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Making Middle East peace impossible: Donald Trump and Jerusalem

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem move weakens US influence in the Middle East and makes peace between Arabs and Israelis all but impossible

Alexander Mercouris

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President Trump’s decision – of which he informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call today – to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has implications which too few people in the West and in the US especially recognise.

Jerusalem has hosted Israel’s government and parliament ever since the Israeli army took over formerly Jordanian controlled east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Days War.   In a sense moving the US embassy to Jerusalem simply recognises what has been the reality of the last fifty years.

That is however to ignore the huge symbolism of this step.

For Israelis – and for many Jewish people elsewhere – Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital is obvious and sacrosanct.

Jerusalem was the capital first of the united Kingdom of Israel and Judah following its capture by King David, and then of the Kingdom of Judah, until the sacking of the city by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

During this period the First Temple – destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC – was built in Jerusalem by David’s son Solomon.

Jerusalem was then restored to Jewish control by the Persian King Cyrus the Great later in the sixth century, making it possible for the Second Temple to be built.

Though there were periods thereafter when Jerusalem was under the political control of the Greeks and Romans, the Second Temple – hugely increased in size by Herod the Great – continued to be the centre of Jewish worship until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Throughout this period Jerusalem remained the centre of the Jewish people’s religious, political and intellectual life.

A last attempt to regain control of Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple was made in the Second Century AD by the Jewish rebel Simon Bar-Kokhba.  However following the suppression of Bar-Kokhba’s revolt by the Romans Jerusalem fell successively under Roman, Byzantine, Muslim Arab, Crusader, Ottoman Turkish and eventually British control, until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Throughout this long period the Jewish people never forgot their connection to Jerusalem, which remains emotionally powerful for them to this day.

Given the decisive importance of Jerusalem in forming the Jewish identity, it could not be otherwise.

Suffice to say that for the vast majority of Israelis and for most Jews a state of Israel which does not have Jerusalem as its capital is unthinkable, and the whole project of establishing a Jewish state on the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine would make no sense without it.

This view is not held by Jews alone.  Many evangelical Christians – especially in the US – who have been brought up on the Bible also share it.  So do many secular people in the West.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is one of those people.  Throughout his brief political career he has made know his deep affection for Israel and for the Jewish people, which has unquestionably been deepened by the marriage of his daughter Ivanka to Jared Kushner and her conversion to Judaism.

Beyond this there is unquestionably the political calculation that much of Donald Trump’s electoral support comes from evangelical Christians, who strongly support the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It is very easy to see how a US President under the sort of political siege which Donald Trump has been placed under might wish to do something such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem which he may well calculate will shore up the support of his electoral base.

The decision nonetheless is one which is fraught with dangerous implications, and which is both wrong and unwise.

Firstly – though this is something which will probably not concern Donald Trump or his supporters overmuch – recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is contrary to international law.  UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 2334 leave no room for doubt about this.

Far more importantly, if the status of Jerusalem is a matter that is critically important for Israelis and Jews, it is also one which is critically important for Muslims and Arabs.

The Prophet Muhammad in his lifetime already recognised Jerusalem as a Holy City in light of its association with the Biblical prophets – David, Solomon, Elijah and Jesus – who are recognised as prophets by Islam.  Before Muhammad’s cleansing of the Ka’ba in Mecca, Jerusalem was the first Direction of Prayer for Muslims in Muhammad’s lifetime.

More importantly for Muslims, Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven to speak with God, the prophets and the archangels.

The relevant authority for this in the Quran – which it is important to remember Muslims regard as the unmediated Word of God – is verse 17:1

Glory to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Masjid (ie. the Great Mosque in Mecca – AM) to the Furthest Masjid (the furthest mosque – AM), whose precincts We have blessed, to show him of Our wonders! He it is Who is All-Hearing, All-Seeing

That the location of the Furthest Masjid referred to in this verse is Jerusalem was according to Hadith (ie. Muhammad’s own teaching) confirmed by Muhammad himself.

Verse 17.1 of the Quran is held by Muslims to refer to what is known as the Night Journey (al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi‘rāj) whereby Muhammad was transported in a single day in the year 630 AD to Jerusalem by the miraculous steed Buraq, and from thence ascended to Heaven where he spoke with the archangels, the prophets and God before returning to earth.  The place of Muhammad’s ascent is identified by Muslims as the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Night Journey is one of the most important events for Muslims in the life of the Prophet, and is one of the most significant events in the Islamic Calendar.  As result of the Night Journey Jerusalem is considered by Muslims to be the third holiest site (after Mecca and Medina) in Islam.

Beyond its religious significance for Muslims, for the Palestinian Arabs Jerusalem is their greatest city and the capital of the country – Palestine – to which they belong, and which ever since the fall of the Ottoman empire they have always aspired to create.

Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is therefore as emotionally offensive to Muslims and Arabs (especially Palestinian Arabs) and it is emotionally important for Israelis and Jews.

Every single attempt to mediate a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ever since the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan has recognised this fact.

That plan envisaged that Jerusalem would not become the capital of either Israel or of the Palestinian state that it proposed, but should instead be separately administered as a holy city important to Jews, Muslims and Christians under international control.

All other plans and proposals to negotiate a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict proposed since then have struggled with the issue of Jerusalem, which is recognised as the central and most intractable issue of the whole conflict.  It has always been understood that a peaceful end to the conflict is only possible if some mutually acceptable compromise over the status of Jerusalem can be agreed.

De facto recognition by the US of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even if it only comes in the form of the physical relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, threatens to make achieving such a compromise impossible.

Given the enormous emotional pull of Jerusalem for Israelis and for the Jewish people, it now becomes all but impossible to see how they will ever accept a compromise on this issue given that the US – the world’s most powerful country – has now de facto recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital now all but guarantees that whatever peace proposal is put forward which is acceptable to Israelis will be rejected by a critical mass of Muslims and Arabs.

Given the emotional and religious significance of Jerusalem for Muslims and Arabs, it is inconceivable that most of them will accept a peace proposal which leaves Jerusalem under Israeli control as Israel’s capital.

That all but guarantees that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – and the conflict between Israel, the Arabs and the broader Muslim world – will continue indefinitely.

At best there may be periods of ‘cold peace’ ie. periods when the conflict goes into temporary remission.  However as night follows day after every such period will end, with the conflict sooner or later flaring up again.

Beyond this there is the issue of the radicalisation this decision will cause across the Muslim world.

It is not generally acknowledged in the West, but the 1967 Six Days War and the capture by Israel of formerly Jordanian east Jerusalem was the watershed moment when radical political Islam began to take over from Arab nationalism as the dominant political movement in the Arab world and the Middle East.

For Muslims Israel’s capture in 1967 of the last remaining part of Jerusalem under Arab and Muslim control – including the territory of the Al-Aqsa mosque from whence the Prophet ascended to Heaven – was a profound shock.

Though it took some time for the effect of this to become visible – as such things always do – the rise of radical political Islam and eventually of violent Jihadism was the result.

De facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is bound to give this process further impetus.

The immediate beneficiaries will not be the violent Jihadi groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, who have shown no interest in fighting Israel, and whose atrocities have discredited them in Arab and Muslim eyes.

It will be Iran and Hezbollah: the Islamic Republic and the Muslim movement who have been the most consistent leaders of the so-called “Axis of Resistance” opposing Israel and the West.

In other words, at a time when the US and Israel and their allies have been seeking to reduce Iranian influence in the Middle East and the Arab world, Donald Trump has just taken a step which will make Iran’s popularity and its influence in the Middle East and the Arab world still greater.

Inevitably it is a step which will also undermine the position of those Arab leaders – first and foremost the Saudis – who are allies of the US.

Though these leaders have shown no interest in challenging Israel – on the contrary in the case of the Saudis they are in de facto alliance with it – the Arab and Muslim populations over which they rule are known to feel very differently.

With the Middle East becoming increasingly unstable, with US influence diminishing, and with Iranian influence growing, Donald Trump has just taken a step which will make the lives of these leaders more difficult.

Lastly, it is very difficult to see how the US’s already threadbare reputation as an honest broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can long survive this move.

As is always the case it will take some time for this to become apparent, but more and more Muslims and Arabs – including the leaders of the traditionally pro-US conservative Arab states – are going to struggle to explain to themselves how they can continue to accept the US as a mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict when it has de facto recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That will inevitably further reduce the US’s role in the peace process, and by extension its already diminishing influence in the Middle East.

All in all Donald Trump has just done both the US’s position in the Middle East and the long-term prospects of peace there major and possibly irretrievable damage.

Not bad for a single day’s work.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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Media meltdown hits stupid levels as Trump and Putin hold first summit (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 58.

Alex Christoforou

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It was, and still remains a media meltdown of epic proportions as that dastardly ‘traitor’ US President Donald Trump decided to meet with that ‘thug’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of course these are the simplistic and moronic epitaphs that are now universally being thrown around on everything from Morning Joe to Fox and Friends.

Mainstream media shills, and even intelligent alternative news political commentators, are all towing the same line, “thug” and “traitor”, while no one has given much thought to the policy and geo-political realities that have brought these two leaders together in Helsinki.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou provide some real news analysis of the historic Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, without the stupid ‘thug’ and ‘traitor’ monikers carelessly being thrown around by the tools that occupy much of the mainstream media. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

And if you though that one summit between Putin and Trump was more than enough to send the media into code level red meltdown, POTUS Trump is now hinting (maybe trolling) at a second Putin summit.

Via Zerohedge

And cue another ‘meltdown’ in 3…2…1…

While arguments continue over whether the Helsinki Summit was a success (end of Cold War 2.0) or not (most treasonous president ever), President Trump is convinced “The Summit was a great success,” and hints that there will be a second summit soon, where they will address: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

However, we suspect what will ‘trigger’ the liberal media to melt down is his use of the Stalin-esque term “enemy of the people” to describe the Fake News Media once again…

 

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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