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.


Iran scrambles for European lifeline

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Iran scrambles for European lifeline

  • ‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News
  • US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

JEDDAH: Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.” 

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.