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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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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

The Duran

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

The Duran

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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