Trump questions Israel’s interest in making peace

Donald Trump said, ‘I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace.’ (Getty Images)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Trump questions Israel’s interest in making peace

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump questioned Israel’s interest in making peace with the Palestinians in an interview published Sunday, spotlighting its West Bank settlements as a complicating factor.
In the interview in the Israel Hayom daily, Trump also cast doubt on the Palestinians’ desire to strike a deal. But his comments about Israel mark rare criticism from a president who has publicly sparred with the Palestinians while forging warm ties with Israel ahead of the expected presentation of a US peace outline.
“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens,” Trump was quoted as saying. He did not disclose details about the anticipated peace plan.
Israel Hayom is owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Trump backer and a supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the interview, Trump criticized Israel’s West Bank settlements, which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal obstacles to peace. The Trump White House has been less publicly critical of Israel’s settlement building than previous administrations.
“The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements,” he said.
Relations between the US and the Palestinians have spiraled since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. Since then he has cut US funding to a UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees and threatened to withhold aid money to the Palestinians unless they resume negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians, who claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, saw Trump’s announcement as unfairly taking sides with Israel. They say the US is not an honest broker and have pre-emptively rejected any peace proposal presented by the Trump administration.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians, Israel says ‘no’

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians, Israel says ‘no’

  • Israel rejects report saying the protection should be against Palestinian leaders
  • The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.

But the report has been rejected by the Israelis.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement late Friday that “the only protection the Palestinian people need is from their own leadership.”
“Instead of suggesting ways to protect the Palestinian people from Israel, the UN should instead hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for continually endangering its own people,” Danon said.
“The report’s suggestions will only enable the Palestinians’ continued rejectionism.”
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.