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Netanyahu, Gantz feud over West Bank annexation plan

The annexation plan was accepted with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.

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Netanyahu and Gantz

Jerusalem, June 30 : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, were at odds over the timing of the country’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz, who serves as alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, held separate meetings with Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for international negotiations over the annexation plan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Netanyahu had already declared that he wants to begin imposing Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank, as soon as July 1, in accordance with Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

But Gantz told a meeting of lawmakers with his centrist Blue and White party that “anything not related to the struggle against the coronavirus will wait”.

“Before making any political moves, we need to help the public to get back to earn a living with dignity,” Gantz said.

In the afternoon, Netanyahu was quoted as dismissing Gantz”s remarks.

He told a meeting of lawmakers with his right-wing Likud party that he is working “discretely” with envoys of Trump, his close ally.

“The issue does not depend on Blue and White,” he said, according to local media reports.

Under their power-sharing deal, both Netanyahu and Gantz hold veto power over key government decisions.

However, the deal allows Netanyahu to bring an annexation proposal to the cabinet starting from July 1, even without Gantz approval.

The annexation plan was accepted with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Israel on Monday to halt the “illegal” plan.

“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity,” Bachelet said in a statement.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has controlled the territory ever since, despite international criticism.

Middle East

UN Security Council Rejects US Proposal to Extend Arms Embargo on Iran

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UNSC

United Nations, Aug 15 : Isolated by its allies, the US has suffered a diplomatic defeat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) which turned down its demand to extend the arms embargo on Iran.

The setback came on Friday, a day after President Donald Trump announced a diplomatic triumph in the Middle East: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) setting up diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its freezing expansion in the West Bank.

Five of Washington’s NATO allies along with six others abstained, while China and Russia voted against the resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo that expires on October 18.

Only the Dominican Republic voted with the US.

The results of the remote voting that started on Thursday in the Council that is operating virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic, was announced on Friday.

The defeat was a rebuke to the Trump administration, which unilaterally withdrew from the international agreement with Iran to end its nuclear weapons programme.

Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the Council and Germany, along with the European Union, Tehran undertook to reduce the amount of uranium it enriches and cut its stockpile of enriched uranium to a level that would prevent it from making nuclear weapons, and take other steps to stop proliferation.

In return, the economic sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Turning down appeals from Washington’s European allies, Trump, however, in 2018 backed out of the deal reached by his predecessor Barack Obama and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.

Tehran, in turn, began increasing uranium enrichment beyond the level it had agreed to.

By absenting themselves from the vote, the US allies sent a message to Trump reinforcing their opposition to his unilateral action.

Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative Gunter Sautter said that it was committed to preserving the Iran deal and was working with Britain and France to save it despite US withdrawal and Iran’s actions rolling back the agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the vote: “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defence of international peace and security is inexcusable.

“We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

While theoretically Iran could buy and sell weapons when the embargo ends in October, the US is counting on using its economic muscle to enforce a unilateral arms embargo as it has in order to ensure that its economic sanctions were followed.

The Trump administration is also counting on the provisions in the Iran deal that would require the reimposition of sanctions if Iran exceeded the limits of uranium production set in the agreement, which it has already done.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations and it is the only tangible peace development in the Middle East from the initiative overseen by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

It was driven in part by UAE’s fear of Iran and its influence in the region.

Trump said while announcing the agreement that “peace between the Arabs and the Israelis is Iran’s worst nightmare”.

The UAE will become only the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to exchange envoys with Israel.

It has taken 25 years since Jordan’s deal with Israel for another Arab country to follow suit.

But if Israel goes through with the agreement to give up claims on the West Bank, it could lead to other Arab and Muslim countries at odds with Iran normalising ties with Israel, potentially redrawing the region’s geopolitical map.

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Middle East

Putin proposes urgent 7-state online summit on Iran, Persian Gulf

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed holding an urgent online meeting of the heads of the five states that are permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) with the participation of the leaders of Germany and Iran to discuss Iran and the Persian Gulf situation.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Moscow: “Should the leaders agree in principle to have this conversation, we propose that the foreign ministries of the seven countries agree on a meeting agenda, make the necessary arrangements and schedule a video summit,” Putin said in a statement on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

He said that discussions on the Iranian issue within the UNSC are becoming more intense, while the situation is getting worse, as there are groundless accusations against Iran and draft resolutions are being drawn up aimed at destroying the previous unanimous decisions of the Security Council.

Russia remains fully committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, the conclusion of which in 2015 was a major political and diplomatic achievement and it made possible to avert the threat of armed conflict and strengthened the nuclear non-proliferation regime, Putin said.

It is important to secure collective support for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that sets forth an international legal framework for the execution of the JCPOA, he said.

Putin also proposed to agree at the summit on parameters of joint work in order to facilitate the formation of reliable mechanisms for ensuring security and building confidence in the Persian Gulf region.

This can be achieved by uniting the political will and creative energy of “all our countries and countries of the region,” he said.

“We urge our partners to carefully weigh our offer. The alternative is to further escalate tension, to increase the risk of conflict,” Putin said, adding that Russia is open to constructive interaction with anyone interested in pushing the situation away from the dangerous brink.

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Palestinians protest against normalisation agreement between Israel, UAE

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Palestinians protest UAE-Israel deal

GAZA/RAMALLAH, Aug. 14 : Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza on Friday against the United States’ sponsored normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Islamic Jihad Movement and other Palestinian factions organized the demonstration in Gaza city. Leaders of the factions, including the Hamas movement, joined the protest.

The crowds went out from al-Omari main mosque in Gaza city, waving flags and chanting slogans against the UAE. They marched the main street and gathered at Palestine square in the city’s downtown.

They carried banners writing “Palestine is not for sale” “No for normalization and no for those who lead normalization with the occupation” and “normalization is a knife in the back of the Palestinian people.”

Member of the Islamic Jihad Movement’s political bureau Khaled Al-Batsh renewed the Palestinian people’s condemnation and rejection of the agreement, calling on the UAE to withdraw its recognition of Israel immediately.

Hamas movement leader Mushir al-Masri addressed during the demonstration on behalf of the other factions’ leaders that the Palestinian people described the declaration of the agreement as “a black day for our people and cause.”

“The agreement is a total betrayal of the Palestinian cause and an unpardonable diplomatic action that no one forgives. It is a stab in the back of the Palestinians and gives free services to the occupation,” al-Masri said.

Protests also took place in some West Bank cities.

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