‘Last attempt’ to form govt in Lebanon as World Bank savages authorities

‘Last attempt’ to form govt in Lebanon as World Bank savages  authorities
In this April 28, 2020, photo, Lebanese soldiers in the northern city of Tripoli stand guard in front of a bank that was set on fire by anti-government protesters. (AP)
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Updated 02 June 2021

‘Last attempt’ to form govt in Lebanon as World Bank savages authorities

‘Last attempt’ to form govt in Lebanon as World Bank savages  authorities
  • Ex-MP says Hariri resignation as PM-designate not unlikely

BEIRUT: Political calls and meetings intensified in Lebanon during the past 48 hours in what was described as possibly “the last attempt” to salvage the process of forming a new government, as the World Bank said authorities’ policy response to challenges was “highly inadequate.”

The efforts to assemble a Cabinet came ahead of the Thursday arrival of a World Bank delegation to meet officials.
“The economic and financial crisis is likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top three, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-19th century,” the bank warned. It said that, since late 2019, Lebanon had been facing compounded challenges, including its largest peace time economic and financial crisis, the spread of coronavirus and the massive blast at Beirut’s port last year.
“The Lebanese authorities’ response to the challenges in terms of public policies was highly inadequate,” the World Bank noted.
There was some optimism on Tuesday, when meetings were held with the mediation of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that resulted in the approval of a 24-minister government instead of an 18-minister one.
But the remaining stumbling block is related to President Michel Aoun and his political party’s insistence on naming the two Christians to be the interior and justice ministers.
This position was described by the team of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri as “an attempt to secure the blocking third by naming eight ministers and two additional ones.”
A meeting was held on Monday night between the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Gebran Bassil, who is Aoun’s son-in-law, and representatives from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. The meeting, according to leaked information, did not make any headway.
Sources noted that Bassil was insisting on naming the two ministers, particularly the minister of interior, refusing to let Hariri name any of the two Christian ministers.

FASTFACT

Lebanon’s GDP plummeted from close to $55 billion in 2018 to an estimated $33 billion in 2020, while GDP per capita fell by around 40 percent in dollar terms.

According to Hariri’s media office, the prime minister-designate briefed his parliamentary bloc on Tuesday about what he had offered in terms of forming a rescue government within the framework of the constitution.
Vice president of the Future Movement, Dr. Mustafa Alloush, said that Hariri stepping down as prime minister-designate was one of the options and was not unlikely. “What can Hariri tell the people who have been waiting for a new rescue government, while he was not able to form it due to the other side’s intransigence? Does he tell them that we have reached the point of collapse?” he told Arab News. “Aoun’s political party is counting on the country reaching a presidential vacuum without a government, which would allow him to maintain his position.
“If a government is formed without anyone securing the blocking third in it, Aoun, by the end of his mandate next year, would have to leave the palace and go home. However, in light of a caretaker government and a parliament that becomes illegitimate once Aoun’s mandate ends next May without the holding of parliamentary elections, Aoun and his party will stay in the presidential palace, bringing back the history of disruption the country witnessed in the 1980s.”
Hariri’s media adviser, Hussein Al-Wajh, said the FPM was “threatening” a collective resignation from parliament.
“If the FPM MPs resign, the Lebanese Forces MPs will follow suit as they are among the people calling for early parliamentary elections,” he told Arab News. “We do not have any problem with holding early parliamentary elections. However, is the other side ready for this scenario?”
A member of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc, MP Bilal Abdullah, said all the indicators showed that the efforts exerted by Berri and the head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt resulted in “some flexibility” in Hariri’s position. However, the meeting that was held between Bassil and the representatives of Hezbollah and Amal Movement had negative outcomes, he added.
“What is happening reflects a lack of awareness of the seriousness of Lebanon’s situation and the dire economic and social situation the citizens are enduring,” said Abdullah.
The World Bank report, according to the Associated Press, said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.
Lebanon’s GDP plummeted from close to $55 billion in 2018 to an estimated $33 billion in 2020, while GDP per capita fell by around 40 percent in dollar terms.
Information International, which is a private institution for studies and statistics in Lebanon, said in a report on Tuesday that poverty had affected around 2.365 million Lebanese residents.
“Around 45 percent of the Lebanese do not have healthcare coverage. Most regions suffer from electricity shortages for more than 10 hours every day.”
The report also revealed that 95 percent of workers received their salaries in the Lebanese pound, which has lost 76 percent of its value. Inflation reached 85 percent in 2020 and had further reached 26 percent in the first four months of 2021, bringing the total to 111 percent.
On Oct. 22 last year, Hariri was instructed to form a new government following the resignation of then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab in the aftermath of the Aug. 4 port explosion.


Bahrain’s crown prince congratulates new Israeli PM Bennett — BNA

Bahrain’s crown prince congratulates new Israeli PM Bennett — BNA
Updated 5 sec ago

Bahrain’s crown prince congratulates new Israeli PM Bennett — BNA

Bahrain’s crown prince congratulates new Israeli PM Bennett — BNA
CAIRO: Bahrain’s crown prince sent a congratulatory telegraph to new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The crown prince expressed his sincere wishes to the formed government for success in its tasks “in a way that strengthen the pillars of development, stability, and peace in the region and the world,” Bahrain state news agency (BNA) said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed discussed in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart “the bilateral cooperation between the two countries in addition to the Abraham Accords,” the minister’s office tweeted on Monday.
Bin Zayed congratulated the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, on his new position and wished him success, the tweet said.

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel
Updated 10 min 12 sec ago

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Gaza children fly kites with portraits of kids killed in last conflict with Israel

Palestinian children fly kites on a beach of Gaza City carrying the portraits of the 66 children killed in the Palestinian enclave by Israeli airstrikes during the last conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas.


Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
Updated 14 June 2021

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
  • Video showing brawl between Bassil’s entourage & young woman goes viral on social media, triggers waves of criticism
  • Bassil’s media office denied beating incident and said ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’

BEIRUT: A video of a brawl between a Lebanese woman and Head of Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil’s bodyguards after she publicly told him ‘shame on you’ went viral on Sunday.

The woman was having lunch with friends in a newly-opened restaurant at Al Batroun, the birthplace of Bassil, Lebanese President’s son-in-law and a strong political ally of Iran-backed party Hezbollah, when the altercation happened.

Once the woman, identified by media as Yasmine Al-Masri, saw Bassil at the restaurant she yelled at him saying the Arabic for “shame on you.”

She is believed to have been provoked by his audacity showing up in public as if he is not one of the major instigators and those responsible for the country’s political deadlock, economic collapse and corruption.

It was reported in different media outlets that Bassil’s entourage instantly rushed toward Al-Masri, whacked her brutally and pinned her down to the floor. Meanwhile as the bodyguards were violently silencing and preventing her from shouting, Bassil made his way hurriedly to his car.

Arab News contacted the restaurant where the incident happened.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

“The incident happened around lunchtime. She yelled at lawmaker Bassil and told him what means ‘shame on you’ for what you’ve been doing to the people… she reacted like any other independent citizen would do as to how dare he provocatively show his face in public,” a waiter told Arab News. He declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue and fear of losing his job.

In the video that Al-Masri recorded using her mobile phone, the footage showed the entourage escorting Bassil to his waiting car while her voice could be heard heatedly arguing with one of the bodyguards who walked toward her and battered her hand. The video footage was clearly flipped upside down after Al-Masri was attacked by the bodyguard and her phone got broken.

Revealing what happened, Al-Masri told MTV channel she yelled at Bassil once he entered the restaurant by telling him ‘tfeh 3lek’ [shame on you] maintaining that it is not a curse. “That is the least I could tell him. His bodyguard told me to keep my mouth shut and assaulted me. I stood up after I fell down due to the assault, grabbed my phone and followed the entourage wanting to film what they did,” she told the MTV stressing that her friend called others for help because she was brutally attacked.

Towards Sunday afternoon the video showing the incident snowballed on social media especially Twitter and Instagram.

Bassil’s media office claimed that he and his family were about to ride their car when a woman used foul language against him.

His entourage responded ‘naturally, peacefully and modernly’ to stop her from cursing, according to the media statement that confirmed the woman wasn’t beaten.

Bassil told Free Patriotic Movement supporters and members that ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’ and to respond accordingly.

In response to that, popular TV host Ghada Eid tweeted saying ‘the era of leaving corruption unfought is over’.

Following the incident, a hashtag with Al-Masri’s phrase [tfeh 3lek] became trending in Lebanon.

A twitter user called Hassan said ‘This is the best trending topic in Lebanon this year so far’

Mariana tweeted ‘By showing violent behavior, bullies try to hide their own weakness.’

Another used tweeted about Bassil saying ‘Small Man with a Giant Ego’.

Samer Al Khoury tweeted ‘so lovely how you [Bassil] always trend when it’s an insult or corruption what a disgrace you are’.

International Lebanese artist Elissa said on twitter ‘every hand that beats a woman should be broken’.


UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
Updated 14 June 2021

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
  • Labour’s Katherine McKinnell: Palestinians’ ‘aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support’
  • MENA minister: ‘We’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel’

LONDON: British MPs on Monday debated implementing two petitions that call for economic sanctions against Israel and for the UK government to recognize the state of Palestine.

The petitions garnered over 100,000 signatures each, which according to British law means they must be considered for debate in Parliament.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle urged the government to push forward the two-state solution by recognizing the state of Palestine, but the majority of MPs that took part in the debate rejected the idea of sanctions against Israel.

Chairing the debate, Labour’s Katherine McKinnell said: “I share the deeply held concerns for the plight of the Palestinian people. Colleagues who have visited the region will know that the desire of the Palestinians to live in dignity and in peace in a state of their own is unmistakable. 

“Their aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support. It’s right for the Palestinian people, and it’s right for the Israeli people.”

She added: “However, I don’t believe that sweeping sanctions of the kind proposed by the second petition would bring the prospect of a two-state solution any closer.”

That petition, which currently has over 386,000 signatures, said: “The government should introduce sanctions against Israel, including blocking all trade, and in particular arms.”

It added that Israel’s “disproportionate treatment of Palestinians and settlements that are regarded by the international community as illegal are an affront to civilised society.”

James Cleverly, the UK’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, reiterated the government’s position on economic sanctions against Israel, saying: “While we don’t hesitate to express disagreement with Israel whenever we feel it necessary, we’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel.”

Cleverly also rejected the second petition’s demand — that Britain immediately recognize a sovereign Palestinian state.

“There have, of course, been many calls over the years for recognition of Palestinian statehood,” he said.

“The UK government position is clear: The UK will recognize a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the object of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot and will not end the occupation,” he added.

“The UK government continues to believe that without a negotiated peace agreement, the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue.”

Cleverly did, however, criticize Israel’s continued assaults on Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

“The UK position on evictions, demolitions and settlements is longstanding, is public, and has been communicated directly to the government of Israel. That is: We oppose these actions,” he said.

Steve Baker, a Conservative MP, said he had made a “mistake” by deprioritizing the Israeli-Palestinian issue during a period of relative calm.

“The problem, of course, is that the conflict hadn’t gone away and has since returned with a ferocity,” he added.

Baker urged the government to actively pursue a two-state solution, a policy that he and other MPs pointed out has been endorsed by the government without ever being actively pursued. 

“I voted to recognize the state of Palestine,” he said. “I think if we’re serious about a two-state solution, it’s important that this Parliament and parliaments elsewhere, governments elsewhere, recognize the state of Palestine.”

Labour’s Naz Shah said she had a message for Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: “Those who support you in the Knesset (Parliament), the mood music is changing, the world is waking up to Israel’s actions, and all those who want to see lasting peace in the region know that to achieve such peace we must end the occupation, injustice and oppression. This starts with recognizing a viable Palestinian state.”

She warned Bennett: “We won’t be silent in pushing for Israel to be tried in the International Criminal Court for war crimes if any more Palestinian blood is unjustly spilled under a perverted interpretation of a right to self-defense.”


Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted
Updated 14 June 2021

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israel's military said on Monday it had stopped an attempt to smuggle weapons along the Jordanian border.

"IDF troops and the Israeli Police just thwarted a weapon smuggling attempt along the Jordanian border in the Arava area," the Israeli Defense Forces said. "Our troops confiscated weapons and apprehended a number of suspects."

An IDF reservist and a suspect were "moderately injured" and taken to hospital.