Trump tells Israel peace means compromise; US envoy under fire

In this file photo, US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, US. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Trump tells Israel peace means compromise; US envoy under fire

JERUSALEM: US President Donald Trump told Israel on Friday that it too would need to make “significant compromises” for peace with the Palestinians, even as they accused one of his Middle East envoys of bogging down diplomacy with what they see as pro-Israel bias.
The Palestinians were outraged by Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a move overturning decades of US reticence on the city’s status, and say they are looking at additional world powers as potential mediators.
In an interview with an Israeli newspaper that was excerpted ahead of its full publication on Sunday, Trump described his Jerusalem move as a “high point” of his first year in office.
The language of Trump’s announcement did not rule out a presence in Jerusalem for the Palestinians, who want the eastern part of the city — captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally — as their own capital.
“I wanted to make clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Regarding specific borders, I will grant my support to what the two sides agree between themselves,” he told the conservative Israel Hayom daily, in remarks published in Hebrew.
“I think that both sides will have to make significant compromises in order for achieving a peace deal to be possible,” Trump added, without elaborating.
The interview coincided with fresh strains between the Palestinians and the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, following the killing by a Palestinian of a Jewish settler.
After the settler was stabbed to death on Monday, Friedman tweeted that he had previously donated an ambulance to the slain man’s community and that he was praying for the next-of-kin, adding: “Palestinian ‘leaders’ have praised the killer.”
That drew a rebuke from the Palestinian administration.
“The American ambassador’s statements make us wonder about his relationship with the occupation,” Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement. “Is he representing America or Israel?“
“Friedman’s recommendations and advice, which do not aim to achieve a just peace on the basis of international legitimacy, are what led to this crisis in American-Palestinian relations,” Abu Rdainah said.
Friedman, among the top Trump advisers who promoted the Jerusalem move, is a former contributor to settler causes.
In addition to East Jerusalem, Palestinians want the occupied West Bank for a future state and see Israel’s Jewish settlements there as a major obstacle. Israel disputes this.
Most world powers deem the settlements illegal, but the Trump administration has taken a softer tack.
A liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published a column criticizing Friedman’s stance and dubbing the settlement he had supported as “a mountain of curses” — a play on its Hebrew name, Har Bracha, which means “Mount Blessing.”
The ambassador took the unusual step of firing back at the daily in another tweet on Friday: “Four young children are sitting shiva (Jewish mourning rite) for their murdered father .... Have they (Haaretz) no decency?“
Haaretz’s publisher, Amos Shocken, responded over the platform with a critique that echoed Palestinian complaints.
“As long as the policy of Israel that your Government and yourself support is obstructing (the) peace process ... there will be more Shivas,” Shocken tweeted.


Tension builds in row over women’s entry into Hindu temple in Kerala

In this file photo taken on October 18, 2018 Indian Hindu devotees are pictured at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 14 sec ago
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Tension builds in row over women’s entry into Hindu temple in Kerala

  • Hindu women demand their right of religious freedom as 41-day festival approaches
  • Kerala polarized over female entry into the hilltop temple

NEW DELHI: Tension in the air as Sabarimala Hilltop temple in the South Indian state of Kerala is being prepared to open on Nov. 17 for a 41-day Hindu festival.
The tension pertains to the entry of females between the ages of 10 to 50 into the ancient temple of Ayyappa, a deity who devotees believe is celibate and abhors the entry into the temple of women of marriageable age.
The Indian Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in the last week of September, laid down a rule that bars the entry of young women into the temple. This led to a severe protest across the state, with women being stopped forcefully from entering the temple.
Last month, when the temple opened for six days, at least 12 women tried to enter the hillside temple but a violent crowd blocked their passage, with police looking helpless. At least 560 women in the barred age group have enrolled for the annual pilgrimage that starts in less than a week.
“We are taking all kinds of steps to see that devotees can pay their obeisance to the deity in a peaceful manner,” S. Sreejith, the Kerala inspector general of police, told Arab News.

Political mileage
Before coming to the temple, devotees observe celibacy for 41 days and avoid all kinds of meat and alcohol. They also don black robes for the period.
“The soul of any temple is the deity inside. The deity Aayyappa is a bachelor and that’s why the entry of young women is regulated in the temple,” says Rahul Easwar, a Hindu right-wing activist with close links to the Sabarimala temple.
Talking to Arab News, Easwar said: “We will never say anything against the Supreme Court. We are fighting for our rights to believe and our rights to have our own faith.”
However, women rights activist Kavita Krishnan claimed that “the entire controversy is clearly politically manufactured by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”
The BJP is looking for political mileage in Kerala — the state where it is a small marginal player,” added Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association.
She pointed out that “the entire debate is concocted. It is well known that women’s entry was allowed until the 1990s, and it was stopped upon a court order. The Supreme Court order has only undone that order.”
The local government of Kerala, a coalition of communist parties, supports women’s entry into the temple.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a news conference on Saturday, said: “Opposition to changes in customs is quite natural. But there is no going back. Toilets, bathing facilities and accommodation facilities at Nilakkal will be set up for women devotees. The current crisis is temporary.”
K. Surendran of the BJP, however, said: “This is a matter of belief and the court should not interfere. Why does the court not interfere in the affairs of other minority religions?”
The BJP spokesperson in Kerala told Arab News: “The women who want to enter the temple are not devotees but activists. They are not believers.
“The local government is trying to polarize the issue by supporting women’s entry because it wants to gain the support of other religious minorities,” added Surendran.
Sandhya Acharya, a woman devotee who has registered to go to the Sabarimala temple, told Arab News that there is an “attempt to deny entry to women by calling them activists.
“Why should there be discrimination in the house of God in the name of gender?” she asked.
Rajesh Krishnan, a Kerala-based activist and intellectual, said: “The whole issue has polarized the society in Kerala. The issue has become all the more vicious after the BJP entered the debate and saw it as an opportunity to win over the people and make an entry into the southern Indian state.”
Around 42 review petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court and Tuesday the Apex court will decide whether it should revisit its judgment or not.