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Abbas to Muslim summit: US Jerusalem decision ‘greatest crime’

ISTANBUL – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was the “greatest crime” and a flagrant violation of international law.

“Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine,” he told an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Turkey. He said the United States was giving away Jerusalem as if it were an American city.

“It crosses all the red lines,” he said.

Abbas said it was unacceptable for the United States to have a role in the Middle East peace process because it was biased in favor of Israel.

Muslim nations must press the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, Turkey said on Wednesday as it opened the emergency summit.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on world powers to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine on Wednesday and said the United States should reverse a decision recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

Addressing a summit of Muslim leaders in Istanbul, Erdogan described Washington’s decision last week as a reward for Israeli “terror acts” and said the city was a red line for Muslims.

The meeting of leaders and ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries takes place a week after US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, which triggered widespread protests in the Middle East and Islamic world.

“Firstly the Palestinian state must be recognized by all other countries. We must all strive together for this,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

“We must encourage other countries to recognize the Palestinian state on the basis of its 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Jerusalem, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is home to Islam’s third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

Turkey has said Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would plunge the world “into a fire with no end,” and called an emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to urge Washington to change course.

Cavusoglu said this week Turkey would not call for sanctions in response to the US move, but would appeal for all countries that have not formally recognized Palestine as a state to do so, and to issue a strong rejection of the US decision.

He said the summit would declare East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and call for Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in a 1967 Middle East war. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in that war and later annexed it in an action not recognized internationally.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the summit, which will also be attended by leaders including Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir over his alleged role in war crimes including genocide in Sudan’s Darfur province, but Turkey is not a member of the court and not obliged to implement the warrants.

The Trump administration says it remains committed to reaching peace between Israel and the Palestinians and its decision does not affect Jerusalem’s future borders or status.

It says any credible future peace deal will place the Israeli capital in Jerusalem, and ditching old policies is needed to revive a peace process frozen since 2014.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Muslim-nations-summit-Turkey-urges-world-recognize-E-Jerusalem-as-Palestinian-capital-517892

Israeli Minister Katz: Saudi Arabia should take lead role in peace process

Saudi Arabia should offer the Palestinians its patronage in pushing forward the peace initiative that the US is currently working on, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview published on Wednesday in Elaph, a London-based Arabic news website owned by a Saudi businessman.

“The Americans are putting together an initiative, but are not telling us what it includes; they say they will present it as an option, but not impose it. I think it is an opportunity,” Katz said.

“I suggest that Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Arab world, take upon itself this initiative and go to the Palestinians and offer their patronage. They [the Palestinians] are too weak, they need someone to help them.”

“I call on [Saudi] King Salman to invite [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for a visit, and for the crown prince to come for a visit here in Israel,” Katz said. “He should come, give patronage to and lead the peace initiative with the Palestinians and the US.”

The diplomatic process needs a jolt of creative ideas, he said.

“It it is important that we not come with the same thoughts and ideas,” he said. “Both sides need to understand that they must come with a willingness to give concessions here and there, and to be receptive. In a situation where the Saudis take the lead, I would be willing to go to negotiations.”

Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said the Saudis were well poised to take a leadership role because of the positive changes the kingdom is currently undergoing. Secondly, he said, Israel and Saudi Arabia agree “on everything” regarding the Iranian issue.

Protests erupt after Trump announces Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017

He warned that Israel would send Lebanon “back to the stone age” if Iran builds a military industrial complex in the country able to manufacture precision rockets to be used against Israel, adding that Iran and Hezbollah were endangering Lebanon’s stability.

“This is a redline for us, whatever the price,” Katz said. “The more precise the Hezbollah missiles, the bigger the blow Lebanon will absorb.”

If there is another confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel will act not to return Hezbollah to the caves of south Lebanon, as one Saudi Arabian minister recently put it, but rather to the “stone age,” he said.

Regarding US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Katz said that Trump did no more than recognize reality, not change it.

He pointed out that the US president said that the borders of Jerusalem, as well as the status of the holy places, will be discussed in permanent-status negotiations.

Katz noted that even as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continuously ”bashes” Israel, “this does not prevent him from transferring through the Haifa Port 25% of his trade with Gulf countries.”

Every day dozens of trucks laden with goods from Turkey are unloaded at Haifa Port, and driven overland to the Allenby Bridge, and from there to the Gulf countries.

Likewise, he said, Turkish Airways is the busiest foreign carrier at Ben-Gurion Airport
Katz noted that Haifa Port also serves Jordan, and that 20% of the Hashemite Kingdom’s exports go through the port.

Jordan’s security and stability are important for Israel, but Jerusalem does not “like” King Abdullah’s verbal attacks on Israel, Katz said. Nevertheless, “we are aware of the difficulties that Jordan has to deal with,” and view “positively” the king’s efforts to deal with those challenges, he said.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Israeli-Minister-Katz-Saudi-Arabia-should-take-lead-role-in-peace-process-517924

Saudi Arabia to allow public movie theaters from early 2018

DUBAI – Saudi Arabia said on Monday that public cinemas would be allowed in the conservative kingdom for the first time in over 35 years, and that the first ones were likely to open next March.

Cinemas were banned in the early 1980s under pressure from Islamists as Saudi society turned towards a restrictive form of the religion that discouraged public entertainment and many forms of mixing between men and women.

Under reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the government is easing many of those restrictions, and also plans to lift a ban on women driving next year. It says the economy, hit hard by low oil prices, will benefit from the growth of an entertainment industry.

“Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification,” said Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad. “By developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”

By 2030, Saudi Arabia is expected to open over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens, a government statement said, predicting the cinema industry would contribute over 90 billion riyals ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs by 2030.

Regional cinema chain operators are already believed to be studying entry into Saudi Arabia, industry sources said.

A commission chaired by Alawwad will announce details of licensing and regulations over the next few weeks, the government said.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Saudi-Arabia-to-allow-public-movie-theaters-from-early-2018-517687

PA Prime Minister: We have not been fully empowered to operate in Gaza

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday said the PA had not been fully empowered to operate in the Gaza Strip, even though a deadline for Hamas to hand over responsibility for the territory to the PA passed on Sunday.

In mid-October, Fatah and Hamas signed a deal in Cairo to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza, but have since struggled to implement the agreement. Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.

“[Hamdallah] affirmed that the government did not assume all of its powers and responsibilities and that the process of empowering the government did not happen in accordance with the [mid-October] agreement,” the official PA news site Wafa reported, alluding to the PA prime minister’s comments at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

In contrast to Hamdallah’s remarks, Hamas on Saturday asserted in a statement that the PA had “assumed all of its responsibilities in Gaza.”

Last week, Hamdallah visited Gaza for the second time in the past two and a half years, where he met with senior Hamas and Fatah officials.

In his comments on Tuesday, Hamdallah said that obstacles to restoring the PA’s authority in Gaza include Hamas stopping the PA from collecting taxes.

“He said…stopping tax collection…will have negative implications for the financial process and the government fulfilling its financial obligations including to” Hamas-appointed employees, the Wafa report stated.

According to the mid-October agreement, the PA is supposed to pay the salaries of Hamas-appointed employees in the Strip for three months once it has been enabled to operate there.

After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, it appointed some 40,000 employees, who have since worked in government institutions and bodies. The PA has never officially recognized them as legitimate employees.

On Tuesday, a majority of the Hamas-appointed employees participated in a strike in protest of the PA not paying their salaries at the beginning of December, the Hamas-linked al-Rai reported.

Pictures posted on social media showed some government offices were closed.

Earlier this week, Yaqoub al-Ghandour, the head of the Hamas-appointed employees union, slammed the PA for not paying the Hamas-appointed employees’ salaries, saying that they “are a red line that cannot be bartered or negotiated.”

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/PA-Prime-Minister-We-have-not-been-fully-empowered-to-operate-in-Gaza-517844

Palestinians won’t benefit from multilateral peace process

Since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated a process to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the city, the Palestinians have made it clear that they will no longer work with an American-led peace process.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that the US is “no longer qualified to sponsor the peace process.”

The question now is what Abbas plans to do if he no longer will cooperate with American-led peace efforts?

While the PA president has still not clearly stated what the Palestinian strategy will be moving forward, a number of senior Palestinian officials have suggested that the Palestinians want to work with a multilateral peace process that incorporates many international players.

Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s international affairs adviser, said on Sunday that establishing a multilateral framework for the peace process would better reflect the world’s realities.

“After the USSR fell, the US was ruling the world on its own. But today the world has changed. Russia, China and many states in Europe have become very powerful,” he said in a phone interview. “We believe the peace process should reflect this reality.”

A few days earlier, speaking to journalists and diplomats, Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Shtayyeh expressed a similar sentiment.

“I hope that Europe can prepare the ground for an alternative political track,” he said. “I hope…that Europe, Russia [and] China…will really form a new track for reactivating peace in our region.”

However, while the Palestinians may push for a new multilateral track, it will unlikely become a viable alternative to American-led talks, as Israel will almost certainly refuse to work with it.

That is exactly what happened at the end of former US Barack Obama’s administration when France, in coordination with the Palestinians, tried to develop a multilateral track for the peace process.

On January 15, 2017, France hosted some 70 foreign ministers and leaders of international organizations at a conference in Paris to discuss efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict and ostensibly explore the possibility of establishing a multilateral approach to the peace process.

At the end of the conference, the participating parties issued a declaration in support of a negotiated two-state solution, UN Security Council resolutions and Palestinian institution building. However, the declaration made no mention of a new multilateral framework to resolve the conflict.

The main issue was that Israel, which dominates most of the West Bank and a majority of the crossings in and out of Gaza, refused to work with the French efforts. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the conference in France as “rigged.”

Without Israel’s support, there was no hope that the French efforts would lead to a Palestinian state or any other settlement.

Israel has long backed a US-led peace process because of its strategic relationship with Washington.

Consecutive American administrations have supported Israel and assured it that it would take its security, economic and other interests into account in its peace-making efforts.

Thus, for Israel, it was an obvious decision not to take a risk in working with a new group of mediators as a part of the French efforts, who may not be as concerned with its interests as the US. It should be no surprise if Israel holds the same position on a future effort to establish a multilateral framework for the peace process.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Palestinians-wont-benefit-from-multilateral-peace-process-517791

Putin, on surprise visit, orders Russian forces to start leaving Syria

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin flew into Syria and ordered “a significant part” of Moscow’s military contingent there to start withdrawing on Monday, declaring their work largely done.

Putin, who polls show will be re-elected comfortably in March, made the announcement during a surprise visit to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria – his first since Russia intervened in the conflict. He held talks with President Bashar Assad and addressed Russian forces.

The first leg in a three-country one-day whirlwind diplomatic visit which sees Putin also meeting his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts, Putin is keen to leverage the heightened Middle East influence that Syria has given him to cast himself as a leader who can do diplomacy as well as military force.

The Kremlin first launched air strikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor. Now that it regards that mission complete, Putin wants to help broker a peace deal.

“In just over two years, Russia’s armed forces and the Syrian army have defeated the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists,” Putin told Russian servicemen.

A “significant part” of the Russian force could now return home. “The conditions for a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations have been created,” said Putin. “The Motherland awaits you.”

Washington was skeptical about Putin’s statement.

“Russian comments about removal of their forces do not often correspond with actual troop reductions, and do not affect US priorities in Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.

Putin made clear in any case that Russia would retain enough firepower to destroy any possible Islamic State comeback.

Syrian state television quoted Assad as thanking Putin for Russia’s help, saying the blood of Moscow’s “martyrs” had been mixed with the blood of the Syrian army. It also showed the two men watching what it called a victory parade with Russian troops dressed in desert uniforms marching past.

Russia’s main contribution has been air strikes, and with Iran-backed Shi’ite militias doing much of the fighting on the ground, the partial Russian withdrawal may not make a huge difference when it comes to the military situation.

Russia’s campaign, which has been extensively covered on state TV at home, has not caught the imagination of most Russians. But nor has it stirred unease of the kind the Soviet Union faced with its calamitous 1980s Afghanistan intervention.

The use of private military contractors, something which has been documented by Reuters but denied by the defense ministry, has allowed Moscow to keep the public casualty toll fairly low.

Officially, less than 50 Russian service personnel have been killed in the campaign, but the real number, including private contractors, is estimated to be much higher.

ELECTORAL BOOST?

Russia’s “mission accomplished” moment in Syria may help Putin increase the turnout at the March presidential election by appealing to the patriotism of voters.

Though polls show he will easily win, they also show that some Russians are increasingly apathetic about politics, and Putin’s supporters are keen to get him re-elected on a big turnout, which in their eyes confers legitimacy.

Putin, who with the help of state TV has dominated Russia’s political landscape for the last 17 years, told Russian servicemen they would return home as victors.

Speaking in front of a row of servicemen holding Russian flags, Putin said his military had proved its might and that Moscow had succeeded in keeping Syria intact as a “sovereign independent state.”

“I congratulate you!” Putin told the servicemen.

Putin is keen to organize a special event in Russia – the Syrian Congress on National Dialogue – that Moscow hopes will bring together the Syrian government and opposition and try to hammer out a new constitution.

When asked about Putin’s announcement, Yahya Aridi, spokesman for the Syrian opposition in Geneva, said it welcomed any step that brought Syria closer to real peace.

Putin made clear however that while Russia might be drawing down much of its forces, its military presence in Syria was a permanent one and that it would retain enough firepower to destroy any Islamic State comeback.

Russia will keep its Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia Province and its naval facility in the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartous “on a permanent basis,” said Putin.

Both bases are protected by sophisticated air defense missile systems.

Putin was told by the military that it had begun withdrawing 25 aircraft, a detachment of Russian military police, a detachment of Russian special forces, a military field hospital and a de-mining center.

However, Russia has announced partial force draw-downs before only to later bring in different capabilities.

“We’ve seen such announcements before, which turn about to be less significant than they might have initially appeared,” said one European diplomat who declined to be named.

“The most significant contribution Russia can make to advancing peace in Syria is to pressure the Assad regime to engage seriously in Geneva (peace talks). Absent that, the suspicion will be that this announcement may have more to do with Russian politics than the Syrian situation.”

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Putin-on-surprise-visit-orders-Russian-forces-to-start-leaving-Syria-517692

Iran: Trump’s Jerusalem move will hasten Israel’s destruction

BEIRUT – Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will hasten the country’s destruction, Iran’s defense minister said on Monday, while a top Revolutionary Guards commander phoned two Palestinian armed groups and pledged support for them.

Leaders of Iran, where opposition to Israel and support for the Palestinian cause has been central to foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution, have denounced last week’s announcement by the US president, including a plan to move the US embassy to the city.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“(Trump’s) step will hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime and will double the unity of Muslims,” Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said on Monday, according to state media.

The army’s chief of staff, General Mohammad Baqeri, said Trump’s “foolish move” could be seen as the beginning of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

Iran has long supported a number of anti-Israeli militant groups, including the military wing of Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which the deputy commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said was “stronger than the Zionist regime.”

Similarly, Qassem Soleimani, the head of the branch of the Guards that oversees operations outside of Iran’s borders pledged the Islamic Republic’s “complete support for Palestinian Islamic resistance movements” after phone calls with commanders from Islamic Jihad and the Izz al-Deen Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, on Monday according to Sepah News, the news site of the Guards.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday stepped up efforts to rally Middle Eastern countries against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which EU foreign ministers meanwhile declined to support.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-Trumps-Jerusalem-move-will-hasten-Israels-destruction-517760

How much money is Qatar spending on a facelift for Gaza?


On December 11th Israel announced that it had discovered and destroyed a terror tunnel stretching from east of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip into Israel. Two kilometers west from the entrance to the tunnel, Palestinian families are enjoying their new apartments in a residential city built by Qatar. There are basketball courts and a small public park with water fountains. A mosque and administrative buildings are surrounded by 1,060 apartments. It could be a residential development in the Gulf populated by expats relaxing by the water. But it is in Gaza, thanks to a half billion dollar investment by Doha. An exclusive document obtained by The Jerusalem Post reveals the extent of Qatar’s reconstruction efforts.

In October 2014 in the aftermath of the Gaza war UNRWA estimated that more than 100,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fighting, affecting 600,000 people. $5.4 billion was pledged toward reconstruction efforts at an international conference in Egypt. Two years later only 51% of the pledged money had been disbursed. According to research by Brookings, Qatar was one of the biggest spenders investing in Gaza, with $216 million sent to the strip by December 2016, part of a budget of $1.4 billion it has pledged and spent in the last five years on Palestinians.

Qatar’s support for Gaza goes back more than a decade. It has hosted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal since 2012 and had a relationship with him since he first briefly moved there in 1999. In 2012 Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani visited the Strip, becoming the first Arab leader to got o Gaza since Hamas took power in 2007. He pledged $400 million at the time. Hamad abdicated in 2013 and his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani became emir. Tamim has advanced the reconstruction projects through the Gaza Reconstruction Committee (GRC), established in September 2012.

The Jerusalem Post obtained access to a February 2017 report from the GRC. According to the 56 page glossy booklet, Qatar has completed 94 projects in Gaza at the cost of $312 million and is continuing to build 12 more projects at a cost of $95 million. Its showcase project is the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Residential City next to Khan Yunis. Laid out like a massive construction project would be in Qatar it is modeled on the Gulf style of development. The first phase included 1,060 apartments and cost $54 million. Phase II added an additional 1,264 apartments.

Israel has long suspected that the cement imported to Gaza is diverted to be used by Hamas for the building of terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels. In a May 2016 speech then-Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said that for every 100 sacks of cement imported to the Gaza Strip “only five or six are transferred to civilians.” He said that of the 4 million tons of building materials transferred to the strip between October 2015 and May 2016, some of it had been “seized and used to build new attack tunnels.”

Qatar’s role in Gaza’s reconstruction puts it in a bind. Since June 2017 its neighbors have broken relations, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Its support for Hamas is a central dispute between Doha, and Riyadh. With Hamas also isolated by Egypt’s cutting off of tunnels stretching from Sinai, the Strip is increasingly isolated. In October Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement aimed at ending that. Border posts were supposed to be transferred completely to Palestinian Authority Control and the PA was supposed to return to Gaza. That has not happened and there are concerns the agreement will breakdown like previous ones did.

To find land for these thousands of apartments which should house tens of thousands of people, the Qataris sought after open spaces in Gaza. They found land next to Khan Yunis that was previously the site of the Israeli settlements of Ganne Tal, Qatif and Netzer Hazani. Aerial photos show eighty large buildings constructed northeast of Khan Yunis. In contrast to the natural sprawl around the Palestinian city, with large family homes and fields, the Hamad suburb looks more like Israel’s Modi’in, a large planned city.

According to the brochure, the Qataris also built a hospital devoted to rehab for people with disabilities named for Hamad Bin Khalifa. They invested in reconstruction of more than 1,000 homes for a cost of $50 million. They also brought Qatari expertise at road building with 8 major road projects stretching over 36 kilometers. Some of these include new boulevards, such as the rebuilding of Salah Eldeen road. The reconstruction committee also focused on building smaller residential complexes at Beit Lahiya (80 apartments), Johar al-Deek (100), Deir al-Balah (120).

In May Mohammed al-Emadi, the Qatar envoy to Gaza, attended an opening ceremony for some of the apartments in the second phase of Hamad city and handed over the apartments to locals. He also announced the construction of a second “city” modeled on the first to be called Al-Amal City of his highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa. So far it consists of two phases with 194 apartments. El-Amadi said in July that “despite the crisis in Qatar, we will continue to support you [Gaza].” He pledged to continue with new projects and complete those in progress. These include agricultural laboratories, a rehab center in Khan Yunis, veterinary clinics in beit Lahiya and Rafah, agricultural access to “border” areas in the southern Gaza Strip, wells, storm water ponds, a stadium, a giant playground, a “Palace of justice,” and the restoration of the Al-Omari Great mosque in Gaza.

Qatar has not only embarked on an ambitious number of projects to give Gaza a facelift, but it has also paid local salaries. According to Brookings research published in August 2017, in July 2016 Qatar had spent $30 million to pay local salaries. The report said that this was a “considerable section of Gaza’s public servants.” In April Yousef al-Ghariz, the advisor to al-Emadi, spoke with Al-Monitor about the difficulties Qatar has faced to bring in materials for its projects. “Given the blockade and the repeated closure of border crossings in recent years, the committee has liaised with outside parties in order to bring in the required raw materials.” This includes coordination with Israel, which Ghariz called “purely technical.” The Qataris also work with the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing and its minister Mufid al-Hasayneh. “We don’t get involved in any internal Palestinian political disputes,” Ghariz told Al-Monitor. El-Amadi also met with the UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Nikolay Mladenov in July 2017.

Israel is growing closer to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent years and Qatar has attempted to lobby pro-Israel groups in the United States in the last months to encourage a change in perception of the emirate. In November Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jerusalem Organizations, revealed he had been holding secret talks with Qatar over the return of two Israeli citizens held in Gaza. Qatar would like to use this leverage with Hamas to increase it influence in Gaza that it has obtained through its development projects. Otherwise its effort may become another failed endeavor.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/How-much-money-is-Qatar-spending-on-a-facelift-for-Gaza-517787

Scores rally against Netanyahu visit to Brussels

BRUSSELS – Some 200 people took to the streets of Brussels on Monday to protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The protest was held near the European Union headquarters, where Netanyahu was meeting with the foreign ministers of the bloc’s member states.

The demonstrators carried a banner reading ”Israel War Crimes Unwelcome” and held up signs against the visiting premier. 

People protest against US President Donald  Trupm's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2017. (REUTERS/ERIC VIDAL)

On Friday, hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated in Brussels near the US embassy over US President Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and promise to move the American embassy to the city. Similar demonstrations took place on Saturday in Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Lille in France.

Netanyahu’s planned meeting with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker was canceled.

Prior to the meeting with the foreign ministers,  Netanyahu said that ”it is time for the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and the capital Jerusalem.” Netanyahu added that he believes more countries will join the US in relocating their embassies to Jerusalem.

Moments earlier, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters as she greeted Netanyahu on the first visit to the EU by an Israeli premier in 22 years, that the bloc would continue to recognize the “international consensus” on Jerusalem.

“You know where the European Union stands,” Mogherini said to Netanyahu. “We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine along the 1967 lines. This is our consolidated position, and we will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem until the final status of the whole city is resolved in direct negotiations between the parties.”

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Scores-rally-against-Netanyahu-visit-to-Brussels-517696

Senior Saudi prince condemns Trump’s ‘opportunistic’ Jerusalem move

DUBAI – Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal has criticized US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in one of the sharpest reactions emanating from the US-allied kingdom.

In a letter to Trump published in a Saudi newspaper on Monday, Prince Turki, a former ambassador to Washington who now holds no government office but remains influential, called the move a domestic political ploy which would stoke violence.

“Bloodshed and mayhem will definitely follow your opportunistic attempt to make electoral gain,” Prince Turki wrote in a letter published in the Saudi newspaper al-Jazeera.

Trump reversed decades of US policy and veered from international consensus last week by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most countries say the city’s status must be left to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announces embassy to relocate

“Your action has emboldened the most extreme elements in the Israeli society … because they take your action as a license to evict the Palestinians from their lands and subject them to an apartheid state,” Prince Turki wrote.

“Your action has equally emboldened Iran and its terrorist minions to claim that they are the legitimate defenders of Palestinian rights,” he added, referring to the kingdom’s arch-foe Shi’ite Iran.

Saudi Arabia has sought better ties with Washington under Trump than it had under his predecessor Barack Obama, who alarmed Riyadh by signing a nuclear agreement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy.

Prince Turki is a son of King Faisal, who was assassinated in 1975. His brother, Saud al-Faisal, served as foreign minister for 40 years until 2015, and their branch of the family is seen as influential over Saudi foreign policy, even as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has solidified his authority.

Prince Saud championed a 2002 Arab peace initiative which called for normalizing relations between Arab countries and Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories.

Although most foreign policy in Saudi Arabia is now overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed, a source at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies which Prince Turki chairs said he still meets King Salman every week.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Senior-Saudi-prince-condemns-Trumps-opportunistic-Jerusalem-move-517715