Hard-liners win the day at Palestinian crisis meeting on Jerusalem

Senior Palestinian official Salim Zaanoun reads a statement at the end of a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Hard-liners win the day at Palestinian crisis meeting on Jerusalem

AMMAN: Hard-liners have emerged in the ascendant after a two-day special meeting in Ramallah of the Palestine Central Council (PCC).
The meeting was called to formulate the Palestinian response to the US decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Moderates who wanted a more measured response were outvoted by those who demanded an end to security cooperation with Israel in the occupied West Bank, although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas still has some room for maneuver, analysts told Arab News.
“At the council I felt there was a clear vision for the future and a holistic approach toward a new strategy, but it is hard to determine how far these issues will be translated during the implementation phase,” said Asaad Abdel Rahman, a PCC member and also an independent member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
“As is often the case, the key will be in the implementation.”
Abbas’s fiery two-hour speech at the PCC meeting included demands for escalated action against Israel, but he did not specifically call for an end to security cooperation. However, after a heated closed session, the PCC did so — and also resolved to suspend recognition of the state of Israel.
The only concession Abbas was able to extract was that the two new policies should be implemented by the PLO’s executive committee, where he has a stronger grip than on the 80-member PCC.
The concession weakens the two resolutions, Abdel Rahman said. “There was no need to add that qualifier since all PCC decisions have to be implemented by the executive committee anyway, but in the end the leadership wanted a little bit of wiggle room during the implementation period.”
Palestinians both inside and outside Palestine have staged daily protests urging a total change in strategy, including an end to security coordination and revisiting mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO. In an online survey in the largest Palestinian daily, Al Quds, 92 percent supported the withdrawal of recognition of Israel and suspending security coordination.
Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, Fatah spokesman for international affairs, reflected the views of many of the younger generation by calling on the leadership to make serious changes. He told Al-Monitor in Washington that the PCC should call for withdrawing recognition of Israel as a tangible way to show indignation at the US-Israel collusion.
Nasser Laham, a television commentator and editor of the independent online Ma’an News Agency, also wanted escalation. “Palestinians should end security coordination with the Israelis and Arab states should withdraw their ambassadors from Washington,” he wrote.
Nabil Amer, a Fatah leader and representative of the older PLO generation, said such action would be a mistake. “I don’t add my voice to the calls for escalation,” he said. “Any such escalation would be costly. We have boycotted meetings with the US, that was a good decision and that was enough.”
US Vice President Mike Pence begins a visit to Jordan, Israel and Egypt on Saturday. He has no plans to meet Palestinians, who have in any case declared a boycott of meetings over the US decision on Jerusalem.
The PLO and Israel exchanged letters agreeing on mutual recognition on the eve of signing the Oslo Accords at the White House in September 1993. The agreement gave Israel legitimacy, but the PLO did not benefit. Prisoners from PLO factions, including Fatah, remain in jail charged with membership of a terrorist organization. In March 2017, Israel also declared the Palestinian National Fund in Amman, essentially the PLO’s treasury, a terrorist organization.


Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

An intended visit to Tehran was canceled and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

  • Iran has maintained close ties to Iraq's government since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, Tehran's archenemy
  • The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its alleged support for international terrorism

BAGHDAD: Failure by Iraq to comply fully with tough new US economic sanctions against Iran would be insane, analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi risked incurring US wrath after contradicting himself in the space of a few hours over whether his country would comply.
Amid diplomatic maneuvers, as he negotiates for a second term in office after divisive and contested elections, Abadi offended both Tehran and Washington with conflicting statements on the US sanctions, which were reimposed last week.
First, the prime minister said that while Iraq disapproved of the new sanctions, it would reluctantly comply. “We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” he said.
“Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran. But. at the same time, I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy.”
His position provoked anger in Iran. An intended visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss the issue was canceled, and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned.
There was also criticism inside Iraq, especially from groups close to Tehran, such as the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.
Within hours, however, Abadi had reversed his position. “I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions. We have no other choice,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.
Asked if Baghdad would stop imports of commodities, appliances and equipment by government companies from Iran, he said the matter was still being reviewed. “We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now,” he said.
Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News: “Iraq can’t afford to be cut off from the dollar-based global financial system, so it makes sense to avoid sanctioned Iranian financial entities. Iraq should also protect its dollar reserves.
“These are the only sane options for a country that desperately needs international investment.”
Iraq is the second-largest purchaser of Iranian non-oil exports, and bought about $6 billion worth of goods in 2017. It also buys Iranian-generated electricity to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the British renewable energy investor Quercus became the latest major company to pull out of Iran as a result of the new sanctions.
It halted construction of $570 million solar power plant in Iran, which would have been the sixth-largest in the world.