Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel
U.S. Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz during a press briefing on the agreement between Israel and the UAE at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., Aug. 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 September 2020

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel

Trump adviser predicts more Arab and Muslim countries will sign deals with Israel
  • Berkowitz said that Arab leaders have been disappointed by the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan
  • Berkowitz stressed that the door remains open to the Palestinians if they agree to negotiate, but Trump will seek alternatives if they refuse to engage

As many as seven Arab or Muslim countries are likely to follow the lead set by the UAE and Bahrain by signing agreements to normalize relations with Israel, according to Avi Berkowitz, special adviser to US President Donald Trump on Middle East negotiations.

He said that Arab and Muslim political and business leaders have been disappointed by the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was proposed last year by the Trump administration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “the deal of the century.”

During an exclusive interview with Arab News on Tuesday, Berkowitz stressed that the door remains open to the Palestinians if they agree to negotiate, but Trump will seek alternatives if they refuse to engage.

He added the refusal by some Palestinian leaders to negotiate will no longer prevent other Arab and Muslim countries from pursuing peace with Israel, or deter the US from talking with other Palestinian community leaders and groups.

“We can disagree about the details. We can sit around the table and negotiate them,” Berkowitz said during the interview, which will be broadcast on Detroit radio station WNZK at 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning.

“But if you are unwilling to actually review the plan and think it through and explain why you think it is not acceptable, then we are not really talking — we are sort of talking past each other. And I think a lot of people in the region saw that and said ‘we are no longer going to allow this to be a veto over our national interests.’”

Berkowitz said that while there is a seat at the table for the Palestinian leadership to discuss the Trump peace plan, in their absence talks are taking place with other Palestinian community and business leaders, although he did not name them.

“We put out a plan and the plan calls for a realistic two-state solution,” he said. “It calls for a Palestinian state with a capital in areas of East Jerusalem. It calls for free access to all people who come in peace to all of the holy sites, so that no one can say that in any way they are under siege. (It also offers) $50 billion in investments, as well as provisions for people who have been displaced: the refugee issue.

“It undoubtedly is something that will make the lives of the Palestinian people better and will change the course of the region. And so when that was (announced) a lot of people saw that the Palestinians refused the plan prior to it even being published. They wouldn’t even read it before rejecting it — and honestly, that is unacceptable.”

Berkowitz said his own frustration with the situation “pales in comparison” to the frustration that can be heard in the voices of the Palestinian people about the actions of their leaders.

“They understand the current trajectory is a bad one and they constantly bring me fresh ideas,” he added.

Arguing that the presence of Israel is a reality that the Palestinians must accept, Berkowitz said: “We’re not going to allow that to be a veto over the project that we hope to make in the region going forward.”

However, he added that this does not mean that long-standing grievances and concerns will be ignored.

“This is not something that is being done at the exclusion of understanding the significance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “That is a real issue. It is one that we intend to give as much attention as the Palestinian leadership is willing to engage us on.”

The agreement between the UAE and Israel was announced on Aug. 13. Bahrain announced a similar deal on Sept. 11. Both agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, were brokered by Trump. They were signed by the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain and Netanyahu at the White House on Sept. 15.

In exchange for establishing full diplomatic and economic ties, Israel agreed to suspend its plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank.


UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds
Updated 25 min 12 sec ago

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

The UAE has approved the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15, the government said on Thursday, having already permitted its use for 16 years and above.
The UAE's health ministry approved its use, the government's Twitter account said. The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of the vaccine in children as young as 12.


Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
Updated 54 min 12 sec ago

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
  • Violence lay heavy on hearts of parents of children dressed in new clothes and clutching balloons reveling to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem’s Old City
  • As sun began to break over al-Aqsa mosque crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark Ramadan’s end

JERUSALEM: Dressed in sparkly new clothes and clutching balloons, excited children Thursday revelled in the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But days of violence lay heavy on their parents’ hearts.
As the first rays of sun began to break over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The three-day festival is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweets.
Stalls stacked high with colorful plastic toys, or tasty sesame-dipped snacks that are a Jerusalem specialty, tempted the crowds snaking along the Old City’s narrow stone streets.
At the centuries-old Damascus Gate, scene of violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and police at the start of Ramadan, two huge bundles of helium-filled balloons fluttered in the spring breeze. Mickey Mouse and Spiderman could be spotted bobbing among them.
Just three days ago, Israeli police deployed so-called skunk water there — a putrid mixture of sewage water — to disperse the crowds after a weekend of unrest in different parts of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured as well as dozens of Israeli police in the clashes which also erupted on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism, on which the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock shrine also stand.
The convulsion of violence has since spread, engulfing the Gaza Strip run by the Islamic militant Hamas movement, the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Israeli cities which have seen unprecedented mob clashes between Jewish and Arab residents.
On Thursday the boom of rocket fire could be periodically heard in Jerusalem, where calm has mainly returned to the streets. But many believe it may just be the calm before a further storm.
“Do you see any problems, there, right now? No,” said Jabbar, who is in his 60s, pointing at crowds of Palestinians being carefully watched by heavily-armed Israeli police at Damascus gate.
“But it could flare up again at any minute,” he warned grimly.
“Everything will return to normal if God so wishes it,” said Fefka, who lives in the east Jerusalem quarter of Issawiya.
“The violence has to stop, but everything is only done for the settlers here,” she added angrily.
“Jerusalem is also ours,” she insisted, denouncing Israeli settlers who have moved into the east of the city since it was seized in the 1967 war.
According to the United Nations, east Jerusalem has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel since then.
Hiba, 26, and Soujoud, 21, have been visiting the Al-Aqsa compound since Friday, the day the troubles erupted, triggered by the threat of evicting Palestinian families from their east Jerusalem homes to allow settlers to move in.
“Morning and evening, we stayed at Al-Aqsa,” said Soujoud, a secretarial student. “We don’t want any problems (with the police), but the mosque is ours and we have to defend it,” she added.
On the site, which overlooks the sprawling Old City below, children were entertained by a clown, while adults brandished Hamas flags and rolled out banners praising the Islamist movement.
“Jerusalem is a red line,” read one of the banners.
On Al-Wad Street which crosses the Old City, some passers-by were wearing shirts decorated with Palestinian flags, others had painted them on the cheeks.
Many were wearing the black-and-white chequered keffiyah scarf which has become a symbol of the Palestinian cause.
“We feel very sad for the Eid today, because of the situation and the violence,” said Hiba.
“We can’t be happy when we see what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere.”


Watchdog slams Iran’s treatment of Kurdish journalists

Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
Updated 13 May 2021

Watchdog slams Iran’s treatment of Kurdish journalists

Security forces have detained at least eight Kurdish-Iranian journalists since mid-2020, including at least three who remain in detention. (Reuters via WANA/File Photo)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists: Tehran should ‘release all jailed journalists immediately’
  • Minority activists and journalists in Iran regularly face arbitrary detention and torture 

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has spoken out against Iran’s use of “vague, trumped-up” charges to crack down on Kurdish journalists, and urged authorities to release three who remain in detention.

Since May 2020, Tehran’s security forces have arrested dozens of activists and students in a crackdown on perceived pro-Kurdish movements in the country, according to reports cited by the CPJ.

They have arrested at least eight Kurdish journalists, three of whom remain behind bars.

“Iranian authorities’ targeting of Kurdish journalists adds a dimension of ethnic discrimination to the country’s already dire campaign to imprison members of the press,” said the CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa researcher Justin Shilad. 

“Authorities should drop all vague, trumped-up charges filed against Iranian-Kurdish journalists, and release all jailed journalists immediately,” he added.

On condition of anonymity, a lawyer representing several detained journalists told the CPJ that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are “very sensitive about Kurdish journalists and the topics they write about, especially if they write about the unity of Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds, and other regional issues of Kurds.”

Iran’s ethnically diverse population — including Kurds, Arabs, Azerbaijanis and other minorities — has long been a source of insecurity for the regime, which at various times in its history has been confronted with secessionist movements.

For this reason, the lawyer explained, Tehran is “sensitive every time Kurdish journalists travel to Kurdish areas of Iraq such as Erbil. They closely monitor all movements across the border and any journalists’ assembly.”

Jafar Osafi, who is one of three journalists who remain in detention after the 2020 crackdown, ran a religious commentary and discussion channel on Telegram called “QandA with Sunnis.” He was arrested in his own home in June 2020, and has since been moved to Urmia prison, where the CPJ said he remains.

The committee said: “Iranian authorities must stop imprisoning and harassing Kurdish and other minority journalists, and should allow all members of the press to cover the news freely.”

According to Amnesty International, Iran’s ethnic minorities face “entrenched discrimination, curtailing their access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office.

“Members of minorities who spoke out against violations or demanded a degree of regional self-government were subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment. The authorities criminalized peaceful advocacy of separatism or federalism and accused minority rights activists of threatening Iran’s territorial integrity.”


Egypt delegation in Tel Aviv for cease-fire talks

Egypt delegation in Tel Aviv for cease-fire talks
Updated 13 May 2021

Egypt delegation in Tel Aviv for cease-fire talks

Egypt delegation in Tel Aviv for cease-fire talks
  • An Egyptian delegation is negotiating a cease-fire with Israeli and Hamas officials
  • Egypt has played a mediating role in the past between the sides

CAIRO: An Egyptian delegation is in Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli officials as part of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in the escalating conflict with Gaza, Egyptian intelligence officials said Thursday.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief the media. The same delegation met with Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip first, they said, and crossed into Israel by land. Egypt has played a mediating role in the past between the sides.
Late Wednesday, Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shukry, condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian territory in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi. He said it was important for both sides to avoid escalation and resorting to military means, according to a readout of the call.


Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles
Updated 13 May 2021

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

DUBAI: Individuals and vehicles will no longer be subject to curfews starting on Saturday, after Oman’s COVID-19 Supreme Committee issued on Thursday a list of changes in restrictions.

The Committee also issued a ban on hosting any commercial activities inside stores between 8pm and 4am daily limiting the service to delivery. Groceries and supermarkets are exempt.

Moreover, the Supreme Committee maintained that within the hours of operation, stores, outlets, malls, restaurants and cafes will be permitted to accommodate up to 50 percent only.

The Committee also re-activated its decision to have only half of public sector employees reporting to work meanwhile the remaining will work remotely.