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July 24, 2016 / 18 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘secretary of state’

Finally: Congress Asking UNRWA for Real Number of Palestinian Refugees

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Both houses of Congress are at work to modify funding bills for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as part of an effort to investigate the very legitimacy of the decades-old agency, Michael Wilner reported in the Jerusalem Post Friday. Both the House and the Senate want the State Department to, once and for all, define the term “Palestinian refugee,” and while they’re at it, reveal how many are receiving aid from UNRWA.

UNRWA was established in 1948 to assist the 750,000 Palestinians who had left Israel. Since then UNRWA has been a promoter of the Palestinian cause, funding as many as 5 million “refugees,” the majority of whom never left the homes where they were born in the Gaza Strip, the “West Bank,” eastern Jerusalem, or other Arab countries, to the tune of $1.23 billion annually, $250 million of which is donated by US taxpayers.

Many in Congress have been saying, since about 2012, that the majority of Palestinians are permanently settled, and should not be under the jurisdiction of a refugee agency.

Needless to say, Wilner points out, “such a finding would fundamentally change the narrative of the decades-old conflict.”

The first Palestinian census was completed 15 years ago, and the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) admitted then that the census was, in effect, “a civil intifada” rather than a scientific survey. In 2011 the Bureau attempted to correct that blatant misrepresentation, claiming that 2.6 million Palestinian Arabs inhabit Judea and Samaria.

But Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger challenged those numbers, claiming they overstated the real number of Arabs there by as much as 66%. He explained that the PCBS’s total counts 400,000 Palestinians living overseas, and double-counts 240,000 Jerusalem Arabs. It also undercounted Palestinian emigration.

In 2014, UNRWA came up with the figure of 5 million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and the US responded by providing hundreds of millions of dollars for UNRWA’s health, education, and social service programs.

“UNRWA is sort of becoming an entitlement program of the Middle East, and the desire is to increase transparency on who actually are refugees relevant to that conflict,” a senior Senate aide familiar with the language told Wilner, suggesting the new bill “goes to the heart of the debate over UNRWA funding.”

Republicans in both houses have launched parallel efforts to compel the State Department to go on the record with who qualifies as a “Palestinian refugee,” and the combined version of the law, once passed, will compel the secretary of state to provide “a justification of why it is in the national interest of the United States to provide funds to UNRWA.”

The bill’s language continues: “Such justification shall include an analysis of the current definition of Palestinian refugees that is used by UNRWA, how that definition corresponds with, or differs from, that used by UNHCR, other UN agencies, and the United States Government, and whether such definition furthers the prospects for lasting peace in the region.”

And, naturally, “the committee directs that such report be posted on the publicly available website of the Department of State.”

Finally, it should be noted that there are two distinct definitions of the term “refugee” in international law.

A refugee, according to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, is a person who is outside their country of citizenship because they have well-founded grounds for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to obtain sanctuary from their home country or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country; or in the case of not having a nationality and being outside their country of former habitual residence as a result of such event, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to their country of former habitual residence.

It is rare for a refugee status to extend beyond the lifetime of the original refugee, because normally it is expected that their offspring will have settled someplace else.

Not so regarding Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA’s definition of the term, which includes the patrilineal descendants of the original “Palestinian refugees,” limited to persons residing in UNRWA’s areas of operation in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

JNi.Media

Something Big Is Happening In Syria But Despite Warnings By 51 US Diplomats Obama Refuses To See It

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

[Initially published at Western Journalism]

On Thursday last week, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal revealed that 51 American diplomats had signed an internal State Department memo that harshly criticized President Obama’s Syria policies. The diplomats also called for airstrikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, the papers reported.

Robert Ford, America’s former ambassador to Syria, said that there has never been a “dissenting message” that was signed by so many diplomats within the State Department.

“The normal number for a dissenting message is two, three, four, five people. So it’s really remarkable. It says that a large number of people who work on different parts [of Washington’s policy on the Syrian conflict] are all in agreement that it’s failing. I see American diplomats who are frustrated like I was when I resigned in 2014,” Ford told France 24.

Ford thinks the diplomats’ memo won’t cause Obama to change his ways or adjust his policies in Syria. He said he was sure the message was directed at Obama and not at Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry seemed to prove Ford right when he was questioned about the protest letter by reporters during a visit to Copenhagen in Denmark. The secretary of state even seemed to side with the diplomats when he said, “It’s an important statement, and I respect the process very, very much.”

The New York Times, citing unnamed diplomats, reported that Kerry “has told President Obama that he is operating without any leverage in Syria and that unless the United States increases the pressure on Mr. Assad, the embattled leader will simply wait out the end of Mr. Obama’s term.” Kerry wants the administration to “consider a wide range of military operations to alter the equation in Syria’s civil war,” the Times wrote.

The internal dissent within the Obama administration over the president’s policy toward al-Assad in Syria has been brewing since August 2013, when Obama stunned his staff, Kerry and then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel by suddenly reversing an earlier decision to order airstrikes on al-Assad’s forces after the Syrian dictator used chemical weapons against his citizens, killing 1,400 Syrians.

“That decision destroyed any credibility the administration had with Russia, Iran or Assad himself,” Reuters reported Friday, citing a former Defense Department official involved in Syria policy.

But Obama seems to be unfazed by the unprecedented criticism of his diplomatic corps.

Jennifer Friedman, his deputy press secretary, told reporters that the president is “always open to new and different ideas when it comes to the challenges in Syria” but that he does not see a “military solution to the Syrian crisis, and that remains the case.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby was even blunter on Obama’s refusal to listen to the recommendations of his diplomatic staff.

“There isn’t any U.S. efforts to target Bashar al-Assad. That’s not part of the calculus,” Kirby said during apress briefing Friday, while it had become clear that the U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria are systematically being wiped out by al-Assad and his allies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin showed this weekend he understood the ramifications of Obama’s stubborn refusal to take action against al-Assad’s brutal regime.

Putin poked Obama in the eye by ordering his air force to bomb positions of U.S.-backed Syrian rebels near the al-Tanaf crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border last Friday.

The attack on the New Syrian Army and the Ahmad al-Abdo Martyrs Brigades led to condemnation by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who thought that perhaps the Russians had made a mistake and acted on poor intelligence.

If Carter would have been willing to open his eyes and to read the latest updates on what is happening in eastern Syria, he would have understood that the Russian action is part of a new plan that has been concocted by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and the al-Assad regime.

The Russian-led coalition is gearing up for a major offensive that aims to retake eastern Syria from the Islamic State and other rebel groups. The Lebanese news site NOW reported this weekend that “Iran, Russia and Syria have agreed on a ‘large action plan’ for a ‘very big battle in the Deir Ezzor’ province in which Hezbollah will play a ‘central role.’”

On Monday NOW reported that Hezbollah had “established a new military faction called the Zayn al-Abidin Brigade, named after the fourth Shiite Imam, who survived the Battle of Karbala in 680.”

NOW thinks that the move is related to the Syrian war only. However, when one takes a good look what is happening in Iraq where Iranian-backed militias have just opened the gateway to the Anbar province by driving Islamic State out of Fallujah, a different picture emerges.

Iran has a vested interest to capture the eastern Syrian desert because that would open a pathway from the Iranian-Iraqi border via Fallujah and the Anbar Province all the way to southwest Syria, where it wants to establish a new beachhead close to the border with Israel on the Syrian Golan Heights.

As Western Journalism reported Monday, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has been spotted in the vicinity of Fallujah, where he oversaw the battle against ISIS.

Soleimani is now on his way to Syria, where he will oversee the imminent new offensive in eastern Syria that was first reported by the Hezbollah-linked website Akhbar.

As astute observer Jennifer Dyer pointed out on Liberty Unyielding, the Russians have no intention to head home after the Syrian war is over. They need control over Tartus and the coastal plain in northwest Syria. The Iranians, on the other hand, are very much interested in eastern Syria.

The Russian airstrikes therefore could very well be a payback for the Iranian assistance in consolidating al-Assad’s rule over western Syria, including the port city of Tartus that is home to a Russian naval base.

This brings us back to the leaked memo of the disgruntled State Department diplomats.

It could be that by leaking this document to the press, they issued a last-minute warning that without American intervention something bigger than the survival of al-Assad’s regime will be at stake.

If nothing is done, Iraq and Syria may cease to be independent states and instead could become satellite states controlled by the two new powers that seek to dominate the Middle East: Russia and Iran.

Yochanan Visser

Liberman Embarks on First visit to DC as Defense Minister Amid Military Aid Dispute

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) is coming to Washington DC on his inaugural visit as Defense Minister against the background of a dispute between the White House and Congress over increasing US support for Israel’s missile defense research and development. He’ll be meeting with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who maintained a personal friendship with Liberman’s ousted predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon (Likud). Liberman and Carter are expected to discuss the White House proposal for a long-term US military aid, which would be larger than the current package, but conditioned on Israeli agreement not to solicit additional military aid from Congress.

Last Tuesday the Administration opposed a call by Congress to increase funding for Israel’s missile defense program by $455 million, to $600 million, well above the 2017 fiscal year White House budget request.

Israel is looking to expand the US annual military aid package from the current $3.2 billion to upwards of $4.5 billion, a portion of which would go to purchases from Israeli companies. The White House is looking at a more modest increase over 10 years, and for the entire amount to be spent in the US.

According to a senior defense ministry source speaking to Ma’ariv, the military aid package is not the central purpose of the visit, rather the trip is mainly planned for introductory meetings with key players in the defense department and in Congress. “We don’t expect dramatic breakthroughs in the coming week,” the source said.

Liberman will also meet with the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Committees.

On Wednesday, Liberman will attend the Lockheed Martin roll out ceremony for the F-35 fighter planes purchased by the Israeli air force — the first of which is expected to arrive in Israel in December. The defense minister will also tour an Elbit Systems plant and meet in New York with the defense ministry purchasing delegation.

According to Walla, there is a dispute between the professional echelon in the defense ministry and Prime Minister Netanyahu over the American proposal, with the DM staff recommending signing the aid package now, and Netanyahu preferring to wait out this administration and dealing with the next president, Clinton or Trump, either one of whom would be more pro-Israel.

Liberman is much more liked by the current administration than Netanyahu, because back when Secretary of State John Kerry was still pushing for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the 1967 borders, Liberman, then Israel’s foreign minister, supported the US effort, saying this was the best deal Israel could expect.

In that vein, Liberman is expected to use the opportunity of his US visit to allay fears regarding his hawkish reputation on defense, by making a major dovish statement about the two-state-solution.

JNi.Media

John Kerry Stays on Message: Don’t Blame Any Religion for Orlando Terror Attack

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Following cues from his boss, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that Americans shouldn’t blame Islam or Islamists for the Orlando terror attack, at a meeting with reporters on Momday, according to a Breitbart report.

“The worst thing you can do is engage in trying to point fingers at one group or one form of sectarianism or another or one division or another. Those are not the values of our country.”

Apparently it’s no longer just the victims who are a bunch of random folks, but the attackers as well.

Kerry also said the State Department would continue to fight “ISIL” the Obama Administration’s preferred designation for Islamic State / ISIS / Da’esh.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Joint Arab Terror Groups Reject Paris Peace Initiative

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Arab terror groups banded together over the weekend to reject the French peace summit launched Friday by President Francois Hollande in Paris.

Close to 30 world leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the conference, which focused on how to advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

But neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority were invited to the gathering. Moreover, although the Palestinian Authority has expresssed its support for the multilateral summit, which allows the PA to once again evade any direct negotiations with Israel over final status issues, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said plainly the conference is simply another repetition of good will put to no use.

Direct talks at home would be a much more efficient use of the time and money spent on this effort, Netanyahu pointed out, since both relevant parties are located less than an hour apart from each other. Nevertheless, Netanyahu has said he is perfectly willing to engage in direct talks with PA leader Mahmoud Abbbas in Paris, if he is unwilling to meet him at home in the Middle East.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, former lead negotiator for the PA, however, praised the multilateral French initiative in a statement that called the conference a “very significant step” that would help end Israel’s “colonization and apartheid policies in occupied Palestine.”

Erekat warned the alternative, if the initiative proved unsuccessful, would be a future of “extremism and bloodshed rather than for coexistence and peace. “We negotiated bilaterally with Israel, the occupying power, for over two decades, but they continue to violate all the agreements that we had signed,” he said.

Erekat did not mention the numerous vicious attacks on Israeli civilians by bloodthirsty Arabs from the Palestinian Authority, including some members of the PA’s own security force. Nor did he mention the PA government’s incessant, multilateral institutional incitement against Jews, Israelis and the State of Israel, all violations of Step 1 of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization, together with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) issued a joint statement Saturday that said “the ideas suggested by France as an initiative impose a dangerous violation against agreed-upon national rights, especially the right of return.”

In their statement the groups rejected the initiative and all actions that would lead to a return to ‘fruitless negotiations.’ They blamed the world for “increasing settlement building and providing a cover for the Judaization of Jerusalem,” according to the Bethelem-based Ma’an news agency and called on the countries of the world to take ‘serious actions to stop Israeli crimes’ and to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Israel is in agreement with the terrorist groups about the useless outcome of the talks, albeit for different reasons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said bluntly as early as April, and has continued to say, that “the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is through direct negotiations.”

Netanyahu has voiced his support for seeking the assistance of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi towards this end; El-Sisi is a leader local to the region who understands the nuances of leadership in the two populations as well or better than anyone else. El-Sisi, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, at least for now.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel: ‘You Don’t Need to go to Paris to Solve Conflict’

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – On the eve of the French peace conference to help foster peace between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold is less than optimistic.

“You don’t need to go to Paris in order to solve a conflict between neighbours,” Gold told journalists in a statement Thursday night. “The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow use to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them.”

Friday’s gathering in Paris will include foreign ministers and officials from 29 countries around the world, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The goal of the initiative is to lay the groundwork for a more thorough peace conference set to take place at the end of the year. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian Authority representation will be present at Friday’s meeting.

“We believe the Arab states would give backing to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Gold said. “Therefore we prefer a Middle Eastern process and not a process that somebody is trying to create in Paris.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement on Wednesday stressing the importance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, taking up communication efforts directly with Israel instead of using mediated discourse.

“If the nations meeting in Paris this week really want to advance peace they should join me in calling on Abu Mazen to come to direct negotiations of this kind. This is the way to peace – there is no other,” Netanyahu said. “We have not stopped looking for paths to peace – including with the assistance of important developments in the region. The way to peace does not go through international conferences that seek to impose agreements, make the Palestinians’ demands more extreme and thereby make peace more remote.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

France Postpones May 30 Conference on ‘Peace Initiative’ Postponed

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

France has postponed the May 30 ‘peace initiative’ conference scheduled to be held in Paris, due to a “scheduling problem” with the United States. Although the conference is intended to work on the knotty issues facing final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, neither party is invited to attend the conference.

However, Secretary of State John Kerry informed France he too would be unable to attend due to “scheduling conflicts.”

President Francois Hollande made the announcement Tuesday on French radio, saying that because Kerry “cannot come on May 30… it has been delayed. It will take place in the summer.”

Hollande explained his country must take “a strong initiative” in the dispute, else “what will happen? Settlement building, attacks.”

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Jerusalem and Ramallah this past Sunday to discuss the French initiative with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu made it clear that Israel has no interest in any multilateral “peace initiative” as they are simply ineffective. He is perfectly willing, he said, to engage in direct talks with Abbas “anywhere at any time.”

Moreover, Netanyahu bluntly said the impartiality of France was questionable at best following its support for the UNESCO resolution that removed the mention of any historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The resolution also referred to Israel as an “occupying power” and the Old City of Jerusalem as “occupied.”

The United States has continued to support Israel in its determination to return to direct negotiations with the PA, as set forth in the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords.

“We’re in discussions right now with the French about any possible alternative date that might better work for the secretary,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday. He added, however, that Kerry’s agenda is “jammed.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/france-postpones-may-30-conference-on-peace-initiative-postponed/2016/05/17/

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