US urges Netanyahu to keep alive chance of Palestinian state

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, January 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2020

US urges Netanyahu to keep alive chance of Palestinian state

  • Trump’s plan also lays out the grounds for an independent Palestinian state, although it would be demilitarized and its capital would not be inside the contested holy city of Jerusalem
  • David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said Israel was aware of the threat of repercussions from European powers as well as strong objections from friendly Arab states

WASHINGTON: The United States has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep alive the prospect of a Palestinian state as he considers West Bank annexation, a senior official said Thursday.
Netanyahu’s government had set July 1 as the date when it could begin formally taking over Palestinian areas seized in 1967 in line with a plan outlined in January by US President Donald Trump.
Trump’s plan also lays out the grounds for an independent Palestinian state, although it would be demilitarized and its capital would not be inside the contested holy city of Jerusalem.
David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said that Netanyahu was facing domestic pressure as some of his supporters “want annexation but aren’t particularly enamored of the vision for peace that calls for a Palestinian state as well.”
“So we’re calling on the Israelis not to do anything that would preclude the implementation of the vision,” Schenker said at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
He said he was unsure if Netanyahu would ultimately go ahead with annexation as he assesses the impact it would have.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t see anything, but I think that the prime minister would like to do something,” Schenker said.
Trump’s administration, whose evangelical base is strongly pro-Israel, has said that Netanyahu has Washington’s green light to annex Palestinian land.
But Schenker said Israel was aware of the threat of repercussions from European powers as well as strong objections from friendly Arab states.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan, accusing the administration of bias and of trying to buy off the Palestinians through promises of future investment.


US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

Updated 10 August 2020

US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

  • Iran-backed militias renege on agreement to allow UN inspectors aboard stricken vessel holding 1.4 million barrels of oil

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The US blasted Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on Sunday for reneging on a deal to allow UN teams to board a rusting oil storage vessel that threatens an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It fell into Houthi hands in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis briefly bowed to pressure last month and agreed to allow a team of UN engineers to visit the ship, before changing their minds and restating their previous demands for the revenue from the oil. As the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

“The Houthis have failed to follow through on their agreement to allow a UN team on to the Safer,” the White House National Security Council said on Sunday.

“They are courting environmental and humanitarian disaster by obstructing and delaying. For the good of Yemen and the region, the Houthis must allow the UN aboard the Safer.”

A recent water leak into the tanker’s engine prompted warnings of a major disaster.

“The time has come for a resolute response for an outcome,” the Yemen Embassy in Washington said on Sunday. 

“There cannot be more delays or deliberations. UN inspectors must immediately access and assess the Safer oil tanker even without Houthi permission.”

The UK echoed its concerns. “There is another floating disaster off the Yemeni coast with potentially as massive an ecological footprint as the shockwave that engulfed Beirut,” former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said. “The politics preventing safe evacuation of the oil must stop immediately.”