Iran on Saturday strongly condemned Bahrain s plan to normalize relations with Israel, calling it a shameful and ignominious move by the Gulf Arab country. Bahrain s announcement Friday followed a similar normalization agreement last month by the United Arab Emirates, a fellow U.S. ally. The two Arab nations establishment of full relations with Israel is part of a broader push by the Trump administration find common ground with countries that share U.S. wariness of Iran. Tehran s arch rival Saudi Arabia may also be close to a deal. In a statement, Iran s Foreign Ministry said Bahrain s normalization ``will remain in the historical memory of the oppressed and downtrodden people of Palestine and the world s free nations forever. Iran s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard also denounced Bahrain s move using similar language, calling it a betrayal of the Palestinian people and a ``threat to security in West Asia and the Muslim world. The agreements by the UAE and now Bahrain are a setback for Palestinian leaders, who have urged Arab nations to withhold recognition until they have secured an independent state. The Palestinians have seen a steady erosion in once-unified Arab support _ one of the few cards they still held as leverage against Israel _ since President Donald Trump began pursuing an unabashedly pro-Israel agenda. The Foreign Ministry statement also said Bahrain s government and the other supporting governments would be held accountable for any act by Israel that causes insecurity in the Persian Gulf region. The island of Bahrain lies just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, and is among the world s smallest countries, only about 760 square kilometers (290 square miles). Bahrain s location in the Persian Gulf long has made it a trading stop and a naval defensive position. The island is home to the U.S. Navy s 5th Fleet and a recently built British naval base. Like Iran, Bahrain s population is majority Shiite, and the country has been ruled since 1783 by the Sunni Al Khalifa family. Since Iran s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain s rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island. Iran denies the accusations. Bahrain s Shiite majority has accused the government of treating them like second-class citizens. The Shiites joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.
Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib said on Monday he had met Lebanon s president for more consultations, raising doubts that he could form his cabinet by a deadline agreed with France of early this week to start hauling the nation out of deep crisis. Lebanese leaders promised French President Emmanuel Macron in Beirut on Sept. 1 to form a government in two weeks, part of a roadmap drawn up by Paris to start reforms aimed at ending the worst crisis since Lebanon s civil war ended three decades ago. "God willing, all will be well," Adib told reporters following his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. An official source had previously said the prime minister-designate, a Sunni Muslim under Lebanon s sectarian system of power sharing, would present plans for his cabinet on Monday. But on Sunday the Shia Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and a leading Christian politician voiced objections to the way Adib was putting together a cabinet, undermining prospects for his government of technocrats to win support across the sectarian divide.
Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighter jets early on Sunday attacked barracks and military sites of the armed Houthi movement in Yemen s capital Sanaa, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported. The coalition also destroyed four Houthi drones at Al-Delmi air base north of Sanaa, Al-Arabiya said, citing local sources. There was no immediate official confirmation from the coalition, which launched air strikes on two sites in Sanaa a day earlier. Those strikes followed a Houthi claim it had attacked an "important target" in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday using a ballistic missile and drones. The coalition did not confirm an attack on Riyadh but said it had intercepted and destroyed ballistic missiles and explosive drones launched towards the kingdom on Thursday. Bombings in Sanaa city have been relatively rare since September 2019, when Saudi Arabia launched indirect talks with the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which it has been at war with since 2015. The conflict has killed 100,000 people and led to what the United Nations describes as the world s worst humanitarian crisis. The Houthis took over the Yemeni capital Sanaa and most other cities in 2014 after ousting the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The coalition that Saudi Arabia leads intervened to try to restore Hadi to power.
French President Emmanuel Macron will gather leaders from Mediterranean states for a summit Thursday set to be dominated by growing tensions between Turkey and EU states in the east of the sea. The EuroMed 7 is an informal group of EU Mediterranean states, sometimes dubbed "Club Med", that held its first summit in 2016, though Turkey is not a member. France has strongly backed Greece and Cyprus in a growing standoff with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean that has sparked fears of more severe conflict. The summit of leaders from France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus will open around 1500 GMT at Porticcio, a coastal resort on the French island of Corsica. Speaking with journalists in Ajaccio late Wednesday, Macron said the Mediterranean should be "a region of circulation of cultures and knowledge, and not, as is too often the case, a region of geopolitical, energy or religious conflicts." A French presidential official said Macron would seek to "make progress in the consensus on the relationship of the EU with Turkey above all ahead of the 24-25 September EU summit." Reaffirming Macron s policy towards Turkey, the official said that France wants a "clarification" in relations with Ankara which should be an "important" partner. - Same desire - Turkey has sought to join the EU for over half a century, though analysts say the growing rift President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the bloc s leaders has made the prospect increasingly unlikely. Ankara s hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece, the latest conflict between Turkey and a fellow NATO member, has further strained relations. Turkey last month deployed an exploration vessel backed by military frigates in waters between Greece and Cyprus, prompting Athens to respond with naval exercises as a warning. Some member states will be pressing for sanctions against Turkey at the EU summit, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying at the weekend such measures were on the table. "If Turkey refuses to listen to reason before then, I don t see any choice for my European colleagues except significant sanctions," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was to hold talks with Macron before Thursday s meeting, wrote in French daily Le Monde. Greek media said the possible sale by France of Rafale fighter jets could be on the table, in a sign of the increasingly strong alliance between Paris and Athens. But Erdogan, referring to areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus as their exclusive economic zones, has threatened he is ready to "tear up immoral maps and documents". Another cause of tension between France, as well as its EU allies, and Turkey has been Libya, where Ankara has engaged militarily in support of the UN-recognised Tripoli-based government. In an interview with AFP last week, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades denounced Turkey s "aggressiveness" which he said masked "an intention to control the whole area". The EuroMed 7 came into being against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Greece which had caused tensions between southern EU members and their more frugal northern counterparts. They "share the same desire to stimulate a new dynamic of cooperation" in the region, "in particular on issues of sustainable development and sovereignty", Macron s office said.
The Lebanese army on Tuesday prevented a group of Syrians and their Lebanese handlers from illicitly leaving the country by sea from the northern city of Tripoli, the official ANI news agency reported. "A Lebanese army naval patrol, in coordination with army intelligence, thwarted an operation to smuggle several people across the sea after the boat was spotted off the northern coast," ANI reported. The Lebanese and Syrian passengers were returned to Tripoli port, it said. It was the second failed clandestine attempt within days by people seeking to leave the country via Tripoli. On Saturday, a boat illegally transporting Lebanese and Syrians was intercepted off the coast of Cyprus to the west, and forced to turn back. On Monday, Cyprus said it would send a team to Lebanon to discuss dealing with the increasingly frequent crossing attempts. Cyprus, just 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Lebanon s coast, is so close that the deadly explosion that devastated Beirut on August 4 was heard on the island. It fears becoming a magnet for those fleeing a political and economic crisis Cyprus is on alert after at least five boats carrying over 150 migrants were spotted off the coast of the tourist island by authorities in recent days, and the interior ministry held an emergency meeting on the situation on Monday. Lebanon, which hosts around a million people displaced from neighbouring wartorn Syria, was undergoing a severe economic crisis even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. That was exacerbated by the massive August 4 explosion at Beirut port which laid waste to whole neighbourhoods of the capital and killed over 190 people.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Cyprus on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to help mediate in any talks with Turkey over energy exploration in the east Mediterranean Sea. A decades-old rift between Turkey and Cyprus, which is backed by Greece, has come to a head this year in disputes over commercial rights in the east Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural gas. "As far as your relations with Turkey are concerned, we are ready to promote dialogue, pragmatically based on mutual interests and in search of decisions, which will be fair and based on international law," Lavrov said at a meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia. "Russia considers any steps that could lead to a further escalation of tensions (in the east Mediterranean) unacceptable," he later added in a news conference. NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at loggerheads over the extent of their continental shelves. Ankara also disputes the rights of Cyprus to explore for natural gas in the sea area around the island.
Saudi Arabia s King Salman told U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday that the kingdom was eager to achieve a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, which he said was the main starting point of the kingdom s proposed Arab Peace Initiative, the state news agency reported. The leaders spoke by phone following a historic U.S. brokered accord last month under which the United Arab Emirates agreed to become the third Arab state to make peace deal with Israel after Egypt and Jordan. King Salman told Trump he appreciated U.S. efforts to support peace and that Saudi Arabia wanted to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue based on the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the kingdom in 2002. Under the proposal, Arab nations have offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel. However, this month the kingdom said it would allow flights between UAE and Israel, including by Israeli airliners, to use its airspace. White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has said he hopes another Arab country normalizes ties with within months. No other Arab state has said so far it is considering a peace deal with Israel. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace after Kushner visited the UAE last month. The UAE-Israel deal was met by overwhelming Palestinian opposition.
The heads of Israel s two biggest banks will travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this month, the first such visits since the two countries agreed to normalise relations. One delegation led by Bank Hapoalim will leave on Sept. 8 and visit Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where it will meet with government and trade officials as well as the heads of the largest banks in the UAE. Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler on Sunday called it "a unique opportunity to establish economic relations and cooperation between our countries and their financial systems, which will yield economic growth for both parties." He added there was an "immediate bilateral desire" to establish strong economic ties. The chairman and CEO of Bank Leumi will head a second delegation on Sept. 14. Leumi said it hoped to build on the diplomatic accord by kick-starting cooperation in finance, technology, health, tourism, agriculture and industry. Israel and the UAE announced in August they would normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship in a U.S.-brokered deal. Last week, they agreed to set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services, aiming to promote investment between the two countries. First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE s largest lender, said last week it would open discussions with Hapoalim and Leumi.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met U.S. President Donald Trump s senior advisor Jared Kushner in London on Thursday and discussed the Middle East peace process after dropping in on Kushner s meeting with foreign minister Dominic Raab. "The Prime Minister has dropped in on a meeting between the Foreign Secretary and White House Advisor Jared Kushner. They discussed the Middle East Peace Process," an email from Johnson s office said.
Joe Biden plans to hammer President Donald Trump on Wednesday for not helping the nation s schools reopen safely during the coronavirus pandemic, as the Democratic challenger tries to keep the spotlight on the Republican incumbent s handling of the outbreak and the nation s overall security. Biden and his wife, Jill, a longtime college professor and former high school teacher, will meet with public health experts to talk about school reopening options. Then the candidate will deliver remarks – his second speech in three days – outlining his ideas and accusing the president of making the country less safe. The event in Wilmington, Delaware, is the latest in a series of dueling efforts by Trump and Biden to cast the other as a threat to Americans day-to-day security. It will highlight their vastly different arguments, with Trump steering debate toward “law and order” and Biden pushing a broad referendum on Trump s competence. “President Trump has no plan,” said Biden adviser Symone Sanders, previewing the former vice president s remarks on schools and the pandemic. “Instead,” she continued, “he thinks that a fear-mongering campaign stoking violence is going to help him.” Biden, she said, “is demonstrating what a safe America could look like” by talking to experts about school options in a pandemic, while Trump tries to capitalize on the fact that some racial justice protests have led to property damage or turned into violent clashes with counter-protesters. Trump put his approach on display again Tuesday on a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city still reeling from protests and violence after another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by police. The president praised local law enforcement and toured a block charred by protesters fire. He called the destruction “anti-American” and suggested Biden s election would ensure similar scenes in US cities across the country. It was the latest rendition of a theme voiced throughout the Republican National Convention: “You won t be safe in Joe Biden s America.” Trump again did not condemn a 17-year-old vigilante charged in the killings of two protesters in Kenosha, and he again rejected that systemic racism plays any part in U.S. society. Sanders previewed Biden s retort and pivot. “To be clear, we are currently living in Donald Trump s America, and folks have to ask themselves across the country: Are you safe?” she said. With the US COVID-19 death toll nearing 190,000, Sanders declared the answer is “unequivocally” no. Trump s advisers argue that his stance – which includes falsely accusing Biden of championing violent protesters and wanting to “defund the police” — shifts attention away from the pandemic. They also believe the tactics help Trump attract white voters in suburbs and exurbs, key slices of his 2016 coalition. Some Democrats have quietly worried that recent violence might boost Trump s prospects, even as his maneuvers do nothing to quell unrest or perhaps even feed it. Biden s team downplays such concerns, insisting the former vice president simply must counter with steady warnings that Trump is dangerously inept. They see that as an umbrella argument for any number of scenarios – including a discussion of how to reopen schools. Trump s cries of “law-and-order” and “radical leftists” might work, said Biden s campaign co-chairman Cedric Richmond, “if he was the only one talking.” But the Louisiana congressman said Biden has a megaphone, too, and that Trump, even as a “p.r. master,” cannot erase Americans own realities on coronavirus, systemic racism or anything else. “Look, you can t argue that the country is so screwed up only you can fix it when you ve been president for almost four years,” Richmond said in an interview. “His argument is basically, I broke the country. Now reelect me so I can fix it. ”
French President Emmanuel Macron will mark Lebanon s centenary on Tuesday by planting a cedar tree, the emblem of the Middle East nation that is collapsing under the weight of a crippling economic crisis. In his second trip to Lebanon in less than a month, Macron is expected to lean on Lebanon s fractious leaders to carry out economic reforms that are vital to getting the country out of crisis and unlocking foreign aid. With its economy in deep crisis, a swathe of Beirut in tatters following a huge explosion at the port on Aug. 4, and sectarian tensions rising, Lebanon is facing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. Macron, who also visited in the immediate aftermath of the blast that killed more than 190 people and injured 6,000, was due to head northeast of Beirut to a reserve to plant the tree. The French air force display team is scheduled to perform a display over the country with Lebanon s national colours. Lebanon s modern borders were proclaimed 100 years ago by France in an imperial carve-up with Britain after the First World War. Lebanon gained independence in 1943. Macron, who has been at the centre of international efforts to press Lebanese leaders to tackle corruption and take other steps to fix their country, began his trip late on Monday by meeting Fairouz, 85, one of the Arab world s most famous singers whose music transcends Lebanon s deep divisions. He was greeted by dozens of protesters gathered outside, who held placards reading "No cabinet by, or with, the murderers" and "Don t be on the wrong side of history!" He told reporters on Monday he wanted to "ensure that the government that is formed will implement the necessary reforms." In the hours before his arrival, Lebanese leaders designated a new prime minister, Mustapha Adib, reaching a consensus among major parties that senior Lebanese politicians said was forged under pressure from Macron over the weekend. Macron agenda includes a tour of the devastated Beirut port, the site of the catastrophic Aug. 4 chemicals explosion, meeting President Michel Aoun for an official reception marking the country s centenary, and an afternoon of political meetings with Lebanon s various factions. After being designated on Monday, Adib called for the rapid formation of a government, the immediate implementation of reforms and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Lebanon s economic crisis is rooted in decades of state corruption and waste that landed the state with one of the world s heaviest public debt burdens. Since October, the currency has collapsed, savers have been frozen out of their deposits in a paralysed banking system, and poverty and unemployment have soared. France’s foreign minister said last week that Lebanon risked disappearing because of the inaction of its political elite who needed to quickly form a new government to implement reforms.
An Israeli-American delegation was set to take off Monday on the first commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi as the US-brokered peace agreement between Israel and the UAE takes hold. The El Al flight, scheduled to leave at 0730 GMT from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, will carry a delegation led on the American side by President Donald Trump s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner. The word "peace" was painted on the plane s cockpit in Arabic, English and Hebrew, images issued by El Al showed. The agreement between Israel and the Emirates to make a peace deal was announced on August 13, making the UAE the first Gulf country and only the third Arab nation to establish relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Israel s National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat will be the most senior figure aboard the flight on the side of Israel. The scheduled talks in Abu Dhabi aim at boosting cooperation between the two regional economic powerhouses in areas including aviation, tourism, trade, health, energy and security. The flight by Israel s national carrier, numbered 971 like the UAE s international dialling code, was reported to have received permission to cross Saudi Arabia s air space. Officials at El Al and the Israel Airport Authority would not confirm the reports, which would be the first known time El Al crosses Saudi airspace. The return flight, set to leave Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning, is numbered 972 -- Israel s international dialling code. Sparks fly Late Sunday, Israel s health ministry updated its list of "green countries" with low coronavirus infection rates to include the UAE and eight other countries. The change meant the Israeli officials and journalists travelling to Abu Dhabi would be exempted from a 14-day quarantine upon return. Since the agreement between the UAE and Israel was unveiled, there have been phone calls between their ministers, and on Saturday the Emirates in a new milestone repealed a 1972 law boycotting Israel. "It will be permissible to enter, exchange or possess Israeli goods and products of all kinds in the UAE and trade in them," read a federal decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking alongside Kushner in Jerusalem on Sunday, praised "the swift pace of normalisation" between his country and the UAE. Noting the UAE s Saturday move, Netanyahu said it "opens the door" for "unbridled trade, tourism, investments, exchanges between the Middle East s two most advanced economies". "You will see how the sparks fly on this. It s already happening," he said, predicting that "today s breakthroughs will become tomorrow s norms. It will pave the way for other countries to normalise their ties with Israel." As part of the peace agreement announced by Trump, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank, although Netanyahu quickly insisted the plans remained on the table in the long run.
Israel is in secret talks with several Arab states on establishing ties, in addition to its US-backed deal struck with the UAE, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. "There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the state of Israel," he said on the eve of Israel s first commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates. The historic flight follows the August 13 announcement of a US-brokered agreement to normalise relations between the two countries, making the UAE the first Gulf country and only the third Arab state to establish relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan. The Monday morning flight will carry a US-Israeli delegation led on the American side by White House advisor Jared Kushner, who stood next to Netanyahu during the Israeli premier s remarks.
Bahrain said Wednesday it was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state in talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, implicitly rejecting his push for Arab countries to swiftly normalise ties with Israel. Pompeo was in Manama as part of a Middle East trip aimed at forging more links between Israel and the Arab world after a landmark US-brokered deal with the United Arab Emirates. The US chief diplomat has said he is hopeful other nations will follow the UAE, which earlier this month became only the third Arab country to agree to establish relations with the Israel. "Hopeful we will build on this momentum towards regional peace," Pompeo tweeted as he landed in Abu Dhabi, the latest stop on the tour which has taken in Israel, Sudan and Bahrain. However, Sudan s transitional government on Tuesday dashed hopes for a speedy breakthrough, saying it has "no mandate" to take such a weighty step. And Bahrain echoed the sentiments of its ally, regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, that an accord with Israel would not materialise without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Bahrain s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa said he told Pompeo that his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative -- which calls for Israel s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied after 1967, in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations. "The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution... to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital," the official Bahrain News Agency reported. Pompeo said in a tweet only that he discussed with Bahrain s royal rulers the "importance of building regional peace and stability" and "countering Iran s malign influence". Manama was the first Gulf country to welcome the UAE rapprochement and was considered a front-runner to follow in its footsteps.
In three decades of failed peace efforts, the Palestinians have never faced a more hostile U.S. administration, a more self-assured Israel or a more ambivalent international community. But even as their hopes for statehood have never seemed so dim, there s no indication their aging leadership will change course. President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to the same strategy he has pursued for decades, seeking international support to pressure Israel to agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war. President Donald Trump s Mideast plan, which overwhelmingly favors Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians, would remain the cornerstone of U.S. policy for another four years if Trump is reelected. But while the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against them, the Palestinians make up nearly half the population between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Their leaders say Israel still needs their signature if it hopes to resolve the conflict, a source of frustration for Trump s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the architect of the plan. ``There is an erroneous assumption that the Palestinians are defeated, and they have to accept the facts of their defeat,`` said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official. ``The Palestinians are willing, generation after generation, to continue their struggle until we get our rights. Here s a look at the Palestinians options going forward: The Diplomatic Route The Palestinians demand for a state based on the 1967 lines still enjoys broad international support and is enshrined in U.N. resolutions. Palestine was granted ``observer state status in 2012, allowing it to join several global forums, including the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians have requested an ICC war crimes investigation of Israel that could eventually see charges filed against political or military leaders. Israel is not a member of the ICC and says there is no legal basis for any investigation, but its citizens could be subject to arrest in other countries if warrants are issued. Those moves have put pressure on Israel, but have not led to any concessions. They also haven t prevented it from cultivating closer ties to Arab and African countries that historically supported the Palestinians. The EU, divided and preoccupied by the coronavirus crisis, also seems unable to offer significant support. Boycotts and International Solidarity In recent years, a Palestinian-led international movement has sought to mobilize grassroots support for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions. BDS organizers say they are leading a nonviolent campaign for Palestinian rights modeled on the struggle against apartheid South Africa. Israel accuses them of seeking to delegitimize its existence. While BDS has notched some successes, it has had no discernible impact on Israel s economy. Popular among left-wing activists in Western countries, it also has faced setbacks, including anti-BDS legislation in the U.S. and Germany. Tareq Baconi, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, says the growing solidarity between Palestinian and Black Lives Matter activists ``is an example of some of the pressure that can be brought to bear on Israel eventually. But this is, for the moment, too fragmented and not sufficiently powerful enough to have any kind of political leverage.`` A One-State Solution In recent years a growing number of Palestinians and their supporters have suggested abandoning the two-state solution in favor of a single binational state for Jews and Palestinians or some kind of Israeli-Palestinian confederation. The idea gained new attention last month when Peter Beinart, a prominent Jewish-American commentator, came out in favor of the idea. The argument is that Israel s right-wing government and its sprawling West Bank settlements _ now home to more than 500,000 Israelis _ make any partition impossible. There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade. One-state proponents say Palestinians should instead seek equal rights, including the vote. While it has gained traction among intellectuals, the idea has little support in Israel or the Palestinian territories. A June poll carried out by the respected Palestinian Center for Survey and Policy Research found that just 37% of Palestinians support the idea, and only 6% would choose it over other options. The Palestinian leadership remains staunchly opposed to a one-state solution, which would entail dismantling the Palestinian Authority and plunging into an uncertain future. Cleaning House Many Palestinians argue that their leadership needs to pursue fundamental reforms. Abbas popularity has plunged in recent years and the Palestinian Authority is widely seen as corrupt and incompetent. There have been no national elections in nearly 15 years because of the bitter division between Abbas Fatah movement and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized Gaza from his forces in 2007. Fatah and Hamas are united in their rejection of the Trump plan and Arab normalization and in recent weeks have held joint meetings and rallies to project a united front. But several past attempts at a broader reconciliation have all failed. That has left the 85-year-old Abbas entrenched at the head of an aging and inflexible Palestinian leadership. Banking on Biden The election of former Vice President Joe Biden would likely spell the end of the Trump plan. But few Palestinians believe a return to the Obama-era approach of trying to coax the two sides toward a negotiated settlement will succeed. ``It s very difficult to envision anyone doing more damage than Trump, Ashrawi said. ``At the same time, I would like to caution against thinking that Biden is a knight in shining armor. Biden ``will go back to managing the conflict, said Ali Jarbawi, a political science professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank. ``Under the banner of a two-state solution you give money to the Palestinians, you tell the Israelis please don t do this and don t do that, and engage once more in negotiating that will take another 20 years.`` he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday left Israel for Sudan, the next stop on his regional tour, on the first official direct flight from Tel Aviv to Khartoum. Video released by the US embassy in Jerusalem showed an official greeting Pompeo as he walked onto the plane, saying "You are now on a historic flight," and the top US diplomat nodding in agreement. Israel and Sudan do not have diplomatic relations and, barring a last-minute route change, it would be the first such non-stop flight, US officials said. Israel has regular commercial flights to Egypt, Sudan s northern neighbour, with which it signed a peace agreement in 1979. Pompeo s trip, also taking in Bahrain and the UAE, comes in the wake of the August 13 announcement of a US-brokered normalisation of relations between the Emirates and the Jewish state. Speaking in Jerusalem on Monday, both Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that they were hopeful that other Arab states would follow suit. The deal with the UAE is not strictly-speaking a peace deal as the two states have never been at war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Monday to start a five-day Middle East tour focused on Israel s peace deal with the United Arab Emirates and pushing other Arab states to follow suit. Pompeo, wearing a face mask in the colours of the US flag, was due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in coming days also visit Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE, the State Department said. In Jerusalem, Pompeo and Netanyahu were due to discuss "regional security issues related to Iran s malicious influence" and "establishing and deepening Israel s relationships in the region," the State Department said. Netanyahu said Sunday he and Pompeo would talk about "expanding the circle of peace in our region ... We re working on peace with more countries, and I think there will be more countries -- and in the not-so-distant future." Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. President Donald Trump s Middle East peace plan, announced in January, forsees cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries. The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom said on Sunday that direct talks with the UAE on the wording of the deal were close to starting and that "a full agreement could be reached within a month" with a signing at the White House. Bahrain, Oman, Sudan? Under the US-brokered agreement announced on August 13, Israel pledged to suspend its previous plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, without saying for how long. The Palestinians have slammed the UAE s move as a "stab in the back" while their own conflict with Israel remains unresolved. The UAE ambassador to Washington, writing in Israel s Yediot Aharonot newspaper, argued that closer ties would benefit everybody and "help move the region beyond the ugly legacy of hostility and conflicts, towards a destiny of hope, peace and prosperity". Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces. The State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to "express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship". Pompeo will also meet Bahrain s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before meeting UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, it said. Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not make peace deal until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.
United States-led international coalition troops withdrew from Iraq s Taji military base on Sunday and handed it over to Iraqi security forces, Reuters witnesses and the coalition said. The base, 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias targeting U.S.-led troops in recent months. "The movement of coalition military personnel is part of a long-range plan coordinated with the government of Iraq," the coalition said in a statement, adding that Camp Taji has historically held up to 2,000 coalition members, most of whom have departed this summer. Remaining coalition troops will depart in the coming days after finalising the handing over of equipment to Iraqi security forces, it added. This was the eighth transfer of a coalition portion of an Iraqi base back to Iraqi forces, it said. The withdrawal came days after U.S. President Donald Trump redoubled his promise to withdraw the few U.S. troops still in the country. The United States has had about 5,000 troops stationed in the country and coalition allies a further 2,500. Iraq s parliament had voted this year for the departure of foreign troops from Iraq and U.S. and other coalition troops have been leaving as part of a drawdown. The vote came after a U.S. air strike on Baghdad airport killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama painted a unsparing portrait of American democracy on the brink if President Donald Trump wins in November, warning in a scathing, and at times emotional, address Wednesday that his successor is both unfit for office and apathetic to the nation s founding principles. “This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that s what it takes to win,” Obama said in unflinching remarks on the third night of the Democratic convention. He spoke from Philadelphia, where the United States Constitution was drafted and signed. Obama s address amounted to one of the most sweeping condemnations ever of a sitting president by one of his predecessors. It was aimed squarely at jolting Democrats, as well as Republicans who are skeptical of Trump, ahead of the November election, casting the contest not simply as a choice between two politicians or two parties, but as a test of the endurance of American ideals. Through much of Trump s presidency, Obama has been restrained in his public comments, hewing to the tradition of former Oval Office occupants giving space to the current commander in chief. Yet he has become more pointed in his criticism in recent months, and his remarks Wednesday revealed the full extent of both his personal disregard for the current president and his belief that Trump presents an existential threat to democracy in the United States. Obama said he had initially held out hope that Trump would grow into the job of president — but he has now concluded that Trump not only hasn t, he simply can t. Instead, he said Trump has focused on using the presidency to benefit his friends and family and turned the nation s most powerful office into “one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.” Trump, who appeared to be watching in real time, responded with all-caps tweets, questioning why Obama waited until after the Democratic presidential primary was over to endorse Biden. Obama maintained throughout the primary that he would not endorse a candidate in the large field. Obama s address also amounted to a call to action to a weary and anxious nation, particularly younger Americans frustrated with a government that may often appear out of touch with their interests. Democrats see Obama as a bridge to those voters in the 2020 race, someone who can speak both to Biden s character and to the urgency of progressives pushing for more sweeping change to the nation s economic and domestic policies. He called out in particular to young people who took to the streets of American cities earlier this year to protest police brutality against Black Americans, casting them as the heirs to the legacy of civil rights leaders such as Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who died earlier this summer. “You can give our democracy new meaning,” he said. “You re the missing ingredient — the ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed.” Obama cast Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, as well positioned to help that younger generation of activists power through many of the changes they seek. Yet there is an inherent tension in Obama, whose own political rise was fueled by the power of barrier-breaking, generational change, touting Biden, a 77-year-old white man who has spent a career in politics, for the presidency. Indeed, many of Obama s public comments since leaving the White House have focused on encouraging a new generation of political leaders to step up, both in America and around the world. He drew particular attention during the 2020 Democratic primary when he said many of the world s problems have been due to “old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way.” With the general election now in full swing, Obama confidants say that while the former president s support for Biden is unequivocal, he does worry about enthusiasm among younger voters, particularly younger voters of color. He s well aware that one of the reasons Trump currently occupies the Oval Office is that those voters did not show up in the same large numbers in 2016 for Hillary Clinton as they did when he was on the ballot. Obama spoke two nights after his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, headlined the opening night of the convention and delivered her own condemnation of Trump. She urged Democrats to show up to vote the way they did in 2008 and 2012, the elections that sent her husband to the White House on the strength of high turnout among young people, women and voters of color. The fact that the Obamas were headliners on two of the four nights of the Democratic celebration speaks to the crucial role they have in helping Biden try to reassemble that coalition — and the challenge the Democratic Party has in building a new bench of other leaders who can do the same. “When you think about folks who have the capacity to really unify us, there are only a few people,” said Yvette Simpson, chief executive of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee. “Certainly Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are among them.” Indeed, the former president has enviable popularity, both among Democrats and all Americans. A Fox News poll conducted in May found 93 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Obama, as did 63 percent of all registered voters. Despite that strong support, there has been some rethinking of Obama s legacy among some of his party s most liberal activists, who argue he didn t go far enough in overhauling the nation s health care system and gave too much away to Republicans in fiscal negotiations. Obama himself has acknowledged there was more he wanted to do, but argued he was hamstrung by the realities of a Republican-controlled House, and eventually Senate, for much of his tenure. But some of Obama s more recent comments have energized liberals, who see signs of him embracing some of the tactics of his party s activist wing. Progressives cheered in particular when Obama called for eliminating the Senate filibuster rules requiring 60 votes on major pieces of legislation, calling it a “Jim Crow relic” that is holding up rewriting voting rights laws. His surprise comments came during his eulogy at the funeral of the late civil rights leader and Georgia Rep. John Lewis. “That s the guy we remember from the election of 2008,” Simpson said. “It encouraged me that he might be the guy that pulls Joe Biden along a little bit.”
The son of Lebanon s slain former premier Rafik al-Hariri vowed he would not rest until the killers are punished after a U.N.-backed court on Tuesday convicted a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group of involvement in the 2005 assassination. In central Beirut, Hariri family members and loyalists stood at his grave waiting for his son, Saad, also a former premier, to speak from outside the tribunal in The Hague. "(For) the first time in Lebanon s history of many political assassinations, the Lebanese find out the truth," Hariri said. "The importance of this historic moment is the message for those that committed this terrorist crime and those who planned it: that the age of using crimes for political aims with impunity and without paying any cost is over." Some Lebanese, including victims of the attack who waited 15 years for a verdict, voiced disbelief at the acquittal of three other Hezbollah members. The tribunal also said it found no evidence of involvement by Shi ite Hezbollah s leadership or by Damascus. "I am shocked. Instead of the network (of culprits) expanding, it is now one superman who has done all of that?" said Sanaa al Sheikh, who was wounded in the Feb. 14, 2005 bomb blast on Beirut s waterfront that killed Hariri and 21 others. She added that she had never expected such an outcome. "They should pay us back the money they got," said Mahmoud, speaking from a Sunni Muslim district of Beirut mostly loyal to the Hariris. The trial cost roughly $1 billion. Hezbollah made no immediate comment on the ruling, but it has denied any involvement in the killing. Fireworks were briefly heard in Beirut s Shi ite southern suburbs, where Hezbollah holds sway. "It was a false accusation and thank God now you see that our viewpoint has been confirmed," said Hassan Chouman, a pro-Hezbollah official in a small Beirut neighbourhood. "This has not been on our mind for a long time." SON DEMANDS PUNISHMENT The sentencing of Salim Jamil Ayyash, who was convicted while being tried in absentia for playing a central role in the execution of the attack, will be carried out later. He could face life imprisonment. Hezbollah, designated by Washington as a terrorist group, has more influence than ever on the Lebanese state governed by a sectarian power-sharing system. Christian President Michel Aoun and Shi ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, both political allies of Hezbollah, called for unity after the verdict. But Saad al-Hariri said he would not rest until justice had been served. "We tell everybody: nobody (should) expect any more sacrifices from us. We have sacrificed what is dearest to us ... Hezbollah is the one that should make sacrifices today," he said. "It has become clear that the executing network is from within (Hezbollah s) ranks. They think that justice will not reach them and that the punishment will not be served on them. I repeat: we will not rest until punishment is served." The head of the Christian Kataeb party, whose three lawmakers quit over the massive blast in Beirut port this month, said on Twitter: "How long will the world continue to ignore an armed group empowered from abroad and not by Lebanon?"
A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday said there was no evidence the leadership of Hezbollah or the Syrian government were involved in the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Four members of the Iran-backed Shi ite movement Hezbollah are charged with conspiracy to carry out the massive bomb attack that killed Hariri and 21 other people. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire, had close ties with the United States, Western and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, and was seen as a threat to Iranian and Syrian influence in Lebanon. He led efforts to rebuild Beirut following the 1975-1990 civil war. "The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr Hariri and his political allies, however, there is no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Mr. Hariri s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement," said Judge David Re, reading a summary of the court s decision. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005 bombing. The reading of the verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which began on Tuesday is expected to take several hours, comes as Lebanese are still reeling from the aftermath of a huge explosion that killed 178 people this month and from an economic meltdown that has shattered their lives. Hariri s assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political forces. Even before judges began reading their 2,600 page verdict into the Hariri s killing, Lebanon s an-Nahar daily ran a headline: International Justice Defeats Intimidation . The paper published a caricature of Hariri s face looking at a mushroom cloud over the devastated city, with a caption: "May you also (get justice)", referring to an investigation that could unveil the cause of the blast. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday he was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence. Hezbollah s Al Manar TV and the pro-Damascus Al Mayadeen channel did not cover the trial, which other broadcasters in Lebanon were airing live. Beirut tour guide Nada Nammour, 54, speaking before the reading of the verdict began, said the 2005 bombing was a crime that should be punished. "Lebanon needs to see law and justice." The verdict in The Hague may further polarise the already divided country and complicate an already tumultuous situation after the Aug. 4 blast at Beirut port, where authorities say ammonium nitrate stored unsafely detonated, fuelling public outrage and leading to the government s resignation. Harri s killing removed a powerful Sunni leader and allowed the further political expansion of Shi ite power led by Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon. Justice 15 years on The judgment had initially been expected earlier this month, but was delayed after the port explosion. The investigation and trial in absentia of the four Hezbollah members has taken 15 years and cost roughly $1 billion. It could result in a guilty verdict and later sentencing of up to life imprisonment, or acquittal. DNA evidence showed that the blast that killed Hariri was carried out by a male suicide bomber who was never identified. Prosecutors used cell phone records to argue the men on trial, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Assad Hassan Sabra and Hussein Hassan Oneissi, carefully monitored Hariri s movements in the months leading up to the attack to time it and to put forward a fake claim of responsibility as a diversion. Court-appointed lawyers said there is no physical evidence linking the four to the crime and they should be acquitted. Hariri s son Saad, who took his father s mantle and has served as premier three times, has said he was not seeking revenge, but that justice must prevail. Some Lebanese say they are now more concerned with finding out the truth behind the Beirut port blast. "I do want to know what the verdict is ... but what matters now is who did this (port blast) to us because this touched more people," said Francois, a volunteer helping victims in a ruined district.
The press thrives more with freedom, and innovates in a politically and intellectually healthy society. The press should be free, and has to work against all falsehood and deception. Therefore, the journalist is controlled by his conscience, his vision and his ideas, and laws can t prevent deception. A journalist is able to accuse people without insulting them. Law can t prevent him from doing this, but his concie