Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Democracy Is Far From Dead

December 11, 2017

In 12 years, the share of the world’s people who live in ‘free’ countries has risen.

Democracy Is Far From Dead

With recent setbacks in the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela and elsewhere, it is common to hear laments about the decline of democracy world-wide. Turbulent times in Britain and the U.S. add to the concern, as does the sweeping failure of the so-called Arab Spring since 2011. After major waves of progress in the wake of World War II and the Cold War, is freedom starting to sputter?

Democracy has taken some hard hits. But before we cede bragging rights to autocrats, or persuade ourselves of the need for precipitate action to arrest a perilous strategic slide, we need perspective on what has been happening.

It is true that the “third wave” of democratization—the proliferation of democratic states in the late 20th century—has largely ended. But it has not been reversed by any stretch of the imagination.

Recall the magnitude of what transpired last century. By 2000 about 120 countries, or nearly two-thirds of the nations of the planet, had become electoral democracies. A hundred years before, the total could be counted on a single hand—or less, if one defines democracy as a system of full enfranchisement of women and men of all races.

The 21st century is not off to such a good start. But the net setbacks have been modest. By one measure, according to Freedom House, 25% of all countries were assessed as “not free” in 2016, compared with 23% in 2006.

Yet if one adjusts for population, there has been no setback at all. India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil, with a combined population of two billion, have, for all their admitted troubles, been holding generally steady in recent years. The countries experiencing setbacks have generally been less populous. As a result, the fraction of people living in “not free” countries has declined slightly over the past dozen years, from 37% to 36%, while the total living in “free” countries rose gently, from 44% to 45%. The remainder were in countries deemed by Freedom House to be “partly free.”

Much as we might regret partial setbacks to liberal democracy in Hungary, population 10 million, developments there pale in significance when compared with democratic progress in Indonesia, population 261 million. The big outlier here is Russia, with its 142 million people, where the early signs of liberalism in the mid-2000s have been decisively reversed.

Viewed in broad historical terms, the democratic model continues to excel when measured against all the alternatives. Established democracies almost never go to war with each other, helping explain why the decades since World War II have been among the least violent in human history, at least when it comes to interstate war.

A world of democracies is also proving to be unambiguously good for fighting poverty and strengthening the global middle class. As our colleague Homi Kharas has shown, in 1950 less than 10% of the world’s population could be said to be middle-class—with daily family income between roughly $10 and $100 in 2005 dollars, adjusted for purchasing power. Today the figure approaches 50%. Some of that progress has been within autocracies, notably China. But more than two-thirds of it has been in democratic countries.

Most of these democracies also generally remain united in a common strategic purpose, despite the occasional robust debates over when and how to use force. The U.S. leads a coalition or loose alliance system of some 60 states that together account for roughly 70% of world military spending and a similar fraction of total world gross domestic product. Except in the Middle East, almost all these U.S. allies are democracies. And while the megastate of India is not a U.S. ally in the way that Canada and the U.K. are, it is nonetheless an increasingly close American strategic partner.

Democracies have struggled with corruption, violent crime, poverty, populism, challenges from globalization, and other hard realities of modern life. Democracy does not change human nature. It does, however, generally put us in a much better position to address those problems peacefully.

Witness South Korea, which impeached a president earlier this year but seems no worse for the wear. Or Brazil, dealing with similar political problems in an ugly yet still constitutional manner. Or India, where a strongman leader is nonetheless checked in some of his ambitions by a balance-of-powers system. Or the U.K., where Brexit, itself the result of a democratic choice, seems likely to cause only limited damage.

We do need to learn one lesson from history’s recent sobering course: Democracy is fragile and can never be taken for granted. But declarations about democracy’s demise, or even its significant decline, go too far.

Mr. Jones is vice president and Mr. O’Hanlon director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program.


In Syria, Putin orders partial Russia troop withdrawal

December 11, 2017


Syrian Presidency Facebook page/AFP / –Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad held talks during the Kremlin strongman’s first visit to Syria

President Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Syria on Monday and ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn country, saying their task had been largely completed.

Putin, who announced last week he would seek a fourth term in a poll in March, was welcomed at Russia’s Hmeimim airbase by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the surprise stopover.

The two men were pictured smiling and hugging, with Putin hailing a “significant result of our joint work”.

In a televised speech to Russian troops, Putin said he had ordered his Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to start a partial withdrawal.

“I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia,” he said in a televised speech at the base in Latakia province, a government stronghold.

Russia first intervened in the conflict in 2015, staging air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both the Islamic State group (IS) and other jihadists as well as rebels fighting government troops.

Putin said the troops had helped the Syrian army crush the “most battle-ready group of international terrorists,” apparently referring to IS.

“On the whole the task has been completed. And completed brilliantly.”

Putin said last month that efforts to end the war were entering a “new stage” as the focus shifted from military intervention to political reforms.

AFP/File / Vasily Maximov — Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015, staging air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both the Islamic State group and other jihadists as well as rebels fighting government troops 

He said both Hmeimim and Russia’s naval facility in Tartus would continue to function and warned that Russia would repel any fresh attacks by militants.

“If terrorists rear their heads again we will inflict the blows that they have not seen yet,” he said.

– ‘Our homeland thanks you’ –

Putin made the Syria stopover, the first by a Russian head of state since then president Dmitry Medvedev visited in 2010, en route to Egypt where he arrived later Monday.

From there, Putin is scheduled to travel to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Kremlin strongman thanked the troops for defending Russia from terrorism and helping Syria remain a “sovereign independent state”.

He said the conflict proved that Russia’s armed forces, including intelligence officers, pilots, sailors, special forces, military police, sappers and military advisers, were on top form, and he also praised the country’s defence industry.

“Our homeland thanks you, my friends,” he said. “Have a safe trip. I thank you for your service.”

Putin also inspected the troops who goose-stepped to the tune of a popular Soviet-era song about World War II, and held talks with Assad.

– ‘Syrians will never forget’ –

The Syrian leader expressed his “deep gratitude” for Russia’s role in the conflict.

“The Syrians will never forget what the Russian forces did,” official Syria media quoted him as saying.

“Their blood mixed with the blood of the martyrs of the Syrian army. This means that this blood is stronger than terrorism and its mercenaries.”

Putin said he would discuss Russia’s efforts to convene Syria’s political congress with the leaders of Egypt and Turkey, and then brief Assad.

Last month, Putin welcomed Assad for a surprise summit at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Last week Putin announced he would be standing in the March presidential election that he is expected to effortlessly win, and his lightning visit to Syria can be expected to play well with the voters.

The commander of Russia’s forces in Syria, Sergei Surovikin, said 23 Russian planes, two helicopters and military police would be returning to Russia soon, national television reported.

The first jets were scheduled to leave Monday.

The size of the Russian deployment in Syria is not known but independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer has told AFP that up to 10,000 troops and private contractors could have taken part in the conflict.

Putin had ruled out dispatching ground forces in Syria, making the air force the mainstay of Moscow’s Syria campaign.

Around 40 Russian servicemen have reportedly been killed in Syria since Moscow’s intervention. The Kremlin has acknowledged some of those deaths.

But the losses may be higher given the number of Russian troops and mercenaries believed to be in the country, observers say.

More than 340,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s rule that sparked a brutal crackdown.

EU tells Netanyahu it rejects Trump’s Jerusalem move

December 11, 2017

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case to Europe to ask allies to join the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but was met by a firm rebuff from EU foreign ministers who saw the move as a blow against the peace process.

Making his first ever visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, Netanyahu said President Donald Trump’s move made peace in the Middle East possible “because recognizing reality is the substance of peace, the foundation of peace.”

Trump announced last Wednesday that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that the ancient city’s status must be decided in Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in a 1967 war, considers the entire city to be its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

The Trump administration says it remains committed to the peace process and its decision does not affect Jerusalem’s future borders or status. It says any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem, and ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and suit

Photo: Netanyahu with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, December 11, 2017. AP photo

But even Israel’s closest European allies have rejected that logic and say recognizing Israel’s capital unilaterally risks inflaming violence and further wrecking the chance for peace.

After a breakfast meeting between Netanyahu and EU foreign ministers, Sweden’s top diplomat said no European at the closed-door meeting had voiced support for Trump’s decision, and no country was likely to follow the United States in announcing plans to move its embassy.

“I have a hard time seeing that any other country would do that and I don’t think any other EU country will do it,” Margot Wallstrom told reporters.

Several EU foreign ministers arriving at the meeting reiterated the bloc’s position that lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 war – including East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Golan Heights, are not within Israel’s borders.

Israel’s position does appear to have more support from some EU states than others. Last week, the Czech foreign ministry said it would begin considering moving the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while Hungary blocked a planned EU statement condemning the U.S. move.

But Prague later said it accepted Israel’s sovereignty only over West Jerusalem, and Budapest said its long-term position seeking a two-state solution in the Middle East had not changed.

On Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said of Trump’s decision: “I‘m afraid it can’t help us.”

“I‘m convinced that it is impossible to ease tension with a unilateral solution,” Zaoralek said. “We are talking about an Israeli state but at the same time we have to speak about a Palestinian state.”


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini brief the media at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Trump’s announcement triggered days of protests across the Muslim world and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in which scores of Palestinians were wounded and several killed. By Monday morning, violence appeared to have subsided.

Netanyahu, who has been angered by the EU’s search for closer business ties with Iran, said Europeans should emulate Trump’s move and press the Palestinians to do so too.

“It’s time that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and also recognize the fact that it has a capital. It’s called Jerusalem,” he said.

In comments filmed later on his plane, he said he had told the Europeans to “stop pampering the Palestinians”. “I think the Palestinians need a reality check. You have to stop cutting them slack. That’s the only way to move forward towards peace.”

Trump’s announcement last week has triggered a war of words between Netanyahu and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, straining ties between the two U.S. allies which were restored only last year after a six year breach that followed the Israeli storming of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.

On Sunday, Erdogan called Israel a “terror state”. Netanyahu responded by saying he would accept no moral lectures from Erdogan who he accused of bombing Kurdish villages, jailing opponents and supporting terrorists.

On Monday Erdogan took aim directly at Washington over Trump’s move: “The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands,” he said in a speech in Ankara. “With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

The decision to recognize Jerusalem could also strain Washington’s ties with its other main Muslim ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, which has sought closer relations with Washington under Trump than under his predecessor Barack Obama.

Saudi Arabia shares U.S. and Israeli concerns about the increasing regional influence of Iran, and was seen as a potential broker for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal. But Saudis have suggested that unilateral decisions over Jerusalem make any such rapprochement more difficult.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador to the United States and veteran ex-security chief, published a strongly-worded open letter to Trump on Monday denouncing the Jerusalem move.

“Bloodshed and mayhem will definitely follow your opportunistic attempt to make electoral gain,” the prince wrote in a letter published in the Saudi newspaper al-Jazeera.

“Your action has emboldened the most extreme elements in the Israeli society … because they take your action as a license to evict the Palestinians from their lands and subject them to an apartheid state,” he added. “Your action has equally emboldened Iran and its terrorist minions to claim that they are the legitimate defenders of Palestinian rights.”

The Trump administration says it is working on a peace proposal being drawn up by Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

European leaders say the decision on Israel’s capital makes the need for a broader peace move more urgent.

“We’ve been waiting already for several months for the American initiative, and if one is not forthcoming then the European Union will have to take the initiative,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Peter Graff

Netanyahu in Brussels With EU’s Mogherini: Israel Should Give Peace a Chance

December 11, 2017

Netanyahu’s visit comes on the heels of a harsh exchange with the organization’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who fiercely opposed Trump’s Jerusalem move

(Brussels, Belgium) Dec 11, 2017 9:24 AM
Image result for Netanyahu, Federica Mogherini, photos

File photo: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and the European Union chief of foreign policy 

An Israeli prime minister has not traveled to Brussels, the heart of the EU, in 22 years.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, and the ramifications of the policy shift, are expected to be a dominant issue during the meetings. Various EU leaders have slammed Trump for the Jerusalem-recognition move, saying that by doing so he has taken Israel’s side on the Jerusalem issue.

The EU has for years adopted the Palestinian position on the matter, saying east Jerusalem needs to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Despite Mogherini’s tough words about the recognition, the EU foreign ministers did not immediately issue a condemnation of the move, because of opposition from Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic – a strong ally of Israel inside the EU – followed Trump’s recognition by announcing that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists in Paris protested on Saturday against Netanyahu’s visit, holding Palestinian flags and pictures of Macron branded as an “accomplice.” Protests also took place in numerous capitals over the weekend, including in Berlin, Beirut, London, Mogadishu, Amman and Tehran, as well as in Istanbul.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted a presidential source as saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Macron spoke by phone on Saturday and agreed to “close cooperation” on the Jerusalem issue.

According to Huriyet, the two presidents “agreed to continue efforts to convince the US to reconsider its decision.”

Erdogan has called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Observers in Jerusalem say that the Turkish president is trying to “ride” the issue into a leadership position on the Arab and Muslim street, similar to what he did following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 when he became the temporary darling of the Muslim world for his tough rhetoric and confrontational approach to Israel.

Erdogan also spoke on the phone with the presidents of Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on Saturday regarding the issue. Israel has strong ties with both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

One senior diplomatic official said that Netanyahu’s visit to Paris and Brussels will undoubtedly be “hot,” and that the prime minister is “furious” at Mogherini for her comments.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, there are influential voices in the EU saying that this is an opportunity to “provide an alternative” and to initiate a peace plan of their own, perhaps reviving the French initiative that died earlier this year when presidents François Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US left office.

Netanyahu, according to diplomatic sources, has sought a meeting with all the EU foreign ministers for months, but had to overcome initial skepticism on their part.

He is expected to “stand up” to the Europeans, criticizing their “obsession” over the settlements and telling them that they are feeding Palestinian intransigence by giving the impression that a solution can be imposed on Israel from the outside.

Mogherini announced last week that she invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet the foreign ministers at their monthly parley next month.

See also Haaretz (Paywall):

BRUSSELS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded a possible peace deal being drafted by the White House while speaking at the European Union in Brussels…
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Netanyahu faces pressure in Europe amid Jerusalem protests — Netanyahu has taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement

December 11, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he leaves the Elysee Palace on Sunday in Paris. (AFP)

BRUSSELS: Israel’s leader faces renewed pressure from Europe on Monday to reboot the Middle East’s moribund peace process following widespread criticism of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Brussels for an informal breakfast with EU foreign ministers who will urge him to “resume meaningful negotiations,” according to the bloc’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

The talks come after French President Emmanuel Macron met Netanyahu in Paris on Sunday and called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians following widespread protests over the US move.

Last week’s decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with international consensus.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Macron again condemned the decision as “contrary to international law and dangerous for the peace process.”

“I urged the prime minister to show courage in his dealings with the Palestinians to get us out of the current dead end,” Macron said after talks in Paris with the Israeli leader.

“Peace does not depend on the United States alone… it depends on the capacity of the two Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do so,” the French leader said.
Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people.”
“It has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, it has been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices and we know that as friends you respect ours. I think this is also central for peace,” he said.
“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move toward peace.”
Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu had taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it.”
Pointedly, Macron began his pre-prepared remarks with a clear condemnation “with the greatest of clarity of all forms of attacks in the last hours and days against Israel.”
Despite the obvious differences between the 39-year-old French leader and the Israeli hard-liner, there were also attempts to show they had developed a good early working relationship and held common views.
“Does this mean Emmanuel Macron and me agree on everything? No, not all of it, but we’re working it,” Netanyahu said at one point, joking later: “The lunch in the Elysee is superb, the conversation is superb too.”
The two countries are keen to reset ties after often difficult exchanges under ex-president Francois Hollande.Most EU members, including the bloc’s biggest countries, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration’s policy shift.
Mogherini has warned the decision on Jerusalem “has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.”
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, she repeated Europe’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace was two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
“It is in Israel’s security interest to find a lasting solution to this decades-long conflict,” she added.
But the 28-member block is not unified on the issue — Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in particular favor warmer ties with Israel.
Last week Hungary broke ranks to block a joint statement from the EU that was critical of Washington’s Jerusalem shift.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories.
Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
Further protests were held in Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
Macron was also asked if France would attempt to launch another peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following failed efforts in the past.
“There’s a desire by the Americans to mediate which remains and I don’t want to condemn it ab initio (from the beginning),” he said. “We need to wait for the next few weeks, the next months to see what will be proposed.
“And I think we have to wait to see whether the interested parties accept it or not.”
Netanyahu was an outspoken critic of efforts by former French president Hollande to push a Middle East peace process.


Macron condemns attacks on Israel over Jerusalem

December 10, 2017


French President Emmanuel Macron “firmly and clearly” condemns all kinds of attacks against Israel in recent hours and days, following a meeting in Paris with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Macron also reaffirmed his “disapproval” of U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Macron said “what’s new is that the United States unilaterally recognized something that is not complying with the international law.”

He appealed for calm in the Middle East and asked Netanyahu to make gestures toward the Palestinians to “give a chance” to peace. Macron said a gesture could be a settlement freeze.

The French president said he wants to wait for a potential U.S. “mediation” in coming weeks and months and would only support an initiative that would be acceptable by Israelis, Palestinians and other parties in the region.



Erdogan calls Israel ‘terrorist state’ — Netanyahu responds

December 10, 2017


© TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters during a rally in Sivas

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday described Israel as a “terrorist state” and vowed to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.”Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Erdogan said in a speech in the central city of Sivas.

“We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

His speech came days after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, angering Palestinians and sparking protests in Muslim and Arab countries.

Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in violence following the US announcement.

Rockets were fired from Gaza and Israeli warplanes carried out raids on the territory.

Erdogan earlier described the status of Jerusalem, whose eastern sector Palestinians see as the capital of their future state, as a “red line” for Muslims. He called Trump’s declaration “null and void”.

The Turkish president has used his position as the current chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to call a summit of the pan-Islamic group on Wednesday.

“We will show that applying the measure will not be as easy as that,” he added on Sunday.

During his speech, Erdogan held a picture of what he said was a 14-year-old Palestinian boy from Hebron, in the Occupied West Bank, being dragged away by Israeli soldiers.

Turkey and Israel normalised their relations in recent years but Erdogan has continued to defend the Palestinian cause and has regularly criticised Israeli policy.


The Times of Israel

Netanyahu says Erdogan helps terrorists ‘kill innocent people’

PM launches tirade against Turkish leader after he calls Israel a ‘terror state’ that ‘kills children’

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017 in Paris. (AFP/Ludovic Marin)

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017 in Paris. (AFP/Ludovic Marin)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Turkey’s president of being a brutal dictator who supports Palestinian terrorist groups in their efforts to “kill innocent people,” as Israel stepped up a war of words with Ankara over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” said Netanyahu.

“That is not the man who is going to lecture us,” Netanyahu said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Israel has long pressed Turkey to end its support for Hamas and not allow Hamas members to live in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during a joint press conference with the Greek prime minister (not seen) in Athens, December 7, 2017. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP)

Netanyahu’s comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  vowed to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” he said. “We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

The Turkish leader has employed sharp rhetoric against Israel almost daily in the wake of Trump officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On Saturday, Erdogan described Israel as a “state of occupation” that used “terror” against the Palestinians.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also spoke out against Erdogan, invoking the Armenian genocide to denouncing his remarks.

“Those who deny the murder of children in the Armenian genocide should not preach morality at us,” Lapid tweeted on Sunday.

Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on July 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel — along with other countries, including the United States and Germany — has refrained from formally recognizing the Armenian genocide over fears of angering Turkey. Lapid has publicly called on Israel to recognize the targeted mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

Israel and Turkey only last year restored diplomatic relations after years of frozen diplomatic ties in the wake of the so-called flotilla incident. In May 2010, Israeli troops raided the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship and killed nine Turkish nationals aboard who attacked them violently. Israel has apologized and pledged to pay reparations to the families of the deceased.

In a White House speech last week, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.

The change in longstanding US policy has sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world and led to days of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza.

Agencies contributed to this report.


Macron Tells Netanyahu: Give Peace a Chance, Make Gestures Towards the Palestinians

December 10, 2017

The French president said that he stands by the Jewish state and ‘condemns all terror attacks against Israel’

Noa Landau (Paris) Dec 10, 2017 5:55 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017.

PARIS — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Emmanuel Macron held a meeting at the Elysee Palance on Sunday, after which Macron told the Israeli premier that he ought to “give peace a chance” and “make gestures towards the Palestinians.”

Macron spoke at a joint press conference, where he also added that he “told Netanyahu that Trump’s statement on Jeursalem is a threat to peace and we are against it.”

The French president also noted that he thought that the Arab-Israeli conflict must be resolved through a negotiated, two-state solution both the Israelis and Palestinians would agree on.

“We should give peace a chance,” the French president he said.


Netanyahu told him in reply that the sooner the Palestinians came to grips with the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, the sooner there will be peace.

During the meeting, Macron asked Netanyahu, among other things, about Israel’s intentions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Netanyahu and Macron embrace ahead of meeting in France's Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017.

Netanyahu and Macron embrace ahead of meeting in France’s Elysee Palace on December 10, 2017. Avi Ohayon/GPO

Netanyahu and the French president also discussed the regional threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah’s status in Lebanon.

The Israeli prime minister raised concerns about the threat posed by Tehran, saying that it was attempting to set up land, air and naval bases in Syria to target and destroy Israel. “We will not tolerate it,” he stressed.

Macron said that he “condemns all terror attacks against Israel” and “condemns all threats to Israeli security.”

He spoke about the terror attack that struck Jerusalem’s central bus station on Sunday, saying that he condemned the attack on Israel in recent hours.

Netanyahu also raised the issue of the latest rift with Turkey, responding to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who blasted Israel earlier on Sunday and said it was a “terrorist state.”

“I will not take lectures from Turkey’s president, who bombs Kurdish villages, supports Iran and ‘terrorists’ in Gaza.”

The meeting was originally planned as a friendly lunch, and was to focus on Iran, but in light of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, it is now expected to be a more tense affair.

Last week, shortly before U.S. President Donald Trump gave his speech about Jerusalem on Wednesday, Macron was the first European leader to call him and warn about the potential regional impact of unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital only. On Sunday, Macron will become the first leader to host Netanyahu after the announcement. He intends to take advantage of this to interrogate Netanyahu about how Israel intends to act now, in light of the American declaration. France is especially worried about the decision’s implications for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

Their meeting was scheduled last month, before Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem, in response to the crisis sparked by the resignation (since withdrawn) of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hariri announced his resignation in Saudi Arabia and flew from there to France.

On Saturday, as he took off for Paris and Brussels, Netanyahu lashed out at European nations for condemning Trump’s decision, while failing to speak out against rocket fire at Israel. “I am taking off now to Paris and Brussels for meeting with the EU foreign minister. I will not accept a double standard from them. I hear voices condemning Trump [over Jerusalem] but not for rocket fire. I will not accept this hypocrisy. I will represent Israel with my head held high,” Netanyahu said.

Paris has been very active in recent months in several important Middle East crises, including the ones that most pressing to Netanyahu at the moment: Hezbollah’s status in Lebanon, Iran’s growing presence in Syria and the fate of the Iranian nuclear deal. But while the French have labeled Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, they have not done so for the organization’s political wing. Moreover, France is leading the charge to preserve the nuclear deal.

Nevertheless, France agrees with Israel about the regional threat posed by Iran, especially in Syria, as well as the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missiles. The latter was therefore supposed to be the main topic of the Macron-Netanyahu meeting.

Now, however, the meeting is expected to focus chiefly on Jerusalem. Other topics Macron is likely to raise, if time permits, are Israeli construction in the West Bank and its treatment of the Palestinians in Area C, the parts of the West Bank that are under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords.

Noa Landau
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What Jerusalem means to Turkey

December 9, 2017

Sinem Cengiz | 

The diplomatic status of Jerusalem, or Al-Quds in Arabic, is one of the world’s most complex and sensitive issues. Jerusalem is considered holy by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and any change in the status of the city risks vast repercussions across the Middle East. The status of Jerusalem is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital. According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accord, the city’s final status is meant to be discussed in later peace talks.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to relocate the US Embassy there, a move expected to increase tensions and lead to violence at a time there is more than enough chaos in the Middle East.

It is 100 years since the British captured Jerusalem from Ottoman hands. But the city still occupies the world agenda.

Sinem Cengiz

One of the decision’s most vocal critics is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has called Jerusalem “a red line for Muslims.” He said the move amounted to “throwing the region into a circle of fire.”

Image result for erdogan, turkey, photos

Erdogan has conducted talks with several Arab and Muslim leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the heads of states of Malaysia, Tunisia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia. He has called for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to hold an emergency meeting in Istanbul on Dec. 13 to discuss the situation.

“As the temporary president of the OIC, we will follow this issue very closely,” Erdogan said.

Ankara believes that East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine in a two-state solution along the lines of 1967. Turkey is opposed to Israel’s acting as if Jerusalem is its own property and to the “judaization” of the contested city.

Turkey has tried for a long time to be a relevant player in the peace process. For Turkey, Al-Quds has been an issue where all segments of society and all political parties shared a common view.
The US decision has — somewhat — united opposite sides in Turkey. All four parties in the Turkish Parliament signed a joint statement late on Wednesday, declaring Turkey’s resolve to reject the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

At the local level in Turkey, the response was also harsh, with several protests outside the American Consulate in Istanbul and American Embassy in Ankara.

Erdogan has said Turkey could go as far as to sever all ties with Israel. After six years of stagnant diplomatic relations, Israel and Turkey signed a comprehensive reconciliation deal last year.

On July 23, 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem its eternal capital. Following the ratification of this decision, Turkey closed its consulate in Jerusalem. As in the past, Turkey is expected to solve the current issue through diplomatic channels.

Turkey’s relations with its NATO ally America are no bed of roses. The Jerusalem issue could be the final straw in relationships between the two countries. Indeed, Trump’s move may draw Turkey, which is in close contact with Russia and Iran as part of Astana process for Syria, closer to Tehran. Iran was also among the countries that rejected the idea of relocation of the US Embassy.

Jerusalem and the history of Dec. 9

In the words of prominent Middle East scholar Fred Halliday: “It is certainly important to look at history, and for two reasons above all: History is necessary to explain why countries act as they do, and, equally, to provide a basis for analyzing how states, and their opponents, claim to use, select and falsify history to justify what they do.”

On Dec. 9, 1917, during World War I, British forces led by Gen. Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire.

Edmund Allenby.jpg

Field Marshal Viscount Allenby

On Dec. 9, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (separate entity), to be governed by an international regime.

On Dec. 9, 1987, the first intifada began in the Gaza Strip after a 17-year-old threw a Molotov cocktail at an army patrol and was killed by a Israeli soldier. His death triggered mass riots that engulfed the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.

Fast-forward to today, Dec. 9, 2017. It is 100 years since the British captured Jerusalem from Ottoman hands. But the city still occupies the world agenda, unfortunately.

• Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East.
Twitter: @SinemCngz

Peace and Freedom Note: Perhaps, Donald Trump’s action will bring the Muslim world together to make its own declatation about East Jerusalem and thereby move the peace process ahead…

Erdogan steps up attacks on ‘state of occupation’ Israel — Says US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is “null and void”

December 9, 2017


© AFP/File | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was “null and void” in Ankara’s eyes and a “red line” for Muslims

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday described Israel as a “state of occupation” which used “terror” against the Palestinians, as he stepped up his criticism of the US recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.Erdogan has been bitterly opposed to the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem and has called a summit of Islamic countries on December 13 in Istanbul.

“Israel is a state of occupation,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul, referring to Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and settlement building.

“And now they are making use of terror and are bombing young people and children,” he said.

Retaliatory Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed two militants from Palestinian Islamist group Hamas before dawn, bringing to four the number killed since Trump announced the move.

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and an opponent of any perceived global injustice against Muslims, described Jerusalem as the “apple of our eye” and a “red line” for Muslims.

He said that the American decision was “null and void” for Ankara.

“Trump seeks to move forwards by saying ‘there we go, I did it, it’s done!’. I’m sorry but… being strong does not give you such a right.”

“The leaders of major countries have a mission to make peace. Not unleash conflicts.

Erdogan on Saturday continued to play a central role in diplomatic efforts in the crisis, telephoning French President Emmanuel Macron and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the presidency said.

Last year, Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel’s 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, particularly in energy, but Erdogan has repeatedly been bitterly critical of Israeli policy.

Last week he warned that Turkey’s reaction “could go as far as” cutting relations with Israel, but he made no reference to this in his latest speech.