Sunday, December 17, 2017 Last Update: 9:32 AM GMT

Five African Leaders Visit the Knesset

The Israeli Knesset hosted presidents of five African parliaments, Tuesday, on to discuss the strengthening of relations.

In a written statement seen by Anadolu News Agency, the Knesset Research and Information Centre said that the parliamentary presidents from Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, and South Sudan, participated in a series of meetings with Israeli MPs. They discussed “fighting terrorism, transparency, and accountability in government information, as well as women empowerment”.

Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Head of the Knesset, described this as “one of the most important conferences that have been held in the Knesset’s history.”

He added, “cooperation with African countries is of great political and economic importance, and all parties will benefit from that.”

According to the Knesset Research and Information Centre, this is the first time that so many African MPs is gathered in the Israeli Parliament.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to meet with the visitors in West Jerusalem.

Israel is trying to get closer to countries in Africa in an attempt to stop support for Palestinians in UN institutions.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Fatah Calls on Palestinians to Revolt over US Plans to Move Embassy

Fatah yesterday called on Palestinians to support Jerusalem as news has circulated that the US is to announce it the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there, Quds Net reported.

The movement called on the international community to work to undermine the “frenzied” US plan.

In a statement, Fatah said: “This fierce and systematic attack on Jerusalem, which is being launched by Israel .. seeks to erase the Arabic and Islamic existence in the city and Judaize it, as well as change the geographic and demographic reality in a way that serves the expansionist Israeli interests.”

The statement added: “Jerusalem is the gate to war and peace. Continuous escalation against its Arabic identity is considered an alarm of war and this abandons all international agreements and conventions.”

Such an American step, the statement said, gives a “political and legal legitimacy” to the occupation and “enables it to control the holy sites without any observer”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

EU Warns from Any Move Jeopardizing Peace Efforts

The European Union’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called on Tuesday for reviving peace talks in the Middle East to make way for a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, with Jerusalem being a shared capital of the two states.

Speaking during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Mogherini said, “We believe that any action that would undermine this effort must absolutely be avoided… and that a solution has to be found for Jerusalem to be the capital of the two states.”

“The European Union supports the resumption of a meaningful peace process towards a two-state solution,” Mogherini said.

In an earlier telephone conversation with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on a possible US announcement on the status of Jerusalem, Mogherini warned of the consequences such a decision would have on public opinion worldwide.

“Since early this year, the European Union was clear in its expectation that there can be reflection on the consequences that any decision or unilateral action affecting Jerusalem’s status could have,” the EU foreign policy chief said. “It might have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world.

Mogherini said, “The focus should therefore remain on the efforts to restart the peace process and avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts.”

(Wafa, PC, Social Media)

Trump Tells Abbas: Embassy Moving to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today that he intends to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Abbas’ spokesman said.

The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the timing of such a move.

“President Mahmoud Abbas received a telephone call from US President Donald Trump in which he notified the President of his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said in a statement.

“President Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Abu Rdainah said.

Palestinian movement Fatah, which Abbas heads, yesterday called on Palestinians to start a new intifada in support of Jerusalem as news circulated that the US is to announce it is to move its embassy.

Numerous international players have warned the US against moving the embassy as it would change the status quo in the conflict and lead to further unrest. May have also warned that this would further hinder negotiations to end the 70-year-old conflict.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

US Recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli Capital would Be ‘Major Catastrophe’: Turkey

US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be a “major catastrophe” which would lead to new conflicts, Turkey has warned. It follows reports that President Donald Trump is preparing to formally acknowledge the city as the Jewish state’s capital.

“If the [current] status of Jerusalem is changed and another step is taken… that would be a major catastrophe,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said during a televised press conference on Monday, as quoted by AFP. “It would completely destroy the fragile peace process in the region, and lead to new conflicts, new disputes and new unrest.”

Bozdag, who is also the Turkish government’s spokesperson, also told Reuters on Monday that Jerusalem’s current status was determined by international agreements and must be preserved. “The status of Jerusalem and Temple Mount have been determined by international agreements. It is important to preserve Jerusalem’s status for the sake of protecting peace in the region,” he said.

The deputy prime minster’s statements come after AP and Reuters reported Friday that Trump was preparing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel this week, citing unnamed sources within the US administration.

Responding to those reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Erdogan’s office said, according to Reuters. Erdogan reportedly told Abbas during the conversation that preserving Jerusalem’s current status was important for all Muslim countries, adding that international laws and United Nations decisions should be followed.

Friday’s reports prompted a wave of reactions across the Arab world, with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League warning the US against the move, saying it would increase instability and put an end to the peace process. Hamas already threatened more violence in Jerusalem if Washington recognized the city as the capital of Israel.

Jordan also began moving to convene an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) if Washington went ahead with the move. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki also asked the heads of the Arab League and the OIC to host emergency meetings.

Meanwhile, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said Sunday that the US president had not yet decided whether he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “He’s still looking at a lot of different facts, and then when he makes his decision, he’ll be the one to want to tell you, not me,” he said at an annual conference on US policy in the Middle East in Washington, which is organized by the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Kushner has been holding meetings with regional leaders for months, ahead of an expected peace initiative, although details of that initiative are unknown. It remains unclear whether Trump would follow in the footsteps of his predecessors when it comes to supporting the idea of an independent Palestinian state.

Despite reports that Trump could move to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, he is expected to once again delay his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Israel has been actively urging the US to relocate its diplomatic mission, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in May that such a move would contribute to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by “shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

The Palestinians have been adamantly opposed to that notion from the beginning, with Palestine’s UN envoy stating in November 2016 that Palestinians would make life “miserable” for the US if it transferred its embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the entire city its capital – a move that is not recognized internationally, particularly as the Palestinians want the city as the capital of a future state. The international community views Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, and all foreign diplomatic missions are located there.

(RT, PC, Social Media)

Palestinians Tear Down Israeli Iron Gate in Protest of Separation Wall

A group of Palestinian youths allegedly managed to bring down an iron gate that was set up by Israeli forces as part of Israel’s illegal separation wall, running through the village of Anata in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem.

Spokesperson of the Fatah movement in the nearby Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, Thaer Fasfous, told Ma’an that several youths used hand tools to bring down the gate on Friday as an act of protest against Israel’s separation wall.

Fasfous pointed out that the gate is located in the middle of the separation wall that runs through Anata, and separates it from the nearby illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev.

Fasfous said that as the youth were taking down the gate, an Israeli army patrol raided the village, sparking clashes between soldiers and youths. Israeli forces fired stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber-coated steel bullets at locals.

Israel’s separation wall, expected to reach 708 kilometers upon its completion – 88 percent of which is planned inside occupied Palestinian territory, is a common sight in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-installed cement walls and barrier fences zigzag throughout the landscape.

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall was illegal under international law and its construction must stop immediately, adding that reparations should be paid to Palestinians whose properties were damaged as a result of the construction.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Erdogan, Abbas Discuss Jerusalem Status

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas spoke over the phone on Saturday to discuss the status of Jerusalem, according to a Turkish presidential source.

The leaders also discussed the latest developments in Palestine, the source said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.

Erdogan emphasized that an independent and sovereign Palestinian state should be established with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The president reiterated Turkey’s ongoing support for the “just cause” of the Palestinian people, adding lifting restrictions on Gaza would significantly contribute to peace.

Abbas, for his part, thanked Erdogan for his sensitivity and support.

The phone call comes amid media reports about purported plans by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Word of Trump’s planned announcement, which would deviate from previous US presidents who have insisted the Jerusalem’s status must be decided in negotiations, has already drawn criticism from the Palestinian Authority.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Gazans Mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (VIDEO)

Dozens of Palestinians staged a rally in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

“We are here to draw attention to the rights and demands of people with disabilities in Gaza,” Amjad al-Shawa, chairman of the Palestinian Non-governmental Organizations Network, told participants.

Participants who gathered outside the cabinet premises in Gaza City, waved banners calling on the government to fulfill the needs of disabled people in the enclave.

“People with disabilities are the most vulnerable people in Gaza and are paying the heaviest price for the Israeli blockade on the strip,” al-Shawa said.

There are around 27,000 people with disabilities in Gaza and the West Bank, according to official Palestinian figures.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 3 as the International Day of Disabled Persons in 1992.

It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Palestinian Poet Chosen Symbol of Arab Culture in 2018

The late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has been chosen as the symbol of Arab culture in 2018, Safa news agency reported on Friday. The decision was made by the Permanent Committee for Arab Culture, which convened in the Moroccan city of Casablanca to set out the vision for Arab cultural activities.

The Deputy Head of the Committee, Jad Izzat Al-Ghazzawi, emphasized the need for consideration to be given to the heritage of Jerusalem as well as Arabic and Islamic heritage.

He also called for the design and performance of Arabic programs in support of Jerusalem’s residents and culture, including cinema, theater and the arts in order to reinforce the Arab presence in the occupied city and the presence of Jerusalem in Arab hearts and minds.

The official stressed that study materials should be chosen for schools and universities which support this approach.

(PC, MEMO, Social Media)

Australian Billionaire Implicates Netanyahu in Corruption Scandal

Australian businessman James Packers has confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded gifts for himself and his wife in return for advancing Packer’s business interests, according to the Times of Israel.

The billionaire, who runs the Crown gaming empire and reportedly has a close relationship with Netanyahu, voluntarily attended an interview with the Australian Federal Police, after months of stalling, under the condition that his testimony would not be used against him, a police spokesman said today.

The questioning was the latest in a series of interviews conducted with prominent businessmen as part of an investigation into bribes allegedly received by the prime minister, dubbed Case 1000.

Israel Police were said to be pleased with Packer’s testimony, as it further cements the accusations against Netanyahu and his wife that the gifts were not given freely by friends, as the couple have alleged during questioning.

Israeli police have also questioned Packer’s business partner, Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, over the affair, who has reportedly testified that the prime minister explicitly requested expensive cigars, again contradicting Netanyahu’s claims.

Netanyahu was grilled by police last week for the sixth time in connection to Case 1,000 and Case 2000, in which he faces allegations of negotiating a deal for more favourable media coverage with Arnon Mozes, publisher of popular Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

The prime minister has also been questioned recently in regards to two other investigations: Case 3000, also known as the “submarine scandal”, albeit not as a suspect, and Case 4000, in which a close associate of Netanyahu is suspected of providing confidential information to Israel’s largest telecoms company.

This week, the Knesset added to the controversy when it passed, in a first vote, a law that would bar police from recommending whether charges should be filed against public officials. Critics have slammed the proposal as a transparent attempt to shield Netanyahu from further inquiry.

In response, Israeli police have temporarily stopped investigations into Netanyahu’s involvement in Case 2000 and 3000 to instead focus on the gift giving case before the bill comes into effect.

Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face criminal investigation; former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014, serving 16 months of a 27-month term, and Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office over allegations of bribery and campaign financing illegalities.

Israel frequently refers to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East”, but this remains highly debateable as corruption scandals threaten to embroil the highest political authority in the country.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)