Posts Tagged ‘Jordan’s King Abdullah II’

Trump Jerusalem move triggers Palestinian unrest

December 8, 2017

AFP

© Thomas Coex, AFP | Israeli flags fly near the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on December 5, 2017. The EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved “through negotiations”, as US President Donald Trump mulls recognising the city as the capital of Israel.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-08

Furious Palestinians have called for a “day of rage” on Friday as protests spread against US President Donald Trump’s widely criticised recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A senior Palestinian official said late Thursday US Vice President Mike Pence was “not welcome in Palestine” following the policy shift, which ended decades of US ambiguity on the status of the disputed city.

But the White House said it would be “counterproductive” to cancel a scheduled meeting between Pence and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas later this month.

Sporadic clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli forces on Thursday, as Israel deployed hundreds more troops to the occupied West Bank amid uncertainty over the fallout.

Bethlehem Proteste gegen Anerkennung USA Jerusalem Sicherheitskräfte (picture-alliance/AA/M. Wazwaz)

Israel security forces

Trump’s announcement was met by an almost universal diplomatic backlash as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lavished praise on the president, saying his name would be associated with Jerusalem’s long history and urging other countries to follow suit.

‘Deplorable and unacceptable’: Trump provokes diplomatic firestorm over Jerusalem

In a speech in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a new intifada, or uprising. Within hours several projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.

One hit Israeli territory, prompting the army and air force to retaliate by targeting “two terror posts” in Gaza, it said, blaming Hamas, the enclave’s Islamist rulers.

Demonstrations were held in West Bank cities as well as in Gaza, where five Palestinians were wounded from Israeli fire, Gazan authorities said.

Israeli forces dispersed tear gas at a checkpoint entrance to Ramallah, while the Palestinian Red Crescent reported 22 wounded from live fire or rubber bullets in the West Bank.

– ‘Darker times’ –

 

Trump said his defiant move — making good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge — marks the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said Wednesday.

But his willingness to part with international consensus on such a sensitive issue drew increasingly urgent warnings from around the world.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the decision could take the region “backwards to even darker times”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was “deeply concerned”, calling for the Palestinians and Israel to renew negotiations.

And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would put the region in a “ring of fire”.

– ‘Not welcome’ –

 

Pence is due to meet the Palestinian president in the second half of December on a regional tour, but a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah faction said the leader would not meet him.

“The American vice president is not welcome in Palestine. And President Abbas will not welcome him,” said Jibril Rajoub.

However the White House is likely to only consider the meeting cancelled if they hear that from Abbas, whose office could not be reached for comment.

In a joint statement with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Abbas said “any measure tampering with the legal and historical status of Jerusalem is invalid” and warned Trump’s decision would “have dangerous repercussions”.

In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, called for a mass demonstration on Monday “to protest and denounce this American aggression”. Protests are also planned in Turkey and Malaysia.

Palestinian shops in east Jerusalem and the West Bank were largely shuttered and schools closed on Thursday in answer to a general strike call.

“By this decision, America became a very small country, like any small country in the world, like Micronesia,” Salah Zuhikeh, 55, told AFP in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Hamas called for fresh protests after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

Trump’s move left many angry US allies struggling to find a diplomatic response, with an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council set for Friday.

– Right-wing politics –

 

Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — another campaign promise dear to US evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters.

His predecessors had made the same pledge, but quickly reneged upon taking office.

Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.

A disputed capital: Why the status of Jerusalem is so contentious

Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The international community does not recognise the ancient city as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations.

This point was reiterated by UN chief Antonio Guterres, who stressed his opposition to “any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace”.

Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.

“The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides,” he said.

(AFP)

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French President Macron arrives in Qatar amid Arab boycott of Doha, uproar over Trump decision on Jerusalem

December 7, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

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© France 24, screen capture | President Macron arrives in Doha on December 7, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-07

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Qatar on Thursday for a one-day trip to the small Gulf country as it faces continued isolation and a boycott by some of its Arab neighbors.

Macron landed and immediately traveled to the vast al-Udeid Air Base, home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. France also has a contingent of soldiers at the base, which is crucial to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and to the war in Afghanistan.

Macron smiled and shook hands with the French and American soldiers who greeted him at the base before walking into a meeting with the base’s top commanders.

Speaking to coalition soldiers, he said the next few months of battle will determine the outcome of the war against the IS group in Iraq in Syria.

“This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilize and win peace in Iraq and Syria,” he told troops. “Next spring is decisive in the situation in Iraq.”

Macron also stressed in his remarks at the air base that France wants to avoid partition in Syria and “avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace.”

The French president later will hold talks with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Macron is traveling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a multibillion dollar deal with Qatar to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets. Qatar may announce during Macron’s visit that it will purchase up to 12 more of the French-made Dassault Rafale jets.

Macron’s visit comes just days after a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the standoff any closer to a resolution in the dispute engulfing Qatar. In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and has too-close relations with Iran.

Qatar has long denied supporting extremists and shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

Also likely to come up during Macron’s visit is President Donald Trump‘s announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state.

Before Macron’s arrival, Qatar’s ruler held calls with Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Qatar has, in the past, provided crucial aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is run by the militant Hamas group, and has helped pay public sector wages in the besieged Palestinian territory.

(AP)

 

Erdogan says US Jerusalem move ‘plays into hands’ of terrorists

December 6, 2017

AFP

© TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and his wife Emine Erdogan, left, welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania for talks in Ankara on Wednesday

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday strongly warned the United States against recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying the move would help terror groups.”Such a step will only play into the hands of terror groups,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference in Ankara after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

“This mistaken step… will lead to public outrage in the entire Islamic world, dynamite the ground for peace and ignite new tensions and clashes in our region,” he said.

US President Donald Trump was set to announce Wednesday that Washington would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that it would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, a plan that has caused consternation in the Islamic world and beyond.

The Turkish presidency said earlier that Erdogan was calling a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul on December 13 to discuss the move.

King Abdullah, who had been personally informed by Trump of the move by telephone, backed Erdogan’s warnings and said East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“There is no alternative to a two-state solution,” Abdullah said, speaking in English.

He cautioned that “Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement (between Israel and the Palestinians) and is key to the stability of the entire region”.

Abdullah said he had told Trump of “our concerns” over the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem during their telephone call.

He added that it was “imperative now to work fast” to reach a final status solution and a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.

“This must allow the Palestinians to establish an independent state side by side with Israel and its capital in East Jerusalem.”

He also warned that ignoring Muslim rights in Jerusalem “will only fuel further extremism and undermine the war against terrorism.”

Last year, Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel’s deadly storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead and led to a downgrading of diplomatic ties.

The two sides have since stepped up cooperation, in particular in energy, but Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, is still often bitterly critical of Israeli policy.

The United States supports a strong relationship between Turkey, the key Muslim member of NATO, and Israel, which is Washington’s main ally in the Middle East.

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa/supreme-leader-khamenei-says-u-s-is-irans-number-one-enemy-idUSKBN1D211H

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Turkey, Jordan call for ‘serious’ Mideast peace talks — “Unilateral Israeli action threatening the identity of east Jerusalem.”

August 21, 2017

AFP

© Jordanian Royal Palace/AFP | Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) greets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the royal palace in Amman
AMMAN (AFP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Monday for new “serious and effective” peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the royal palace said.Meeting in Amman, they urged “the resumption of serious and effective negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel to end the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution to assure an independent Palestinian state with June 1967 borders and east Jerusalem as capital”.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since the failure of US mediation in the spring of 2014.

“New peace negotiations must take place according to a precise timetable and be based on international resolutions,” Erdogan and Abdullah said.

They also expressed their “unequivocal rejection of any attempt to change the legal and historical situation in the Al-Aqsa mosque and any unilateral Israeli action threatening the identity of east Jerusalem”.

Jordan, the only Arab country apart from Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, is custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the eastern sector’s Old City — which Jews call the Temple Mount — was the focus last month of a tense standoff after Israel introduced new security measures following an attack that killed two policemen.

Jordan’s king said earlier this month that a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was becoming more and more difficult.

In January, US President Donald Trump came to power promising to push Israelis and Palestinians towards a peace deal, raising brief hopes among Palestinians that his unconventional approach could achieve results.

But Palestinians have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as his negotiating team’s one-sided approach.

Abdullah and Erdogan on Monday also underlined the importance of a political solution to end the war in Syria.

All diplomatic efforts to end to the conflict that has caused more than 330,000 deaths and displaced millions since 2011 have failed.

However, the two leaders welcomed an agreement that followed trilateral talks between Jordan, the United States and Russia that resulted in a truce in three regions of southern Syria.

Jordan king makes rare West Bank visit to meet Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

King Abdullah II has flown to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas for the first time in five years. The trip is being viewed as a message to Israel, particularly over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid shared tensions with Israel.

Abdullah received a red carpet welcome in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. He was greeted by Abbas before the two national anthems were played.

The two leaders meet fairly frequently in the Jordanian capital of Amman and other regional capitals, but it was Abdullah’s first visit to Ramallah since December 2012.

The king’s trip had to be coordinated with Israeli authorities who control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including the 150 kilometer (93 mile) border with Jordan and the airspace above it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is hugged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas King Abdullah II received a red carpet welcome and a hug from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Signal to Israel

Abdullah’s visit comes amid rising Jordanian-Israeli tensions and is seen as a message to Tel Aviv that the Jordanian monarch is aligning with Palestinians on key issues – particularly concerning a contested Jerusalem holy site.

A crisis erupted last month at the Al Aqsa mosque compound when Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The compound, which sits on a plateau in the Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by the Jews who call it Temple Mount.

Read more: Opinion – Tension escalates on the Temple Mount

The security changes led to several days of protests and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

Tensions peaked on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Israeli officials say one of the men attacked the security guard with a screwdriver while the other was accidentally shot.

The crisis finally eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the metal detectors be taken down after consultations with Jordan.

Read more: Why Israel censored reporting on the Jordan embassy shooting

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The role is also a key component of Abdullah’s legitimacy.

Abbas and Abdullah are also likely to discuss a US-led effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which have been on hold for the past three years.

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Jerusalem, Amman and Ramallah, but there are few signs of interest in restarting negotiations.

rs/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/jordan-king-makes-rare-west-bank-visit-to-meet-palestinian-president/a-39995071

Jordanian king in rare visit to Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine | Israeli security forces stand guard in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II began a rare visit to the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday, amid shared tensions with Israel over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

In his first visit to Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah in five years, Abdullah was welcomed on a red carpet near his helicopter by the Palestinian leader before the two national anthems were played.

The two men did not address the media but shook hands with senior Palestinian officials.

The visit came less than two weeks after the end of a standoff at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem where Israel had imposed new security measures, including metal detectors, following an attack that killed two policemen.

Jordan, which is the custodian of the site, reacted angrily to the new measures, while Palestinians responded with days of protests.

The tensions were exacerbated on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy compound in the capital Amman.

One of the two men attacked the Israeli with a screwdriver, while the other was apparently shot dead by accident, according to Israeli officials.

The crisis eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the removal of the metal detectors, while he has also promised to investigate the embassy incident.

Abdullah’s visit was seen by analysts as providing support to Abbas, who has been isolated by Israel over his response to the Al-Aqsa row.

The mosque compound is in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan recognises Amman’s special status as official custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Muslim sites.

About half of Jordan’s 9.5 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.

‘Anger’

Netanyahu’s removal of the metal detectors was seen by Palestinians as a victory.

At Abbas’s headquarters a large banner was erected with a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the slogan “Jerusalem is victorious.”

“It appears that King Abdullah wants to show through his visit that he stands with the Palestinian people in the battle for Jerusalem,” Palestinian political analyst Abdel Majid Sweilem told AFP.

In a statement on the official state news agency Petra, the king was quoted as saying that without Jordanian “custodianship and the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, the holy sites would have been lost many years ago.”

In the middle of the crisis over the metal detectors, Abbas suspended security coordination with Israel, and it has remained suspended despite their removal.

As such 82-year-old Abbas cannot leave the West Bank as Israel controls the border crossings.

“This visit sends a message from his majesty that he is willing to contribute to removing president Abbas’s isolation following his decision to stop the security coordination with Israel,” Samir Awad, politics professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank, told AFP.

In January US President Donald Trump came to power promising to push Israelis and Palestinians towards a peace deal, raising brief hopes among Palestinians that his unconventional approach could achieve results.

But they have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as his negotiating team’s one-sided approach.

Trump’s team have yet to publicly commit themselves to the two-state solution, the idea of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel that has been the basis of decades of international consensus.

Leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has strongly criticised the “silence” of the US administration over Israeli settlement growth and its lack of support for the two-state solution.

The Jordanian ruler seemed to echo those remarks, calling for intensive US effort to help bridge the gap between the sides, according to Petra.

by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine

Muslims heed calls to avoid holy site over Israeli security measures

July 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Majeda El-Batsh | Palestinians chant slogans outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, due to newly implemented security measures by Israeli authorities, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 17, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Muslims heeded calls Monday not to enter a Jerusalem holy site and protested outside after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the ultra-sensitive compound following an attack that killed two policemen.The compound was largely empty on Monday apart from tourists and Jewish visitors, with Muslims again praying and protesting outside the site instead of entering through the metal detectors.

The Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Several hundred people could be seen praying outside two different entrances to the site around midday on Monday.

There were protests after the prayer, with crowds shouting: “Aqsa mosque, we sacrifice our souls and our blood.” Police later sought to move them back.

“We will not break the solidarity of the people,” said Jamal Abdallah, a Palestinian who now lives in the US state of Arizona and was planning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the situation.

Israel installed the metal detectors after Friday’s attack near the holy site that saw three Arab Israelis open fire on Israeli police.

They then fled to the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.

It was among the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israel took the highly unusual decision of closing the compound for Friday prayers, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian.

The site remained closed on Saturday, while parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also under lockdown.

Israeli authorities said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks, adding that the assailants had come from within the holy site to commit the attack.

They began reopening it on Sunday, but with metal detectors in place, while security cameras were also being installed in the area.

Al-Aqsa officials have refused to enter and have called on worshippers to do the same.

Palestinians view the new measures as Israel asserting further control over the site.

Crowds chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as they gathered near the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday.

On Sunday night, skirmishes broke out between Israeli police and worshippers outside the entrance, with the Red Crescent reporting 17 people wounded.

With tensions high, two mosques in the northern Israeli Arab town of Maghar were targeted overnight, one with a stun grenade and another by gunshots. No serious damage was reported.

One of the two policemen killed in the attack lived in Maghar. Both of the officers were from the Druze minority, Arabs who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

– Netanyahu order –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision to install the metal detectors and cameras following a meeting with security officials on Saturday.

He also spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday night before leaving on a trip to France and Hungary.

Abdullah condemned the attack, but also called on Netanyahu to reopen the Al-Aqsa compound and stressed the need to “avoid any escalation at the site”.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas conveyed a similar message to Netanyahu when the two spoke by phone on Friday in the wake of the attack.

Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past.

A plan developed in 2015 between Israel and Jordan to install cameras at the site itself fell apart amid disagreement over how they would be operated.

The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

by Majeda El-Batsh
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Abbas: Trump ‘serious’ about Israel-Palestine peace

March 30, 2017

AFP

© PPO/AFP | Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas attending talks of the Arab League summit in the Jordanian Dead Sea resort of Sweimeh on March 29, 2017
RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – President Donald Trump is “serious” about solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said ahead of a meeting with the US leader.

“The US administration of President Donald Trump is seriously considering a solution to the Palestinian issue,” Abbas told AFP late Wednesday after a meeting of the Arab League in Jordan.

Abbas met with Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt before leaving for the summit and said contacts with the administration were ongoing.

“(There is) continuing dialogue with the American administration and there were a number of issues they wanted our opinion on or our answer to them,” he added.

“We gave them our position on all their questions.”

Abbas is expected to meet with Trump in Washington for the first time in April.

Trump is also expected to meet other Arab leaders in the coming weeks, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Trump caused alarm among Palestinians and many parts of the international community in February when he broke with years of US policy in support of the two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said at the White House before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas said the Arab League summit on Wednesday confirmed that the Arab world had a “clear” vision for peace on the basis of two-states.

In their final statement, the leaders called for a revival of “serious and productive peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” and renewed their commitment to a two-state solution.

Netanyahu offered unity govt as part of peace bid: report

March 5, 2017

AFP

© EPA POOL/AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on March 5, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a plan to form a unity government with Israel’s opposition last year as part of a regional peace bid, but later backtracked, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The plan centred on a document delivered to opposition leader Isaac Herzog in September, but Netanyahu later pulled back and talks collapsed in October, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Spokesmen for Netanyahu and Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union coalition dominated by his Labour party, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The effort came as moves were underway to restart peace talks with the Palestinians through a process that would include Arab countries in the region.

Netanyahu currently heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history, with key members of his coalition openly opposing a Palestinian state.

Forming a unity government with the centre-left could have reassured Arab nations of his sincerity.

The document reportedly delivered to Herzog in September was a proposal for a joint declaration reiterating their commitment to a two-state solution and their desire to seek a resolution with the Palestinians.

It came some seven months after a previously reported secret meeting between Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and then US secretary of state John Kerry.

The meeting in the Jordanian city of Aqaba saw Kerry pitch a regional peace effort.

Arab countries have previously offered normalised relations with Israel in exchange for resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under Netanyahu’s plan, the draft document negotiated with Herzog was to be submitted at a summit in Egypt in October to launch a regional peace initiative.

The two men were then to announce negotiations for the formation of a unity government after returning from the summit, which ultimately did not occur, Haaretz said.

According to the paper, Netanyahu later told Herzog he wanted to resolve controversy surrounding the evacuation of a Jewish outpost in the occupied West Bank first, and talks later collapsed.

Donald Trump has since taken office as US president and has sent mixed signals regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last month as Netanyahu visited the White House, Trump backed away from Washington’s years-long commitment to a two-state solution, saying he would support a single state if it led to peace.

Israeli right-wing politicians have welcomed Trump’s election, with some calling for an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.

Kerry Offered Netanyahu Regional Peace Plan in Secret 2016 Summit With al-Sissi, King Abdullah

February 19, 2017

Kerry’s outline included Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu claimed he couldn’t get his coalition to back it.

By Barak Ravid
Sunday, February 19, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a secret summit in Aqaba a year ago where then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a plan for a regional peace initiative including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a renewal of talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh sit aboard a Royal Jordanian Air Force transport plane on February 21, 2016. Photo Credit U.S. State Department

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Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi were also present at the meeting in the Jordanian city.

Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition. Still, the Aqaba summit was the basis for the talks that began two weeks later between Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on establishing a unity government.

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Details about the summit and the plan emerged from conversations between Haaretz and former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous. The Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment.

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It was Kerry who initiated the conference. In April 2014, the peace initiative he had led collapsed, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians entered a deep freeze and U.S. President Barack Obama declared a time-out in U.S. attempts to restart the peace process. Over the next 18 months Kerry focused on attaining an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program; an agreement was reached in July 2015 and ratified by Congress in mid-September.

In October that year, Kerry renewed his work on the Israeli-Palestinian process following an escalation of tensions over the Temple Mount and a wave of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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At the end of October, Kerry was able to achieve understandings confirming the status quo on the Temple Mount by Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan. As part of these understandings, Israel and Jordan launched talks over the placement of closed-circuit cameras on the Temple Mount, an idea that was never implemented.

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Two weeks later, Netanyahu came to Washington for his first meeting with Obama in more than a year – a period when the two leaders badly clashed over the nuclear deal with Iran.

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During his meeting with Obama in the Oval Office on November 10, Netanyahu said he had new ideas for renewing talks with the Palestinians. Obama, who no longer believed that Netanyahu had serious intentions, asked him to discuss the matter with Kerry.

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The following day Netanyahu met with Kerry and proposed a series of significant gestures to the Palestinians in the West Bank, including permits for massive construction by Palestinians in Area C, the area of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control. Netanyahu asked that in exchange Washington recognize that Israel could build in the large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, but did not make clear whether this meant construction outside the blocs would cease.

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Two weeks later, Netanyahu held two long meetings with the security cabinet in which he tried to drum up support for the steps he planned for the West Bank. But a number of terror attacks at that time, along with staunch opposition by his coalition partners on his right – Habayit Hayehudi ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked – cooled Netanyahu’s enthusiasm.

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When Kerry came to Israel on November 24, Netanyahu informed him that the proposals he had presented just two weeks before were no longer on the table. Kerry, who was shocked at Netanyahu’s backtrack, met with Herzog the same day to explore whether the possibility of Zionist Union joining the government was a realistic one. Herzog’s reply did nothing to improve Kerry’s mood.

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“There are zero signs of a change in Netanyahu’s policy or approach,” Herzog told Kerry. Under those circumstances, Herzog said there was neither a chance nor a reason for Zionist Union to join the coalition.

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Kerry left the region frustrated and angry. In a speech to the Saban Forum in Washington a week later, he was severely critical of Netanyahu, saying the policy of Netanyahu’s government would lead to a binational state.

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After the failure of Kerry’s mission, the Palestinians reverted to their steps against Israel in the United Nations, including a draft resolution at the Security Council on the settlements. In Israel, the security cabinet began discussing the possibility of the fall of the Palestinian Authority. In Europe, France began to prepare for a meeting of dozens of foreign ministers on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

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Despite the dead end, Kerry did not intend to give up. With his advisers in December and January, he crafted a document that included principles for the renewal of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the framework of a regional peace initiative with the participation of the Arab countries. The plan he formulated in early 2016 was identical to the one he presented at the end of that year – three weeks before Donald Trump entered the White House. The following are the six principles:

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* International secure and recognized borders between Israel and a sustainable and contiguous Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed-on exchanges of territory.

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* Implementation of the vision of UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan) for two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab – which recognize each other and give equal rights to their citizens.

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* A just, agreed-on, fair and realistic solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees that conforms to a solution of two states for two peoples and will not influence the basic character of Israel.

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* An agreed-on solution for Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, recognized by the international community and ensuring freedom of access to the holy sites in keeping with the status quo.

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* A response to Israel’s security needs, ensuring Israel’s ability to protect itself effectively and ensuring Palestine’s ability to give security to its citizens in a sovereign, demilitarized state.

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* The end of the conflict and of demands, which will allow a normalization of ties and increased regional security for all, in keeping with the vision of the Arab Peace Initiative.

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On January 31, Kerry met with Netanyahu in the resort town of Davos, Switzerland. During the meeting, with only the two men present, Kerry presented the document of principles and the regional-peace initiative to Netanyahu along with a tempting idea – a first-of-its-kind summit with King Abdullah and Sissi to discuss ways to push the process forward.

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Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with a Diplomatic Security Agent after they flew on a Royal Jordanian Air Force transport plane on February 21, 2016.U.S. State Department

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On January 31, Kerry told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of his discussion with Netanyahu in Davos. After Netanyahu agreed to the meeting, Kerry and his people began to organize it.

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In the lead was Kerry’s adviser and confidant Frank Lowenstein, the special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. After behind-the-scenes talks with the Israelis, Jordanians and Egyptians, it was decided that the summit would take place on February 21 in Aqaba. The summit would remain secret and no side would release details about it.

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Abbas did not take part in the summit, but was aware that it took place. On the morning of February 21 he met with Kerry in Amman. From the statements released by both sides at the end of the meeting, not even a hint could be gleaned of what was to take place a few hours later.

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Kerry ended his meeting with Abbas, and together with a few of his advisers and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, boarded a small Jordanian Air Force plane.

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They landed in Aqaba 45 minutes later.

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Before the four-way meeting, Kerry met separately with each of the leaders. A former senior U.S. official said Kerry asked during his meetings with Abdullah and Sissi to show support for his plan. He asked that they persuade additional Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support the plan as well, and take part in a regional diplomatic move that would include a renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Kerry sought to have Abdullah pressure Abbas to agree to renew the talks based on the American plan, and Sissi would do the same vis-a-vis the Israeli government. The former senior U.S. official noted that Abdullah and Sissi agreed to express support for the plan even though it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Nevertheless, the official added, Sissi, who did not want a confrontation with Netanyahu, made clear to Kerry that he thought persuasion would be more effective than pressure and compulsion.

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Former senior U.S. officials noted that at a meeting with Netanyahu in the context of the summit, the prime minister evaded a clear answer on the proposed plan. They said Netanyahu presented a series of reservations, arguing that the principles were too detailed and that he would have difficulty winning support for them in his coalition government.

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The four-party meeting was highly dramatic. Even though the subject was the regional peace initiative, a substantial chunk of the discussions related to the situation in the overall region. Abdullah and Sissi took Kerry to task for the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East, both regarding Iran and Syria. Still, the two reacted positively to his proposal and tried to convince Netanyahu to accept it.

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The former senior U.S. officials said Netanyahu was hesitant. Instead of relating exclusively to Kerry’s plan, they said he presented a plan of his own at the four-party meeting, which he called his five-point plan.

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Through the plan, Netanyahu expressed a readiness to take the steps regarding the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that he had spoken with Kerry about in November 2015. He also said he would release a statement relating positively to the Arab Peace Initiative.

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In return, Netanyahu asked that the negotiations with the Palestinians be resumed and that a regional peace summit be convened that would include attendance by senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni Muslim countries.

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After several hours of talks, the leaders returned to their capitals agreeing to consider the various proposals. But the secret summit in Aqaba had an almost immediate effect on domestic Israeli politics. It provided the basis on which two or three weeks later Netanyahu and Herzog discussed a national unity government.

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During the contacts, Netanyahu briefed Herzog on the summit in Aqaba. Herzog, who was skeptical, tried to clarify whether there was anything to it. He spoke by phone with Kerry, Abdullah and Sissi on the details.

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The leaders of Egypt and Jordan were skeptical over Netanyahu’s ability to advance a genuine diplomatic process with his governing coalition. The two viewed the entry of Herzog or Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid into Netanyahu’s coalition as “earnest money” on the part of Netanyahu that would justify their pressing the Palestinians, or an effort to enlist the participation of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in a regional summit.

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Yesterday, Herzog refused to confirm that the phone calls took place, or to provide details of any kind on the subject. Still, the information that Herzog received in March 2016 regarding the secret summit in Aqaba as well as the Kerry plan and the positions taken by Abdullah and Sissi are apparently what convinced him to enter intensive talks with Netanyahu and to publicly state on May 15 that a rare regional-diplomatic opportunity had been created that might not recur.

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But just a few days after Herzog made his comments, the coalition negotiations ran aground. Netanyahu decided to abandon the talks with Herzog in favor of having Yisrael Beiteinu join the government, along with the appointment of the party’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, as defense minister.

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On May 31, minutes after Lieberman was sworn in at the Knesset, he and Netanyahu told the cameras that they supported a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. They added that the Arab Peace Initiative included positive components that could help revive the talks with the Palestinians.

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In the nine months that have elapsed since, there has been no progress on the diplomatic front. Last Wednesday, at a White House press conference with Trump, Netanyahu again called for the advancement of a regional peace initiative.

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“For the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally,” Netanyahu said. Addressing Trump directly, he added: “I believe that under your leadership, this change in our region creates an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen security and advance peace. Let us seize this moment together.”

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By Barak Ravid

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read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.772531

 

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Netanyahu, Kerry held ‘secret Arab peace meeting’

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Arab rulers last year to hear then US secretary of state John Kerry pitch a regional peace plan, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also attended the February 2016 talks hosted by King Abdullah II in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, Haaretz said, citing former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous.

It said Kerry wanted the sides to endorse six principles, which he laid out publicly in a December speech.

They included a call for Israel to vacate territory it occupied during the 1967 Six-Day War, subject to land swaps agreed between the two sides.

Since 1967, Israel has pulled out of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip but annexed east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

It continues to occupy the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in settlements seen as illegal by the international community.

Kerry’s parameters envisioned a Palestinian state, with Palestinians recognising Israel as a “Jewish state”.

Both would share Jerusalem as the “internationally recognised capital of the two states”.

Israel claims the city as its “undivided” capital. Netanyahu’s coalition government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, rejects talk of ceding any part of it to Palestinian sovereignty.

“Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition,” Haaretz wrote on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s spokesman and Jordanian officials refused to comment on the report.

Meeting on Wednesday at the White House, Netanyahu and President Donald Trump each spoke of prospects of a regional Middle East understanding to end the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“For the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally,” Netanyahu told Trump.

“We think the larger issue today is how do we create the broader conditions for broad peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Arab countries,” Netanyahu said the following day on MSNBC.

Trump said Netanyahu’s proposal for a regional alliance was something that “hasn’t been discussed before”, adding that it would take in “many, many countries and it would cover a very large territory”.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to have formal peace treaties with Israel.

Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish State, but they share informal links.

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Following Haaretz Exposé, Netanyahu Says He Initiated Secret Summit With Kerry, Sissi and King Abdullah

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Political figures respond to news of last year’s secret summit: ‘There’s no vision and no national responsibility. Netanyahu is leading us to a binational-state disaster.’

Barak Ravid Feb 19, 2017 11:31 AM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed at Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting the existence of a secret summit with former U.S. Secretary of State John…
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http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.772582