Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he announced his peace plan in the White House. (AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

  • United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank
  • The absence of the Palestinians from Trump’s announcement is likely to fuel criticism that the plan tilts toward Israel

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited Middle East peace plan that broadly favored Israel, as expected, but also defied expectations by offering the Palestinian people a path to statehood.

Trump proposed a Palestinian state double the size of the existing Palestinian territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital and a US Embassy there; high-speed rail links between Palestinian areas and a tunnel linking the West Bank and Gaza; a four-year ban on Israeli settlement building on land earmarked for a Palestinian state; $50 billion in economic aid; and continued oversight by Jordan of Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

However, major Israeli settlements would remain, puncturing large parts of Palestine, Israel would take control of the whole Jordan Valley, and the refugee issue must be “settled outside Israel.”

Read the full report here: Middle East peace plan

Trump unveiled his plan at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before an audience comprising mostly supporters of Israel but also including ambassadors from the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

He admitted the plan was good for Israel, but said it also had to benefit the Palestinians “otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.”

“I am saddened by the fate of the Palestinian people. They deserve a far better life,” he said.

Spotlight: Trump’s Middle East plan forges unexpected unity in Palestinian ranks

Trump said his plan would end “Palestinian dependency on charity and foreign aid. We will help the Palestinians to thrive on their own. The Palestinians will be able to seize the future … We are asking them to meet the challenges of peaceful coexistence.”

Trump said Palestinians must adopt basic laws enshrining human rights, end corruption and disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

He said Israel would work closely with Jordan to preserve the status quo of Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Trump said he had written to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “explaining the territory allocated for his new state.”

“It will become a wonderful Palestinian state,” he said. “President Abbas, I want you to know, if you chose the path to peace, America will be there … every step of the way. We will be there to help.”

However, Abbas immediately rejected the plan on Tuesday night. Visibly angry on Palestinian TV, he said: “No, a thousand times no.”

That the plan was based on a unified Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel is “enough for us to reject it,” he said.

Husam Zumlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told Arab News: “There are 13 million Palestinians in Palestine and the world, and the very fact that the American administration couldn’t find a single Palestinian to appear in that White House room says volumes about the one sidedness of the deal.”

In Lebanon, the Fatah movement called for a “day of rage” to resist the deal.

*Daoud Kuttab reported from Amman and Najia Houssari from Beirut

Egypt’s once-reviled street dogs get chance at a better life

Updated 20 February 2020

Egypt’s once-reviled street dogs get chance at a better life

  • Shehata says his teams have treated some 10,000 stray dogs over the last few years
  • After centuries of stigma, the street dogs of Egypt are finding popular acceptance

CAIRO: Karim Hegazi spends his days in a Cairo clinic taking care of animals long considered a menace in Egypt.

Stray dogs roam in almost every Cairo neighborhood — lurking in construction sites, scavenging through trash and howling nightly atop parked cars. The government says there’s around 15 million of them. They bite some 200,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization, and spread rabies, one of the world’s most lethal diseases.

And if that wasn’t reason enough to feel revulsion toward dogs, a famous Islamic saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad warns that angels won’t enter your home if there’s a dog inside.

Yet after centuries of stigma, the street dogs of Egypt are finding popular acceptance, and along with it, surging grassroots support. That includes adoption and medical care, as well as spaying and neutering to keep them from producing more puppies on the streets. Volunteers armed with giant fishing nets and tranquilizer darts embark on regular missions to catch, vaccinate and sterilize dogs before letting them loose.

These efforts are making inroads against the prevailing government policy of extermination by poison.

“I’ve seen a major shift ... people are seeing a value in strays,” said Hegazi, 32, from his veterinary hospital in the upscale suburb of Maadi. He says he’s no longer treating just foreign pooches, but also a growing number of adopted “baladi” dogs, the once-reviled Egyptian street breed. Even pious Muslim clients are taking in street dogs. Hegazi says they often reconcile their religious beliefs and love of dogs by keeping them in grassy yards or on rooftops.

Egypt’s upper and middle classes have increasingly adopted Western-inspired ideas of dog ownership. Pet hotels, cafes and grooming emporiums are sprouting up in major Egyptian cities. Fueled by the rise of social media, enthusiasm for Cairo’s dogs is “moving beyond snob culture,” said local advocate Amina Abaza.

A Facebook forum for vet recommendations exploded into a community of 13,000 pet lovers trading stray rescue stories. Dozens of new shelters coordinate adoptions online, flooding Instagram feeds with images of abandoned puppies.

What has surfaced online is spilling into the streets. Some of Cairo’s more well-to-do districts are mobilizing spay and neuter teams to counter what advocates describe as gruesome government methods to control the dog population.

The General Organization for Veterinary Services, an arm of the agricultural ministry, routinely sends authorities to kill strays by scattering poison in streets overnight, according to a dozen activists and residents. They say they’ve woken up to find carcasses piled on curbs, or sick dogs wailing in distress.

“It’s a horrible way to die,” said Mohamed Shehata, founder of Egyptian Vets for Animal Care, or EVAC. It’s the country’s first spay and neuter program, also based in Maadi.

The government organization did not respond to questions about its policy. But in a recent report, it described street dogs as a “time bomb that threatens our children,” and defended the “merciful killing of dogs that are harmful to people,” citing Islamic law.

After the French invaded Egypt in 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops spent two nights shooting all of Cairo’s street dogs because of their raucous noise. According to American historian Juan Cole, they were likely employed as informal watchdogs in the city’s winding alleys. Major dog eradication campaigns in Egypt stemmed from the city’s explosive growth in the early 1800s, when dogs became scavengers dependent on Cairo’s ubiquitous mounds of garbage, said Alan Mikhail, professor of Ottoman history at Yale University. As part of a public hygiene push, authorities trapped, shot and poisoned dogs en masse.

These days, a consensus is emerging among experts that “poison is not a real solution to rabies or to overpopulation,” said Shehata. A toxic substance called citrinin is used to kill off dogs, but most of it ends up seeping into soil and cement, poisoning gardeners, garbage workers and children playing in the street. Culling street dogs doesn’t stop the spread of disease either, he added, as over 70% of the stray population must be vaccinated to attain herd immunity.

Shehata described his group’s spaying and neutering efforts as “a more humane, scientific, and effective way,” to regulate the country’s strays. His group kicked off
Egypt’s first mass rabies vaccination drive this month, inspired by the WHO’s goal to eliminate human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

On a misty morning last weekend, teams of volunteers scampered after the wild dogs in Maadi, bolting down wide boulevards and trash-littered train tracks. A cacophony of yelps and barks filled the air as terrified dogs were trapped in nets, then injected with vaccines. Neighbors woken by the noise watched from their balconies in bewilderment. The method may appear ruthless, but Shehata insists it’s for the best, and keeps the dogs rabies-immune for a year.

Volunteers also spay and neuter strays at the clinic. The dogs are dropped off where they were caught, with a notch cut in their ear to show they’ve been sterilized. The model is being replicated in at least five central Cairo districts, where local groups say they’ve seen dog populations stabilize or decline and the threat of rabies wane, although the government doesn’t make rabies infection figures public.

Vigilante hunters still scatter poison in dog food and request government exterminators, said Rasha Hussein, a Maadi resident who runs a vet training center outside Cairo. But she said efforts by groups like EVAC have encouraged compassion. Residents now coordinate meal deliveries and medical checks for ear-tagged dogs that have become a mainstay in their areas. Just five years ago, EVAC volunteers were chased out of the neighborhood.

Shehata says his teams have treated some 10,000 stray dogs over the last few years.

Egypt’s push follows successes in similar developing countries. Animal welfare proponents hope these gains can spark a worldwide movement.

Turkey’s cities, which once promoted systematic slaughter of street dogs, now provide strays with government-sponsored medical evaluations, sterilization and shelter. Indian provinces historically ravaged by rabies, where Shehata trained, have driven down death rates through coordinated campaigns.

But leading veterinarians say Egypt’s efforts still lack state funding or a legal framework to protect animals, meaning the future of the country’s street dogs remains uncertain.

“We will do our best to reach our targets,” said Hegazi while carrying his next patient, barking and snorting, into the exam room. “But it’ll take a much longer time.”