Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

An Arab Plan B for Containing Iran

May 21, 2018

 

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Plan A was the nuclear deal. That’s over. Now key Gulf states want the U.S. to flex more muscle.

Containment

Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal didn’t draw much international applause, but three U.S. allies in the Middle East — Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — warmly welcomed the move.

Israel had long said that the deal didn’t do enough to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and Gulf Arab countries believed it gave Iran cover for an intensified campaign of destabilizing the Arab world. And they have plenty of ideas when it comes to drawing up a Plan B for a U.S.-led containment campaign against Iran.

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Houthi rebels launch an Iranian made ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and the UAE never shared President Barack Obama’s conviction that engagement and sanctions relief could moderate Iran’s revolutionary brashness, regional meddling and support for sectarian extremists.

So they’re pleased by Trump’s rhetorical attacks and reimposed sanctions against the Iranian regime, and they want the U.S. to foreclose any efforts by European countries that remain signatories to the nuclear deal to find a way to let their companies keep doing business with Iranian institutions.

However, Iran’s expansion as a regional power largely took place before the nuclear deal was signed, and the comprehensive international sanctions that existed in the years leading up to the agreement did not deter Tehran’s support for extremist groups in Arab countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.

So the Gulf states don’t expect sanctions alone to do the trick. They hope that with Islamic State crushed in Iraq and Syria, Washington will now lead a coordinated regional strategy to cut Iran’s power down to size.

Among other things, they want limited and focused military action to reverse some of the gains Iran has made since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Indeed, they’ve already taken on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as the local al-Qaeda affiliate. They may also hope to play a role in confronting Iran’s lawless behavior in the waters of the Gulf itself.

They are looking for Washington to take the lead in confronting Iran in Iraq, but there, too, Saudi Arabia has shown it is willing to play a diplomatic, political and financial role.

Perhaps the most strategically vital theater in any such campaign would be Syria, which is far from the Gulf countries. There, they hope that Israel will enforce its own red lines on Iranian conduct and make life difficult for the Hezbollah militants in Syria and possibly even in their home base of Lebanon.

They would urge the U.S. to prevent Iran from taking advantage of the collapse of Islamic State in western Iraq and eastern Syria in order to create a secured military corridor running from Iran to Lebanon and the Mediterranean. Such a strategic upheaval, if secured and consolidated, would ensure that Iran emerges as a regional superpower.

Gulf Arab countries also want to work with the U.S. to persuade Turkey and Russia that their interests in Syria are not served by an empowered and aggressive Iran. Otherwise, Russia could prove a major obstacle to reducing Iran’s influence in Syria and getting Hezbollah to go back to Lebanon.

Finally, while the Gulf countries don’t want an all-out war with Iran, there are signs of Arab and American encouragement of uprisings by Iranian ethnic minorities such as Baluchis, Arabs and Kurds.

The goal isn’t regime change, partly because that’s not considered a serious possibility at the moment. What they want, instead, is a sustained containment campaign to pressure Iran to change its behavior and ambitions and constrain its ability to destabilize neighbors and spread influence.

It’s a big ask, and probably bigger than many Gulf Arab leaders realize. After decades of U.S. leadership in the region, these countries grew used to, and benefited from, a U.S.-enforced regional order. But now, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans across the political spectrum have an advanced case of Middle East war fatigue. Trump’s “America First” campaign didn’t signal much enthusiasm for the kind of interventionist foreign policy that these Gulf allies are hoping for.

But if the U.S. wants to combat terrorism and confront Iran, as the administration insists it does, Trump’s idea of withdrawing the more than 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria is a nonstarter.

The Gulf countries aren’t asking for a repetition of the 2003 adventure in Iraq, which they didn’t support or encourage. What they want is a multi-front effort to roll back Iran’s influence by defanging its proxies, supporting its enemies and insurgents and choking off its economy. Only Washington, they believe, can do that. The idea is especially to weaken Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its clients around the region.

Containing Iran will take time, effort and troops and will not be painless. But it needn’t and shouldn’t be a madcap adventure like the campaign that began in 2003 to remake Iraq in an American image. Instead, as Russia has demonstrated in Syria, even in the Middle East it’s possible to secure limited goals with limited means, especially if allies work together. That’s what Saudi Arabia and the UAE are hoping is in the works for a Plan B regarding Iran.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Hussein Ibish at hussein.ibish@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-21/containing-iran-there-s-an-arab-plan-b

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Gaza treated with contempt by international community

May 21, 2018

What chance Israeli authorities will ever be held accountable for the killings in Gaza? Will there be a proper, independent investigation of what has transpired since March 30, with Israeli soldiers killing 104 Palestinians and injuring 12,600, many with live fire? One Israeli soldier was injured by a stone, but no doubt accountability was already dished out to the perpetrator with a bullet. We may never know.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech on the first Friday of the  Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at al-Omary mosque in Gaza City. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at al-Omary mosque in Gaza City. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

By Chris Doyle
Arab News
Opinion

Let us start with a credit card. The theft of a cheap, lousy piece of plastic and its use to withdraw $398 was the sole crime the Israeli authorities admitted to during the entire 22 days of the 2008-2009 war on Gaza. The soldier was sentenced to seven-and-a-half months in a military jail. Israeli forces killed 1,383 Palestinians, more than 80 percent of whom were civilians, schools and hospitals were bombed, and white phosphorous was used, but somehow the only crime Israel admitted was petty theft.

Protesters in Gaza running (Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa)

Stealing money from Palestinians seems to be of greater concern than killing them. One Israeli soldier shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem and he got just a nine-month jail sentence. He did have to pay $14,000 damages to the family. Elor Azaria, who shot a Palestinian in cold blood as he lay on the ground in Hebron, must feel hard done by as he got a sentence, albeit curiously for manslaughter not murder, of 18 months, which was later reduced to 14 and he was released after nine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not alone in Israel in demanding that Azaria got a full pardon, reflecting the soldier’s near-hero status.

For comparison’s sake, slapping an Israeli soldier — that is, if you are born a Palestinian and are a child — merits eight months in prison, as Ahed Tamimi has discovered.

 

Gaza is treated with contempt. The world just watches Israel bludgeoning the planet’s largest open-air prison, where life has become nothing more than a struggle for survival, typically on food handouts

Chris Doyle

 

Settlers are a different category. The Israeli army is effectively the “sovereign power” in the occupied West Bank but protests it cannot arrest Israeli citizens there including settlers. It can arrest a Palestinian child for slapping a soldier but not a settler for killing a Palestinian. The police have to come to arrest an Israeli, if they turn up at all.

According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, only 8 percent of ideologically motivated attacks on Palestinians — 94 out of 1,163 cases since 2005 — were investigated. Palestinians are, it says, increasingly reluctant to even file a case, seeing it as a waste of time.

About the only point that Israeli war crimes apologists do have is the lack of accountability elsewhere in the region. To even conceive that Syrian regime figures will be held accountable for the inhumane siege and bombing of Yarmouk refugee camp in south Damascus any time soon is optimism on steroids.

Hamas also has to be held accountable. Did it seek to exploit the Gaza protests, to make them violent and to breach the fence with intent to kill? Maybe, though nothing the Israeli authorities have presented as yet demonstrates there was any imminent threat to life posed to their heavily armed and protected forces. Moreover, Israel has a gilded status of immunity as an ally to the powerful, whereas Hamas is a pariah, sanctioned and isolated. Israel enforces accountability against Hamas leaders largely through dropping bombs on them. Those who enjoy seeing Palestinians killed are all too keen to present Hamas as gospel truth tellers when it claimed 50 out of 62 of those killed last Monday were members of the group. Moral inversion was taken to new depths when a notorious apologist claimed: “Israel’s actions saved the lives of Gazans.”

The increasingly fictional international community is largely inactive on Israeli settler crime and on Israeli soldiers using live fire in the West Bank when there is no imminent threat, as it was after Israel’s four wars on Gaza since 2006. Will it be any different now over the Gaza killings? Gaza is treated with contempt. The world just watches Israel bludgeoning the planet’s largest open-air prison, where life has become nothing more than a struggle for survival, typically on food handouts.

The UN Human Rights Council has announced an independent inquiry. Firstly, it will not be allowed access to Israel or Gaza. Secondly, whatever the findings of the inquiry, they will just be ignored and shrugged off as partisan. The body is too weak, and its failure to hold other states to account undermines its efforts to do the same for Israel. Even so, for countries like Britain to abstain in the vote is yet another act of miserable collusion with Israeli crimes. The US has blocked calls for an investigation into the killings at the UN Security Council, which would have been perhaps the only chance of establishing an investigation that might have been taken seriously.

It begs the question just how far does Israel have to go to get a minor ticking off by the US administration? If Israeli snipers had killed 500, 1,000 or 10,000 Palestinians, would the reaction have been the same? Israeli stooges claim this was a restrained and proportionate action, so good luck to the Palestinians if they are on the end of an unrestrained and disproportionate attack by Israeli forces. The scary thought is what would stop them?

 

  • Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). He has worked with the council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. Twitter: @Doylech
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For Many Muslims, Israeli Occupation Is The Problem

May 20, 2018

Washington’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem continues to cause harm and suffering. On May 14, 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers and hundreds were injured. This is pretty much the end of the Donald Trump administration’s role in the Middle East peace process.

The move has also undermined any remaining hope for a two-state solution. The Trump administration is giving full support to Israel’s long-standing policy of “creating facts on the ground” and then grabbing more Palestinian land for reasons of security and the Israel’s so-called “natural growth” needs. This mindset has never taken into account the security, freedom and prosperity of the Palestinian people. They are expected to accept the 70-year occupation without putting up any resistance or objections. No other modern political story has been as tragic and hypocritical as the story of Palestine under occupation.

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Palestinian people during the protest against the U.S. relocating its embassy to Jerusalem and the Israeli state’s occupation on their lands, Gaza Strip, May 15.

Not many believed that the U.S. was an honest broker in the Middle East peace process in the first place. Trump’s Jerusalem decision is the last nail in the coffin. The Palestinians do not want to deal with the U.S. administration and they are right. The Trump administration has given them no hope, no encouragement, no support and nothing to keep them in the negotiations. Trump’s officials have said for months – without sharing any details – that they have been working on a new road map for peace. As it turns out, the only road map that has emerged so far is one destined to end in a crash – a crash that has the potential to set fire to the entire region. The Jerusalem move may have fulfilled the weird theological beliefs of some evangelical Americans and Zionists, but it has done immense damage already. The so-called Western liberal world order and its governments are either silent or utterly helpless when it comes to the Israeli occupation. They accept every Israeli claim at face value and design their policies according to the dictates of the Israeli lobbies in their respective countries. They have no desire or courage to confront the U.S. and Israeli governments to hold them accountable for their irresponsible, provocative and criminal actions. They just want the problem to go away. Countless U.N. resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation have been brushed aside. No other country or occupying force in the world has violated as many U.N. resolutions as Israel.

Given the political realities on the ground, Israel will continue its “piece-by-piece” policy of perennial occupation. It will continue its strategy of erasing the Palestinian people from the face of the earth with impunity. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plays the “Israel on the brink of destruction” card, it is the Palestinians who are facing the threat of annihilation by a military machine and apartheid state with its shameless racism and brutality. In fact, many Israelis do not even use the word “Palestinian” because they don’t recognize them as an official group of people.

Netanyahu cannot cover up his crimes and domestic troubles by attacking President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He may enjoy the relative silence of the international community and the disunity and lethargy of the Arab world, but he can never break the will of the Palestinian people and our support for them. He attacks Erdoğan because Erdoğan is the only leader who has the humanity and courage to call out the Israeli violence for what it is: Systematic massacring of a people living under occupation. He is a democratically elected leader forcefully criticizing Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

As it often happens, the truth is the first casualty of war. Much of the European and American media once again failed to tell the truth in regard to the ongoing violence. The headlines read “Dozens killed in Gaza” and none of them referred to the Israeli brutality and willful killing, as if the Palestinians died of some sort of natural disaster or epidemic. They equate the killer and the killed to tell a story of “clash and confrontation” that does nothing but help Israeli officials in their shameless promotion of violence against a defenseless people. But this is nothing new. This is a story that keeps popping up in every Israeli attack on the Palestinian people. Palestinians never get a voice and are thus victimized twice. They are killed by an apartheid state but accused of violent extremism and terrorism. They are forced to live under occupation in their own land but never seen as having a right to claim their homes. They are subjected to discrimination, humiliation and dispossession on a daily basis but are accused of anti-Semitism. Much of the Western media coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands seeks to justify the greatest story of injustice and brutality in modern history.

Just imagine how the world would have reacted if the 62 people killed on May 14 were Israelis rather than Palestinians. It would not have been a news story but a bombshell. It would have changed the parameters of regional and international politics. Western governments would have done everything in their capacity to punish those responsible. Even armies would have been mobilized. But none of that happened because the victims were Palestinian and the culprit was Israel which, with the deadliest army in the Middle East and unconditional U.S. support behind it, claims to fear for its existence in the face of rock throwing kids and women. In reality, Palestinians have nothing else to defend themselves, their families, their elderly, their homes, their olive fields, their lives and dignity with.

It is with these considerations in mind that Turkey called for an extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to mobilize Muslim countries to defend Palestinians against Israeli aggression. Turkey took a number of other measures in response. It declared three days of mourning, called its ambassadors in Washington and Tel Aviv back and held an emergency session at the Turkish National Assembly.

Thanks to the irresponsible and populist policies of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, peace has never been as far away as it is today. Muslim countries, Europeans, Africans, Asian nations and Latin American countries must come together to stop the downward spiral of blatant violations of international law by Israel and the unjust punishment of the Palestinians.

The problem is the occupation and without ending it, there will be no peace, no security, no prosperity for anyone.

By İbrahim Kalın
Daily Sahah

https://www.dailysabah.com/columns/ibrahim-kalin/2018/05/19/occupation-is-the-problem

Russia Seeks Strong Foothold in Lebanon

May 20, 2018

Through a myriad of political and religious connections, Russia is seeking to establish its presence in Lebanon. In the first of a three-part exclusive for DW, Benas Gerdizunas traces Russia’s influence.

    
Downtown Beirut (DW/B. Gerdziunas)

Standing in front of a military parade to mark the day of Russia’s military saint, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow proclaimed: “The war against terrorism is a Holy War.”

That speech on May 4, 2016 by the head of Orthodoxy in Russia, left the fragmented Arab Christian Orthodoxy desperately trying to shed the enforced “Crusader Church” image.

Read more: Russian Orthodox Church tries to make hay

Even before those statements, 46 Lebanese Orthodox Christians signed a petition condemning the use of “Christian protection as a pretext to serve nationalistic or political goals.”

Moscow’s “Christian Protection” umbrella and the Orthodox posture — already tried and tested among Europe’s far-right movements — has now turned its attention to Lebanon.

Wikileaks, Sursock, and Gazprom

As far back as 2008, WikiLeaks exposed a cable by US Political Counselor Robert Petterson, warning of Moscow’s planned diplomatic return to the Levant.

“By establishing a physical presence for the Russian state and Church,” he wrote, Moscow will use “returned property as ‘soft power’ in the region.”

Petterson also pointed to a bizarre, Tsar-era NGO, that was revived in 1992 — The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS).

“Although the IOPS was founded in 1872 as one of the oldest Russian NGOs, the head of Russia’s Audit Chamber, Sergey Stepashin, is chairman of the IOPS and MFA Middle East Department Deputy Director Oleg Ozerov heads its international section,” wrote Petterson.

Ultimately, the NGO rose to become a centerpiece of the in Kremlin’s activity. By the end of 2017, it managed to secure property returns in Israel and Palestine.

Belying its NGO status, the leadership of IOPS appears to have close links to the Kremlin. Mikhail Bogdanov, IOPS deputy, is currently serving as Russia’s deputy foreign minister, while Stepashin served a short stint as prime minister in 1999.

On April 23, 2017, Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, received a Russian delegation headed by IOPS chairman Stepashin. Stepashin informed the president of the “agreement to establish an IOPS office in Lebanon,” claiming “broad support for this idea from representatives of the Lebanese parliament, Orthodox organizations, and the Lebanese public.” The public involvement in question, which Stepashin did not disclose, leads to the wealthy and influential Sursock family.

Robert Sursock, a member of the Association of Orthodox Families of Beirut — essentially an alumni network for Tsar-era Russian schools under IOPS — served as the CEO of Gazprombank Invest MENA until 2015.

Russia’s state-owned Gazprombank has been under US sanctions since July 2014, in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The only public records of Gazprombank Invest MENA involve a leak in 2015, when $500 million (€423 million) were transferred from Venezuela to Lebanon.

In December 2017, a consortium including Russia’s gas producer Novatek, was given the right for gas and oil exploration in Lebanon’s coastal areas. Just under 10 percent of Novatek is owned by Gazprom, which in turn, controls Gazprombank.

Read moreGazprom’s monopoly soon a thing of the past?

Infographic showing Russian interests in Lebanon

Physical foothold for Moscow in Lebanon

On March 10, 2017, Hegumen Arseny Sokolov, Moscow Patriarchate representative in the region, reportedly thanked Metropolitan George, the Archbishop of Mount Lebanon, “for his blessing to allocate without charge a plot of land for a Russian cemetery near the Our Lady of Nourieh monastery.”

Suheil Farah, the honorary president of the Lebanese-Russian House, reportedly also attended the meeting.

In June, Russian Patriarch Kirill issued a statement, saying “I am confident that the IOPS needs to continue its work in returning Russia’s lost historical property” in the Middle East, “including Lebanon.”

However, Bishop Georges Safidi of Nourieh Monastery told DW he remains mystified by the deal. “There was a chapel and a cemetery in the contract,” he said, and claimed the deal was made “10 years ago” and that the planning permission had recently expired.

Safidi said that “the Patriarch [of Antioch] and Russia’s ambassador [to Lebanon]” knew about the initial contract.The reason the deal fell apart, according to the Bishop, was due to funding issues on the Russian side.

Lebanese-Russian house

The town of Batroun, with its Phoenician heritage stretching below the Nourieh monastery, is one of the two locations of the Lebanese-Russian House.

So far, the organization has appeared only sporadically in the documented meetings between Lebanese and Russian clergy and politicians.

In March, 2017, however, Russian Ambassador Zasypkin, Moscow Patriarchate representative Arseny Sokolov, Christian Orthodox community members and other high-profile Lebanese and Russian figures attended the 20th anniversary dinner at the Lebanese-Russian Cultural House.

“The Russians are interested in meeting the president, exploring investment options, but not trying to do politics, and the Lebanese-Russian house only does things like film screenings,” Ghassan Saoud, an independent journalist, told DW. A Christian, born in an Orthodox village in Lebanon, Ghassan has covered the appearance of political Orthodox forces and their Russian counterparts.

“My village was in urgent need of a medical ambulance, so the chief went to Russian embassy more than 10 times to ask for help, but they never did.” The reason they approached the Russians, according to Ghassan, is that they had heard of Russia’s pledge to help the Orthodox Christians in Lebanon.”If you go to the US embassy, they have USAID, and if you go to the French embassy, they also do social work,” said Ghassan.

Nourieh monastery (DW/B. Gerdziunas)A deal involving land for a Russian cemetery near the Nourieh monastery was part of Russian attempts to gain a foothold

Highlighting the possible monetary difficulties already seen with the Nourieh monastery project, he said “the Russians don’t pay for any [social projects].”

Russian-Lebanese defense deals

Meanwhile, a recent drop in the number of recorded meetings between Russian and Lebanese representatives has coincided with the last-minute delay in signing a bilateral defense deal last month.

The Kremlin has been working to secure military cooperation with Lebanon since February 2017, allegedly to enable Russian forces to use Lebanese facilities in return for an arms deal worth more than $1 billion.

The US, which provided Lebanon with $120 million in defense aid last year, has traditionally been averse to selling heavy armor and air combat weapons. According to Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center, “a number of Lebanese media reports have even suggested that the defense agreement with Russia was at least partly motivated by the fact that Defense Minister Ya‘qoub Sarraf is from the Greek Orthodox community, of which Russia has traditionally been a protector.”

Palestinian TV teaches children there’s ‘no alternative to return’ to 1948 homes

May 20, 2018

Ad prepared for ‘Nakba’ commemorations says ‘Our return is certain, and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of our state’

 

A video for children aired on Palestinian Authority TV as part of annual commemorations of the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, of Israel’s founding, vows a “return” to lands that are today part of Israel.

In the clip, an elderly hand is seen passing on old house keys to the hand of a child. A title declares: “From generation to generation, there is no alternative to the return.”

In the background a singer croons, “We shall return though time passes by and distances grow between us.”

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the al-Aqsa Mosque are then seen, and a narrator says: “Our return is certain, and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of our state.”

The ad has been aired multiple times on official PA TV since May 10, and was translated by Palestinian Media Watch.

Israel has long insisted that the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, as defined by the Palestinians, is a non-starter in peace negotiations. The UN categorizes as refugees not just those Palestinians who were displaced or expelled from their homes in 1947 and 1948, but also all of their descendants. No other refugee population is treated as such, and so the Palestinian refugee population increases each year, and is now in the millions, while the rest of the world’s decreases.

As a consequence, accepting the “right of return” would mean millions of Palestinians being allowed to enter Israel, ending Israel’s majority Jewish status.

Over the last six weeks, tens of thousands of Gazans, with the encouragement of the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza, have been undertaking weekly “March of Return” protests at the border. Some rioters have tried to damage and break the security fence and infiltrate Israel, while others have thrown petrol bombs and rocks, and burned tires.

Those clashes reached their most intense level yet on Monday, coinciding with the Jerusalem embassy opening, when Israeli forces killed more than 60 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Israeli leaders have long said Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to well and truly accept a majority Jewish state in lands Arabs once claimed as their own as the chief roadblock to peace.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-tv-teaches-children-theres-no-alternative-to-return-to-1948-homes/

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Trump Administration Plans to Reveal Middle East Peace Plan Next Month

May 19, 2018

Sources say Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblat are briefing various partners on the plan’s details and aim to roll it out after Ramadan

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaking at the White House in Washington on May 18, 2018,
U.S. President Donald Trump speaking at the White House in Washington on May 18, 2018, Susan Walsh/AP

The Trump administration is aiming to roll out its much-hyped but long-delayed Middle East peace plan next month amid signs it may further alienate the Palestinians by slashing millions of dollars in funding for humanitarian and development projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

Five U.S. officials and a congressional aide say the administration intends to release the peace plan in mid- to late-June, shortly after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, although they cautioned that the timing could slip depending on developments in the region. They say the plan’s main authors — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt — have already begun quietly briefing select allies and partners on elements of the proposal.

Yet any Palestinian willingness to even consider the plan would require conditions to improve and anger to subside considerably in the coming weeks, an unlikely scenario as the Palestinians say evidence of one-sided Trump giveaways to Israel continues to pile up. U.S. allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf also have felt compelled to criticize the administration for its approach. Ostensibly, Trump would need buy-in from those same countries to build enough momentum for any peace plan to succeed.

The administration has been resisting congressional demands to fully close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because Greenblatt and Kushner want to keep that channel open in case the Palestinians are open to re-entering negotiations with Israel based on the plan. The office was ordered closed by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last November, but has been allowed to stay open for limited purposes under the administration’s interpretation of the law requiring it to be shut down in the absence of peace talks.

The prospect of Palestinian interest in the peace proposal appears dim, however, particularly since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas recalled the mission’s chief earlier this week to protest Monday’s opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy move is said to have contributed to violent protests in Gaza that were met with deadly force from Israel. Nearly 60 Palestinians were killed Monday by Israeli forces, drawing condemnations and calls for restraint from Europe and elsewhere. The U.S. declined to join those calls and, while regretting the loss of life, opposed efforts at the U.N. to open an international investigation into the violence.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the embassy move and the administration’s unreserved defense of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies have alienated and angered the Palestinian leadership, which accuses the administration of abandoning its role as a neutral arbiter in the conflict. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said any deal needs to be between the Palestinians and Israel — not the United States.

“I don’t need Jason Greenblatt. I don’t need Kushner,” Erekat said. “It’s our lives.”

That sense of betrayal may deepen significantly this summer as millions of dollars in U.S. assistance to the Palestinians appears likely to be cut and the funds re-allocated to other regions. That money has been on hold since last year and existing funding for some projects will start to run out in just months if it is not approved in the next two weeks. If that does not happen, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will have to notify aid recipients that continued U.S. funding is not forthcoming and those programs will begin to be shut down. Local staffers would be laid off and U.S. officials running the projects would be reassigned elsewhere.

Of $251 million in U.S. aid planned for the Palestinians in 2018, only $50.5 million has been reported spent, according to the government’s online tracker, http://www.foreignassistance.gov. The remaining more than $200 million is currently on hold, a figure that does not include an additional $65 million in frozen U.S. assistance to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon. The U.S. aid pays for programs on education, health, good governance and democracy promotion as well as disaster preparedness and security.

For several months the White House has been sitting on State Department and USAID recommendations to spend at least some of the money, according to the officials. Three officials said there is no indication those recommendations will be acted upon any time soon despite appeals from lawmakers and even expressions of concern from Israel, which sees value in the assistance especially in the security sector. One official said there was “an overwhelming lack of urgency” about making a decision on the funding. The other two said there was no sign that the end-of-May timeframe would be met.

“The administration is currently reviewing U.S. assistance to the Palestinians,” USAID said in a statement to The Associated Press. “USAID is in discussions with all affected implementing partners on the status of the review, and is working closely with the interagency, as the administration concludes its review.”

At immediate risk are between five and 10 of the some 20 USAID projects in the West Bank and Gaza, along with proposed new initiatives, the officials said. Without a quick decision those will run out of money by the end of 2018, they said. Nearly all of the others will run out of money in early 2019 unless the U.S. funding is unblocked, they said.

Turkey’s Erdogan likens Israeli actions against Palestinians to Nazis

May 19, 2018

Turkey called a special session of Organization of Islamic Cooperation to condemn Israel and the United States. The 57-member body said the US had backed Israel’s “savage crimes.”

    
Protesters in Gaza running (Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Israel of “thuggery, violence and state terror,” comparing the country’s actions against Palestinians to Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust.

Erdogan opened an extraordinary summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, sharply condemning Israel for killing more than 100 Palestinians and wounding thousands more in Gaza recent weeks, including some 60 killed in protests on Monday.

“The children of those who were subjected to all sorts of torture in concentration camps during World War II are now attacking Palestinians with methods that would put Nazis to shame,” he told Muslim leaders after he called the session.

Erdogan, who is rotating president of the OIC, lashed out at the United States, accusing Washington of rewarding Israel’s “occupation and apartheid policies” by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Read more:  Gaza residents ‘caged in a toxic slum: UN human rights chief Zeid

‘New operation against Muslim world’

Palestinians consider East Jerusalem the capital of a future state and the al-Aqsa Mosque compound is considered the third holiest site in Islam. The mosque complex is located on the Temple Mount, a holy site to Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Despite all warnings moving the embassy would harm “Muslims, Christians and Jews,” the US government ignored the UN and “opted to side with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and some radical evangelicals Christians” in the United States, Erdogan said.

The United States has “Palestinian blood on its hands,” said Erdogan, adding the US Embassy move to “Jerusalem is a harbinger of a new operation against the Muslim world.”

A final OIC communique labeled Israeli forces’ use of violence against Palestinians “savage crimes” that were carried out “with the backing of the US administration, including through shielding the Israeli occupation in the UN Security Council from accountability.”

The United States regularly uses its veto in the UN Security Council to block resolutions against Israel.

Read more: US Embassy in Jerusalem opens, further fracturing a ‘fragile city’

OIC@OIC_OCI

Final communique of the 7th extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference of the in response to the grave developments in the State of , held in Istanbul, Turkey on 18 May 2018 has been adopted. https://www.oic-oci.org/topic/?t_id=18703&t_ref=10354&lan=en 

The OIC also called for “the international protection of the Palestinian population including through dispatching of an international protection force.”

Recognizing the need for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, the OIC invited “all countries to officially recognize the State of Palestine.”

This was the second emergency OIC meeting Erdogan called in a half year. In December 2017, the Turkish president called a summit to denounced US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Read more: 70 years of Nakba: The ongoing struggle of Palestinian refugees

Useful election tool

Earlier Friday, Erdogan held a rally in Istanbul attended by tens of thousands of people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah attended the rally, telling the crown the US was “trying to provoke a religious conflict in the region” by moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

The Turkish president has been one of the strongest critics of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, an issue that plays well with his conservative and nationalist base. Turkey holds elections on June 24.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed thousands packed in an Istanbul meeting area at a rally he personally called, hours ahead of an emergency meeting of Islamic leaders he was also hosting over the killing of Gaza protesters this week (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

Earlier this week Turkey recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the United States. Israel responded by temporarily expelling the Turkish ambassador.

Turkey is one of the chief regional backers of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Israel and the US consider Hamas a terrorist organization.  Israel has blamed Hamas “terrorists” of inciting the Gaza protests against Israel, a view backed by Washington.

cw/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-erdogan-likens-israeli-actions-against-palestinians-to-nazis/a-43847117

Hamas Vows To Continue Protests at Gaza-Israel Border Fence for Entire Month of Ramadan

May 19, 2018

Ismail Haniyeh denies a deal has been reached with Egypt to call off the protests after Cairo opens Rafah crossing for entire month of Ramadan

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech on the first Friday of the  Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at al-Omary mosque in Gaza City. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at al-Omary mosque in Gaza City. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The leader of the Hamas terror group on Friday vowed he would personally lead fresh protests at the Gaza border fence, days after 62 Palestinians were killed in clashes there with Israeli forces. Hamas has said 50 of the fatalities were its members.

Ismail Haniyeh also denied a deal had been made to end seven weeks of border protests, promising they would continue.

The IDF said there were some 1,000 taking part in clashes along the border fence on Friday afternoon and several thousand in protest camps further back. Demonstrators were slinging stones, burning tires and flying flaming kites into Israel.

Soldiers were responding with riot disposal means and live fire in accordance with rules of engagement, the IDF said.

Also Friday, the IDF said it had facilitated the transfer of seven of the Gaza wounded who had Jordanian citizenship from Gaza to Jordan for medical treatment.

Speaking at a Gaza City mosque during midday prayers on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Haniyeh said: “We will all go, and me first of you, to the Gaza border.

“The marches will not stop until the siege is lifted completely from the Gaza Strip.”

Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007 in an attempt to prevent the terror group bringing in weapons, rockets and material for the construction of fortifications and attack tunnels.

Palestinian demonstrators use slingshots to hurl rocks at Israeli forces during clashes along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis on May 18, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Haniyeh had previously touted the aims of the protests, known as the “March of Return,” as the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to all of Palestine.

“We are here to declare today that our people will not agree to keep the ‘right of return’ only as a slogan,” he said at one of the first of the protests in the last six weeks.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

No deal with Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi announced late Thursday at the start of Ramadan that his country’s border with Gaza would be open throughout the holy month to “alleviate the suffering” of Gazans.

Local media have speculated that a deal has been struck for Egypt, which has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, to open the border in exchange for Hamas ending the protests.

Haniyeh welcomed Sissi’s decision but denied any such an agreement.

“There is a rumor that Hamas made a deal with Egypt to end the marches. This is baseless,” he said.

Palestinians wait to travel to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 18, 2018. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi opened the Rafah crossing with Gaza for a month, allowing Palestinians to cross during the holy period of Ramadan. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Egypt reportedly played a large role in convincing Hamas to call of protests this week after deadly clashes with Israeli troops at the border fence Monday. Sixty people were killed Monday and another two on Tuesday during the demonstrations, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. A Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said 50 of them were members of the terror group which controls the Strip. Three others were Islamic Jihad members.

Bardawil’s acknowledgement undercut previous claims by Hamas and other organizers of the rallies that they were peaceful.

Hamas’s Salah Bardawil (right) acknowledges 50 Hamas fatalities among the 62 killed on Israel-Gaza border, May 16, 2018 (Screenshot)

Sissi on Wednesday said his government was communicating with both sides “so that this bloodshed would stop.”

Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel says are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.

The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue.

On Thursday, the Israeli Defense Ministry said the flow of gasoline and diesel fuel into the coastal enclave was being partially restored, less than a week after Palestinian rioters burned the fuel terminal at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

On Tuesday, Israel reopened the trucking lanes of the Kerem Shalom Crossing and began allowing through medical supplies and commercial goods, though in two cases Palestinian officials refused to accept the trucks.

Palestinian Authority officials, working on the Gaza side of the crossing, sent back 14 trucks worth of food and diapers on Tuesday, for unclear reasons. The next day, Hamas officials inside Gaza refused to accept two shipments of medical supplies, despite shortages in the Strip’s hospitals, because they were provided by the Israeli military.

While the inability to import medical equipment and other essential goods to the Gaza Strip due to the temporary closure of the crossing was a source of concern, international officials this week warned of the dire consequences of the lack of fuel.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/1000-protest-on-gaza-border-as-hamas-chief-vows-to-lead-new-demonstrations/

READ MORE:

A wake up call for the Muslim world

May 19, 2018

It was only five days ago that 62 innocent people were viciously murdered in Gaza. On Friday, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in Istanbul for an emergency session. However, we, as a newspaper, doubt that the 1.6-billion strong Muslim World will be able to put forward an effective proposal to address the crime. We fear the leaders of Islamic countries will again use this occasion to express their grief and leave it at that before returning to their palatial homes, so much lighter and relieved at having done something.

Today, many Muslim countries are suffering under a self-perpetuating disorder with their ruling class beholden to the Western puppet masters that feed them. Their people, meanwhile, find no avenue to express their wants and desires. Many Muslim governments prefer to lean on the West to cement their rule rather than address their people’s grievances.

Editorial
Daily Sabah
May 18, 2018

Palestinians carry a protester injured during clashes with Israeli forces along Gaza border, May 14, 2018
Palestinians carry a protester injured during clashes with Israeli forces along Gaza border, May 14, 2018.  Credit SAID KHATIB/AFP

Ignoring the will and sentiments of their own people, these Muslims leaders, princes and kings among men, look so magnificent living in glorious palaces behind the tall walls. However meaningless their lives are, however hollow their hearts are, they succeed in achieving their only priority: Perpetuating their rule.

No wonder Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems so confident. The U.S. and the Jewish lobby capitalize on the timid and spiritual feebleness of such Muslim countries.

We can no longer act surprised when we hear some Muslims leaders accede to their Western benefactors’ will and say that Palestine and Jerusalem are not issues of interest.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to extort some Muslim countries is just the most blatant attempt by Western governments to squeeze the last speck of self-respect out of their national will. Being forced to buy weapons with cameras rolling may be enough to placate them for a while. In the long run, however, humiliation has no limit. You need to obey your master no matter what.

Muslims leaders who think it is wise to accede to everything the West says act on the belief that as long as they give the hungry monster what it wants, it will let them be. No matter what happens this story will eventually end with the West devouring the lackey. When they have nothing to give, the West will move onto the next eager servant that will do its bidding.

We, at Daily Sabah, to not wish to employ clichés such as the “brotherhood of Islam” and such, because we know for many, such religious sentiments hold no value. Just try to be wise and compassionate and focus on the interests of your people. Don’t sacrifice your country’s future to your narrow, mainly dynastic, interests.Remember, no one is safe. As the dominoes fall one by one, no country or leader should feel secure. The chaos that is spreading in the region will eventually consume the entire Islamic world. These days, no matter where one goes, the Islamic geography is synonymous with chaos and violence.

What we need is to focus on our future. Muslim leaders need to understand why the West wants to use them. You, the Muslim leaders, should never forget the fact that the U.S. and Israel will never care about the interests of your people. You should take care of your people’s interests.

However, you cannot because you have almost no influence in any international organization or platform that truly matters. You have no lobbying power or influence anywhere in the world.

You only have the OIC. You should at least try to use it effectively. The OIC was founded by the countries of the Islamic world after Jerusalem was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. It is a city that binds us together. We, as Muslims, may not be united economically and politically, but when it comes to Jerusalem, we always stand united. The fate of Jerusalem is interlocked with the future of Islam.

In this day and age, we have no option but to institutionalize. Countries, individually, have almost no influence. Turkey believes in the OIC and the need to institutionalize it. We need to transform it into an institution that produces concrete solutions to the problems of our age and should ensure it does not fall victim to sectarian conflicts.

Turkey is the term president of the OIC. Don’t boycott the proceedings just because the meetings take place in Istanbul. Rather than getting annoyed at the way Turkey handles regional issues, Muslim leaders need to join in and cooperate. Instead of succumbing to jealousy, try to understand why your people love Turkey and what it represents. If you try to understand it, you will realize that its source is nothing more than Turkey accepting its historical responsibilities. If you do the same, your people and many more will admire you, too. Turkey is not a country that is after domination. It wants partners.

Those who fail to heed this call for cooperation will soon have reasons to regret their carelessness. The failure to satiate the needs and passions of the people will eventually result in the people themselves taking action.

Only time will tell who will lead them.

https://www.dailysabah.com/editorial/2018/05/19/a-wake-up-call-for-the-muslim-world

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Muslim Leaders Call for International Protection Force for Palestinians

May 18, 2018

Muslim Leaders Call for International Protection Force for Palestinians

A demonstrator blows a trumpet during a protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu MustafaREUTERS

BY ALI KUCUKGOCMEN AND Tulay Karadeniz

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Muslim leaders called on Friday for an international force to be deployed to protect Palestinians after dozens of protesters were shot dead by Israeli forces on the Gaza border this week.

At a special summit in Turkey convened by President Tayyip Erdogan, they also pledged to take “appropriate political (and) economic measures” against countries that followed the United States in moving their Israel embassies to contested Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Erdogan, who is campaigning for re-election next month, used the summit to verbally attack Israel, comparing the actions of its forces to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews in World War Two, when millions were killed in concentration camps.

He also castigated the United States, saying its decision to move its embassy had emboldened Israel to put down the protests at the border with Gaza with excessive force. Most countries say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s step to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there reversed decades of U.S. policy, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.

Guatemala this week became the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and Paraguay said it would follow suit this month.

The final declaration of the meeting of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation described the killing of 60 Palestinians, protesting the embassy move on Monday, as “savage crimes committed by the Israeli forces with the backing of the U.S. administration”.

It said the violence should be put on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly, and called on the United Nations to investigate the killings.

The summit was attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah, a U.S. ally whose Hashemite dynasty is custodian of Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

Abdullah said the U.S. decision five months ago to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had “weakened the pillars of peace … and deepened the despair that leads to violence.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslim countries “to totally cut their relations with the Zionist regime (Israel) and also to revise their trade and economic ties with America”.

A populist with roots in political Islam, Erdogan has described Israel as “terrorist state”.

“The children of those being subject to all sorts of torture in concentration camps during World War Two are now attacking Palestinians with methods that would put Nazis to shame,” Erdogan said on Friday shortly after addressing a rally of thousands of people in support of Palestinians.

The United Nations must send “an international peace force to the people of Palestine, who are losing their young children to Israeli terror every day,” Erdogan said, comparing the proposed deployment to peacekeeping forces sent to Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

The violence in Gaza led to Turkey and Israel expelling each other’s senior diplomats this week. Erdogan has also traded barbs on Twitter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel, however, was the 10th-largest market for Turkish exports in 2017, buying some $3.4 billion of goods, according to IMF statistics.

“We have excellent economic ties with Turkey. And these relations are very important for both sides,” Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Israel Radio on Friday when asked if Israel should break ties with Turkey.

The plight of Palestinians resonates with many Turks, particularly the nationalist and religious voters who form the base of support for Erdogan, who has been in power for 15 years.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tulay Karadeniz in Istanbul; additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul, Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Parisa Hafezi and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by David Dolan and Dominic Evans; editing by Grant McCool)

Istanbul summit urges international force to protect Palestinians

May 19, 2018

A summit in Istanbul of Muslim heads of state on Friday called for the creation of an international peacekeeping force to protect the Palestinians, as host Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “brutality” comparable to the Nazis.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — seeking to bridge severe differences within the Muslim world — said in a final communique that Israel had carried out the “wilful murder” of some 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border Monday.

It called “for the international protection of the Palestinian population, including through dispatching of international protection force”.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed thousands packed in an Istanbul meeting area at a rally he personally called, hours ahead of an emergency meeting of Islamic leaders he was also hosting over the killing of Gaza protesters this week (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

By Fulya OZERKAN, Ezzedine SAID
AFP

Erdogan said the sending of such an “international peacekeeping force” was essential to help the Palestinians and stop the international community being a “spectator to massacres”.

He compared such a force to the UN forces sent to deal with the aftermath of the Balkan wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The statement also angrily lashed out at the United States, saying that Washington was complicit in the “crimes” of Israel and “emboldened” its government by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

– ‘No difference with Nazis’ –

The summit had been called at a few days notice by Erdogan, who had earlier addressed thousands at an open air rally in Istanbul to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the opening of the summit, Erdogan compared Israel’s actions against the Palestinians in Gaza to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.

“There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to,” he said, accusing Israel of using methods “similar to the Nazis”.

Around six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II in the Holocaust.

Addressing the earlier rally, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim used similar language, saying Israel was “imitating Hitler and Mussolini” by occupying Palestinian territory and disregarding international law.

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah — stepping in for president Mahmud Abbas who this week had surgery on his ear — told the rally that the US was “trying to provoke a religious conflict in the region” by moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

– ‘Test for Islamic world’ –

Erdogan complained that Muslims had too often given a “shy and cowardly” image to their foes and failed to sort out internal disagreements.

Describing the issue of Jerusalem as a “test”, he said: “If we need to speak clearly, the Islamic world failed in the Jerusalem test.”

This is the second emergency OIC meeting Erdogan has hosted in the space of half a year after the December 2017 summit, also in Istanbul, that denounced US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Disputes between the OIC’s key players — notably between Sunni kingpin Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran — always complicate the adoption of any measures going beyond harsh rhetoric.

Riyadh — which appears to have softened its stance on Israel as the influence of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has grown — and its allies fear alienating the United States with tough measures against Tel Aviv.

Saudi Arabia’s chief foreign policy preoccupation, shared with Israel, is ensuring US backing to contain Iran which both Riyadh and the Jewish state see as the main threat to regional peace.

In his speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointedly criticised “the silence of certain countries” without which “the Zionists would have never attempted such a brutality”

Both Cairo and Riyadh are wary of Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, as well as its close alliance with Qatar which is currently under a Saudi-led blockade. the Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers came but not the heads of state.

– ‘Called to account’ –

Erdogan has long craved a role as a Muslim leader within the entire Islamic world, rarely holding back with tirades against Israel even though Ankara has diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Tensions with Israel and hosting such a meeting also does Erdogan no harm with his core supporters as Turkey heads to presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24.

And he has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Israel after Monday’s bloodshed, earlier this week even accusing the Jewish state of genocide.

He called for an international investigation into the “crimes” Israel has committed. “It will be called to account sooner or later,” he said.