Trump poised for crucial decision on Jerusalem

A general view of the city of Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Updated 04 December 2017
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Trump poised for crucial decision on Jerusalem

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump faces a key decision this week on whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting a flood of warnings from the Arab world that it could ignite tensions and sink hopes for peace.
“The president’s going to make his decision,” his Middle East peace envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner said, without denying reports Trump could declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital on Wednesday.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the suggestion Trump could reverse years of US policy has prompted a furious bout of lobbying from the Palestinian leadership.
Most of the international community, including the US, does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved through final status negotiations. Central to the issue of recognition is the question of the US Embassy.
All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv with consular representation in Jerusalem, but Trump will on Monday have to decide whether to sign a legal waiver that would delay by six months plans to move the US Embassy from the Holy City.
The Arab League said it was closely following the matter, with leader Abul Gheit warning any such move would pose a threat “to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world.”
“It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence,” he said on Sunday, noting that the League was closely following the issue and would coordinate a joint position with Palestinian and Arab leaders if Trump took the step.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also warned that any change to the status of Jerusalem would have “grave consequences,” in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday.
It was crucial, he said, “to preserve the historical and legal status of Jerusalem and refrain from any decision that aims to change that status,” the official Petra news agency reported.
In 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and stating that the US Embassy should be moved there.
But an inbuilt waiver, which allows the president to temporarily postpone the move on grounds of “national security,” has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, from Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama, meaning the law has never taken effect.
Trump is expected to begrudgingly sign the waiver for a second time this week.
But according to diplomats and observers, he is expected to make a speech on Wednesday announcing his support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claims both halves of the city to be its “eternal and undivided capital.”
But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their promised state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there.
Several peace plans have come unstuck over debates on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee the sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In an address to the Saban Forum of Israeli and US policymakers on Sunday, Kushner, who heads a small and tight-knit White House negotiating team, suggested a decision was close.
“He’s still looking at a lot of different facts and when he makes his decision he’ll be the one who wants to tell you. So he’ll make sure he does that at the right time,” he said.
Palestinians have been lobbying regional leaders to oppose the decision and the armed militant movement Hamas has threatened to launch a new “intifada.”
Late on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas spoke to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, with the two agreeing to oppose any shift in US policy.
Saeb Erakat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), also warned that a change in the US stance on Jerusalem would spell disaster, warning that it would amount to an own goal for US peace efforts in the region.
He said in a statement that Washington would “be disqualifying itself to play any role in any initiative toward achieving a just and lasting peace.”
Trump has said he wants to relaunch frozen peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in search of the “ultimate deal.”
But analysts warn that any major shift in US policy would make that goal more difficult to achieve.


Child cancer hospital investigation sends shockwaves through Egypt

Updated 17 July 2018
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Child cancer hospital investigation sends shockwaves through Egypt

  • The hospital receives donations of up to 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.6 million) every year, but it pays no more than 160.2 million for the treatment of the children annually
  • Many have questioned the legality of the gag order, given that such directives are usually issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor

CAIRO: With its modernist glass buildings shining over the Cairo skyline and pioneering medical practices admired around the world, Egypt’s leading child cancer hospital had become a source of national pride.
But more than 10 years since the institution was founded on a wave of goodwill, the hospital has become embroiled in a public slanging match that threatens to tarnish its reputation.
Named 57375 after the bank account number set up to accept donations, the hospital was built from and operated by financial contributions from the public, wowed by an impressive fundraising campaign.
Since its establishment in 2007, it has been cited as an exemplary institution in terms of treatment and professionalism, with its round-the-clock efforts to host more and more cancer-stricken children earning wide acclaim.
But last month, Wahid Hamed, one of Egypt’s most famous screenwriters, launched a scathing attack on the hospital’s director Sherif Abu El-Naga.
In a series of columns in the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Hamed hurled many accusations against Abu El-Naga, including mishandling of the hospital’s finances and placing his own relatives in key positions.
Hamed said that his shocking columns aimed to “stir up a hornet’s nest at the hospital.”
“The hospital receives donations of up to 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.6 million) every year, but it pays no more than 160.2 million for the treatment of the children annually,” Hamed wrote in one of his columns.
He also said that the hospital’s leading officials received hefty salaries, which were not compatible with a charitable institution, and questioned its policy of spending “hundreds of millions of pounds” on television ads.
Hamed was known for his anti-government views in the 1990s when corruption was rampant but is now widely viewed as a pro-state figure.
Abu El-Naga has largely remained tight-lipped, but the hospital issued a statement saying it had examined its own records and found that the accusations were “utterly false and confuse public opinion.”
The hospital hired outspoken lawyer Mortada Mansour, who is also the chairman of Cairo’s popular sports club Zamalek, to defend its interests.
As a result of the allegations, the social solidary ministry launched an investigation into any possible corruption at the hospital.
The Supreme Council for Media Regulation, a regulatory body, imposed a gag order on publishing any news on the matter until the investigation has concluded.
Many have questioned the legality of the gag order, given that such directives are usually issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor.
The 57357 hospital has always boasted of a recovery rate of more than 70 percent, but critics said that this has been mainly down to what they call the hospital’s unjustified policy of only agreeing to treat cases that are not at an advanced stage.
The latest accusations have divided opinions, sparking fierce debate on social media.
“My baby girl was treated at this hospital three years ago. Everything was perfect, literally everything. A five-star service and we paid nothing at all,” Karima El-Sawy, a 32-year-old housewife, told Arab News.
“My girl was 100 PER CENT percent cured, thank God. This is mainly down to the professionalism of this hospital. I don’t know how anyone can attack it that way without providing a single piece of evidence for their claims.”
El-Sawy said that there were many corrupt institutions in the country that could be attacked, but instead people had gone after the one that has always been viewed “as an example to follow.”
When contacted by Arab News, most of the parents whose children had been treated at 57375 spoke positively of the hospital, voicing very few reservations about how it operated.
But others called for more government oversight of the hospital.
“I do not doubt the integrity of the hospital officials, but any such institution must be supervised — not managed — by the state,” said Gamal Akram, a 27-year-old whose young brother was treated at the hospital last year.
“It’s the money of the people at the end, so we must know how they spend it. It’s totally our right; there is nothing wrong with that.”