Don’t reject new Trump peace plan, Palestine’s Abbas urged

Don’t reject new Trump peace plan, Palestine’s Abbas urged
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shows the Arab League meeting maps of, from left, historical Palestine, the 1947 UN partition plan, the 1948-1967 borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel, and the proposed plan for the territories without Israeli-annexed areas and settlements. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2020

Don’t reject new Trump peace plan, Palestine’s Abbas urged

Don’t reject new Trump peace plan, Palestine’s Abbas urged
  • Arab foreign ministers met in Egypt to discuss a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Palestinian president scraps security cooperation with Israel

CAIRO/AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was urged on Saturday to take part in talks based on a new Middle East peace plan rather than reject it out of hand.

“It is important … to come out with a constructive stance, a realistic stance and a positive strategy that goes beyond just condemnation,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said.

He spoke as Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo rejected the new plan, announced last week by US President Donald Trump. They said it was unfair to the Palestinians and would not lead to a comprehensive and just peace.

Abbas himself not only condemned the Trump plan, but withdrew security cooperation with Israel in the occupied West Bank. “We’ve informed the Israeli side ... that there will be no relations at all with them and the US, including security ties,” Abbas told the meeting.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces have long cooperated in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. The PA also has intelligence cooperation agreements with the CIA, which continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting the Trump administration in 2017.

Abbas also said he had refused to discuss the plan by with Trump by phone, or to receive even a copy of it to study it. “Trump asked that I speak to him by phone but I said ‘no,’ and that he wants to send me a letter ... but I refused it.”

Abbas said he did not want Trump to be able to say that he had been consulted.

The Trump peace plan, enthusiastically supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state that excludes Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and is under near-total Israeli security control. It also proposes US recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land and of Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital, along with Israeli annexation of the Jordan valley.

The Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo said the plan would not lead to a comprehensive and just peace, and that the League would not cooperate with the US in implementing it.

The ministers affirmed Palestinian rights to create a future state based on the land captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, with East Jerusalem as capital, the final communique said. They said there could be no peace without recognising Palestinian rights and a comprehensive solution, based on the 2002 Arab peace initiative.

The Saudi delegation was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support “for the Palestinian people and their just cause.”

Abbas has threatened to withdraw security cooperation before and it was unclear whether he would carry it out, analysts told Arab News.

“If he does, then he might finally have some leverage to negotiate a better deal with the Israelis,” said Fadi Elsalameen of the Foreign Policy Institute at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “I am very skeptical about his ability to carry this through.”

Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian committee to support Jerusalem and the holy sites, and a member of the Fatah revolutionary council, told Arab News the total suspension of security coordination would mean the end of the Oslo accords. “This will need time unless the Palestinian side wants to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and therefore make Israel responsible legally, politically, and financially as an occupying power,” he said. “A vacuum will happen if this is decided and it is not clear how it will be filled.”

Wadie Abunassar, director of the International Centre for Consultations, said the Palestinian president’s statement was“vague,” and due to a lack of alternatives. “It is a warning, hinting that dissolving the Palestinian Authority might be an option, despite knowing that such an option might be bad for him in particular, and Palestinians in general.”

Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the US plan amounted to coercive diplomacy, with the Trump administration signaling to Palestinians that the cost of avoiding compromise was high and increasing. 

“This coercive effort encounters two major obstacles: First, it pushes on several elements standing at the core of Palestinian identity, notably regarding Al-Aqsa Mosque and refugees’ rights, which Palestinians deem non-negotiable. Such pressure backfires, only increasing resistance to the US plan.

“Second, not only Palestinian nationalism requires Palestinian statehood, so does Israeli-Jewish nationalism, to the extent that it seeks to maintain both a Jewish majority and a democratic system of governance.”

Zalzberg said the combination of these two seemed to lead the Palestinian leadership to favor pursuing calculated escalation, “loosening security coordination in order to demonstrate the Palestinian Authority’s utility to Israel in curbing violence while counting on Israeli self-interest to rein in the kind of annexation measures that would render a genuine two-state agreement impossible.”

Mohammad Masharqa, head of the Center for Arab Progress in London and former adviser to the Palestinian embassythere, told Arab News it was unlikely that security coordination would end soon.

“The security coordination is the last wall left of the Oslo Accords and if it falls it must be replaced by a new form of struggle,” he said. “Ending security coordination and dissolving the Palestinian Authority requires a new strategy that would require time and national unity between all aspects of the Palestinian people, inside and outside.”

Jamal Dajani, former head of communications at the Palestinian prime ministry, said Abbas was left with no option but to end all cooperation with Israel based on the Oslo agreement. “President Trump did not offer a peace plan, he outlined a one-sided proposal in order to pave the way for Israel to annex large areas of the West Bank and lock up Palestinians in bantustans,” he said.

“I don’t think, however, that Palestinians should sever ties with the US, as Trump’s deal does not reflect the sentiment of the American people or US Congress. In fact, it has been condemned by many prominent people and politicians in the US.”


Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
Updated 14 April 2021

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
  • The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation

DUBAI: Oman has imposed a night-time ban on all commercial activities and movement of people throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly, which starts from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply and media were however exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions, as well as three-ton trucks. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the night-time commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
Updated 14 April 2021

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
  • UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight

DUBAI: The UAE administered 1118,805 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, bringing total jabs given to residents and citizens to 9,156,728 or about 92.58 doses per 100 individuals.

The nationwide inoculation program aims to give the population immunity from coronavirus that will help curb its spread as well as bring down infection cases.

UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 487,697 since the pandemic began. Four deaths were also confirmed due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,537.

Meanwhile, an additional 1,731 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 471,906.


Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE
Updated 14 April 2021

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.
The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them.


Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
An honour guard of Israeli soldiers with their rifles stands to attention during a one minute siren, as they partake in a state ceremony for Memorial Day in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2021

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
  • ‘He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,’ his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital

JERUSALEM: Israel was shaken Tuesday after a 26-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the 2014 Gaza war set himself on fire, suffering severe injuries.
Itzik Saidian went to a support service for wounded soldiers near Tel Aviv on Monday, doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit it, “due to significant psychological distress,” the army said.
He was rushed to the intensive care unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv and was in “critical condition” with “deep burns all over his body,” the hospital said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “very shocked” and “determined to undertake a complete reform of the way we take care of our disabled and wounded veterans.”
The young man had been recognized as partially disabled because he suffered from PTSD related to his service during the 2014 war between Israel and the armed Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Around 2,250 Palestinians were killed in the war, mostly civilians, and 74 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Saidian’s self-immolation came on the eve of Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and attack victims.
It sparked controversy over the support system for wounded or psychologically ill soldiers, which is often deemed inefficient and bureaucratic.
“He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,” his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced a “thorough investigation to find the reasons for this tragic event.” His ministry pledged to “substantially improve the treatment of post-traumatic soldiers.”
Military service is mandatory in Israel for 18-year-olds. Women serve two years and men two years and six months.


Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
Updated 13 April 2021

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
  • Aoun's decision could significantly delay the process
  • Israeli Energy Minister said Monday Lebanon's expanded claim would derail talks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said on Tuesday a draft decree expanding its maritime claims in a dispute with Israel must be approved by the caretaker government, rejecting a request to grant it swift presidential approval.
The dispute with Israel over the maritime boundary has held up hydrocarbon exploration in a potentially gas-rich area of the eastern Mediterranean.
The decree, approved by Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, defense minister and minister of public work on Monday, would add around 1,400 square km (540 square miles) to an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean claimed by Lebanon.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office said the decree should be approved by President Michel Aoun so that the new maritime coordinates setting out Lebanon’s claim could be submitted to the United Nations.
But the presidency said it should be approved by Diab’s full cabinet, even though the government resigned eight months ago following a devastating explosion in Beirut, because of the gravity of the issue.
The draft decree “needs a collective decision from the council of ministers..., even under a caretaker government, due to its importance and the consequences,” a statement from Aoun’s office said.
Aoun’s decision could significantly delay the process. Since the government resigned in August it has referred all issues for exceptional approval by the president, leaving them to get formal endorsement when a new government is finally agreed.
Negotiations were launched in October to try to resolve the dispute with Israel yet the talks, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by the United States, have since stalled.
Israel already pumps gas from offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday Lebanon’s expanded claim would derail the talks rather than help work toward a common solution, warning that Israel would implement “parallel measures.”
Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial meltdown that is threatening its stability, is desperate for cash as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. But political leaders have failed to bridge their differences and form a new government.