Armenia in political turmoil after Parliament fails to elect new prime minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Armenia in political turmoil after Parliament fails to elect new prime minister

Supporters of Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan attend a rally in downtown Yerevan on Tuesday.

(CNN)Armenia was thrown into political turmoil on Tuesday after Parliament failed to agree on a replacement prime minister for Serzh Sargsyan, who stepped down last week amid mass demonstrations.

Protest leader Nikol Pashinyan, 42, was the sole candidate in the parliamentary vote, but failed to get a majority backing.
Shortly after the vote, Pashinyan told thousands of supporters at a rally in the capital Yerevan that their struggle was far from over, and called for a strike the next day.
“Our counter-move against the action of the Republican faction will be very rapid. Tomorrow total strike is declared,” Pashinyan said, according to state-run Armenpress. “We block all the streets, communications, subway and the airports starting from 8:15. Our struggle cannot end in a failure.”
Nikol Pashinyan addresses supporters in downtown Yerevan.

Pashinyan needed 53 votes to be elected, but received 45, Armenpress reported. According to the news outlet, if Pashinyan is not elected in the second round, Parliament will be dissolved.
As the vote took place, thousands of Pashinyan’s supporters flooded into Yerevan’s Republic Square, watching the Parliament session on giant screens.
Many had hoped Pashinyan would fill the power vacuum left after Sargsyan resigned, following weeks of anti-government protests.
A Pashinyan supporter in Yerevan, ahead of the vote.

The European Union urged civility.
“It remains crucial that all parties involved, including the law enforcement agencies and those exercising their right of freedom of assembly and expression, avoid confrontation and show restraint and responsibility, as has been the case in recent days,” the EU said in statement on its website.
Pashinyan led the protests after Sargsyan was appointed Prime Minister on April 17. Sargsyan had previously served as Armenian president for 10 years, and the thousands of protesters who hit the streets of Yerevan saw his latest appointment as an unconstitutional power grab.
Under constitutional changes Sargsyan promoted in 2015, the prime minister became more powerful than the president, leading to concerns of authoritarian rule descending on the small former Soviet republic, which borders Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran and Georgia.
As the protests entered their 11th day, Sargsyan stepped down as Prime Minister.
His deputy, Karen Karapetyan, was then named acting Prime Minister at an emergency Cabinet meeting.
Armenian policemen detain an opposition supporter during a rally in Yerevan on April 21.

Pashinyan, of the opposition Civil Contract party, cut a rebellious figure during the protests. His black cap, camouflage T-shirt and bandaged hand, reportedly injured on barbed wire, were in stark contrast to the suited Prime Minister Sargsyan.
televised meeting between the two leaders at the Marriott Hotel in Yerevan two weeks ago dramatically broke down when the Prime Minister walked out.
Shortly after, Pashinyan was arrested at an anti-government rally, but was released last Monday before the announcement that Sargsyan would resign.
Former Armenian Prime Minister  Serzh Sargsyan during the televised meeting with Nikol Pashinyan last month.

According to Laurence Broers, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank’s Russia and Eurasia program, discontent with Sargsyan had been brewing for years.
Armenians have seen their country, once the poster child for democratization after the collapse of the Soviet Union, stagnate in the hands of an entrenched oligarchy while many citizens choose to leave, Broers said.
Broers doesn’t ascribe sole credit to Pashinyan for the latest protests, but said the opposition figure “has been very successful in harnessing that desire and that energy for change.”
The crunch now, Broers said, is whether Pashinyan can turn his hand to coalition-building skills.

Worshiping The Devil Burning To Death A 15 Year Old Girl

Worshiping The Devil Burning To Death A 15 Year Old Girl

(I FIRST PUBLISHED THIS ARTICLE ON MAY 6th OF 2016)

Today on my CNN News feed I read another disturbing piece of news that is coming to us from Pakistani police and from their Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif. This news is of a ‘so-called’ honor killing that has nothing at all to do with anyone’s honor and everything to do with worshiping and serving the Devil Himself. This story goes like this, a 15 yr of girl helped arrange for her best friend and her boyfriend to elope (get married). This happened in a city called Abbottbad in North West Pakistan where ‘Tribal Councils’ tend to be the ‘real’ authorities, not the police or the military. This 15 member Council called a Jirga ordered the death of this young lady. The report says that 13 of those Council members took part in the murder and those 13 have been arrested with a few others. In this case the police have also arrested the girls Mother because they said she knew in advance what was going to happen and did not tell the police so that made her complicit in the murder. Not mentioned is why the other two members of that Council who also knew were not arrested, why not is my question? The way that these animals chose to murder this young lady is they drugged her, kidnapped her, choked her, chained her to a van and then set the van on fire with her alive inside it. As I said in the title of this article, Devil worshipers. This religion that is called Islam has nothing to do with a ‘God’, it only has to do with these folks being raised in Devil worshiping, the good point about this is that these people do not know what they are doing. I totally believe that way over 90% of these disciples of Satan would drop that religion in a flat second if they only knew the truth about who Allah really is.

Identity Theft Risk Prompts Estonia to Block the Certificates of 760,000 ID Cards

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Identity Theft Risk Prompts Estonia to Block the Certificates of 760,000 ID Cards

Screenshot from a promotional video about Estonian ID cards from government’s website e-Estonia.com.

On November 4, 2017 the Estonian authorities disabled the certificates of more than 760,000 national electronic ID cards due to a security vulnerability that could have compromised cards issued between October 16, 2014 and October 26, 2017, and possibly even earlier.

More so than most other countries, Estonia relies on digital technology for many basic services including getting prescription medication, voting, bank transfers, and digital signatures. In fact 98% of Estonians have an ID card that they are able to use as a valid travel ID within Europe, access health insurance, and pay taxes. Digital ID cards were introduced in 2002 and have become the cornerstone of the country’s e-services. Estonia has one of the world’s fastest broadband services and has established strong digital literacy, widespread internet connectivity and e-governance.

The certificate software within the blocked ID cards will be replaced with new, more secure one, in a national-wide effort to deal with the risk of privacy breach. These certificates were deactivated after a group of researchers from the Czech Republic identified a security flaw in the cards’ microchips that could have led to major breaches of citizen’s personal data. The researchers found that the chips installed in ID cards issued between October 16, 2014 and October 26, 2017 (though possibly as early as 2012) were vulnerable to infiltration of both private and public keys and possible identity theft.

The chips were manufactured by Infineon, a microelectronics company with headquarters in the US and Germany, that provides services including government identification, mobile security and embedded security and trusted computing.

The Estonian government says that no infiltration has yet taken place, and that authorities disabled the affected ID cards as a precautionary measure to ensure no harm to citizen data. To guarantee that e-government continued to function, an estimated 35,000 people who use their ID card for their work, such as government officials and doctors, were updated to a safer version first.

On November 2, 2017 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said in a statement:

The functioning of an e-state is based on trust and the state cannot afford identity theft happening to the owner of an Estonian ID card. As far as we currently know, there has been no instances of e-identity theft, but the threat assessment of the Police and Border Guard Board and the Information System Authority indicates that this threat has become real.

The security threat uncovered by Czech researchers is not limited to Estonian ID cards alone. Presumably, all chipsets produced by Infineon during that time carry the same flaw. Therefore computer systems around the world that use Infineon chipsets are also at risk of infiltration. The vulnerability illuminated the grave security challenges that can come with the digitization of national ID cards and systems.

Social media discussions about this issue included Twitter comments by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former President of the Republic of Estonia (2006-2016) who suggested that the “real story” is about Gemalto, the manufacturer of the cards, which appears to have learned about the vulnerability in February, but had not shared this information with customers. Since 2001 Estonian electronic ID cards have been manufactured by Trub AG and its successor Gemalto AG, Swiss companies that use Infineon technologies.

Former President Ilves claimed the Dutch firm “informed commercial users but not the public sector (paying) clients,” urging journalists to look more in depth into the issue.

I leave that to the journalists who so far have focused on the customers, not the ones at fault, as if we were Pinto owners, not Ford. https://twitter.com/kentindell/status/928237326601506816 

Estonian ID is not the only one made by Gemalto. However, no other govt made any noise. Probably because the cards are issued but never used.

The real story is how the chip maker, Gemalto, found out about the vulnerability in Feb but never notify customers https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/researchers-speed-up-infineon-encryption-key-attack-a-10440 

Or perhaps the story is a tech-empathetic gov’t that responded quickly and measuredly to a crypto security vulnerability. That is news!

Estonia’s move to replace the cards’ certificates also attracted attention from information society enthusiasts across the region of Eastern and Central Europe. In a Facebook discussion, a Serbian IT expert living in Estonia explained the end user perspective through comments:

We were notified several months ago (while the risk was only theoretic), and a few weeks ago they released updates of the certificates through an official app (so one doesn’t have to change the ID). At the moment the authorization process sometimes has some hiccups, but there’s a backup authorisation method via a mobile phone app, so we are not blocked at all.

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.

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