Abbas said invited to White House mid-April

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Washington mid-April to meet with US President Donald Trump, Palestinian media reported Saturday.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the White House.

The report of Abbas heading to Washington came just after Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt visited Israel and the West Bank.

Trump spoke to Abbas for the first time over the phone last week and invited the Palestinian leader to the White House in the near future.

“President Trump has extended an official invitation to President Abbas to visit the White House soon to discuss ways to resume the political process, stressing his commitment to a peace process that will lead to a real peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said at the time.

Abbas was scheduled to visit Cairo on Sunday at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Army Radio reported. The two were expected to discuss Trump’s initiative to reenergize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The summit follows two months of tensions between the PA leadership and Egypt, which included the expulsion of Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub after his arrival in Cairo.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president's assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

Abbas told Trump’s special peace envoy Greenblatt on Tuesday that he believes a “historic” peace deal with Israel is possible with Trump in office, according to a US Jerusalem Consulate General readout.

During a meeting at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas committed to combat Palestinian incitement, the statement said. The Palestinian leader and Greenblatt also discussed building up the PA’s security forces, advancing the peace process, and improving the Palestinian economy.

According to the readout, Abbas told Greenblatt that “he believes that under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace deal is possible, and that it will enhance security throughout the region.”

“President Abbas committed to preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement,” the statement added.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant that PA-sanctioned media and school curriculum are responsible for inciting terrorism.

Abbas told Greenblatt that the Palestinians see the two-state solution as their “strategic choice.”

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

The PA leader said he was “looking forward to discussing the possibilities for peace directly with President Trump during his upcoming visit to Washington,” the readout said.

Greenblatt described the meeting on Twitter as a “positive, far-ranging exchange about the current situation.”

The Palestinian daily al-Quds cited sources in the US Congress who said Greenblatt warned Abbas that US lawmakers are working to condition US aid to the Palestinians — with the exception of security assistance — on ending incitement, including payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists.

The PA pays monthly stipends to families who have a member who is considered to have been “martyred,” which usually means being killed by an Israeli while carrying out a terror attack or suspected attack, or who is spending time in Israeli prison for perpetrating a terrorist act.

The US government has already taken measures to ensure its aid isn’t funneled to the families of terrorists. That includes paying the debts of the PA directly, rather than transferring funds into the PA’s coffers.

Abbas has called numerous times to reinstate the US-Palestinian-Israeli tripartite anti-incitement committee, including at the Seventh Fatah Congress in December. The committee was formed as part of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, and met every two months until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. However, images depicting and glorifying attacks on Israelis have also been posted on Facebook pages associated with Abbas’s Fatah party.

Abbas and Greenblatt also “reaffirmed the US and the Palestinian Authority’s joint determination to combat violence and terrorism,” the US readout said.

Prior to meeting Abbas in Ramallah, Greenblatt met with a group of Palestinian hi-tech entrepreneurs, Greenblatt said on Twitter.

During the meeting With Abbas, Greenblatt also discussed “plans to grow the Palestinian economy and the importance of ensuring economic opportunities for Palestinians, which would enhance the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the readout said.

After the meeting, Greenblatt toured the Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah.

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Photo Credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Greenblatt told Netanyahu during their talks last week that “enabling the growth of the Palestinian economy and improving the quality of life for Palestinians” were important to Trump. The prime minister replied that he was “fully committed to broadening prosperity for Palestinians,” seeing the issue “as a means of bolstering the prospects for peace.”

On March 10, Trump held his first phone conversation with Abbas, inviting him to visit the White House “soon.”

Abbas said that his phone conversation with Trump was “constructive” and that the US president had “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.”

He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.”

The US administration is currently said to be weighing how to proceed with a renewed peace effort after Abbas’s visit to Washington. One possibility being considered is a regional summit, to be held in Egypt or Jordan.


Netanyahu: Clinton and Trump invited me to White House after elections (VERY VERY BAD!!!)

No matter who ends up winning next week’s US presidential election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will be a welcome guest at the White House, announcing on Monday that both major-party candidates had invited him.

Netanyahu’s speech was one of several at the opening meeting of the Knesset’s session that focused on US-Israel relations, or referred to the upcoming election.

“Unlike what the industry of dismay says, our relations with the US are stronger and mightier than ever and will remain that way, because the Americans share our values,” Netanyahu stated.

The prime minister thanked the US for the military aid package it will receive over the next decade.

“This doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements sometimes, though I hope they will be rare,” he added.

Netanyahu expressed hope that US President Barack Obama would not push forward a UN Security Council resolution pressuring Israel on settlements and a two-state solution before the president leaves office in January.

“President Obama said in 2011 that peace will not be achieved through UN resolutions, rather it will come from direct negotiations,” the prime minister said. “He was right, and I want to believe that he will not abandon this policy. In any case, Israel will oppose efforts to dictate to us from the outside.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) had a different assessment of US-Israel ties, saying that Netanyahu has destroyed them, endangering Israel.

“You weakened Israel with a brutal, pointless and endless dispute with our greatest friend, the US, which is one of the major components we rely on for our strength in security and diplomacy,” Herzog said to Netanyahu.

“These are essential, true, and special relations, and only someone who has been in decision-making positions realizes how great your failure has been in protecting them.”

Herzog said ties with the US have been so strained that “sometimes it seems like the rope will break and rip, and I am worried that the worst is still ahead.”

President Reuven Rivlin spoke about a weakening of liberal democratic values in the West. A week before the US election, his speech could be seen as a thinly-veiled comment about politics there, though his office said they are about “global trends.”

“In many democratic countries [there is] a sharp increase in the percentage of citizens who do not see themselves duty-bound to the principles of the democratic process,” Rivlin stated. “Today we see citizens of democracies older than ours who are prepared to surrender some of their freedoms for the sake of strong leadership – sometimes demagogic and populist – yet able to establish stability and display strength.”

Rivlin said these ideas, even if they are difficult for some to swallow, still have legitimacy.

“These are value-based positions struggling with the definition of the boundaries, the character and the legitimacy of democracy,” he stated.

Such debates are also taking place in Israel, Rivlin said, where some people are enthusiastically “escaping the comfortable safety of consensus or by the ideological castration of ‘political correctness.’”

Rivlin warned that Israelis should not forget the things that unite them: “Even if we do take off our gloves during fierce internal debate, we must not lose our integrity, our fundamental honesty with regard to ourselves, with regard to others… honorable members of Knesset, we do not have to agree on overly complex values in order to maintain honest, clear and consistent politics that will allow us to provide a more valid response to the needs of Israeli society.”

Similarly, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warned against the “crumbling” of Israeli society into separate, extreme groups, and lamented recent actions by MKs.

“We must show public responsibility when an elected official cheapens the level and image of the Knesset through his behavior or character; we must express solidarity with national mourning over the passing of an important leader; and we must avoid slandering Israel around the world and in international institutions,” Edelstein stated.

The Knesset speaker called on MKs to take responsibility for their actions and not inspire the public to incite, by holding a respectful discourse.

Also on Monday, the Knesset continued working on the 2017-2018 state budget and economic arrangements bill.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon presented the budget to the Knesset Finance Committee, and for the first time, MKs were given copies of the bills on flash drives, instead of in boxes of thousands of printed pages.

The budget is expected to go to a first reading on Wednesday, and must pass a final vote by the end of the year, unless the government asks for an extension until March.

Pro-Life Groups Banned From St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Gay Rights Groups Welcomed

Organizers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade have stopped two pro-life groups from participating in the traditionally Catholic celebration, while allowing two groups that oppose Catholic teachings to participate.

Parade committee chairman John Lahey reportedly has boasted about the 2016 parade being the “most inclusive” yet, but that “inclusion” appears only to apply to the groups that Lahey and his committee agree with politically.

The  parade committee has banned pro-life groups for decades and “their exclusion has been used as the primary ‘justification’ for also keeping LGBT organizations out.” This year, however, at least two gay rights groups were approved to participate in the parade, while pro-life groups appear to still be shut out, according to the report.

The National Catholic Register reports what happened last year with pro-life groups:

Elizabeth Rex, president and co-founder of the Children First Foundation, a New York-based charitable organization that promotes adoption as a pro-life option for women in crisis pregnancies, applied to march last year, but the parade committee rejected her application on grounds that a “right-to-life group” had already been chosen to march. No overtly pro-life group actually marched last year.

“We were double-crossed,” Rex told the Register. “I would never apply again because I fear they could then actually use our entrance to allow pro-abortion groups to march. It’s going to be the end of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which it already is.”

Keep up with the latest pro-life news and information on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Dawn Eskew, founder of Personhood Education New York, a pro-life organization that welcomes people of different faith backgrounds to build a culture of life, told the Register that the parade committee never returned her phone calls and emails seeking information about applying to march.

“What bothers me is that they never responded,” said Eskew, whose colleagues told her the parade committee probably considered her group to be “too political.” But then she read about the parade’s board of directors welcoming a second homosexual group to march in the parade.

“‘Gee,’ I thought. ‘That’s pretty political,’” Eskew said.

The exclusion of pro-lifers is especially startling given that Ireland, the country of which St. Patrick is the patron saint of, is a strongly pro-life, Catholic nation.

On his blog this week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, lamented how the parade committee has watered down the traditionally Catholic holiday with secularism.

“It’s not just the Irish parade. We march to honor St. Patrick. That is why so many cringe at and resist pleas to weaken the Catholic origins of the parade,” Dolan wrote. “It would be particularly somber if the forces of secularism were able to do what centuries of oppressive rule were unable to do: erase the faith from Irish identity.”

A peaceful, prayerful rally of Catholics in opposition to the parade’s secularism is scheduled for noon today on the west side of 5th Avenue between 65th and 66th streets. Their goal is to unite Catholics who want to defend their faith and fight for the right to speak and practice the faith, according to the Christian Newswire.

Iran to Be Invited to Participate in Syria Talks – State Department

Iran will receive an invitation to participate in the upcoming multilateral talks on the Syrian political transition, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Kirby said that the US government anticipates Iran “will be asked to participate” in the talks, but “whether they come or not, that is up to the Iranian leaders.”“We do expect, in this case, that Iran will be invited to participate,” Kirby said concerning the multilateral talks on Syria scheduled in Vienna at the end of the week.

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UK Labour frontrunner invited radical Israeli-Muslim cleric to Parliament for tea

Britain’s Labour Party leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn was filmed praising a hate preacher and inviting him to “tea on the terrace” at Parliament, the Daily Mail reported Saturday.

In the 2012 clip, left-wing MP Corbyn can be seen referring to Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, as an “’honored citizen” and inviting him to tea in the House of Commons.

Salah has convictions for funding Hamas, contact with Iranian intelligence, assaulting a police officer and leading a violent demonstration among other offenses, and has served several jail terms.

Salah visited Britain in June 2012, despite an order from Home Secretary Theresa May banning him over his political activities. He was detained, held for three weeks and released on bail.

A Jewish politician from the Labour Party said on Friday that the views of Corbyn, who is far ahead in the race to take over the leadership of the main British opposition party, are cause for “serious concern.”

Ivan Lewis, the shadow, or minority, party cabinet minister who is also a former chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation, urged his party not to vote for Corbyn.

“Some of [Corbyn’s] stated political views are a cause for serious concern,” Lewis said in letter to his local party members on Friday, according to the Guardian. “At the very least he has shown very poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged not in legitimate criticism of Israeli governments but in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

The video in question dates back to 2012. In it, Corbyn says there are voices who see Sheikh Salah as a “dangerous man.” Corbyn says he disagrees, and that Salah “is far from a dangerous man, he’s a very honored citizen. He… represents his people extremely well and his is a voice that must be heard.”

Corbyn said he looked forward to hosting Salah for “tea on the terrace” of the House of Commons. That meeting did not materialize.

Corbyn, who has ties to the Socialist Campaign Group, Amnesty International and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, was criticized on Wednesday by the Jewish Chronicle of London, which claimed that he had ties to “Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright antisemites.”

“We are certain that we speak for the vast majority of British Jews in expressing deep foreboding at the prospect of Mr. Corbyn’s election as Labour leader,” the newspaper editorialized.

The editorial was written a day after the Daily Mail reported that Corbyn defended a conspiracy theorist who blamed Israel for Sept. 11 in February.

In response to the Jewish Chronicle editorial, Corbyn released a statement saying he was “proud to represent a multicultural constituency of people from all over the world and to speak at every opportunity of understanding between Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths,” the Guardian reported.

Lewis is the first senior Labour politician to attack Corbyn’s credentials on anti-Semitism.

“It saddens me to have to say to some on the left of British politics that anti-racism means zero tolerance of antisemitism, no ifs, and no buts. I have said the same about Islamophobia and other forms of racism to a minority of my constituents who make unacceptable statements,” Lewis said.

Voting by Labour Party members for their next leader began Friday, with results to be announced next month. Britain’s last Labour leader was Ed Miliband, who is also Jewish. He stepped down after losing the general election by a wide margin to David Cameron and the Conservative party in May.

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