Netanyahu Can Stay On As PM Despite Indictment, Says Attorney General

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can stay on in his post although he has been indicted on corruption charges, Israel’s attorney general said Monday.

Avichai Mandelblit, in a statement, said: “there are no legal obligations for the prime minister to resign”.

Under Israeli law, while ministers cannot keep their posts after an indictment, a prime minister is not legally required to step down unless convicted and with all appeals exhausted.

But the embattled premier has faced calls to resign from several politicians since Mandelblit last Thursday charged him with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

READ ALSO: Defiant Netanyahu Rejects Graft Indictment, Vows To Stay

The indictment comes as Israel edges closer to its third general election in a year, after two inconclusive polls in April and September, with Netanyahu and centrist rival Benny Gantz unable to form a government.

Gantz’s Blue and White party won one more seat than Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud in the September polls.

Parliament now has less than three weeks to find a candidate who can gain the support of more than half of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers, or a deeply unpopular third election will be called.

Netanyahu remains the country’s interim premier.

Defiant Netanyahu Rejects Graft Indictment, Vows To Stay

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on election night early on April 10, 2019. Thomas COEX / AFP

 

A defiant Benjamin Netanyahu rejected all allegations of graft Thursday, vowing to stay on as the leader in Israel despite being indicted on a series of corruption charges.

Netanyahu denounced what he called the “false” and “politically motivated” allegations, hours after being charged by the attorney general with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” Netanyahu said.

READ ALSO: Netanyahu Indicted For Bribery, Fraud And Breach Of Trust

“The object of the investigations was to oust the right-wing from government.”

In a 15-minute speech, Netanyahu railed against his political rivals and state institutions, accusing the police and judiciary of bias.

The veteran politician argued that it was time for an “investigation of the investigators”.

He vowed to continue as prime minister despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.

“I will not allow lies to win.”

Netanyahu Indicted For Bribery, Fraud And Breach Of Trust

(FILES) A picture dated on February 25, 2018, shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office.

 

Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on a range of corruption charges Thursday, potentially spelling an end to his decades-long political career.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit “decided to file charges against the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for offences of receiving a bribe, fraud, and breach of trust,” a justice ministry statement said.

Netanyahu, who strongly denies all the charges, becomes the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while in office.

Rightwinger Netanyahu, who is nicknamed “Mr. Security” and “King Bibi” and has been in power since 2009, is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and dominates the country’s political scene.

The indictment comes as Israel faces a potential third election in a year, with neither Netanyahu nor his main rival able to form a government after two deadlocked elections.

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign until he is convicted and all appeals are exhausted, but political pressure is likely to be intense.

A close ally of US President Donald Trump, the 70-year-old may now ask the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The charges against him range from receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars to a deal to change regulatory frameworks in favour of a media group in exchange for positive coverage.

Mandelblit said it was a “hard and sad day” for Israel to indict a leader but it was an “important” one as it showed no Israeli was above the law.

“The citizens of Israel, all of us, and myself, look up to the elected officials, and first and foremost — to the prime minister,” Mandelblit said.

He said the decision had been made with a “heavy heart, but also with a whole heart.”

“Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”

He stressed that Netanyahu was innocent until proven guilty.

Netanyahu was expected to respond later Thursday evening.

The justice ministry said copies of the charge sheet had been sent to both Netanyahu’s lawyers and the Knesset.

A perennial fighter, Netanyahu has outlived many political rivals and Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the indictment may still not be “the end of the story”.

“Israel will now have to brace for a political roller-coaster ride over the coming months. Now more than ever Netanyahu will be fighting for his political and personal life.”

– ‘Witch-hunt’ –
Netanyahu has vehemently denied all the allegations, calling the corruption investigation a “witch-hunt” and alleging it has been motivated by his enemies’ desire to force him from office.

Of the three cases against Netanyahu, the third, known as Case 4,000, is seen as the most serious.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to get positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting Bezeq.

Elovitch and his wife were also indicted.

Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in this case.

Case 1,000 involves allegations Netanyahu and his family received gifts including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy individuals, estimated to be worth more than 700,000 shekels ($200,000, 185,000 euros), in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Another case, known as Case 2000, concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.

– ‘Sad day for Israel’ –
The next steps in the process remain unclear, with no date yet set for the trial.

The country has also been without a government for nearly a year due to political infighting.

Neither Likud leader Netanyahu nor rival Benny Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party, have been able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.

Netanyahu has remained prime minister in an interim capacity.

The Knesset has 21 days remaining to find a candidate capable who can command the support of the majority of the country’s 120 MPs and the indictment is likely to strengthen former army chief Gantz’s claims.

Gantz has reportedly tried to woo MP’s from Netanyahu’s Likud to join him in a broad national unity government, but there have so far been no takers.

Gantz said Thursday evening the indictment of a sitting leader was a “very sad day for the State of Israel”.

Ofer Zalzberg, analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank, said Netanyahu would be severely weakened by Mandelblit’s announcement and could now face leadership challenges from within Likud.

“Netanyahu has a weaker hand for the coming 20 days so may agree to compromises toward Blue and White he so far ruled out,” he said.

AFP

‘Wide-Scale’ Israeli Strikes Kill 11 Fighters In Syria

 

The Israeli army carried out a “wide-scale” attack against Iranian forces and Syrian army targets in Syria Wednesday, killing at least 11 fighters, the Israeli army and a monitoring group said.

In a rare confirmation of their operations in Syria, the Israeli army said they carried out dozens on strikes against the Iranian elite Quds Force and the Syrian military, in response to four rockets fired at Israel a day before.

At least eleven “fighters” were killed in the strikes, said Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Seven were foreigners, its head Rami Abdel Rahman said, though he could not confirm whether they were all Iranian. Four civilians were also wounded, he added.

Iran has fought alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the country’s eight-year civil war, heightening Israeli concern over the presence of its arch foe along its border.

“Whoever hurts us, we will hurt him,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“This is what we did overnight vis-a-vis military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets in Syria after a barrage of rockets was launched at Israel.”

The Israeli army said they had targeted around a dozen military sites, including warehouses and military command centres.

“It was very intense,” spokesman Jonathan Conricus told AFP said.

The most important target, he said, was a control facility at the main international airport in Damascus.

“It is the main building that serves the (Iranian) Revolutionary Guards… for coordinating the logistic facilities of transport of military hardware from Iran to Syria and from Syria onwards,” he said.

‘Heavy attack’

Israel has carried out frequent air and missile strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria since the country descended into civil war in 2011, but rarely comments on them.

On Tuesday four rockets were fired at Israel from Syria, with the army blaming an “Iranian force”.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted the rockets.

Conricus said it was the sixth time Iranian forces had attacked Israel directly in recent years, most recently in August.

The Israeli attack Wednesday began in the early hours, with a series of large explosions rocking Damascus, an AFP correspondent in the city said.

Syria’s state media SANA said Syrian anti-aircraft defences responded to a “heavy attack” by Israeli warplanes over the capital.

The Israeli army confirmed missiles were fired towards its jets but denied any were hit.

In response to the fire, it said, “a number of Syrian aerial defence batteries were destroyed”.

“We hold the Syrian regime responsible for the actions that take place in Syrian territory and warn them against allowing further attacks against Israel,” the army said.

SANA added that the strikes were carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories”. Israel sometimes launches its attacks on Syria from planes flying over neighbouring Lebanon.

Syria’s civil war has been complicated by the involvement of multiple foreign powers, with Russian, Iranian and US forces on the ground backing various parties.

Flare-up

The SOHR monitoring group said Tuesday’s rockets were fired from positions around the Syrian capital held by groups loyal to the Damascus government.

The flare-up follows a major escalation in and around Gaza last week when Israel killed a top commander of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which is allied with Damascus.

The killing was accompanied by a second strike, unconfirmed by Israel, on an Islamic Jihad leader in Damascus that killed his son and another person.

The hundreds of strikes carried out by Israel in Syria have mostly been against Iranian targets or positions of Iran’s Lebanese ally, Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Both are sworn enemies of the Jewish state and have backed the Syrian president’s forces with advisers and fighters.

The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions.

AFP

Netanyahu’s Rule Threatened By Deadlocked Israeli Polls

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long grip on power appeared in jeopardy on Wednesday after elections left him tied with his main challenger Benny Gantz raising the prospect of tough negotiations to build a unity government or even the end of the premier’s record long rule.

In a sign of the demanding negotiations to come, sources in Netanyahu’s office told AFP he was cancelling a planned trip next week to the UN General Assembly in New York due to the “political context” in Israel.

He had been due to meet his “friend” US President Donald Trump on the fringes of the international gathering to discuss a defence treaty between the two allies.

But Israel’s longest-serving premier is staying home as he battles to retain his grip on power.

According to Israeli media, with more than 90 percent of ballots counted, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud had 31 seats, while Gantz’s Blue and White took 32 places in Israel’s 120-member parliament.

The reports cited elections committee sources, as the data results had not yet been officially posted.

Gantz’s slim lead, however, gave no obvious path for either party to form a majority coalition, raising the possibility of negotiations towards a unity government.

“There are only two options, a government led by me or a dangerous government dependent on the Arab parties,” Netanyahu told a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday night.

“In these times, more than ever, when we face enormous security and political challenges, it cannot be that there will be a government that depends on anti-Zionist Arab parties,” he said.

Throughout his campaign, Netanyahu warned, as he has in previous elections, that left-wing and Arab voters were showing up in large numbers to try to oust him.

Media said the mainly Arab Joint List alliance was set to become the third-largest bloc in parliament with 13 seats.

End of “Netanyahu era” ?

“The Netanyahu era is over,” said Ahmed Tibi, one of the list’s leaders. “If Gantz calls, we shall tell him our conditions for supporting him.”

If the initial results hold, it will be a major setback for Netanyahu, who hoped to form a right-wing coalition similar to his current administration as he faces the possibility of an corruption indictment in weeks ahead.

Gantz, addressing supporters in Tel Aviv, called for a “broad unity government” but cautioned that he was waiting for final results.

“We will act to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people,” the former armed forces chief said.

“We will begin negotiations and I will speak with everyone.”

Ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman could prove to be kingmaker, with the reported results giving his secular-nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu nine seats.

He has not declared in favour of either of the two leading contenders.

“There is only one option for us,” he has stated.

“That is to form a broad, liberal, national unity government” with Yisrael Beitenu, Blue and White and Likud.

Such a government would not include the ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The staunchly secularist Lieberman has long campaigned against what he sees as their undue clout which he accuses of seeking to impose Jewish religious law on Israel’s secular population.

He would also not partner with Arab parties.

‘Disease of hatred”

“Israel has a problem,” the top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot newspaper wrote Wednesday.”We have been afflicted with the disease of hatred.”

“Some people want to sharpen the divisions and to see a clear division between ‘left’ and ‘right’ but that is precisely the way to worsen the disease.”

Whatever the shape of the next Israeli government, the Palestinians are prepared to talk peace, said their foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki.

“Whoever will be able to form a government, we are ready to sit with him or her in order to restart the negotiations,” Maliki told reporters in Oslo, accompanying president Mahmud Abbas on a two-day visit.

Arab turnout

Israel’s Arab parties have traditionally not endorsed anyone for prime minister.

“The main difference in this vote is the turnout among Arab citizens,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh told journalists outside his home in the northern city of Haifa.

“There’s no doubt that this is what made the difference. Without that, Netanyahu would already be prime minister.”

The election was the second in five months for Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin, who must appoint someone to attempt to form the next government, said there was a “need to avoid a third”.

Netanyahu suffered one of the biggest defeats of his political career after the previous elections in April.

His Likud along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority, but he failed to form a coalition and opted for a second election rather than risk having Rivlin choose someone else to try.

The stakes could not be much higher for 69-year-old Netanyahu, who many believe will seek immunity from prosecution should he survive as prime minister.

Jordan Summons Israeli Ambassador Over Jerusalem

 

Jordan summoned Israel’s ambassador on Sunday in protest over “violations” at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the foreign ministry said. 

It summoned envoy Amir Weissbrod to voice its “condemnation and rejection of Israeli violations” at the highly sensitive site, where Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinian worshippers last week.

READ ALSO: Gibraltar Rejects US Demand To Seize Iranian Oil Tanker

Jordan, the only Arab country apart from Egypt to have a peace agreement with the Jewish state, supervises Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

AFP

Israel Police, Palestinians Clash At Flashpoint Jerusalem Holy Site

Photo: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

 

Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers clashed at a flash point Jerusalem holy site on Sunday as overlapping Jewish and Muslim holidays led to tensions there, an AFP journalist reported.

Police fired sound grenades as Palestinian protests intensified at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported injuries without specifying a number.

Sunday marked the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday and thousands of Palestinians prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

It coincided with the Jewish Tisha B’av holiday, which typically sees an increase in Jewish visits to the holy site.

In a bid to ease tensions, police barred Jewish visits to the site on Sunday but Muslim worshippers still feared they would be allowed in and protested there. The clashes with police broke out afterward.

The compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is one of the most sensitive sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is the third-holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews, who revere it as the location of the two biblical-era temples.

It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

Jerusalem’s Battle With Stray Cats

A veterinarian prepares a stray cat for sterilization surgery at the Jerusalem municipal veterinary centre on March 7, 2019.  MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP

 

A dozen cats wake up in cages stacked on top of one another, a pungent odour in the air, while in a room next door two vets work diligently.

Captured in the streets of Jerusalem by city workers or brought in by residents, at least 15 cats a day are sterilised at the municipal veterinary centre.

But experts say that is far too few to stabilise the city’s burgeoning street cat population and allay fears about the impact on its environment and ecosystem from the felines.

The concentration of stray cats in the Holy City is among the highest in the Middle East or even the world, experts say.

READ ALSO: Taliban Overruns International NGO’s Office In Kabul Attack

With nearly 2,000 cats per square kilometre (mile), it has a total of some 240,000, in a city of more than 900,000 residents, the Israeli official in charge of its veterinarian services, Asaf Bril, said.

Only a large-scale, rapid programme to sterilise some 80 per cent of the cats within a six-month period would be capable of bringing the population under control, he said.

“To achieve that result, 25 clinics like mine would be needed to sterilise 500 cats per day,” he said, at the veterinary services centre, a collection of fading buildings on the edge of Jerusalem.

 Going underground 

Reducing the cats’ access to their main source of food is another option for bringing the stray population under control.

The hordes of cats find most of their food in rubbish bins that sometimes overflow, especially in mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, though public services in parts of east Jerusalem are noticeably poorer than in the mainly Jewish western sector.

The city council recently launched a plan to modernise rubbish collection, moving some bins underground and therefore depriving the cats of the food source.

“Ultimately, underground rubbish bins that reduce the availability of food for cats are the only solution to control the size of the population,” Amir Balaban, of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said.

But not everyone backs the idea of food deprivation.

Jerusalem’s newly elected mayor, Moshe Lion, announced in January the creation of feeding stations around the city, with the food in granule form notably, and budgeted 100,000 shekels ($28,000, 24,000 euros) a year for the scheme.

The decision aims to provide a transition that is clean and more controlled between the current, free-for-all access to the bins and their eventual removal.

 ‘Political decision needed’ 

For Inbal Keidar, a lawyer specialising in animal welfare issues, it is merely a cosmetic measure and fails to adequately address the problem.

“What is needed is a real political decision to solve the problem with a massive sterilisation campaign for cats while mobilising associations and public authorities,” she said.

But she acknowledged that sterilisation was not acceptable to everyone.

In 2015, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel refused to use $4.5 million (four million euros) in government funding made available for the sterilisation of stray cats, Keidar noted.

As an Orthodox Jew, the minister had said that castrating cats was contrary to Jewish religious law and had proposed sending stray cats and dogs to other countries instead.

Associations and volunteers have sought to fill the void for what they complain is a lack of political will and public funding.

Teacher Ilana Ben Joya feeds dozens of cats twice a day in a working-class area of Jerusalem.

“It’s my second job,” said the mother of two, aged in her 50s.

“I can’t handle knowing that there are so many outside hungry. What worries me is knowing that in a few weeks the females will have babies and we will again hear the meows of kittens.”

She, too, believes that there should be a large-scale sterilisation programme.

 A threat to some species 

Balaban said that fixed feeding areas can also prove problematic since the food attracts other animals, including jackals which have been spotted in some Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

Some of the wild animals carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as rabies and leishmaniasis.

He said the challenge was striking the right balance between protecting the cats and the environment.

“Wild cats are active in the nighttime. They eat rodents,” he said.

“Domestic cats, like gutter cats, depend on people, are active in the daytime and hunt small animals — lizards, reptiles and small birds,” he added.

When there are too many cats, “as is the case currently in Jerusalem and in a number of large Israeli cities, they threaten those species”, he said.

AFP

Brazil To Move Embassy To Jerusalem

A couple of religious Jews pray at the Jewish cemetary of Mount of Olives in Jerusalem on December 14, 2018. Israeli forces kept up a manhunt today for a Palestinian who shot dead two soldiers in the occupied West Bank, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced rightwing pressure for a strong response.
AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has confirmed he will move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and said the main nation objecting to that is Iran, not Arab countries.

Bolsonaro, speaking in an interview to SBT television late Thursday, said: “The decision is taken, it’s only a matter of when it will be implemented.”

The comment confirmed a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived in Brazil last week to attend Bolsonaro’s January 1 investiture.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former paratrooper intent on forging close ties with the US and Israel, signalled before taking office that he planned to follow President Donald Trump’s lead in moving Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem.

The decision is controversial because Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital while Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state.

Virtually all countries agree that Jerusalem’s status can only be defined through wider Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

So far, only the United States and Guatemala have broken with that consensus by opening embassies in Jerusalem. Paraguay backtracked on a decision last year to move its embassy. Israel and the US have spoken with Honduras about its embassy going to Jerusalem.

Bolsonaro had wavered on the embassy move after saying in early November he intended to go through with it.

Days later he rowed back, saying “it is not yet decided,” apparently responding to fears of Brazil’s powerful farming businesses that an embassy move could put at risk $1 billion in meat exports to Arab markets.

Risk minimised

But in his SBT interview, Bolsonaro minimized that risk, saying: “A large part of the Arab world is aligned or aligning itself with the United States. The Palestinian issue is already overloading people in the Arab world for the most part.”

He added that “the only weighty voice speaking out against me is Iran,” the Shiite Islamic republic that is an enemy to Israel and hostile to Arab allies of the US such as Saudi Arabia.

Bolsonaro said he did not think that most Arab countries would take reprisals against Brazil.

Some of the “more radical” Arab nations “might adopt some sort of sanction — I hope only economic ones — against us,” he said.

Bolsonaro, 63, represents a sharp break with Brazil’s recent record of left of center policies, swerving his country sharply to the right and towards the United States.

Sometimes called the “Trump of the tropics” for his blustery style and disdain of multilateral forums, he said in the same TV interview he was open to discussing the opening of a US military base in Brazil.

He also said he was concerned about Russian backing of the Venezuelan “dictatorship” run by President Nicolas Maduro.

AFP

Australia Recognises West Jerusalem As Capital Of Israel

A couple of religious Jews pray at the Jewish cemetery of Mount of Olives in Jerusalem on December 14, 2018. PHOTO: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

 

Australia now recognises west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday, but a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.

Canberra became one of just a few governments around the world to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognise the contested city as Israel’s capital, but Morrison also committed to recognising a future state of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital.

“Australia now recognises west Jerusalem — being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government — is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said in a speech in Sydney.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Most foreign nations avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status — until Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there earlier this year.

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after the final status of determination,” Morrison said, adding that work on a new site for the embassy was underway.

In the interim, the prime minister said, Australia would establish a defence and trade office in the west of the holy city.

“Furthermore, recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in east Jerusalem,” he added.

Morrison first floated the shift in foreign policy in October, the move angered Australia’s immediate neighbour Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and put a halt on years-long negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

The country’s foreign ministry responded on Saturday by saying it “notes” the decision.

Canberra on Friday told its citizens traveling to Indonesia to “exercise a high degree of caution”, warning of protests in the capital Jakarta and popular holiday hotspots, including Bali.

Morrison pointed to Australia’s military history in the region, and the country’s interest in a “rules-based” order in the Middle East, to support the shift in foreign policy.

The prime minister vowed Australia would no longer abstain from UN resolutions he said “attacked” Israel, but would instead oppose them, including the “Jerusalem” resolution, which asks nations not to locate diplomatic missions to the holy city.

“The UN General Assembly is now the place where Israel is bullied and where anti-Semitism is cloaked in language about human rights,” Morrison said.

‘A face-saving exercise’

Morrison first announced he was “open-minded” to an embassy shift to Jerusalem ahead of a crucial October by-election in a Sydney constituency with a sizeable Jewish population.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the time hailed the initiative, but Morrison faced mounting backlash at home, forced to play down the foreign policy maneuver as part of an election campaign.

Morrison’s Liberal party candidate was a former Australian ambassador to Israel, who went on to lose the seat, delivering the prime minister a minority government.

Commentators said Saturday that the embattled PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — was “saving face”, sticking to the status quo by holding back an embassy move, and easing tension with his distinction between east and west Jerusalem.

“Essentially not much has happened,” Rodger Shanahan from Sydney-based think tank the Lowy Institute said of Morrison’s announcement.

“It is a combination of him being caught out by making an injudicious remark at a by-election, and then having to walk back from it” he told AFP.

The opposition Labor party slammed Morrison for putting “self-interest ahead of the national interest”.

“Recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while continuing to locate Australia’s embassy in Tel Aviv, is nothing more than a face-saving exercise,” shadow minister for foreign affairs Penny Wong said in a statement.

“This is a decision which is all risk and no gain,” she said, adding it puts Australia “out of step” with the international community.

The General Delegation of Palestine to Australia and New Zealand on Saturday released a statement linking Morrison’s decision to domestic politics.

“Many strong arguments have been advanced between Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s floating the idea during the Wentworth by-election campaign and now and most of them have exposed the faulty thinking and flimsy pretexts that underpin the case of the proponents of this move.”

AFP

Brazil Will Move Its Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem – Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro gestures to supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 28, 2018. 
MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

 

Brazil will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday, making the Latin American giant the largest country after the United States to make the controversial switch.

“As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” Bolsonaro tweeted, a move that will defy Palestinians and most of the world.

In interviews, Bolsonaro said Israel should have the right to decide where its capital is located, just as Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1960.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

In December, President Donald Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The embassy was officially transferred on May 14. Guatemala and Paraguay followed suit, though the latter announced last month it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Bolsonaro, 63, who won a run-off election on Sunday, has outraged many with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.

Following his victory, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro he was certain his election “will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and the tightening of links between Brazil and Israel.”

An official in Netanyahu’s office told AFP the Israeli premier was “very likely” to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony in January.

Bolsonaro meanwhile plans to make Israel one of his first foreign trips as president, along with the United States and Chile — countries that “share our worldview,” according to the president-elect’s future for chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni.

AFP

Brazil To Move Israel Embassy To Jerusalem

A picture taken on October 28, 2018, shows the Israeli and Brazilian flags hanging outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy, in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro declared that he will move the embassy to Jerusalem if he is elected. JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has told an Israeli newspaper he intends to defy the Palestinians and most of the world by moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Brazil would become the second major country after the United States to do so.

Asked in an interview with Israel Hayom published Thursday if he would move Brazil’s embassy, as he had indicated during his campaign, Bolsonaro said Israel should decide where its capital is located.

“When I was asked during the campaign if I’d do it when I became president, I said ‘yes, the one who decides on the capital of Israel is you, not other nations’,” he told the paper, which is a firm backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

In December, President Donald Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The embassy was officially transferred on May 14, with Guatemala and Paraguay following suit, though the latter announced last month it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Bolsonaro, 63, who won a run-off election on Sunday, has outraged many with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.

Following his victory, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro he was certain his election “will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and the tightening of links between Brazil and Israel.”

An official in Netanyahu’s office told AFP the Israeli premier was “very likely” to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony in January.

AFP