Indian PM, Jordan king discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

PM Modi was received by Jordan Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki on his arrival in Amman on Friday. (Image tweeted by PMO India)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Indian PM, Jordan king discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II has discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his role as custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines in contested Jerusalem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A palace statement says the two met on Friday, a day before Modi’s first-ever visit to the West Bank.
After a public embrace of Israel as a strategic partner, the Indian prime minister is visiting the Palestinian territories and the Gulf countries on Friday to bolster long-standing political and economic ties.
Modi tweeted on Friday that he is looking forward to talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and “reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine.”
His visit comes at a time of tensions over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The step angered Palestinians who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as a future capital.
India was one of the earliest champions of the Palestinian cause but in recent years turned to Israel for high-tech military equipment and anti-terrorism cooperation.
Under Modi, whose nationalist party sees Israel as a natural ally against extremism, ties have flourished. Modi made the first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister last year followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India last month.
But Indian officials said India continued to support the Palestinian cause and that Modi’s visit is aimed at helping build up the Palestinians’ capacity in the health, information technology and education areas.
“We have de-hyphenated our relations with Palestine and Israel and now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy the prime minister is undertaking this visit,” B. Bala Bhaskar, a joint secretary in the Indian Foreign Ministry, said.
The two sides are building an Indian-Palestinian technology park in Ramallah, the Palestinians’ seat of government, which will develop IT expertise and generate employment.
Modi arrived in Jordan later on Friday and travels to Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday. During his visit to Israel last year, he did not travel to the Palestinian headquarters as is usually the case with visiting leaders.
“Looking forward to my discussions with President Mahmoud Abbas and reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine,” Modi said in a Twitter post.
India was among more than 120 countries to vote in favor of a resolution in December calling for the US to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But the scale of India’s security and commercial ties with Israel dwarfs the engagement with the Palestinians. Israel is among India’s top three arms suppliers, doing business worth millions of dollars each year.
Modi and Netanyahu are now pushing for cooperation in agriculture, energy and cybersecurity in addition to defense.
Modi will also travel to the UAE, from where India gets half of its oil, and to Oman, with which India’s navy has built close security ties.
The Gulf is home to 9 million Indians who remit $35 billion home each year, sustaining millions of families. The UAE committed an investment of $75 billion in India when Modi visited in 2015 and the two sides will be looking to advance that goal, the Foreign Ministry said


Choosing Hariri was the easy part — forming a govt will be far more challenging

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on May 24, 2018, shows Lebanese President Michel Aoun (C) meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (C-L) and other members of parliament at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut. (AFP PHOTO / DALATI AND NOHRA)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Choosing Hariri was the easy part — forming a govt will be far more challenging

  • Lebanon’s election three weeks ago — the first in nine years, strengthened the position of Hezbollah — with a strong performance by its allies.
  • The Future Movement, the party of Hariri, lost several seats and left him weakened, but due to Lebanon’s political system, which reserves the position of prime minister for a Sunni, Hariri was the only candidate with the power base to take the position.

BEIRUT: Nothing in Lebanon comes before political compromises.

This was the case on Wednesday, with the reelection of Nabih Berri as speaker of the House of Representatives for the sixth time and the election of Elie Ferzli, one of Syria’s allies in Lebanon, as deputy speaker.

And it was also the case on Thursday, when Prime Minister Saad Hariri was handed a third term by members of the house.

His appointment had been expected, and now paves the way for perhaps the biggest set of compromises — consultations with deputies to form the next government.

Lebanon’s election three weeks ago — the first in nine years, strengthened the position of Hezbollah — with a strong performance by its allies. The Future Movement, the Sunni party of Hariri, lost several seats and left him weakened, but due to Lebanon’s political system, which reserves the position of prime minister for a Sunni, Hariri was the only candidate with the power base to take the position.

The scale of the challenge in forming a government was highlighted by who did and who did not back him in Parliament.

He was nominated by 111 MPs out of 128 with Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, an ally of Bashar Assad, not supporting him. Two other pro-Syrian MPs and an independent also did not back him.

Ahead of President Michel Aoun’s announcement, Hariri appeared optimistic, stressing that the government “must be born quickly, there are no reasons to obstruct its formation or delay its completion.”

He said that the Gulf and US sanctions on Hezbollah should accelerate the process of formation.

In contrast to Hariri’s optimism, there are those who believe the formation may take a long time, because of demands and counter-demands.

They also believe that Hezbollah may demand to be given a crippling one-third share in the government without the need for ministers of its Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement.

Hezbollah and Amal may demand six Shiite ministers if the government has 30 ministers, and may also demand the representation of the seven-member Al-Marda bloc with two ministers.

They may also demand the appointment of a Sunni deputy, who is not affiliated with the Future Movement, as well as Talal Arslan, the only rival of Walid Jumblatt in the Druze community, as ministers.

If obstacles to obstruct the government’s work are put in place, through alliances within the Council of Ministers, in the face of prime minister-designate the formation of the government may take time. However, as journalist Tony Francis believes, “Hezbollah will not try to obstruct the formation of the government because the course of regional developments is pressurizing it.”

The current Lebanese government is a caretaker government after holding the first plenary session of the elected Parliament. 

The Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, was keen on the serious relationship between Berri and Hariri, and Bassil did not follow the footsteps of the other main Christian party, the Lebanese Forces in not voting in the election of Berri and Ferzli.

The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt stressed his commitment to the relationship, and that he supported Hariri to head the government. The election of Ferzli by deputies in Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc was an indication of goodwill, and Jumblatt demanded to be treated equally by giving the Druze essential portfolios.

Bassil stressed the keenness of the Free Patriotic Movement on the strategic alliance with Hezbollah.