Israel minister calls for more settlement approvals

A boy holds a poster of Palestinian Mosab Al-Tamimi, 17, who was killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, during his funeral near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Israel minister calls for more settlement approvals

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has summoned a meeting of top Israeli planning officials for next week to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, his office said Thursday.
A brief statement said he had convened a session of the Supreme Planning Council for Monday “to approve new programs for the planning and sale of housing units in all parts of the (West Bank).”
It did not give details.
The Hebrew-language statement said the move was “part of the policy of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to strengthen settlement in Judea and Samaria,” the Hebrew biblical term for the West Bank.
Israel occupied the territory in the Six-Day War of 1967. Today more than 600,000 Jewish settlers live there and in annexed east Jerusalem among 2.9 million Palestinians, with frequent outbreaks of violence between the sides.
The settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as a main obstacle to peace.
The central committee of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Sunday passed a resolution urging its MPs to work for annexation of the West Bank settlements.
Taking such a measure could effectively end prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as there would be little area left for a Palestinian state.
But a significant number of members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition say that is precisely what they are seeking and openly oppose a Palestinian state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday harshly condemned the Likud vote and criticized the US for its silence.
“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,” he said.
The prime minister says he still supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, although he has also pushed for Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.
According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, Israel advanced plans for 6,742 settlement units in the West Bank in 2017, the most since 2013.
Israeli right-wing politicians have seized on support from US President Donald Trump to promote measures seen as further damaging remaining hopes for a two-state solution.


Dubai starts its Expo countdown

Updated 2 min 17 sec ago
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Dubai starts its Expo countdown

  • Last year, 10.8 billion dirhams ($2.9 billion) of Expo construction contracts and 411 million didrhams of non-construction contracts were awarded
  • Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to recognizing the efforts and achievements of innovators from across Saudi Arabia and the wider region, Al-Gargawi explained
DUBAI: With only two years to go until the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai, preparations are under way to deliver what will be the first Expo in the region.
More than 170 countries have committed to take part in the event, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Italy, the UK, Indonesia and France.
“Everyone at Expo 2020 Dubai is working hard to deliver a World Expo that has real relevance and impact across continents and generations,” said Maha Al-Gargawi, director of international participants for the event. “The UAE is extremely proud to host the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region’s first World Expo, but we also understand that this is a global effort.”
One of the planning team’s main goals is to stage the most international World Expo in history. It expects 70 percent of its visitors to come from outside the UAE — the largest proportion of international visitors in 167 years of World Expos.
“The number of participating countries is significant this far out from the Expo, and we are excited to see how these will bring to life our theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ as well as our three key sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability,” Al-Gargawi said.
“Some countries have already started to reveal their pavilion designs and themes, providing a flavor of what millions of visitors can expect to see at Expo 2020. Combined with the many unique and exciting visitor experiences our team is creating, these engaging national pavilions will help Expo to attract its expected 25 million visits, leaving a lasting impact on everyone who comes.” Saudi Arabia has not yet revealed the details of its pavilion but is expected to do so soon.
Construction is well advanced on the three theme districts that form the core of the Expo site. The foundations are complete and the buildings are taking shape.
To date, more than 42 million work hours have been completed on the site and there are now around 20,000 workers on site.
“When we open our doors on Oct. 20, 2020, we want to welcome visitors and participants to an awe-inspiring site that is flawlessly presented,” Al-Gargawi said. “We are progressing well with the recruitment of more than 30,000 volunteers who will help to welcome the world to the UAE in 2020. They will introduce millions of people to the immersive experiences, exciting events and engaging discussions that will take place at our site every day.”
Last month, Expo 2020 Dubai launched its House of Volunteers — a creative hub that will host special events and exclusive activities for volunteers on the journey to 2020 and throughout the six months of Expo. “As with any project of this magnitude, we have to overcome new obstacles on a daily basis, and our world-class team works closely with partners, participants and other stakeholders to ensure we are able to turn challenges into opportunities,” she explained. “This is what World Expos are all about. We are constantly working to ensure we tweak elements of the Expo to ensure the best possible visitor experience in 2020.”
The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by Grimshaw Architects, explores the potential for buildings to be self-sustaining in water and energy by using innovative combinations of technologies to harvest solar power and water from the air. It is due to be completed by October 2019. “Expo 2020 Dubai represents a unique opportunity to showcase the MEASA region’s culture and achievements and provide a platform for our young and dynamic population to connect with the world,” she said. “We want to trigger a long-term effect in this region and the wider world, inspiring the next generation of innovators, business executives and thought leaders.”
The team is also focused on ensuring that Expo 2020 provides significant economic benefits and investment to stimulate new job opportunities in the UAE and across the region. “Expo 2020 will also provide the UAE and the wider region with an opportunity to show a different, modern, progressive side of our cultures and people to the many millions of visitors we look forward to welcoming from around the world,” Al-Gargawi said. “From the very beginning, Expo 2020 has been committed to building a legacy that is meaningful and sustainable, extending its impact and benefits beyond the UAE to the wider region and the rest of the world. Expo’s long-term approach is based on four pillars: physical, economic, social and reputational.”
Last year, 10.8 billion dirhams ($2.9 billion) of Expo construction contracts and 411 million didrhams of non-construction contracts were awarded. More than 24,000 businesses from 145 countries are registered to do business with Expo 2020 Dubai, and 3,891 contracts have been awarded, with small and medium enterprises winning 56 percent of these.
Expo 2020 will also spur significant long-term economic growth. By building ties that will remain well beyond 2020, Expo will contribute to new business generation, GDP growth and job creation across the Middle East.
“From a social perspective, Expo 2020 is an opportunity to inspire, empower and collaborate with our youth, enabling young people to expand their horizons,” she added. “It will encourage an understanding of — and an interest in — key drivers of future progress in line with our three key sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. A number of Middle Eastern countries have already announced their participation, and we expect more to follow in the lead-up to the event. Nations from our region that have already confirmed their participation include Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.”
Expo Live, the event’s innovation and partnership program, provides grants of up to $100,000 for projects that have a positive social or environmental impact. Expo Live is also keen to engage Saudi entrepreneurs. “Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to recognizing the efforts and achievements of innovators from across Saudi Arabia and the wider region,” Al-Gargawi explained. “The program offers an amazing opportunity for social entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia to show the world how the country is working to benefit communities both domestically and internationally.”
Expo 2020 launched Expo Live to fund, and promote creative solutions that improve people’s lives, preserve the planet or both. “It is harnessing the convening power of World Expos to demonstrate how innovations coming from all places and people can advance the pace of progress and inspire a more inclusive and prosperous future,” she added. “Innovation can come from anywhere to everyone, which is why we want to support projects from Saudi Arabia and beyond, helping change-makers to maximize their impact. Successful applicants may also get the chance to showcase their innovative solutions to millions of visitors at the next World Expo.”