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.


Afghan polling centers plagued by problems as casualties surge

Updated 21 October 2018
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Afghan polling centers plagued by problems as casualties surge

  • Nearly nine million voters registered for the election, but many are allegedly based on fake identification documents
  • Despite the chaos, the UN said the election was “an important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance”

KABUL: Problems plagued hundreds of Afghan polling centers Sunday in the shambolic legislative election’s second day of voting, fueling criticism of organizers and eroding hopes for credible results after a ballot marred by deadly violence.
As voting restarted in more than 20 provinces, an AFP tally of official casualty figures showed the number of civilians and security forces killed or wounded in poll-related violence on Saturday was nearly 300 — almost twice the figure released by the interior ministry.
The huge discrepancy adds to concerns about the lack of transparency and credibility of the long-delayed election that is seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential vote.
At some of the 253 polling centers opened for voting on Sunday, election workers still struggled to use biometric verification devices and voter rolls were “either incomplete or non-existent,” Electoral Complaints Commission spokesman Ali Reza Rohani told reporters.
“Most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today,” said Rohani, adding some polling sites again opened late and had insufficient ballot papers.
Another 148 polling sites that were supposed to open remained closed for security reasons, the Independent Election Commission told AFP.
The IEC’s chronic mishandling of the parliamentary election, which is the third since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has all but dashed hopes it can organize the presidential ballot, scheduled for April.
“This does not bode well for next year,” Afghanistan Analysts Network co-director Thomas Ruttig told AFP.
“The IEC has clearly shown its lack of capacity to run acceptable and transparent elections, instead publishing doctored figures.”
A Western official, who had monitored the months-long preparations, told AFP they had no confidence left in the IEC.
“None at all,” they said on the condition of anonymity.
“With the current IEC leadership there are a lot of doubts that they would be able to handle the presidential election properly,” political analyst Haroun Mir said.
Initial IEC figures show around three million people risked their lives to vote on Saturday — many waiting hours for polling centers to open — despite scores of militant attacks.
Nearly nine million voters registered for the parliamentary election, but many suspect a significant number of those were based on fake identification documents that fraudsters planned to use to stuff ballot boxes.
But the fact any Afghans turned out to vote was an achievement in itself, some observers noted.
“The people of Afghanistan showed that they are still hopeful for their future,” Mir said.
Despite the shortcomings in the voting process, that was “undoubtedly a great achievement,” he said.
Turnout was likely affected after the Taliban issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house candidates withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
The militant group on Saturday claimed it carried out more than 400 attacks on the “fake election.”
Official observers described disorder and chaos at polling centers on Saturday where election workers did not know how to use biometric devices that the IEC had rolled out at the eleventh hour to appease political leaders and said were required for votes to be counted.
Many voters who had registered their names months ago were not on the roll, and the Taliban commandeered some polling centers and refused to let people cast their ballots.
There are concerns that extending voting by a day could “impact transparency of the process” and provide “opportunity for fraud,” Election and Transparency Watch Organization of Afghanistan said.
As vote counting continued and officials began the process of transferring ballot boxes to Kabul, Afghan voters and candidates took to social media to vent their frustration at the debacle.
“Shame on the IEC,” Hosai Mangal wrote on the IEC’s official Facebook page.
“There was no order at all, I could not find my name at the polling center where I registered.”
Another angry voter wrote: “The worst elections ever.”
But embattled IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad on Sunday defended the organization’s handling of the election, saying the problems were not due to “weak management.”
Despite the chaos, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has spearheaded international efforts to advise the IEC, said the election was “an important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
UNAMA urged observers, political parties, candidates and voters to play a “constructive role in the days ahead to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process as votes are tallied.”
Elections will be held in the southern province of Kandahar on October 27 after the vote was suspended following Thursday’s assassination of a powerful police chief.