Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

US President Donald Trump stands on stage alongside casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the president’s top financial supporters, at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Hollywood on Saturday, December 7, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2019

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.


China’s president vows ‘new era’ of Myanmar ties

Updated 18 January 2020

China’s president vows ‘new era’ of Myanmar ties

  • Xi is expected to sign a series of deals

NAYPYIDAW: Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to usher in a “new era” of ties with Myanmar after a red carpet welcome Friday on a state visit aimed at buttressing the embattled government of Aung San Suu Kyi and driving through multibillion-dollar infrastructure deals.

Myanmar fighter jets escorted Xi’s plane as it touched down in Naypyidaw where children presented him with flowers, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency, as he was whisked off to a greeting party.

In addition to being its largest investor, China has become an indispensable ally for Myanmar as it reels from Western isolation over the Rohingya crisis.

But widespread mistrust of Beijing’s ambitions and its influence over armed insurgencies in areas bordering the two countries threaten to undermine the bond.

Xi told Myanmar leaders he was “convinced that the concerted efforts of our two sides will make this visit a success and take the bilateral ties to a new level and into a new era,” Xinhua reported.

During the trip he is expected to sign a series of mammoth infrastructure deals as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The centerpiece of the so-called China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) is a $1.3 billion deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state, giving Beijing a gateway to the Indian Ocean.

A high-speed rail link is also on the cards to connect the port and nearby planned industrial zone with the countries’ shared border.

Bilateral trade was worth $16.8 billion last year and Beijing holds the biggest share — around $4 billion or 40 percent — of Myanmar’s foreign debt.

Billions of cubic meters of gas and millions of barrels of oil from offshore rigs are pumped each year across the country into China.

“The next one, two, three decades will be defined by Myanmar’s relationship with China,” said Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey.

Xi will sit down with Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing in separate meetings on Saturday.

Ahead of the visit Suu Kyi made a rare appearance in Kachin state on the border with China.

Kachin is the site of a planned Chinese-backed $3.6 billion, 6,000 megawatt dam that was mothballed in 2011 in the face of vociferous criticism across the country.

This is thought to have been a personal slight to Xi, who signed off on the Myitsone dam with Myanmar’s then-military junta as vice president in 2009.

Activists are expected to protest in the commercial hub Yangon on Saturday against any reinstatement of the project.

Economic interests aside, Myanmar’s relationship with the superpower has other benefits.

In an op-ed in Myanmar’s state-run media this week, Xi said China supports Myanmar in “safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and national dignity.”

China shields Myanmar at the United Nations, where pressure is mounting for accountability over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi personally defended her nation against accusations of genocide at the UN’s top court last month after a 2017 military crackdown forced 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.

The alleged atrocities took place in Rakhine, which has since descended into a civil war between the military and an ethnic Rakhine rebel group.

Myanmar has nonetheless declared the state open for business.

While many Western investors are steering clear, China — competing against other regional giants — has few such qualms.

“Xi’s visit will amplify concerns the West is losing Myanmar to China,” said Horsey.

Domestically, Suu Kyi needs economic wins as well as diplomatic support as she heads toward elections due at the end of this year.

Xi’s visit has triggered mixed reactions.

A number of key militant groups — known to be under the shadowy influence of Beijing — welcomed the summit.

But a plethora of activists spoke out against China’s projects and Amnesty International weighed in, decrying the “absolute lack of transparency.”

Rakhine locals, meanwhile, fear they will again be overlooked after previous Beijing-backed infrastructure projects left many without land or livelihoods.

“They didn’t bring any benefits for us, not even any jobs,” Moe Moe Aye from Kyaukphyu SEZ Watch Group said.