US John Bolton: Palestine Not a State

Bolton referred to Palestine a "so-called state,” adding that denying Palestine’s statehood does not undermine the Trump Administration’s plans for peace in the Middle East.

United States National Security Adviser John Bolton, on Wednesday, reiterated that Palestine was “not a state,” during an address at the White House.

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"It's not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood," he said. "It doesn't control defined boundaries. It doesn't fulfill normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it's not a state," the security adviser said.

Bolton was resolute in referring to Palestine a "so-called state,” also adding that refusing to acknowledge Palestine’s statehood does not undermine U.S. President Donald Trump Administration’s plans for peace in the Middle East. Last week, the U.S. president said his administration will offer a Mideast peace plan within the next two to four months.

"It could become a state, as the president said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others," Bolton added, doubling down on his remarks, saying there was nothing historically remarkable about U.S. officials denying that Palestine is a state.

"Calling it the so-called state of Palestine defines exactly what it has been, a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988 when the Palestinian authority declared itself to be the State of Palestine," he continued. "We don't recognize it as the State of Palestine, we have consistently across Democratic and Republican administrations opposed the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a state because it's not a state."

The Trump administration, in a controversial decision, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem - Palestine’s capital - from Tel-Aviv in May.

The Palestinian Authority filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a United Nations tribunal, to contest the United States’ action.

The Palestine Liberation Organization declared independence in 1988 and 137 United Nations member states recognizes the declaration.

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Gaza: Scores of Palestinians Injured During Protest Against Israeli Naval Blockade

The surge of protests in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border, which is known as the “March of Return.”

Over a hundred Palestinians were injured near Gaza's northern border Monday during a protest against Israel's 12-year naval blockade. 93 protestors suffered injuries and 37 people were shot with live ammunition by Israeli occupational forces. the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed Tuesday.

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Israeli forces also opened fire on medical crews and ambulances that attempted to reach the area to provide medical aid to the injured.

Ma’an News Agency reports the tensions escalated during the march when protesters began to set tires on fire to obstruct Israeli snipers deployed at the northern Gaza border. Israeli forces then started to open fire with rubber-coated steel bullets on the crowd.

The northern border of Gaza has seen various attempts over the course of the last few months to draw attention to, and break the siege of, the Gaza strip, sometimes via ships attempting to sail into Gaza or from the Strip itself. Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas gained a majority in the Palestinian parliamentary election.

Since March, over 170 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli occupation forces during a series of protest in the region, which has sought to highlight the naval blockades destruction of the territories' economies and other acts by the Israeli government that have denied the population basic commodities.

There were other protests Monday including in Khan al-Ahmar where thousands of Palestinians converged to thwart Israel’s demolition of the Bedouin village of the Jahalin tribe in the occupied West Bank. Israel temporally postponed plans to begin demolition due to the holiday of Simchat Torah Tuesday.

Gaza saw another protest Monday by UNRWA employees in front of a hotel where agency officials were conducting a meeting. This prompted the agency, which aids almost three million Palestinian refugees to take most of their foreign staff out of Gaza over “security concerns.” Only six out of 19 foreign officials have remained in Gaza.

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Palestine Sues United States Over Embassy Move to Jerusalem

The International Court of Justice said it received a complaint from Palestine of violation of international law.

Palestine has filed a complaint against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague over Washington’s illegal decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reports the Ramallah-based foreign ministry.

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The ICJ reported in a statement on Friday that Palestine was appealing on the grounds of the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, which states that a host country must locate foreign embassies in their territory.

Even though Israel controls Jerusalem militarily, after occupying the eastern part of the city during the 1967 war, it officially enjoys international special status and ownership is disputed.

Palestine requested the court declare the move illegal and “order the United States of America to withdraw (its) diplomatic mission from the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told news agency Wafa the complaint aims to preserve the holy city character of Jerusalem, with its spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions, in line with foreign policy.

“We defend our rights and our people,” said Malki, “and reject all forms of political and financial extortion.”

In order to proceed, the ICJ first has to rule if Palestine is considered a nation-state, even though it’s been recognized by the UN General Assembly as a non-member state since 2012.

Rulings by the ICJ are legally binding, but it has no means to enforce its decisions. Countries such as the United States, for example, are known for ignoring it.

In a controversial decision that sparked international rejection, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. Guatemala and Paraguay followed the decision shortly after, but the latter then moved back to Tel Aviv after a change of government.

Trials at the ICJ can last for years and no hearing has yet been scheduled.

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Russia’s S-300 delivery shows Israel who’s in charge, but not aimed at hurting relations – analysts

Russia’s decision to boost Syrian air defenses in response to the downing of an Il-20 plane amid an Israeli raid is meant to sting, but not pose a serious threat to Israel’s national security, experts told RT.

Last week, a Russian Il-20 electronic warfare plane with 15 crew on board was shot down off the Syrian coast by an anti-air missile fired in response to an Israeli air raid. The raid targeted the Latakia province, which houses a Russian airbase.

@RT_com Russian MoD on measures they take in Syria after Il-20 downing - WATCH STATEMENT https://on.rt.com/9evq

Moscow accused Israel of failing to warn the Russian military of its impending attack in time to move the landing aircraft out of harm’s way. On Monday, the Russian military said they would boost Syrian air defenses in several ways to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“It was inevitable that at some point [Israel] would cross that line in its special relationship with Russia and would go a bit too far,” said Beirut-based journalist Martin Jay.

“The deal that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gave to Israel was incredible. It [not only] allowed Israel to make air strikes with impunity across the country on targets that it believed to be Hezbollah weapons factories or Iranian military installations.”

Russia had also promised to keep pro-Iranian militias away from Syria’s border with Israel and froze a planned delivery of an S-300 long-range air defense system to the Syrian armed forces. This deal has now been unfrozen and is to be completed within two weeks, Moscow has announced.

“I think all bets are off now. Russia is showing Israel who is in charge and that it won’t take any more nonsense,” Jay told RT.

 
FILE PHOTO: A Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft. © Sergey Pivovarov / Reuters

The deployment of the S-300 would reduce Israel’s ability to strike targets in Syria, although how much would depend on the number of batteries and the skill of the crews that would man them, said Nikolay Surkov, a senior researcher at the Moscow-based International Institute for World Economy and International Relations. Should Israel take risks or use more costly weapon systems, it may be able to conduct air strikes in Syria even after the planned upgrade, he said.

“They will have to use more assets, use armed drones and cruise missiles as opposed to fighter jets,” he said. “At least that’s what they told me when we discussed a possible delivery of the S-300 a few years ago… Of course this would be more difficult, more costly and more risky.”

The Russian expert believes that Israel may tolerate losses during sorties in Syria up to a point, possibly even ramping up attacks by way of retaliation, as was the case with the loss of a fighter jet in February. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown air war in southern Syria not involving Russia directly.

“Russia has made its response and showed Israel how displeased it is. But Russia and Israel are partners, and neither side wishes to endanger this partnership. I believe a way forward that would satisfy both parties would be found. The Israelis would be more cautious in the future while Russia would refrain from further escalation,” Surkov predicted. “At the moment we don’t have a confrontation here, just mutual complaints.”

«Favorit» in Syria. What is the Russian S 300 able to..

Similar messages, which signal Russia’s willingness to prevent the conflict with Israel from spiraling out of control, came from Moscow after the Defense Ministry’s statement. The Kremlin stressed that the measures taken by the military are not aimed at any third parties while the Foreign Ministry said Russia’s relations with Israel are too “massive and comprehensive” to be significantly hurt by the fallout from the Il-20 incident.

But Jay, the Lebanon-based journalist, pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be limited by pressure at home in how he can deal with the situation.

“He has been resolving all the allegations of corruption through his political fortitude. He is doing really good at the moment, but this could be a game changer,” he said.

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Iran warns U.S., Israel of revenge after parade attack

LONDON (Reuters) - The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned U.S. and Israeli leaders on Monday to expect a “devastating” response from Tehran, accusing them of involvement in an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz.

Thousands of people packed the streets of the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz to mourn the victims of Saturday’s assault that killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The assault, one of the worst against the most powerful military force of the Islamic Republic, struck a blow at its security establishment at a time when the United States and its Gulf allies are working to isolate Tehran.

“You have seen our revenge before ... You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating and you will regret what you have done,” Hossein Salami said in a speech before the funeral of the victims in Ahvaz, broadcast live on the state television.

Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, said a large network of suspects had already been arrested in connection with the attack, the judiciary’s news agency Mizan reported.

Iran has declared Monday a national day of mourning. Public offices, banks, schools and universities will be closed in Khuzestan province.

Four assailants fired on a viewing stand in Ahvaz where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Islamic State’s Amaq agency posted a video of three men in a vehicle who it said were on their way to carry out the attack.

A man wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with what appears to be a Revolutionary Guard logo discussed the impending attack in Farsi in the video.

“We are Muslims, they are kafirs (non-believers),” the man says. He adds: “We will destroy them with a strong and guerrilla-style attack, inshallah (God willing).”

Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, also claimed responsibility.

Senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have said the Ahvaz attack was carried out by militants trained by Gulf states and Israel, and backed by America.

But it is unlikely the IRGC will strike any of these foes directly.

The Guards could put on a show of strength by firing missiles at opposition groups operating in Iraq or Syria that may be linked to the militants who staged the attack.

They are also likely to enforce a tight security policy in Khuzestan province, arresting any perceived domestic opponents including civil rights activists.

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Putin on Israel’s role in Il-20 downing: ‘Looks accidental, like chain of tragic circumstances’

The downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances,” Vladimir Putin said in response to a reporter’s question on whether it could be compared to Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet in 2015.

 

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu © Mikhael Klimentyev

When people are dying – especially under such circumstances – it is always a tragedy,” President Putin said during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow on Tuesday.

Responding to a reporter’s question as to whether the incident in Latakia could be compared to the downing of the Russian Su-24 by Turkey in 2015, Putin said the two situations were “different.”

Ankara “deliberately downed” the Russian jet, he explained, while the Il-20 incident “looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

The incident has heated up political tensions, with the Russian military placing the blame for the incident on Tel Aviv. It said that the Israeli raid on Syria late on Monday had triggered a chain of events that led to the Il-20 being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. The downing jeopardized the reasonably good diplomatic relations enjoyed by Russia and Israel, casting doubt on whether these could be maintained.

Russia will investigate the incident, Putin said, adding that Moscow will boost security of Russian troops in Syria following the incident. He said that these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

READ MORE: Israeli army blames Damascus for Russia’s Il-20 downing, mourns death of crew – statement

Following Putin’s remarks, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that he had notified his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman that Moscow “won’t leave Israeli actions unanswered.” He said the Russian jet had been downed by Syrian defense systems following their response to an attack by Israeli planes.

READ MORE: Netanyahu tells Putin he expresses regret at loss of Russian lives

On Tuesday evening, Putin spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone. He urged Israel to avoid such incidents in the future and said that Tel Aviv’s military endeavors in Syria violate the country’s sovereignty.

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'US Bullying': Trump To Close Palestinian Mission in Washington

The administration will also threaten the International Criminal Court with sanctions if it goes forward with an investigation on alleged war crimes by the U.S.

The United States government announced the closure of the Palestinian leadership’s de facto embassy in Washington as a "punishment" for not engaging in one-sided talks with Israel, and for attempting to sue the Israeli government at the International Criminal Court despite warnings from Washington. 

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In a statement on Monday, the U.S. State Department said the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

"We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017," the statement said.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Monday that this move by the Trump administration is to “protect Israeli crimes”.

He also said that the leadership will not be deterred from seeking action in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague against Israel. "We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying."

Interestingly, the Trump administration will also announce on Monday that it will adopt an offensive posture against ICC, threatening sanctions against the institution if they proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes by the U.S in Afghanistan.

U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton confirmed on Monday that the Trump administration had closed the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's office as "punishment" for calling on Israel to be investigated by the ICC.

According to a draft of the speech, published by Reuters, Bolton will say, “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel.”

“We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system,” he is expected to say, as reported by the Independent. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

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The Palestinians described the closure of PLO mission as the latest pressure tactic by the Trump administration that has slashed funding to a U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and to hospitals in East Jerusalem, all in one week.

“It is also extremely cruel and spiteful to persist in deliberately bashing the Palestinian people by denying them their rights, giving away their lands and rightful capital of Jerusalem, and defunding UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) and Palestinian institutions, including East Jerusalem hospitals,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO.

Ashrawi also said the U.S. closing the General Delegation of the PLO office in Washington D.C. is an irresponsible move. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education,” said Erekat.

Commenting on the U.S. threatening sanctions against ICC, Erekat said, “this dangerous escalation shows that the U.S. is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine, as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region. …  It symbolizes the U.S. attacks against the international system as a whole, including the Paris Convention, UNESCO, and the Human Rights Council among others.”

The official also said the PLO will take necessary measures to protect the rights of Palestinians living in the U.S. to access their consular services.

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140 International Artists Call for Boycott of Eurovision in Israel

Artists said in an open letter there should be "no business as usual" in Israel due to its violations of the rights of Palestinians.

A total of 140 European and international artist, including six Israelis, have called for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision song contest, which will be hosted by Israel, echoing calls by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end the “whitewashing” of Israel’s military occupation and apartheid through art.

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In an open letter published Friday, the artists including Roger Waters, Brian Eno, and Tiago Rodrigues, urged the international artistic community to allow “no business as usual… until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice, and equal rights.”

“Eurovision 2019 should be boycotted if it is hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights. (The European Broadcasting Union) should cancel Israel’s hosting of the contest altogether and move it to another country with a better human rights record,” the letter said.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 contest after Israeli contestant Netta Barzilai won the 63rd edition of Eurovision on May 12. “On 14 May, days after Israel’s Eurovision win, the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, including six children, and injured hundreds, most with live ammunition,” the letter highlights.

Earlier this week Eurovision organizers presented a list of conditions for Israel to host the event, including allowing participants and fans to enter the country regardless of their political opinions, to travel freely, and to respect freedom of the press and expression.

However, before receiving an official answer to these preconditions, organizers were touring venues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to decide where to hold the international contest.

Calls for a boycott of Eurovision come days after the BDS campaign successfully pressured 15 artists, including Lana Del Rey, to cancel their performance in Israel’s Meteor festival.

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