Posts Tagged ‘peace process’

U.S. Envoy Calls U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency Corrupt, Inefficient, Not helpful in Peace Efforts

August 5, 2018

Advisers to US President Donald Trump have publicly questioned the purpose of UNRWA throughout the last year, partially suspending US funding to the UN body in January.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 AUGUST 5, 2018 06:21

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)

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WASHINGTON – Emails published by Foreign Policy magazine this week shed light on discussions within the Trump administration on phasing out support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, an organization that provides aid to descendants of refugees from 1940s Mandate Palestine.

Advisers to US President Donald Trump have publicly questioned the purpose of UNRWA throughout the last year, partially suspending US funding to the UN body in January and suggesting to Mideast allies that its continued existence is a disservice to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Gaza tensions rise following UN funding cut to Palestinian refugee program UNRWA, July 30, 2018 (Reuters)

Supporters of UNRWA believe the organization provides critical assistance to nearly five million Palestinians region-wide, and that its collapse would result in a humanitarian crisis for the community. But opponents say it perpetuates a myth that the descendants of refugees displaced during the 1948 partition will be able to settle in modern-day Israel.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Jason Greenblatt, his special representative for international negotiations; and Nikki Haley, his envoy to the UN, all side with the critics, according to the emails obtained by Foreign Policy.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote in an email dated January 11, addressed to several other senior officials. “This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.

“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are,” he added. “Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there.”

Victoria Coates, a special assistant to the president and adviser on the Middle East peace team, wrote separately that from her discussions with Kushner, Greenblatt and Haley, the administration might agree on a strategy to phase out UNRWA altogether “by the time its charter comes up again in 2019.”

“UNRWA should come up with a plan to unwind itself and become part of the UNHCR,” she wrote, referring to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, also according to Foreign Policy.

The Palestinian Authority leadership claims Kushner’s true goal is to remove claims of a “right of return” to Israeli land by Palestinian refugees from the negotiating table.

The Israeli government, which has long criticized UNRWA’s role, insists it will never recognize Palestinians’ “right of return.” They claim that the negotiating position is in fact a strategy to create two Arab states – an Arab state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine – by flooding the Jewish state with generations of Palestinians far removed from the initial War of Independence.

UNRWA has also been a target of congressional Republicans for years, and is the subject of two current draft bills originating in the House and Senate. The premise of both would be to defund the agency, which relies on US assistance.

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Afghanistan: Ghani orders Afghan security forces back into the fight, But many Afghans say “The Taliban has destroyed their spirit”

June 30, 2018

Afghan security forces resumed offensive operations on Saturday after President Ashraf Ghani declared an end to the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban.

Ghani said the ceasefire, which lasted 18 days after it was extended once and overlapped with the Taliban’s unilateral three-day truce for Eid, had been “98 percent successful”.

© AFP/File | The renewed violence has poured cold water on hopes the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks

“The ceasefire is over. The Afghan security and defence forces are allowed to restart their military operations,” Ghani told reporters.

The three days of no fighting were unprecedented in the nearly 17-year conflict and triggered jubilant scenes across the war-weary country.

Taliban fighters and security forces spontaneously celebrated the holiday that caps the holy month of Ramadan, hugging each other and taking selfies.

The militants were also mobbed by relieved civilians, who have borne the brunt of the war, raising hopes of a renewed push for peace talks.

Image result for taliban, fighters, photos

Ghani said the ceasefire had shown that the majority of the insurgents wanted peace and it was the “Taliban’s turn to give a positive response”.

“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.

But the sight of its fighters openly mingling with security forces and civilians over Eid appeared to alarm the Taliban’s leaders, who on Sunday ordered their men back to their posts.

The Taliban vowed Tuesday to continue their bloody fight against the government and their foreign backers, brushing aside rising civilian casualties.

The insurgents returned to the battlefield last week after refusing a government request to extend their ceasefire, launching attacks across the country that have seen scores killed or injured.

The renewed violence has poured cold water on hopes the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks, with the Taliban refusing to bow to pressure to lay down their arms until foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

The truces did not extend to the Islamic State group, which has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, and launched two deadly attacks on ceasefire revellers during Eid.

AFP

Peace and Freedom Note: 

Our sources in Afghanistan say this:

“The Taliban has destroyed their spirit.”

“The people think the Afghan security forces are whipped.”

“Many Afghan security forces will refuse to fight.”

Afghan president orders troops to resume operations against Taliban

June 30, 2018

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a formal end to his government’s ceasefire with the Taliban on Saturday but called on the insurgents to agree to full peace talks following a three-day truce during this month’s Eid holiday.

“It is now the Taliban’s decision, whether they want to keep killing or join the peace process,” Ghani told a news conference in Kabul where he repeated an appeal for comprehensive peace talks.

Image result for Surrendering Taliban militants stand with their weapons as they are presented to the media on November 4, 2010 in Herat, Afghanistan. Twenty Taliban fighters from Afghanistan'

Taliban militants stand with their weapons — File Photo, Getty Images

Ghani had ordered government forces to suspend offensive operations for 10 days after the Eid truce on June 15-17, which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with soldiers, police and civilians on the streets of Kabul and elsewhere.

Saturday’s announcement means that Afghan security forces, which have adopted a largely defensive posture since Eid, can resume their normal operations against the Taliban as well as Islamic State fighters with whom there was no ceasefire.

The Eid ceasefire conjured hopes of an end to 40 years of fighting in Afghanistan but there is little realistic expectation among security officials and foreign diplomats in Kabul of any immediate breakthrough.

While regional neighbors, international partners and Afghan civil movements have all called for peace, the Taliban have already rejected talks and fierce fighting has been underway in many parts of Afghanistan ever since the end of Eid.

On Saturday, the Taliban, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law in Afghanistan, said they had attacked Dasht-e Qala, a district in the northern province of Takhar which they briefly overran last month.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Reuters

Trump orders plan for US embassy to move to Jerusalem

December 6, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. (AP)
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WASHINGTON: Defying dire, worldwide warnings, President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with decades of US and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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Despite urgent appeals from Arab and European leaders and the risk of anti-American protests and violence, Trump declared that he was ending an approach that for decades has failed to advance the prospects for peace. He also for the first time personally endorsed the concept of a “two-state solution” for Israel and the Palestinians, provided both sides agree to it.
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“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said in a White House address, calling it “overdue” and in the best interests of the United States. He said recognition acknowledged the “obvious” that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government despite the disputed status that is one of the key elements in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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“This is nothing more or less than the recognition of reality,” he said.
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Trump also directed that the State Department begin the process of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as required by US law. Officials said, however, that the move will take years to complete.
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Trump maintained that his decision would not compromise the city’s geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians.
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Ahead of Trump’s speech, Arab and Muslim leaders spoke about the potential for violence. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their “eternal capital,” language that Israelis similarly use for their nation.
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Even America’s closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Trump’s radical departure from the past US position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city.
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Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. It’s also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered protests in the past, in the Holy Land and beyond.
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America’s consulate in Jerusalem has ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

 http://www.arabnews.com/node/1204911/middle-east

COMMENTS

Saudis voice alarm over possible US move on Jerusalem

December 5, 2017

The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and th city of Jerusalem, on Dec. 1, 2017. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday voiced “grave and deep concern” over possible US plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the move could have serious implications for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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President Donald Trump faces a key decision this week over Jerusalem’s status, potentially reversing years of US policy and prompting a furious response from the Palestinians and the Arab world.
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“Saudi Arabia (expresses) grave and deep concern over reports that the US administration intends to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing a foreign ministry source.
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“This step will have serious implications and will further complicate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It will also obstruct the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process.”
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The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Facing dark warnings of a historic misstep and widespread unrest, Trump on Monday delayed a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the US embassy there.
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The White House said Trump would miss a deadline to decide on shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.
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The mercurial president has yet to make his final decision, officials said, but is expected to stop short of moving the embassy to Jerusalem outright, a central campaign pledge which has been postponed once already by the new administration.
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Trump Expected To Announce Jerusalem As Capital of Israel

December 2, 2017
MICHAEL WILNER
 DECEMBER 2, 2017 09:07

 

The Trump administration plans on rolling out a detailed proposal for peace in the coming months.

© AFP/File | The White House has described reports of an imminent move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “premature.” Above: U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

US President Donald Trump will announce that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, several US media organizations reported on Friday.

The reports note that Trump will not accompany the announcement with a final decision to relocate the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. They do not detail whether Trump will explain whether Jerusalem is Israel’s capital in part or in whole— one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long left to the parties to negotiate in a final status settlement.

It would be an unprecedented move which Palestinian Authority officials are already warning would kill the burgeoning peace process in the womb. The Trump administration plans on rolling out a detailed proposal for peace in the coming months.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser leading the administration’s peace effort, will speak on their plans at a Brookings Institution forum over the weekend.

US media separately reported on Friday that Kushner may be embroiled in the indictment and ultimately plea agreement of Michael Flynn in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the US election. The reports claim that Flynn lied to the FBI about contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the US over a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank last December, on which he was allegedly in communication with Kushner.

The Israeli government asked Trump’s team to intervene as that resolution was making its way toward a vote, and as the Obama administration was signaling it would allow its passage. It was before Trump’s inauguration, and thus Kushner and Flynn were still private citizens.

Little prospect of Syria peace progress in Geneva talks

November 27, 2017

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Syria — A man stands on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Mesraba in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria, November 26, 2017. Reuters photo

By Angus McDowall

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A breakthrough in U.N.-backed Syria peace talks in Geneva this week seems no more likely than in seven earlier rounds as President Bashar al-Assad pushes for total military victory and his opponents stick by their demand he leave power.

A Syrian newspaper reported on Monday that the government delegation would delay its planned Tuesday arrival in Geneva because of the opposition’s insistence that Assad step down.

The stance is seen by Damascus and its allies as divorced from reality after their steady march of victories since Russia entered the war in 2015. The rebels have been forced from all Syria’s big cities and their hopes of toppling Assad by military means look finished.

The opposition has also accused the government of refusing to seriously engage.

“The Assad regime must not be allowed to play for time while people are being besieged and bombed,” said Yahya al-Aridi, head of the opposition’s negotiating committee, on Sunday.

Last week a senior Assad adviser said talks could only succeed if rebels laid down their arms. Over the weekend, air strikes on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta district near Damascus intensified, killing 23 on Sunday, according to a war monitor.

“You cannot expect very much,” said Nikolaos Van Dam, a former Dutch diplomat in Damascus and author of two books about Syria.

“The regime doesn’t want to really negotiate. They want to reconquer every inch of Syrian territory and then negotiate. But then the opposition would have no bargaining chips,” he said.

Russia has pushed its own parallel track of diplomacy since early this year, bringing together Assad’s other main ally Iran, as well as Turkey, which has been one of the rebels’ biggest supporters.

Russia has elections next year and President Vladimir Putin wants to show progress towards a political deal after two years of fighting far from Russian soil. Moscow has already said it will bring many troops home from Syria by the end of the year.

But Putin may also seek to tout diplomatic progress as he angles for Western countries to take up some of the expensive burden of post-war reconstruction in Syria, now most likely to fall on Russia, Iran and China.

Western foreign ministers said in September their support hinges on a “credible political process leading to a genuine political transition”, a process they have said requires the involvement of the opposition.

“Russia wants the end of the war but it wants its ally intact. So what would be the compromise that is acceptable to the opposition or to the other countries? It’s not clear to me,” said Van Dam.

RUSSIAN PUSH

Moscow now plans a “Syrian Congress”, bringing together the government and some opposition groups to write a new constitution leading to elections.

The main opposition has already rejected the idea, saying all talks must come under the United Nations.

But the government has said it backs the congress, as has Turkey, which has some sway over rebel groups in the northwest.

“There is an acceleration in the political solution on the basis of a unified Syria headed by Bashar al-Assad, with amendments to the constitution and in the election law,” a senior, pro-Assad official in the region said.

The Syrian government declared on Sunday that it would support the formation of a committee that will discuss the current constitution and is expected to be set up at the congress. It also said would support U.N. participation in legislative elections to be held after that discussion.

This week’s Geneva talks will focus on the issues of elections and a constitution, Ramzi Ramzi, the deputy United Nations special envoy for Syria said in Damascus on Saturday.

KURDISH GROUPS

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians, made millions refugees, ruined big cities and left troops from Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States, as well as Shi’ite militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan on Syrian soil.

After a campaign across central and eastern Syria against Islamic State this year, the government controls more territory than any other force in the country.

But rebels still hold a swathe of northwest Syria, next to Turkey, and an enclave in the southwest near Israel and Jordan. They have other pockets near Damascus and Homs.

Kurdish groups and allied Arab militia backed by the United States also hold the northeast and are holding elections there this week for local councils in an effort to cement autonomy.

They have not been invited to Geneva talks and are regarded by Syria’s neighbor Turkey as being an extension of the PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Ankara for three decades.

Assad has sworn to recover all of his state and visiting Iranian officials have indicated that new military campaigns may soon start against both the rebels and the Kurds.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Tom Perry in Beirut, Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Suu Kyi Touts Peace Efforts in Visit to Myanmar Heartland

August 7, 2017

MYAETINEKAN VILLAGE — Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi told villagers at the heart of the country on Monday that talks with ethnic rebels must be a priority, after putting peace negotiations ahead of economic reforms in her first months in power.

Suu Kyi inherited the long-running ethnic conflicts when she came to power last year amid a transition from decades of military rule that wrecked rural economies.

The Nobel laureate has come under criticism for putting the complicated talks with myriad armed groups – expected to last years and unlikely to bring tangible results soon – over the economy which has suffered from a drop in foreign investment.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Beijing in May. Credit Pool photo by Mark Schiefelbein

She has hosted two rounds of talks with rebel leaders in the capital Naypyitaw, but significant progress has been elusive.

“I want all my citizens to consider that the peace process is a matter for everybody… We can maintain development only when we get peace,” Suu Kyi told a crowd of hundreds in Myaetinekan village, Mandalay region.

“We don’t have peace in our country because there is no mutual trust, love and (there is) conflict among our citizens or ethnicities.”

Local and international media were invited by the government to follow Suu Kyi’s visit and watch the event dubbed a “peace talk”, the third such exchange with villagers she has held. The event was simultaneously broadcast on state television.

Suu Kyi declined several opportunities to answer reporters’ questions.

“Our national priority is peace,” Mandalay region chief minister Zaw Myint Maung told Reuters. “It’s a peace talk… The context is peace, and then development.”

Those who had the opportunity, however, asked Suu Kyi about agricultural concerns like irrigation and the recent electrification of some parts of the village, which had left out some villagers.

Aung Tint, 64, told Reuters he supported Suu Kyi’s decision to prioritize peace, but said life had changed little in the 16 months since Suu Kyi took office.

“To tell frankly, we are farmers,” he said. “She can’t do anything for us so far, because the crop prices are not good.”

Suu Kyi passed off specific questions to senior officials also in attendance.

Zaw Myint Maung said Myaetinekan was chosen for the visit because it lies approximately at the geographical center of Myanmar and was a typical Myanmar village.

Most residents are rice farmers and belong to the country’s ethnic Bamar Buddhist majority.

Suu Kyi’s party won handsomely here and elsewhere in the Bamar heartland in the 2015 elections that propelled her to power.

On a short tour of the village, she viewed a Japanese-made transformer that was installed in March to connect the village to the national power grid for the first time.

At weaving factories with machines running off the power, Suu Kyi joked with villagers who offered her homemade snacks and, in one instance, bowed at her feet.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Aye Win Myint)

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China Showers Myanmar With Attention, as Trump Looks Elsewhere

The official assembled scores of rebel leaders, many with longstanding connections to China, briefed them on the peace gathering and flew them on a chartered plane to Myanmar’s capital. There, after being introduced to a beaming Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, they were wined and dined, and sang rowdy karaoke late into the night.

A cease-fire may still be a long way off, but the gesture neatly illustrates how Myanmar, a former military dictatorship that the United States worked hard to press toward democracy, is now depending on China to help solve its problems.

The pieces all fell into place for China: It wanted peace in Myanmar to protect its new energy investments, it had the leverage to press the rebels and it found an opening to do a favor for Myanmar to deliver peace.

Read the rest:

Trump Meets With Israeli Leader in Bid to Revive Peace Process

May 22, 2017

President hopes to restart stalled negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders

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Updated May 22, 2017 1:03 p.m. ET

JERUSALEM—President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in an attempt to build on two days of talks in Saudi Arabia about a regional thaw between Arabs and Israelis, but the effort faces early headwinds amid concerns among some Israeli officials about new U.S. arms deals with Persian Gulf states.

Mr. Trump became on Monday the first serving U.S. leader to visit the Western Wall, a shrine holy to…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-arrives-in-israel-in-bid-to-revive-peace-process-1495445977

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This is the raw feed “tick tock” from Haaretz…..

 Trump Says He Hopes to Achieve ‘Toughest Deal of All,’ Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Trump arrives in Israel on first-ever direct flight from Saudi Arabia
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■ Trump: Growing realization among Arab neighbors that they have common cause with Israel on Iran

■ Netanyahu: I hope an Israeli PM can one day fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh

Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon May 22, 2017 8:35 PM

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Semi-Hug Moment: US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands in Jerusalem, Monday, May 22, 2017 Ariel Schalit/AP
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Analysis Trump plans to shower Israel with love, but it might be a honey trap for Netanyahu
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As Trump leaves Saudis for Israel and Palestinians, Kushner moves center stage
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Who’s behind the dozens of pro-Trump billboards around Jerusalem?
U.S. President Donald Trump landed in Israel on Monday. Ahead of a talk with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he did not mention the word “Israel” in his meeting with Russian officials at the White House. Earlier, Trump said there’s a “rare opportunity” to bring security to the region, defeat terror and create harmony and peace. Follow our live updates of the president’s visit as it develops.

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8:25 P.M.: Trump: Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is “one of the toughest deals of all”
Following his closed-doors meeting with Netanyahu, Trump says he is willing to cooperate on working toward renewing efforts on reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu in a joint press conference, Trump adds in a reference to the peace agreement: “I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all.” He added, however, that he has “a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually.”

8:09 P.M.: The Netanyahus introduce their son Yair to the Trumps in front of the cameras ahead of delivering joint statements to the press

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Moments earlier, Sara Netanyahu complains to Trump: “If we could only paint the walls” of their residence.
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7:36 P.M.: Trump’s glaring omission of Russia – the bear in the Mideast room
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U.S. President Donald Trump places a note in a gap in the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 22, 2017.RONEN ZVULUN/AFP

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The focus of much of Donald Trump’s swing though Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories has been on heroes and villains. But in the U.S. president’s taxonomy of good and evil, there is one particularly glaring omission. (Bradley Burston) Read the full story
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7:29 P.M.: Why Trump’s Western Wall visit is actually bad news for the Israeli right
In an attempt to apply symbolism to every step that Donald Trump takes on his short visit to Israel and the territories, Israeli politicians and the local media have made a major fuss of the fact that Trump is the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall while in office. They even tried to make it out as some wonderful gesture to Israel and the Jewish people.

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MK Oren Hazan took a selfie with Trump.@oren_haz /twitter

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6:07 P.M. During remarks ahead of the meeting with Netanyahu, Trump said he did not mention the word “Israel” in his meeting with Russian officials at the White House.

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“Just so that you know – I never mentioned the word Israel,” Trump said. Netanyahu told the press that intelligence cooperation between the two countries was “excellent.”
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Trump also touched upon Iran, saying, “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, that I can tell you.” He added that Iran should be thanking America for getting a “great deal.”
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>> Read more: Israel and Washington want to bury Trump’s leak. But the damage is done >>
4:24 P.M. Donald and Melania Trump arrive with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
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Trump arrives at the Western Wall with his wife Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. In deference to Jewish religious custom, Trump and Kushner (Ivanka Trump’s husband) part ways with them.
Trump and Kushner visit the men’s prayer plaza, while the first lady and daughter visit the women’s section.
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Wearing a skullcap, Trump slips a note with a prayer deep into the Western Wall.
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Accompanied by Kushner, Trump receives an explanation about the holy site from Mordechai Eliav, the director-general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
skip – Trump: issues with Iran brought Middle Eastern countries closer to Israel
Ivanka Trump appears moved during the visit, as she wipes a tear from her cheek after touching the Western Wall. She seems to be deep in thought and prayer. Ivanka and First Lady Melania Trump receive an explanation from several Orthodox women. (Judy Maltz) .
4:04 P.M. The Foreign Ministry responds to the Hazan-Trump selfie scandal
The Foreign Ministry says Knesset Member Oren Hazan, who took an unauthorized selfie with Trump upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, wasn’t among the A-list politician invited to shake the U.S. president’s hand at the reception.
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“The Foreign Ministry only invited A-list staff, meaning the State of Israel’s most senior figures,” Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said. “Unfortunately a few people who weren’t on the list of senior staff snuck into the line of hand-shakers and refused to leave despite being asked to do so by the Foreign Ministry.” (Barak Ravid)
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3:29 P.M. Trump visits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He is the first sitting president to visit Jerusalem’s Old City (Judy Maltz)
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3:22 P.M. Arab scouts to skip Trump event after police demand removal of their Palestinian-flag emblems (Judy Maltz)
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3:05 P.M. In his remarks following his meeting with Rivlin, Trump lauded Israel as an “amazing country… what you’ve done perhaps virtually has never been done before”
“Shalom,” he said. “I am awed by the beauty and majesty of this sacred land.”
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Trump accused Iran of fomenting “terrible violence” and said that Israel and the U.S. agree that Iran must never be allowed to possess nuclear weapons and should be forced to cease funding terrorism. He further said that there’s a growing realization among Israel’s Arab neighbors regarding the threat posed by Iran.
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He thanked Rivlin and Netanyahu for their commitment to peace with the Palestinians, and said he wants to build stronger trade ties with Israel.
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3:00 P.M. Following Trump and Rivlin’s meetings, the two delivered remarks
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Rivlin said that “we’re happy to see America is back in the region. America is back.” He said Israel will do everything in its power to assist the U.S. in its commitment to fight ISIS, and expressed appreciation for the U.S. strike on an Syrian airbase in April.
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President Trump speaks to Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem as first lady Melania stands with them at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City
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President Trump speaks to Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem as first lady Melania stands with them at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
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The Jewish people returned to the historic homeland after 2000 years of exile. We created a miracle… In our most difficult times, we never gave up on our dream of living here in peace with our neighbors.”
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Rivlin stressed the importance of distancing Iran from Israel’s borders. “We want to move forward,” he said. “We must do it together with America.”
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2:37 P.M. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refuses to say Western Wall is in Israel (Amir Tibon)
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skip – Sara Netanyahu to Melania Trump Majority of Israelis love us, unlike the media
2:36 Bannon, Priebus skip out on Trump’s Israel visit, fly home to handle political crisis (Amir Tibon)
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2:33 P.M. Israeli media welcomes Trump with English headlines and editorials (Judy Maltz)
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U.S. President Donald Trump (L) sits next to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during their meeting in Jerusalem May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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US President Donald Trump, left, meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process.
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2:30 P.M. Trump the Impossible. Trump the Asteroid
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skip – This is what happened when MK Oren Hazan took a selfie with Trump
There’s a theory that it would take an event as impossibly unlikely, as humanly uncontrollable, as potentially cataclysmic as an asteroid striking the earth, for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to make peace, writes Bradley Burston.

Trump told Rivlin that he believes Iran must 'never' be armed with a nuclear weapon

Trump told Rivlin that he believes Iran must ‘never’ be armed with a nuclear weapon

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2:15 P.M. Trump meets with Rivlin
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Trump tells Rivlin that “what happened in Iran has turned other parts of the Middle East toward Israel,” noting that these countries “were not feeling so well about Israel not so long ago.”
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He said there’s a “great feeling” for peace in the Middle East, and that people “have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing.” He said that he expects to have “interesting talks” while in Israel.
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Rivlin told Trump that “we’ve been waiting and praying for peace … and hope someone will bring it.”
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President Donald Trump speaks during a welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv, May 22,2017, accompanied by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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President Donald Trump speaks during a welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv, May 22,2017, accompanied by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Oded Balilty/AP
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skip – Trump’s full opening speech upon his arrival to Israel
2:00 P.M. Melania Trump and ‘s private exchange
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Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, probably had not intended her words for mass consumption. But an informal exchange between the American and Israeli leaders and their spouses, caught on camera after the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport, said a lot about how she and her husband view the media – and themselves.
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“Also us, the press hates and the public loves,” she confided in Melania Trump, the first lady of the United States. This was preceded by the Trump and Netanyahu sharing how much their wives liked one another. (Judy Maltz)

Trump arrived in Israel on Monday from Saudi Arabia, and will next go to Rome for a Papal audience before visiting Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 meetings

Trump arrived in Israel on Monday from Saudi Arabia, and will next go to Rome for a Papal audience before visiting Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 meetings

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1:30 P.M. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tells Trump that there may have been a terror attack in Tel Aviv earlier on Monday – an hour and a half after police declared the incident was a car accident.
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1:20 P.M. During the reception for Trump, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told the president that in honor of Jerusalem’s 50th anniversary of unification, “we expect you to be the first president who recognizes united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.” Trump looked at Netanyahu and remarked, “That’s an idea”
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1:15 P.M. Knesset Member Oren Hazan repeatedly tries to take a selfie with Trump. Netanyahu tries to push Hazan’s hand away.
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1:05 P.M. Trump makes remarks on the tarmac: “On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm unbreakable bond between us and Israel.”
“In this land so rich in history, Israel has built one of the world’s greatest civilizations, a strong resilient determined prosperous nation, forged in the commitment that will never allow horrors of last century to be repeated,” he said.
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Trump said he met with leaders from across the Arab world and reached “historic agreements” in fights against terror. He said there’s a “rare opportunity” to bring security to the region, defeat terror and create harmony and peace, but said “We can only get there working together, there is no other way.”
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He concluded by saying “We love Israel, we respect Israel” and conveying warm greetings from the American people. Read the full text
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1:00 P.M. Netanyahu to President Trump: Israel shares your commitment to peace and reaches out its hand to the Palestinians
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US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, center, stand in attention during welcome ceremony accompany by the Israeli President Rueben Rivlin and his wife Nechama, on the left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah in Tel Aviv, Monday, May 22,2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania with Trump Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), his wife Sara at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel May 22, 2017. AMIR COHEN/REUTERS
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Netanyahu said Trump’s visit “is truly historic”: “Never before has the first foreign trip of the president of the United States included a visit to Israel.” He thanked Trump for his “powerful expression of your friendship to Israel.”
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He said Israel has been fighting terrorism and protecting members of all faiths, “Christians, Muslims, everyone,” while Christians are being prosecuted elsewhere in the Middle East.
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“Israel shares you commitment to peace, we’ve already made peace with Egypt Jordan,” he said. “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. We seek genuine, durable peace in which Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, conflict ends once and for all.”
skip – Netanyahu greets President Trump upon his arrival
He expressed hope one day an “Israeli prime minister will be able to fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh.”
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12:50 P.M. President Rivlin welcomes Trump in a speech on the Tarmac
“Your visit is a symbol of the unbreakable bond between Israel and America,” Rivlin said. “You are the President of Israel’s greatest, most important ally. You are a true friend of Israel, and of the Jewish people.”
skip – Trump arrives to Israel, shakes hands with Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu
“Mr. President, the world needs a strong United States. The Middle East needs a strong United States. Israel needs a strong United States. And – may I say – the United States also needs a strong Israel… “”Mr. President, today I will have the honor to host you in Jerusalem. We are honored to have you here with us, as we mark fifty years of ‘Jerusalem Day’, Yom Yerushalayim. It makes us very happy to know that Israel’s most important ally recognizes the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish People. Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish People: as it has been for 3000 years.”

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“Mr. President. You came here to Israel from Saudi Arabia. In Jerusalem, you will be at the Western Wall, and visit the holy Church, and then you are going to the Vatican. In just one journey you will visit the three holiest places for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We each have different beliefs – but we all worship the same God. We can work together towards a better future. We shall continue to do so, together. Welcome to Israel. God bless you. God bless America. God bless Israel.” (Barak Ravid)
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12:44 The American and Israeli national anthems play on the tarmac
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U.S. President Donald Trump signs the guest book at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017.
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U.S. President Donald Trump signs the guest book at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017.
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12:41 Trump is greeted by Israeli leaders upon descending from Air Force One
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As he landed, Trump shook hands with Israeli President Rivlin and his wife Nechama, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and then reached the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who worked for Trump as a lawyer for many years. “Who is this guy? You work out here now?” Trump asked with a smile, and then told Friedman that he “got what he wanted.”
Palestinian men hold a banner bearing a portrait of US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) at a printer’s in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, on May 21, 2017, ahead of a two day official visit of Trump in Israel and the Palestinian territories. / AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER
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Palestinian men hold a banner bearing a portrait of US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) at a printer’s in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, on May 21, 2017, ahead oMUSA AL SHAER/AFP
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Trump then asked Friedman’s wife, Kim, “are you proud of your man?” (Amir Tibon)
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12:40 P.M. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner descend from Air Force One
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12:22 P.M. Trump touches down in Israel
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12:20 P.M. Fake Trump interviewed by Israel’s Army Radio
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A radio prankster pretending to be U.S. President Donald Trump succeeded on Monday to secure an interview for himself on a prime-time show on Israel’s Army Radio. The prankster went on the air on a popular show hosted by Erel Segal and was interviewed for 90 seconds before the radio station’s staff realized they have been duped. (Haaretz)
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12:11 P.M. Trump visits Israel: 9 Must-read features and analyses
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12:06 P.M. Thousands of security forces deployed, roads closed minutes before Trump lands
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Thousands of Israeli police, border police and volunteers deployed throughout Jerusalem for Trump’s arrival as main roads will be blocked off, including large portions of Highway 1 and Highway 6. Police told the public to use the navigation application Waze when driving in the area, saying that it would plan routes in consideration of the closed roads and heavy-traffic areas. (Yaniv Kubovitch)
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11:43 A.M. Several lightly hurt, including pedestrians, in car crash in central Tel Aviv
1:27 A.M. White House welcomes Israeli economic measures designed to benefit Palestinians
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The White House praised Israel’s decision to implement economic measures designed for Palestinians in the West Bank, including permits for thousands of homes in Area C, where Israel has total civil and security control.
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“President Trump welcomes an Israeli decision to implement a series of measures designed to begin improving both the Palestinian economy and the quality of life for the Palestinian public,” the White House said in a statement. (Barak Ravid)
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11:05 A.M. Trump visits Israel: Here’s his full schedule for day one
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10:11 A.M. Donald Trump departs Saudi Arabia for Israel
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10:04 A.M. Donald Trump’s visit to Israel: Eight must-read opinions
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U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel has been met with both excitement and trepidation, and has everyone speculating about he will do and what he should try to achieve during his visit. Here are eight must-read opinions from Haaretz’s writers.
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9:33 A.M. The explosive history of the Jerusalem hotel hosting Trump
It could never be confused with a Trump property: It lacks the glitz and the gold plating, not to mention the height. But there was never any doubt that when he pulled into Jerusalem on Monday, Donald Trump would be lodging at the King David Hotel. Even as the competition for the dollars of luxury travelers increases – with the addition just during the past decade of both the Mamilla Hotel and the Waldorf Astoria, both within walking distance of the 87-year-old King David – it’s still clear that the latter is the capital’s premier hostelry. (David B. Green)
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9:21 A.M. Who’s behind the dozens of pro-Trump billboards around Jerusalem?
When Trump arrives in Jerusalem, huge billboards proclaiming “Trump is a Friend of Zion” and requesting “Trump Make Israel Great” will greet him.
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It will be hard for the American leader to avoid them. Altogether, 42 billboards featuring intertwined Israeli and American flags have been erected around the city at a total cost of $100,000.
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So who’s behind this big campaign? The billboards bear the name Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, but in fact, the initiative is really the brainchild of one man – Mike Evans, the founder of this institution and among the first Christian evangelical leaders to declare his support for Trump’s presidential run. (Judy Maltz)
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9:19 A.M. In Bethlehem, Palestinians confident Trump’s one-hour visit ‘won’t change anything’
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Like the Palestinian government, which has been positively surprised by some recent statements from the Trump administration, social activists have also taken a relatively positive view of the visit. Nimala Kharoufeh, a member of the Fatah youth movement and the founder of nearby Beit Jala’s Beit Ashams community center, focused on comments that have raised some hopes locally, such as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s mention of the importance of Palestinian self-determination. However, her take following the speech is “unchanged,” she said. “I feel really positive, not that I have high expectations, but I’m positive about this visit. Not moving this embassy to Jerusalem is another positive step, so nothing in the speech changed my position.” (Noga Tarnopolsky, Bethlehem)
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9:15 A.M. Jerusalem braces for Trump’s visit
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The hospitality sector in Israel has geared up for the arrival on Monday of U.S. President Donald Trump and his sizeable entourage, as well as the press corps coming to cover the visit.
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The Israel Airports Authority has asked people using Ben-Gurion International Airport around midday on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, when he will be departing, to get to the airport early and be in touch with their airlines regarding possible changes in flight times.
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International flights on low-cost carriers that normally use Terminal 1 are being transferred to Terminal 3 until early Wednesday morning. Domestic flights from the airport to Eilat will operate normally. Trump’s presence will also be disrupting highway traffic and security will be particularly tight. (Gili Melnitcki)
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9:14 A.M. Harness Trump’s determination to attain the ultimate Middle East deal
If the Israeli government truly seeks peace as it claims, it must harness Trump’s determination in order to bravely draft its path to a diplomatic solution. The Israeli right is torn between the annexationist wing and the wing that believes the only solution is the division of the country one way or another. Those who oppose annexation, most of the nation, must take advantage of Trump’s special temperament by joining together to say no to the annexationist right and opening a new chapter in the Middle East. (Haaretz Editorial)
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9:09 A.M. As Trump leaves Saudis for Israel and Palestinians, Kushner moves center stage
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The visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority could be the perfect opportunity for Jared Kushner to take the stage and increase his involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian file. But in order for that to happen, the president’s arguably closest adviser will need to find time in an increasingly packed schedule, a schedule that could become even tighter if the recent rumors and allegations connecting him to the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia turn out to be true. (Amir Tibon)
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9:03 A.M. After Riyadh speech, Trump comes to Israel as a messianic opportunist
Donald Trump changed America’s standing in the Middle East on Sunday, perhaps historically. He reversed eight years of foreign policy carried out by his predecessor, Barack Obama. He positioned himself as champion of Saudi Arabia and Sunni Islam and as chief adversary of Iran and the Shia. He embraced the kingdoms, sheikdoms, dictatorships, military regimes and popular democratic republics of political Islam and absolved them of the human rights and democratic mumbo-jumbo that Obama used to torment them with. Like Benjamin Netanyahu before him, Trump is now Mr. Terror, a leader for whom all other considerations are subordinate to the fight against it. (Chemi Shalev)
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9:00 A.M. Israel isn’t a bling nation that can impress Trump. And that’s a good thing
It’s usually easy for Israel to put on a good show for the intelligent statesman on his first visit. For a start, they can take him to one of the high-tech hubs and present a few snazzy start-ups. There’s even one right next to the makeshift helipad at First Station. But one can imagine Trump’s eyes glazing over minutes into the explanation of any cutting-edge innovation. Even the sums of money made in high-tech exits are unlikely to impress an old-fashioned businessman who made (and lost) billions through tangible real estate and glitzy branding. Just the very idea of making a profit out of ideas is alien. The closest he ever got to selling ideas was the Trump University scam. (Anshel Pfeffer)
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8:58 A.M. Trump plans to shower Israel with love, but it might be a honey trap for Netanyahu
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The visit to Jerusalem is important to both Trump and Netanyahu for the same reason. Both want to show that the tensions that characterized the U.S.-Israeli relationship during Barack Obama’s eight years in office are over. Both want the public parts of the visit to be full of symbolic gestures, photo-ops and expressions of incredible friendship, that will leave no doubt as to the state of bilateral relations – the complete opposite of the Obama era.
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But the love with which Trump will envelope Netanyahu during the visit could turn out to be a honey trap for the premier. Netanyahu could find hints of this during Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia, which he delivered just as the security cabinet was being convened to approve a package of economic concessions for the Palestinians. If Netanyahu had left the security cabinet meeting to watch Trump’s speech he would have been delighted. (Barak Ravid)
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8:30 A.M. – Fuming Netanyahu orders ministers to attend Trump’s reception after most refuse to show up
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has required all cabinet ministers to attend the reception ceremony for U.S. President Donald Trump at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday. A senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu issued his instructions after finding out that most ministers were not planning on attending the event.
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During a Sunday meeting of coalition heads, Netanyahu was notified that there would be a sparse attendance of ministers at the reception and that most party heads wouldn’t participate in it. Netanyahu was furious and blew up the meeting, a senior official who attended the meeting said. Immediately afterwards, the Prime Minister’s Bureau issued an instruction to all government ministers according to which they must participate in the airport reception. (Barak Ravid)
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7:00 A.M. – Behind the Scenes of the Trump Administration’s Tug-of-war Over the Israel
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Embassy Move
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Keep the embassy in Tel Aviv or move it to Jerusalem? The issue has turned into a fierce struggle between Trump’s advisers and his top cabinet members. He has until June 1 to decide. Barak Ravid has all the inside information.
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6:45 A.M. – These are the voices whispering in Trump’s ear about Israel and how to make the ‘ultimate deal’
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Lacking a clear and consistent policy to go on, many observers are looking for clues by examining what the president’s advisers on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are calling for. And while most U.S. administrations in recent decades have housed different schools of thought, the diverse range of opinions in the Trump administration seems truly extraordinary.
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So who are the people advising the 45th president on Israel, and what are they telling him? Here’s a list from both inside and outside the administration.
Barak Ravid
Haaretz Correspondenthttp://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.790848

Transition towards peace in Syria can’t involve Assad, says Turkey

December 28, 2016

Wed Dec 28, 2016 | 6:46am EST

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Reuters photo

A transition towards peace in Syria that involves President Bashar al-Assad is “impossible” as the country’s opposition will not accept him, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

Cavusoglu also confirmed Turkey had prepared an agreement towards a ceasefire.

Turkish state media earlier said Turkey and Russia had agreed on a proposal toward a general ceasefire in Syria.

(This version of the story fixes spelling of Turkish foreign minister’s name in first and second paragraphs)

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Ece Toksabay; Writing by David Dolan; editing by John Stonestreet)

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