Posts Tagged ‘ Jerusalem ’

US says closing consulate in Jerusalem no policy shift

March 04, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy. The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day. “This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

In a farewell video addressed to the consulate’s Palestinian partners, Consul General Karen Sasahara, who is leaving her post as the unofficial U.S. ambassador to the Palestinians and will not be replaced, maintains that new Palestinian unit at the embassy will carry forward the mission of the consulate, “in support of the strengthening of American-Palestinian ties, to boost economic opportunities for the Palestinians and facilitate cultural and educational exchanges.”

When first announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking. The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there, upending U.S. policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the U.S. has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced last month that the U.S. would unveil the deal after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the U.S. of bias toward Israel.

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Israel holds municipal vote, Jerusalem chooses new mayor

October 30, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis are voting in municipal elections across the country. In the closest watched race Tuesday, four candidates are hoping to become the next mayor of Jerusalem — a city with great importance to billions of people around the world.

Ofer Berkovitch, a young secular activist, is running against Moshe Lion, a longtime political activist, Cabinet minister Zeev Elkin, who is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ultra-Orthodox candidate Yossi Daitch.

If no one captures 40 percent of the votes, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. Jerusalem is a diverse city, with a Jewish population divided between secular residents, modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. In addition, about one-third of the population is Palestinian.

Few Palestinians vote, however, seeing participation as recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem.

Turkey will open Paraguay embassy after its policy shift on Jerusalem

Friday 7 September 2018

Turkey will open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, the South American country said on Thursday, a day after President Mario Abdo reversed the previous administration’s decision to move its diplomatic mission in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Turkey’s ambassador to Paraguay has been operating out of Buenos Aires. Turkey has a consulate in Asuncion and another in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

By opening the embassy, Turkey is expressing support for Paraguay’s stance on Israel, Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni told reporters.

Paraguay and Guatemala relocated their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as the country’s capital in December, in a move denounced by most of the international community.

In a phone call on Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Abdo to stick to his predecessor’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the White House said in a statement.

“The vice president strongly encouraged President Abdo Benitez to follow through with Paraguay’s previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States,” the statement said.

Hours after Paraguay’s new government announced it would move its embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, Israel responded by ordering the closure of its embassy in Paraguay.

The Palestinian Authority hailed Paraguay’s “honorable” decision on Wednesday, announcing that it will “immediately” open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital.

Most countries do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, arguing that peace talks should determine the city’s final status. Paraguay cited this as one reason to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv.

Castiglioni said he expected to meet his Turkish counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month.

Paraguay considers Israel’s decision to close its embassy hasty and disproportionate, and hopes Israeli authorities will reconsider, Castiglioni said.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-open-paraguay-embassy-after-policy-shift-jerusalem-1863572311.

Turkish foundation aids 200 Palestinian families in Jerusalem

February 25, 2018

A Turkish foundation provided aid to 200 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem on Saturday.

Enes Erbas, board member of Sadakatasi, said the aid included electric blankets and winter clothing.

The distribution was organized by the Jerusalem Zakat Committee.

“We have been working in Palestine for the last eight years and strive to heal the wounds of our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” he said.

Hamza Kasisi, an official from Jerusalem Zakat Committee, thanked the Turkish people and the foundation for its support.

The foundation has previously helped several families living under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180225-turkish-foundation-aids-200-palestinian-families-in-jerusalem/.

US plans May opening for embassy in Jerusalem

February 24, 2018

The US plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May, the State Department said on Friday. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “The embassy will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighborhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for a longer-term undertaking.”

Nauert added that the interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff. An annex on the Arnona compound will be opened by the end of next year.

Trump administration officials said that Congress has been notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, though, the US move shows a “determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe.”

Izzat Al-Reshiq of the Hamas Political Bureau said that this move “needs an urgent and strong Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response.” He called upon the PLO and Arab and Islamic states which recognize Israel “to withdraw their recognition immediately.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180224-us-plans-may-opening-for-embassy-in-jerusalem/.

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

2017-12-17

Christmas decorations won’t be illuminated in Jordan and the Palestin­ian territories this year following calls to turn off lights of Christmas trees to protest US President Donald Trump’s deci­sion to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Jordanian and Palestinian Chris­tians were looking forward to the festive season and preparations to celebrate Jesus’s birth were in full swing with Christmas markets, ac­tivities and festive food, until the US move dimmed the spirits.

Fadi Daoud from the Christian town Fuheis in central Jordan said that since Trump’s announcement posts on social media asked that Christmas trees’ lights be turned off as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians regarding Jerusalem.

“The decision by Trump evoked a lot of feelings towards Jerusalem and we, as Christians, feel the need to express our disagreement with this decision. That is why many turned to the social networks to ex­press their anger,” Daoud said.

He said the Christian communi­ty, which makes up 6% of Jordan’s population of 9.5 million, had been preparing for a joyful festive season, “which unfortunately was clouded by the development on Jerusalem, sparking anger and igniting emo­tions of both Christians and Mus­lims.”

The Jordan Tourism Board an­nounced the cancellation of Christ­mas celebrations at Jesus’s baptism site in support of Palestinians in Je­rusalem.

East Jerusalem, which Palestin­ians regard as the capital of their future state, is home to several Christian churches and Islam’s third holiest site, Haram al-Sharif.

In the West Bank city of Bethle­hem, the birthplace of Jesus and a major Christian pilgrimage destination south of Jerusalem, Christmas manifestations and displays were dropped and lights of main Christ­mas trees switched off following the announcement of Trump’s decision.

Early celebrations of the holiday season had started in Jordan with bazaars and markets offering hand­made decorations, festive food and activities for families. Visitors, however, were more interested in getting the feel of Christmas than spending money.

“It is a great feeling to be part of any Christmas activities and I am happy to take part in five Christmas bazaars,” said Rowaida Nino, an artisan selling handicrafts. “Some people are here to buy, especially decorations and home-made wine, but many are just window shop­ping. Probably they have other pri­orities.”

“In the past, people were happy to spend more money during the festive season but recently things have changed and most are care­ful about every penny spent,” she added.

Tareq Msalem, head of the Greek Catholic Scout and Guides society, which organizes a Christmas ba­zaar, stressed the growing popular­ity of the festive event.

“Absolutely, we can feel a huge dif­ference at this year’s bazaar. More people are displaying their products such as home-made wines and sweets that attracted many buyers; moreo­ver families en­joy the activities that come with the bazaar,” Msalem said.

Christmas season is also a time for giving and sharing.

“During this month, many ini­tiatives bring smiles to underprivi­leged children,” Msalem said. “We are happy to be part of the ‘Give’ initiative under which we collect used and new toys to give away. This year about 70 children will re­ceive toys, compared to 30 children last year.

“Many families cannot buy toys to their kids. Times have definitely changed to the worse.”

Greek Orthodox pastor George Sharayha said an increasing num­ber of families are impoverished because of the bad economy and inflation.

“Our role is to make them feel the spirit of Christmas in any way we can. Every year we see more fami­lies struggling to meet simple daily life demands,” he said.

A recent World Bank study stated that one-third of Jordan’s popula­tion lives below the poverty line.

The festive season is a time of the year when travel agents offer spe­cial packages to attract foreign and local tourists by promoting biblical sites and the rose-red city of Petra.

“This year we are hoping for the best and so far we have received requests from many tourists who want to celebrate the holidays here in Jordan, which some con­sider part of their pilgrimage to the baptism site,” said Murad Ghsoon, owner of a travel agency in Amman.

“Last year, we did not have much luck due to the events in Karak but this year we hope things will get better and so far it is.”

The Islamic State claimed re­sponsibility for an attack in the southern Jordanian city of Karak that killed ten people in December 2016. Seven Jordanian security of­ficers, a Canadian tourist and two Jordanian civilians were among the dead. Four attackers were also killed.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86462.

UN denounces US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

December 22, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to denounce President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, largely ignoring Trump’s threats to cut off aid to any country that went against him.

The nonbinding resolution declaring U.S. action on Jerusalem “null and void” was approved 128-9 — a victory for the Palestinians, but not as big as they predicted. Amid Washington’s threats, 35 of the 193 U.N. member nations abstained and 21 were absent.

The resolution reaffirmed what has been the United Nations’ stand on the divided holy city since 1967: that Jerusalem’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump administration made it clear the vote would have no effect on its plan to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterward that he completely rejects the “preposterous” resolution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the vote a victory not only for the Palestinians but for the United Nations and international law, saying U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley “failed miserably” in persuading only seven countries aside from the U.S. and Israel to vote against the resolution.

“And they used unprecedented tactics, unheard of in the diplomatic work at the U.N., including blackmail and extortion,” he said. The United States and Israel had waged an intensive lobbying campaign against the measure, with Haley sending letters to over 180 countries warning that Washington would be taking names of those who voted against the U.S. Trump went further, threatening a funding cutoff: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

But in the end, major U.S. aid recipients including Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa supported the resolution. Egypt received roughly $1.4 billion in U.S. aid this year, and Jordan about $1.3 billion.

The nine countries voting “no” were the U.S., Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Togo. Among the abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Mexico.

The absent countries included Kenya, which was the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid last year, Georgia and Ukraine, all of which have close U.S. ties. After the vote, Haley tweeted a photo naming the 65 nations that voted no, abstained or were absent, and said: “We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the UN.”

She later sent invitations to the 65 ambassadors inviting them to a reception on Jan. 3 to thank them for their friendship with the United States. The U.S. is scheduled to dispense $25.8 billion in foreign aid for 2018. Whether Trump follows through with his threat against those who voted “yes” remains to be seen.

But within hours, the Trump administration appeared to be backing away from its funding threats. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said cuts to countries that opposed the U.S. are not a foregone conclusion.

“The president’s foreign policy team has been empowered to explore various options going forward with other nations,” Nauert said. “However, no decisions have been made.” During the debate, Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations urged a “yes” vote on the resolution, which was sponsored by Yemen and Turkey.

Yemeni Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany warned that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast and “serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism.” He called Trump’s action “a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world,” and “a dangerous violation and breach of international law.”

On Wednesday, Trump complained that Americans are tired of being taken advantage of by countries that take billions of dollars and then vote against the U.S. Haley echoed his words in her speech to the packed assembly chamber, threatening not only member states with funding cuts, but the United Nations itself.

Haley said the vote will make no difference in U.S. plans to move the American Embassy, but it “will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N., and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N.”

“And this vote will be remembered,” she warned. Trump’s pressure tactics had raised the stakes at Thursday’s emergency meeting and triggered accusations from the Muslim world of U.S. bullying and blackmail.

“It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “We will not be intimidated! You can be strong but this does not make you right!”

The Palestinians and their supporters sought the General Assembly vote after the U.S. on Monday vetoed a resolution supported by the 14 other U.N. Security Council members that would have required Trump to rescind his declaration on Jerusalem.

The resolution adopted by the assembly has language similar to the defeated measure. It “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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