fundamentals of the economy are strong and “financial stability of the country will be maintained while initiating reforms”.

The remarks came hours after revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia pitched for some rejig of GST rates to help small and medium enterprises.

Adhia’s comments gave fresh fodder to the opposition parties on the controversial GST rates.

“Now this explains why the Hon PM was so happy to share credit for GST with the Congress. He’s not usually given to sharing credit anywhere,” tweeted Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha joined the debate too and said: “Some support GST, some don’t. Some support #DeMonetisation some don’t, this doesn’t mean critics are anti-national.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

 

Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

3:51 PM ET

(TORONTO) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation Thursday to let adults possess 30 grams of marijuana in public — a measure that would make Canada the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition on recreational marijuana.

Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. U.S voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted last year to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

The South American nation of Uruguay is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.

The proposed law allows four plants to be grown at home. Those under 18 found with less than five grams of marijuana would not face criminal charges but those who sell it or give to youth could face up to 14 years in jail.

“It’s too easy for our kids to get marijuana. We’re going to change that,” Trudeau said.

Officials said Canadians should be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018. The federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of Canada’s provinces to determine if it should be higher. The provinces will also decide how the drug will be distributed and sold. The law also defines the amount of THC in a driver’s blood, as detected by a roadside saliva test, that would be illegal. Marijuana taxes will be announced at a later date.

The Canadian government closely followed the advice of a marijuana task force headed by former Liberal Health Minister Anne McLellan. That panel’s report noted public health experts tend to favor a minimum age of 21 as the brain continues to develop to about 25, but said setting the minimum age too high would preserve the illicit market.

Canadian youth have higher rates of cannabis use than their peers worldwide.

“If your objective is to protect public health and safety and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, and stop the flow of profits to organized crime, then the law as it stands today has been an abject failure,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference. “Police forces spend between $2 billion and $3 billion every year trying to deal with cannabis, and yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world … We simply have to do better.”

Goodale said they’ve been close touch with the U.S. government on the proposed law and noted exporting and importing marijuana will continue to be illegal.

“The regime we are setting up in Canada will protect our kids better and stop the flow of illegal dollars to organized crime. Our system will actually be the better one,” Goodale said.

But Christina Grant, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Ontario, worries the government is conveying the message that marijuana is not harmful. She fears usage will go up because concerns about its safety will dissipate.

“One in seven youths who have used cannabis will develop an addiction to cannabis and that impacts your life, schooling, job prospects, social and emotional relationships,” she said. “And there is the risk of developing psychosis if you start using cannabis as a teenager. The more you use and the younger you start, you have up to four times the risk of developing some kind of psychotic illness.”

Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said officials learned from the experiences from other jurisdictions like Colorado and Washington state.

While the government moves to legalize marijuana, retail outlets selling pot for recreational use have already been set up. Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected. Police in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities raided stores earlier last month and made arrests.

The news that Canada was soon going to announce the law was noticed online last month by Snoop Dogg , who tweeted “Oh Canada!” Canadian folk singer Pat Robitaille released a “Weed song” to coincide with the government’s announcement.

Obama And Kerry Always Posturing, Playing Politics Even When It Cost Peoples Lives

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ALGEMEINER NEWS)

 

JANUARY 2, 2017 6:48 AM

Experts: Kerry Farewell Speech Put ‘Posturing Over Policy’

avatarby Sean Savage / JNS.org

Secretary of State John Kerry with President Barack Obama. Photo: White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry with President Barack Obama. Photo: White House.

JNS.org – The timing of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s so-called farewell speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seemed to stem largely from “personal animosity” between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, experts said.u

“It’s unclear why the Obama administration thought this would be a good time for such a speech,” Mideast expert Oren Kessler, the deputy director for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS.org.

Kerry’s speech came just days after one of the lowest points in US-Israel relations in decades, when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy. This broke from the longstanding American policy of vetoing one-sided UN measures targeting Israel.

JANUARY 2, 2017 7:31 AM
0

A New Year in a Broken World

Those who have the healthy habit of working out at a gym several times a week will soon be complaining…

“Like that abstention, Kerry’s address reflects this administration’s tendency to place posturing over policy on critical Middle East issues,” said Kessler, who said that the speech indicated Obama’s “apparent desire to land a final blow before leaving office.”

At the same time, questions have arisen over why the speech was delivered by the secretary of state rather than Obama himself, like former presidents might have done.

Kessler speculated that Obama may have wanted to distance himself from the speech in order to avoid tarnishing his legacy on Israel.

“If that was the intention, it’s unlikely to bear fruit, as it’s clear to all that this Security Council abstention, and Kerry’s speech, are expressions of the President’s own views,” said Kessler.

“Kerry indicated in the speech that he is concerned by some remarks on Israel coming from the circle of President-elect Donald Trump,” Kessler said. “Kerry apparently wanted to put a UN Security Council resolution on the books before Trump enters office, and before his administration makes moves on Israel that the current administration deems harmful to the prospect for peace.”

“It’s ironic that Kerry said at the start of his remarks that settlements are not ‘the whole or even the primary cause of the conflict,’ and then proceeded to speak for over an hour, mainly on the settlements,” Kessler noted.

Referring to Judea and Samaria as “Palestinian territory,” Kerry warned in his speech that “the status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation,” referring to Israel’s continued settlement construction. “The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme element,” said Kerry.

Indeed, within his 72-minute speech Kerry said the words “settlements” or “settlers” 62 times, while only mentioning “terror” or “terrorism” 14 times, and “Palestinian terror” not at all.

Further, Kerry used the term “settlements” in a general sense, failing to draw a distinction between the Jewish holy sites, well-established Jewish neighborhoods in the middle of densely populated Jewish areas and remote outposts.

Even British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose government voted in favor of the Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, criticized Kerry for disproportionately focusing on settlements in his speech.

“We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is so deeply complex,” a spokesman for May said on Thursday.

Longstanding US policy has been to describe as “unhelpful” any Israeli settlement building beyond the 1967 lines — territorial parameters encompassing the holy sites in eastern Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. The Oslo Agreements of 1993, however, which are the current basis for peace talks between Israel and the Arabs, intentionally make no reference to “settlements” or any requirement that Israel cease building them.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has been almost obsessively focused, experts say, on any building by Israel beyond the 1967 lines — regardless of the location — during the last several years.

Shortly after taking office, President Obama pressured Israel to introduce a moratorium on settlement construction across the 1967 lines, even in dense Jewish neighborhoods, in order to spur Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obliged, issuing a 10-month halt on construction in 2010 that ended in no meaningful negotiations.

Additionally, experts note that during the Obama years, the President has remained silent on the illegal Palestinian construction that has boomed in the West Bank.

“Secretary Kerry put Israeli construction under a microscope, but made no mention of vast Palestinian construction throughout the West Bank,” Alex Safian, associate director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told JNS.org. “Is this because the Administration considers the West Bank to be exclusively Palestinian? If so, this is another break with the longstanding US position that borders are a final status issue that must be decided in direct negotiations between the parties.”

Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, told JNS.org regarding Kerry’s heavy focus on Israeli settlements, “The laser-like international focus — now including the US government — on Jewish residences on the West Bank, ignoring so many larger and more egregious problems (such as the Turks in Cyprus or the Chinese in Tibet) always has one main reason: The deep-seated belief in ‘linkage:’ the notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the key to problems racking the entire Middle East. Once one believes that absurdity, it makes perfect sense to obsess over the building of a new verandah.”

Along the same lines, Kessler believes that the Obama Administration’s “obsession” with settlements “stems from both a double standard — good behavior is expected from Israel, but not so much from the Palestinians — and the low-hanging fruit effect [that] settlements are, for some reason, deemed a more manageable problem than, say, Palestinian intransigence,” he said.

Arab Reaction

Within the Arab world, there has been praise for the address.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judah called Kerry’s speech “impartial” and “well laid out” on Twitter. Similarly, in a statement issued through its official state news agency, Saudi Arabia said it “welcomed the proposals” by Kerry, adding that they were in accordance “with the majority of the resolutions of international legality and most of the elements of the Arab Peace Initiative.” Official statements by Qatar and Egypt echoed that of Saudi Arabia.

“Arab observers know that the Obama administration has just a few weeks left, and they know President-elect Trump will almost certainly take a more Israel-friendly approach than his predecessor,” Kessler said.

Obama’s Legacy

With only a few weeks left in Obama’s presidency, Kessler called it “remarkable that Secretary Kerry and President Obama would leave this as the cap on their Israel legacy, given the eight years of acrimony between Obama and Netanyahu and the fact that Washington pushed through an Iran deal that Jerusalem vehemently opposed.”

President-elect Trump, meanwhile, has made it clear that things will change come inauguration day.

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore. The beginning o the end was the horrible Iran deal, now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” he tweeted.

As such, the parting shots by Obama and Kerry likely means that Trump will need to do little to appear as a strong friend of Israel.

“More than anything, this Security Council abstention and Kerry’s address are a gift to Donald Trump,” Kessler told JNS.org. “By simply pursuing standard US policy, namely vetoing biased resolutions at the UN and refraining from excessive public criticism of Israel, he can appear to be a steadfast friend of the Jewish State by hardly doing a thing.”

—With reporting by Karen McDonough

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Israel to re-assess U.N. ties after settlement resolution, says Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Israel to re-assess U.N. ties after settlement resolution, says Netanyahu

U.S. abstains from UN vote to end Israeli settlement building
01:40
Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.

The vote was able to pass the 15-member council on Friday because the United States broke with a long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield its veto power as it had on many times before – a decision that Netanyahu called “shameful”.

“I instructed the Foreign Ministry to complete within a month a re-evaluation of all our contacts with the United Nations, including the Israeli funding of U.N. institutions and the presence of U.N. representatives in Israel,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks.

“I have already instructed to stop about 30 million shekels ($7.8 million) in funding to five U.N. institutions, five bodies, that are especially hostile to Israel … and there is more to come,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool

The Israeli leader did not name the institutions or offer any further details.

Defying heavy pressure from long-time ally Israel and President-elect Donald Trump for Washington to use its veto, the United States abstained in the Security Council decision, which passed with 14 votes in favor.

Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

U.S. abstains from UN vote to end Israeli settlement building
01:40
Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations following the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.

The vote was able to pass the 15-member council on Friday because the United States broke with a long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield its veto power as it had on many times before – a decision that Netanyahu called “shameful”.

“I instructed the Foreign Ministry to complete within a month a re-evaluation of all our contacts with the United Nations, including the Israeli funding of U.N. institutions and the presence of U.N. representatives in Israel,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks.

“I have already instructed to stop about 30 million shekels ($7.8 million) in funding to five U.N. institutions, five bodies, that are especially hostile to Israel … and there is more to come,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool

The Israeli leader did not name the institutions or offer any further details.

Defying heavy pressure from long-time ally Israel and President-elect Donald Trump for Washington to use its veto, the United States abstained in the Security Council decision, which passed with 14 votes in favor.

Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Disgraceful: President Obama Condoned U.N. Security Council Condemning of Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Construction at an Israeli settlement in the West Bank in 2015. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS — Defying extraordinary pressure from President-elect Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

The administration’s decision not to veto the measure broke a longstanding American tradition of serving as Israel’s sturdiest diplomatic shield.

Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council’s chambers following the vote on the measure, which passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

The vote came a day after Mr. Trump personally intervened to keep the measure, proposed by Egypt, from coming up for a vote on Thursday, as scheduled. Mr. Trump’s aides said he had spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both men also spoke to the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt postponed the vote.

But in a show of mounting frustration, a group of other countries on the Security Council — all of them relatively powerless temporary members with rotating two-year seats — snatched the resolution away from Egypt and put it up for a vote Friday afternoon.

Document: U.N. Security Council Draft Resolution on the Middle East Peace Process

The departing Obama administration has been highly critical of Israel’s settlement building, describing it as an impediment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Trump has made clear that he will take a far more sympathetic approach to Israel when his administration assumes office in a month.

Mr. Trump’s comments on the issue amounted to his most direct intervention on United States foreign policy during his transition to power.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, who had urged the American delegation to block the measure, expressed his disappointment in a statement that looked forward to a change in policy under Mr. Trump.

“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

My Views On How ‘To Fix’ Israel’s ‘Broken’ Political System

 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a 60-year-old white American man who is a fundamentalist Christian who is also a huge fan of the Nation of Israel. I am a person who is not an anti-Muslim or anti-Persian. Even though I do believe that the Jewish people are missing the reality that Yeshua (Jesus The Christ) and Yahweh (Jehovah The Father) I have no doubts about Israel and the Hebrew bloodline being very special to God The Father and The Son. The Christian faith is born out of the Jewish faith and the Arab people are descendants of the Father of Israel, Abraham through his son Ishmael. Whether it is a Nation, a people, or a singular person, it is a great sin to fight against the Nation of Israel. It is an old saying and a truthful one that I have heard several times throughout the years that the Palestinian people would have peace any time they decide they actually want it by simply laying down their arms and quit fighting against Israel. It is also a true saying that if Israel was to lay down their arms, there would be no Israel. The majority of Israel’s politics is based around the security issues of its people and of the State from attacks by people who believe that Allah is God. Think about it, who else is attacking Israel?

 

This article tonight is one I thought of as I was reading the Times of Israel News Paper online. The names and the math figures are ones that I gleaned off of those articles so hopefully they were correct. As I said earlier, the single biggest issue in Israeli politics seems to always be about security issues. Within any government there is always many other issues that the leadership is responsible to make sure are addressed and taken care of for their people. There is always the issues of jobs, housing, power grids, transportation, garbage pickup and disposal and the list goes on and on. If the Leaders of a Nation or of a group of people are channeling their time into one issue like lets say President Putin is doing with Russia’s military, the people of your own Country suffers. For any Nation, any People to flourish the Leaders need to address the issues that affect the daily lives of their population. Just look at the situation in the Gaza Strip with Hamas as their ‘Governors’! The people of the Strip could have their own Country and be living in peace but Hamas will not allow it. They spend the majority of their income on military issues in their ‘struggle’ with Israel yet it is a ‘struggle’ that they themselves create.

 

In Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, you have some members who would build a very high wall to block off all of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and I am sure that there are some who would take all of this land they were given in the Land for Peace deal of  2005 if they were allowed to by Israeli law. The only way for that to happen is if these ‘hard lines’ can gain political control of Israel’s Government and elections are the only way to do this. There are other issues that would have to get involved in their Democracy like Israel’s Court system as well as considerations of U.N. sanctions and the such. In the Knesset Isaac Herzog who is the leader of the ‘Zionist Union Party’ (which is the second largest party as far as members of the Knesset) spoke yesterday of his opposition to Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perceived plan to partition off the West Bank or at least big sections of it as being a mistake because of the issue that in doing so would bring in millions of Arab voters thus giving them more control of Israel’s political system. You need to remember that there are Arab Islamic believing members of the Knesset, if Israel partitions off the West Bank, there will become many more Islamic believing members of the Knesset.

 

The Chairman of the Likud Party, which is the Party of the Prime Minister, Mr. David Bitan said that he would like it if Israel’s Arab population were not allowed to vote. This brought many critical comments toward him because he said this but his response, in my opinion, was appropriate. Think about this for a moment before you judge him. He said that any political party would like it if their competition were not allowed to vote. Don’t you think that Hillary Clinton would have liked it if no Republicans had been allowed to vote last month in the U.S. elections? Was what Mr. Bitan said actually racist? I don’t know, I don’t know this man’s heart, do you? If you do, you may have a more informed opinion.

 

Before I make a book out of this article via giving too much time to the ‘set up’ material I am now going to address the political operation of the Knesset and the election of their Prime Minister’s position. Yesterday the Leader of the Yair Lapid Party Mr. Yesh Atid was calling for early Elections in an attempt to over through the current Government led by the Prime Minister’s Likud Party. Mr. Atid was using a recent poll showing that He and his Party were even with the Prime Minister’s Party in the poll. The next National election is scheduled for November 5th of 2019. In the Knesset for a Bill to pass it must get a majority of the votes which is a minimum of 61. Israel’s Governments require a Ruling Coalition to have at least 61 Seats. This gives very small political parties a large amount of power if they are part of the Ruling Party Coalition. As an example, the ruling Likud Party  currently has 67 Seats through their Coalition. In this coalition you have the Jewish Home Party with 8 Seats and the Kulana Party with 10 Seats. Under the current political setup if either one of these Parties decided to leave the Coalition, the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu would fall and a new election would have to quickly be set up, the November 5th of 2019 date would mean nothing.

 

Here is my suggestion that I wish Israel would consider because the people of any Nation need to know that their Government is secure so that the people themselves can make long-term decisions in their own lives. Here in the U.S. we the people know that our next Presidential election will be in November of 2020, it is set every 4 years, no matter what. I believe that for the Nation of Israel the people would be better served if the next elections aren’t held until the scheduled date in 2019. From that election forward I believe a better system would be that they keep the 61 votes for the purpose of passing any Bill’s yet drop the 61 Seat requirement for the Ruling Party. Hold your election in November of 2019 and if no Party gets above the 50% level (61 Seats) then have another election about 3 days later where only the top 2 vote getter are on the ballot. This election must be by the people, not the Politicians doing backroom deals. Then the Party who gets the most votes of the 2, wins. But, before the elections each Party must put forth who their Leader is so that the people decide whom they want to be their next Prime Minister. Even if the Ruling Party only has lets say 30 Seats like what Likud has now this leading vote getter will be the Ruling Party. Instead of the Prime Minister having to have 61 Seats they would only have to work with all the Members of the Knesset to get the other votes to help pass the Bill. I believe that this system would give the Government of Israel and the People of Israel more stability. Any economy, any people, need stability to be able to live in physiological peace and any Country that has ‘snap elections’ reeks of weakness which is never a good thing for the people the Government is supposed to be representing.

Turkey: Twin Bombs Outside Istanbul Football Stadium Kill Dozens

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Turkey: Twin explosions outside football stadium kill 29 in Istanbul

WORLD Updated: Dec 11, 2016 07:51 IST

AFP

Highlight Story

Smoke rises from a car after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)

Twenty nine people were killed — mainly police officers — and 166 wounded in double bombings that struck Istanbul on Saturday after a home football match hosted by top side Besiktas, Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu said.Twenty-seven of those killed were police and two were civilians, he told reporters in Istanbul, adding that 10 suspects had already been detained over the bombing.

A car bomb detonated outside the Vodafone Arena football stadium on the shores of the Bosphorus after the Super Lig match between Besiktas and Bursaspor while a suicide attacker struck a nearby park, officials said.

The authorities did not say who was behind the blasts but the attacks were the latest in a year that has seen Istanbul and other Turkish cities rocked by a string of attacks blamed on Islamic State jihadists and Kurdish militants.

The health ministry said in a statement that 15 people were killed and 69 wounded.

“An act of terror targeted our security forces and citizens at Besiktas tonight,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement. Besiktas is also the name of the neighbourhood around club’s arena.

Erdogan said the blasts shortly after the end of the match sought to cause maximum loss of life.

“We have witnessed once more here in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples down any form of value and morals,” he said.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said one blast took place outside the stadium and another at Macka Park, a popular meeting place just above the sports venue.

“The explosion at Macka Park is believed to have been carried out by a suicide bomber.”

He said the stadium attack targeted a bus of riot police.

‘We will stand firm’

State broadcaster TRT showed images of the wreckage of a car, engulfed in flames with emergency services swarming around the scene outside the sports venue.

Other footage showed severely damaged police vehicles, while witnesses said the force of the blast had shattered the windows of several nearby homes.

An AFP correspondent near the stadium saw ambulances gathering in the aftermath of the explosion, as well as broken glass on the road.

“I heard two explosions in less than one minute, followed by the sound of gunshots,” one witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Police and ambulances arrive the scene after a blast in Istanbul. (Reuters Photo)

Besiktas football club issued a statement condemning the attack and confirming none of the fans or players were hurt.

“Terrorists… attacked our heroic security forces who ensure that both our fans and Bursaspor’s supporters are safe. We will stand firm against the vile attackers who will never achieve their goal.”

Police cordoned off the area around the stadium immediately after the blasts, which occurred near the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce palace that houses Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s offices in Istanbul.

The scene is also about a kilometre (0.6 miles) from the busy Taksim Square, a magnet for tourists.

Erdogan was in Istanbul at the time of the blast at his residence in the suburb of Tarabya further down the Bosphorus, state media said.

The government slapped a broadcast ban on footage of the attack, as is becoming typical in the aftermath of major incidents in the country.

‘We will defeat terror’

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack.

In his statement, Erdogan said that “the name or the method of the terrorist organisation which perpetrated the vile attack” did not matter.

“Nobody should doubt that we will defeat terror, terror groups, terrorists and of course the forces behind them, with God’s help,” he said.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming IS.

Another 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

But there have also been deadly bombings claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), seen as a splinter group of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The US embassy in Turkey condemned the latest attack.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the people of #Istanbul tonight,” the embassy wrote on Twitter. “We condemn tonight’s cowardly attack, and salute the courage of the Turkish people as we stand with them against terror.”

Turkey is still reeling from a failed July 15 coup blamed by the government on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.

Saturday’s attack came after the Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies on Saturday entered the IS bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria, according to a monitoring group.

Wounded police officers are helped after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)

Al-Bab is the last bastion IS has in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.

The explosions also came hours after Turkey’s ruling party submitted a parliamentary bill that would expand the powers — and possibly the tenure — of Erdogan, a move his opponents fear will lead to one-man rule.

South Korea Impeaches President Geun-hve

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME MAGAZINE NEWS)

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea’s Loathed President Park Geun-hye Has Been Impeached

A recent opinion survey showed 78% of respondents supported her impeachment

South Korean President Impeached
Following six weeks of street protests and an approval rating that plunged to just 4%, South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached Friday by the nation’s National Assembly.

Following six weeks of street protests and an approval rating that plunged to just 4%, South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached Friday by the nation’s National Assembly, signaling an ignominious end to a term that had become mired in a corruption scandal.

The impeachment vote required at least 28 of Park’s fellow Saenuri Party lawmakers to cross the aisle to make up the majority two-thirds of the 300-seat legislature. The final vote was 234 to 56 in favor of impeachment. Park is suspended with immediate effect although the vote needs to be ratified by the nation’s Constitutional Court within 180 days to become permanent.

The nation’s Prime Minister takes over Park’s responsibilities in the interim, though Park had already offered to resign if lawmakers voted against her. If she does, new elections must be held within 60 days. Crowds of banner-waving protesters greeted the verdict with cheers outside the chamber.

“President Park Geun-hye has not only forgotten her duty as the nation‘s leader and administrative chief but also violated the constitution and other laws concerning her public duties,” said opposition lawmaker Kim Kwan-young while presenting the impeachment bill.

Park is the 64-year-old daughter of former South Korean military dictator Park Chung-hee, who is credited with spearheading the East Asian nation’s rapid economic growth of the 1970s and ’80s. She is accused of sharing classified documents with her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

Read More: Huge Numbers Demand the Ouster of South Korea’s President in a Fifth Week of Protests

Choi, the daughter of the shaman-like cult leader who grew close to Park and her strongman father, has been charged with using her influence over Park to wrest almost $70 million from some of South Korea’s biggest companies, including LG, Hyundai and Samsung.

Crowds between 500,000 to 1.5 million have thronged central Seoul in recent weeks to demand Park’s ouster. Protesters see the corruption scandal as symptomatic of wider problems in South Korean society, including soaring income inequality, ingrained sexism and a lack of social mobility.

Park has yet to resign or formally comment on her impeachment and has not been seen in public since Tuesday, instead ensconced herself in the presidential Blue House despite the roiling demonstrations less than a mile away. “She really has been very tone-deaf to what the people want,” says Professor Sean O’Malley, a political scientist at South Korea’s Dongseo University.

As President, Park is constitutionally protected from prosecution other than for insurrection or treason, though prosecutors say she had a “considerable” role in Choi’s alleged transgressions. There are widespread calls for criminal charges against Park once she leaves office. Park has apologized for the scandal three times but insists nothing she did was for personal gain.

Read More: South Korea’s Familial Presidential Family Scandal

“My heart is crushed when I think I cannot resolve the deep disappointment and anger of the people even if I apologize 100 times,” she said in one tearful televised statement.

South Korea now faces a damaging period of political limbo. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is deeply unpopular among the opposition and protesters, who see him as too close to Park’s scandal-hit administration. The lack of clear leadership has consequences for regional security, with Seoul a vital ally to Washington’s efforts to curb the nuclear ambitions of rogue state North Korea.

However, O’Malley says there are signs the Choi scandal has had the positive effect of empowering the national prosecutors’ office. “I’m hopeful that they will be more aggressive in pursuing political corruption cases in the future,” he says, adding that the saga “may strengthen the legal system in the long run.”

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