Israel PM ‘driving a wedge between Arab Israelis’

Israel PM ‘driving a wedge between Arab Israelis’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a coronavirus vaccination facility in the northern Arab city of Nazareth, Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 13 January 2021

Israel PM ‘driving a wedge between Arab Israelis’

Israel PM ‘driving a wedge between Arab Israelis’
  • Police arrested 10 people after Netanyahu’s visit sparked protests in the town

AMMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of cynically courting the Arab vote to ensure his own political survival.

Claims that the Israeli leader was exploiting the “good nature” of Arabs were made after he made a surprise visit to Nazareth, the largest Arab town in Israel, on Wednesday.

During the visit Netanyahu greeted Nazareth’s mayor, Ali Salam, promising him a safe spot in the Likud’s list for the Knesset elections due in late March.

The Israeli leader also promised to increase budget spending and strengthen laws to stem criminal violence causing growing concern among Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Police arrested 10 people after Netanyahu’s visit sparked protests in the town.

Wadie Abu Nassar, director of the Haifa-based International Center for Consultations, told Arab News that the Israel leader is a “magician and his latest prize is the Arab community.”

He added: “This is the first time in years that Netanyahu needs every vote, including Arabs, because of the challenges he is facing from his opponents. But he is a magician in politics and can never be counted out of any race.”

Head of the Joint List Arab alliance, Ayman Odeh, said that the Israeli prime minister imagines that the Arab community has a “short memory.”

“The only way to ensure the interests of the Arab community are met is through the unified voice of Arab citizens and their Jewish partners who are fighting with honor and dignity for peace, equality, democracy and social justice.”

In a tweet, Odeh also accusing Netanyahu of attempting to drive a wedge between Arab Israelis.

Referring to clashes between police and protesters, he said: “If this is what your reconciliation attempts look like, better to stay home.”

During the visit Netanyahu referred to his 2015 quote when he allegedly opposed Arabs voting in Israel with the comment that they are “coming in droves to vote.”

“People misunderstood what I meant,” he said. “I didn’t oppose the Arab vote, I only said that they are voting in droves for the Joint List.”

Netanyahu also said that Jews and Arabs are “dancing in the streets of Dubai, so why shouldn’t they be working together in Israel?”

The Israeli prime minister slammed the Joint List for opposing normalization treaties between Israel and four Arab countries.

Botrus Mansour, a Nazareth-based lawyer, told Arab News that the Israeli prime minister is exploiting the good nature of Arabs.

“He is using the agreements he made with Arab countries, and trying to use the fact that Arabs were disappointed with Benny Gantz and the Zionist left, to offer himself as an effective alternative. The Joint List has been splintered and Netanyahu is using that to make inroads.”

In the last elections, the Joint List gained 15 seats, but is expected to gain 10 more seats in the coming poll.

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 32 min 16 sec ago

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
  • Veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis will be secretary-general Antonio Guterres’s representative to the country
  • Glimmers of hope for Libyans as progress reported at first meeting of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s advisory committee

NEW YORK: Security Council members on Friday approved the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN’s special envoy to Libya.

It came as UN officials said significant progress has been made in Geneva this week during the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Kubis to be his envoy, a position that has been vacant since early March last year, when Ghassan Salameh resigned due to stress after less than three years in the job.

A number of replacements were suggested but members of the Security Council failed to agree on one. In December they overcame their differences and approved the choice of Bulgarian diplomat Nikolai Mladenov — only for him to surprise everyone by turning down the offer for “personal and family reasons.”

Kubis is currently the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon. He previously held similar positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described as significant progress during the first meeting of the LPDF’s advisory committee, which began in Geneva on Jan. 13 and concludes on Jan. 16.

“The mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection-mechanism proposals,” Dujarric said.

The formation of the advisory committee was announced on Jan. 3. Its 18 members, including women, young people and cultural figures, were chosen to reflect the country’s wide geographical and political diversity.

The secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, had indicated that the main task for the committee would be to deliberate on the contentious issues that have plagued the selection of a unified executive authority. The aim is to develop solid recommendations the LPDF can consider in line with the political roadmap agreed by its 75 members during their first round of talks in Tunis last year.

This roadmap represents a rights-based process designed to culminate in democratic and inclusive national elections Dec. 24 this year. The date is also that of Libya’s 70th Independence Day. The elections will mark the end of the transitional phase for the country and chart a new way forward.

“This unwavering achievement, this date to return the sovereign decision to its rightful owners, is our top priority,” said Williams in her opening remarks at the advisory committee meeting in Geneva this week.

She also rejected claims that UNSMIL will have any say in the selection of the new executive authority. “This is a Libyan-Libyan decision,” Williams said, adding that the interim authority is intended to “shoulder the responsibility in a participatory manner and not on the basis of power-sharing, as some believed.”

She added: “We want a participatory formula where there is no victor, no vanquished; a formula for coexistence for Libyans of various origins for a specific period of time until we pass on the torch.

UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said the Geneva talks have already overcome some major hurdles. This builds on the political accomplishments since the Tunis meeting at which a consensus was reached on the political roadmap, the eligibility criteria for positions in the unified executive authority, and the authority’s most important prerogative: setting a date for the elections.

He also reported “very encouraging progress” in military matters since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in October by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the members of which include five senior officers selected by the Government of National Accord and five selected by the Libyan National Army.

“This includes the recent exchanges of detainees conducted under the JMC’s supervision, as part of wider confidence-building measures; the resumption of flights to all parts of Libya; the full resumption of oil production and export; as well as the proposed unification and restructuring of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, in addition to the ongoing serious talks on the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, which we hope will take place very soon,” said Alam.

He also hailed “promising developments” relating to the economy, including the recent unification of the exchange rate by the Central Bank of Libya, a step that requires the formation of a new authority for it to be implemented.

“The recent meeting between the ministries of finance was an important effort to unify the budget and allocate sufficient funding to improve services and rebuild Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure, particularly the electrical grid,” Alam said.

“All of these reforms are steps that will bring national institutions together to work in establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement.”

Williams added that without a unified executive authority, it would difficult to implement these steps.