Trump says would ‘love’ to broker peace, as Israel signals new land-grab

US President-elect Donald Trump says he would “love” to clinch a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Updated 24 November 2016
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Trump says would ‘love’ to broker peace, as Israel signals new land-grab

WASHINGTON: President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday he would “love” to clinch a deal to end the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Israel’s revived plans to build 500 new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed east Jerusalem.
“I would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians, that would be such a great achievement,” Trump said in an interview with The New York Times.
A New York Times reporter tweeted that Trump also suggested that his son-in-law Jared Kushner could help broker the deal. Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is from an Orthodox Jewish family.
Trump has raised Palestinian ire by proposing that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital, an idea contrary to traditional US policy.
Almost all US presidents have, in the past, tried their hands at brokering peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis — unsuccessfully.
The Israeli right has expressed particular satisfaction with Trump’s election win, viewing it as a sign to resume or accelerate settlement building in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories, and even the end of the idea of an independent Palestinian state.
The Israeli settlement plan is an ominous sign for Palestinians wary of a Trump presidency, an NGO said.
“The political significance of this action is that it is the first plan to be promoted since the US elections,” Betty Herschman from the Ir Amim NGO said.
The plan for 500 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem of around 20,000, had been on hold since 2014, Ir Amim said.
The Jerusalem municipality downplayed the significance of the new housing units, saying the plans were “not new and were approved years ago.”
Nevertheless, the announcement is likely to be interpreted by some as a first step in Israel expanding its settlements in the wake of Trump’s upset election victory.
Israeli right-wingers hailed his triumph as ushering in an administration far less critical of settlement expansion than that of outgoing President Barack Obama’s.
The president-elect’s adviser on Israel, David Friedman, told AFP last month that he does not believe Trump sees Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal.
One Israeli minister said Trump’s win meant “the era of a Palestinian state is over” while Meir Turjeman, chairman of the Jerusalem municipality planning committee, told public radio earlier in November that it meant suspended permits in east Jerusalem would be given the green light.
He said the municipality intended to authorize thousands of housing units that had been frozen.
The international community considers all settlements illegal and sees them as one of the largest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement France said the planned constructions would be “illegal.”
“The unabated continuation of the settlement policy only serves to increase tensions on the ground and undermines the prospects for achieving a just and lasting peace,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government is considered the most right-wing in Israeli history, has so far been cautious in green-lighting settlements.
While many on the Israeli right are looking forward to Trump’s inauguration in January, they are also wary of what Obama may do in his final days in office.
Obama’s administration has expressed mounting anger over Israeli settlement policy and speculation has grown that he could launch a final initiative before leaving.
The UN Security Council is set to debate proposals for a draft resolution calling for a halt to settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories, with speculation Obama could break with recent US practice and support — or at least not veto — such a resolution before his term expires on Jan. 20.
Netanyahu last month expressed concern over any potential attempt but Lieberman on Wednesday seemed less concerned.
Asked if he expected any surprises from Obama before his term ends, Lieberman said: “I don’t think so.”
“It is clear we are in a transition period, it is clear today — not only in Israel but in the world — we are waiting for new policies, a new administration.”
Obama has had frosty personal relations with Netanyahu throughout his two-term presidency.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.