U.S. envoy to U.N. demands Myanmar prosecutions, weapons curbs, over Rohingya

UNITED NATIONS/YANGON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims until the military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.

It was the first time the United States called for punishment of military leaders behind the repression, but stopped short of threatening to reimpose U.S. sanctions which were suspended under the Obama administration.

“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be – a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” Haley told the U.N. Security Council, the first time Washington has echoed the U.N.’s accusation that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State was ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar rejects the accusations and has denounced rights abuses.

“The Burmese military must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing,” Haley said.

“And any country that is currently providing weapons to the Burmese military should suspend these activities until sufficient accountability measures are in place,” Haley said.

Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun said at the United Nations on Thursday there was no ethnic cleansing or genocide happening in Myanmar. He told the Security Council that Myanmar had invited U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to visit. A U.N. official said Guterres would consider visiting Myanmar under the right conditions.

China and Russia both expressed support for the Myanmar government. Myanmar said earlier this month it was negotiating with China and Russia, which have veto powers in the Security Council, to protect it from any possible action by the council.

The Trump administration has mostly hewed to former President Barack Obama’s approach of forging warmer relations with Myanmar, partly aimed at countering China’s influence in the resource-rich Southeast Asian country.

Meanwhile, international aid groups in Myanmar have urged the government to allow free access to Rakhine, where an army offensive has sent more than 500,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, but hundreds of thousands remain cut off from food, shelter and medical care.

Refugees are still leaving Myanmar, more than a month after Rohingya Muslim insurgents attacked security posts near the border, triggering fierce Myanmar military retaliation.

Aid groups said on Thursday the total number of refugees in Bangladesh was now 502,000.

The Myanmar government has stopped international aid groups and U.N. agencies from carrying out most of their work in the north of Rakhine state, citing insecurity since the Aug. 25 insurgent attacks.

Aid groups said in a joint statement they were: “increasingly concerned about severe restrictions on humanitarian access and impediments to the delivery of critically needed humanitarian assistance throughout Rakhine State.”

“We urge the government and authorities of Myanmar to ensure that all people in need in Rakhine State have full, free and unimpeded access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

The government has put the Myanmar Red Cross in charge of aid to the state, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross. But the groups said they feared insufficient aid was getting through.

Relations between the government and aid agencies had been difficult for months, with some officials accusing the groups of helping the insurgents.

Aid groups dismissed the accusations, which they said had inflamed anger toward them among Buddhists in the communally divided state, and called for an end to “misinformation and unfounded accusations”.

Rights groups have accused the army of trying to push Rohingya Muslims out of Myanmar, and of committing crimes against humanity. They have called for sanctions, in particular an arms embargo.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that the violence against Rohingya Muslims in the northern part of Rakhine could spread to central Rakhine, where 250,000 more people were at risk of displacement.

Guterres told the U.N. Security Council during its first public meeting on Myanmar in eight years, that the violence had spiraled into the “world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”

A group of Republican and Democratic senators urged the Trump administration on Thursday to use the “full weight” of its influence to help resolve the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

A letter seen by Reuters and signed by four Republican and 17 Democratic members of the 100-seat Senate also calls on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green to provide more humanitarian aid.

The British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, described the situation as “an unacceptable tragedy” after visiting Myanmar and meeting leaders including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has faced scathing criticism and calls for her Nobel prize to be withdrawn.


Police in Bangladesh said they recovered the bodies of 14 refugees, including nine children, who drowned when their boat capsized off the coast in bad weather. A Reuters photographer said he saw several babies among the victims.

The U.N. International Organization for Migration later put the toll at 15.

Police officer Afrajul Hoque Tutu said three boats had capsized in heavy seas.

Myanmar was getting ready to “verify” refugees who want to return, the government minister charged with putting into effect recommendations to solve problems in Rakhine said.

Myanmar would conduct a “national verification process” at two points on its border with Bangladesh under terms agreed during a repatriation effort in 1993, state media quoted Win Myat Aye, the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, as saying.

Myanmar authorities do not recognize Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group, instead regarding them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“The government hates us,” said refugee Zafar Alam, 55, sheltering from rain near a refugee settlement in Bangladesh, referring to the Myanmar government.

“I don’t think I’d be safe there. There’s no justice.”


European Union Demands Norway Take in More African Migrants for Race Mixing

The European Union has written a letter to the Norwegian government demanding that the Scandinavian country take in more migrants from Africa under the bloc’s migrant redistribution scheme.


The letter, written by EU immigration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to Norwegian Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, demands the country take in more migrants asking Norway to be “as ambitious as possible”. The demand comes after the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, requested the EU to help redistribute 40,000 migrants from Africa, Dagbladet reports.

EU immigration commissioner Avramopoulos described the content of the letter, which was also sent to other EU member states, saying: “In the letter, I asked them to be as ambitious as possible, and I specifically asked them to increase efforts to accept quota refugees from North Africa and the Horn of Africa.”

The programme is part of a new initiative by the EU to take migrants directly from Africa rather than allow them to come across the Mediterranean. The German government has already negotiated with Egypt to have a migrant reception centre opened in the North African country which will determine the legitimacy of asylum claims before the migrants are allowed to travel on to Europe.

The French government under President Emmanuel Macron has also begun talks with several African countries including Libya where they also intend to set up asylum seeker reception centres. Macron was slammed by critics earlier this year after commenting that the migrant crisis stemming from Africa was related to the very high birth rates of African women.

After a journalist from the Ivory Coast asked Macron if he thought a large scale investment, similar to the post-World War Two Marshall Plan, would help Africa he said: “The Marshall Plan was a reconstruction plan, a material plan [for a stable region],” and added: “The problems Africa faces are completely different … and are civilisational.”

While so far no EU member states have approved or rejected the proposal from Mr. Avramopoulos, it is likely that Poland and Hungary will refuse as they have refused to take in any redistributed migrants so far.

The Hungarian and Slovak governments launched an appeal claiming the redistribution agreement was illegal as it did not have the consent of all member states, but the appeal was rejected by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) earlier this month.

Despite the ECJ ruling, both Hungary and Poland have both maintained their stance and continue to reject the migrant redistribution scheme.

Hamas says it accepts Abbas’s reconciliation demands

The Hamas terrorist group said early Sunday that it had accepted key conditions demanded by its rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, including nationwide elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to clear the way for a reconciliation deal after a 10-year rift that has left the Palestinians divided.

In a statement issued overnight, Hamas said it was “responding to the generous Egyptian efforts, which reflect the Egyptian desire to end the split and achieve reconciliation, and based on our desire to achieve national unity.”

Hamas said it had dissolved the contentious Administrative Committee that runs Gaza, invited Abbas’s government to return to the Strip, and was ready to hold new elections.

The Palestinians have been split between two rival governments since 2007, when Hamas drove Abbas’s Fatah party forces out of the Gaza Strip, leaving the president in control only of autonomous areas of the West Bank. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Hamas, however, has been greatly weakened by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, three wars with Israel and international isolation. Gaza’s economy is in tatters and residents of the territory have electricity for only a few hours a day.

The latest announcement came days after Hamas and Egyptian officials met in Cairo for reconciliation discussions. Abbas sent a delegation of representatives to Egypt as well.

Hamas officials have been in and out of Cairo frequently over recent months in an attempt to improve their ties with Egypt, a country with which the terror group has had a rocky relationship.

Despite Sunday’s announcement, however, any reconciliation deal faces many obstacles. The announcement did not say whether Hamas was prepared to place its security forces under Abbas’s control — a key sticking point that has scuttled past reconciliation attempts.

There also was no immediate comment from Abbas’s government in Ramallah, and it wasn’t clear how Egypt’s latest effort aligns with its previous tacit support for a different Gaza power-sharing deal between Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled former aide to Abbas.

Egypt has long accused Hamas of aiding the brutal Islamic insurgency in its restive North Sinai region, but in recent months, Hamas has beefed up security along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, seeking to assure Cairo that it is fighting Islamic State sympathizers.

In exchange, Egypt is supposed to alleviate its blockade of Gaza by opening the Rafah crossing — the only way in and out of Gaza except via Israel — as well as increase commercial ties with the Strip.

The Rafah crossing is infrequently opened, leaving the strict Israeli border as the only other option for Palestinians who want to enter or exit the Strip.

PA officials have said Egypt assured Ramallah it would not reopen the Rafah crossing until Abbas’s “legitimate authority” is restored at the border.

Palestinian Authority demands two-state commitment from US

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority expects the Trump administration to commit to a peace deal endgame before the close of this month and prefers it would be the two-state solution.

“We need them to tell us where the hell they are going,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Washington, said Thursday at a meeting in his office with reporters. “It’s about time we hear it.”

Zomlot said a high-level US delegation comprising Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his top adviser charged with Middle East peace; Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator; and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, would meet August 24 in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team.

The meeting will come toward the end of a tour in which the US officials also will meet with Israeli and other regional leaders, including from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (second left) and US President Donald Trump's special envoys Jared Kushner (left) and Jason Greenblatt (second right) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Zomlot said that for the Palestinian Authority, the preferred outcome remained a recommitment to the two-state solution. Trump retreated soon after assuming the presidency in January from a two-state outcome, which has been US policy since 2002. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had committed to a two-state solution in 2009, also has been silent since then about his commitment. A majority of Netanyahu’s Cabinet opposes having two states.

“A two-state solution has international equilibrium, it has regional backing and it has a global consensus,” Zomlot said. “We are saying to them, we have a starting point, and letting go of this starting point is the worst thing they can do.”

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Zomlot said the Palestinian Authority wanted two states based on the 1967 borders, and wanted to hear from the Trump administration how best to deal with factors that would endanger a peaceful outcome, including Jewish settlements, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and religious tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which both Jews and Muslims claim as holy.

“The how is crucial,” he said.

He said that in the wake of serious negotiations, “the Palestinian consensus government will be tasked with two things: the ending of the situation in Gaza — the unprecedented situation in Gaza — and as soon as possible the convening of Palestinian national elections.”

A major obstruction to advancing peace talks has been the absence of Palestinian Authority control in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas terrorist group is the authority. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, along with Israel, have been squeezing Gaza by reducing basic supplies to its Hamas rulers, including electricity.

Zomlot would not say what the Palestinian Authority would do if the US delegation did not lay out an endgame, but said uncertainty could lead the PA to return to seeking international recognition for statehood — a posture that Israel and the United States adamantly oppose — or to further Palestinian resistance against Israel. He said the resistance would be “peaceful.”

Zomlot conveyed an overall positive impression of Trump and his negotiators, saying they had carefully considered Palestinian positions, and that Trump’s commitment to an endgame rather than simply perpetuating the process was positive.

“The character of President Trump himself — we believe this is a person who could actually take the leap, who could exert pressure on all sides,” he said.

Zomlot and the Palestinian Authority appear to be relying on pressure by Trump as a means of delivering Israel on the two-state solution. Zomlot made clear that he did not believe Netanyahu had the wherewithal to advance to final status negotiations on his own.

“Netanyahu is behaving like a politician, not a statesman,” he said of the prime minister’s coalition maneuvering, in which he must deal with partners who oppose concessions. “Israel deserves better leadership.”

Zomlot expressed anger with Congress and the welter of proposed bills that would cut US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and otherwise penalize it. Chief among the measures is the Taylor Force Act, named for an American stabbed to death in a 2016 terrorist attack, which would link funding to the Palestinian areas to the cessation of PA payments to the families of Palestinians killed in or jailed for attacks on Israelis.

He said the Palestinian Authority was ready to “revise and negotiate” its payment system, but would not submit to pressure.

“Don’t use financial pressure with us,” he said. “It does not work.”

Netanyahu demands al-Jazeera offices in Israel be shut down

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would look for ways to shutter the presence of satellite news station al-Jazeera in Israel, accusing the Qatar-based channel of inciting violence.

In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Netanyahu said he had asked law enforcement authorities to shut down the station’s Israel offices a number of times.

“Al-Jazeera has not stopped fomenting violence around the Temple Mount,” he said, referring to escalating tensions surrounding Muslim protests against Israeli security measures at the holy site. There were put in place following a July 14 terror attack in which three terrorists shot two Israeli policemen to death with weapons they had smuggled onto the compound. Israel shut the site for two days and re-opened it with new security arrangements including metal detectors and cameras.

Netanyahu said that he would turn to lawmakers to have al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem office shut down if it was not closed “because of legal interpretation.”

“I will act to legislate the needed laws to remove al-Jazeera from Israel,” he wrote.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu items found in a weapons factory discovered in the West Bank city of Hebron, during a visit to the IDF West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

There was no immediate reaction from al-Jazeera to Netanyahu’s post, which came a day after a survey found 77% of Israelis said he had capitulated with his decision to remove metal detectors that had been set up at entrances to the Temple Mount in the wake of the shooting attack nearly two weeks ago.

A number of Arab countries have recently shut down their local al-Jazeera offices amid an ongoing spat with Qatar but Israel, which often touts its press freedoms, has allowed the station to continue operating.

After Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other states announced they were imposing sanctions on Doha and the station in June, Netanyahu reportedly met with Israeli officials to explore the possibility of shutting down the station in Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time that the diplomatic isolation of Qatar had provided Israel with an “opportunity” to get rid of al-Jazeera and win points with potential Gulf allies.

“Some [Arab countries’] interests overlap with Israeli interests, including the issue with al-Jazeera,” Liberman said last month.

“Al-Jazeera is not media, it’s not journalism. It’s an incitement machine. It’s pure propaganda, of the worst variety, in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia,” he added.

Tensions high in Himalayas as China demands India withdrawal

BEIJING — China is insisting that India withdraw its troops from a disputed plateau in the Himalaya mountains before talks can take place to settle the most protracted standoff in recent years between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that India must pull back its troops as a precondition to demonstrate “sincerity.” The comments came after weeks of saber-rattling in New Delhi and Beijing, as officials from both sides have talked up a potential clash even bloodier than their 1962 border war that left thousands dead.

The dispute flared up in June after Chinese teams began building a road on territory also claimed by Bhutan. The tiny Himalayan kingdom sought help from its longtime ally, India, which sent border guards onto the plateau to obstruct Chinese workers.

Qatar: Demands made by Saudi-led allies not ‘reasonable’

Qatar on Saturday reportedly said the 13-point list of demands presented by Saudi-led allies was not reasonable or actionable, in a major escalation of the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

The list — which includes a call for Qatar to close down broadcaster al-Jazeera and cut ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — are the demands that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt want met to end a diplomatic and trade “blockade” of Qatar, lasting almost three weeks.

“We are reviewing these demands out of respect for … regional security and there will be an official response from our ministry of foreign affairs,” Sheikh Saif al-Thani, the director of Qatar’s government communications office told Reuters in a statement.

It said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to present a list of demands that was “reasonable and actionable.”

“This list does not satisfy that criteria,” al-Thani said.

On Friday, Qatar insisted it could indefinitely survive the economic and diplomatic steps its neighbors have taken to try to pressure it into compliance, even as a top Emirati official warned the tiny country to brace for a long-term economic squeeze.

“I can assure you that our situation today is very comfortable,” Qatari Ambassador to the US Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani told The Associated Press. “Qatar could continue forever like that with no problems.”

Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, poses for a photo during an interview with the Associated Press in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Malak Harb)

Asked whether Qatar felt pressure to resolve the crisis quickly, he said: “Not at all.”

As the United States stepped back from any central mediating role, all sides seemed to be settling in for a potentially protracted crisis. Qatar’s neighbors insisted their 13-point list of demands was their bottom line, not a starting point for negotiations.

If Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, the Arab countries signaled, they’ll continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely, as economic pressure mounts on Qatar.

“The measures that have been taken are there to stay until there is a long-term solution to the issue,” Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba said in an interview. Suggesting the penalties would only be economic and diplomatic, he said “there is no military element to this whatsoever.”

Having urged Qatar’s neighbors to come up with “reasonable and actionable” demands, the US sought to distance itself from the crisis the day after the Arab countries issued a list that included several provisions Qatar had already declared it could not or would not accept. But the ultimatum was quickly rejected by Qatar’s ally, Turkey, and blasted as an assault on free speech by Al-Jazeera, the Qatari broadcaster that the gas-rich country’s neighbors are demanding be shut down.

The demands from the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Egyptians and the Bahrainis amount to a call for a sweeping overhaul of Qatar’s foreign policy and natural gas-funded influence peddling in the region. Complying would force Qatar to bring its policies in line with the regional vision of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy and gatekeeper of Qatar’s only land border.

“This reflects basically an attempt from these countries to suppress free media and also undermine our sovereignty,” said Al Thani, the Qatari envoy. “They are trying to impose their views on how the issues need to be dealt with in the Middle East.”

“They are bullies,” he added.

A Qatari employee of al-Jazeera TV walks past the logo of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, November 1, 2006 (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

The demands include shutting news outlets, including al-Jazeera and its affiliates, curbing diplomatic relations with Iran and severing all ties with Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The United Arab Emirates said the list was intended to be confidential. The AP obtained a copy from one of the countries involved in the dispute.

The four countries cut ties with Qatar earlier this month over allegations that it funds terrorism — an accusation President Donald Trump has echoed. Qatar vehemently denies funding or supporting extremism but acknowledges that it allows members of some extremist groups such as Hamas to live in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue is key to resolving global conflicts.

The move by Qatar’s neighbors has left it under a de facto blockade. Although residents made a run on the supermarket in the days after the crisis erupted, the situation has since calmed as Qatar secured alternative sources of imported food from Turkey and elsewhere.

Qatar’s neighbors are demanding that it:

— Curb diplomatic ties with Iran, and limit trade and commerce.

— Stop funding other news outlets, including Arabi21, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.

— Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from the four countries.

— Stop all means of funding for groups or people designated by foreign countries as terrorists.

— Pay an unspecified sum in reparations.

— Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.



When President Donald Trump arrives in Israel next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the opportunity to make specific requests from the administration.

These are the key issues Israel is expected to bring up with the US.

1) Keep the pressure on Iran
In the coming days, we will see if Trump waives sanctions on Iran and allows Tehran to keep funding its military assistance to Bashar Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.


While Israel does not want to see Iranian funds freed up to meddle more in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza (which would seriously endanger the country’s security), it also does not want the nuclear deal to fall apart prematurely (or if it does, only due to an Iranian violation, not a US failure to meet an obligation), lest Iran be free to dash to the bomb even sooner than Israel worries it will.

In general, Israel wants to ensure that it is on the same page with the administration regarding the continued pressure that must be applied on Iran to curb the latter’s development of ballistic missiles and support of terrorism.

During a press conference last month with visiting US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman urged the administration to “place more pressure and sanctions on the Iranian regime.”

2) Stabilizing Syria and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights
Israel has two requests regarding Syria. Firstly, it wants to ensure that its security interests are accounted for in any deal that Trump would reach with Russia aimed at ending the civil war in the country.

Specifically, Israel wants to make sure that Iran and Hezbollah will not remain in Syria at the end of the war and will not be allowed to establish a presence on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Israel’s second demand has to do with its control over the Golan Heights. The premier is seeking recognition from Trump for Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, which was conquered 50 years ago during the Six Day War.

This came up during the two leaders’ meeting at the White House in February and was also reiterated last week by Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who proposed that Jerusalem and Washington reach a five-pointed understanding on the issue of the Syrian civil war and the implications it has on Israel’s security.

3) Move the embassy to Jerusalem
This seems to be the most contentious issue in the dialogue between the two governments. On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doused flames on the eventuality of the embassy being moved to Jerusalem, telling a US interviewer that the decision “will be informed by the parties involved in those talks – and most certainly Israel’s view – and whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

Netanyahu was quick to respond, saying that by moving the embassy, Trump would actually be advancing the peace process by smashing the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital.

The US president made the promise to move the embassy during his campaign and after he was elected, there were reports that an announcement would happen in the first days of his administration.

The premier is expected to use Trump’s visit next week to pressure him on the issue. The simplest way to advance would be for Trump at the end of May to not waive a Congress law from 1995 that mandates the embassy be in Jerusalem. US presidents have signed waivers to the law every six months since its passage.

4) Settlement construction and protection of Israel’s interests in potential peace talks with the Palestinians
Trump seems determined to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and while he will likely refrain from getting the leaders together during his trip next week, he will try to convince the sides to reengage with one another.

Israel will seek to impress upon Trump the difficulty in reaching a deal based on the Palestinian demands of 1967 lines, the right of return and Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. Israel will also work to convince Trump of the need for a future Palestinian state to remain demilitarized.

Lastly, Netanyahu has been trying since his trip to the White House in February to reach understandings with the administration over Israeli settlement construction. Netanyahu reportedly postponed a meeting of a settlement planning committee last week until after Trump’s visit to not infuriate the president.

Netanyahu would like a green light from the president to be able to build in all of Jerusalem as well as in the settlement blocs. He fears having to agree to a new settlement freeze that could prompt Bayit Yehudi to pull out of his coalition.

5) Retain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge in the region
Trump is expected to approve a massive sale of approximately $100 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

While Israel backs military support to the Saudis and other Gulf States, which are all aligned against Iran, it is in constant talks with the White House and the Pentagon about ways to ensure that it retains its QME in the region by always being the first to receive superior American weapons systems and munitions.

Israel is currently in talks with the Pentagon about how it plans to spend the $38 billion new military aid package signed at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. The Jewish state is expected to seek permission from its biggest ally to purchase new transport helicopters, smart bombs, bunker busters, more F-35 stealth fighter jets as well as an assortment of additional weapon and intelligence systems.

Fatah demands ‘softened’ Hamas apologize for treason accusations

A Palestinian official demanded Hamas apologize for accusing rival Fatah of treason, after the terror group released a platform Monday that put it more in line with positions taken by the Palestine Liberation Organization decades ago.

“Hamas’s new document is identical to that taken by Fatah in 1988. Hamas is required to make an apology to Fatah after 30 years of accusing us of treason for that policy,” Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasme said Monday, according to Reuters.

In the past, Hamas has sharply criticized Fatah’s political program, which rests on setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, but allows for the existence of an Israeli state.

The new Hamas document accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories captured by Israel in that war but dismisses the establishment of the State of Israel as “illegal” and calls for “the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.” It asserts a Palestinian claim to the entire land of Israel, and a right of return for all descendants of refugees.

The new platform was touted as a moderation of the group’s previous stance, which did not accept even the temporary idea of a Palestinian state only within the 1967 lines. The document also purged some language deemed anti-Semitic.

Israel dismissed the new document as an attempt to “fool the world.”

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal (R) looks on during a news conference in the Qatari capital, Doha on May 1, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / KARIM JAAFAR)

The new platform, which was posted online in English, was presented Monday, amid high tensions between Hamas and Fatah.

The five-page program, a result of four years of internal deliberations, was presented at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, by Khaled Mashaal, the outgoing Hamas leader in exile. The group has said Mashaal’s replacement is to be named later this month, after the completion of secret leadership elections.

“Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” the document states. “However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.”

Hamas officials said the document, which reserves the right to wage “resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine,” in no way amounts to recognition of Israel.

In November 1988 the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, recognized “those UN resolutions which call for a two-state solution of Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses supporters during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, at the his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The group, which at the time was considered a terror organization by the US, declared that it had “established the independent state of Palestine and accepted the existence of Israel as a state in the region.”

This declaration was sufficient for it to be removed from the US list of terror organizations, allowing America, and later Israel, to enter into direct negotiations with the group.

The two groups have failed to come to terms since Hamas drove out forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in its 2007 takeover of Gaza, a year after defeating Fatah in Palestinian parliament elections. Reconciliation efforts have failed.

In recent weeks, Abbas has threatened to exert financial pressure, including cutting wage payments and aid to Gaza, as a way of forcing Hamas to cede some control of the Strip. Leaders of the group have vowed they will not budge.

The war of words with Hamas was seen as an attempt by Abbas to position himself as a leader of all Palestinians ahead of his first meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

The US leader has said he would try to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a peace deal, despite repeated failures over the past two decades.

Persian Man Demands Equal Rights for White People at Council Meeting in CA