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Netanyahu annexation pledge denounced as ‘dangerous’ and ‘racist’

Arab leaders and United Nations react against Israeli prime minister’s controversial promise in lead-up to election.

Palestinian and regional leaders have sharply denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s pledge to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s snap election.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life after an inconclusive vote in April, said on Tuesday Israel will “apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea immediately” if he secured a fifth term in the September 17 polls.

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea make up 30 percent of the West Bank. They lie in Area C, which means they are mostly under Israeli military and civil control.

Approximately 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israelis residing in illegal settlements live in that area, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The main Palestinian city is Jericho, with about 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.

After Netanyahu’s announcement, Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo called his election promise a “dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law.”

“The Arab League regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations.”

In a series of separate statements, Qatar criticised “Israel’s continued contempt of international law”; Turkey slammed the annexation pledge as “racist”; Jordan called Netanyahu’s plan a “serious escalation”; and Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The United Nations, meanwhile, warned that Netanyahu’s plan would have “no international legal effect”.

Palestinian reaction

During his televised announcement, Netanyahu also reaffirmed a pledge to annex all of the Jewish-only settlements Israel has established in the West Bank.

Some 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since 1967. International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

Palestinians swiftly reacted to Netanyahu’s statements by saying he was destroying any hopes of peace.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, warned that all agreements signed with Israel would end if it annexed parts of the West Bank, noting that Netanyahu’s announcement contradicts UN resolutions and international law.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu was seeking to impose a “greater Israel on all of historical Palestine and [carry] out an ethnic cleansing agenda”.

“This announcement is a declaration of war against the Palestinian people’s rights as well as the very foundations of the international rules-based order,” she said in a separate statement.

‘Complicity’ with US administration

In his address, Netanyahu also said a long-awaited United States peace plan, the release of which has been delayed until after the election, represented “a historic and unique opportunity to apply our sovereignty over our settlements” in the West Bank and “other places key to our security, our heritage and our future”.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said in early May that he hoped Israel would take a hard look at President Donald Trump‘s upcoming proposal before “proceeding with any plan” to annex West Bank settlements.

Abdulsattar Qassim, a political science professor at al-Najah University in Nablus, said Palestinians are not expecting anything from Trump, a staunch Netanyahu ally who has enacted a series of policies that support Israel’s expansion, including the widely condemned decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“From the way Trump has been behaving, we expect that he will support any kind of Israeli decision to annex parts of the West Bank,” Qassim told Al Jazeera.

“Trump has shown great animosity towards the Palestinians. He has transferred the US embassy to Jerusalem, supported the annexation of the occupied Golan Heights, and cut the financial resources of UNRWA, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA.”

According to Qassim, Netanyahu’s pledge to annex occupied Palestinian territories is hardly new within the arena of Israeli politics.

“This project is not exclusive to Netanyahu,” he said. “All across the Israeli political spectrum, from Labour to the right-wing Likud party, Israelis have favoured the annexation of the West Bank.”



Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after attacks

Nigerian airline to return more than 600 nationals in the coming days with victims saying it’s ‘not safe here’.

Nigeria began repatriating more than 600 of its citizens from South Africa following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks that frayed relations among neighbouring nations.

Private Nigerian airline Air Peace volunteered to fly people for free back to the commercial capital Lagos on Wednesday.

A flight carrying 189 Nigerians landed in the commercial capital Lagos late Wednesday, with some of those onboard punching the air and singing the national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.

“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years, told AFP news agency.

“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.

A second flight departs on Thursday or Friday with 640 Nigerians in total fleeing the country.

The repatriation came after riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people as 1,000 foreign-owned businesses were targeted. The nationalities of those killed have not been announced but Nigerians, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Zimbabweans were attacked, according to local media.

The violence sparked an international outcry and calls for a boycott of South Africa.

Pastor Ugo Ofoegbu has lived in South Africa for close to two decades. He sent his wife and three children back to Nigeria.

“My family is not safe here,” Ofoegbu told Al Jazeera.

Precious Oluchi Mbabie, a 35-year-old Nigerian woman who works as a fashion designer and seamstress in a Johannesburg suburb, boarded the flight with her three children, leaving her husband behind.

“We agreed that it is better I go back home with the children,” said Mbabie.

She and her family live in Rosettenville, one of the first areas to be affected by the violence.

“Where we are staying is very dangerous because of xenophobia,” she said. “They say they don’t want any foreigners there.”

Reprisal attacks in Nigeria last week forced South African business to shut down, while the South African embassy in Lagos temporarily closed its doors over safety concerns.

Not just Nigerians

More than 700 people from other countries, including Malawi and Zimbabwe, have sought refuge in community centres. Many left their homes with little more than a few bags when the violence began. 

One is Mozambican Oscar Setuve, who registered for a temporary travel document to return home. He has lived in South Africa for 30 years, but lost everything in the riots. 

“What made me run is that I saw how they were attacking people, attacking them like dogs. And some of the people who were attacking us were people that have known us for a long time. That’s what hurts me the most,” Setuve said.

Mozambique and Zimbabwe were also considering some sort of repatriation of their nationals.

Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from the airport in Johannesburg, said a small group was turned back because of “incorrect documentation”.

Ofoegbu said they will have to go to the Nigerian consulate to get the right papers before travelling.

Police on high alert

It was not the first time that foreigners were attacked in South Africa.

In 2008, at least 62 people, including South Africans, were killedViolence and looting targeting foreign-owned stores left seven dead in 2015.

“I am so worried about the safety of my family, because these [xenophobic] attacks keep happening, so if I don’t save my family now, I don’t know when [this will] start again,” Ofoegbu said. 

“It happened in 2008 and then in 2015, now it is repeating.”

The root cause of the latest violence is still unclear, but high unemployment, poverty and criminality may have played a role. 

South African officials were hesitant to describe the violence as xenophobic attacks, and instead said it was an issue of criminality that the government was trying to deal with.

“While there has been a significant decline in the number of incidents, police forces remain on high alert and are closely monitoring hotspots to ensure further violence does not erupt,” Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Police have arrested at least 653 people, mostly South Africans but some foreigners as well, in connection to the attacks, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said. 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to visit South Africa next month to discuss the violence and seek a solution.

germany - iran

Germany refuses to join US-led naval mission in Strait of Hormuz

Germany’s foreign minister says his country wants to avoid further escalation, will not take part in mission.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said his country will not participate in a United States-led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, prompting a frustrated response from Washington’s ambassador to Berlin.

Maas told reporters during a trip to Poland on Wednesday that “Germany will not take part in the sea mission presented and planned by the United States,” adding the situation in the Gulf, where tensions have been rising between the US and Iran, was very serious and everything should be done to avoid an escalation. 

The US had formally requested earlier in the week that Germany and other European allies take part in the naval mission which it said was needed to protect shipping routes in the strategic passageway, through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil passes, and to “combat Iranian aggression”.

The decision to not join the mission was motivated by Berlin’s belief that the US strategy of exercising “maximum pressure” against Iran was “wrong”, Maas, a Social Democrat, said.

One of the main hurdles for any German involvement in a military operation in the Gulf is the opposition by the Social Democrats, the junior partners in a ruling coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Expressing frustration about Maas’ announcement, US Ambassador Richard Grenell launched into a tirade against Merkel’s government.

“Germany is the biggest economic power in Europe, this success brings global responsibilities,” Grenell told the Augsburger Allgemeine on Thursday.

He said Washington had been trying to get support from Germany for weeks for the military mission in the Strait of Hormuz. 

European-led mission

Separately, London last week called for a European-led mission to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker, a move that came after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar that the United Kingdom claimed was heading for Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

But that maritime alliance, proposed even as the US continues to press for a mission that would include its own forces, which are far more powerful than those of European allies, has also failed to secure Berlin’s support.

Relations between the US and Germany have soured since President Donald Trump took office, due to disagreements on a range of issues from defence spending to trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline.

Berlin has also been critical of Washington’s policy on Iran in the wake of its unilateral withdrawal last year from a landmark nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers, as well as the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign through economic sanctions aimed at forcing it to come to the negotiating table to strike a new deal.

“After verbally attacking Germany so many times, [Trump] wants them now to contribute to the Gulf mission,” Miguel Otero, a senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute, wrote on Twitter. “No wonder they say: nein!”


F 35

Erdogan: US scrapping F-35 jet deal with Turkey would be robbery

Ankara faces new strains in US relationship over upcoming delivery of Russian S-400 missile system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it would be “robbery” for the United States to deny Turkey the F-35 fighter jets it has bought, according to remarks published in Turkish media.

“If you have a customer and that customer is making payments like clockwork, how can you not give that customer their goods? The name of that would be robbery,” the national Hurriyet newspaper quoted Erdogan as saying on Thursday, as Turkey faces potential US sanctions over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system.

He said that Turkey had so far paid $1.4bn for the F-35s and that four jets had been handed over, with Turkish pilots going to the US for training.

“We have made an agreement to buy 116 F-35s. We are not just a market, we are also joint producers. We produce some of the parts in Turkey,” he added.

The planes are currently in the US and some of the training the Turkish pilots were offered has beenhalted due to the strain between the allies.


After meeting US President Donald Trump last weekend in Japan on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Erdogan said Ankara would be spared damaging Washington sanctions once Russia’s S-400 air defence system started arriving in Turkey in the coming days.

However, US government officials told the Reuters news agency that the administration intends to impose sanctions on Turkey and pull it from the F-35 fighter jet programme if it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 system as expected.

“The United States has consistently and clearly stated that Turkey will face very real and negative consequences if it proceeds with its S-400 acquisition, including suspension of procurement and industrial participation in the F-35 programme and exposure to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act [CAATSA],” a State Department spokesperson said.

Turkey’s S-400 purchase has raised eyebrows among Turkey’s NATO allies and provoked anger in Washington, which expected Ankara to opt for the US Patriot air defence system instead. Ankara says the offer was late and Russia’s S-400 deal is far better than the US offer.

Speaking in Japan last week, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama‘s administration for failing to help Turkey acquire the US alternative to the S-400s system.

“He got treated very unfairly,” Trump said.

If the US removes Turkey from the F-35 programme and imposes sanctions on the NATO ally, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two nations.

Trump, who has shown a rapport with Erdogan, could still try to change course by seeking to issue a waiver and postpone sanctions. Such a move would please Ankara but upset some of Trump’s domestic allies in the US Congress.

{source: al – jazeera AND NEWS AGENCIES}

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