Palestinians ‘ready to engage in dialogue with Israel’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he was ready to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of peace efforts spurred by US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2017
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Palestinians ‘ready to engage in dialogue with Israel’

JEDDAH: Palestinians are ready to engage in constructive peace talks and meet with the Israeli side if certain conditions are met, a top official said.
Talks are possible on the basis that Israel is willing to withdraw from the lands it occupied in 1967, and agrees to the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman.
“We are ready to meet and engage in serious peace talks with the Israeli side if they are ready,” Abu Rudeineh told Arab News on Tuesday.
“We will not accept to meet only for the sake of the meeting. It has to be on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to addressing other hanging issues, such as refugees and settlement construction.” 
Abbas said Tuesday he was ready to meet Israel’s prime minister as part of peace efforts spurred by US President Donald Trump, who is expected to visit the Palestinian territories “soon.”
Trump is expected to visit Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip. Abbas said: “We are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem,” in the occupied West Bank, with speculation that such a visit will occur on May 23.
Abbas reiterated the Palestinian position during his meeting with Trump and members of his administration earlier this month, Abu Rudeineh said.
He made it clear that “we are ready to be part of genuine and true peace talks under the Trump administration’s umbrella, and ready to cooperate, but will never compromise” on Palestinians’ rights, the spokesman added.
During his visit to Israel, Trump is expected to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem and further discuss the possibility of relaunching peace negotiations, according to Abu Rudeineh.
“We hope he will bring positive feedback from the Israeli side to build on in terms of peace talks. We are ready if the other side shows a genuine will and desire to engage in constructive peace negotiations that eventually lead to a final settlement that meets and secures our just and historic rights,” he said.
Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centers of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

He is expected in Israel on May 22, but there has been no official confirmation yet.
Abu Rudeineh stressed that the Palestinian Authority has open channels of communication with the Arab leaders in order to unify their stances.
“We are in full coordination with the Arab leaders and our position with regard to the Palestinian cause is in total harmony with their views. The Arab leaders reiterated during the Arab Summit, which was held recently at the Dead Sea, in Jordan, the importance of implementing the Arab Peace Initiative in its entirety: full normalization between Israel and the Arab and Muslim countries in return for Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and recognition of East Jerusalem as our capital.
“Israel is yet to comply with the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative, and (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is trying to twist it around and get to normalize ties without making any commitment to the terms of the initiative in advance. This will not happen,” he said.
Trump has been seeking ways to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, which have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of the decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.
“We will get it done,” Trump said, boasting his deal-making prowess.
“It is something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
Netanyahu said he was ready to meet Abbas at any time as long as it is without preconditions, but Palestinians say years of negotiations with the Israelis have not ended the occupation.
The last public meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu was in 2010, although there have been unconfirmed reports of secret meetings since then.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.