Netanyahu hails UN Hamas vote despite defeat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked “American administration and US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for the initiative.” (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2018
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Netanyahu hails UN Hamas vote despite defeat

  • “This is the first time that a majority of countries have voted against Hamas and I commend each of the 87 countries that took a principled stand”
  • Hamas praised the outcome of the vote, describing it as a “slap” to President Donald Trump’s administration

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday hailed majority backing in the UN General Assembly for condemning militant group Hamas even though a draft resolution failed to win enough votes to pass.
The US draft won 87 votes in the General Assembly on Thursday compared to 58 against but fell short of a required two-thirds majority.
Thirty-two countries abstained.
“The draft condemnation of Hamas in the UN General Assembly received a sweeping majority by countries that stood against Hamas,” Netanyahu said in an English-language statement.
“This is the first time that a majority of countries have voted against Hamas and I commend each of the 87 countries that took a principled stand.”
“I thank the American administration and US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for the initiative.”
Haley, who steps down from her post at the end of the year, has repeatedly accused the United Nations of having an anti-Israel bias.
She has defended Israel in its latest confrontation with Hamas, the Islamist group which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and has fought three wars with Israel since then.
The United States had won crucial backing from the European Union, with all 28 countries supporting the draft that would have condemned Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and demanded an end to the violence.
The European Union, like the United States, blacklists Hamas as a terrorist organization.
It was the first draft resolution condemning Hamas to be presented to the 193-nation assembly, which has been meeting since 1946.
Hamas praised the outcome of the vote, describing it as a “slap” to President Donald Trump’s administration.
“The failure of the American venture at the United Nations represents a slap to the US administration and confirmation of the legitimacy of the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri tweeted, referring to militant groups that oppose Israel.


Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

Updated 52 min 48 sec ago
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Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces new threat from former allies

  • Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has downplayed the threat

ANKARA: Following losses in key cities this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now risks losing more voters as former allies stick their head above the parapet and appear to be on the verge of creating new parties.
Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and ex-economy minister Ali Babacan have both made statements this month criticizing Turkey’s current trajectory under Erdogan.
Rumors have swirled in Ankara for months that Babacan and Davutoglu may establish their own political parties to challenge the Islamic-rooted AKP that has dominated Turkish politics this century.
On July 8, Babacan, who is credited with overseeing Turkey’s economic boom during the AKP’s first decade in power, dealt the first blow when he resigned from the party.
He claimed Turkey needed a “new vision” and cited “deep differences” over policy, hinting a new party — or “new effort” — was “inevitable.”
With double-digit inflation, slower growth and a weakened lira, many hope Babacan will be the answer to Turkey’s economic woes and an alternative to Erdogan.
Ten days after Babacan, Davutoglu gave an interview broadcast live online in which he appeared to suggest he would be ready to set up a new party.
Erdogan has downplayed the threat but also warned Babacan against splitting the “ummah” — using the Arabic word for the Muslim community.
Experts say the president will not quietly accept these challenges.
“Erdogan is likely to combat any threat he sees to his personalized rule,” said Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University.
She pointed to the jailing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas who had vehemently opposed Erdogan, and the ongoing trials of civil society leaders and AKP opponents.
Turkey has been to the polls eight times in just five years, but now any new party will have potentially until the next elections in 2023 to create momentum and attract voters.
When he announced he was standing down as prime minister in 2016 after two years, Davutoglu vowed never to criticize Erdogan in public.
That promise lay in tatters this week as he spoke online for three hours, saying he would remain within the AKP for now, but that: “If there is no other option, a (new) party must be set up.”
For now, it appears unlikely that Davutoglu will join forces with other splitters from the AKP, having been a fairly divisive figure himself in the past.
However, there have been reports that former president and co-founder of the AKP, Abdullah Gul, could act as an “honorary chairman” to a party led by Babacan.
It had been mooted that Gul would run against Erdogan in last year’s presidential elections, but he never came forward.
Erdogan criticized Babacan after his resignation, saying they disagreed over many issues, including interest rates, which the president controversially believes must be kept low to reduce inflation.
When asked if he was disappointed by Babacan, Davutoglu and Gul, Erdogan responded with evident exasperation: “For the love of Allah, should this question be asked? If one is not disappointed with them, who would one be disappointed with?”
But he said previous MPs had left the party and been largely forgotten.
The AKP came to power after the Turkish economy suffered a severe financial crisis in 2001, and needed an International Monetary Fund loan to emerge from the embers.
Eighteen years later, Turkey is again in an economic slump.
Inflation is at 15.7 percent; the rate of unemployment is 13 percent while the economy contracted by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
According to Hintz, the success of any party launched by Babacan will “likely depend on the extent to which it offers concrete plans for tackling Turkey’s economic problems and social divides.”
She added that Babacan had a “shot at galvanizing Turkey’s center-right, particularly given widespread disillusion surrounding the personal enrichment of AKP leaders while Turkey’s economy slides further toward crisis.”
Erdogan and the AKP, set up in 2001, have won every general election since coming to power in 2002.
But after 25 years of the AKP and its predecessors running Istanbul, the country’s economic powerhouse is now in the hands of the opposition, despite a controversial push by the ruling party to order a re-run of the vote.
Erdogan still commands widespread loyalty, particularly in the provinces, said Emre Erdogan, professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, and no relation to the president.
But he said any new challenger could be “destructive” to Erdogan’s chances at the next election, given that presidential candidates must win over 50 percent of the vote.