Not so fast: US orders Netanyahu to delay annexation of West Bank land

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A demonstrator poses with an empty slingshot during a protest against the US Mideast peace plan, in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Tens of thousand pro-Palestinian Turkish demonstrators take part in a protest rally in Istanbul on Feb. 9, 2020 against US President Donald Trump's proposed peace plan for Palestinians. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Not so fast: US orders Netanyahu to delay annexation of West Bank land

  • Palestinian leaders: Netanyahu had no option but to do what Washington told him

AMMAN, Jordan: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced on Sunday to backtrack on plans for a rapid annexation of occupied West Bank land after an unprecedented warning from the US that he was moving too quickly.

Under pressure from far-right extreme nationalists in his coalition government, Netanyahu had pledged quick “application of Israeli law” to illegal Jewish settlements, and to the Jordan Valley.

The prime minister had been given the green light to act by US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, unveiled on Jan. 28, which proposes that Israel retain vast areas of occupied land required by the Palestinians for an independent state.

But David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel and a key supporter of the Trump plan, warned on Sunday: “Israel is subject to the completion (of) a mapping process by a joint Israeli-American committee. Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the plan, and American recognition.

BACKGROUND

The Israeli prime minister had been given the green light to act by US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, unveiled on Jan. 28, which proposes that Israel retain vast areas of occupied land required by the Palestinians for an independent state.

“With the news out that the Israeli Cabinet was about to be pushed in a direction that was potentially adverse to our view of the process, we just let people know where we stand.”

Palestinian leaders told Arab News that Netanyahu had no option but to do what Washington told him. “There is no doubt that in such a disagreement Trump is the powerful side in the equation, and if Trump and Netanyahu disagree, the opinions of the Americans will prevail,” said Nabil Shaath, senior political adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The US had interests in the region other than Israel, Shaath said. “For many in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Jerusalem and Arab occupied lands do have a role in the way Washington thinks.”

However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Arab News that Friedman had been “historically involved in the funding and support of illegal colonial settlements, and is one of the master brains behind this annexation plan.

“He is basically saying, ‘Annexation, a crime of aggression under the Rome statute, is fine as long as you do it with me, not alone.’ Their endgame is the same — to normalize Israel’s apartheid in Palestine.”


Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

Workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine, which is visited by a large number of people, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

  • Six Saudi women recovering in Bahrain as Kingdom warns against travel to Italy and Japan

DUBAI: Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.
The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said the number of infected people there had risen to eight.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah. The new cases were carried by Bahraini and Saudi nationals who arrived at Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai or Sharjah.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said that it was coordinating with Bahraini health officials for the treatment of the Saudi women who had visited Iran. They will remain in Bahrain until they are fully recovered. The Kingdom has advised citizens and residents to avoid traveling to Italy and Japan.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom’s Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over “the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city,” adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE has banned all flights to and from Iran. The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah.
Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases to eight, after earlier raising the number to five. It said the three latest cases involved Kuwaiti citizens just back from Iran, without giving more details. The five previously reported cases were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
Kuwait had halted transport links with Iran over the weekend and said it was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
An Iraqi family of four who returned from a visit to Iran tested positive for the coronavirus, the first Iraqis known to have caught the disease.
The four cases in Kirkuk province brought Iraq’s total to five after it reported its first case on Monday, an Iranian theology student in Najaf. Iraq is deeply concerned about its exposure to the Iranian outbreak, as it has deep cultural and religious ties with its neighbor and typically receives millions of Iranians each year.
The Iraqi government, which has already banned all travel from China and Iran, added Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to its travel ban list on Tuesday. Returning Iraqi citizens are exempt, as are diplomats.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold a “million-man” protest, saying he had decide to forbid the events “for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else.”
“I had called for million-man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how the government’s call on citizens to avoid public gatherings would affect the strength of anti-government protests, and the response of security forces.
A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request and an aviation news website said one passenger was suspected of being infected by coronavirus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast video showing ambulances lined up beside the plane, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul. Turkey shut its borders to Iran on Sunday and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Oman’s Khasab port has suspended the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb. 26.