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 government under pressure as Taliban threaten new district

Farah did not fall and Farah will never fall said the top US commander in Afghanistan. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Afghan government under pressure as Taliban threaten new district

  • The fighting in Ghazni, which has long had a heavy Taliban presence, follows several days of fighting in Farah province, on the other side of Afghanistan on the border with Iran
  • The top US commander in Afghanistan visited Farah on Saturday with the ministers of the interior and defense and the head of the NDS intelligence service

FARAH, Afghanistan: Taliban fighters closed in on another district in Afghanistan on Sunday as officials sought to reassure an increasingly angry public that security would improve.
On Sunday, the insurgents were besieging the governor’s compound in Ajrestan district in Ghazni, south of the capital Kabul, although officials said reinforcements had arrived and were relieving police defending the town.
The fighting in Ghazni, which has long had a heavy Taliban presence, follows several days of fighting in Farah province, on the other side of Afghanistan on the border with Iran where the insurgents came close to overrunning the provincial capital.
General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan visited Farah on Saturday with the ministers of the interior and defense and the head of the NDS intelligence service.
“Farah did not fall and Farah will never fall,” he said, calling on the Taliban to accept President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks. “We will stay with you until we bring this war to a peaceful conclusion,” he said.
He met local officials in the governor’s compound and heard a bitter litany of complaints about the failure of the government to protect the city and the province, where the Taliban control many areas.
“If you want to make Farah better, then please, you should help before there’s an incident,” said Belqis Roshan, a former senator. “We have 10 districts, and apart from the centers, they’re under Taliban rule,” she said.
Reinforcements rushed in from other provinces and repeated strikes by Afghan and US air forces pushed the insurgents back from the city center but bazaars remain deserted and the streets empty.
“People are still worried about the situation,” said Farah resident Abdullah. “The Taliban have a strong presence in almost all districts and are still hiding in some parts of the city.”
As the Taliban have continued the spring offensive they launched last month, heavy fighting has been seen from Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces in the north to Farah in the west and Ghazni and Zabul in the center.
In Ajrestan district in Ghazni, Mohammad Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor said fresh commando forces had arrived and the Taliban pushed back from the town center.
“Fighting is continuing but the attacks on the district center have been repelled,” he said.
However local officials said the center remained under severe threat and the local governor had fled.
“Since last night, we have lost contact with officials and security forces in Ajrestan. Since then we have had no report on the situation in the district,” said Mansoor Faqiri, a member of the Ghazni provincial council.