German minister warns Israel it faces growing frustration in Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Reuters)
Updated 01 February 2018
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German minister warns Israel it faces growing frustration in Europe

TEL AVIV: German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned Israel on Wednesday that it faced growing frustration in Europe amid concern for the future of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Gabriel adopted a markedly different tone to that of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who on a visit to Israel last week embraced President Donald Trump's Dec. 6 announcement that his administration recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that it will move the U.S. Embassy to the city.
"With regard to the Palestinians and the Iran question the Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before. But is this really only a good thing?" Gabriel said in Tel Aviv.
Citing past successes of U.S. diplomacy in the region, he asked: "Can the Americans still play such a role if they take sides so openly? Will others try to step into their shoes?"
In a thinly veiled threat about cutting off aid, he said some members of Israel's cabinet were "explicitly against the two-state solution" but that such a solution "has always been the foundation of our engagement for Israeli-Palestinian peace and for the large amount of funding" from Germany and Europe.
"These – at best mixed – signals do not go unnoticed in Europe, where there is clearly growing frustration with Israel's actions," he told an Israeli security conference. Gabriel cited disagreements even within his own Social Democratic Party about what some see as "unfair" treatment of the Palestinians.
"NO SHORTCUT"
"It is increasingly difficult for people like me to explain to them the reasons why our support for Israel must persist," he said. Gabriel pointed to concerns about violence, hatred, and Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a future independent state.
"Germany is looking forward to the day when it will be able to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But let me add: in two states with Jerusalem as their capital. There is no shortcut here."
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israeli in a 1967 war, for their future capital. Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal, indivisible capital.
Gabriel spoke after meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier in the day Netanyahu corrected the record during a joint news conference held with his German visitor after Gabriel said he was encouraged that Netanyahu's government supported a two-state solution "with secure Israeli borders".
"That we will control security west of the Jordan (river). That is the first condition," Netanyahu objected, cutting Gabriel off and adding, "Whether it’s defined as a state when we have the military control is another matter. I'd rather not discuss labels, but substance."
Gabriel suggested that the discussion might be revisited at another time, "far away from now".
Gabriel has been an outspoken supporter of greater efforts to combat anti-Semitism in Germany, including creation of a new government commissioner post to oversee such initiatives.
At the same time, he is under pressure at home to take a hard line on the continued building of Israeli settlements in violation of international law.


Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

Updated 15 min 9 sec ago
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Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

  • The victory marks the end of the militants’ self-declared “caliphate”
  • The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks

BEIRUT: Daesh has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.
The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.
“We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The US believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.