Trump ‘may’ attend US Embassy opening in Jerusalem

Israel is overjoyed by US recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Trump ‘may’ attend US Embassy opening in Jerusalem

WASHINGON: Donald Trump said he may attend the opening of a controversial new US Embassy in Jerusalem, a fraught prospect designed to underscore close ties with Benjamin Netanyahu, as he hosted the Israeli leader at the White House on Monday.
The embattled US president warmly welcomed the embattled Israeli prime minister, claiming ties between their two countries had “never been better” as he floated a May trip that would be a major security and diplomatic challenge.
In the Oval Office, Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem — which both Israel and the Palestinians claim as their capital.
Asked if he would take part in the planned ceremony, which will coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, Trump said “I may, we’ll be talking about that.”
“If I can, I will,” Trump added, “Israel is very special to me, special country, special people.”
Such a visit would risk pouring gasoline on an already enflamed situation and curb US claims to be an independent broker in the peace process.
Trump’s plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year has brought the two leaders closer together, but it has also infuriated Palestinians and was condemned by 128 states in a United Nations General Assembly vote in December.
But Monday’s meeting was all smiles at the White House as the two leaders — both facing serious legal investigations — put on a joint show of unity.
Hours before Netanyahu arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it was confirmed that an ex-aide agreed to become a state witness in a corruption probe that has imperiled his premiership.
The Israeli leader has embraced the Trumpian tactic of denouncing corruption allegations as “fake news.”
It is a method that Trump has honed in dealing with an investigation into whether his campaign team colluded with Russia during the 2016 US elections.
Several of Trump campaign aides are facing charges or have pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators.
Netanyahu’s visit while in Washington to the annual conference of the influential lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), will provide a boost for the right-wing Israeli leader as scandals and political turmoil brew at home.
Trump has offered unswerving support for Israel since coming to office, sharing Netanyahu’s determination to challenge Iran’s growing regional influence.
“I think they are partners in ideology, and the ideology is a populist, conservative ideology which says that the old liberal elites are against us,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
The Middle East peace process grew even more complicated recently after Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, lost his top-secret security clearance.
But Netanyahu is not thought to be overly concerned about any delay in restarting the peace talks.
In his encounters with Trump and at the AIPAC conference, he was expected to focus mainly on Iran as Israel’s greatest enemy, and one he says seeks a permanent military presence in neighboring Syria.
The prime minister is also expected to call again for changes to, or the cancelation of, the nuclear accord between world powers and Iran, said Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington.


Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

Updated 31 min 40 sec ago

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

  • Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals

ISTANBUL: Renowned Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart says he has spent as much time in prison and courthouses as he has at work since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.

His latest stint in jail started in April, after an appeals court upheld his sentence of three years and nine months for “helping terrorist organizations.”

Released last week pending another appeal, Kart told AFP: “For 15 years, prisons and courthouses have become a second home to me.”

Kart, who was recognized last year by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, was among 14 journalists and staff from the renowned opposition paper Cumhuriyet convicted in the case.

He was initially arrested in 2016 after Erdogan launched a major crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

“I have spent almost the same amount of time in court corridors as I spent in the paper. It is very unfortunate,” he told AFP.

Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals, and says he always made an effort to look his best for prison visitors.

“I never welcomed my visitors in a hopeless state,” he said. “I would shave, pick my cleanest shirt from my modest wardrobe and welcome them with open arms. We would spend our time telling jokes.” His morale was boosted by the knowledge he had done nothing wrong.

“If you believe that your position is right, if you have an inner peace about your past actions, then it is not that difficult to stand prison conditions,” he said. Kart has been in and out of trouble since Erdogan took power in 2003.

His first lawsuit came in 2005 over a cartoon portraying Erdogan, then prime minister, as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.

“I have drawn cartoons for over 40 years ... I did it in the past with other political leaders, but I was never the subject of a court case,” Kart said. 

“The frame of tolerance has seriously narrowed today.”

The current case against him claims he contacted members of the Gulen movement accused of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. 

It also says the 14 Cumhuriyet staffers had conspired to change the paper’s editorial policy to support the Gulenists, as well as Kurdish rebels and the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.

“Today the accusations of terrorism have gone well beyond a realistic point,” Kart said.

“When you take a look at my cartoons, you see how much I am against any kind of terrorist organization and how seriously and strongly I criticize them.”

Rights advocates including the Reporters Without Borders have called on Turkey to revise its anti-terrorism and defamation laws, which they claim are abused to silence opponents.

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily founded in 1924 — is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation, making it an easier target for authorities.

The paper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.

It has its own internal problems, too — Kart and some of the others actually quit the paper last year over disagreements with the new management.

But the case has added to the chilling effect that has infected the whole of the media in Turkey, which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

No date has been set for the next appeal, and Kart has no idea how the saga will end.

“Everyone knows that there has been a political shadow hanging over our case,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said his focus would remain on drawing.

“Cartoons are really a very strong language because you can find a way to express yourself under any circumstances, even under pressure.”