Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Donald Trump considering sanctions on China over North Korea ‘failure’ — Trump “feels like he gave China a chance to make a difference” but has not seen enough results

June 28, 2017

Reuters

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Inaction over Pyongyang and trade war thought to have prompted the US president to look at options including tariffs on steel imports

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting, suit and table

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a dinner at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017, watched by Mr Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan. PHOTO: NYTIMES

US president Donald Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and bilateral trade issues and is now considering possible trade actions against Beijing, three senior administration officials told Reuters.

The officials said Trump was impatient with China and was looking at options including tariffs on steel imports, which commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has already said he is considering as part of a national security study of the domestic steel industry.

Whether Trump would actually take any steps against China remains unclear. In April, he backed off from a threat to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) after he said Canadian and Mexican leaders asked him to halt a planned executive order in favour of opening discussions.

The officials said there was no consensus yet on the way forward with China and they did not say what other options were being studied. No decision was expected this week, a senior official said.

Chinese steel is already subject to dozens of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy orders. As a result it has only a small share of the US market.

“What’s guiding this is he ran to protect American industry and American workers,” one of the US officials said, referring to Trump’s 2016 election promise to take a hard line on trade with China.

On North Korea, Trump “feels like he gave China a chance to make a difference” but has not seen enough results, the official said.

The US has pressed China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to help rein in its nuclear and missile programs. Beijing has repeatedly said its influence on North Korea is limited and that it is doing all it can.

“They did a little, not a lot,” the official said. “And if he’s not going to get what he needs on that, he needs to move ahead on his broader agenda on trade and on North Korea.”

The death of American university student Otto Warmbier last week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, has further complicated Trump’s approach to North Korea, his top national security challenge.

Trump signalled his disappointment with China’s efforts in a tweet a week ago: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

Trump had made a grand gesture of his desire for warm ties with China’s president, Xi Jinping, when he played host to Xi in April at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida. “I think China will be stepping up,” Trump said at the time.

Since then, however, North Korea’s tests of long-range missiles have continued unabated and there have been reports Pyongyang is preparing for another underground nuclear test.

Trump dropped by last Thursday when White House national security adviser HR McMaster and Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner were meeting Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi, an official said. China’s inability to make headway on North Korea was one of the topics that was discussed, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Officials in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

Related:

 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

Model Miranda Kerr hands over $8 mln in jewelry in 1MDB misappropriated funds case

June 28, 2017

Australian model, who is not a defendant, signs over gifts allegedly bought by Malaysian financier Jho Low

Getty Images
Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway in 2012.

By BRADLEY HOPE

Australian model Miranda Kerr has handed over $8.1 million worth of jewelry to the U.S. Justice Department a week after lawsuits said it was purchased for her by Malaysian financier Jho Low with allegedly misappropriated funds, according to her spokesman.

Kerr transferred the gifts Friday to government agents from her safe-deposit box in Los Angeles, the spokesman said.

Read: 1MDB case: Feds try to seize Miranda Kerr’s jewelry, Leonardo DiCaprio’s art

And: Feds suspect 1MDB link to $2.2 billion deal for Texas energy firm

“From the start of the inquiry, Miranda Kerr cooperated fully and pledged to turn over the gifts of jewelry to the government,” he said. “Ms. Kerr will continue to assist with the inquiry in any way she can.”

Kerr isn’t a defendant in the lawsuits.

 http://www.marketwatch.com/story/model-miranda-kerr-hands-over-8-mln-in-jewelry-in-1mdb-misappropriated-funds-case-2017-06-27

The Justice Department declined to comment.

The department filed civil-forfeiture lawsuits this year and last year seeking assets it alleges were bought with money misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign-wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MDB.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

U.S. Downgrades China on Annual Human Trafficking List — China moved to category including Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria

June 28, 2017

The annual report ranks countries based on how they are confronting the problem

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented the State Department’s report assessing human trafficking practices on Tuesday that was critical of China.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented the State Department’s report assessing human trafficking practices on Tuesday that was critical of China. PHOTO: CLIFF OWEN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—The U.S. stepped up its criticism of China in a global assessment of human trafficking practices released on Tuesday, a move likely to inflame tensions with Beijing.

The State Department report details U.S. concerns in China about state-sponsored forced labor, sex trafficking and China’s treatment of North Korean citizens who are forced laborers there. More broadly, the annual report examines trafficking and ranks countries based on how they are confronting the problem.​

The U.S. estimates there are 20 million trafficking victims globally

China was moved in the report to Tier 3, a category with countries including Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria. In last year’s report China was on the Tier 2 watch list.

Myanmar was upgraded to the Tier 2 category in this year’s report after it was listed last year as part of Tier 3.

“China was downgraded to Tier 3 status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking—including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at an event at the State Department.

Mr. Tillerson presented the report at the State Department accompanied by Ivanka Trump, a daughter of President Donald Trump and a presidential assistant.

“Ending human trafficking is a major foreign policy priority of the Trump administration,” Ms. Trump said.

Susan Coppedge, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for trafficking issues, said the decision to downgrade China wasn’t connected to broader efforts to press Beijing on other policy issues.

“The minimum standards that are in the law don’t really allow for consideration of strategic relationships or other factors,” she said.

The year’s assessment covers more than 180 countries and incorporates information from April 2016 through March 2017.

Justifying China’s demotion, the report says Beijing doesn’t meet minimum standards considered necessary to eliminate trafficking and hasn’t made significant efforts to do so.

China’s Foreign Ministry defended Beijing’s efforts to fight human trafficking, saying “the outcomes are for all to see,” and lashed out at Washington over the criticism. “We also oppose U.S. making irresponsible remarks,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing earlier Tuesday. “These issues are faced by countries around the world. No country is immune from this issue.”

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-downgrades-china-on-annual-trafficking-list-1498576568?mod=e2fb

Kissinger: Chaos in the West Could Give Boost to Russia

June 27, 2017

LONDON — Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned of Russia’s simmering alienation from its western neighbors but says he believed that President Vladimir Putin will ultimately work toward cooperative relationships with countries on its borders.

Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security  in London Tuesday, Kissinger predicted ongoing friction with Russia over Ukraine and Syria.

“Russia has evolved to what amounts to a definition of absolute security (and) absolute insecurity for some of its neighbors,” Kissinger said during the keynote address, adding that Putin’s view of international politics is reminiscent of 1930’s European nationalist authoritarianism. “Russia wants to be accepted by Europe and transcend it simultaneously.”

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LONDON (AP) — Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Tuesday warned of Russia’s simmering alienation from its western neighbors but said he believed that President Vladimir Putin will ultimately work toward cooperative relationships with countries on its borders.

During his diplomatic career, the 94-year-old senior statesman supported a policy of detente with the Soviet Union, opened relations with China and helped negotiate the Paris Peace Accords, which helped end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He was also involved in negotiating with Syria to stop the fighting that emerged from the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel.

Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security in London, Kissinger predicted ongoing friction with Russia over Ukraine and Syria. Russia, which has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Tuesday dismissed U.S. claims that Assad was preparing for a chemical weapons attack. The United States has offered no evidence to support the claim.

“Russia has evolved to what amounts to a definition of absolute security (and) absolute insecurity for some of its neighbors,” Kissinger said during the keynote address, adding that Putin’s view of international politics is reminiscent of 1930’s European nationalist authoritarianism. “Russia wants to be accepted by Europe and transcend it simultaneously.”

Kissinger also warned that with political chaos enveloping Britain and the United States, Russia, India and China could gain a foothold in creating a new world order. He also said that without strategic thought, two scenarios could unfold in U.S.-China relations: repeated confrontation or co-evolution born out of a “conscious need to avoid conflict.”

While Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, his career has been marked by numerous controversies, including his involvement in U.S. bombing campaigns in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, support for Pakistan’s military dictatorship in the 1970s against what is now Bangladesh and U.S. involvement in the 1973 coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende.

U.S. worries Russia could step up North Korea support to fill China void

June 27, 2017

Reuters

By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS

As the United States pressures China to enforce United Nations sanctions on its ally North Korea, Washington is concerned that Russia could provide support to Pyongyang and fill any vacuum left by Beijing, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday.

“I’m concerned that Russia may backfill North Korea,” Haley told U.S. lawmakers in Washington. “We don’t have proof of that, but we are watching that carefully.”

While Washington has urged countries to downgrade ties with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, a cross-border ferry service was launched in May between North Korea and neighboring Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the world should talk to, rather than threaten, North Korea.

“We just need to keep the pressure on China, we need to keep our eyes on Russia, and we need to continue to let the North Korea regime know we are not looking for regime change … we just want them to stop the nuclear activity,” Haley said.

The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear tests and two long-range missile launches. The government in Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.

The Trump administration has been pressing China aggressively to rein in its reclusive neighbor, warning that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development programs.

Beijing has repeatedly said its influence on North Korea is limited and that it is doing all it can, but U.S. President Donald Trump last week said China’s efforts had failed.

The United States has struggled to slow North Korea’s programs, which have become a security priority given Pyongyang’s vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

“The pressure on China can’t stop,” Haley said. “We have to have China doing what they’re supposed to. At the same time all other countries need to make sure they’re enforcing the sanctions that the Security Council has already put in place.”

Trump, increasingly frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and bilateral trade issues, is now considering possible trade actions against Beijing, senior administration officials told Reuters.

The United States also plans to place China on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor, sources said, a step that could aggravate tensions with Beijing.

Image result for human trafficking, china, photos

Forced workers (slaves) in China. These are brok makers who were forced to work in the hot kiln. The worker in front is showing his burns. BBC photo

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by G Crosse)

Related:

 (China and Russia don’t generally agree on this)

 (They say it didn’t happen but eye wintesses say it DID HAPPEN)

 (China did not even criticize North Korea…)

Macron, Trump Agree to Work Together if New Syria Chemical Attack-Elysee

June 27, 2017

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Tuesday that they would work together to find a common response in case of a new chemical attack in Syria, the French presidency said in a statement.

Macron also invited Trump to attend the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris which will this year commemorate 100 years since the United States joined World War One.

The French leader has previously said that Paris could launch unilateral air strikes against targets in Syria if a chemical attack took place.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by John Irish; editing by Michel Rose)

Related:

India, US call for freedom of navigation, rule by international law amid South China Sea disputes

June 27, 2017

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US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) walk to the Oval Office with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) after his arrival to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 26 June 2017
US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) walk to the Oval Office with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) after his arrival to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 26 June 2017 CREDIT: EPA

WASHINGTON: With an eye on China and the disputes in the South China Sea, India and the US today called for freedom of navigation and resolving of territorial and maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.

“In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters at the Rose Garden of the White House after his maiden meeting with President Donald Trump.

Later, a India-US joint statement on the meeting said as responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, Trump and Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region.

“Recognising the significant progress achieved in these endeavours, the leaders agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership,” the joint statement said.

In accordance with the tenets outlined in the UN Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper, the statement said.

To this end, Trump and Modi reiterated the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region, it said.

The statement comes amid China being engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

Modi and Trump called upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.

Read more at:
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59333510.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Trump meets India’s Modi at the White House — Both stress strong ties — “The chemistry is good.” — China is the absent third

June 27, 2017

Reuters

By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs U.S. President Donald Trump as he departures the White House after a visit, in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do more to relax Indian trade barriers on Monday during talks in which both leaders took great pains to stress the importance of a strong U.S.-Indian relationship.

At a closely watched first meeting between the two, Trump and Modi appeared to get along well. Modi pulled in Trump for a bear hug on the stage as the cameras rolled in the Rose Garden.

“I deeply appreciate your strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations,” Modi told him. “I am sure that under your leadership a mutually beneficial strategic partnership will gain new strength, new positivity, and will reach new heights.”

Trump was also warm but made clear he sees a need for more balance in the U.S.-India trade relationship in keeping with his campaign promise to expand American exports and create more jobs at home. Last year the U.S. trade deficit with India neared $31 billion.

Trump said he would like a trading relationship that is “fair and reciprocal.”

“It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country,” he said.

Trump said he was pleased about an Indian airline’s recent order of 100 new American planes and that the United States looked forward to exporting more energy, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas.

These energy contracts “are being negotiated and we will sign – trying to get the price up a little bit,” Trump said.

Modi came to Washington looking to revitalize a relationship that thrived under former President Barack Obama but has appeared to flag as Trump courted India’s rival China in an effort to persuade Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea.

Modi effusively praised Trump, hailing his “vast and successful experience in the business world” and “great leadership” for U.S.-India ties, which he said should “lend an aggressive and forward looking agenda to our relations.”

Trump accepted Modi’s invitation to visit India, the White House said in a statement, but no time frame was given for the trip.

Modi harked back to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan to stress that his agenda for his country was little different than Trump’s.

“I am sure that the convergence of my vision for “New India” and President Trump’s vision for making America great again will add new dimensions to our cooperation,” he said.

Trump did not mention U.S. differences with India on immigration and the Paris climate accord.

“The future of our partnership has never looked brighter,” Trump said as both leaders underscored the importance of the defense and security relationship.

AVIATION DEALS

As they met, a Pentagon agency said the U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale to India of a Boeing C-17 transport aircraft with an estimated cost of $366 million.

The United States also has offered to sell a naval variant of the Predator drone made by U.S. defense contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the White House said in a statement, a deal that would be worth more than $2 billion.

The United States has become the leading supplier of defense equipment to India, signing contracts worth more than $15 billion since 2008.

On Monday evening, Trump and Modi had a working dinner, the first time Trump has played host to a foreign dignitary at a White House dinner.

Trump administration officials have pointed to both leaders’ impact on social media – each has more than 30 million Twitter followers – as proof they are cut from the same cloth.

“If the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted,” said an Indian official. “The only way is up. How much up we go depends on the leaders. If they click, we go up higher.”

Trade, however, remains an irritant, and on Saturday, leading U.S. congressmen complained in a letter to Trump that high-level engagement had failed to eliminate major barriers to U.S. imports and investment and had not deterred India from imposing new ones.

Indian officials reject suggestions that Modi’s “Make in India” platform is protectionist and complain about the U.S. regulatory process for generic pharmaceuticals and rules on fruit imports.

They stress the future importance of the huge Indian market to U.S. firms and major growth in areas such as aviation which will offer significant opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.

Among the Indian business executives in Washington for Modi’s visit was Ajay Singh, chairman of Indian budget airline SpiceJet, which in January announced a deal to buy up to 205 aircraft from Boeing, worth up to $22 billion at list prices.

Singh told Reuters that according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the deal would sustain up to 132,000 jobs.

“The market is growing 20-25 percent a year. Even at today’s pace you need 100 more planes a year just to keep pace with the market and we are not getting anywhere close to that number.”

“As our economy grows … we can potentially create a lot of jobs for Americans in the United States,” he said.

Boeing has estimated India will need 1,850 new aircraft worth $265 billion by 2036 to meet demand for air travel.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Beech; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)

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President Trump, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, outside the White House on Monday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, two nationalist leaders with a shared passion for social media, met on Monday as India sought to vie with China for Mr. Trump’s favor in the region.

Mr. Trump lavished praise on Mr. Modi, calling him a “true friend” with ambitious plans to fight corruption and cut taxes. The two men also share a devotion to Twitter and Facebook to bypass the news media and reach their publics directly.

The display of warmth, a senior White House official said, was at least partly aimed at President Xi Jinping of China, who has disappointed Mr. Trump in recent weeks by failing to impose more pressure on neighboring North Korea to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Pointedly, Mr. Trump noted that India had helped the United States enforce sanctions on North Korea. “The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems,” he said, “and it’s something that has to be dealt with — and probably dealt with rapidly.”

Mr. Modi returned the favor, praising Mr. Trump’s “vast and successful” business experience, which he predicted would galvanize relations between the United States and India. He also invited Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka to a conference of entrepreneurs in India.

Yet the mutual admiration masked a more complicated dynamic between India and the United States. While ties between the two have grown steadily closer over the last two decades, India faces new uncertainties with Mr. Trump, who has shown less interest than his predecessors in maintaining a web of trade and security alliances in Asia.

India, like other countries in the region, has watched Mr. Trump’s cultivation of Mr. Xi with concern. His trade and immigration policies, particularly limits on visas commonly used by technology workers from India, have added to the jitters, as did his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

After the two leaders gave a joint statement in the Rose Garden, Mr. Modi gave Mr. Trump a hug instead of the usual energetic handshake. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

“India would like to continue to deepen its friendship, but Trump can only be an object of concern, even if he tweets lovely compliments after dinner,” said Ashutosh Varshney, director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown University. “India might get a good deal, or not a bad deal, or a bad deal, or no deal. Who can say?”

For now, the United States and India are finding common cause in pushing back against China’s maritime ambitions. Before Mr. Modi’s visit, the Trump administration approved the sale of 22 surveillance drones to India, which New Delhi can use to eavesdrop on Chinese naval movements in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Trump also spoke about a huge joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean that will involve Japanese, Indian and American warships.

Read the rest:

High Court reinstates Trump travel ban, will hear arguments

June 26, 2017

The Associated Press

Jun. 26, 2017 10:45 AM ET

(AP) — The Supreme Court is letting the Trump administration mostly enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, overturning lower court orders that blocked it.

The action Monday is a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

The court did leave one category of foreigners protected, those “with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” the court said in an unsigned opinion. The justices will hear arguments in the case in October.

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

The ban would apply to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Trump administration said the ban was needed to allow an internal review of the screening procedures for visa applicants from those countries. That review should be complete before October 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

 

Netanyahu under fire after reneging on Western Wall deal

June 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Mike Smith | Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men (L) and women (R) pray in different sections of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 2, 2016

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s shelving of a deal to allow mixed-gender prayers at the Western Wall echoed far beyond religion Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused of abandoning reform efforts for political gain.

Netanyahu’s cabinet voted Sunday to back out of the hard-won deal, provoking a flood of criticism and warnings it could damage Israel’s relationship with the United States’ influential Jewish community.

That followed pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties who are part of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition and follow a strict interpretation of religious rules.

Such parties have often played a kingmaker role in Israeli politics and have opposed years of efforts by more liberal Jews to win equal rights for women at the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Women and men currently pray in separate areas at the site in Jerusalem’s Old City, where religious affairs are overseen by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox establishment.

A compromise reached more than a year ago would have created a third space near the wall, open to both women and men.

Sunday’s cabinet vote froze the deal — effectively cancelling it — despite the government having earlier endorsed it.

In a sign of the tensions the decision provoked, the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental organisation that helped mediate the deal, heavily criticised the move and cancelled an event with Netanyahu scheduled for Monday evening in response.

Yair Lapid, an opposition figure and leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said the decision meant Israel was “the only democracy in the world without equality for Jews.”

“Did Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ministers decide to cancel the framework because they thought it was the right thing for the people of Israel?” Lapid said on his Facebook page.

“Of course not. They did it because the only thing which motivates them is political pressure.”

Netanyahu had not publicly commented on the decision.

His coalition, seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history, holds 66 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

Ultra-Orthodox parties control 13 of the coalition’s seats. Some 10 percent of Israel’s population are considered ultra-Orthodox.

– ‘One Western Wall’ –

The Western Wall, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is venerated by Jews as a remnant of a wall supporting the Second Temple complex, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.

Israel’s cabinet initially approved the mixed prayer plan in January 2016 after careful negotiations.

It was however never implemented, as ultra-Orthodox parties, under pressure from their supporters, moved to block it.

A case being examined by Israel’s top court has put pressure on ultra-Orthodox parties to move to have the deal revoked.

The supreme court is expected to rule soon on a petition filed by more liberal religious movements to force the government to implement the agreement and create the mixed prayer space.

Sunday’s move to back out of the deal prompted anger among Jewish movements in the United States, home to more than five million Jews, most of whom are not Orthodox.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to say ‘no’ to his previous ‘yes’ is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the US-based Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement.

It is a sensitive issue for Israel, which relies on the United States as its most important ally, providing it with strong diplomatic support and more than $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) per year in defence aid.

Many Israelis see support from Jewish communities in the United States and worldwide as essential.

“We cannot let narrow-minded politicking threaten the unity of the Jewish people,” Yohanan Plesner, president of the respected Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said in a statement.

“If we expect Jews abroad to support the state of Israel, we must also ensure their religious equality. Israel’s national security is at stake.”

But for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox establishment, changes such as mixed prayer betray Jewish tradition.

“There was and shall remain one Western Wall to one people,” Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party told army radio.

“I won’t accept attempts to impose a different Jewish law or Torah.”

by Mike Smith
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