Netanyahu’s govt of war a blow to peace moves — Palestinians

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Updated 08 May 2015
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Netanyahu’s govt of war a blow to peace moves — Palestinians

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new rightwing religious “government of war” is a blow to an already stagnating peace process, Palestinians said Thursday, vowing to fight it on the international stage.
The Palestine Liberation Organization blasted Israel’s “extremist” cabinet, after Netanyahu announced a coalition government that gave him a slim parliamentary majority and included ministers who oppose the internationally-sanctioned two-state solution.
“This is a colonial settler cabinet, no doubt about that,” senior official Nabil Shaath told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, seat of the PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority.
“It’s a cabinet that includes all of those people who want to maintain” Israeli occupation.
Netanyahu’s new government, which he formed at the 11th hour, several weeks after winning his third straight term in office, includes ministers intent on expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, an issue that has derailed round upon round of US-brokered peace talks.
As Netanyahu formed his government, Israel approved the construction of 900 new settler homes in a controversial east Jerusalem neighborhood.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said before the March 17 election that he was willing to enter talks with whoever was reelected.
But Palestinian officials bristled at the cabinet line-up that emerged on Wednesday night.
“The face of a new form of racist, discriminatory Israel has been revealed,” chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement.
“Netanyahu is vehemently leading the charge to bury the two-state solution,” he said, singling out Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, both from the far-right Jewish Home party.
“The presence of the extremist Shaked, of the ultra-Orthodox and of settlers in the government is proof that it’s a government of war, and against peace and stability,” Erakat said.
Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, openly opposes a Palestinian state and advocates annexing 60 percent of the West Bank.
Shaked last year likened Palestinians to “snakes” in a post later removed from her Facebook page but widely reported on by the Israeli media, and said all Palestinians, including mothers of attackers, should be eliminated.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said the appointments would “encourage more settler violence and the deliberate dehumanization of the Palestinian people.”
Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and with which Israel fought a devastating 50-day war last summer, said the new cabinet line-up “reflects the growing racism among Israelis.”
Officials in the West Bank were careful, however, not to slam the door shut on any possible talks, but vowed to keep up pressure on Israel in the international arena.
“We are willing to negotiate with anybody the Israelis (electorate) chose,” Shaath said.
“What is needed is for that body, that government, to commit itself to the rules of the game, to commit itself to no settlements, and to recognize that east Jerusalem is ours, and to commit itself to withdrawal from the West Bank.”

Palestinian demands
The Palestinians demand that any peace deal include Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory, recognition of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled Israel after the Jewish state’s creation in 1948.
Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem its eternal, indivisible capital.
Netanyahu vowed during his election campaign to step up settlement building in Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Peace Now settlement watchdog announced Thursday, shortly after the coalition cabinet was unveiled, that 900 new settler homes would go up in east Jerusalem.
With a peace deal further away than ever, the Palestinians vowed to fight Israel through the International Criminal Court and the UN.
“We call on the international community... to support our efforts in the ICC,” Erakat said.
The Palestinians joined the ICC in April and intend to sue Israeli officials over alleged war crimes, notably in Gaza, where 2,200 Palestinians died in the July-August conflict, mostly civilians.


Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

Updated 18 September 2018
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Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

  • Veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi
  • Decision reached after extensive negotiations between pro and anti-Iran factions

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.

The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.

The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said. 

He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs. 

Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate. 

Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.

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READ MORE: Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker Al-Halbousi as speaker, breaking deadlock

Rival Iraqi factions make coalition deal and end Al-Abadi’s prime minister hopes

Rival Shiite factions trade blame for who drove the burning of buildings in Basra

Iran accused of hijacking Basra protests after a week of violence that shook Iraq

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Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.

Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.

At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.

Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.

The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.

The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.

Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.

Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.

The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.

The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.

“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”

 Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations. 

The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.

“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.

“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”

The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.

The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.

Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.

“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.