US, Gulf States, sign deal to end financing for terror

US President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on Sunday with leaders of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies to cut funding for terrorism, a day after Washington told their arch rival Iran to dismantle its “network of terrorism.”

White House adviser Dina Powell told reporters that a memorandum of understanding signed by Trump and leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council represents the “farthest reaching commitment” to not finance terrorist organizations.

She said it includes a pledge to prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals. The memorandum also calls to establish a center to combat the financing of terrorism, Saudi official news agency SPA reported.

Along with the US, the participants included Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting took place on the second day of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, part of his first foreign tour since taking office, hours before his address an Arab Islamic American Summit.

The White House did not immediately release a text of the agreement.

US President Donald Trump (C) attends a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Trump and the GCC leaders watched as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged documents.

Most GCC monarchies accuse Tehran of meddling in their internal affairs and want Washington to be tougher with Iran, which secured a landmark nuclear deal with world powers when Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was in office.

They consider Tehran to be a destabilizing factor in the region.

US First Lady Melania Trump (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) chat with Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Interior, Muhammad bin Nayef Abdulaziz, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday demonstrated a tougher position on Tehran, saying multi-billion-dollar defense deals signed with Riyadh aim to protect Saudi Arabia from a “malign Iranian influence.”

In a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, Tillerson urged newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to dismantle his country’s “network of terrorism” and end “ballistic missile testing.”

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Erekat warns Trump embassy move would end peace process

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would end the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned on Saturday.

The warning came two days ahead of a visit to Israel and the West Bank by US President Donald Trump. US officials have said that he is still considering the move, which he promised during his election campaign.

“We believe that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would mean the end of the peace process,” said Erekat, who is also second-in-command of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) during a World Economic Forum meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan on Saturday. Erekat met with former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a member of the Zionist Union party, at the gathering, where the two expressed their optimism for Trump’s reported Mideast bid.

The Palestinians and the Arab world fiercely oppose a potential relocation of the US embassy, repeatedly warning that it could spark fresh unrest.

Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat attend the World Economic Forum held in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh, west of the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 20, 2017. (AFP / khalil mazraawi)

The new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who took up office on Monday, has expressed his backing of such a move, as have Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There has been no movement so far on the pledge which would break with decades of American policy on the city. The international community, including the US, never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after recapturing it in the Six Day war in 1967. Israel claims the undivided city of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians would like to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Erekat said a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital would have “no meaning.”

An aerial view of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2013. (Flash90)

Erekat said Saturday that he “hope[s] that President Trump would give us a chance.”

“He said… he will not impose solutions on us or on the Israelis,” Erekat said. “(But) the fact that he is going to move the embassy is imposition, is dictation.”

This is not the first time that Erekat has warned against a possible relocation of the embassy, but his strong statment comes at a time when the Palestinians appear eager to stay on Trump’s good side.

Trump, who arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday on his first foreign tour since taking office, is set to visit Israel on Monday and then meet Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday.

The timing of the visit led to intense speculation as to whether he would use the opportunity to fulfill his repeated campaign pledge to relocate the embassy.

Trump seemingly backed off his promise early in his presidency. It was reported that his conversation with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the National Prayer Breakfast in February was instrumental to his decision to put the issue on the back burner.

Shortly after Trump’s visit to the region, he will have to make a decision whether or not to waive a 1995 law that mandates the relocation of the embassy but allows the president to exercise six-month delays on national security grounds.

The most recent waiver, signed by Barack Obama, expires on June 1.

Trump has placed a high priority on trying to broker a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump asks Colombia’s help to end Venezuela political crisis

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he intends to work closely with his Colombian counterpart to find a solution to spiraling violence in Venezuela.

Sitting side by side with President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office, Trump said he will seek Colombia’s help in pressuring neighboring Venezuela to address the near-daily protests and violence that have shaken President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

At least 40 people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after Venezuela’s supreme court issued a ruling in late March stripping the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last remaining powers. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a storm of international criticism.

The meeting came as the Trump administration rolled out new sanctions Thursday on members of Venezuela’s supreme court for alleged human rights violations.

“A stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere,” Trump said at a joint news conference. “We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuela problem. It is a very, very horrible problem.”

Driving the latest outrage is a decree by Maduro to begin the process of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. The opposition rejects that plan as another attempt by the president to tighten his grip on power, and opposition leaders are calling on Venezuelans to continue to take to the streets in protest.

Santos is the third Latin American leader to meet with Trump since he took office, after the leaders of Peru and Argentina. The president’s bullish policies toward illegal immigration and his proposed border wall with Mexico have incensed many across Latin America who say they are being unfairly targeted. The dispute led Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington weeks after Trump took office.

Santos has been among the critics of Trump’s proposed wall, though he avoided outwardly criticizing the plan during their joint remarks.

Trump defended his proposed border wall Thursday, saying, “Walls work, just ask Israel.”

Santos is looking for Trump’s support on a number of domestic issues. His government signed a peace accord last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, ending one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts. The rebel group agreed to turn over 30 percent of its arsenal of assault rifles, machine guns and explosives.

 

The Trump administration is also looking to work with Colombia to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Latin America. “We have a problem with drugs, and you have a very big problem with drugs,” Trump said to Santos at the start of their meeting.

Santos said he is committed to working with the United States and other countries in Latin America “to fight the other links in the chain,” saying they will join forces to “seize cocaine in transit.”

Santos is a graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

Trump, May aim to convince Moscow to end Assad support

LONDON — A “window of opportunity” exists to convince Moscow to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump said in a phone call Monday.

“The prime minister and the president agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest,” a spokeswoman for May’s Downing Street office said.

The phone call between the two leaders came after last week’s suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held Syrian town that killed at least 87 civilians.

Washington retaliated with an air strike on a Syrian air base, the first time the US has directly intervened against the Assad regime which it has blamed for the attack on civilians.

Britain said it “fully supported” the US strikes and both countries have put pressure on Russia to stop backing the Syrian regime, with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson cancelling a visit to Moscow scheduled for Monday.

Johnson said his decision came after developments in Syria “changed the situation fundamentally” and that his priority would instead be the meeting of G7 foreign ministers on Monday.

The Italy summit of the seven major advanced economies was expected to be dominated by Syria, ahead of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travelling to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

In their phone call on the eve of Tillerson’s visit, Trump and May said it “provides an opportunity to make progress towards a solution which will deliver a lasting political settlement”.

The Syrian regime has denied it was behind the April 4 attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun.

Moscow has so far stood by Assad, describing the US strikes as inflicting “considerable damage” to already “lamentable” US-Russia ties.

Russia also threatened to suspend a vital hotline established to avoid mid-air collisions or clashes with a US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations.

Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon meet to end ‘palace intrigue’

(JTA) — President Donald Trump’s top strategist Steve Bannon and his advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly met in an attempt to smooth tensions that have roiled the administration.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus ordered the meeting at the request of the president, according to reports. The meeting was confirmed to the political news website Politico by two unnamed White House officials.

News of tensions between Bannon and Kushner, who reportedly were close during the campaign, followed Trump’s order last week removing Bannon from the National Security Council.

According to the reports, Kushner believes Bannon went too far in pushing for the Muslim travelers’ bans and in playing hardball with Congress in an attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act. Both initiatives failed.

Bannon reportedly resents Kushner for bringing figures associated with Democrats into the White House.

A Daily Beast report on Thursday said Bannon called Kushner a “cuck” and “globalist,” terms familiar to “alt-right” conspiracy theorists. “Cuck,” a play on “cuckold,” is the alt-right term for conservatives who allowed themselves to be played by liberals and the establishment. “Globalist” refers to theories of a conspiracy of elites to maintain control of the global economy.

It is not known if the meeting between the two men was successful.

Reuters reported, citing an unnamed White House official, that Priebus’ message to Bannon and Kushner was to “stop with the palace intrigue” and focus on the president’s agenda.

Both aides left having agreed that it was time to “bury the hatchet and move forward,” the official said, according to Reuters.

Rumors have surfaced about an upcoming White House shake-up that could see Bannon and Priebus leaving their positions.

SA’AR TO ‘POST’: ISRAEL MUST PERSUADE WORLD TO END ASSAD’S REGIME

 

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad must go, and Israel must help convince the international community to bring him down, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former No.2 in the Likud, Gideon Sa’ar, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.

In his first interview with a print newspaper since he returned to politics following a two-and-a-half year hiatus, Sa’ar explained why he has the best chance to succeed Netanyahu as prime minister.

 

During his timeout from politics, Sa’ar conducted in-depth research of the Syrian issue at the Institute for National Security Studies, adding to the knowledge he gained in the security cabinet.

“Israel has an interest in Assad losing power,” Sa’ar said. “His replacement won’t be a Zionist. But Iran is the most dangerous enemy of Israel, and therefore its control over Syria and its ability to deliver arms to Hezbollah make it the most problematic situation for us.”

Sa’ar said he does not think Israel should be involved militarily in Syria, but if the US decided to remove Assad, it will be in Israel’s interest.

He praised the American attack on a Syrian base Friday morning, but said it was a pinpoint strike in response to Assad using chemical weapons and does not show an American strategy on Syria.

The former minister explained that the world lives in fear of radical Sunni Islam, because ISIS is behind most of the recent terrorist attacks in the world, but because Iran is the dominant military force funding terrorism in the region, is pursuing nuclear weapons and exports Islamic radicalism, Israel sees it as much more dangerous. He said that makes Israel’s focus on Iran different than that of the international community.

“We have to understand what our interests are, then persuade the world, which is not simple,” he said. “But the Trump administration sees the world differently than the Obama administration, which saw Iran as stabilizing the region.”

Asked whether he backed Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Obama’s deal with Iran, he said he supported the prime minister’s decision to address Congress and warn against the agreement. But he suggested that perhaps the efforts should have ended once they were hopeless because of the importance of maintaining bipartisan US support for Israel.

“Once the deal was signed, I have my doubts as to whether continuing the struggle was the right thing to do,” he said. “Continuing to fight the deal once it was signed did not change anything, and it is doubtful we could have changed anything at that stage.”

Sa’ar lamented that a decision on attacking Iran did not reach the security cabinet between 2011 and 2013, when the geopolitical situation would have made it relatively easier. He now favors a regional security framework formalizing cooperation between Israel and its neighbors against the Iranian threat.

Israel has mutual strategic interests with Egypt and Jordan against Iran, Sa’ar said. He warned that those interests could be harmed by engaging in the Palestinian issue. Unlike Netanyahu, Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Sa’ar is more cautious about using a regional approach to solving the Palestinian issue.

“A regional approach is just a slogan, so the question is what the content would be,” he said. “There are two options. If Jordan and Egypt take part in the solution – the approach can be constructive. But if the Arab countries back the Palestinians, pressure on Israel would grow and this would not serve Israel’s interests.”

Sa’ar said possible ideas for the Trump administration to consider would be a confederation of Jordan with the Palestinian Authority, and former national security council head Giora Eiland’s plan for regional exchanges of territories that includes expanding Palestinian-controlled territory into the Sinai Peninsula.

When asked what his advice would be to Trump, he said: “Israel needs to present new ideas, not the paradigm that has failed over the past 25 years. The negotiations didn’t just fail time after time, even after Israel presented generous offers.

The paradigm of a Palestinian state based on 67 lines and dividing Jerusalem cannot work. It’s not practical.

It won’t give the Palestinians a viable state or bring security to Israel.”

Sa’ar has been careful not to criticize Netanyahu since his return, following tradition in the Likud of respecting the party leader.

He went further on Sunday, saying that his comeback is not impacted by investigations of Netanyahu and that he hopes the current government can last its full term, which ends in November 2019.

“I said all along that I would return to politics within the Likud, and with elections taking place no later than 2019; I can’t come back 15 minutes before,” he said. “I have to work and that means journeying all over the country, presenting Likudniks and the general public with ideas and reforms I thought of during my break from politics.”

Sa’ar will soon begin in Haifa and he has already set 10 stops. He made his comeback speech in Acre to put an emphasis on helping those in the periphery, where he believes his ideas could improve the quality of life.

Although Sa’ar opposed the Likud’s decision to already select Netanyahu as its candidate in the next general election, he has accepted it and is preparing for the post-Netanyahu era, whenever it comes.

When Sa’ar announced his comeback, Lapid praised him and expressed hope they would work together in the future. But Sa’ar poured cold water over Lapid’s idea of heading a government that would include the Likud as a coalition partner in a government led by Yesh Atid.

“I don’t believe in Lapid’s path, and ideology is what matters,” he said. “The Likud must lead and Lapid, like others, cannot be ruled out as a partner for us. It is healthy that the Likud has tended to be either be in power or in the opposition.”

Asked if it bothers him how little he is known overseas compared to Lapid and others, Sa’ar said he will continue devoting most of his efforts to reaching out to Israelis.

“When I run for prime minister, I don’t know if Lapid will still be a candidate, but I have a higher chance of getting elected and forming a government than he does,” he said. “I have much wider support.

I have the best chance of anyone to be the next prime minister.”

Professors Suggest Parents Could Be Randomly Assigned Babies to End Racism

http://www.renegadetribune.com/professors-suggest-parents-randomly-assigned-babies-end-racism/

 

Renegade Editor’s Note: What these professors are suggesting is literally genocide according to the UN’s definition:

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

By Daniel Lang of The Daily Sheeple

It’s strange how people from academia can be so out of touch with reality. It often seems like the people who spend the most time pursuing an education, particularly if it’s not STEM related, have the most backward views of society and propose the most asinine solutions to non-problems. You’d think that people who put so much effort into trying to understand the world would have great ideas, but that’s not always true.

Case in point: Howard Rachlin, a professor of psychology from Stony Brook University and Marvin Franke, a professor of psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, have come up with a solution to end racism in America. In an op-ed for Aeon, they suggested (as a thought experiment of course) that the best way to stop racism and what they call “genetic chauvinism,” would be to assign babies randomly to parents, without their consent.

The superficial connection between color and culture would be severed. Racism would be wiped out. Racial ghettos would disappear; children of all races would live in all neighborhoods. Any white child could have black parents and any black child could have white parents.” they said before adding “Imagine if social mixing had been in effect 100 years ago in Germany, Bosnia, Palestine or the Congo. Racial, religious, and social genocide would not have happened.”

What’s even more creepy than that, is what they think would happen to parents who refuse to go along with this policy, and raise their own children in secret. 

But those babies would not have birth certificates, they would not be citizens, they could not vote, serve in public office and so forth. If discovered, the children might be taken away after the strong bonds of psychological (as opposed to biological) parenthood had been formed. Few Americans would risk these penalties.”

The professors admit this plan would be “politically impossible, perhaps even repellent.” They say it’s not a serious proposal, but their in-depth analysis of this idea sure sounds serious. Leftist academics are obsessed with ideas that break down the family and erase social and cultural boundaries, and this fits that bill. It sounds like a socialist wet dream that only an academic swimming in social justice notions would come up with.


This article originally appeared on The Daily Sheeple.

US urges Human Rights Council to end ‘obsession with Israel’

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-urges-human-rights-council-to-end-obsession-with-israel/

 

The United States on Wednesday called on the UN Human Rights Council to drop its “obsession with Israel” amid reports that the Trump administration is considering quitting the body.

In a speech before the Geneva-based council, US envoy Erin Barclay said the United States’ commitment to human rights “is stronger than ever.”

“Regrettably, too many of the actions of this council do not support these universal principles. Indeed, they contradict them,” said Barclay, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.

She cited ongoing abuses in Syria and North Korea, and noted in particular the top UN human rights body’s “consistent, unfair and unbalanced focus” on Israel, which she said “deeply troubled” Washington.

“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item… The obsession with Israel… is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” said Barclay, a career diplomat. “It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council. The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel.

“When it comes to human rights no country should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any democratic country be regularly subjected to unfair, unbalanced and unfounded bias,” she added.

The council’s annual rebuke of Israel has been a particular source of irritation for both Republican and Democratic US administrations.

The US declined to seek a seat on the 47-member council when it was formed in 2006, citing skepticism about the membership of some authoritarian states. It joined the council in 2009, after Obama’s election, and has played a key role rallying like-minded nations in condemning human rights abuses around the globe.

She said the United States is dedicated to protecting and promoting universal human rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

“As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the council’s actions with an eye toward reform to more fully achieve the council’s mission to protect and promote human rights,” Barclay said.

Israeli minister joins calls for more settlements as Donald Trump hints at end to US opposition

An Israeli minister has called for the country to build more settlements in the occupied territories following the shock US Presiedential election victory of Donald Trump.

The Republican property magnate, who beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to the White House, has indicated that he may end the US’s longstanding opposition to building in Palestinian territories.

Science Minister Otir Akunis told the Israeli state-controlled Army radio: “We need to think how we move forward now when the administration in Washington, the Trump administration and his advisers, are saying that there is no place for a Palestinian state”.

Mr Trump said there was “nobody more pro-Israel than I am” in March, adding that he would oppose any attempt to force Israel into an agreement it opposes.

His adviser on Israel, David Friedman, said last month that he does not believe Mr Trump sees Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal, as the majority of the international community does.

Asked whether he believed in the two-state solution, the basis of more than two decades of peace negotiations, Mr Friedman said Mr Trump was “tremendously sceptical”.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invite him to visit the White House after his inauguration in January – before he made the customary phone call to other prominent world leaders, including British Prime Minster Theresa May.

Mr Netanyahu welcomed Mr Trump’s victory, saying the former reality star was “a true friend of Israel”.

The Israeli Prime Minister, whose administration is said to be the most right-wing in the country’s history, has so far been very cautious about calling for more settlements and the Israeli government is still officially working towards a two-state solution.

But members of his Cabinet have been far more outspoken, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett saying Mr Trump’s election signalled an end “to the notion of a Palestinian state”.

trump-netanyahu.jpg
While Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, few other countries accept that, including the United States (EPA)

Last month Mr Bennett, who is said to have his eye on becoming Prime Minister himself in the near-future, said it was time to increase the “sovereignty” of Israel by building more settlements, providing the UN Security Council passed a motion condemning them.

Israel remains concerned that outgoing US President Barack Obama will attempt to push a resolution through before he leaves office.

Meanwhile, Mahmud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, gave Mr Trump a cautious congratulations and said he hoped peace could be achieved during his term based on the borders of 1967, the year Israel occupied the West Bank.

But a high-ranking Palestinian official warned that, “We are worried because we have here someone who has been completely unpredictable, a loose cannon and also because this is not an issue just for the Palestinians but for the rest of the world.”

He said the one consolation was that, “His statements are so unfeasible, unreasonable, illogical, so in violation of international laws and the international consensus, that they cannot be implemented.”

“When faced with the realities of the office, things change,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.