US-WORLD:161119:(21-NOV-16):Trump’s world. The new nationalism.. 1

IS-NZ:161117:(21-NOV-16):PM Netanyahu Meets with the Foreign Minister of New Zealand. 2

IS-MPA:161116:(21-NOV-16):Israel Comes to the Aid of the Faltering Palestinian Economy. 2

THA:161114:(21-NOV-16):Hamas Funding Sources Drying Up. 3

UKB-EGE:161118:(21-NOV-16):Germany warns that Britain faces decades of EU contributions after Brexit ahead of Berlin summit 4

CR-US:161118:(21-NOV-16):Russian Orthodox official sees Trump victory as sign of hope. 5

CV:161118:(21-NOV-16):Pope Francis’ Race Against Time to Reshape the Church. 5

UKB-EU:161118:(21-NOV-16):London Throws Gauntlet to Europe Over Financial Center Future. 6

RU-MSY:161119:(21-NOV-16):Russian naval fleet destined for Syrian port city. 7

RU-MEG:161118:(21-NOV-16):Russia offers Egypt modern equipment for Mistral ships. 7

UKB:161119:(21-NOV-16):Sixty Conservative MPs back call to leave single market 8

CV:161120:(21-NOV-16):Pope closes Holy Door at St Peter’s as jubilee ends. 8

UKB-EU:161120:(21-NOV-16):Britain On Hook to Pay Millions Towards EU Army, UKIP MEP Warns. 9

IS-IN:161118:(21-NOV-16):No longer closet ties. India-Israel relationship is on the upswing. 9

RUK-RU:161121:(21-NOV-16):Ukraine marks 3rd anniversary of uprising amid fresh tensions. 10

IS-MEG:161121:(21-NOV-16):Egypt-Israel relations ‘at highest level’ in history. 10

MPA:161121:(21-NOV-16):Palestinian leadership may choose Abbas’s successor, and tear itself apart 12

IS-UK:161121:(21-NOV-16):1Israelis now eligible for expedited entry into UK. 13

TU-EU:161121:(21-NOV-16):Erdogan says Turkey doesn’t need EU. 14


US-WORLD:161119:(21-NOV-16):Trump’s world. The new nationalism

Economist we 19-Nov-16


With his call to put “America First”, Donald Trump is the latest recruit to a dangerous nationalism

WHEN Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again!” he was echoing the campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Back then voters sought renewal after the failures of the Carter presidency. This month they elected Mr Trump because he, too, promised them a “historic once-in-a-lifetime” change.

But there is a difference. On the eve of the vote, Reagan described America as a shining “city on a hill”. Listing all that America could contribute to keep the world safe, he dreamed of a country that “is not turned inward, but outward—toward others”. Mr Trump, by contrast, has sworn to put America First. Demanding respect from a freeloading world that takes leaders in Washington for fools, he says he will “no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism”. Reagan’s America was optimistic: Mr Trump’s is angry.

Welcome to the new nationalism. For the first time since the second world war, the great and rising powers are simultaneously in thrall to various sorts of chauvinism. Like Mr Trump, leaders of countries such as Russia, China and Turkey embrace a pessimistic view that foreign affairs are often a zero-sum game in which global interests compete with national ones. It is a big change that makes for a more dangerous world.

My country right or left

Nationalism is a slippery concept, which is why politicians find it so easy to manipulate. At its best, it unites the country around common values to accomplish things that people could never manage alone. This “civic nationalism” is conciliatory and forward-looking—the nationalism of the Peace Corps, say, or Canada’s inclusive patriotism or German support for the home team as hosts of the 2006 World Cup. Civic nationalism appeals to universal values, such as freedom and equality. It contrasts with “ethnic nationalism”, which is zero-sum, aggressive and nostalgic and which draws on race or history to set the nation apart. In its darkest hour in the first half of the 20th century ethnic nationalism led to war.

Mr Trump’s populism is a blow to civic nationalism (see article). Nobody could doubt the patriotism of his post-war predecessors, yet every one of them endorsed America’s universal values and promoted them abroad. Even if a sense of exceptionalism stopped presidents signing up to outfits like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), America has supported the rules-based order. By backing global institutions that staved off a dog-eat-dog world, the United States has made itself and the world safer and more prosperous.

Mr Trump threatens to weaken that commitment even as ethnic nationalism is strengthening elsewhere. In Russia Vladimir Putin has shunned cosmopolitan liberal values for a distinctly Russian mix of Slavic tradition and Orthodox Christianity. In Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned away from the European Union and from peace talks with the Kurdish minority, in favour of a strident, Islamic nationalism that is quick to detect insults and threats from abroad. In India Narendra Modi remains outward-looking and modernising, but he has ties to radical ethnic-nationalist Hindu groups that preach chauvinism and intolerance.

Meanwhile, Chinese nationalism has become so angry and vengeful that the party struggles to control it. True, the country depends upon open markets, embraces some global institutions and wants to be close to America (see Banyan). But from the 1990s onwards schoolchildren have received a daily dose of “patriotic” education setting out the mission to erase a century of humiliating occupation. And, to count as properly Chinese you have in practice to belong to the Han people: everyone else is a second-class citizen (see Briefing).

Even as ethnic nationalism has prospered, the world’s greatest experiment in “post-nationalism” has foundered. The architects of what was to become the EU believed that nationalism, which had dragged Europe into two ruinous world wars, would wither and die. The EU would transcend national rivalries with a series of nested identities in which you could be Catholic, Alsatian, French and European all at once.

However, in large parts of the EU this never happened. The British have voted to leave and in former communist countries, such as Poland and Hungary, power has passed to xenophobic ultranationalists. There is even a small but growing threat that France might quit—and so destroy—the EU.

The last time America turned inward was after the first world war and the consequences were calamitous. You do not have to foresee anything so dire to fear Mr Trump’s new nationalism today. At home it tends to produce intolerance and to feed doubts about the virtue and loyalties of minorities. It is no accident that allegations of anti-Semitism have infected the bloodstream of American politics for the first time in decades.

Abroad, as other countries take their cue from a more inward-looking United States, regional and global problems will become harder to solve. The ICC’s annual assembly this week was overshadowed by the departure of three African countries. China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are incompatible with UNCLOS. If Mr Trump enacts even a fraction of his mercantilist rhetoric, he risks neutering the World Trade Organisation. If he thinks that America’s allies are failing to pay for the security they receive, he has threatened to walk away from them. The result—especially for small countries that today are protected by global rules—will be a harsher and more unstable world.

Isolationists unite

Mr Trump needs to realise that his policies will unfold in the context of other countries’ jealous nationalism. Disengaging will not cut America off from the world so much as leave it vulnerable to the turmoil and strife that the new nationalism engenders. As global politics is poisoned, America will be impoverished and its own anger will grow, which risks trapping Mr Trump in a vicious circle of reprisals and hostility. It is not too late for him to abandon his dark vision. For the sake of his country and the world he urgently needs to reclaim the enlightened patriotism of the presidents who went before him.


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IS-NZ:161117:(21-NOV-16):PM Netanyahu Meets with the Foreign Minister of New Zealand

Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser 17-Nov-16


Prime Minister Netanyahu met with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who is also on an official visit to Israel. They discussed expanding bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest. The Prime Minister showed the New Zealand Foreign Minister a map of the challenges currently facing Israel and emphasized the fact that any diplomatic progress between Israel and the Palestinians would be the product of direct negotiations between the sides on the basis of the principle of two states for two peoples.

Prime Minister Netanyahu added that the Palestinians must halt their unproductive efforts to avoid direct negotiations with Israel as well as their efforts to promote the politicization of professional international organizations such as UNESCO and Interpol. The two men expressed their satisfaction over the excellent state of bilateral relations along with the aspiration that they continue to advance.


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IS-MPA:161116:(21-NOV-16):Israel Comes to the Aid of the Faltering Palestinian Economy

Wall Street Journal 16-Nov-16


With donor aid to the Palestinian Authority plummeting, Israel takes steps to help stabilize the territories, even if they indirectly assist Hamas.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is facing a a budget shortfall of roughly $500 million, but the Israeli government  is trying to assist with the financial crisis.

Faced with increasingly dire economic conditions in the Palestinian territories, Israel is trying to keep the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority afloat, even if it indirectly helps Hamas, its longtime enemy.

The Authority, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in 2007, but more than a third of its annual budget still goes to the coastal enclave.

But that arrangement, which helped keep Gaza functioning, is faltering, as the donor aid upon which the Authority depends plummets. That assistance is forecast to fall to $600 million this year, less than half the amount three years ago, according to the World Bank.

Gulf benefactors such as Saudi Arabia, confronted with falling oil revenues and tough choices, are redirecting funds their allies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. U.S. funding, which goes straight to the Authority’s creditors, has dropped from about $100 million in 2014 to roughly $75 million last year, according to a U.S. official.

With wars and humanitarian crises roiling the region, that figure is expected to tumble even further this year. Worse yet for the Authority, local banks are no longer lending it money and it can no longer borrow from its public pension fund, its previous answer to short-term budget shortfalls.

Adding to the uncertainty is the political transition under way in Washington.

Amid signs the incoming Trump administration won’t force a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, conservative members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government have called for a rejection of the two-state solution, which is official Israeli policy, and annexation of parts of the West Bank. Under such a scenario, it isn’t clear the Authority would continue to exist.

With evidence already accumulating months ago that the Authority was facing economic collapse, however, Israel didn’t wait for the outcome of U.S. elections. To stave off fresh unrest and violence in Gaza—and the growth of even more radical Palestinian political factions on its doorstep—it entered the breach.

Under the internationally backed Oslo Accords reached in the 1990s, Israel levies taxes on goods and services imported into the territories. It collects health, social security and other benefits from firms in Israel that employ Palestinians, and then transfers these taxes and revenues to the Palestinian Authority each month, taking a fee for doing so.

Using that mechanism, Israel so far this year has transferred about one billion shekels ($262 million)—or nearly 8% of Palestinian total Palestinian revenues—in one-off payments to the Authority, according to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and a person familiar with the transfers.

The two sides also agreed in September to restructure $500 million in debts that the Authority owed to the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation for power supplied to the West Bank, another indication of their deeply intertwined economies.

Meanwhile, to boost the Authority’s tax revenue, Israel has issued work permits to Palestinians to work in Israel.

Israeli authorities say the prospect of the Authority’s economic breakdown and even more tumult in Gaza is worse than the risk of indirectly sustaining Hamas, the Islamist military and political movement that has vowed for Israel’s destruction and fought Israel in three wars in the past eight years.

“A stable Palestinian Authority economy is in Israel’s interests economically, politically, and in terms of security,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said at the signing of electricity deal in September.

Even with the one-off money transfers from Israel, however, the Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, still have to plug a budget shortfall of roughly $500 million, according to the IMF, and traditional sources for meeting deficits are now running thin.

To reduce the deficit this year, it will likely be forced to cut the salaries and benefits of civil servants at a time of weak economic growth and high unemployment, the World Bank and IMF have predicted.

“The PA’s coping strategy is thus reaching its limits,” the World Bank said in a report in September, referring to the Authority.

Any cuts to wages or social welfare programs would come at a tense time in Gaza. Unemployment is hovering at 40% and half of territory’s 1.7 million inhabitants receive some form of humanitarian aid, the World Bank says.

Employees of the Authority, which operates a bureaucracy alongside Hamas’s, fear salary cuts and job losses. Also in jeopardy, they say, are salaries for teachers and doctors, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and food assistance the Authority provides. Hamas has recently arrested journalists for attacking its policies.

Nerves are also fraying in the West Bank. In recent weeks, students, security forces and members of Mr. Abbas’s own Fatah faction have been arrested or questioned for allegedly criticizing the Authority in posts on social media and in public.

Fueling Palestinians criticism of their leaders is the absence of any prospect of a peace deal, as well as failed reconciliation attempts by Fatah and Hamas, according to Ahmad Harb, commissioner of the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights.

“People are expressing their views very aggressively,” he said. “We’re in very dangerous stagnation.”

At the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, MaherAbu Elwan, a cardiologist, said he was worried the Authority would have to trim his wages and cut costs in a hospital where the waiting list for procedures for some life-threatening conditions is already four months. Delays in paying salaries or cutting them might deepen public anger and lead to further conflict with Israel, he said.

“Every month, waiting for my salary, I’m afraid to have some bad news,” he said. “The future looks dark.”


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THA:161114:(21-NOV-16):Hamas Funding Sources Drying Up

IPT News 14-Nov-16


Hamas puts on a bold front – and Hamas’ 26,000 armed members still get their salaries – but the reality is the terrorist organisation is scrambling for money.

Hamas in Gaza is facing an acute financial crisis as its overseas cash sources dry up. This is forcing the Islamist regime and its armed terrorist wing, the Izzadin Al-Qassam Brigades, to resort to increasingly desperate measures, such as using international aid organizations to funnel cash away from Gazan civilians.

Hamas’s dire financial situation has multiple causes. Egypt has effectively blocked off many smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Sinai, which previously were used to transfer money into Gaza from Hamas donors.

Additionally, Hamas finds itself without a clear international backer these days. Not only is Egypt under the rule of President Sisi decidedly hostile, but relations between Hamas and Iran are unstable, rising and falling periodically due to disagreement over conflict raging in Syria.

Iran provides Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with military support through its own generals, and thousands of assistance fighters from its Lebanese terror proxy Hizballah. Palestinians generally oppose the Assad regime.

Nevertheless, Iran sometimes does try to smuggle money to Hamas, but this source of funding is unreliable.

Qatar’s financial aid to Gaza has, since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, been limited to civilian reconstruction programs. Here, too, Hamas has gotten involved, seized apartment buildings to use as financial assets.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee late last month that sources of outside funding for Hamas are drying up.

Recent revelations by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, confirm this situation.

In August, the Shin Bet revealed that Hamas had been targeting international aid organizations operating in Gaza, rerouting money intended for humanitarian assistance towards preparations for war with Israel.

For example, Hamas stole 60 percent of the annual budget of the World Vision international aid organization, stealing 7.2 million dollars a year from it, according to the Shin Bet. Money intended to feed and help Gazan children instead went towards purchasing weapons, building bases, and digging attack tunnels.

The theft went as far as taking thousands of food packages intended for Gazan civilians and sending them to armed members of Hamas territorial battalions, according to the Shin Bet investigation.

World Vision responded by firing 120 Gaza employees.

Also in August, Israel charged an engineer from Gaza with exploiting his position in the United Nations Development Program, which rebuilds damaged residential buildings, for rerouting 300 tons of construction material to help build a Hamas naval terrorist base.

On Nov. 1, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) exposed a Hamas plan to smuggle money to its operatives in Israeli prisons, and to its West Bank terror cells, by forcing Palestinians who have travel papers allowing them into Israel to act as cash smugglers.

Two Hamas operatives targeted Gazan civilians at a border crossing on their way to Israel for business or medical treatment, said the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

In July, the Shin Bet arrested two Gazans with tens of thousands of dollars hidden in their shoes. They were under Hamas orders to transfer the cash to operatives in the West Bank to fund terrorist attacks. Hamas intelligence agents had been approaching Gazan civilians systematically for money smuggling purposes, Shin Bet said.

Hamas’s financial situation is part of a larger ticking bomb that is the Gazan economy. “The whole of the Gaza Strip is in economic-civilian distress,” Liberman told Knesset.

Noting that 95 percent of Gaza’s civilian economic funding come from the international community, Liberman said Israel faced a structural tension between its wish to improve the living conditions of ordinary Gazans and the attempts by Hamas to exploit Israel’s humanitarian steps. Hamas has stolen construction material, injected into Gaza by Israel for civilian reconstruction, to build itself up militarily, Liberman said.

According to Liberman, as part of its bid to keep money from the international community pouring into Gaza’s economy, Hamas also refuses to resolve crises. For example, it did not take link up Gaza’s purification plant, paid for by the World Bank (and costing $100 million), to the electric grid, despite the fact that Israel approved a unique electrical supply to it, Liberman added.

Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of Gaza’s water is unfit for consumption, and it will take at least two years for the international community to set up desalination plants on Gaza’s coastline. A water crisis will likely strike Gaza long before that, Liberman said. Israel is formulating a water crisis response policy.

The warning signs from Gaza’s economic situation continue to mount, driven by Hamas’s insistence of using the enclave as a fortress of jihadist hostility towards Israel and ignoring its peoples’ basic needs.

Hamas’s 26,000 armed members, and 40,000 government employees receive their salaries, and the regime is building up its armed forces despite the cash shortages. Ordinary Gazans, on the other hand, are on their own.


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UKB-EGE:161118:(21-NOV-16):Germany warns that Britain faces decades of EU contributions after Brexit ahead of Berlin summit

Daily Telegraph 18-Nov-16


Germany has warned that Britain may have to continue to pay EU contributions for a decade after Brexit, ahead of a meeting between Theresa May and Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, said that Britain’s financial commitments will “last beyond the exit” and that it will not benefit from any rebates.

Britain is hoping that Germany will help to temper demands from France that Britain must “pay a price” for its decision to leave the EU.

Ministers were encouraged last week after Mrs Merkel suggested that she was willing to compromise on free movement in the wake of Brexit.

Brexit negotiations should be transparent, Obama says, on last Europe tour as president Play! 01:05

However, Mr Schauble warned in an interview with the Financial Times that Britain should be prepared for financial services to abandon the UK and move to Frankfurt.

He suggested that Britain will have to pay an exit bill on leaving the EU and said that the UK will be unable to curb migration if it wants to remain in the Single Market.

He said: “Possibly there will be some commitments that last beyond the exit… even, in part, to 2030 … Also we cannot grant any generous rebates.”

Mrs May will on Friday hold talks with Barack Obama, the US President, along with the leaders of France, Germany and Spain at a summit in Berlin. Mrs May will also hold a one-to-one meeting with Mrs Merkel.

Mr Obama on Thursday called for Brexit negotiations to be conducted “in a smooth and orderly fashion” as he called for the UK and EU to retain their close ties.

He also called on Donald Trump, the President-elect, to “stand up” to Vladimir Putin.


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CR-US:161118:(21-NOV-16):Russian Orthodox official sees Trump victory as sign of hope

Catholic World News 18-Nov-16


The chief ecumenical officer of the Russian Orthodox Church sees the presidential election of Donald Trump as a hopeful sign, which could produce an alliance between the US and Russia that would stabilize the Middle East.

Metropolitan Hilarian, who heads the external-relations department of the Patriarchate of Moscow, observed in an Interfax interview that Trump has been critical of American policy in the Middle East. The Russian prelate strongly agreed with that criticism:

American policy in the Middle East, starting from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and to the recent events in Syria, was, in my view, shortsighted and wrong. Overthrowing the regimes that existed in the Middle Eastern countries one after another, allegedly in the name of democracy, America did not lead the region to democracy or prosperity. On the contrary, it provoked chaos, mass exodus of civilians, genocide of ethnic and religious minorities. Terrorists from the so-called Islamic State would not be so successful in Syria and Iraq if they did not get international support.

Metropolitan Hilarion said that he would not “fall into euphoria” until the Trump administration acted on its campaign promises. But he said that there is a new possibility of cooperation between Washington and Moscow.

The Russian cleric denied that his country had interfered in the US elections. He said, however, that Russians followed the American campaign “with great interest,” and were convinced that in electing Trump the American people had indicated a strong desire for change.


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CV:161118:(21-NOV-16):Pope Francis’ Race Against Time to Reshape the Church

Wall Street Journal 18-Nov-16


To access the interactive version go to Pope Francis’ Race Against Time to Reshape the Church (New York Times)

Francis is trying to build a Roman Catholic Church that emphasizes inclusion and mercy, and focuses on serving poor and marginalized people. Can the 79-year-old pontiff appoint enough like-minded cardinals to ensure that his vision of the church will endure after he dies?

The College of Cardinals is responsible for electing a new pope. Pope Francis’ third set of cardinals will receive their “red hats” at a ceremony on Saturday.

With the new additions, 44 of the 121 cardinals eligible to vote will have been named by Francis. But nearly two-thirds of the current cardinals were appointed by Francis’ predecessors, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who were more theologically conservative and whose priorities were different from Francis’. The cardinals, however, do not all share the views of the pope who appointed them.

Pope Francis, the first pope from Latin America, has expanded the effort of recent popes to diversify the College of Cardinals to reflect the church’s global reach. Francis has added cardinals from Asia, Africa and Latin America – some from countries that had not previously had a cardinal: Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.


The church nearly doubled the number of voting cardinals in the last century. But until recently, the College of Cardinals was dominated by Europeans, especially Italians, even as growth in the church shifted to the Southern Hemisphere.

In the early 1900s, about two-thirds of all Roman Catholics were in Europe. Now, more than half are in Latin America and Africa. But even with the new appointments, less than one third of the voting cardinals are from these two regions.

Source: Holy See press office. Note: There were two conclaves in 1978. The first elected pope John Paul I, who died about a month after the election. The second conclave elected pope John Paul II.


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UKB-EU:161118:(21-NOV-16):London Throws Gauntlet to Europe Over Financial Center Future

Bloomberg 18-Nov-16


Europe must choose between the urge to “inflict harm” on the City of London or recognize its role as the world’s biggest financial center in elevating the continent’s standing, a top London official said in Frankfurt.

“The question for the EU is: Does it see the City of London as a European asset that it treasures and nurtures and wishes to develop for the wider interests of the people of Europe, or does it see the City of London as innately undermining the narrower interests of the European Union?” Jeremy Browne, Special Representative for the City to the EU, said at the annual European Banking Congress on Friday.

Following the “natural adjustment” that will come with the U.K.’s departure from the EU, will the bloc “try to inflict additional harm on the City of London to make a broader political point even if that is not the interests of European Union or the wider citizens of Europe?” Browne said.

His remarks came at the end of a week-long conference that began with European financial centers making competing pitches for any financial jobs that flow out of London in the aftermath of the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU in June. Banks leaving London for Europe as a result of Brexit could give the continent’s capital markets a much-needed boost, said Ignazio Angeloni, a board member at the European Central Bank’s supervisory arm, in an interview on Thursday.

‘Test Study’

Banks based in the U.K. have started sounding out euro-area supervisors about their post-Brexit future, Sabine Lautenschlaeger, vice chair of the European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, said on a panel at the Frankfurt conference on Nov. 15.

“We have already many banks asking for interviews and meetings so that they can identify where are our pressure points and where our methods differ” from U.K. supervisors, Lautenschlaeger said. “For sure we are preparing.”

The ECB “will be prepared to welcome” banks seeking to leave the U.K. if it can ensure they’re not engaging in regulatory arbitrage, Anneli Tuominen, the director general of Finland’s Financial Supervisory Authority, said in an interview on Friday.

“London is a test study” in Europe’s resolve, special envoy Browne said. “We contribute massively to the capital markets and the services that are available to businesses across Europe. We very much regard ourselves not as a British asset, but as Europe’s global asset.”

Softening Warnings

Global bank executives are softening their warnings that the U.K.’s looming withdrawal from the EU will spur an imminent exodus of staff from London. Bankers are gaining confidence that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will be able to secure a lengthy transition period that would carry them over from the current rules to whatever trade agreements are agreed with the EU, according to two people with knowledge of their firm’s contingency plans. That’s led to more measured language from many of the industry’s leaders.

“Wait and see is also UBS’s attitude toward Brexit,” UBS Group AG Chairman Axel Weber said Wednesday at a conference in the U.K. capital. “No doubt London will remain an important financial center. UBS will be here.”

BNP Paribas SA Chairman Jean-Adrien Lemierre said Brexit “shouldn’t dominate the whole discussion” about the future of banking in Europe.

“We have made a view to be calm, quiet and not to make any decisions for the time being,” Lemierre said at the Frankfurt conference, referring to BNP. “Why? Because we are on the safe side, we are European, we don’t need to be in London to have a European passport. We shall be comfortable operating from everywhere and we shall serve the clients, if we are not able to serve them from London.”


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RU-MSY:161119:(21-NOV-16):Russian naval fleet destined for Syrian port city 19-Nov-16


A large fleet comprised of Russian ships is set to arrive to the Syrian port-city of Tartous, a Syrian military source reported tonight.

This Russian fleet expected to help expand their naval port in Tartous, while also delivering necessary supplies to their armed forces on the ground, the military source added.

This report was confirmed by Russia’s Interfax News Agency, adding that the fleet is traveling from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean waters.

These ships will later be deployed to the Strait of Bosphorus in Turkey, as they patrol the waters alongside the Turkish Navy.


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RU-MEG:161118:(21-NOV-16):Russia offers Egypt modern equipment for Mistral ships

Ahram Online 18-Nov-16


Russia and Egypt are currently negotiating to outfit two new Mistral-class warships Cairo received this year with modern equipment and electronic warfare systems, Russian news agency TASS said on Thursday.

“The Russian Federation has offered Egypt a wide range of equipment and military hardware to mount on the Mistral helicopter carriers,” presidential aide for military and technical cooperation Vladimir Kozhin told TASS.

“Apart from helicopters, these are modern armament and electronic warfare systems, navigational and auxiliary equipment and communications means,” Kozhin said.

Moscow says its experts have presented recommendations to Cairo, including necessary preparations to install the armaments.

“The negotiations on approving technical and commercial components are continuing,” the Russian official added.

In June and September, Egypt received two French Mistral-class helicopter carriers from France, part of a $1 billion deal signed last year.

The two ships were originally built for sale to Russia, but the sale was canceled over the Ukraine crisis.


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UKB:161119:(21-NOV-16):Sixty Conservative MPs back call to leave single market

BBC News 19-Nov-16


Sixty Conservative MPs, including seven ex-cabinet ministers, are calling for Britain to quit the single market and customs union when it leaves the EU.

Writing in the Telegraph, Suella Fernandes MP said only in leaving would the UK “truly be a beacon of international free trade”.

Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villier are among her backers.

The government said it would not give a “running commentary” before talks but would aim for the “best possible deal”.

It comes as other senior Tories are urging the PM to drop an appeal against a ruling that MPs must vote on Brexit before the process can begin.

‘EU shackles’

The group of 60 Tories – out of a total of 328 Conservative MPs – want Britain to pull out of both the European single market and the customs union, which allows its members to trade without tariffs but imposes common duties on goods imported from outside the bloc.

Ms Fernandes said the 23 June vote to leave the EU had been “an instruction to untie ourselves from EU shackles and freely embrace the rest of the world”.

“As was made clear in the referendum campaign, remaining in the EU’s internal market like Norway, or in a customs union like Turkey, is not compatible with either of these commitments and doing so would frustrate the will of the electorate.”

A government spokeswoman said it was committed to getting a unique deal for Britain, “not an ‘off the shelf’ solution”.

She said: “The government is painstakingly analysing the challenges and opportunities for all the different sectors of our economy.

“The prime minister has been clear that she wants UK companies to have the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market – and to let European businesses do the same here.

“Beyond that, it’s not in the UK’s interest to give a running commentary on our thinking that could undermine our negotiating position.”

Meanwhile, Sir Oliver Letwin, former head of the government’s Brexit preparations, and two former law officers said the appeal against a court ruling that means MPs must vote on the UK leaving the EU should not go to the Supreme Court.

Instead, they want ministers to bring a bill to Parliament to start the process of Brexit as soon as possible.

Former minister Sir Oliver told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Supreme Court hearing could see ministers’ powers outside Parliament curbed.

He said that bringing a bill to Parliament would give the government the ability to trigger Brexit without any constraints on its negotiating power.

‘What’s the point?’

Former Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier said Mrs May should drop the appeal to avoid expense and a row about judges’ powers, while former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he could not see the point of continuing with the case.

The government said it would robustly defend its position at the appeal and said: “As the prime minister made clear [on Friday], our work is on track and we remain committed to triggering Article 50 by the end of March next year.”

A final judgement from the Supreme Court is not expected until January.


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CV:161120:(21-NOV-16):Pope closes Holy Door at St Peter’s as jubilee ends

AFP 20-Nov-16


Pope Francis yesterday brought to a close the Catholic Church’s Jubilee of Mercy, shutting the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s after a packed 12 months that saw him raise Mother Teresa to sainthood and welcome Syrian Muslim refugees to the Vatican.

The Argentine, who says he is inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, held special masses and spent one Friday a month with refugees, victims of sex trafficking, the sick, the elderly and vulnerable children.

At a solemn ceremony in front of the panelled bronze doors at the Vatican’s basilica yesterday, the Pope paused to pray, clutching the cross around his neck. After walking up the three steps into the basilica alone, he closed the doors in silence. They will be walled up from the inside as per tradition until the next ordinary jubilee, to be marked in 2025.

This year’s Extraordinary Jubilee, called by Pope Francis, is only the third since the tradition began 700 years ago. The Holy Year of Mercy kicked off amid concerns over possible militant attacks; police with submachine guns joined Swiss guards around the tiny state.

The opening ceremony last year saw Pope Francis welcoming his predecessor Emeritus Benedict XVI – the first time a current and former pontiff had launched a jubilee year together.

In February, Pope Francis had the remains of Saint Padre Pio – a favourite with those looking for compassion and healing – brought to Rome and carried through the streets to the Vatican. Padre Pio is reputed by believers to have been able to levitate and bi-locate, appearing in foreign lands even while remaining in his friary.

Over 100,000 pilgrims, including Queen Sofia of Spain and 1,500 homeless people, flocked to the Vatican in September for the canonisation of Mother Teresa, held up as an icon who challenged the powerful and defended the poor.

But the Pope ensured that most jubilee events were centred on the outcast or abandoned, holding special masses for the disabled, poor and homeless, as well as prisoners. He also opened a free medical clinic for the homeless next to Saint Peter’s Square.


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UKB-EU:161120:(21-NOV-16):Britain On Hook to Pay Millions Towards EU Army, UKIP MEP Warns 20-Nov-16 [This is a right-wing US site, but found interesting! Don]


Members of the European Parliament are set to vote on a controversial report which could see huge swathes of power to a European Union (EU) military structure, at a cost of millions to British taxpayers.

The report, to be debated in Strasbourg next week, aims to give more powers to the military components of the Common Security and Defence Policy, including powers to rival NATO with a ‘mutual defence clause’ and a permanent headquarters with military and civilian staff.

It also means UK taxpayers will have to fork out millions to fund both an EU Defence Research project – costed at 90 million a year – and an EU defence minister, despite the British public voting to leave the EU. One area of the EU Defence Union alone has been costed at half a billion pounds a year, according to the report.

UKIP Defence Spokesman Mike Hookem MEP said the report “has huge implications for the sovereignty of the UK and its ability to control its own military.

“What we have in black and white isn’t the ‘dangerous fantasy’ that Nick Clegg tried to trick voters with in 2014 but the plans for an EU military and security structure to firmly push NATO out of the way,” he said.

That policy, if implemented, would even threaten political freedom in the UK, he added, saying: “Alarmingly, it is even calling for this new Brussels military to combat ‘subversion’, which covers everything from political opposition to the EU by legitimate parties to books, films criticising the EU and a crack-down on free speech – with the EU the judge and jury on whether it is allowed or not.”

The report states that member states do not have the ability to protect themselves militarily without combining forces, and calls for “EU strategic autonomy outside of NATO”. If adopted, it would see the EU pushing its way into internal security matters which currently come under the remit of the Home Office.

The cynical use of the migrant crisis and to push forward with plans for an EU military structure “showed the shamelessness of the EU to use a crisis of its own making to further its own political aims,” former soldier Mr Hookem said.

He added: “The terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris have direct links to the stupidity of the EU’s migrant policy which, had it been carried out by an organisation with any level of accountability, would have seen senior figures being unceremoniously fired.”

The report comes less than a week after the German intelligence service and the Austrian government confirmed that hundreds of Islamic State fighters have come into Europe disguised as asylum seekers.

The report was released nearly a year to the day after the horrific attacks at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, in which six of the attackers were found to have smuggled themselves into Europe as asylum seekers.


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IS-IN:161118:(21-NOV-16):No longer closet ties. India-Israel relationship is on the upswing

Daily Pioneer 18-Nov-16 {India]


The current visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to India highlights how both the nations are emerging from the closet to become natural allies. Long- held balancing acts in India-Israel relations have gone now. With the coming of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the era of India’s staid diplomatic establishment was replaced by active engagement of nations, cutting across ideological barriers of the Cold War days. It is now crystal clear that Modi has placed national interest first, while making friends and, cornering enemies. At such a crucial juncture, the arrival of President Rivlin on a six-day visit to India, reflects how pragmatism is guiding bilateral ties, banishing the lull that overshadowed it, for nearly a decade during the UPA rule.

But, thanks to former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who first established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, today, the country is reaping the benefits of an ally, which is so vital for our key advancements in defence and technology, to name a few. India-Israel partnership had witnessed rejuvenation during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure. Indeed, Israel’s immediate supply of high-powered equipment was one of the major supports our Armed Forces received to make significant gains in the Kargil conflict with Pakistan. Thus, the India-Israel bond is not just a seasonal one; it has deep roots as well. There was a time when the coming closer for both the nations was stalled by India’s growing proximity to Israel’s enemies in the region. It seems, under Modi, India is ready to reap the rewards of its friendship with the Jewish state in crucial areas like weapons and military equipment, technology, agriculture and also in diamonds and many more.

For Israel, beyond buttressing the traditional links, it is re-setting its relationship with an emerging superpower, when its betrothment with age-old allies is fading away. India-Israel relationship came into focus once again,  when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met his Indian counterpart in New York in September 2014, and aptly described that “sky is the limit” for both the countries, while forging ahead. Then, it was followed by the first ever visit of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, since the establishment of diplomatic ties, to India in February 2015. By late 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee paid a visit to Israel, which was the first ever such tour by an Indian President. His visit underscored the interest in ratcheting up the level of bilateral cooperation, despite India’s long support for the Palestinian cause. Besides, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s high profile visit to the Jewish country in the beginning of 2016, gave further credence to the relationship. And now, Rivlin’s arrival and, Modi’s expected visit to Israel next year, to celebrate the silver jubilee of our diplomatic relationship, will surely strengthen cooperation between the two nations.

With the change in Government at the Centre, it must be said that there is much more visibility and less shyness about India’s relationship with Israel. India does not need to be cautious about its growing nearness to Israel, just for fear of offending its Arab allies in the West Asia. After all, India’s connectivity with the Arab nations in the region has blossomed under Modi’s leadership.


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RUK-RU:161121:(21-NOV-16):Ukraine marks 3rd anniversary of uprising amid fresh tensions

Vatican Radio 21-Nov-16


Ukraine is marking the third anniversary of the deadly Euromaidan protests that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych but were followed by a war that killed thousands.

Monday’s commemoration came amid new tensions over the Crimean Peninsula which was annexed by Russia and a pledge by US president Barack Obama to try to reach a peace settlement before he leaves office.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Government officials, Maidan protest participants, and ordinary citizens are holding ceremonies to mark the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a national day commemorating the beginning of the Euromaidan protests in 2013 that overthrew Yanukovych.

They placed flowers at a monument in Kiev to the “Heavenly Hundred”. It’s a reference to the many protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces during the protest.

In a speech, President Petro Poroshenko called on the nation to unite and stand against the Russian “threat”. He insisted that the former Soviet republic would never revert to its Moscow-dominated past.


His comments came while Russian law enforcement officials announced that two more suspected members of a “Ukrainian saboteur group” were detained last week in Russian-annexed Crimea.

The arrests of the alleged two former Ukrainian army officers, identified as Oleksiy Stohnyy and Hlib Shablyyi, came after Moscow announced that Russian security forces had “detained three members of a sabotage-terrorist group from the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry” in the city of Sevastopol.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry called the claims “another fabrication of the Russian secret services aimed at justifying its own repressive measures against local residents and discredit Ukraine on the international arena.”

Despite the tensions, U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants to reach a negotiated peace settlement in Ukraine before he leaves office in January.


Obama said he talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday about Ukraine and the “need for us to get things done.”

Kiev has expressed concern about U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s shock election victory because of the billionaire’s praise for Putin.

Ukraine’s central government and the West have accused Russia of backing pro-Russia separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine with weapons and troops, charges oscow denies. The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people, including children.


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IS-MEG:161121:(21-NOV-16):Egypt-Israel relations ‘at highest level’ in history

Al Jazeera 21-Nov-16 [Hence bias! Don]


On the 39th anniversary of Sadat’s speech in Jerusalem, the two countries have never been closer, analysts say.

Almost four decades since former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat extended a hand of peace to Israel, the two governments have reached “full partnership and unbreakable alliance”, analysts say.

Although many Egyptians continue to regard Israel as a threat and sympathise with the Palestinian cause, the relationship between the two countries has become markedly explicit under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“Egyptian-Israeli relations are today at their highest level in history,” Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), a research NGO, told Al Jazeera.

And it certainly appears so.

In 2016, Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a much-publicised meeting at the latter’s home in Jerusalem. It was the first visit by any Egyptian FM in close to a decade. Netanyahu said the two “made time to watch the Euro 2016 final” football game together.

Egypt also reinstated an ambassador to Tel Aviv this year, following Morsi’s decision to pull out the envoy in protest against the 2012 Israeli assault on Gaza.

In 2015, the Israeli embassy in Cairo was reopened after a four-year closure, due to protests in front of the embassy over Israel’s killing of several Egyptian police officers in the Sinai. And, in the same year, Egypt voted in favour of Israel to become a member of a United Nations committee – the first time that Egypt has voted for Israel at the UN since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

Such examples are only a few of the many developments that signal a new chapter in this relationship, which Mohamed Soliman, a Cairo-based political analyst, characterises as a “full partnership, unbreakable alliance and diplomatic completion” between the two countries.

Common Enemies

The alliance, analysts say, has been predicated on military and security cooperation, mainly with regard to the armed groups operating in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai desert.

The two have worked together to battle the Sinai insurgency, where allies of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), have gained momentum in recent years.

Thrall says Israel “has repeatedly allowed” Egypt to bring forces and weapons into the Sinai beyond the scope of the peace treaty.

Israel’s willingness to allow Egypt to deploy into areas that clearly defy the security appendix of the Camp David Accords demonstrates a “flexibility and coordination between Egypt and Israel [that came] early in Sisi’s tenure,” Soliman told Al Jazeera.

The relationship between the two countries has become so lucid that there have been multiple, but unconfirmed, reports of Israel carrying out drone strikes in Sinai with Egypt’s consent.

The common ground has also extended to a dislike of Hamas, the political and armed movement that governs two million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip. Egypt has accused Hamas of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, while Israel considers it a threat to its sovereignty.

Since Sisi’s coming to power in 2014, Egyptian authorities have kept the Sinai border crossing with Gaza largely sealed. The move has suffocated its residents, whose only other passage to the outside world is through Israel, which imposes an airtight blockade.

Besides keeping their borders shut, the two countries cooperated in the most recent destruction and flooding of the vast Palestinian-built tunnel network between Gaza and the Sinai, analysts say. The tunnels, used for everything from smuggling people out and KFC in, are viewed as a threat to both Israel and Egypt. Both sides claim the tunnels were being used for weapon trade.

“Egypt and Israel view the tunnel economy between the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza as a clear and present danger. Cairo knows that the tunnel economy enriches smugglers on the Sinai side – many of whom have ties to the local Islamic State branch – while Israel is well aware that it bolsters and arms Hamas in Gaza,” Oren Kessler, deputy director of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a DC-based think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

“Egypt has taken an uncompromising approach to destroying the tunnels, and has worked with Israel to do so.”

While cooperation over the flooding of the tunnels has not been announced publicly, Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, stated that some flooding took place at Israel’s request, but he was reportedly forced to retract his claims.

Aside from military cooperation and common enemies, Israel and Egypt have found mutually beneficial economic opportunities in gas, in a partnership that predates Sisi’s arrival.

Until 2012, Egypt had been selling natural gas to Israel as part of a 20-year deal that was cancelled. According to Bloomberg, the two countries are now close to securing a new multibillion-dollar deal that would see Israel export gas to Egypt.

Broker for peace?

In May 2016, Sisi committed Egypt as a middleman between the Israelis and Palestinians. His FM’s visit to Jerusalem in July was subsequently publicised as part of Egypt’s initiative to push for peace.

Safa Joudeh, a Cairo-based political and security analyst, believes the calls for peace are merely a cover aimed at distracting Egyptians. “Renewing peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis was largely a smoke screen for Egypt to pursue closer diplomatic ties with Israel, while avoiding public backlash,” Joudeh told Al Jazeera.

The visit also took place at a time of local discontent over Egyptian foreign policy on issues that “are deemed more pressing” she said, which “raises the question of the timing [of Shoukry’s visit].”

“Although the rapprochement initiative is unpopular with the Egyptian public,” said Joudeh, “there was no adverse reaction to Shoukry’s visit as it was largely overshadowed by all the other foreign policy debates within the public sphere,” including the transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and tension over Ethiopia storing Nile water behind its dam.

While in theory, the concept of closer Egyptian-Israeli ties is potential for pushing Palestinian-Israeli peace talks along, analysts say they are having an opposite effect by creating intra-Palestinian division and diverting Israeli responsibility to come to the negotiating table.

Israel has for years stalled and ignored US calls to halt illegal settlement building in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. A French proposal to restart the talks this year was also bluntly rejected by Israel, claiming it would only agree to direct talks.

“Egyptian involvement could reduce international pressure on Israel over its lack of serious steps towards negotiating with the Palestinians,” said Soliman. “Sisi’s initiative does not cost Netanyahu anything other than more negotiations”.

Renewing peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis was largely a smoke screen for Egypt to pursue closer diplomatic ties with Israel while avoiding public backlash

Safa Joudeh, Cairo-based political and security analyst

Elie Podeh, head of the Middle East studies department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, agrees. He says Israel “is indeed interested in diverting the Palestinian question by getting closer to the Arab states”.

But crucially, he believes the Zionist state’s standing with Arab countries, as a whole, will not improve if it does not move forward on the peace process.

With Israel in a position of power, some believe it cannot be talked into making any concessions. For instance, Waleed al-Modallal, head of political science at the Islamic University of Gaza, says that it is not clear to him “how Egypt would be able to pressurise Israel into responding to the rights of the Palestinians.

“It seems that it is the other way round – that Egypt will pressurise Palestinians to relinquish more and more for Israeli objectives,” Modallal told Al Jazeera.

Instead, Modallal argues “the resistance movement”, particularly Hamas, has the most to lose in this new alliance. He also questions Egypt’s role as an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians, given its “negative attitudes towards the Palestinian cause, whether in contributing to the continued siege on Gaza or turning a blind eye to the Israeli aggression on the strip in 2014.

“Egypt has failed at moving the Palestinian cause along at international forums. Given its declining status on the regional front and its preoccupation with internal issues, Egypt is not a candidate to play the role of solving the Palestinian cause.”

In fact, as Israel and Egypt tighten the noose on Gaza, the rift between Hamas and Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is thought to be widening.

“Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement likely take quiet satisfaction in the fact that both countries take a hard line against Fatah’s archrival Hamas,” Kessler says.

While the PA is “engaged in a concerted campaign to isolate Israel diplomatically, and is, therefore, disappointed to see its fellow Arabs embrace Israel in any way,” it also “cautiously welcomes any steps to rein in Hamas,” Kessler continued.

But there is a third dimension.

Regional implications

Playing on regional rifts in the Arab world, with the divide between the Gulf states and Iran, Israeli officials and analysts speak of an unofficial “moderate axis” of Arab countries that are purportedly working behind the scenes with the Israeli government.

In this “alliance”, Western-backed countries including Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states, as well as Jordan and Morocco, are said to be pitted against “common enemies” Syria, Iran, ISIL, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Kessler believes the tighter Egyptian-Israeli partnership is “being received with quiet approval by traditional US allies in the region, such as the monarchies of the Gulf states and Jordan, who see those relations as useful in confronting shared adversaries.

“More broadly, those ties help shore up the camp of those relatively pro-Western regimes against the ‘resistance’ camp led by Iran and its proxies including the Syrian regime and Hezbollah,” he added.

Modallal, however, says this strategy will only mean more divide and instability for the region.

“Israel’s success in creating an ‘axis of relatively moderate states’ allows it to suffocate Iran by creating a basis for regional cooperation against it. This would fuel the conflict between the Arabs and Iran, in a way that would lead to the destruction of Israel’s two foes at the same time.”

He says that given the lack of any Arab country that could challenge Israel’s strength, strengthening this divide will allow Israel to achieve its strategic goals, and secure its superiority, while Arab countries are mired in conflict.

Egypt’s foreign policy towards Israel today is not much different from that of Mubarak’s, who, like Sisi, was a former military man.

The main aspects of bilateral ties, explains Joudeh, have remained intact, as historically, the relationship with Israel has been handled by the Egyptian army.

But the difference now, she says, is that under Sisi and his military-backed government, “the lines between political decision-making and national security strategy have become blurred”.


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MPA:161121:(21-NOV-16):Palestinian leadership may choose Abbas’s successor, and tear itself apart

Times of Israel 21-Nov-16


An imminent Fatah congress in Ramallah will shape the future of the Palestinian movement, laying bare its rivalries and its rifts

On November 29, in the muqata’a in Ramallah, 1,400 members of Fatah will hold the organization’s Seventh General Congress in the recently opened Ahmad Shukeiri Conference Hall, which is named for the Palestine Liberation Organization’s first chairman. On the third day of the conference, they will elect Fatah’s leadership, the Central Committee, which — it seems likely — will, at some subsequent stage, decide who Mahmoud Abbas’s successor will be.

This is not as it should be. According to Palestinian law, if the president is unable to continue in the position, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the parliament, is supposed to stand in for him, at least until general elections are held. But the Palestinian Legislative Council has not met since 2007, and its speaker happens to be Sheikh Aziz Duwaik — a high-ranking member of Hamas. No one in Fatah plans to allow Duwaik to serve as president, not even temporarily.

It is therefore quite likely that President Abbas’s “temporary” replacement, who could become permanent, will be chosen by the PLO’s Executive Committee, the organization’s leadership. That PLO’s Executive Committee, in turn, is composed mainly of Fatah delegates. Hence the significance of the Fatah Central Committee elections: These Palestinian leaders will choose a candidate for the PLO leadership — and, for all practical purposes, for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority as well.

At this month’s congress, 18 Fatah Central Committee will be chosen. Soon afterwards, they themselves will choose four additional Fatah members to join the committee. Abbas himself, chairman of Fatah and chairman of the PLO, will also join, making a total of 23 members. They will elect a secretary-general of the Central Committee, who will be considered the acting chairman of Fatah. Whoever is chosen for this position will naturally become one of the leading candidates to be appointed Fatah’s chairman after Abbas’s departure, and to succeed him as rais.

Who, then, is likely to win the coveted post of secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee? Who will be the members of that committee? It’s far from clear. Quite a few names are being mentioned, none of them surprising.

One thing we can say for certain is who will not be at the general conference or serve on the Central Committee: Abbas’s great rival, Mohammad Dahlan.

Indeed, one of the unstated goals of the upcoming conference is to keep Dahlan’s associates out — and it seems that Abbas has so far succeeded in doing so. He recently threw dozens of Dahlan’s supporters out of Fatah and told Egypt that he was not willing to postpone the conference — acts that have led to a severe increase in tension between Cairo and Ramallah.

The bottom line: Dahlan’s camp, and Dahlan himself, will be kept out of the assembly and out of the circle of Fatah’s decision-makers.

Dahlan, whom Abbas expelled from the Palestinian territories in early 2011, is considering how to respond. At one point, his supporters in Gaza threatened to hold their own conference in the Strip to parallel the general conference in Ramallah. But now Dahlan’s associates are quietly indicating that they are looking into the option of establishing a whole new movement. Refusing to call it a split within Fatah, they are talking of calling themselves the “original Fatah.”

If this threat should be carried out, it could constitute a historic split within Fatah. Dahlan would try to recruit prominent Fatah activists from all over the West Bank who are on his side, such as Jamal Tirawi and Jihad Tummaleh. He would also likely present it as a temporary movement, to operate until Abbas is removed from power.

But this would be a high-risk strategy for Dahlan. If Fatah’s next leader should turn out to be an ally of Abbas or a long-time rival of Dahlan’s, such as Jibril Rajoub, he could be sentencing himself to long-term exile.

The soccer chief

Jibril Rajoub, meantime, has emerged as a prominent contender in the elections for the Central Committee, and also for the position of secretary-general. The Palestinian Football Association Chairman, Rajoub has used the sport to build himself up politically in recent years, acquiring many fans among Fatah’s members. The largest number of delegates to the Ramallah conference will be coming from the Hebron sector, Rajoub’s home court. (He was born in Hebron-area Dura.)

Ex-security chief Rajoub has also allied himself with other figures who are considered highly influential in Fatah’s upper ranks, such as Mahmoud Aloul, Hussein al-Sheikh, and, some say, Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj. While Faraj is not running for a seat on the Central Committee, he may still be brought on board by the Central Committee’s elected members as one of the four appointees. Former top PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat may also be appointed to one of those four positions due to his closeness to Abbas.

Another important camp in these elections is that of Marwan Barghouti, the would-be Abbas successor who is serving five life-terms in Israeli jail for orchestrating Second Intifada murders.Two of his close associates, Qadura Fares and Ahmed Ghanem, are seeking seats on the Fatah Central Committee.

But the most important camp is that of Abbas himself. While it is not yet fully clear who he wants to bring into the Central Committee, several of his “recommended ones” will likely be elected, as happened at the previous congress in 2009. Erekat and Faraj are worth watching in this regard.

Several more independent figures, such as Yasser Arafat’s nephew Nasser el-Qidwa, Mohammad Shtayyeh, and Tawfik Tirawi, are also seeking Central Committee seats.

Elections for the second most important Fatah body, the Revolutionary Council, will also be held at this congress. Quite a few unknowns are running, as are journalists (how could they not?). Among them are Amira Hanania, a well-known presenter on Palestinian television, and Nasser Abu Baker, a reporter for Radio Falastin. Abu Baker, who used to maintain close ties with his Israeli colleagues, has boycotted Israeli journalists since he began nurturing his political career.

There will also be a rearguard action at the congress by the members of the old generation, such as Abbas Zaki and Zakariya Al-Agha, who are trying to keep themselves in the leadership, though they have little chance of doing so. Zaki, for example, is holding many parlor meetings and assemblies in the Hebron sector in hopes of boosting his status.

How does the Palestinian public regard this congress? With a great deal of indifference, and in some cases outright hostility. Fatah has not managed to improve its status or image in the public’s eyes over the past several years, giving rise to the demand by Barghouti’s camp to “update” its platform. Barghouti’s supporters want Fatah to issue a statement at the close of the conference in support of “resistance by peaceful methods” (al-muqawama al-silmiyya) — in other words, demonstrations.

A divorce from the Arab world

As noted, a dark cloud looms over the upcoming congress and the elections — the threat of a possible split the next day if Dahlan and his supporters should decide to form a competing movement. But Abbas and the PA have an even bigger problem than Dahlan or his emissaries in the West Bank, who have been trying to heat things up against the PA in many refugee camps.

A severe, unprecedented crisis has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab world. Abbas is close to cutting off relations with the Sunni Arab states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia first among them. Cairo stands behind Dahlan and encourages his various activities. Saudi Arabia has suspended its financial aid to the PA. The United Arab Emirates is giving Dahlan official protection, and Jordan could not care less about what happens in Ramallah.

Together only with part of Fatah, Abbas, 82, stands alone, in near-isolation, against Hamas, the State of Israel, the Arab countries, and his own enemy from within — Mohammad Dahlan.

And yet there is no shortage of would-be successors.


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IS-UK:161121:(21-NOV-16):1Israelis now eligible for expedited entry into UK

By Times of Israel 21-Nov-16


British Embassy in Israel announces that citizens of Jewish state can now sign up for Registered Traveler Service

The British Embassy in Israel announced Sunday that Israelis will now be able to register for the United Kingdom’s Registered Traveler Service, which allows members of the program to enter Britain faster than before.

In a press release, the embassy said that Israelis will be eligible to sign up for the program from November 21. The service is designed for those who do business in the UK or visit it regularly, and will allow members an expedited entry into the country, after an advance security screening.

The service will be available at 10 British airports, as well at Eurostar terminals in Paris, Brussels, and Lille. Israelis registered for the program will be able to enter the UK using the UK/EU passport line, and will not have to fill out an entry form.

David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel, said in the press release that “this is great news for UK-Israel relations, and in particular for Israelis doing business in the UK. The new service will be a further boost to UK/Israel trade, which is already at record levels.”

The announcement of Israel’s eligibility for the Registered Traveler Service follows the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in a June referendum. Since then, the UK has been working to maintain its reputation as “open for business,” stressing that its separation from the EU will not usher in an era of protectionism and anti-trade sentiments.

In a press release on the British government’s website, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox described the expansion of the service as an excellent opportunity “for UK companies looking to build a global brand, as well as international businesses keen to invest in the UK’s thriving marketplace,” adding that “it’s vital we make business travel into the UK as smooth as possible.”


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TU-EU:161121:(21-NOV-16):Erdogan says Turkey doesn’t need EU

New Europe 21-Nov-16


Turkey does not need to join the European Union “at all costs” and can become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations. So said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on November 20.

“Turkey must feel at ease. It mustn’t say ‘for me it’s the European Union at all costs’. That’s my view,” Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling reporters on his plane on the way back from a visit to Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

“Why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five? I said this to [Russian President] Mr Putin, to [Kazakh President] Nazarbayev, to those who are in the Shanghai Five now,” he said. “I hope that if there is a positive development there, I think if Turkey were to join the Shanghai Five, it will enable it to act with much greater ease.”

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Nato member Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU look more remote than ever after 11 years of negotiations. European leaders have been critical of its record on democratic freedoms, while Ankara has grown increasingly exasperated by what it sees as Western condescension.

As for China, Russia and four Central Asian nations (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), these countries formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighbouring Afghanistan.

Turkish membership of the SCO, which had initially not included Uzbekistan and been known as the Shanghai Five, would be likely to alarm Western allies and fellow Nato members.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages, and Ankara signed up in 2013 as a “dialogue partner” saying it shared “the same destiny” as members of the bloc.

Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are SCO observers, while Belarus, like Turkey, is a dialogue partner.

Dialogue partners are entitled to take part in ministerial-level and some other meetings of the SCO, but do not have voting rights.

According to Reuters, Erdogan recently urged Turks to be patient until the end of the year over relations with Europe and said a referendum could be held on EU membership in 2017.

While the EU needs Ankara’s continued help to curb a huge flow of migrants, especially from Syria, it is alarmed by Turkey’s crackdown on opponents since a failed coup attempt in July.

In a separate report, Turkey’s Daily Sabah noted that Erdogan blamed the EU for dragging its feet on accession. Turkey’s first application to become a member was submitted to the European Economic Community (the predecessor of today’s European Union) in 1963.

“The EU has been procrastinating for 53 years,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “Can anyone accept such behaviour? When I first became the prime minister [2003], the EU invited us to the leaders’ summit, and then they stopped. Why? Because we spoke openly. Ever since Sarkozy became the president [2007-2012], several membership negotiation chapters were opened but none were closed. If you are not going to conclude them, why open them in the first place?”

Erdogan also criticised the EU for its reluctance to lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens. “People from Latin American countries do not need visas, but Turks do,” he said, adding that the migrant deal that entailed a readmission agreement and visa liberalisation would be rescinded if all clauses of the deal were not applied.

“It is impossible to comprehend them,” Erdogan was quoted as saying when asked if there is anything encouraging from Europe. He also questioned whether European leaders ever really considered Turkey a future member.

“From time to time, we see insults directed at myself, claims that there was no freedom of expression in Turkey. Meanwhile, Terrorists prance around in French, German and Belgian streets. This is what they understand of freedom,” Erdogan added.

According to Daily Sabah, Erdogan also spoke about the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, has been accused of being the mastermind of July’s attempted coup.

The report quoted Erdogan as criticising FETÖ’s broad prep school network for university admissions need to be shut them down.

Meanwhile, hundreds of officials linked to FETÖ face charges of cheating in official recruitment tests and university admissions examinations. Erdoğan also turned down criticism that there were too many people being dismissed, reported the Daily Sabah.

In related news, Turkish officers who were formerly appointed to Nato posts are currently seeking asylum in Western countries. “No Nato country can grant such people recognised as terrorists by an ally asylum,” said Erdogan. “We want them to be extradited. How can a Nato ally grant asylum to traitors, coup plotters and terrorists.”

“We asked Greece to extradite the fugitives who fled there. [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras said it would be done within 15 to 20 days,” said Erdogan. “Unfortunately, it has been much longer than 20 days since then and we are still waiting. If we had done the same, they would have caused all kinds of trouble.”


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