Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomes UAE, Israel normalization

August 19, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Wednesday cautiously welcomed an agreement between its close ally the United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish full diplomatic ties and exchange embassies.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the deal, which also halted unilateral annexation by Israel of West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, “could be viewed as positive.” But he refrained from outright backing the move, while saying that Saudi Arabia was open to establishing similar relations on condition that a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

Prince Faisal’s remarks during a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas were the first public comment by Saudi Arabia on Thursday’s surprise announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump that his administration helped broker the UAE-Israel agreement.

While Bahrain, Oman and Egypt issued official statements welcoming the agreement, the kingdom did not at the time and did not respond to requests for comment until Wednesday’s news conference in Berlin.

The UAE framed its agreement as a successful measure that halted Israeli plans to annex West Bank territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has said the suspension is only temporary.

The Palestinians have issued scathing statements saying the UAE undermined Arab consensus and described the move as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause.” Saudi Arabia, like other Arab Gulf states, has built quiet ties with Israel over the years, in part because of shared concerns over Iran and its policies in the region.

The kingdom, however, is home to Islam’s holiest site and has historically positioned itself as a defender of Islam and Muslims, a title that foes Turkey and Iran have also tried to claim. King Salman is also seen as a steadfast supporter of the Palestinians, but his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has expressed more willingness for the kingdom to engage with Israel.

“We are committed to the Arab Peace Plan and that is the best way forward to a settlement of the conflict and to normalization with Israel with all states,” the Saudi foreign minister told reporters in Berlin. “That said, any efforts that could promote peace in the region and that result in holding back the threat of annexation could be viewed as positive.”

Prince Faisal noted that the Arab Peace Initiative — sponsored by Saudi Arabia in 2002 — promises Israel full ties with Arab states if a peace settlement is reached with the Palestinians. Conditions for that, however, must be based on internationally recognized parameters, he said.

“Once that is achieved, then all things are possible,” Prince Faisal said. He reiterated the kingdom’s long-held public stance that a future Palestinian state should include east Jerusalem as its capital.

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Health Ministry: 61 local Covid-19 infections, 1 death recorded Monday


AMMONNEWS – The Ministry of Health said Monday it recorded 67 coronavirus cases in the Kingdom, including 61 local infections, raising the caseload since the outbreak of the pandemic to 2478.

According to the news brief by the Prime Ministry and the health Ministry, the cases were 46 in the Amman Governorate (39 contacts with infected persons and 7 under investigation), 8 in Irbid Governorate and 6 in Balqa Governorate, who all contacted infected people, and 1 case under investigation in Madaba.

It said that 6 of the cases from abroad who were staying at quarantine hotels, while a new death was recorded in the Prince Hamza Government Hospital for a young man in his thirties, bringing the total caseload to 17.

It also said that 61 Covid-19 patients have recovered, including 32 at the Prince Hamza Government Hospital and one at a Dead Sea site for isolating people infected with the virus.

According to the brief, 8967 swab tests were taken, raising the total number of tests to 903365.

The Health Ministry urged adherence to the Defense Order No. 11 of 2020 in view of the infection surge, and to follow safety and prevention criteria, mainly wearing masks, avoiding gatherings of more than 20 people and using the Aman and Sehtak alert applications.

Source: Ammon News.


Amman condemns Kosovo, Serbia’s decision to move embassies to Jerusalem


AMMONNEWS – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates on Monday inveighed against the decision of both Kosovo and Serbia to move their embassies to Jerusalem, describing it as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Daifallah Fayez, the Ministry’s spokesperson, said that the decision flouts international resolutions, foremost of which are the UN’s Security Council resolutions 476, 478 and 2334. He highlighted that the resolutions clearly state that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory where international law is applied.

He said that establishing a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967, borders with East Jerusalem as its capital is the only means to establish a lasting peace to the conflict.

Fayez commended the EU for its position against moving embassies and diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

Source: Ammon News.


Two virus-related deaths, 30 cases recorded Monday

By JT – Aug 24,2020

AMMAN — Jordan on Monday recorded two deaths related to the coronavirus and 30 COVID-19 cases, including 28 local infections, increasing the caseload to 1,639, Health Minister Saad Jaber announced.

The deceased included a 99-year-old woman and an Arab national, who reportedly had come to the Kingdom on a private jet to receive treatment for a critical health condition. The country’s coronavirus death toll has reached 14.

The local cases comprised 25 infections in Amman, of which 20 are contacts of coronavirus patients, while the sources of the other five patients are under investigation, the health minister said.

Also among the domestic infections are three cases registered in Zarqa, who have been in quarantine and contracted the virus from a COVID-19 patient, he added.

The cases from abroad comprised two Jordanians — one returning from Saudi Arabia and one from the US — who have been in quarantine at designated hotels.

The minister said that the total number of infections since August 7 has reached 320, of which 59 are related to Sahab district.

Fifteen recovered patients left hospitals over the past 24 hours, increasing the total number of recoveries to 1,352, leaving 296 still receiving treatment, according to the minister.

A total of 7,468 virus tests were conducted on Monday, bringing the cumulative number of coronavirus tests administered since the outbreak of the pandemic to 752,568, he added.

Source: The Jordan Times.


UAE, Israel health ministers agree to enhance cooperation on health

August 24, 2020

The United Arab Emirates and Israel on Monday agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the health sector following an accord between the countries to normalize relations 10 days ago, UAE state news agency WAM said.

The health ministers of the two countries discussed cooperation on pharmaceuticals, medical research, and COVID-19 in a telephone call. A statement from Israel’s Health Ministry added that they agreed on “initial and immediate cooperation” in the health sector.

Israel and the UAE have agreed to normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship under a US-sponsored deal, making the UAE the third Arab country to have formal diplomatic ties with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

The two countries will each appoint representatives and set up business delegations, the Israeli health ministry said.

The countries will also work to create a student exchange program once the coronavirus pandemic conditions allow, it added.

Since the deal, the countries have signed a few agreements on technologies to fight the coronavirus. Several small-scale medical and defense collaborations were announced in the weeks preceding the normalization agreement.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Syria Constitutional Committee ‘on hold’ after three members test positive for COVID-19

August 24, 2020

The Syrian Constitutional Committee, which began its first session in nine months in Geneva on Monday as part of efforts to find a political solution to end Syria’s war, was swiftly put “on hold” after three members tested positive for COVID-19, the United Nations said.

Hours earlier, US Syria envoy James Jeffrey told reporters that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed “under some Russian pressure” to take part in the week-long talks.

The session, organized by UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, is aimed at making make progress in drafting a new Syrian charter to pave the way for UN-sponsored elections, in line with a stalled 2015 UN Security Council resolution.

The office of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen did not identify which three of the 45 members of the so-called small body of the Constitutional Committee were infected. One third is nominated by the Syrian government, one third by the opposition, and one third by civil society.

“Committee members were tested before they traveled to Geneva, and they were tested again on arrival, and the wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures were in place when they met at the Palais des Nations,” the statement said.

“Following a constructive first meeting, the Third Session of the Constitutional Committee is currently on hold. The Office of the Special Envoy will make a further announcement in due course,” it said, adding that Swiss authorities had been informed and contact-tracing was underway.

Jeffrey said that the latest US sanctions, under the Caesar Act passed by Congress, were having a “serious political and psychological impact” on Assad and his inner circle.

“So we are going after them in any way we can and after their international holdings, any way that they or their banks touch dollars, they are in trouble,” he said.

But Jeffrey also said, referring to a province in rebel-held northwestern Syria: “I have seen no indication that the Assad regime has given up its dream of a military victory beginning with Idlib.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.


‘Palestine is still the issue’: UN vote exposes, isolates Canada

August 14, 2020

The notion that ‘Canada is better’, especially when compared with US foreign policy, has persisted for many years. Recent events at the United Nations have, however, exposed the true nature of Canada’s global position, particularly in the matter of its blind and unconditional support for Israel.

On June 17, Canada lost its second bid for the coveted UN Security Council seat, which, had it won, would have allowed Ottawa the opportunity to become a world leader, pushing its own agenda – and those of its allies – on the global stage.

However, this, too, was a wasted opportunity. Only 108 countries voted for Canada while 130 and 128 voted for Norway and Ireland respectively. Both these countries will be admitted to the Security Council, starting January 1, 2021.

What is striking about Canada’s missed opportunity is that it was in retribution for Canada’s bias towards Israel, at the expense of Palestine, international and humanitarian laws.  Over the last twenty years alone, for example, Canada has voted against 166 resolutions supporting Palestinian rights, says Canadian author and human rights advocate, Yves Engler.

Moreover, Canada has lobbied – and continues to lobby – against the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of war crimes in Palestine. Along with Germany, Austria and others, Canada has challenged the ICC’s jurisdiction on the matter, erroneously alleging that Palestine is not a State.

Shortly before the June vote on new Security Council members was held, a group of human rights activists circulated a letter to all UN members, detailing Canada’s poor record on Palestine.  “Despite its peaceful reputation, Canada is not acting as a benevolent player on the international stage,” the letter read.

It added, “Since coming to power, the Justin Trudeau government has voted against more than 50 UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights, even though they have been backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.”

Among the signatories of the letter were renowned American intellectual, Noam Chomsky, famed rock star, Roger Waters and former Quebec National Assembly member, Amir Khadir.

The vote against Canada at the UN was understood to be a stance against Ottawa’s position on Israel and Palestine, despite Canada’s Ambassador to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard, going on the defensive in a desperate attempt to dissuade member states from voting against his country.

In a letter sent to all member states, Blanchard argued that an earlier document written by “a group of Canadians regarding Canada’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  … contains significant inaccuracies and characterizes Canada’s longstanding policy positions”.

This succession of actions is unprecedented in recent years, where a country like Canada loses the respect and support of other UN member states largely due to its failure to respect the rights of the Palestinian people. To better understand the significance of this event, we spoke to Yves Engler, who played a direct role in championing the Palestinian cause and pushing for Canadian accountability at the United Nations.

Engler has also authored several books, among them “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid” and “Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada”.

“It is important for people to realize that this anti-Palestinian position that Canada pursues today is not new. It is grounded in at least a century of Zionist policy in this country,” Engler said.

The UN Vote

Explaining the context of the June UN vote, Engler said that “the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who is a liberal politician, expended a lot of energy into winning that seat; he undertook a huge campaign, called dozens of leaders around the world, lobbied very hard for that seat but, on the first round of voting, Canada was defeated resoundingly by Ireland and Norway.”

Engler added, “In my mind, there was no issue that contributed more to Canada’s loss in its bid for a Security Council seat than its anti-Palestinian record. And, more specifically, its voting against UN General Assembly resolutions that almost the entire world supports, isolated Canada with the US, Israel, Micronesia, and maybe one or two other countries.”

The Canadian setback at the UN should be directly attributed to grassroots activists and intellectuals like Engler.

“Activists’ groups – that I was part of – exposed records spanning the past two decades of the Canadian government voting consistently against the UN General Assembly resolutions. It voted against 166 UN General Assembly resolutions over the past twenty years. In comparison, Ireland and Norway did not vote against a single one of those UN General Assembly resolutions.”

The Media Lobby

“But how did Canada become pro-Israel?” we asked Engler.

“There is a very well-organized, pro-Israel lobby in Canada that is able to exert its influence over the media,” Engler said. “For instance, the pro-Israel group, ‘Honest Reporting Canada’, concentrates on criticizing every media source that expresses even a hint of solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”

However, compared with the dynamics of Israeli influence over Washington, Canada is quite different. Unlike the US, Engler continues, “Canada has much clearer restrictions on the funding of politicians, so there is nobody like Sheldon Adelson who gives a couple of hundred million dollars to Donald Trump which, then,  sway Trump to adopt even more extreme anti-Palestinian positions. This dynamic does not exist in Canada, but the dominant media has always been sympathetic to the Zionist movement.”

Encouragingly, pro-Palestinian sentiment in Canada has grown over the last twenty years or so, to become a large network, an organized movement in its own right, which has, according to Engler, to “some extent, countered the dominance of the Zionist narrative.”

Canadian media, however, is still unwilling to challenge Israel’s power in the country, leaving the stage open to “pro-Israel groups  … to attack pro-Palestinian activists.”  “There is an incredible amount of trepidation, even in the pro-Palestinian movement, of being labeled as anti-Jewish,” Engler said.

Grassroots Activism

Similar to the trend in other western countries, pro-Palestine groups in Canada are small, diverse and organized at grassroots levels. These groups “tend not to be particularly well-founded or institutionally strong, while the pro-Israel side is far better organized.”

Yet, despite the pro-Israeli influence in government and media, “polls show, repeatedly, that the public is increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than what appears in the dominant media or in the official protocol. A recent poll has revealed that Canadians are very sympathetic towards boycotting Israel for violating international law.”

A March 2017 poll indicated that 78% of all Canadians believe that “BDS is reasonable”. Engler sees much hope in these numbers, referring to them and to the vote at the UN as “small victories.”

The growing pro-Palestinian sentiment is now also seeping into politics. Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision to annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, 57 members of parliament strongly protested this decision, demanding action from their government should Tel Aviv proceed with its illegal measures.

The change is far more rewarding within labor unions in the country than in politics. “Forty years, ago… unions were aggressive in their support of Zionism; today, this is no longer the case, as many unions have passed resolutions supporting BDS campaigns.”

While Canada’s support for Israel is, to a certain extent, consistent with Canada’s own colonial past and present interventionist foreign policy, the Canadian people and the international community remain major obstacles, challenging the toxic affinity between Ottawa and Tel Aviv.

The hope is that the growing pro-Palestinian tide, predicated on respect for international law and human rights, will eventually prevail in order to sever the Canada-Israel rapport permanently, and allow Canada to earn its place as a global leader.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Iran, Turkey lash out at UAE over agreement with Israel

August 14, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran and Turkey lashed out at their regional rival the United Arab Emirates on Friday over its decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel in a U.S.-brokered deal, accusing it of betraying the Palestinian cause.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” Turkey said the peoples of the region “will never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behavior” by the UAE.

The UAE, which has never fought Israel and has quietly been improving ties for years, said the agreement put a hold on Israel’s plans to unilaterally annex parts of the occupied West Bank, which the Palestinians view as the heartland of their future state.

But the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the UAE had no authority to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians or “to make concessions on matters vital to Palestine.” The agreement would make the UAE the first Gulf Arab state — and the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan — to have full diplomatic ties with Israel. The Palestinians say the deal amounts to “treason” and have called on Arab and Muslim countries to oppose it.

The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory for U.S. President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians. Trump has predicted that other countries in the region will follow the UAE’s lead.

Israel, the UAE and other Gulf countries that view Iran as a regional menace have been cultivating closer ties in recent years. Turkey has had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades, but under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinians. Turkey and the UAE support rival camps in the conflict in Libya.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed both the agreement and the decision to suspend annexation and called to congratulate his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi on “this historic step.” “We stand by our position that only a negotiated two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Middle East,” Maas said in a statement. “Together with our European partners and the region we have campaigned intensively in past months against an annexation and for the resumption of direct negotiations. We are also ready to actively support such a process.”

Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and David Rising in Berlin contributed.

Iran says UAE-Israel deal a ‘stab in the back’ to Muslims

August 14, 2020

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned a historic deal establishing full diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, calling it a stab in the back to all Muslims, state TV reported Friday.

Iran, in the ministry statement, called the normalizing of ties between the two countries a dangerous, “shameful” measure and warned the UAE against Israel interfering in the “political equations” of the Persian Gulf region.

“The UAE government and other accompanying governments must accept responsibility for all the consequences of this action,” the statement said. In a deal brokered by the U.S., the UAE and Israel announced Thursday they agreed to establish full diplomatic ties and Israel will halt plans for annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The agreement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state — and the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan — to have full diplomatic ties with Israel. They announced it in a joint statement, saying deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, direct flights and embassies.

Iran said in the state TV report the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE revealed the “strategic stupidity” of the two countries and said it “will undoubtedly strengthen the axis of resistance in the region.”

The ministry statement called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory for U.S. President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deal amounts to “treason,” and should be reversed. Hossein Amirabdollahian, advisor to Iran’s Parliament speaker, criticized the deal on his Twitter account on Friday.

“UAE’s new approach for normalizing ties w/fake, criminal #Israel doesn’t maintain peace & security, but serves ongoing Zionists’ crimes,” he said. Iran’s former chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaei, said in a tweet the UAE has been making itself “the paradise of Israel” for the last 10 years.

“No Muslim zealous warriors and no Arabs betray Palestine, only nerveless stabs from behind,” he said.

U.S. military trucks land in Israel to be fitted for Iron Dome defense system

AUG. 3, 2020

By Ed Adamczyk & Daniel Uria

Aug. 3 (UPI) — U.S. military Oshkosh trucks were delivered to Israel on Monday, to be fitted for the Iron Dome defense weapons system, hours after Raytheon Co. and Israel’s Rafael announced a joint venture produce the Israeli system in the United States.

The world’s largest cargo plane, an Antonov AN-225, landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport Monday afternoon delivering the trucks that will be fitted with the Iron Dome systems.

The U.S. Army purchased several Iron Dome batteries for testing in 2019.

The Iron Dome system, which has been used successfully by Israel since 2011 to identify and destroy missiles aimed at populated areas, has a 90 percent success rate, according to the companies.

“This will be the first Iron Dome all-up-round facility outside of Israel, and it will help the U.S. Department of Defense and allies across the globe obtain the system for defense of their service members and critical infrastructure,” Sam Deneke, vice president of land warfare and air defense business execution at Raytheon, said in a press release.

A site location in the United States will be announced by the end of the year, the companies said.

The system works by tracking incoming short-range projectiles by radar, then analyzes data about the likely impact zone and assesses whether to provide co-ordinates to a missile firing unit to intercept.

The portable system then targets incoming rockets and fires an interceptor missile, typically a Skyhunter missile made in the United States by Raytheon, to destroy the incoming projectile in the air.

The companies claim the system has a 90 percent success rate, with over 2,500 intercepts.

The joint venture was announced days after the United States and Israel also signed an agreement to make the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, defensive missile system interoperable with Iron Dome.

“After a virtual meeting with the USAFE-AFAFRICA [U.S. military commands in Europe and Africa], the Israeli Air Force & the U.S.A.F. [U.S. Air Force] signed a document defining the interoperability between the American THAAD missile & the Israeli Iron Dome in case of an emergency in Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces said on Twitter on July 30.

Source: United Press International (UPI).