Posts Tagged ‘U.S. President Donald Trump’

Trump threatens to pull aid to Palestinians if they don’t pursue peace

January 25, 2018


Image result for Donald Trump in Davos, photos

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to withhold aid to the Palestinians if they did not pursue peace with Israel, saying they had snubbed the United States by not meeting Vice President Mike Pence during a recent visit.

Trump, speaking after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland said he aimed for peace in the Middle East.

Palestinians shunned Pence’s visit to the region this month after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to begin moving the U.S. embassy to the city, whose status is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s endorsement in December of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital drew universal condemnation from Arab leaders and criticism around the world. It also broke with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands — that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Trump said.

Washington had already said it would withhold about half the initial aid it planned to give a U.N. agency that serves the Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called Trump’s Jerusalem declaration a “slap in the face” and has rejected Washington as an honest broker in any future talks with Israel. Abbas left for an overseas visit before Pence arrived.

Israel’s government regards Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the country, although that is not recognized internationally. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Trump said Palestinians had to come to the negotiating table.

“Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace and they’re going to have to want to make peace too or we’re going to have nothing to do with them any longer,” Trump said.

Trump said his administration had a peace proposal in the works that was a “great proposal for Palestinians” which covers “a lot of the things that were over the years discussed or agreed on”, without providing specifics.

Trump said that his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital took it off the negotiating table “and Israel will pay for that”, adding “they’ll do something that will be a very good thing” without elaborating.

Earlier at the World Economic Forum, Jordanian King Abdullah said Jerusalem had to be part of a comprehensive solution.

He said Trump’s decision had created a backlash, frustrating Palestinians who felt there was no honest broker.

But he added: “I’d like to reserve judgment because we’re still waiting for the Americans to come out with their plan.”

King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Jordan particularly sensitive to any changes of status there.


Trump’s New National Security Doctrine: Israel Is Not the Cause of the Middle East’s Problems

December 18, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the White House lawn, December 16, 2017.

In new outline of national security strategy, Trump doctrine to declare that ‘states have increasingly found common interests with in Israel’ in confronting threats such as Iran and radical jihadist terrorist organizations

The Associated Press Dec 18, 2017 3:01 PM (In Jerusalem)

Prioritizing national sovereignty over alliances, U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to outline a new national security strategy that envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change, and de-emphasizes multinational agreements that have dominated the United States’ foreign policy since the Cold War.

The Republican president, who ran on a platform of “America First,” will detail his plan Monday, one that if fully implemented could sharply alter the United States’ relationships with the rest of the world. The plan, according to senior administration officials who offered a preview Sunday, is to focus on four main themes: protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.

Trump’s doctrine holds that nation states are in perpetual competition and that the U.S. must fight on all fronts to protect and defend its sovereignty from friend and foe alike. While the administration often says that “America First” does not mean “America Alone,” the national security strategy to be presented by Trump will make clear that the United States will stand up for itself even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues like trade, climate change and immigration, according to people familiar with the strategy.

The last such strategy document, prepared by then-President Barack Obama in 2015, declared climate change an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” A senior official said the Trump plan removes that determination — following the administration’s threat to pull out of the Paris climate accord — but will mention the importance of environmental stewardship.


Despite the risk of potential isolation presented by Trump’s strategy, its fundamentals are not a surprise. The Associated Press last week reviewed excerpts of a late draft of the roughly 70-page document and spoke to two people familiar with it. The draft emphasizes that U.S. economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might. And they said it would stress the U.S. is interested only in relationships with other countries, including alliances like NATO, that are fair and reciprocal.

Trump, according to the senior officials, is also expected to discuss threats he’ll deem as “rogue regimes,” like North Korea, and “revisionist powers,” like Russia and China, who aim to change the status quo, such as Moscow and its actions with Ukraine and Georgia, and Beijing in the South China Sea. Trump is also planning to renew his call for the member states in the United Nations and NATO to spend more on defense, saying that the United States will insist on its alliances being fair and reciprocal.

The senior officials said the document refers to China as a “strategic competitor,” rather than the stronger accusation of “economic aggression” previewed last week by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East. “Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence,” it says. “Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances.”

The strategy document asserts that “for generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”

The president is also set to make the case that U.S. economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might.

The criticism of Russia will come as a break from recent warm words between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders have spoken twice in four days, with Trump calling Putin to thank him for kind words about the U.S. stock market and Putin reaching out to Trump to thank the CIA for help in stopping a terror plot in St. Petersburg.

The strategy document will not make explicit reference to Russian attempts to meddle in the U.S. political system, but an official said it would highlight the importance of ensuring the resilience of U.S. democratic institutions.

The early draft of the strategy reviewed by the AP lamented that America had put itself at a disadvantage by entering into multinational agreements, such as those aimed at combating climate change, and introducing domestic policies to implement them.

The senior officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan before the president’s remarks.

The Associated Press

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Photo at the top: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the White House lawn, December 16, 2017. Susan Walsh / AP

Palestinian Protests Following Trump Statement on Jerusalem Fade Without Making Much of an Impression — But Rocket Attacks on Israel May Start To Get A Harsher Response

December 12, 2017


Frequent rocket fire from Gaza would disturb the feeling of security and would put pressure on Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman to act more resolutely

Amos Harel Dec 12, 2017 6:21 PM

Since the evening of December 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, eight rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into the Negev region. At least three other rockets were fired from Gaza but fell inside Palestinian territory. This is the largest number of rockets fired at Israel since the end of Operation Protective Edge, the war that Israel fought with Hamas and its allies during the summer of 2014.

The site in Sderot where a rocket fell on Dec. 8, 2017.

The site in the Israeli border town of Sderot where a rocket fired from Gaza fell on Dec. 8, 2017. Eliyahu Hershovitz

Israeli intelligence agencies attribute most of the rocket fire, if not all of it, to extremist Salafi factions that operate beyond Hamas’ direction. Israel has also identified preliminary steps taken by Hamas over the past few days to rein in the rocket fire, including the arrest of members of these organizations. In the past, the Hamas government in Gaza has known how to make the rules of the game that it has established with Israel clear to these smaller groups – and has adopted a harsh enforcement policy when it has understood that the rocket fire was endangering the stability of its rule in Gaza.

This time, either the message was not received or was not properly understood. It appears that in Gaza Trump’s declaration was seen as an opportunity to let off steam and attack Israeli civilian population centers.


The stage of the large demonstrations by Palestinians protesting Trump’s declaration is slowly coming to an end, without leaving much of an impression on the international community, or on Trump either.

Now there is a shift to a different approach involving firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, a period during which one “lone wolf” terrorist attack also occurred, involving the stabbing by a Palestinian at the Jerusalem central bus station of a security guard, who was seriously wounded.

The Israeli response to the rocket fire from Gaza has been rather restrained so far. As has been its custom in the past, Israel has said that it views Hamas as the party responsible for violence coming from its territory – and has exacted a price from it by bombing Hamas positions and command headquarters. But the Israeli attacks have generally been carried out when the targets were empty, and the attacks have been planned in such a way as to limit the damage. In one case, last Friday, a member of the Hamas military wing was killed, and the Hamas leadership felt Israel had gone too far. For now, it seems that the Israeli leadership does not want to rock the boat to too great an extent in Gaza.

The Israeli government’s problem is that it does not fully control of the situation. Continued rocket fire and “red alert” rocket sirens will exact a psychological price from the Israeli residents in the region near the Gaza border, who have enjoyed a relatively long period of quiet and a major influx of new residents, as a result of a building boom and government tax breaks for the region following Operation Protective Edge. The traumatic experiences of Protective Edge and other previous periods, during military operations in Gaza and between them, are still remembered quite well in Sderot, Ashkelon and the nearby collective moshavim and kibbutzim communities.

Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted two of the rockets fired over the past few days – and missed one rocket, which fell in a populated area in Sderot but did not cause any injuries. The Israel army made a change recently in how it calculates the area where the rockets are projected to fall (known as the “polygon”), thereby only requiring that alarms sound in a very small and more focused area, and limiting the disruption to local routines in border communities near Gaza.

Nevertheless, rocket fire every day, or every other day, would disturb the feeling of security that had been restored with difficulty and would create pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to act more resolutely. The distance could be short from that to another round of violence.

The latest tensions are occurring against the backdrop of the Israeli army’s announcement Sunday that it had successfully destroyed another attack tunnel dug well inside Israeli territory that was discovered along the border with Gaza, the second in less than two months. It appears, however, that Hamas’ actions are influenced first and foremost by another factor, its reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


So far the commitments included in the agreement have not been carried out. That’s the case when it comes to the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and the resumption of funding for Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

As far as Hamas is concerned, the bad news is coming from almost all directions: Trump’s announcement, the Israeli army’s success in locating attack tunnels and the difficulties with Palestinian reconciliation. If Hamas cannot deliver the goods to Gaza’s residents, who have been waiting with bated breath for a measure of improvement in their economic situation and freedom of movement, Hamas could well find itself dragged once again into an escalation with Israel – as it has acted in the past.

This is the main worry keeping Israel’s senior defense officials and political leadership busy at the moment, and it explains the relatively restrained Israeli response – restraint that could end if the frequent rocket fire continues, and certainly if the rockets inflict casualties.

Amos Harel
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Trump’s Jerusalem Stance Raises Tension With Arab Allies

December 7, 2017

Saudi Arabia and Jordan criticize move to recognize city as Israel’s capital; Iraq summons U.S. ambassador

The first signs of strain with President Donald Trump’s administration among his closest Arab allies have surfaced over the policy shift on Jerusalem, an indication that the U.S. is at risk of alienating potential partners in the pursuit of Mideast peace and the building of a coalition to counter Iran.

In a rare public rebuke to its most important ally, Saudi Arabia in a statement Thursday criticized the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy to the city. It called…
Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital would raise regional tensions
China Daily
In a welcome move to some and a controversial move to others, US President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital later this week.

JERUSALEM – In a welcome move to some and a controversial move to others, US President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital later this week.

Any such announcement has inflammatory potential in an already volatile region.

Israel has controlled the western part of Jerusalem since its inception in 1948. In 1967, after the Mideast war, Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan and declared both parts it’s united capital.

The move was never recognized by the international community, including Israel’s closest ally, the US.

The Palestinians see eastern Jerusalem as the future capital of their state.

Jerusalem is home to all of the Israeli government offices and while foreign embassies are situated in Tel Aviv, dealings with the Israeli government are done largely in Jerusalem, the capital that no one recognizes.

Jerusalem is home to sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, making it a focal point for many people around the globe.

Now, in what seems to be an attempt to appease both Israel and his constituents on the evangelical right, Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to cushion the blow on an undelivered election promise, transferring the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another controversial move.

It is still unclear, however, whether the US will make such a move, and if so, will it recognize both sides of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Or just the western side?

“Trump is a friend of Israel and he thinks that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and recognizing the historic links between the Jews and the city is the right thing to do,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.

Inbar believed Trump will be “ambiguous” about what part of Jerusalem the US will recognize.

“Nobody really disputes Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem,” Inbar added. While there is a de-facto recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this sovereignty remains unrecognized by the whole of the international community.

Up until now, both Israelis and Americans have repeatedly said that the status of Jerusalem needs to be determined in bilateral negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

American media has quoted US Defense officials saying a new policy on Jerusalem would endanger American diplomatic missions worldwide, further highlighting how delicate the matter is.


Hamas calls for Palestinian uprising in response to Trump’s Jerusalem plan


JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

The Israeli military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank, deploying several new army battalions and putting other forces on standby, describing the measures as part of its “readiness for possible developments”.

Protests so far have been scattered and largely non-violent.

But dozens of Palestinians gathered at two points on the Gaza border fence with Israel and threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Inside Gaza, thousands of Palestinians rallied, some chanting: “Death to America! Death to the fool Trump!” and burning tires.

Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.

(For a graphic on possible Jerusalem U.S. Embassy sites, click

The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech in Gaza.

Haniyeh, elected the group’s overall leader in May, urged Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs to hold rallies against the U.S decision on Friday, calling it a “day of rage”.

Naser Al-Qidwa, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior official in his Fatah party, urged Palestinians to stage protests but said they should be peaceful.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark”, said on Thursday many countries would follow the U.S. move and contacts were underway. He did not name the countries he was referring to.

“President Trump has immortalized himself in the chronicles of our capital. His name will now be held aloft, alongside other names connected to the glorious history of Jerusalem and of our people,” he said in a speech at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Other close Western allies of Washington, including France and Britain, have been critical of Trump’s move. Pope Francis has called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected, while China and Russia have also expressed concern.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.”

A demonstrator reacts during a protest against the U.S. intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Umit BektasTrump’s decision has raised doubts about his administration’s ability to follow through on a peace effort that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has led for months aimed at reviving long-stalled negotiations.

The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday to discuss the U.S. decision, diplomats said.


Israel and the United States consider Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2007, a terrorist organization. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and its suicide bombings helped spearhead the last intifada, from 2000 to 2005.

“We have given instruction to all Hamas members and to all its wings to be fully ready for any new instructions or orders that may be given to confront this strategic danger that threatens Jerusalem and threatens Palestine,” Haniyeh said.

“United Jerusalem is Arab and Muslim, and it is the capital of the state of Palestine, all of Palestine,” he said, referring to territory including Israel as well as the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Slideshow (26 Images)Haniyeh called on Western-backed Abbas to withdraw from peacemaking with Israel and on Arabs to boycott the Trump administration.

Abbas said on Wednesday the United States had abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts. Palestinian secular and Islamist factions have called for a general strike and rallies on Thursday.

Fearing recrimination could disrupt reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and other Fatah delegates arrived in Gaza on Thursday to meet Hamas.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump’s decision fulfils a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals who make up a sizeable portion of his domestic support.

He said his move was not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties, but the move was seen almost uniformly in Arab capitals as a sharp tilt towards Israel.

The United States is asking Israel to temper its response to the announcement because Washington expects a backlash and is weighing the potential threat to U.S. facilities and people, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters.

Protests broke out in areas of Jordan’s capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday after Trump’s announcement.

Protests are expected on Thursday in Pakistan, where the government said of Trump’s move: “It is a serious setback to the rule of law and international norms. It signals a severe blow to the Middle East peace process.”

Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan said the United States was “exposing its colonial ambition in Muslim territory”.

Palestinians switched off Christmas lights on trees outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and in Ramallah, next to the burial site of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in protest.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Trump’s Embassy Decision: Palestinians Declare Three ‘Days of Rage’ Across West Bank; Arab World Outraged

December 5, 2017

Israel heightens security measures in preparation for heavy protest after Trump told Mideast leaders he intends to move the U.S embassy to Jerusalem

Haaretz, Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury Dec 05, 2017 8:56 PM

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Anadolu Agency / AFP

Palestinian factions in the West Bank announced on Tuesday that they would carry out three days of protest across the West Bank over U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected decision regarding American policy on Jerusalem.

Trump on Tuesday told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II he intends to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian factions said protests will start on Wednesday and last until Friday at the very least. According to Palestinian leaders, marches against the decision are being backed by the Palestinian Authority.
Fatah Central Committee member Jamal Mahisan told Haaretz that Trump’s decision was an inflammatory material that will inspire Palestinians to take to the streets in rage. “The Palestinian people know how to protect their rights and we are in consultations regarding [our moves] in the coming days.”.

The Israeli defense establishment is preparing for the demonstrations ahead, with intelligence assessments based on decisions taken by the PA and by different factions within Palestinian society. Most of the activity is expected to take place in city centers, near American embassies and consulates.

The main procession is planned for midday Thursday in al-Manara Square in Ramallah. People from across the West Bank are expected to join the march. On Wednesday, a large demonstration is scheduled to take place in Jenin.

The IDF has decided to augment forces, mainly at prominent friction spots where soldiers come into contact with Palestinians. Further reinforcements will be made based on operational needs and according to developments.

The police are also preparing, with reinforcements planned for Jerusalem and around the American embassy in Tel Aviv.

Thousands of policemen are expected to be on duty in Jerusalem on Friday.  The main concern is that lone wolf attacks will be carried out by perpetrators across the city.

Abbas told Trump that moving the embassy would have “dangerous consequences,” his spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, adding that Abbas is “holding an emergency meeting in his bureau following the phone conversation with Trump.”

Jordan also responded with dismay to Trump’s decision, with King Abdullah II warning of repercussions on Middle East security and stability. According to Jordanian media, Abdullah pledged to thwart any American initiative to renew the peace process and would encourage rage and resistance among Muslims and Christians alike.

Jordan also plans to convene an emergency meeting of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) next Saturday and Sunday to discuss Trump’s moves.

Abdullah spoke to Abbas Tuesday, and the two decided to act in complete coordination following the report on Trump’s decision. Abbas on Tuesday also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the call, Putin told the Palestinian president that Moscow supports the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestinian Authorities, including on status of Jerusalem, a statement released by the kremlin said.

Trump also contacted Egypt’s al-Sissi to announce his decision. Egypt has said previously that it would not embrace such a move, and has also warned Trump of “possible dangerous repercussions” if he decides to follow up on this move by declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital.

Senior U.S. officials have said Trump is likely on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while delaying relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months, though he is expected to order his aides to begin planning such a move immediately. The officials said, however, that no final decisions have been made.

Saudi Arabia, Arab League representatives, Iraq and Iraq have all joined the condemnations against Trump’s expected move.

Arab officials in Israel also responded with outrage. Arab leader Ayman Odeh, who chairs the Arab Joint List, called Trump “a pyromaniac who could set the entire region on fire with his madness.”

“The last few days, Odeh continued in a written statement, “prove decisively that the United States cannot remain the sponsor or arbitrator in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. If the Israeli government wants the world to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, all it has to do is recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi echoed Odeh’s fierce statement, calling Trump’s reported decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem a “political terror attack.”

“The American government,” Tibi said, “proves this time that it is part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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“But maybe going against the conventional wisdom is a good thing.”

Palestinian authorities say Trump will move American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

December 5, 2017



© Thomas Coex, AFP | The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem, on December 1, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-12-05

U.S. President Donald Trump informed Palestinian President Mahmolud Abbas on Tuesday that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Abbas’s spokesman said.

The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the the timing of such a move.

“President Mahmoud Abbas received a telephone call from U.S. President Donald Trump in which he notified the President (Abbas) of his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said in a statement.

The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the the timing of such a move.

“President Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Abu Rdainah said.




North Korea Test-Fires Missile Towards the East, South Korea Says

November 28, 2017

South Korea responds to Pyongyang’s first launch since September with robust test-firing of surface, sea and air missiles

SEOUL—North Korea test-fired a single ballistic missile towards the east in the early hours of Wednesday morning, South Korean authorities said, ending a more than two-month hiatus from Pyongyang and threatening to increase tensions with the U.S. and in the region.

The missile, which South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said was fired at 2:47 a.m. Pyongyang time from Pyongsong, just north of the capital, comes weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the region and roughly a week after he redesignated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.

South Korean authorities said they were working with the U.S. to confirm details of the launch.

Prior to the test-firing, officials in Washington and Seoul openly wondered about the reasons behind the relatively long break in missile or nuclear tests from Pyongyang.

Just hours earlier on Tuesday in Seoul, South Korea’s top minister on North Korean affairs, Cho Myoung-gyon, played down the silence, noting that the North rarely fires missiles during the final months of the year.

The most recent North Korean missile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile fired over the Japanese mainland on Sept. 15.

In Washington, U.S. officials said they had seen movement in North Korea earlier this week suggesting an imminent launch of a land-based missile. A U.S. official confirmed that the test had occurred from the peninsula’s west coast.

—Nancy A. Youssef in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at
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White House Denies That McMaster Called Trump ‘Idiot’ in Conversation With Israeli CEO

November 21, 2017

White House Denies That McMaster Called Trump ‘Idiot’ in Conversation With Israeli CEO

Oracle CEO Safra Catz was part of Trump’s transition team. Now a report says she told people one of Trump’s closest advisers mocked the president in her presence

Amir Tibon (Washington) Nov 20, 2017 8:23 PM

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and H.R. McMaster, national security advisor, walk toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 16, 2017. Trump  Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg


WASHINGTON – White House National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster reportedly described U.S. President Donald Trump as an “idiot” and a “dope” in a private conversation with the CEO of one of the largest software companies in the world. McMaster denies making the comments to Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle, who has also issued a denial after the allegations were reported on Monday by Buzzfeed News.

Catz and McMaster met for dinner in July in Washington, D.C., and discussed a range of national security issues. Catz was born in Israel, grew up in the United States, and is currently one of the most powerful executives in Silicon Valley. Last year, she joined Trump’s transition team ahead of his inauguration as president.

According to Buzzfeed, four people who heard from Catz about the conversation with McMaster, claimed she had told them that McMaster mocked Trump and also made disparaging comments about other senior members of the administration. The White House issued a strong denial of these claims, stating that “actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster’s actual views. This story is just more fake news.” Oracle also issued a denial to the story.

The sources who claimed to have heard about the conversation from Catz, said she considered McMaster’s comments “jaw-dropping” and “inappropriate.” Besides allegedly calling the president and “idiot,” the sources claimed Catz also recalled McMaster comparing Trump’s intelligence to that of a kindergartener.

It should be noted that in August, gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest donors to Trump and the Republican Party, and a strong supporter of Israel’s right-wing, also mentioned a conversation he had with Catz about her meeting with McMaster.

Adelson wrote an email on that subject to Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, one of the most right-wing groups in the U.S. Jewish community. In that email, Adelson told Klein that he supports a campaign launched by ZOA calling for McMaster’s resignation, due to his positions regarding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Iran nuclear deal and other Middle East policy issues.

Adelson explained that he was at first skeptical about ZOA’s campaign against McMaster, but had changed his mind after speaking to Safra Catz. The conversation with Catz, Adelson wrote, “enlightened me quite a bit.” He added that following his conversation with Catz, “I now support your effort” to get McMaster out of the White House.

The ZOA campaign against McMaster took place at the same time that far-right websites and Twitter accounts in the U.S. spread stories alleging that McMaster had expressed anti-Israeli opinions and yelled at Israeli officials. Those stories were strongly denied by the White House and by Israeli officials from different government agencies. Sources in Israel’s security establishment totally rejected the accusations against McMaster, and the spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington told Haaretz that “Israel appreciates General McMaster’s efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

The allegations against McMaster began appearing a short time after he fired a number of people from the National Security Council who were appointed by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and who were considered close to Trump’s extremist political adviser, Steve Bannon. Over the weekend it was revealed Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, hosted Bannon for dinner over the summer. Dermer called Bannon “a great friend of Israel.”

One of those fired by McMaster was Ezra Cohen, a former intelligence officer who was appointed by Flynn to a senior position in the NSC. McMaster tried to get rid of Cohen, whom he considered not qualified for his position, for a number of months, but was reportedly blocked by Bannon. He finally managed to fire Cohen only after John Kelly became Trump’s chief of staff in the summer. In September, the website “Just Security” reported that Cohen landed a job at Oracle after being dismissed from the White House by McMaster.

Amir Tibon
Haaretz Correspondent
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Sheldon Adelson Expresses Support for Campaign Against Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster — Does Israel Want McMaster Out?

Republican mega-donor denies reports he disavowed the ZOA campaign, which calls for National Security Adviser McMaster’s reassignment, away from issues dealing with Israel and Iran

By Amir Tibon


Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, suit

U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson arrives for U.S. President Donald Trump’s address in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson expressed support recently for the Zionist Organization of American’s campaign against National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster. The ZOA, a right-wing group which receives financial support from Adelson, recently announced that it has conducted research showing that McMaster promotes policies harmful to Israel.

Last week, the news website Axios reported that Adelson is “disavowing” the ZOA campaign. In a letter he sent on Friday to the head of the organization, Morton Klein, Adelson wrote that he “never used the word ‘disavowal.’” He added that the word “came from the reporter” who filed the story.

Adelson added that he recently discussed McMaster with Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle, who also recently spoke with McMaster. Adelson said that his conversation with Catz “enlightened me quite a bit.” He ended the letter by saying that after speaking to someone who knows McMaster, “I now support your effort,” but added that he is “not… looking to get deeply involved in this debate.”

He added that “Morton Klein is the strongest Zionist I know and carries on campaigns for what he sincerely and profoundly cares about. Politics is your full time job. It’s not my full time job. I can’t get involved in every campaign and every debate.” He also said that up until recently, he didn’t know enough about McMaster or about the ZOA campaign, and thus has not yet taken a stance on it or become personally involved.

A ZOA press release dated August 9 stated that “General McMaster should not maintain a position where he can continue to undermine President Trump’s policies on Iran, Israel and the fight against ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ – a term that General McMaster believes should not even be used.”

The press release calls for McMaster to be reassigned to an area unrelated to Iran or Israel, and provides a list of “Trump Loyalist” NSC officials who were “pro-Israel and opposed the Iran nuclear deal,” but were purged from the council by McMaster. The list continues with a list of McMaster’s appointees who are “hostile to Israel, favor the Iran deal, and are weak on, or seek to appease Islamists.”

McMaster’s credentials on Israel have been supported by senior Israeli defense officials, who told Haaretz earlier this month that labeling him as anti-Israel is false and misleading, and that the National Security Adviser enjoys a strong working relationship with Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump also released a statement saying that McMaster is “very pro-Israel.” McMaster hosted a delegation of senior Israeli defense officials last Thursday, led by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, at his private home in the Washington, D.C. area.

Amir Tibon
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Trump urges U.N. council to renew Syria chemical arms inquiry

November 16, 2017

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U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he and Vice President Mike Pence depart the U.S. Capitol after a meeting to discuss tax legislation with House Republicans in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged all members of the U.N. Security Council to back the renewal of the international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, saying it was needed to prevent President Bashar al-Assad from using the arms.

“Need all on the UN Security Council to vote to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria to ensure that Assad Regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again,” Trump said in a note on Twitter.

The 15-nation council was due to vote on Thursday on rival U.S. and Russian bids to renew the international inquiry, diplomats said on Wednesday, a move that could trigger Russia’s 10th veto to block action on Syria.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Trump Kept One Eye on Re-Election in Asia With His Push for Deals

November 14, 2017


By Justin Sink, Jennifer Jacobs , and  Nick Wadhams

  • President hit up leaders along the way to buy American weapons
  • Asia leaders offer warm words but few concessions to president
 Image result for Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Donald Trump, photos
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. AP Photo

Deutsche Bank’s Slok on Takeaways From Trump’s Asia Trip

President Donald Trump had one question for Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: Why wasn’t his country buying more American military equipment?

For Trump, a self-styled traveling salesman, crisscrossing the region to reverse decades of trade deficits, Vietnam’s decision to buy arms from Russia was incomprehensible, almost insulting. Never mind that U.S. law prevented such sales until last year.

Trump reminded Phuc that he’s been president for 10 months, according to two people who requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting. What was he waiting for?

He needed quick wins, he told his team in the room, because he’d be running for re-election before anyone realized. And weapons sales, in Trump’s view, are good for his approval ratings.

The meeting was a microcosm of the president’s 11-day tour through Asia, a marathon trip where Trump was repeatedly lavished with flattering gestures by foreign leaders, but frustrated in his desire to score quick wins on trade or North Korea that would buoy him politically back home.

Asian nations were looking for signs Trump hadn’t abandoned the region when he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in January. The White House seemed to suggest the sheer length of the trip was proof enough, with both Trump and his aides referenced it again and again.

Regional Expectations

Local leaders were looking for seriousness and not just stamina, any sign Trump was prepared to provide a potent counter-balance to China. There, he offered them little reason for optimism. He was already tweeting about the tax reform fight back home before he even left Manila, his final stop.

The administration “is not fully meeting regional expectations for U.S. leadership,” according to Scott Snyder, author of the forthcoming book “South Korea at the Crossroads.”

“The president’s presence in Vietnam and the Philippines at the region’s premier regional gatherings was the minimum prerequisite,” Snyder said. “But in the absence of a more specific and clearly articulated regional strategy toward Southeast Asia, it will likely be seen as falling short of expectations.”

Much like his first foreign trip in May, which began with $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Trump rarely set down in a country without pointing out that buying a few F-18s would go a long way toward winning his heart. He told the story repeatedly of how a U.S.-sold missile-defense system had knocked down a rocket targeting an airport in Saudi Arabia.

But he’ll return home to Washington without having secured a major new order for American defense contractors.

Warm Welcome

In China, the trip’s most pivotal stop, Trump expressed his awe at the Forbidden City tour and opera performance he received and bragged that he had gotten President Xi Jinping to publicly declare his desire for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

“That’s a big statement,” Trump said. “He made that statement, and a lot of people didn’t — they didn’t pick that up.”

But China has publicly supported a denuclearized Korean peninsula since at least 2005, and Xi has made the point publicly for years.

The two countries did announce $253 billion in business deals, involving U.S. industrial giants such as Boeing, Honeywell and General Electric, tech companies like Qualcomm and even Goldman Sachs. But many of the deals are tentative agreements that might not be fulfilled, and the one market-opening move by China, to allow greater foreign ownership shares in financial companies, didn’t even warrant a mention by Trump.

In Hanoi, Trump also oversaw the signing of a series of memorandums of understanding between American energy and aerospace companies and Vietnamese state-owned-enterprises. But no dollar amounts were announced, and members of the White House press staff deferred to their Vietnamese counterparts to explain what the agreements involved.

Work to Do

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters shortly after the Chinese deals were announced, conceded that there was “a lot of work left to do to progress trade to the point that it will achieve President Trump’s objectives.”

“Quite frankly, in the grand scheme of a $300- to $500-billion trade deficit, the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small,” Tillerson said.

Trump also struggled to gain traction on North Korea, leaving Beijing without any new public assurances from China about measures that would exceed the financial punishments mandated by the United Nations.

His efforts to improve military cooperation between Japan and South Korea to counter the threat from Pyongyang were met largely with a shrug by leaders of those two countries, which favor different approaches to defusing the crisis.

Trade Vision

At the state dinner in Trump’s honor in Seoul, the South Koreans served shrimp caught in waters off islands that are claimed by Japan. In a further barb, the guests included a woman who had been forced to work as a sex slave for the Japanese military during World War II.

An address in Vietnam intended to contrast his global-trade vision with China’s had a scolding tone, sounding less like an invitation to link arms than a warning that the free ride was over. Xi, for his part, welcomed the world to “ride the fast train of China’s development.”

Trump said too many countries had flouted the rules and hurt American workers and companies. He said the U.S. would no longer join multilateral deals, like TPP, which the remaining 11 participants spent the week negotiating without his input.

The speech was the “latest nail his administration has driven into the multilateral trading system, which countries regard as instrumental to the region’s growth and development,” according to Lynn Kuok, a non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, and a senior research fellow at the University of Cambridge.

Russian Tensions

Nor was the president able to leverage his time with Russian president Vladimir Putin into tangible progress on how to handle the Syria conflict after the expected defeat of Islamic State militants. An expected formal meeting between Trump and the Russian leader never materialized, and a joint statement issued by the two countries essentially committed to maintaining the status quo.

Trump did seem to get under Putin’s skin a bit by playing hard-to-get on a formal meeting, leaving the Kremlin trumpeting their chat during a short walk as the much-heralded get-together.

Still, even those informal discussions managed to create a new political headache for the White House when Trump told reporters that he believed Putin believed his own denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The comment angered some in his own party, who argued that the former KGB agent’s denials weren’t credible. The U.S. president later clarified that he agreed with the assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies of Russian culpability.

White House officials dispute the notion the president’s trip was light on accomplishment.

Lasting Benefits

They say that speeches like the president’s address to the South Korean parliament, where he graphically detailed the horrors of life under the North Korean regime, and his trade address in Vietnam will set important markers for foreign policy under Trump.

They also see the stream of state dinners, summit galas, and military parades as accomplishments in their own right. They argue the administration is attempting repair and renew relationships that had frayed under President Barack Obama, saying Asian leaders shared Trump’s perception of the former president as a lecturing scold.

The administration believes that Trump’s embrace of Asian leaders — punctuated by asides about golf, blunt policy conversations and a freewheeling style — would pay more dividends than forcing potential partners into uncomfortable statement about human rights. And Trump sees the red carpet welcomes as a result of his campaign to restore international respect for the U.S.

The president, perhaps sensing that the lack of hard-and-fast deals was going to be noticed back home, promised Monday he would give an address upon returning to Washington to outline his accomplishments.

“I will be making a major statement from the @WhiteHouse upon my return to D.C. Time and date to be set,” Trump tweeted.