Israel law tightens hold on occupied Jerusalem sectors

Birds fly on a foggy day near the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem’s Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Jan. 2, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 January 2018
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Israel law tightens hold on occupied Jerusalem sectors

JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation aimed at making it more difficult for the government to hand the Palestinians parts of Jerusalem under any future peace deal.
The bill, approved by a 64 to 51 vote, is the latest blow to remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s office said US President Donald Trump’s recent declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the new Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war.”
Formulated by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, the new law comes weeks after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem sparked deadly protests in the Palestinian territories.
It also follows a vote earlier this week by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in favor of extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Likud vote was non-binding, but was a further expression of the hopes of many right-wing Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.
The law approved on Tuesday determines that any ceding of lands considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem would necessitate a two-thirds majority vote in parliament — 80 out of 120 members of the Knesset.
It also enables changing the municipal definition of Jerusalem, which means that sectors of the city “could be declared separate entities,” a statement from parliament read.
Israeli right-wing politicians have spoken of unilaterally breaking off overwhelmingly Palestinian areas of the city in a bid to increase its Jewish majority.
However, the new law is not necessarily definitive. It can be changed by a regular parliamentary majority of 61.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
It claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The issue is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We’ve ensured the unity of Jerusalem,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, said after the vote.
“The Mount of Olives, the Old City... will forever remain ours,” he wrote on Twitter.
Abbas’s office said Trump’s recognition and the Israeli law amounted to a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its political and religious identity.”
The statement called the moves a “dangerous project for the future of the region and the world.”
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the Israelis were moving ahead with such measures because the United States had stayed silent and signalled approval with Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, said Abbas should declare the end of the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s and withdraw the PLO’s recognition of Israel.
Trump’s December 6 decision upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, but maintains that Jerusalem’s final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides.
It has led to deep anger among Palestinians, with Abbas saying the United States can no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.
On Monday, Abbas said the White House “has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine.”
Speaking of the Likud vote, he said “we hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace.”


Sergio Aguero in battle to be fit for World Cup

Updated 2 min 3 sec ago
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Sergio Aguero in battle to be fit for World Cup

Argentine international striker Sergio Aguero faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup in Russia after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola revealed his club season was over.
Guardiola, whose side secured the Premier League title last Sunday, said the 29-year-old would be sidelined for four to five weeks following minor knee surgery.
Aguero is City’s top scorer with 30 goals in all competitions this season. The injury, suffered in training on March 10, does not appear to rule him out of Argentina’s World Cup campaign.
Asked if the striker’s season was over, Guardiola said: “Here, yeah. He will be out for four or five weeks. He is in Barcelona right now. We are going to fight to get him to the World Cup.”
The World Cup starts in mid-June, with Argentina due to play their opening match against Iceland in Moscow on June 16.
“Recovering from an arthroscopy on my knee,” Aguero tweeted on Tuesday. “Fully motivated to get back soon to the field.”
Aguero, who has 199 goals for the club, has not started a game since City’s victory over Chelsea on March 4.
Following a month-long lay-off he returned to action as a late substitute in the derby defeat to Manchester United on April 7, when he was hurt in a controversial challenge from Ashley Young that went unpunished.
The striker was this week named in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Premier League team of the year.