29 May 2017


Trump vows to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, offers no new policies

KONFRONTASI-President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to do "whatever is necessary" to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians as he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, but gave no sign of how he could revive long-stalled negotiations.

In their first meeting, Trump pressed Abbas to do more to stop "incitement to violence" against Israelis and, according to the White House, urged him in private to halt payments to families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, a demand long pressed by Israel.

Even as Trump boldly predicted he would achieve peace where other presidents had failed, he stopped short of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, a long-standing foundation of U.S. policy. Some Palestinians said they were disappointed by the omission.

Despite what many experts see as a long-shot bid, Trump told Abbas: "I will do whatever is necessary. ... I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator, and we will get this done."

Abbas reasserted the goal of a Palestinian state, saying it must have East Jerusalem as its capital with the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Most Israelis want all of Jerusalem as their capital and reject a full return to 1967 borderlines as a threat to their security.

Trump has faced deep skepticism at home and abroad over the chances for him to achieve any quick breakthrough, not least because his administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy for restarting the moribund peace process.

Abbas’ White House talks followed a February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved to reset ties after a combative relationship with the Republican president's predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

Trump sparked international criticism at the time, when he appeared to back away from a two-state solution, saying he would leave it up to the parties to decide. Palestinian statehood has been the objective of successive U.S. administrations and the international community.

The meeting with Abbas, the Western-backed head of the Palestinian Authority, was another test of whether Trump, in office a little more than 100 days, is serious about pursuing the kind of comprehensive peace deal that eluded his predecessors.

Trump insisted he was ready to try to reach the "toughest deal." But when he later sat down to lunch with the Palestinian leader, he said it was "maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

Trump, who said he decided to "start a process" but offered no new policy prescriptions or timetable, may be underestimating the challenge when trust between the two sides is low, analysts said.

"You can’t just pretend you only have to handle a few key issues and that’s it," said David Makovsky, a member of Obama’s negotiating team during the last talks, which collapsed in 2014.

Still, plans are being firmed up for Trump to visit Netanyahu in Jerusalem and possibly Abbas in the West Bank on May 22 and 23, say people familiar with the matter. That has sparked speculation about a meeting of the three. U.S. and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the visit.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails begin hunger strike

KONFRONTASI-Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday in response to a call by prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a possible future Palestinian president.

Palestinians termed the open-ended strike a protest against poor conditions and an Israeli policy of detention without trial that has been applied against thousands since the 1980s.

Israel said the move by the prisoners, many of whom were convicted of attacks or planning attacks against Israel, was politically motivated.

Guterres defends choice of Palestinian as Libya envoy

KONFRONTASI-UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has defended his choice to appoint former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN envoy to Libya and expressed his "deep" regret over US opposition to his appointment.

Guterres described Fayyad, a former World Bank official with a track record of fighting corruption, as "the right person for the right job at the right moment" in his remarks at the annual World Government Summit hosted by Dubai on Monday.

"I deeply regret this opposition and I do not see any reason for it," Guterres said.

Israel soldier Elor Azaria found guilty of manslaughter

KONFRONTASI-A military court has found an Israeli soldier guilty of manslaughter over the killing of a wounded Palestinian last year.

The court convened at the defence ministry building in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to issue the verdict in the high-profile case that raised questions over rules of engagement towards perceived threats by Palestinians.

A judge read out the court's decision for more than two hours before announcing the verdict. The soldier, 20-year-old Elor Azaria, could now face a maximum 20 years in prison.

Thousands rally in Gaza for Hamas' anniversary

KONFRONTASI-Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of gunmen and children waving mock weapons, rallied in Gaza celebrating the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic group Hamas that rules the territory.

Loudspeakers blasted Hamas' slogans through the streets on Wednesday as rockets mounted on pickup trucks rolled by. Hundreds of masked men marched and dozens of children wielding imitation assault rifles attended with their families.

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian over alleged stabbing attack

KONFRONTASI-A Palestinian has been shot and killed by Israeli forces over an alleged stabbing attack in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The incident took place in al-Quds’ Old City on Wednesday.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri claimed the Palestinian, identified as a 21-year-old resident of the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), approached a group of Israeli policemen near Austrian Hospice Hospital and took out a screwdriver.

Israeli forces kill 'unarmed' Palestinian in West Bank

KONFRONTASI-A Palestinian man has been shot dead by Israeli forces near the town of Silwad in the occupied West Bank, local media have said.

Iyad Hamed, a 38-year-old father of three, was shot dead early on Friday as he reportedly ran towards a military post near the western entrance of Silwad.

Initial reports from Israeli media said the suspect had opened fire from inside a vehicle, and that a woman might have been inside the car with him.

Israeli troops kill Palestinian man over rabbi's murder

KONFRONTASI-Israeli soldiers have killed a Palestinian man the military had accused of shooting dead an Israeli rabbi, after an exchange of gunfire in the occupied West Bank.

Mohamed Fakih, 29, died on Tuesday after a shootout in the village of Surif, which is north of the West Bank Hebron city of more than 200,000 Palestinians.

Gaza farmers seek damages for Israel's crop-spraying

KONFRONTASI-Ibrahim Abu Taaymeh has grown spinach on land in the Gaza Strip for more than a decade.

But the Palestinian farmer from Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, says his harvest was destroyed after the Israeli army sprayed an unknown herbicide on lands in the buffer zone near the Israel-Gaza border fence in October 2014.

The chemicals were blown on to Abu Taaymeh's one-acre plot of land, which is located about 700 metres from the buffer zone and serves as the sole source of income for his family, human rights groups reported.

Palestinian shot dead after alleged car attack

KONFRONTASI-Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian and wounded another after an alleged car ramming attack in northern Jerusalem. 

The incident took place early on Wednesday at a checkpoint in the district of al-Ram.

The Israeli army said in a statement that one of the border guards "felt in danger" when the driver of the car began to speed near the checkpoint, causing them to open fire. 

A third Palestinian, who was also present in the vehicle, was arrested at the scene.

Their identities remain unknown.