Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Australia to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital

December 11, 2018

Scott Morrison’s cabinet said to approve shift in foreign policy, while putting off relocating mission due to $200 million price tag

Newly elected leader of Australia's Liberal Party, Scott Morrison addresses media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, August 24, 2018. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)

Newly elected leader of Australia’s Liberal Party, Scott Morrison addresses media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, August 24, 2018. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)

The Australian government is reportedly set to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, but will likely delay moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv due to cost concerns.

Senior government sources told The Australian newspaper that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet approved the policy change at a national security meeting Tuesday night following extensive discussions on the matter.

Cabinet ministers agreed that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would take place at a later stage, the report said, due to the estimated $200 million it would cost to relocate the diplomatic mission.

Sources told the paper that Canberra would establish a consular office in Jerusalem until the embassy could be moved there.

The report said the decision would likely be announced during Wednesday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

It was not clear if the government intended to recognize the entirety of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, or just West Jerusalem, which Israel has held throughout its existence — as opposed to the eastern sectors of the city that it captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

Indonesia President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, front left, with Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, front right, during their bilateral meeting at Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia, October 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

In October, Morrison told reporters he was “open-minded” to following the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, in what would be a sharp break in longstanding Australian foreign policy.

The announcement was welcomed by Israel, but heavily criticized by Palestinians and a number of Muslim-majority countries in Asia, including neighboring Indonesia, with which Australia is trying to clinch a landmark free-trade deal.

Morrison at the time said that the potential recognition and relocation of the embassy would not disrupt the Indonesia trade deal or negate Canberra’s longstanding support of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a followup statement, Morrison’s government indicated that recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would only extend to the western part of the city, and East Jerusalem would be designated as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Relations between Australia and the Muslim-majority Indonesia have been strained since Morrison’s announcement, with Jakarta officials initially indicating the deal may be called off over the changed foreign policy.

Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the Palestinian delegation to Canberra (YouTube screen capture)

According to The Australian, Foreign Minister Marise Payne informed Indonesian leaders of her government’s intention to recognize Jerusalem during a meeting in Bali last week.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia slammed the reported upcoming announcement, with envoy Izzat Abdulhadi saying his people should not have to “pay the price for some kind of face-saving move.”

In a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, Abdulhadi rejected recognizing West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, saying that such a compromise still “legitimize[d] the illegal occupation of Jerusalem.”

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat also harshly criticized the reported move, and called on Arab and Muslim countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Australia if it changed its policy on Jerusalem. In a tweet Tuesday morning, Erekat said that various Arab and Muslim summits have adopted resolutions committing to ending diplomatic ties with any country that recognizes Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.

Morrison’s mid-October announcement also drew criticism at home. Australia’s spy agency warned the move could could provoke further violent unrest in Israel, while opposition lawmakers accused the prime minister of cynically pandering to Jewish voters ahead of a crucial by-election.

An election poster of Liberal candidate Dave Sharma is seen on a street in the seat of Wentworth in Sydney on October 18, 2018. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

A top secret bulletin drafted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, obtained by The Guardian in October, said the move “may be perceived as shifting to a pro-Israel/anti-Iran stance,” and warned it could damage Australia’s diplomatic and business interests in the Islamic republic.

Morrison floated the idea of recognizing Jerusalem moving the Australian embassy there days before an October by-election in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population that featured his fellow party member Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel.

The campaign in Wentworth drew international attention after Morrison raised the prospect of the embassy move, a remark that was slammed by critics and opposition lawmakers as a cynical attempt to pander to Jewish voters.

The government lost the by-election and its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, forcing Morrison to rely on deals with independent lawmakers to guarantee confidence in his government, enact legislation and ensure money supply.


Donald Trump Not Backing Away From Israel

December 9, 2018

In an age when doomsday predictions are as common as thunderstorms, it can be instructive to look back at events and compare the predictions to what actually happened. The decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an example that offers major lessons.

Long before Trump made the announcement on Dec. 6, 2017, and pledged to move our embassy to Jerusalem, there were endless warnings that the change would cause global unrest. Opponents in America, Europe and the Arab world, including current and former government officials, vehemently insisted the peace process between Israel and Palestinians would be destroyed. Some even warned that America would be sucked into ­another Mideast war.

Ho-hum. It’s a year later and the sky still refuses to fall. Nor is the Mideast burning.

In fact, little or nothing has changed between the parties as a result of the announcement and the subsequent embassy move from Tel Aviv. There was no peace process at the time because the Palestinians had refused even to negotiate, and that remains the case.

By Michael Goodwin

Also, Israel already was moving beyond the Palestinian issue and, because of threats from Iran and ­Islamic State, had established working security alliances with several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Those arrangements are intact and expanding, as are its relationships with China and others outside the region.

Among the lessons that hindsight affords is that conventional wisdom was simply wrong. It turns out that those supposedly in the know actually knew nothing.

A corollary is that the so-called Arab street turned out to be a ­fictional force, with the promised outpouring of mass support in Arab countries never materializing. ­Although there was grumbling and sporadic rock-throwing and tire-burning, Armageddon stayed off stage.

Another lesson is that strength creates its own advantages. Presidents who blink in a crisis, as ­Barack Obama did by failing to ­enforce his red line in Syria, invite more trouble because opponents believe they will wilt. In ­office for nearly a year, Trump had demonstrated that riots don’t move him, so riots didn’t happen.

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

I was in Jerusalem the day of his announcement and Israelis were jubilant. Trump was hailed as a hero for the ages because he conformed American policy to what every Israeli knows: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state.

That reality was why virtually every presidential candidate for two decades promised to make the embassy move — but only when the time was right. The hesitation, enshrined in a 1995 law that allowed delays, gave a heckler’s veto to ­Arabs and incentivized violence. Trump changed the pattern by deciding the time was right to do the right thing.

This is not to claim that all the chips fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after. Hamas, true to its terrorist nature, used the actual opening of the new embassy in May to organize attempts to crash the Gaza border fence.

Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, along with live fire, and shot and killed a reported 59 Palestinians. Yet despite the usual condemnation at the United Nations that Israel had used disproportionate force, Hamas ­acknowledged that 52 of the dead were militants, many of them armed.

Meanwhile, thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli towns and kites loaded with firebombs sent across the border, starting fires that burned thousands of acres of farmland.

Some of the kites carried Nazi swastikas, according to The New York Times, a reminder about Arab hate and proof that further delay on the Jerusalem declaration would not have changed Hamas’ determination to destroy Israel.

For ordinary Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, the continuing refusal of their leaders to negotiate with Israel and the Trump administration compounds years of missed opportunities. ­

Every passing day is another lost day where Palestinians could have had their own state.

Importantly, Trump’s team acknowledged the Jerusalem move meant he would tilt to Palestinians on other issues, and he pointedly did not rule out the possibility that East Jerusalem could be the capital of their state.

Yet continuing the pattern started in 2000, when Bill Clinton failed to get Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to create a two-state solution at Camp David, the Palestinians never get to yes.

Time and again, they walk away when a reasonable deal could be made.

Finally, an American president called their bluff and showed that even their threats were empty.

Taking & delivering punches

Scoring the punches that prosecutors throw at President Trump is a bit like scoring a heavyweight boxing match. Body blows might add up over the course of the fight, but anything that isn’t a knockout isn’t decisive.

So it was with the three sentencing memos released late Friday, two from special counsel Robert Mueller and one from Manhattan federal prosecutors.

The clearest hit on Trump came from the Manhattan feds’ memo asking for substantial prison time for Michael Cohen. Reprising statements Cohen made when he pleaded guilty, prosecutors said that, among other crimes, the former Trump fixer broke campaign- finance laws by paying hush money to Stormy Daniels and another woman, and that he acted at Trump’s direction.

The intended point is that Trump committed a felony, though how that plays out is a mystery. An indictment is theoretically possible because the deed happened before the president took office, though that effort would cause a bloody battle of its own.

The main event, of course, is Mueller and his memos on Cohen and Paul Manafort, which continue his maddening pattern of teasing about big developments without delivering. So there is more talk of Russia, Russia, Russia, but lots of redacted material and no evidence linking Trump to any “collusion,” however the word is defined.

The day, then, leaves the president battered but still standing. He’s also punching back hard, aiming to weaken Mueller and his team.

One appeal of actual boxing is a limit on the number of rounds. Unfortunately, Mueller vs. Trump looks as if it will continue long past the point of America’s endurance.

Lefty AOC takes Trump Jr.’s bait

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an incoming member of Congress from Queens, foolishly responded to a tweet about socialism from Donald Trump Jr. by pulling rank. She charged that he was trying to distract from his father’s troubles, then added, “it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.”

In her case, power doesn’t just corrupt, it corrupts instantly.

It’s ‘suppression’ in Fantasyland

Reader Harold Theurer spots an outrage that has escaped social- justice warriors. He writes: “It’s come to my attention that Disney requires photo ID in order to enter its facilities.

“Because asking voters for photo ID is considered Voter Suppression, does Disney’s rule amount to Joy Seeker Suppression?

“How interesting that walking down Main Street USA requires more scrutiny than casting a ballot.”

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro to follow Trump in moving Israeli embassy to Jerusalem

November 2, 2018

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro reiterated Thursday that he plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, joining the United States and Guatemala.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly welcomed the plan.

In a tweet Thursday, Bolsonaro said: “As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that.”

It was the first time since being elected Sunday that Bolsonaro referred to his plan to move the embassy.

© Jack Guez, AFP | Brazil’s embassy is currently in Israel’s internationally-recognised capital Tel Aviv.

In Israel, Netanyahu issued a statement praising Bolsonaro. “I congratulate my friend Brazilian President-Elect, Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem, a historic, correct and exciting step!”

Netanyahu spoke to Bolsonaro earlier this week, congratulating him on his victory and inviting him to visit Israel.

>> Read more: ‘Tropical Trump’ Bolsonaro threatens to upend Brazil’s foreign policy

If Bolsonaro follows through on his pledge, Brazil would become the third country to have an embassy in Jerusalem, after the US and Guatemala. Paraguay briefly moved its embassy to Jerusalem as well, only to move it back to Tel Aviv after its new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, was elected.

The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims all of the city, including the eastern sector, home to Jerusalem’s most important religious sites, as its eternal capital.

Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, saying the final status of Jerusalem must be determined through negotiations.

Some Brazilians have raised concerns about the idea, saying it would hurt Brazil’s relations with Muslim nations.

Former Brazilian Ambassador to the US Rubens Barbosa has warned that such a move could hurt Brazil’s poultry exports. He says that Brazil “would be throwing away $6 billion per year in poultry sales to Arab countries.”


Trump doesn’t make people crazy, he just reveals they always were

October 31, 2018

I have changed my mind. President Trump’s superpower isn’t that he can drag his critics down with him. His superpower is revealing they are right at home in the muck.

By Becket Adams
Washington Examiner

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, GQ magazine’s Julia Ioffe would make the occasional ignorant pronouncement. She was also no stranger to saying particularly nasty things about those with whom she disagreed politically and personally. When these things would happen, she would normally apologize, and the incident would be chalked up to a momentary lapse of reason. But her worst impulses have grown only more pronounced in the Trump era, leaving one to suspect that “nasty” and “ignorant” are her default positions and that the moderate character she used to play was always a put-on.

Following a fatal mass shooting this weekend at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, for example, the GQ correspondent blamed Jews who cheered the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Protesters at a women’s march in central London. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

“And a word to my fellow American Jews: This president makes this possible. Here. Where you live. I hope the embassy move over there, where you don’t live was worth it,” she tweeted.

Later, during an appearance on CNN, Ioffe accused the president of outperforming even the Islamic State in terms of radicalizing followers.

“I think this president, one of the things that he really launched his presidential run on is talking about Islamic radicalization. And this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did,” Ioffe said during a broader discussion on the synagogue mass shooting.

She added, “That way he winks and nods to these groups, ‘I know I’m not supposed to say it, but I’m a nationalist.’ The way that he hems and haws when he has to condemn these people and gritting his teeth, kind of says, ‘Fine, okay, I condemn this.’”

Ioffe attempted a sort of ambivalent backtrack later, saying on Twitter, “I clarified and apologized on air, but I’ll say it again here. This has been a very emotional and painful time, but I absolutely should not have gone with such hyperbole on the air. I apologize.” But then she continued by unbacktracking, writing, “I will add, though, that it is not a coincidence that the number of anti-Semitic attacks has jumped nearly 60% in 2017—the biggest one-year increase in recent history—while this administration has systematically pulled back resources from countering domestic extremism.”

In other words: Sorry, not sorry.

On Monday, she continued her personal descent into Trumpian absurdity, tweeting, “I have to say, I feel less safe as a journalist in America these days than I ever did in Russia. A lot less safe.”

That’s a hell of a comparison to make, considering Russian government and military officials, as well as Russian paramilitary and political groups, are responsible for murdering an estimated 20 journalists in Russia between 1992 and 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Four of the victims were tortured.

In contrast, “ supporters of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide” are responsible for the single politically motivated murder of a journalist in the last 26 years in the U.S., where news correspondents like Ioffe are free to accuse the president himself of incest, and I suppose now murder as well, with complete impunity.

If it were just one example, perhaps one could argue that Ioffe succumbed to impulse this weekend. But the above is all part of a multiday anti-Trump tirade, each pronouncement more ridiculous than the last.

It’s enough to make a person think this side of her was always there, and that the earlier, pre-2016 glimpses of Ioffe’s ignorant and vicious incidents were not aberrations. My theory now is that Trump’s own incapacity for shame has actually emboldened his critics to engage their similarly outrageous and shameless personae. Trump doesn’t just drag down his critics. He just makes the mud irresistible to them.

Palestinians debate value of Jerusalem vote boycott

October 28, 2018

As Jerusalem voters go to the polls Tuesday for municipal elections, Palestinians are debating not which candidate to back — but whether to cast their ballots at all.

The vast majority of the disputed city’s roughly 300,000 Palestinians are expected to boycott the polls again, despite calls by a minority to use the elections to seize influence in a city under full Israeli control for decades.

Rami Nasrallah, director general of East Jerusalem’s International Peace and Cooperation Center think-tank, sees little to gain from voting.

“I’m not willing to recognise the political rules of the game and to recognise or legitimise the Israeli occupation,” he said.

© AFP/File | Israel captured the city’s east and the surrounding West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, later annexing East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community

Israel captured the city’s east and the surrounding West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, later annexing East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians claim it as the capital of their future state.

Palestinian voter turnout was less than one percent in the last local vote in 2013, according to the Palestinian Academic Society for International affairs.

Municipalities and local councils across Israel will hold polls on Tuesday.

In Jerusalem a small number of Palestinian candidates are running for the council, but others have dropped out after criticism, intimidation and legal issues.

One of those who withdrew was Aziz Abu Sarah, who had even announced his intention to run for mayor.

He said it was time for Palestinians to “rethink” their boycott, pointing out that over 50 years Israel had moved around 200,000 settlers into east Jerusalem.

“We are losing Jerusalem every day,” he said during his campaign.

While he received support from both Palestinians and Israelis, he also faced a series of attacks and at one event was egged.

Like most Palestinian Jerusalemites, Abu Sarah has residency — not Israeli citizenship.

He was later told by Israeli authorities that his status as a Jerusalem resident was “being checked” due to his travel and work abroad, meaning he could be stripped of the right to stay in the city, he wrote on Facebook.

“Entrenched political interest groups on both sides hope to maintain the status quo, and will stop at nothing to prevent forward progress,” Abu Sarah said as he dropped out of the race.

– Public services –

Among the few Palestinians still in the race is Ramadan Dabash, who heads a list of six Arab candidates running for seats on the city council.

He has rare Israeli citizenship and is a former member of the right-wing Likud party run by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A lot of his votes could actually come from Jewish voters, rather than fellow Palestinians.

Dabash said he wanted to be on the council in order to protect Palestinians, and denied it amounted to recognising Israel’s control of the city — which Israel considers its undivided capital.

Palestinians who have residency status rather than full Israeli citizenship can’t vote in general elections but can for the municipality, which is responsible for most Jerusalem schools as well as rubbish collection and other services.

“Palestinians pay more than 400 million shekels ($110 million) tax to the municipality,” Dabash told AFP. “They receive less than 10 percent of the services.”

Dabash said his mediation had helped prevent the demolition of dozens of homes in his neighbourhood of Sur Baher in east Jerusalem.

But Palestinian involvement in the elections has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

“Any Palestinian should refuse to be a part of them. We will not accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told AFP.

“What did the PA do for Jerusalemites?” Dabash shot back. “Did they build them hospitals?”

But in the streets of east Jerusalem there has been no sign of any election campaigning.

The four leading mayoral candidates all hold conservative views on issues regarding the area’s Palestinian residents.

Trader Abu Yasser, from Jerusalem’s Old City, summed up the views of many Palestinians, saying he wouldn’t vote as the elections wouldn’t change much.

“If the Palestinians in Jerusalem knew they would achieve something from these elections they would have gone against the PA’s wishes and voted to get municipal services,” he said.


Australian PM faces backlash over surprise shift in Israel policy

October 16, 2018

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting its embassy there.

Image result for Scott Morrison, photos

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Such a move, which would follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December to do just that, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia’s Asian neighbors.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and Australia are due to sign a trade deal this year.

Indonesia’s trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, denied Australian media reports on Tuesday that Jakarta was considering putting the pact on hold over the possibility of Canberra changing its stance on Israel.

Morrison’s openness to recognizing Jerusalem and moving Australia’s embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney where his center-right coalition faces the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.

The by-election is in the Sydney harbourside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison’s Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.

Census figures show 12.5 percent of people in Wentworth are Jewish, a significantly larger proportion than the rest of the country. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday is Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.

Morrison will have to negotiate with independent lawmakers in order to continue governing in minority if the coalition loses Saturday’s by-election.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described Morrison’s apparent change of heart as “unprincipled and craven” and he faced a torrid question time in parliament.

“The orthodoxy that’s driven this debate which says issues like considering the question of the capital are taboo. I think we have to challenge that,” Morrison said earlier in Canberra.

“No decision has been made regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy … but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion,” Morrison said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.

Australia refused to follow Trump’s decision in December, which enraged Palestinians and upset the Arab world and Western allies, and has so far kept its mission in Tel Aviv.

The apparent change of policy was welcomed by Israel but swiftly criticized by Palestinian representatives.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Morrison had telephoned to explain his shift, said on Twitter he was “very thankful” Morrison was considering the move.

Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Peace talks between the parties broke down in 2014.

In a statement, Palestine’s embassy in Australia called Morrison’s announcement “deeply disturbing”. It said short-term political gain “would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries”.

The U.S. Embassy became the only foreign embassy in Jerusalem in May, but Netanyahu has attempted to persuade others to follow suit.

University of Sydney political analyst Rod Tiffen said the shifting position was being driven by local politics.

“It’s a big change, it is out of step with everyone, except America,” said Tiffen.

“But three days out from the Wentworth by-election, it’s pretty blatant … to the extent that there is a Jewish vote there, it probably helps.”

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in JERUSALEM; Editing by Paul Tait


UNRWA concerned over plan to shut its East Jerusalem operation

October 5, 2018

The UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees expressed concern on Friday over moves by the mayor of Jerusalem to close down its operations in the city.

Mayor Nir Barkat said on Thursday he had developed a plan to end the Jerusalem operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war of Israel’s founding and to millions of their descendants, and to replace them with Israeli services.

In this file photo,a Palestinian man carries a bag of wheat flour distributed at an aid distribution centre of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)

UNRWA has faced a financial crisis since the United States in August announced it was cutting aid to the body, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation” with an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

Barkat, on Twitter, said the US decision created an opportunity to change the current situation, which he said would otherwise “perpetuate the ‘refugee problem’ and encourage incitement.”

UNRWA, in a statement, said it “expresses its concern about recent statements made by the mayor of Jerusalem on its operations and installations in East Jerusalem.”

“UNRWA has continuously maintained operations in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem since 1967 with the cooperation and on the basis of a formal agreement with the State of Israel, which remains in force,” it said.

It said it provided education, health, relief and social services in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a capital of a future state.

Barkat said that under his plan the municipality would take over education, welfare and health services. “We provide services for all residents alike — there are no refugees in our city,” he said.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. The government’s Central Bureau of Statistics says it has a population of 900,000, including about 340,000 Arabs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past called for UNRWA to be dismantled.

Arab News


Israel to remove UN Palestinian agency from Jerusalem

October 5, 2018

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday expressed concern after Jerusalem’s Israeli mayor said he would remove it from the city.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced in a statement Thursday a “detailed plan to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem and replace its services with municipal services”.

UNRWA said such a move would affect its humanitarian operations and installations in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The agency runs schools and health centres particularly in the Shuafat refugee camp where it says 24,000 Palestinians are estimated to live.

UNRWA has come under pressure from Israel and the United States.

© AFP/File | Palestinian girls outside a school run by UNRWA in the Askar refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on September 2, 2018

The two countries object to the fact that Palestinians can pass refugee status to their children, and want the number of refugees covered by the agency to be sharply reduced.

The US administration ending its funding to UNRWA in August, the latest in a series of controversial moves applauded by the Israeli government but criticised by the Palestinians and the international community.

“The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” Barkat said.

“We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty,” he added.

The issue of Palestinian refugees — along with the status of Jerusalem — has long been a major sticking point in peace efforts.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

They and their descendants are now classified as refugees who fall under UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinian leaders continue to call for at least some of them to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel under any peace deal.

Israel says Palestinians must give up the so-called right of return and that allowing descendants of refugees to inherit their status only perpetuates the problem instead of solving it.

Israel also considers all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the predominantly Arab eastern area as the capital of their future state.

Some five million registered Palestinians refugees are eligible for UNRWA services in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in east Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centres will likewise be shut down.

The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their “authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel’s sovereign territory” in Jerusalem.

“In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes,” he said.

But on Friday UNRWA said it was “determined to continue to carrying out” its services in east Jerusalem and criticised Barkat’s plan.

“Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained,” the agency said.




A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)


US envoy urges world to join America in ‘being direct, frank with Palestinians’

September 28, 2018

Defending aid cuts, Jason Greenblatt cites need for ‘sustainable’ path to peace, says Washington provided support to Palestinians ‘year after year’ while they squandered it

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

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

NEW YORK — US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday defended the US administration’s drastic funding cuts to the Palestinians, arguing that billions given to this cause over decades have failed to significantly advance the matter.

Rather, he said in a speech to a conference of international donors, it was time to “realistically evaluate what works and what does not,” and to embark on “a new, sustainable path.” While he declined to provide any details of the peace proposal he and other White House officials have been working on for months, he asked members of the international community to study it carefully and be open for new ideas.

“It is time to look at the situation realistically. We could continue the same pattern for years to come, but that would be folly,” Greenblatt told participants of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s annual meeting at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Clearly, none of our financial assistance is getting Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution.”

The US recently decided to divert all its foreign aid to the Palestinians to other “regional priorities,” a move that has caused alarm among the international community, which has struggled to come up with alternative sources of funding for agencies such as UNRWA, which provides health and educational services to Palestinian refugees.

On Thursday, several countries raised nearly $120 million for UNRWA. The European Union, which together with the US cosponsors the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, alone pledged an additional 40 million euros for the agency. Over the last three years, the EU and its members states have give 1.2 billion to UNRWA.

“Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest,” the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said at a ministerial meeting focused on UNRWA.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip ,on September 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Greenblatt, in his speech to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, hailed the international community’s “noble effort,” but at the same time implied that money given to UNRWA and other Palestinian causes was wasted if things don’t change dramatically.

For instance, he accused Hamas but also the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas of not using other countries’ taxpayers money responsibly.

“We must all ask ourselves why we should keep struggling to raise money when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the PA are squandering the opportunities our money provides for a better future for Palestinians,” he said.

“We cannot continue to provide aid year after year to areas whose leadership, for political purposes, thwarts our efforts to improve the economic well-being of Palestinians.”

Turning to the political dimension of the peace process, Greenblatt dismissed the “the standard talking points about the solutions to this conflict,” noting that they have failed to advance a peace agreement.

“Another hundred resolutions in the UN General Assembly won’t make the lives of Palestinians in Gaza more bearable,” he said.

“Another hundred resolutions will be ignored by Hamas, which continues to hold the missing Israeli soldiers and civilians, who must be returned, and which indiscriminately launches rockets and flaming kites displaying Swastikas into Israel.”

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The status quo is “unsustainable for both sides,” Greenblatt said. “We must focus on realistic ways forward. If Palestinian lives are going to be changed for the better, their leaders need to change their behavior. It needs to start with Hamas in Gaza. I will say it clearly: We will not fund a situation that empowers Hamas, an unrepentant terrorist organization. It’s that simple.”

Americans are a generous people and continue to be inclined to provide humanitarian aid, Greenblatt went on. However, the administration “will not reward provocations and violence.”

Since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there, Palestinian officials have declared Trump unfit to mediate between them and Israel.

“Insults and attacks directed at President Trump and members of the Administration will not help the Palestinian people,” Greenblatt said. “While some may be uncomfortable with our direct, frank message, the United States will continue speaking directly and frankly because we must tell the truth. We do this because we care about the Palestinian people and their future.”

Returning to the issue of financial aid to the Palestinians, Greenblatt said that the administration will no longer pay for “temporary solutions that only prolong the cycle of suffering and violence.”

Many countries are or will soon be unable to contribute large sums for foreign aid, Greenblatt said, citing private conversations with representatives from donor countries.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

“We have had enough of the status quo. We have had enough of Hamas diverting funds donated by the generous, well-meaning countries sitting around this table, and using those funds for illicit activity,” he said. “We have had enough of Hamas taking all of our and your generous donations to the Palestinians and then failing to provide even the most basic services – safe water, electricity and hospitals to those who they purport to govern.”

Greenblatt then urged the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee donor countries to join the US in “being direct and frank with the Palestinian Authority about charting a new, sustainable path – one that improves all Palestinian lives.”

The US peace proposal aims at improving the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, he said.

“We are working on a plan that both sides will gain more from than they give; a plan that is realistic, fair, and implementable. Neither side will like everything in the plan, but we are confident both sides will understand why we came to the conclusions that we did — if they are willing to engage.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to engage with the US, citing Trump’s alleged bias in favor of Israel.

But, Greenblatt said, “leaders must have the courage to guide their people to a better future.”

It was time to “stop focusing on tired talking points and throwing more money at the same things we have been doing since 1993,” he continued. “It is time to realistically evaluate what works and what does not.”



A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)


Palestinian leader Abbas tells UN ‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ — Rejects U.S. as Middle East Peace Broker

September 28, 2018

The Palestinians will no longer accept the US as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process, Abbas said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Thursday that his people’s rights “are not up for bargaining” and he accused the US of undermining the two-state solution, a day after President Donald Trump suggested for the first time in office that he “liked” the long-discussed idea as the most effective way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

Abbas said Trump’s promise of a peace agreement contradicted decisions made by his administration since taking office.

“With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution,” Abbas said in his address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

He said Palestinians welcomed the US president’s launch of a peace initiative, but said they were “shocked” by decisions and actions that clearly contradicted his commitment to the process.

Abbas halted ties with Trump’s administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Palestinians have said a pending US peace plan will be dead on arrival because of that and other recent US moves that Palestinians see as favoring Israel.

“Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said to applause as he began his speech at the annual UN General Assembly. “The Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining.”

He said Palestinians would never reject negotiation, but that “it’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they talk call the ‘deal of the century.’”

“What is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people?” he asked. “What is left as a political solution?”

Palestinian schoolchildren a protest Gaza city on February 4, 2018, against the difficult economic situation and the US decision to withhold funds earmarked for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. (AFP).The report was released ahead of a high-level meeting of the bank’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, responsible for coordinating development assistance to the Palestinians, on September 27.

Added Abbas: “We are not redundant. Why are we treated as redundant people who should be gotten rid of?”

The Palestinians will no longer accept the US as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process, Abbas said.

“We will also not accept sole American mediation in the peace process,” Abbas added, saying the US president had shown that he was “biased” toward Israel since coming to power.

“This administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people,” President Abbas said.

Trump made his comment about the two-state solution while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. The US president told reporters he believes that two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best.”

He has been vague on the topic, suggesting he would support whatever the parties might agree to, a message he also recapped Wednesday.

“If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed indifference to Trump’s remarks, saying that the Israeli interest is “a safe Jewish state.”

A Palestinian state “simply doesn’t interest me,” Lieberman said.

Netanyahu has reluctantly accepted the concept of Palestinian statehood but has since backtracked. A top coalition partner is threatening to topple his government if it returns to the agenda.

The two sides in one of the world’s most high-profile and volatile conflicts are always forceful voices at the UN and its annual General Assembly, but their leaders are speaking after a particularly eventful year in their relations.


Gaza economy in “free fall”

Hamas that rules Gaza has led protests for months along the border with Israel, aiming partly to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

At least 137 Palestinians, mostly unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire since the border protests began on March 30. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

Hamas and Israel came close to serious conflict earlier this summer as violence soared along the border. Gaza militants bombarded southern Israel with mortars and rockets, and Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza.

Israel says it is defending its border against attempts by Hamas, a militant group that sworn to its destruction, to infiltrate and carry out attacks. But Israel has faced heavy international criticism over the large number of unarmed protesters who have been killed or wounded.

Israel has also been struggling to deal with near-daily fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices launched by Palestinians in Gaza. The blazes have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife.

Egyptian mediated cease-fire talks have hit a deadlock, and Hamas is now intensifying its campaign with more protests. Palestinians were infuriated, and many Israelis were thrilled, by a series of decisions Trump has made within the last year, starting with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians also claim the holy city as the capital of an eventual state. Earlier this year, Trump followed up on the recognition by moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was widely protested by Palestinians and others in the Arab world.

His administration has also slashed aid to the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars and ended US support for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

Trump and his national security team have defended their position, saying that decades of attempts to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace have failed.

The World Bank warned Tuesday that Gaza’s economy is in “free fall,” with a 6 percent contraction in the first quarter of this year and unemployment standing at over 50 percent. A report from the bank urged Israel and the international community to take action to avoid “immediate collapse.”

A Palestinian protestor covers his nose with a piece of cloth on the beach near the maritime border with Israel (background), in the northern Gaza Strip, during a demonstration calling for the lift of the Israeli blockade on the coastal Palestinian enclave, on September 10, 2018. (AFP)

It attributed the downturn to a combination of factors, including Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, budget cuts by the rival Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid, particularly from the US.

Laughter and headshakes

Other leaders who spoke at the General Assembly Thursday included Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, who told the gathered leaders he had “spared no effort to ensure that institutions are stable and to make sure we are creating a safe and stable enviro conducive to investment and to relaunching growth” in his country since the UN peacekeeping mission there wrapped up in October 2017.

The mission had helped the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere through 13 years of political turmoil and natural catastrophe. It has been followed by a new “stabilization” mission made up of about 1,300 international civilian police officers, along with 350 civilians tasked with helping Haiti reform its justice system.

The Caribbean island country continues to face economic and environmental challenges, including its vulnerability to natural disasters. It suffered heavy blows from a devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Earlier, Lithuania’s president assailed world leaders for being “too quiet, too passive, too ignorant” in the face of abuses, corruption and inequality, and took a dig at Trump’s America-first vision.

“We cannot let the voice of nationalism and division win over dialogue and cooperation,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Much of the attention at the international community’s most prominent gathering has been focused on Trump, whose brash behavior and boastful address on Tuesday provoked laughter and headshakes from other leaders. On Wednesday, he chaired a Security Council meeting on nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and fired off more tough words at Iran.

(With AP & AFP)

Arab News



A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)