US Rewards Allies in Jerusalem Decision with Special Party

Only seven countries voted in line with Washington's interests: Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday that Washington will organize a reception “for the countries who chose not to oppose the U.S. position.” 

RELATED: Israeli Ruling Party Votes to Annex West Bank and Seize Last Palestinian Lands

Haley was referring to a vote on a U.N. resolution to condemn the U.S. unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

East Jerusalem was illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 war. Before U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration, Israel stood alone in claiming sovereignty over it. The eastern part of Jerusalem remains mostly inhabited by Palestinians who face house demolitions and evictions as part of Israel’s attempt to control the city.  

The U.S. unilateral recognition sparked waves of protests across Palestinian territory that have resulted in the deaths of at least 12 Palestinians and more than 600 arrests and detentions. The move also sparked condemnation of world leaders across continents as most viewed Washington's move as the end of a two-state solution. For decades, East Jerusalem was seen as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Before the Jerusalem vote took place, Trump said the U.S. will not continue to give “hundreds of billions of dollars” to countries who voted against the U.S., adding “let them vote against us ... We’ll save a lot.”

In spite of Trump’s comments, only seven countries — other than Israel and the U.S. — voted in line with Washington's interests: Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.

After the vote, Haley said the United States "will remember this day” and threatened the U.N., vowing to “remember it (the vote) when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations.”

The “exclusive” invitation includes countries that chose to abstain from the vote, among them Mexico, Argentina, Canada and Australia. 

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Palestinians Reject United States Threat

Ramallah, Jan 3 (Prensa Latina) The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the threat of US President Donald Trump to cut off financial aid to Palestinians if they do not resume negotiations with Israel.

According to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the presidential spokesman, 'Jerusalem and its sacred places are not for sale, neither for gold nor silver.'

Peace and real negotiations must be based on Arab and international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative that leads to the establishment of the independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, the spokesman said.

If the United States has any concern for its interests in the Middle East, it must abide by the principles and resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations, otherwise, Washington will push the region to the abyss, Abu Rudeineh added.

The US government announced yesterday that it will cut funds to the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as a means of pressure to resume peace talks with Israel.

Ramallah ended the negotiations on the matter after the US recognition, contrary to international law, of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

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Palestine Slams US 'Blackmail,' Says Jerusalem Not 'For Sale'

The Palestinian Liberation Organization called President Trump’s threat to countries voting against his Jerusalem decision extortion and blackmail.

The Palestinian leadership responded Wednesday to the U.S. threat to cut aid to countries defying Washington’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital saying such tactics of “extortion” would only isolate the United States globally.

RELATED: Abbas Says 'Crazy' Seeing US as Mediator, Turns East in Quest for Statehood

"President Trump should know that there are things that are not for sale or subject to blackmail, particularly issues of principle, legality and morality,”  Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member at the Palestinian Liberation Organization said in a statement posted on the group’s website.

“Extortion is the most effective way for the US to isolate itself even further and to weaken its influence and standing globally. We will not be deterred or intimidated.”

Ashrawi added that she was confident that most countries at the United Nations will honor their “legal and political obligations on Palestine" in the upcoming vote at the U.N. General Assembly.

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On Monday the U.S. vetoed a draft resolution calling on Washington to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the United Nations Security Council, while the 14 other members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

Arab and Muslim countries, infuriated by President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, called for an emergency General Assembly meeting in order to vote on the draft resolution. The 193-country body agreed to hold the rare meeting and will be held on Thursday.

As a response to holding the special session U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a letter to dozens of U.N. states on Tuesday seen by Reuters, warned that Trump had asked her to "report back on those countries who voted against us." She bluntly echoed that call in a Twitter post: "The U.S. will be taking names."

RELATED: 70 Years of Broken Promises, The Untold Story of Israel's Partition Plan

Ashrawi’s statement came just hours after Trump doubled down Wednesday on the threat, telling reporters that his administration would cut aid to those countries that “voted against us.”

Last month the U.S. president ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.

In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from the Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.

Palestinians and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

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Israel approves largest West Bank settlement construction in 25 years

Israel has greenlighted plans for over 8,000 new homes in the West Bank, with over a third for “immediate” construction, the defense minister revealed on Sunday, making it the largest expansion of Jewish settlements in the area in 25 years.

According to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 3,651 settlements were approved last week, Haaretz reports. The minister noted that “What we’ve approved on June 6 and 7 is the maximum that can be approved.”

Plans for 8,345 new housing units have been approved by the Israeli authorities so far this year, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency writes, citing Liebermann. Out of these, 3,066 have been given final approval and will soon be built.

  pushes to legalize West Bank settlements as arrives in Tel Aviv

 

“The numbers for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992,” Lieberman said, as cited by local media and news agencies.

The defense minister also praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for its aggressive stance on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“There was no better government in terms of settlement construction,” he said, according to Haaretz. 

For some, however, the plans appear to fall short of expectations.

A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Ramot © Ronen Zvulun

“I respect the defense minister very much but unfortunately the numbers he mentioned aren’t correct,” Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said, according to the newspaper. According to Dagan, most of the approved units “are counted five or six times,” essentially putting the “real number” under 2,000 housing units.

However, according to Lieberman, pushing for more would “stretch the rope beyond its limit, and thus put the entire settlement enterprise at risk.”

Nearly 400,000 Jewish settlers are estimated to be living in the West Bank along with 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, an area claimed by Palestinians. 

The construction of settlements in the region is considered illegal under international law. The international community has long voiced concerns over the controversial constructions while condemning the deteriorating security situation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The government of Israel stopped building official settlements in 1992, according to Israeli monitoring group Peace Now. That, however, did not stop the construction of unauthorized settlements in the West Bank.

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Time to assassinate Syrian President Assad & get to his allies in Iran – Israeli minister

An Israeli minister has bluntly called for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to be assassinated after unsourced media reports claimed Damascus was using a “crematorium” to cover-up mass killings. He said the “serpent’s head” in Tehran should be dealt with next.

“The reality whereby Syria executes people, intentionally uses chemical weapons to hurt them and, now, in the most recent move of extremism, is burning their bodies – this has not been seen in the world in 70 years,” said Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant, as cited by Haaretz. 

 
© Kacper Pempel

“We are crossing a red line and, in my view, the time has come to assassinate Assad,” he continued.

“And when we finish with the tail of the serpent, we will reach the head of the serpent, which can be found in Tehran, and we will deal with it, too,” he said.

What appears to be the first recorded Israeli threat to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad came after the US Department of State alleged, without presenting any hard evidence, that the Syrian government is using “a crematorium” outside Damascus to burn the bodies of people killed by the government.

Earlier on Tuesday, Galant told Israeli Army Radio that Assad’s rule has been the worst since Nazi Germany. “What is happening in Syria is defined as genocide, under all its classifications,” he said on Army Radio, according to Jerusalem Post.

Galant, a retired IDF general, added that Israel wants to see Assad and his Alawite government ousted from power and replaced by a “moderate Sunni ruler.”

READ MORE: More Arabs view Israel positively than Jews, poll reveals

Some previous attempts to compare Assad’s government to the Nazi regime have been met with public outcry. White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who claimed that Hitler’s death squads hadn’t used chemical agents during the Holocaust “in the way that Assad used them” sparked outrage in the US and beyond.

Certain journalists have used the Assad-Hitler comparison when covering claims that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons, but those remarks were dismissed by the public.

Assad, a UK-educated doctor, has been in power since the 1999 passing of his father, Syria’s long-time president, Hafez Assad. Syria is one of the few Arab countries where the president is elected through a nationwide vote.

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Palestinian Leader Warns of US Interference in the Middle East

Damascus, May 12 (Prensa Latina) Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Nayef Hawatmeh, warned today of US interference in the Middle East in an interview with Prensa Latina.

For the veteran leader, the next and first international tour of US President Donald Trump has above all the clear objective of maintaining and increasing attempts to isolate the Palestinian movement.

Preparations for a regional meeting after that tour that includes Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, since May 19, do not take into account the role of the United Nations nor any other political figure in the region, he stressed.

It is, therefore, a clear objective that Washington is seeking concessions among the various Palestinian organizations, to ignore United Nations resolutions favorable to our cause and to bring together the most reactionary forces in the Middle East, Hawatmeh said.

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Israel mulls hiring foreign doctors to force-feed Palestinians hunger strikers – media

Israel is considering hiring foreign medical staff to force-feed Palestinian inmates who went on mass hunger strike over what they say are poor prison conditions, local media report. Israeli doctors refuse to participate in force-feeding on ethical grounds.
 

The controversial plan is being considered by the Health Ministry, and medical staff would be hired abroad, Channel 2 reported, as cited by the Times of Israel and Haaretz. 

It is reported that force-feeding is being considered as the courts may direct the prison authorities to release the hunger strikers due to health concerns. On Monday, Assaf Librati, spokesman for the Israel Prison Service, said 870 prisoners are still refusing food.

Initially, some 1,300 Palestinian prisoners, mostly members of the Fatah movement, began a massive hunger strike on April 17 to demand improved conditions, including visits, medical treatment, and education.

The action also marked the annual ‘Palestinian Prisoners’ Day’ in support of people jailed by Israel’s security authorities.

Marwan Barghouti, an imprisoned Fatah official believed to be leading the protest, said in an article for the New York Times that the hunger strike sought to put an end to “torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence” in Israeli prisons.

Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life sentences for five murders plus 40 years for attempted murder, said “Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation,” while Israeli prisons have become “the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination.”

On Thursday, a handful of Palestinian activists staged a protest at the northern security checkpoint in the city of Bethlehem to demand the return of the bodies of Palestinian captives held by the Israelis, according to RT's Ruptly. Though the protest was peaceful, Israeli security forces reacted with excessive force, deploying tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Force-feeding has been used in Israel since 2015, when the Knesset (parliament) passed controversial legislation empowering district court judges to authorize feeding hunger-striking inmates against their will.

However, the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) banned its members from taking part in force-feeding, arguing that the practice is incompatible with the ethics of medicine.

“The Medical Association views the intention to legislate force-feeding very severely,” Dr. Leonid Eidelman, the IMA chairman, said in 2015.

“Our objection was expressed to [representatives of] government ministries and the attorney general at every opportunity.”

International law is somewhat unclear on the issue of force-feeding prisoners who deliberately refuse food as part of a protest. There is no legally binding document that bans feeding inmates against their will as a form of torture.

However, the UN Human Rights Commission regarded force-feeding at the Guantanamo detention camp as a form of torture.

The World Medical Association (WMA) specifically prohibited force-feeding in its 1975 Declaration of Tokyo, which outlined guidelines concerning torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in relation to detention and imprisonment

In 2006, more than 250 doctors from the UK, the US, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands condemned the US for the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo.

The doctors also said that the WMA specifically prohibited force-feeding and demanded that the body launch disciplinary proceedings against any members known to have violated the ban.

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UN Report Describes Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip

United Nations, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) A UN report reflects today the daily hardships faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a territory under a decade of the Israeli blockade and devastating bombings in recent years.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 70 percent of the 1 880 000 people living in the 365 square kilometer strip are registered as refugees and 47 percent are considered to be food insecure.

Power outages reach 12 to 16 hours daily and unemployment affects four out of every 10 Palestinians in Gaza, being women and young persons the most affected, with 65.3 and 61 percent of them unemployed, respectively.

In respect to water, OCHA warns that 97 percent of the liquid that reaches people through pipes is not suitable for human consumption.

In addition to the permanent Israeli blockade in place, the small Palestinian territory still remains suffering the consequences of the 51-day aviation bombings carried out by Tel Aviv, which in summer of 2014 destroyed much of the housing and living infrastructure there.

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