Thursday , January 17 2019

DC signals Western Wall for Israel – Turkey seeks to annul Trump decision at UN


WASHINGTON, Dec 16, (Agencies): Senior Trump administration officials outlined their view Friday that Jerusalem’s Western Wall ultimately will be declared a part of Israel, in another declaration sure to enflame passions among Palestinians and others in the Middle East.

Although they said the ultimate borders of the holy city must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the officials — speaking ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the region — essentially ruled out any scenario that didn’t maintain Israeli control over the holiest ground in Judaism.

The issue is sensitive because the wall is beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and abuts some of the Islamic world’s most revered sites. “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” a senior administration official said.

Another official later added by email, “We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the vice president’s upcoming trip. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments. “We will not accept any changes on the borders of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process.

The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or moving the American embassy, or such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation. For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.

Temporary moves
Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim said on Friday there should not be only “temporary” moves towards Jerusalem, calling for continuing response to the recent US decision over the holy city.

Al-Ghanim made the press statement following the conclusion of the emergency Arab parliament summit held in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, which focused on US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The reaction should not be temporary. Rather, it should continue in order to avert similar future decisions and to stop this unjust decision which affected all Muslims, Arab Christians and humanity as well as all sympathizers with this just issue,” he said. Kuwait’s top lawmaker pointed out a Kuwaiti working paper put on table during the Rabat summit, which included practical steps and concrete measures, including moves through Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Al-Ghanim hoped that there would be stronger international, rather than Arab or Islamic, response to Washington’s recent controversial move over Jerusalem. Earlier on Thursday, the Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker said that a unified Arab stance on the regional and international level was needed against the recent US move on Jerusalem. Addressing the Rabat summit, he said that Arabs must unite themselves against injustice and should not isolate themselves from what is occurring in the international scene; otherwise, the enemy (Israel) will continue the aggression against the Palestinian people.

Turkey seeks annulment Turkey meanwhile is launching an initiative at the United Nations to annul a decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Erdogan was speaking two days after a Muslim leaders meeting in Istanbul condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision, calling on the world to respond by recognising East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. “We will work for the annulment of this unjust decision firstly at the UN Security Council, and if a veto comes from there, the General Assembly,” Erdogan told crowds gathered in the central Anatolian city of Konya via teleconference. The United States is a permanent Security Council member with veto powers, meaning any move to overturn Washington’s decision at the council would certainly be blocked. 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 confl ict for decades. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in an action not recognised internationally.

Trump’s decision broke with decades of US policy and international consensus that the city’s status must be left to Israeli- Palestinian talks, leading to harsh criticisms from Muslim countries and Israel’s closest European allies, who have also rejected the move. A communique issued after Wednesday’s summit of more than 50 Muslim countries, including US allies, said they considered Trump’s move to be a declaration that Washington was withdrawing from its role “as sponsor of peace” in the Middle East. Asked about the criticism during an interview with Israel’s Makor Rishon daily, the US ambassador to Israel said Trump had done “what is good for America”.

“President Trump … does not intend to reverse himself, despite the various condemnations and declarations,” Ambassador David Friedman said. The Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday called for demonstrations next week when US Vice- President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem, after Washington’s policy shift on the holy city. Breaking with decades with US policy, President Trump announced on Dec 6 his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he would move the US Embassy to the city.

The move has stirred global condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied territories between Palestinians and Israeli forces. It also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian- Israeli peace process. Fatah called for a day of “protests” on Wednesday near Jerusalem and the Old City “against the visit of the American vice-president and Trump’s decision” to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a statement said. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict. The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for two of four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula, located between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where the enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers had on Friday called for a “day of rage”.

One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a Palestinian who lost his legs in an Israeli attack a decade ago, who, with his wheelchair, was a regular feature at protests along Gaza’s border with Israel. Meanwhile, the White House is to renew efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, officials said Friday, despite outrage over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Senior administration officials said efforts to push the process forward will be rekindled as soon as next week, in the hope that anger at Trump’s move will subside.

“We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling off period, that’s fine,” said one senior administration official. The White House hopes that Pence’s visit can begin to draw a line under the issue. “Obviously the last couple of weeks in the region have been a reaction to the Jerusalem decision,” said a second senior administration official. “We’ve seen a lot of the emotion that has been displayed on that.” “This trip is kind of part of the ending of that chapter and the beginning of the next chapter … We still continue to be focused on a peace process and how we ultimately bring that situation to a conclusion.” The vice-president will be joined in Israel by Trump’s chief peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt, who has not met his Palestinian interlocutors since Dec 6. “We will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to reengage,” said the first official.

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