Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

Trump made the comments to reporters on Air Force One. (AP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

  • Said his administration talked briefly to the Palestinians
  • Plan is expected to strongly favor Israel

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

Updated 02 April 2020

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

  • Pets being dumped by owners over fears

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Forces Command confirmed on Wednesday that an officer from the second Land Border Regiment has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) along with a law enforcement officer at the Guard Brigade of the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The army officer is undergoing treatment, and “precautionary measures have been taken,” according to the army, including placing anyone with whom he has recently been in contact in quarantine.

On Wednesday, 16 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, with number of laboratory-confirmed cases in Lebanon now at 479.

Two deaths were announced in the intensive care unit for coronavirus patients — one in their fifties and the other in their sixties — both of whom were suffering from chronic diseases. The Health Ministry’s report stated that Matn in Mount Lebanon (99 cases) and Beirut (89) are the two areas with the highest number of cases.

A TV report falsely claiming that cats and dogs can transmit COVID-19 to humans is believed to be one of the main causes behind an increase in owners abandoning their pets in Lebanon.

According to the Animal Health Department at the Ministry of Agriculture — based on the number of vaccines that Lebanon imports for veterinary use — there are 110,000 dogs and around 55,000 cats kept as pets in the country. Images of dogs that have reportedly been abandoned or, in some cases, poisoned, have been circulating widely on social media. The network responsible for the incorrect report later apologized.

Dr. Bassel Bazzal, head of the Animal Health Service at the Ministry of Agriculture told Arab News, “We witnessed this phenomenon in the last week of February and the first week of March, and then it subsided after the veterinarians’ clarifications on television, based on reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no evidence that companion animals/pets transmit the virus to humans.”

The Lebanese Veterinary Syndicate, headed by Dr. Ihab Chaaban, had called on pet guardians “to comply with specified vaccination dates, and not to take any information except from relevant scientific authorities.”

Bazzal said that the television report was based on news from Hong Kong that a dog there had been infected with coronavirus by its owner. However, he stressed, that dog did not transmit the virus to others.

He noted that dogs can be infected with a particular strain of coronavirus (IBV), for which a vaccine already exists and that cannot be transmitted to humans.

Jounieh-based veterinarian Rami Mdawar told Arab News that his clinic has already received “three or four” poisoned dogs. “We used to only see poisoning cases sometimes, but after the spread of coronavirus and the false information about dogs transmitting the virus to humans, we are now witnessing abandonment cases of pets and poisoning in many areas.”

While Mdawar said he understood that people who abandoned their pets were probably acting out of “panic and fear for their families,” he also stressed that “it is not based on correct scientific information.” In fact, he said, he has been preventing clients from accompanying their animals into his clinic, because, “it is animals that face the threat of humans, and I do not want the virus to be transmitted to the animals at the clinic.

Mdawar noted that although parliament has approved the Animal Welfare Law which will punish those who kill or harm animals, that law has yet to be implemented.

The veterinarian stressed, however, that the majority of people in Lebanon are not cruel to animals. “It is not all negative,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are adopting dogs, and some have more than one dog in their homes. Other people are actually buying pets at this time because they help them psychologically and comfort them. And that’s not just seniors or people who live alone”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Veterinary Syndicate in France warned of “the danger of using detergents or hand sterilizers to clean pets” after images of dogs whose legs were burned after their guardians used sanitizers or bleaching products on their pets surfaced online.