Jordan’s king publicly hosts Israeli official for 1st time in 4 years

Jordan’s king publicly hosts Israeli official for 1st time in 4 years
Jordan's King Abdullah II (C), accompanied by Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (R), meets with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz (L) in the capital Amman on January 5, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 January 2022

Jordan’s king publicly hosts Israeli official for 1st time in 4 years

Jordan’s king publicly hosts Israeli official for 1st time in 4 years
  • The meeting is part of revamped ties between Israel and Jordan
  • Israel and Jordan made peace in 1994 and maintain close security ties

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah has publicly hosted a senior Israeli official for the first time in more than four years.

Pictures released by the official Jordanian news agency Petra showed the monarch, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, and the director of his office Jafar Hassan, with Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The meeting took place less than 24 hours after Israel defused a tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories leading to the end of a 141-day hunger strike by Hisham Abu Hawash who was protesting his administrative detention by the Israelis.

Petra said that during talks, the king reiterated the need to maintain calm in the Palestinian territories, and to take the necessary measures toward achieving a just and comprehensive peace, based on the two-state solution.

Tagreed Odeh, a Jordanian analyst focused on the Palestinian issue, told Arab News that the visit would help “improve diplomatic relations” with Israel after years of Amman being sidelined during the administrations of former US President Donald Trump and ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The key for Jordan, Odeh said, was to find a way to “bring back all parties to the negotiating table for a peace based on the two-state solution which is what the king has repeatedly called for.”

Gantz pointed out the importance of relations with Jordan. “I thank His Majesty for keeping the stability in the region and the improvement of the relations between Israel and Jordan since the new government was formed in Israel,” he said.

Hazem Kawasmi, a Jerusalem-based Palestinian civil society activist, told Arab News: “The people of Gaza under siege are not going to accept any more ceasefires without the lifting of the siege.

“Palestinians in the West Bank are suffering from the increasing settler attacks, and everyone can see that there is no political horizon left for the two-state solution.”

Ofer Zalzberg, director of the Middle East program at the Herbert C. Kelman Institute, told Arab News: “(Gantz) is trying to frame himself through international engagement with Washington, Amman, and Ramallah as a new Yitzhak Rabin (former Israeli PM) — a war hero who ensures Israeli interests are served through foreign policy successes.”

On the policy issue, he said the meeting was “part of elevating a stabilization policy in the face of a weakened Palestinian Authority.”


Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
Updated 13 sec ago

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
  • Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings

BEIRUT: Newly elected reformist MPs in Lebanon are planning strategies following election breakthroughs that grant them significant sway in the parliamentary balance of power.

Thirteen reformist MPs in Lebanon who entered the legislative race on the values of the 2019 anti-establishment uprising, as well as 21 independent MPs, have entered the newly elected Lebanese Parliament.

Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings.

Figures show that elected MPs may be positioned within 13 blocs divided into two opposite larger camps, forming the 128-MP Parliament.

The sovereign MPs can be classified based on their previous positions. A total of 68 MPs are opposed to Hezbollah. They include members from the Lebanese Forces Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Islamic Group and the Lebanese Phalanges Party, as well as independents and reformists.

Meanwhile, the pro-Hezbollah camp includes the party itself, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Marada Movement, the Tashnaq Party and Al-Ahbash, for a total of about 60 MPs.

There is much speculation about how the new independent MPs will deal with upcoming events, and how they will position themselves on the parliamentary map.

A political observer told Arab News: “We will see the true colors of every MP when topics related to core issues are discussed.”

The observer added: “Will these MPs change their stance regarding Hezbollah’s illegal weapons, although some have avoided addressing this sensitive issue in the past? Will these MPs be able to form a unified bloc that can influence decisions within Parliament, or will they remain independent, each working alone?”

Suleiman Franjieh, head of the Marada Movement and a candidate for the Presidency, appealed to reformist MPs, saying: “Do not place strict conditions on yourselves so that you do not become isolated, because theory is one thing, and practice is another.”

Fouad Siniora, former Lebanon PM, who backed a list in Beirut and whose candidates all failed to reach parliament, said: “Sovereign MPs must develop a correct vision for the future on how to confront Hezbollah’s domination and control in order to restore the Lebanese state.”

He added: “In 2008, the sovereign forces had won 72 seats in parliament, but Hezbollah at that time refused to form a majority government.”

Siniora warned against backing down as the March 14 forces did in 2009, which cost them their power.

A video shared on social media shocked voters in Tripoli and around the country. The elected MP Firas Salloum, who was on the Real Change list with the Islamic Group, was filmed celebrating his victory by dancing to a song supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The video prompted the Islamic Group to issue a statement renouncing Salloum. It said: “He does not represent us as he seemed proud of his affiliation to the criminal tyrant, who blew up the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam Mosques in Tripoli, and killed our people in Syria.”

The statement demanded that Salloum resign “because he does not represent the city and does not resemble its people.”

Reformist MP Elias Jarada said: “Taking the revolution from the street to the Parliament necessitates adopting a policy of reaching out to all for dialogue so that the 17 October revolution becomes a model for dynamic political action. It is important to be realistic because parliament includes groups that represent other categories of the Lebanese people.”

Several reformist MPs rushed to convene with their groups to determine their next steps in Parliament.

Elected reformist MP Ibrahim Mneimneh, whose list won three parliamentary seats in Beirut’s second constituency, said: “The reformist MPs will be the revolutionary voice in parliament. We will not compromise with the criminal regime that destroyed our lives, and we will not compromise in the face of intimidation with weapons, nor over the sale of state assets, the money of depositors, or the path of justice with the Beirut port blast and the explosion in Akkar.”

Leaked news suggested that reformist MP Melhem Khalaf, former head of the Beirut Bar Association who took part in protests against state corruption and helped release detained protesters, could possibly be elected deputy parliament speaker, succeeding Elie Ferzli, who has held the position since 2000, but failed to reach Parliament in the recent elections.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is seeking a new term, is reportedly making efforts to win over civil society, and supports having Khalaf as his deputy.

Major challenges await the newly elected house, the first of which is electing a speaker and a deputy speaker, followed by parliamentary consultations to assign someone to form a new government, then electing a new president in September or October after Michel Aoun’s term ends.

There are also significant legislative obligations, within the framework of reforms required by the international community to extricate Lebanon from its worsening economic crisis.


Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2022

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
  • Pontiff joins the people of the Emirates in ‘mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership’
  • Head of the Catholic church praises the late leader for promoting religious understanding as contained in the historic Abu Dhabi Document and Zayed Award for Human Fraternity

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has said that he is “saddened” by the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, former president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

In a message, the leader of the Catholic church sent his condolences to newly appointed UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and to the country’s people, invoking “an abundance of divine blessings.”

The Pope expressed his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest.”

“I likewise join the people of the Emirates in mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership in the service of the nation.”

The Catholic leader said he was “particularly grateful for the solicitude shown by His Highness to the Holy See and to the Catholic communities of the Emirates, and for his commitment to the values of dialogue, understanding and solidarity between peoples and religious traditions solemnly proclaimed by the historic Abu Dhabi Document and embodied in the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.”

“May his legacy continue to inspire the efforts of men and women of good will everywhere to persevere in weaving bonds of unity and peace between the members of our one human family,” he added.

Francis also offered prayers for Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed as he takes up the responsibilities of the UAE presidency.

“Upon you, the members of your family, and upon all the beloved people of the United Arab Emirates, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”

Friar Giuseppe Ciutti, an Italian priest who spent time in Iraq, told Arab News that this message from the Pope was “a clear sign of the personal (and) great respect he felt for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.”

“Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi in 2019; that was the first visit of a Roman Catholic Church (leader) to the Arab Peninsula. During that trip the Pope … promoted values of fraternity, peace, and peaceful coexistence.”

On that visit, Francis paid tribute to the UAE as “a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilizations and cultures.”

“Pope Francis always refers to that trip every time he talks about the progress in interreligious dialogue. His message can be read as a new sign of friendship by the Catholic (church) towards the Arab world,” he said.

The UAE is home to nearly a million Roman Catholics, most of them from the Philippines and India.


Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
Updated 18 May 2022

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
  • The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate
  • Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Wednesday said they have given the go-ahead for flag-waving Jewish nationalists to march through the heart of the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City later this month.
The decision threatens to re-ignite violence in the holy city.
The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate.
Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans, as they pass by Palestinian onlookers and businesses.
Barlev’s office said the decision was made after consultations with police.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Last year’s Gaza war erupted as the march was just getting underway, even after authorities changed the route at the last moment to avoid Damascus Gate.
The Old City, located in east Jerusalem, has experienced weeks of violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, and the march threatens triggering new unrest.
Tensions also have been heightened by an Israeli police crackdown during the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last Friday. As the funeral procession got underway, police pushed and beat mourners, causing the pallbearers to lose control of the coffin and nearly drop it.
Abu Akleh, a well-known journalist, was fatally shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank last week. The Palestinians, including witnesses who were with her, say she was shot by Israeli troops. Israel says that Palestinian gunmen were active in the area, and it is not clear who fired the deadly bullet.


Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  
Updated 18 May 2022

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  

Egypt calls for calm after violence rocks Libyan capital  
  • Rival armed factions clash as PM Fathi Bashagha arrives in Tripoli to take over government
  • Clashes come after Government of National Unity headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba refuses to hand over power

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it is following events in Tripoli with “concern” after violent clashes erupted overnight in the Libyan capital.

Rival armed factions clashed after the parliament-appointed prime minister Fathi Bashagha tried to take over government but was forced to withdraw by the Government of National Unity headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba and in the face of opposition from Libya’s military.

Egypt has called for calm after the clashes, which come after weeks of dispute over Libya’s premiership.

“We stress once again the need to maintain calm in Libya, and to preserve the lives, property and capabilities of the Libyan people,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

Egypt urged all Libyan parties to exercise restraint and refrain from taking any steps that would fuel violence.

The Foreign Ministry stressed “the inevitability of dialogue in order to reach the holding of presidential and legislative elections in Libya simultaneously and without delay.”

It warned of the “importance of the constitutional track dialogue currently taking place in Cairo, in a way that achieves the aspirations and hopes of the brotherly Libyan people in moving toward the future at a steady pace.”

According to Libyan reports, the clashes erupted in the Mansoura and Souk Al-Thalath areas, in the center of Tripoli, hours after Bashagha arrived in the city to begin the work of his government mandated by the Libyan House of Representatives stationed in the east of the country.


Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians
Updated 18 May 2022

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians

Pentagon finds no wrongdoing in 2019 Syria strike that killed civilians
  • The Times report said that 70 people, many of them women and children, had been killed in the strike
  • The US ground force commander for the anti-Daesh coalition received a request for air strike support from Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the extremists

WASHINGTON: An investigation into a 2019 strike by US forces in Syria that killed numerous civilians found no violations of policy or wanton negligence, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The internal US Army investigation focused on an operation by a special US force operating in Syria which launched an airstrike on a Daesh bastion in Baghouz on March 18, 2019.
The investigation was sparked last year after the New York Times reported that in the original strike the US military had covered up dozens of non-combatant deaths.
The Times report said that 70 people, many of them women and children, had been killed in the strike.
The Times report said a US legal officer “flagged the strike as a possible war crime” and that “at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike.”
But the final report of the investigation rejected that conclusion Tuesday.
It said that the US ground force commander for the anti-Daesh coalition received a request for air strike support from Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the extremists.
The commander “received confirmation that no civilians were in the strike area” and authorized the strike.
However, they later found out there were civilians at the location.
“No Rules of Engagement or Law of War violations occurred,” the investigation said.
In addition, the commander “did not deliberately or with wanton disregard cause civilian casualties,” it said.
The report said that “administrative deficiencies” delayed US military reporting on the strike, giving the impression that it was being covered up.
The Times cited an initial assessment of the incident saying that about 70 civilians could have been killed.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said that 52 combatants were killed, 51 of them adult males and one child, while four civilians died, one woman and three children.
Another 15 civilians, 11 women and four children, were wounded, he said.
Asked if anyone was being punished for the civilian deaths, Kirby said the investigation did not find the need to hold any individuals accountable.
The probe “did not find that anybody acted outside the law of war, that there was no malicious intent,” Kirby said.
“While we don’t always get everything right, we do try to improve. We do try to be as transparent as we can about what we learn,” he said.