Tag Archives: israel

Israel normalisation, violation of public peace – Mahmoud Abbas.

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Mahmoud Abbas calls for international conference early next year to ‘launch a genuine peace process’.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has criticised the recent decision of two Arab countries to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel as a “violation” of a “just and lasting solution under international law”.

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, Abbas also called for an international conference early next year to “launch a genuine peace process” in the wake of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain’s recognition of Israel.

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“The conference should have full authority to launch a genuine peace process based on international law,” Abbas told the virtual UNGA in a recorded video address from his headquarters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

“It should aim to end the occupation and grant the Palestinian people their freedom and independence in their own state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and settle final-status issues, notably the refugee question,” he said.

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The Palestinians have rejected US President Donald Trump’s proposal to end the conflict, which they say overwhelmingly favours Israel, and have officially cut off contact with the United States and Israel. Arguing that Washington is no longer an honest broker, they have called for a multilateral peace process based on UN resolutions and past agreements.

They have also rejected the agreements signed by the UAE and Bahrain on September 15 to normalise ties with Israel, viewing it as a betrayal of the long-standing Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only come in exchange for territorial concessions.

Since the mid-90s, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has sought an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

There have been no substantive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was first elected more than 10 years, and the two sides are fiercely divided over the core issues of the conflict.

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Instead, Netanyahu has focused on building ties with Arab, African and Asian countries that have long supported the Palestinian cause. In Israel, the agreement with the UAE, an oil-rich country with considerable regional influence, is seen as an historic breakthrough that could transform the Middle East.

Israel put on hold its plans to annex up to a third of the West Bank following the deal with the UAE, while saying it still plans to eventually go through with them. The UAE said the agreement removed an immediate threat to the two-state solution and gave the region a window of opportunity.

The Palestinians insist the conflict will not be resolved until they realise their aspirations for independence.

“There can be no peace, no security, no stability, no coexistence in our region without an end to the occupation,” Abbas said.


#Newsworthy…

Qatar Emir challenges global community silence on Israeli occupation.

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Qatar’s leader says Israel continues to carry out ‘flagrant violation of international resolutions’.

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has questioned the credibility of the international community as it “stands by, unable to take any effective action to confront Israeli intransigence and its continued occupation of Palestinian and Arab land”.

In his video speech at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the emir questioned the role of countries and organisations for failing to uphold the resolutions against the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and its expansion of settlement building.

He accused Israel of carrying out “flagrant violation of international resolutions and the two-state solution as agreed upon by the international community”.

“The international community stands by, unable to take any effective action to confront Israeli intransigence, its continued occupation of Palestinian and Arab land, the imposition of a stifling siege on the Gaza Strip, [and] the expanding settlement policy, among others,” he said.

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“Peace can only be achieved when Israel fully commits to the international terms of reference and resolutions that are accepted by the Arab countries and upon which the Arab Peace Initiative is based.”

The Arab Peace Initiative was a plan put forth by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that called for normalising relations with Israel in exchange for an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

Qatar’s ruler said Israel is trying to “circumvent these parameters” and any arrangements that do not take these factors into account “will not achieve peace”.

“Failure to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause, Israel’s continued settlements, and forcing a reality on the ground without being deterred, this is what raises the biggest question about the credibility of the international community and its institutions,” the emir added.

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He called upon the international community, particularly the UN Security Council, to assume its legal responsibilities and “compel Israel to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, and to put the peace process back on track through credible negotiations based on international resolutions and not on force”.

Speaking from outside the UN headquarters in New York, Noble Reporters Media knows that it was interesting to see many Arab states within the Arab League remain consistent in their views on Israel and Palestine – which revolves around the international consensus that there should be a two-state solution.

On September 15, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalise relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.

The ceremony was hosted by US President Donald Trump at the White House, capping a dramatic month when the countries agreed to normalise ties without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, who have condemned the agreements


#Newsworthy…

Israel bombs Gaza as UAE, Bahrain signs US normalising deals.

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Israeli planes pound Gaza after rockets fired from besieged strip as Israel, UAE, Bahrain signed normalisation deals.

The Israeli military has carried out a series of air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip overnight on Wednesday, causing damage to property, Palestinian media reported.

According to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a site in Beit Lahiya in the northern strip. They also targeted areas in Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, as well as parts of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported.

Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday warned Israel it “will pay the price for any aggression against our people or resistance sites and the response will be direct”.

“We will increase and expand our response to the extent that the occupation persists in its aggression,” it said in a statement.

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Without naming specific factions, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said in response to the Israeli air raids, the “resistance” fired rocket salvoes at Israel.

Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign US-brokered normalisation deals

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli army in a statement said it carried out 10 air strikes against positions belonging to Hamas in response to rockets being fired into Israel.

Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign US-brokered normalisation deals • On Tuesday evening, at least two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, one of which was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, while the other struck the coastal Israeli city of Ashdod, wounding two people.

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The rockets were fired at the same time as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements at the White House in Washington to establish diplomatic relations.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state that includes the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.

The latest rocket fire from Gaza came after a month of armed groups in the strip stepping up incendiary balloon attacks against Israel, which responded with nighttime air raids against Hamas.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars on the Gaza Strip. Israel has long said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza, while Hamas says Israel is responsible for the state of anger and pressure inflicted on Gaza’s residents due to the continued siege.

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Anti-normalisation rallies
The normalisation moves by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel prompted demonstrations in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Clutching Palestinian flags and wearing blue face masks for protection against the coronavirus, demonstrators rallied in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron, and in Gaza.

Hundreds also took part in a demonstration in Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas warned that the deals would “not achieve peace in the region” until the US and Israel acknowledged his people’s right to a state.

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“Peace, security and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends,” he said.

The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.

Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from already illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state in exchange for establishing ties with it.

Abbas warned that “attempts to bypass the Palestinian people and its leadership, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization, will have dangerous consequences”.

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In Gaza, protesters trampled on and set fire to placards bearing images of the leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

Since 2007, Gaza has been crippled by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has deprived its roughly two million people of vital commodities including food, fuel and medicine.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Hamas and Israel last month reached a Qatari-mediated ceasefire deal and revived a fragile 18-month truce. The group has joined the PA in condemning the UAE and Bahraini accords as a “betrayal” of their cause.


#Newsworthy…

Protest spikes in Palestine amid Bahrain-Israel normalisation.

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‘Arab consensus’ long held Arab states will normalise ties only if Israel meets a number of conditions for Palestinians.

Palestinians in Gaza burned pictures of Israeli, American, Bahraini, and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest against the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalise ties with Israel.

Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.

The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen people, was organised by the ruling group Hamas.

“We have to fight the virus of normalisation and block all its paths before it succeeds to prevent it from spreading,” said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.

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Demonstrators set fire to images of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

While the United States, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.

They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has a limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states’ move.

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‘Military alliance’
In the West Bank, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.

“The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalise relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It isn’t about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region,” Erekat said.

Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain would face “harsh revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf state’s move.

Turkey also condemned the deal saying it undermined the Palestinian cause and would “further embolden Israel to continue its illegal practices … and attempts to make the occupation of Palestinian territories permanent”.

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Bahrainis opposed to their government’s agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel vented their frustration on social media on Saturday, underlining the complexities of the Gulf’s rapprochement with Israel.

The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal late on Friday.

Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares with Israel a deep enmity towards Iran, and relies on the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet on the tiny but strategic archipelago.

‘Black day’
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the deal represented a historic step towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but the PA and the Hamas condemned it as “another stab in the back” by an Arab government.

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Unlike the UAE, opposition to normalisation runs deep in Bahrain, which has a history of open politics even if it has been suppressed over the past 10 years.

Former MP Ali Alaswad wrote it was “a black day in the history of Bahrain”.

The kingdom – a small archipelago located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding reforms.

Opposition group Al-Wefaq criticised the normalisation deal.

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“The agreement between the despotic regime in Bahrain and the Zionist occupation government is a total betrayal of Islam and Arabism and a departure from the Islamic, Arab and national consensus,” it said on Twitter.

Other anti-normalisation groups, based in Bahrain and abroad, expressed their anger in statements sent to media calling the deal “shameful”.

‘Deteriorating unity’
Sari Nusseibeh, a former top PLO official, said the Palestinian leadership was “very upset”.

“But I don’t think they are more upset than in the past about the Arab world in general. Palestinians have always complained that the Arab world has not stood behind them as they should have,” said Nusseibeh.

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The Palestinian cause had already become less central as the region has been rocked by the Arab Spring upheavals, the Syria war, and the bloody onslaught by the armed group ISIL (ISIS).

At the same time, hostility has deepened between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“There have been all kinds of problems in the Arab world – disputes, revolutions, civil wars, tensions between different Arab countries,” said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib. “Palestinians are now paying the price for the deterioration in Arab unity.”

The PA maintains the validity of the so-called “Arab consensus” and rejects the notion that it is isolated. That consensus has long held that Arab states will only normalise ties if Israel meets a number of conditions.

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One demand is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Another is to agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a third to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

“We hope that the Arab countries will remain committed to this consensus,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official, adding straying from it “will lead to nothing”.

“Those who are violating the Arab consensus … will be isolated” in the long term, he warned.

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Choosing sides
One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared the view that at the moment “the Palestinians don’t really have a way out”.

“They are also stuck because of those who want to support their cause, whether it is Turkey or Iran.”

Iran already has relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and slightly cooler ties with the PA.

The Palestinian cause has also received backing from Turkey, a regional power increasingly at odds with Israel and that militarily backs a rival faction in the Libya war to the UAE and Egypt.

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“Turkey does have an ambition to lead this cause and is pointing to the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasising this issue enough,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.

Rajoub insisted: “We are not ignoring any country. Turkey is a regional superpower, it’s an Islamic country and we are on good terms. We’ll keep cooperating with everybody.”

But Khatib argued the Palestinians should keep their distance. “It’s not wise for the Palestinians to be caught within the regional tensions and competition between regional superpowers,” he said.

“If you side with Iran, you’ll lose Saudi Arabia. If you side with Turkey, you’ll lose someone else. It’s better for the Palestinians to keep a safe distance from these different regional superpowers.”


#Newsworthy

UAE-Israeli deal: Arab league over Palestinian cause to dominate talks

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Arab foreign ministers will attend a virtual session against the backdrop of UAE normalising relations with Israel.

An Arab League meeting on Wednesday will focus on the Palestinian cause after the Israel-UAE “normalisation” deal, with analysts suggesting division rather than usual unity on the issue will dominate the discussion.

The run-up to the virtual session has already left a sour taste for the Palestinian leadership.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain of blocking a draft resolution that called on Arab states to adhere to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative plan before normalising ties with Israel.

The Arab Initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia calls for establishing ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a just solution for Palestinian refugees, and occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Footprints are placed on images of US President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in the West Bank city of Nablus [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP]

A senior member of the PA’s governing Fatah faction, Hussein Hamayel, said Bahrain’s opposition to the draft resolution “places it on the side of the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims”.

However on Tuesday, in a bid to soften its tone, the official spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the leader “will not accept insulting the national symbols of Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates”.

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In a statement carried by the official news agency Wafa, Nabil Abu Rudeinah said the state of Palestine is keen on “maintaining brotherly relations with all Arab countries on the basis of mutual respect, with the necessity of the latter adhering to the Arab Peace Initiative”.

‘Betraying the cause’
Announced by US President Donald Trump on August 13, the UAE-Israeli normalisation agreement caught the PA by surprise, which then accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinian cause – long seen as a pan-Arab issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said more Arab countries will soon follow in the UAE’s steps, and Bahrain and Oman have both voiced support.

“The Palestinian cause has traditionally been a unifying theme for the Arab League, which this year appears to be more a cause for division, rendering the Arab League ever more irrelevant in managing the affairs of the Arab world,” said Andreas King, assistant professor of security studies at King’s College London.

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The motion to be put forth by the Palestinian leadership will likely not be endorsed by a number of Gulf states, he added.

A Palestinian waves a national flag during a protest against Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip [File: Majdi Mohammed]

“While there might not be an immediate move by any other Arab state to normalise ties with Israel formally, there will be more exchanges and engagement with Israel, which is no longer tied to the Palestinian cause,” King told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.

“For the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been relegated to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which should not be an obstacle to a warming of bilateral ties with Israel.”

Marwa Fatafta, a policy member with the Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka, agreed, saying geopolitical interests “trump the rights of Palestinians”.

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“Many Gulf states have keen interest in formalising ties with Israel and the UAE-Israel was the ice-breaker,” she said. “Normalisation between Israel and Gulf states has already been in the making, and now it is just a matter of timing.

“What would probably come out from the Arab League is the usual recycled lip-service to the Palestinians,” she added.

Saudi stance

The Arab League, in contrast to Abbas’s granted request to hold an emergency session in the aftermath of the US announcing Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, refused to do the same once news of the UAE-Israel agreement was announced.

This led to Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, to call on Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit to condemn the UAE’s normalisation deal with Israel – or step down.

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“If he is not able to issue a statement condemning the UAE-Israeli normalisation, he should resign,” Erekat told PalestineTV.

And while regional power Saudi Arabia has declared it will not normalise relations with Israel without securing Palestinian interests, Riyadh fell short of condemning the UAE’s decision.

“Saudi Arabia will verbally endorse the Palestinian cause, the issue of Jerusalem, and the Arab Peace Initiative,” King said. “However, it remains to be seen what Riyadh does in terms of action on the matter.”

A view of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers after US President Donald Trump announced his Middle East plan [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

The oil-rich kingdom could choose the opportunity to shore up support for the Arab Peace Initiative, King continued, while simultaneously not taking a solid stance against normalisation, thereby leaving the door open for individual Arab states to deal with Israel as they see fit.

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“With the UAE as a leading Arab state already sacrificing the Palestinian cause to satisfy Emirati national interests with Israel, it will be hard to build firm support for the Arab Peace Initiative in this multilateral setting,” he said.

Fatafta said Saudi Arabia will stick to the Arab Peace Initiative plan, more for the sake of convenience, while at the same time cultivating warmer ties with Israel.

“Saudi Arabia indicated on number of occasions over the years that it has interest in cooperating with Israel especially with the growing threat from Iran,” she said.

“In fact, Saudi Arabia facilitated the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE by opening its airspace for direct flights between the two countries.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Hamas, Hezbollah chiefs meet to discuss UAE-Israeli ties

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Meeting comes after August’s agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalise diplomatic relations.

Leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss diplomatic normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, the movement said.

On Sunday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniya was given a hero’s welcome at Ain al-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.

Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television reported earlier that Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, and Haniya stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel.

They discussed “political and military developments in Palestine, Lebanon and the region” and “the dangers to the Palestinian cause”, including “Arab plans for normalisation” with Israel, Al-Manar said.

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The meeting comes after an August 13 announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to normalise ties.

While the United States-backed diplomatic drive aims to boost a regional alliance against Iran, Palestinians have condemned it as a “stab in the back” as they remain under occupation and do not have their own state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is in talks with other Arab and Muslim leaders now about normalising relations, following the deals with the UAE and, decades ago, Egypt and Jordan.

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First visit in 30 years
Haniya arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday, on his first visit to the country in nearly 30 years, for direct and video-conference talks with other Palestinian groups that oppose Israel’s diplomatic initiative.

Haniya, who heads the political bureau of Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, arrived in Ain al-Helweh under the protection of Hamas members and camp guards.

Head of Hamas Ismail Haniya, left, and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah meet in Beirut, Lebanon [Hezbollah Press Office/Anadolu]

Before a cheering crowd of hundreds in Ain al-Helweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, including refugees who travelled to see him from other camps, Haniya praised his movement’s military capacity and shrugged off the UAE-Israel normalisation deal.

“Not long ago, our rockets only reached [targets] metres from Gaza’s borders. Today, the resistance in Gaza possesses rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and beyond Tel Aviv,” he said.

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As for normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, that “does not represent the people, neither their conscience, nor their history nor their heritage”, Haniya said, quoted in a Hamas statement.

Israel’s military has in recent weeks targeted Hamas in the Gaza Strip and what it says have been Hezbollah gunmen along its northern border with Lebanon.

It also regularly launches air attacks in war-torn Syria against what it says are Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian fighters fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Nasrallah has been living in secret locations since Hezbollah’s devastating 2006 war with Israel and only makes rare public appearances. He said in 2014 that he often changes his place of residence.


#Newsworthy…

Serbia will relocate office to Jerusalem – Israeli PM, Netanyahu.

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Israeli PM announces move after Serbia and Kosovo agreed on historic pact at White House to normalise economic ties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Serbia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, becoming the first European country to follow the United States in making the move.

Most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries stayed neutral over the disputed city of Jerusalem until its status could be settled in an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

But in December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the shifting the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

On Friday, Netanyahu revealed Serbia’s move, adding that the transfer will happen by July 2021.

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“I thank my friend the president of Serbia … for the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to transfer his embassy there,” Netanyahu said.

“I would like also to thank my friend President Trump for contributing to this achievement.”

News of the move by Serbia, not a member of the 27-nation EU, coincided with the announcement by Trump that former foes Serbia and Kosovo had agreed on an historic pact to normalise economic relations.

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Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official slammed Serbia’s decision, saying it makes “Palestine a victim” of Trump’s re-election hopes.

Israel seized control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognised by the international community. [Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP]

“Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace … to achieve his re-election,” said Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in a tweet.

“This, just like the UAE-Israel agreement [to normalise diplomatic ties], isn’t about Middle East Peace,” he added.

Israel seized control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognised by the international community.

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It considers the city its undivided capital, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) sees the occupied eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City with its holy sites, as the capital of their future state.

The United Nations and the European Union, Israel’s top economic partner, say the city’s final status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians, before which countries should not locate their embassies there.

Netanyahu also announced that Israel had set up diplomatic relations from Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

“Kosovo will become the first majority-Muslim country to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “As I’ve said in recent days – the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”

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Disputed city
Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem three years ago triggered Palestinian outrage and a diplomatic shockwave.

So far, only Guatemala followed in his footsteps, also opening up its diplomatic mission in the holy city in May 2018.

Friday’s announcement also comes less than a month after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalise ties under a US-brokered deal.

The agreement, expected to be signed at a White House ceremony in the coming weeks, would be Israel’s first with a Gulf nation, and the third with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).

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The issue of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes Islam’s third holiest site – the golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

It is also home to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in occupied East Jerusalem, which is home to about 300,000 Palestinians.


#Newsworthy…

Breaking: Bahrain agree UAE-Israel flight cross its airstrip.

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Decision comes after Saudi allowed first direct Israeli commercial flight to use its airspace following UAE-Israel deal.

Bahrain has said all flights to and from the United Arab Emirates can cross its airspace, a move that will allow air services between Israel and the UAE to fly over the kingdom.

Thursday’s decision, which the kingdom’s aviation authority said came at the request of the UAE, follows an agreement last month that saw the UAE becoming the third Arab country to reach a deal with Israel about normalising ties.

The US-brokered agreement, which capped years of discreet contact between the two countries in commerce and technology, was denounced by the Palestinians as a betrayal of their cause by a major Arab player, while they still lack a state of their own.

“Bahrain will allow all flights coming to and departing from the United Arab Emirates to all countries to cross its airspace,” reported the official Bahrain News Agency, citing an official source at the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications.

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The decision cuts flying time between the Middle East states by several hours.

Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a British naval base, has an historic Jewish community. The kingdom has slowly encouraged ties to Israel, with two US-based rabbis in 2017 saying King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa himself promoted the idea of ending the boycott of Israel by Arab nations.

Last month, an Israeli official said Bahrain and Oman could be the next Gulf countries to follow the UAE in formalising ties with Israel.

Kushner (left) meets Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (right) during his visit to Manama earlier this week [Bahrain News Agency/Reuters]

But Bahraini state media reported last week that King Hamad had told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who was in Manama as part of a Middle East tour aimed at forging more links between Israel and Arab countries following the UAE-Israel deal – that the Gulf state was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state.

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Earlier this week, Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, flew with a high-level Israeli delegation to the UAE on the first direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries.

While no other Arab country has yet indicated a willingness to follow the UAE, Saudi Arabia allowed the El Al charter flight carrying Kushner and the Israelis to use its airspace.

On Wednesday, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told Kushner that Doha remained committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. In the initiative, Arab nations offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

The UAE has promoted the deal as hinging on Israel halting its contentious plan to annex parts of the West Bank sought by the Palestinians for their future state. The deal also may allow Abu Dhabi to buy advanced weaponry from the US, including the F-35 stealth fighter jet.


#Newsworthy…

US Jared Kushner pushes other Arab States for more after UAE-Israeli peace deal.

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White House adviser Jared Kushner travels to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia seeking more support for normalising ties.


After accompanying an Israeli delegation to the United Arab Emirates for historic normalisation talks, White House adviser Jared Kushner set off on a tour of other Gulf capitals on Tuesday, looking for more Arab support.

Israel and the UAE set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services at the talks in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. Kushner, United States President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, accompanied the Israeli delegation Monday on what was billed as the first Israeli commercial flight to the influential Gulf monarchy, which agreed in August to normalise relations with Israel.

Israel exchanged embassies with neighbours Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago. But until now, all other Arab states had demanded it first cede more land to the Palestinians, prompting criticism from stakeholders across the region.

Palestinians have condemned the deal as a stab in the back by a major Arab player while they still lack a state of their own. Turkey threatened to suspend relations with the UAE after normalisation was announced.

Israel’s archrival Iran has been scathing in its criticism. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted Tuesday that “the UAE betrayed the world of Islam, the Arab nations, the region’s countries, and Palestine”.

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Kushner later flew to Bahrain and then Saudi Arabia and is expected also to visit Qatar.

In Bahrain, which houses the US naval headquarters for the region, the state news agency reported that during his meeting with Kushner, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had praised the role the UAE has played in defending Arab and Islamic interests.

In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace, state news agency SPA reported.

While no further officials made statements that suggested they would soon recognise Israel, in remarks reported by the UAE state news agency WAM, Kushner suggested other Arab states could follow quickly.

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Asked when the next would normalise ties with Israel, he was quoted as saying: “Let’s hope it’s months.”

Saudi Arabia allowed the El Al charter flight carrying Kushner and the Israelis to use its airspace, in spite of its public resistance to normalisation.

United States presidential adviser Jared Kushner speaks near head of Israel”s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat at Abu Dhabi airport following the arrival of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates [Karim Sahib/AFP]

‘Treachery’
There are overlapping regional interests between Israel and Gulf Arab states, which are mainly ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchs who consider their biggest foe to be Shia Iran.

Israel has long held out the promise that their common enemy could bring them together, in spite of regional opposition to Israeli expansion on the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Iran’s derisive comments were not limited to Twitter. In a fiery speech on Tuesday, Khamenei said: “The Emiratis will be disgraced forever for this treachery against the Islamic world, Arab nations and Palestine.

“The UAE, along with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of Trump’s family, are working together against the interests of the Islamic world,” Khamenei said, referring to Kushner, who is Jewish.

Asked about Khamenei’s remarks, UAE Foreign Ministry official Jamal al-Musharakh told reporters in Abu Dhabi: “The path to peace and prosperity is not paved with incitement and hate speech.”

Israeli officials have played up the economic benefits of the UAE deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said representatives of the two countries had signed an agreement on cooperation in financial services.

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The state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Invest in Israel, part of Israel’s economy ministry, issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to set out a plan to establish formal cooperation.

The Gulf state’s biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank, later said it would open discussions with Israel lenders Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi.

Amid the historic normalisation talks, Kushner spent a morning meeting UAE military officials at an Abu Dhabi airbase that houses US military F-35 jets, advanced stealth aircraft that the Gulf state has long sought to buy despite Israeli objections.

The UAE has said normalisation should remove any hurdle blocking the sale. Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel still opposes selling the jets to the UAE.


#Newsworthy…

Gaza balloon attack: Israeli tank hit Hamas

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Head of Hamas political bureau said it will not back down from wanting to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip.


The Israeli army says its tanks have hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Palestinian balloon attacks across the border continued.

An early-morning military statement said there had been airborne explosive and incendiary attacks into southern Israel on Saturday.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from any of the incidents.

Palestinian sources said an Israeli artillery shell was fired towards a field control point east of Khan Younis, and another shell east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

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According to the Israeli fire brigade, the fire bombs – crude devices fitted to balloons, inflated condoms or plastic bags inflated with helium – have triggered more than 400 blazes in southern Israel.

The Israeli army has carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6, along with further tightening a devastating blockade it has imposed on the Palestinian territory since 2007.

Under the new measures, it banned the entry of fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant, plunging it into darkness.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million people, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

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The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniya, said his movement – which controls the Gaza Strip – would not back down from wanting to end the Israeli blockade.

“Our decision and the decision of our people is to go ahead with ending this unjust siege in all its forms,” Haniya said in a statement issued by his office early on Sunday.

“The leadership of the movement is closely following the current situation in the Gaza Strip in terms of communications and mediation carried out by many parties to work to break and end the siege on the strip.”

An Egyptian delegation has been shuttling between the two sides to try to broker a renewal of an informal truce under which Israel committed to easing its 13-year blockade of Gaza in return for calm on the frontier between the two.

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It was joined this week by Qatar’s Gaza envoy Mohammed al-Emadi who delivered the latest tranche of $30m in aid to the territory on Tuesday before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.

Sources close to the Qatari delegation said Israeli officials had told al-Emadi they were willing to end a punitive ban on fuel deliveries for Gaza’s power plant and ease their blockade if there was an end to the incendiary balloons.

Financial aid for the impoverished territory from gas-rich Qatar had been a significant component of the truce, first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since.

Under those terms, Israel had said it would take other measures to alleviate unemployment of more than 50 percent in the territory of some two million people. Those have yet to materialise.


#Newsworthy…

Israeli Trouble: Palestinian group says peace deal reach

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Office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza says agreement has been reached to ‘end aggression against our people’.


Hamas, the Palestinian group running the besieged Gaza Strip, has announced it has reached a Qatari-mediated deal to end the latest escalation of violence with Israel.

After talks with Qatari envoy Mohammed el-Emadi, “an understanding was reached to rein in the latest escalation and end [Israeli] aggression against our people”, the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said on Monday.

There was no immediate comment by Israel.

The Israeli army has carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6 in what it says is a response to the airborne incendiary devices and, less frequently, rockets launched into southern Israel.

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The fire balloons are widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to improve the terms of an informal truce under which Israel committed to easing its 13-year-old crippling blockade in return for calm.

But so far, Israel’s response has been to tighten the blockade.

It has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of the Palestinian territory’s sole power plant for want of fuel.

What Hamas says about the agreement is that it will stop incendiary balloon launches as well as what it calls its night-time confusion operations where groups go along the fence and throw explosives and cause disruption,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem.

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“In return, it says that Israel is undertaking to go back to the pre-escalation situation which means allowing fishermen out into the Mediterranean, easing the restriction on goods coming in and also presumably the restoration of fuel supplies to Gaza’s only power station.”

Monday’s announcement came amid a flurry diplomatic activity from Qatar whose envoy delivered the latest tranche of $30m in aid Gaza before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.

Sources close to the Qatari delegation said the Israelis told al-Emadi they were willing to resume fuel deliveries for the power plant and ease their blockade – if there was an end to the fire balloons.

Israel has bombed and carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6 [Mohammed Shana/Reuters]

Financial aid for the impoverished territory from gas-rich Qatar has been a major component of the latest truce first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since.

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Mediation efforts have grown more urgent in recent days as authorities in Gaza have detected the first cases of local transmission of the coronavirus. Hamas has imposed a lockdown in the coastal enclave, which is home to two million Palestinians.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from expanding its arsenal, but critics view it as a form of collective punishment.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles since the closure was imposed.

The restrictions have pushed Gaza’s economy to the brink of collapse, leaving more than half the population unemployed, and years of war and isolation have left the healthcare system ill-equipped to cope with a major outbreak.


#Newsworthy…

After Peace Talk: Plane with Israeli, United States officials lands UAE.

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High-level delegations flew from Israel to the UAE to cement the ‘normalisation’ deal.


High-level delegations from Israel and the US have arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), via the first-ever commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations, to put final touches on a controversial pact establishing open relations.

Top aides to US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Israel’s flag carrier El Al on Monday.

Flight LY971 flew over Saudi Arabia after Riyadh agreed to the Israeli request on Sunday – also a first.

The plane carrying the US and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi has the word “peace” written on it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

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It is also named after Kiryat Gat, a Jewish settlement built on the remains of two ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja.

Announced on August 13, the “normalisation” deal is the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years and was catalysed largely by shared fears of Iran.

Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

The Arabic, English and Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is seen on the Israeli flag carrier El Al’s aircraft on Monday [Christopher Pike/Reuters]

‘Historic flight’

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien head the US delegation. The Israeli team is led by O’Brien’s counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Kushner voiced hope for a more peaceful era in the region.

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“While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner said before boarding the El Al aircraft.

Officials will explore bilateral cooperation in areas such as commerce and tourism, and Israeli defence envoys are due to visit the UAE separately.

Israeli officials hope the two-day trip will produce a date for a Washington signing ceremony, perhaps as early as September, between Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

That could give Trump a foreign policy boost ahead of his re-election bid in November.

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In Jerusalem on Sunday, Kushner called the UAE-Israel deal a “giant step forward”.

“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said.

The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries concerned about Iran to engage with Israel. The most powerful of those, Saudi Arabia, has signalled that it is not ready.

But in what could presage a more relaxed posture by Riyadh, the El Al plane will be allowed to overfly Saudi territory to cut flight time.

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On Sunday, Israeli TV channel Kan reported there was Israeli concern that Riyadh may revoke permission to use Saudi airspace at the last moment. If the flight is allowed, it would mark the first time an Israeli commercial plane uses Saudi territory for an overflight. There was no comment from Saudi officials.

‘Soon follow’
O’Brien said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow Abu Dhabi’s move.

“We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalise relations with Israel,” O’Brien told reporters after talks at Netanyahu’s residence.

He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

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Recent news reports suggested Morocco may also be considering a similar agreement with Israel in exchange for military and economic aid.

However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said last week “we refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Palestinians have condemned the UAE’s move as an abandonment of a policy of linking official relations with Israel to the achievement of Palestinian statehood in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said Kushner and his team were “scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible” to give Trump an election boost.

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“They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region,” she said.

The UAE-Israel agreement hit an immediate speed bump after it was announced, as contradictory comments on the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley were made.

In spite of earlier comments by the UAE and a joint statement by the three countries that indicated the annexation plan would be “suspended”, senior UAE official Omar Ghobash, has admitted his government did not “have any guarantees as such” that Israel would not annex occupied Palestinian territory in the future.

Kushner has said as part of the Israeli-UAE deal that the United States will not consent to Israeli annexation for “some time”.

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Netanyahu, meanwhile, cast the annexation plan – already dogged by disagreements within his governing coalition on the proposed timing – as temporarily on hold. But Israeli officials have signalled they want approval from Israel’s main ally – the US – first.

Weapons sales
The Israel-UAE accord also faces another problem: a possible sale of stealth F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi that could challenge the Israeli technological edge in the Middle East.

Netanyahu has denied reports the UAE deal hinges on the sale of F-35s to the Emirates, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage.

“This deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal,” the Israeli leader said last week.

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Ever since the 1960s, the US has guaranteed to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region.

The policy was enhanced two years ago with a law that Washington must ensure, when selling weapons to another country in the Middle East, that Israel retains the ability to defend itself if the arms were to fall into the wrong hands.

Israel has already received a first consignment of American F-35s, a fighter also coveted by other Gulf powers.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told AFP there is no doubt of the importance of the F-35s.

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“I absolutely think that without the F-35, the possibility of buying it, they [the Emiratis] wouldn’t sign the agreement,” said Guzansky. “This is a big hurdle to the fulfilment of the agreement.”

Guzansky noted before Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979, the US sold Turkey and Iran sophisticated weaponry, “and now these countries are hostile towards Israel”.

But some analysts say a deal can be struck to the satisfaction of both Israel and the UAE, and ultimately Saudi Arabia, a longtime customer of US armaments.

“Although this is not really public, from what I understand arrangements are being made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” Joshua Teitelbaum, a Gulf specialist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University told AFP.

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Economic ties
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.

Netanyahu told reporters abolishing “the anachronistic boycott” opened the door for “unbridled” trade, tourism and investment.

Statements issued by the UAE and Israel on Sunday said the UAE minister of state and Israel’s agriculture minister had spoken by phone and “pledged to collaborate on projects that address food and water security”.

The UAE, a desert state, relies on imports for about 80 percent of its food, and has heavily encouraged investment in agricultural technology and farmland abroad in recent years.

Israel and the UAE say they want to promote trade – especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE – establish direct air links, and boost tourism.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: First ever Israeli plane heads to UAE after peace talk.

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The El Al aircraft will carry US and Israeli officials to the United Arab Emirates to cement the ‘normalisation’ deal.


High-level delegations are flying from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the first-ever commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations to put final touches on a controversial pact establishing open relations.

Top aides to US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Israel’s flag carrier El Al on Monday.

Flight LY971 is expected to take off at 10:30am and is set to fly over Saudi Arabia after Riyadh agreed to the Israeli request on Sunday – also a first.

The plane carrying the US and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi has the word “peace” written on it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Advertisements

It is also named after Kiryat Gat, a Jewish settlement built on the remains of two ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja.

Announced on August 13, the “normalisation” deal is the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years and was catalysed largely by shared fears of Iran.

Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

‘Giant step’

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien head the US delegation. The Israeli team is led by O’Brien’s counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

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Officials will explore bilateral cooperation in areas such as commerce and tourism, and Israeli defence envoys are due to visit the UAE separately.

Israeli officials hope the two-day trip will produce a date for a Washington signing ceremony, perhaps as early as September, between Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

That could give Trump a foreign policy boost ahead of his re-election bid in November.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, Kushner called the UAE-Israel deal a “giant step forward”.

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“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said.

The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries concerned about Iran to engage with Israel. The most powerful of those, Saudi Arabia, has signalled that it is not ready.

But in what could presage a more relaxed posture by Riyadh, the El Al plane will be allowed to overfly Saudi territory to cut flight time.

On Sunday, Israeli TV channel Kan reported there was Israeli concern that Riyadh may revoke permission to use Saudi airspace at the last moment. If the flight is allowed, it would mark the first time an Israeli commercial plane uses Saudi territory for an overflight. There was no comment from Saudi officials.

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‘Soon follow’
O’Brien said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow Abu Dhabi’s move.

“We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalise relations with Israel,” O’Brien told reporters after talks at Netanyahu’s residence.

He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

Recent news reports suggested Morocco may also be considering a similar agreement with Israel in exchange for military and economic aid.

Advertisements

However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said last week “we refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Palestinians have condemned the UAE’s move as an abandonment of a policy of linking official relations with Israel to the achievement of Palestinian statehood in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said Kushner and his team were “scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible” to give Trump an election boost.

“They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region,” she said.

Advertisements

The UAE-Israel agreement hit an immediate speed bump after it was announced, as contradictory comments on the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley were made.

In spite of earlier comments by the UAE and a joint statement by the three countries that indicated the annexation plan would be “suspended”, senior UAE official Omar Ghobash, has admitted his government did not “have any guarantees as such” that Israel would not annex occupied Palestinian territory in the future.

Kushner has said as part of the Israeli-UAE deal that the United States will not consent to Israeli annexation for “some time”.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, cast the annexation plan – already dogged by disagreements within his governing coalition on the proposed timing – as temporarily on hold. But Israeli officials have signalled they want approval from Israel’s main ally – the US – first.

Advertisements

Weapons sales
The Israel-UAE accord also faces another problem: a possible sale of stealth F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi that could challenge the Israeli technological edge in the Middle East.

Netanyahu has denied reports the UAE deal hinges on the sale of F-35s to the Emirates, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage.

“This deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal,” the Israeli leader said last week.

Ever since the 1960s, the US has guaranteed to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region.

Advertisements

The policy was enhanced two years ago with a law that Washington must ensure, when selling weapons to another country in the Middle East, that Israel retains the ability to defend itself if the arms were to fall into the wrong hands.

Israel has already received a first consignment of American F-35s, a fighter also coveted by other Gulf powers.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told AFP there is no doubt of the importance of the F-35s.

“I absolutely think that without the F-35, the possibility of buying it, they [the Emiratis] wouldn’t sign the agreement,” said Guzansky. “This is a big hurdle to the fulfilment of the agreement.”

Advertisements

Guzansky noted before Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979, the US sold Turkey and Iran sophisticated weaponry, “and now these countries are hostile towards Israel”.

But some analysts say a deal can be struck to the satisfaction of both Israel and the UAE, and ultimately Saudi Arabia, a longtime customer of US armaments.

“Although this is not really public, from what I understand arrangements are being made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” Joshua Teitelbaum, a Gulf specialist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University told AFP.

Economic ties
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.

Advertisements

Netanyahu told reporters abolishing “the anachronistic boycott” opened the door for “unbridled” trade, tourism and investment.

Statements issued by the UAE and Israel on Sunday said the UAE minister of state and Israel’s agriculture minister had spoken by phone and “pledged to collaborate on projects that address food and water security”.

The UAE, a desert state, relies on imports for about 80 percent of its food, and has heavily encouraged investment in agricultural technology and farmland abroad in recent years.

Israel and the UAE say they want to promote trade – especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE – establish direct air links, and boost tourism.


#Newsworthy…

Mike Pompeo set for tour amid UAE-Israel deal

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due in Jerusalem on Monday to start a tour focused on Israel’s normalising of ties with the UAE and pushing other Arab states to follow suit.

After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is set to visit senior figures in Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said Sunday.

Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, two neighbours with which it had technically been at war, unlike the United Arab Emirates.

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Following the US-sponsored deal announced on August 13, the new partners say they want to promote trade, especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the Emirates, as well as boosting tourism by establishing direct air links.

Key to that plan would be persuading Saudi Arabia to open its airspace, between Israel and the Gulf, to Israeli commercial airlines.

During his visit, Pompeo will “discuss regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence (and) establishing and deepening Israel’s relationships in the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, announced in January, saw cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries who, like Israel, see Iran as their main foe.

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It also gave the Jewish state a green light to annex parts of the West Bank — something Israel committed to “suspending” under the UAE deal, without saying for how long.

The Palestinians have slammed the UAE’s move as a “stab in the back” while their own conflict with the Jewish state remains unresolved.

But the UAE ambassador to Washington, writing on the front page of Israel’s top-selling daily, said closer ties would benefit everybody.

“They will help move the region beyond the ugly legacy of hostility and conflicts, towards a destiny of hope, peace and prosperity,” he wrote in Yediot Aharonot’s weekend edition.

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– F-35 in the crosshairs –

Tel Aviv daily Israel Hayom, a staunch backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote Sunday that direct talks between the sides on the wording of the deal were close to starting and “a full agreement could be reached within a month.”

A signing ceremony is set to be held at the White House within that timeframe, the paper wrote.

In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Reports that the agreement hinges on the sale of US F-35 Stealth jets to the Emirates have been vigorously denied by Netanyahu, who says he opposes the move as it could reduce Israel’s regional strategic edge.

“The Emiratis are saying there was a promise there, the Israelis are saying no,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, professor in the department of Middle Eastern studies at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.

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Historically, Israel (which has F-35s) has opposed the sale of advanced weaponry to other Middle East states, even Jordan and Egypt with which it has peace treaties.

But Teitelbaum said that in the past such objections have been finessed, citing the US sale to Israel and Saudi Arabia of F-15 fighters.

“From what I understand arrangements are made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” he told AFP.

“Israel is allowed to put certain modifications in the software that allow it to maintain its edge.”

There can also be cost advantages as a sweetener, he said.

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“The Israeli F-15s and the Saudi F-15s were made in the same factory” in the US, he went on.

“The fact that Israel gave its wink to the Saudi F-15s allowed the actual price to be lowered for the Israelis, because it allowed the assembly line to run (longer) at that factory.”

– Bahrain, Oman, Sudan? –

The surprise announcement of the Israel-Emirati pact sparked huge speculation on who might be next, with frequent mentions of Bahrain and Sudan, which is turning its back on the Omar al-Bashir era.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces.

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Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman was fired last week after he made allegedly unauthorised comments indicating contact had been made with Israel regarding normalising ties.

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

But the State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”,

He will also meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before meeting UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss the Israel deal, it said.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.


#Newsworthy…

Police arrest 30 Israeli protesters demanding Netanyahu’s resignation.

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Israeli police said on Sunday they had arrested 30 demonstrators after thousands rallied in Jerusalem demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chanting “Prime Minister” and “You’re fired”.

The demonstrators, some playing musical instruments, gathered in front of the premier’s official residence on Saturday night.

Local media estimated the crowd at around 10,000.

A police statement released early Sunday morning said there were outbreaks of violence during the rally and that officers were hurt.

“During the protests three policemen were injured by protesters,” police said.

Three of those arrested would appear in court on Sunday, the statement added.

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Protests demanding that Netanyahu resign over several corruption indictments and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have been mounting in recent weeks, and the premier has been scathing in his counter-attack.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu accused Channel 12 and another private TV station, Channel 13, of “delivering propaganda for the anarchist left-wing demonstrations” through extensive coverage of the rallies.

Israel won praise for its initial response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after restrictions were lifted starting in late April.

Netanyahu has acknowledged that the economy was re-opened too quickly.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: UAE, Israeli in mutual agreement to research COVID-19

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Firms from the United Arab Emirates and Israel have signed an agreement to jointly develop research and studies on the novel coronavirus, the UAE’s state WAM agency reported.

The business deal comes days after a surprise political agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalise relations, a historic shift which will make the Gulf state only the third Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The UAE’s APEX National Investment and Israel’s TeraGroup signed the “strategic commercial agreement” late Saturday in Abu Dhabi, WAM said in a statement.

“We are delighted with this cooperation with TeraGroup, which is considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors,” APEX chairman Khalifa Yousef Khouri said.

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APEX is an investment company with a particular focus on the healthcare sector.

The deal would be “serving humanity by strengthening research and studies on the novel coronavirus,” Khouri added.

The two companies hope to develop a rapid test for coronavirus.

“We are thrilled with our agreement with APEX National Investment, and hope that we will achieve the objectives outlined in this agreement, which in turn will benefit everyone economically,” TeraGroup chairman Oren Sadiv said, according to WAM.

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Last Thursday the UAE and Israel agreed the US-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic ties.

Under that agreement, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, a concession welcomed by European and some pro-Western Arab governments as a boost for hopes of peace.

However, before the political deal, two Israeli defence companies last month signed an agreement with an Emirati company to collaborate on the development of a non-invasive coronavirus screening test.

State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country’s largest aerospace and defence firm, as well as the government’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, signed a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 in July.


#Newsworthy…