US sells ambassador home in Israel, securing Jerusalem move

US sells ambassador home in Israel, securing Jerusalem move
An event at the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituach. (File/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
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Updated 08 September 2020

US sells ambassador home in Israel, securing Jerusalem move

US sells ambassador home in Israel, securing Jerusalem move
  • The sprawling seaside compound had an asking price of over $80m
  • US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018

JERUSALEM: The US Embassy said Tuesday the State Department has sold the ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv — a decision that cements the embassy’s controversial move to Jerusalem.
In an announcement, the embassy did not identify the buyer or disclose the sale price. But Israeli media had said the sprawling seaside compound in the upscale town of Herzliya had an asking price of over $80 million.
“The buyer was was selected solely on the basis of having submitted the highest and best offer. The selected buyer and the unsuccessful bidders have been notified,” it said.
The Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, shortly after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Ambassador David Friedman, a long-time supporter of Israel’s hard-line settler movement, played a leading role in the embassy’s move.
Most foreign delegations have their embassies in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem’s contested status.
Israel’s parliament, supreme court, president’s residence and most ministries are headquartered in Jerusalem. But the Palestinians claim east Jerusalem — which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move unrecognized by most of the international community — as the capital of a future state.
The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has called the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy “short-sighted and frivolous,” but he has said he would not move it back to Tel Aviv if elected president in November.


Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Updated 05 December 2020

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
  • More than 567,000 voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote
  • Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections Saturday under the shadow of Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.
The oil-rich country has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a months-long nationwide lockdown earlier this year.
But while some curbs have eased, over-the-top election events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets are out, masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.
Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.
But in an effort to include all constituents, authorities have designated five schools — one in each electoral district — where they can vote, among the 102 polling stations across the country.
Election officials are expected to be in full personal protective equipment.
Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoys wide legislative powers.
Political disputes are often fought out in the open.
Parties are neither banned nor recognized, but many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.
But with more than 143,917 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.

A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

The polls, which open at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), will be the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.
A few electoral banners dotted through the streets have been the only reminder of the nation’s political calendar.
Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.
More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote, including 29 women.
Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.
The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education and the thorny issue of the “bidoon,” Kuwait’s stateless minority.
From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times after disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government.
“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.
“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.
Deyain said he expected some parliamentarians in the new National Assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.
Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962, and women in 2005 won the right to vote and to stand for election.