Palestinian statehood a must, say EU foreign ministers

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 23rd January 2024

Foreign ministers of EU member states on Monday denounced the controversial remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting Palestinian statehood. Over the weekend, Netanyahu doubled down on his opposition to establishing a Palestinian state after the war, defying the West’s push for a so-called two-state solution. The Israeli premier’s remarks were criticised by the bloc’s foreign ministers who, upon arriving at a high-stakes meeting in Brussels, reiterated that the creation of a Palestinian state must be part of future peace negotiations.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements are worrying,” France’s foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné told reporters ahead of the meeting. “We need a Palestinian state with security guarantees for all.”

Ireland’s Micheál Martin described Netanyahu’s comments as “unacceptable”, urging the Israeli premier to “listen to the vast majority of the world who want peace and who want the two-state solution – the ultimate security guarantee to Israel and to Israeli citizens.”

“Palestinians can only live in dignity, in security, in freedom if Israel lives in security. That’s why the two-state solution is the only solution and those who don’t want to know about it have not yet put forward any other alternative,” said Germany’s Annalena Baerbock.

Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg, considered amongst the bloc’s staunchest allies of Israel, also described Netanyahu’s statements as “short-sighted”, defending the Palestinians’ right to self-determination as the “only solution”. “Neither the Israelis will disappear into thin air, nor the Palestinians. They will both have to live side by side in this region,” Schallenberg said.

Sharing the displeasure of his colleagues, Latvia’s Krišjānis Kariņš went further by calling on Brussels to use its economic leverage to draw concessions from Israel.

Photo: European Union

Saudis will not recognise Israel without a Palestinian state

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said the kingdom will not normalise relations with Israel or contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian state. Prince Faisal bin Farhan’s remarks in an interview with CNN, broadcast late on Sunday, were some of the most direct yet from Saudi officials. The dispute over Gaza’s future puts the United States and its Arab allies against Israel, posing a major obstacle to any plans for postwar Gaza.

Photo courtesy of Bloomberg

Jordanian minister insist on Palestinian statehood

Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi has condemned the Israeli government, saying it was defying the world by not accepting a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. “The only way out of this misery is a two-state solution,” Safadi told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, claiming that Israel had a “radical racist agenda”. “They are defying the whole international community and it is about time the world took a stand,” he said.

EU’s Borrell questions Israel’s alternative to two-state solution

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has insisted on a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories, telling Israel it couldn’t build peace “only by military means”. Ahead of talks in Brussels with Israeli and Palestinian top diplomats and EU foreign ministers, Borrell said the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip “could not be worse”, amid Israel’s offensive there against the Hamas militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU. He also said Palestinian statehood must be something that Israel was willing to work toward. “Which are the other solutions they have in mind? To make all the Palestinians leave?” Borrell told journalists. “From now on, I will not talk about the peace process, but I want a two-state-solution process,” he said.

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz (left) talking to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Photo: JOHN THYS / POOL/AFP

Reports that Israel is offering a pause in Gaza fighting

Israel has reportedly submitted a proposal through Qatari and Egyptian mediators that would see it agree to pause its military offensive against Hamas for as long as two months, in exchange for a phased release of the remaining 136 hostages in Gaza. The proposal does not heed the Hamas demand for Israel to end the war completely, but does appear to go further than Israel has gone in previous offers, according to the Axios news site.

The offer was publicised as White House Middle East representative, Brett McGurk, was in the region for meetings with Egyptian and Qatari counterparts aimed at advancing a hostage deal, a US official told The Times of Israel. Israel is now waiting for Hamas’s response to the new proposal and is cautiously optimistic about the chance for progress in the coming days, Israeli officials told Axios.

The report followed a meeting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held on Monday with the families of hostages, whom he told that “contrary to what has been said, there is no real Hamas proposal”. Channel 12 later published a recording from the meeting, in which Netanyahu could be heard saying: “There is a proposal of mine, which I also passed in the war cabinet. We conveyed it and now there is, as they say, a tug of war.”

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Hostage families disrupt Israeli parliament

Earlier in the day, dozens of relatives of hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza stormed into a finance committee meeting at Israel’s parliament. “You won’t sit here while they are dying there!” the family members yelled. However, Netanyahu told hostage families that Hamas had made no solid offer that would see their loved ones freed. Some of the relatives set up a protest tent in Jerusalem on Sunday and vowed to stay there until the government agrees on a deal to free some of the hostages. Families have accelerated their protests in recent days and urged the government do more to get their loved ones released.

Fierce battles in Gaza as troops push deeper into Khan Younis

A day after Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed that fighting in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis would intensify, fierce battles were waged on Monday as the IDF launched a new large offensive on the western part of the city. At least three IDF officers were killed. Four brigades took part in the offensive, which began on Sunday with a series of airstrikes on Hamas sites in the area.

The IDF is aiming to dismantle Hamas’s military framework in the Khan Younis area with the new push. A spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry told Reuters on Monday afternoon that at least 50 Palestinians were killed and 100 wounded in Israeli airstrikes on Khan Younis since Sunday night.

Photo: Anadolu

US, UK step up strikes on Houthis

The US and the UK conducted another round of large-scale air and missile strikes on Houthi militant targets across Yemen on Monday, according to the Pentagon, hitting eight targets, including an underground storage site and locations associated with the rebel group’s missile and air surveillance capabilities, according to a joint statement.

The bombings – supported by US allies Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands – mark an increase in action against the Houthis, who have vowed to continue attacks on ships in the Red Sea in protest of Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip. Later, the Houthis claimed to have attacked an American merchant ship, the ‘Ocean Jazz’.

“The Yemeni armed forces continue to respond to any American or British aggression against our country by targeting all sources of threats in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea,” said the spokesperson of the pro-Iranian movement, as reported by Haaretz.

Meanwhile, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said at the end of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels that the start of the EU mission in the Red Sea had been decided. “We have agreed in principle on the launch of the EU mission in the Red Sea; now we must work towards unanimity on when,” he said.

Fake Biden robocall tells voters to skip today’s primary

A fake robocall claiming to be from US President Joe Biden has urged voters to skip today’s primary election in New Hampshire. An investigation has been opened into the calls, which are suspected to have been artificially generated. It is unclear who created the audio.

The Trump campaign has denied involvement. In the message, a voice tells voters to “save” their ballot for the general election in November. Analysts point out that there is no rule that says people who vote in a primary cannot cast a ballot in the general election, so there is no reason to “save” a vote.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office said in a statement the message appears to be “an unlawful attempt to disrupt” the election on Tuesday, and that “voters should disregard the content of this message entirely”. In the New Hampshire primary, voters from both main parties are picking which candidate should be their standard-bearer in this year’s general election.

“Only lies from Trump” – Haley

“Donald Trump does nothing but lie about me; imagine what he can do if he is re-elected President,” Nikki Haley said at a rally in Franklin, New Hampshire, reiterating that today’s primary in the state is “a two-horse race” following the withdrawal of Ron DeSantis.

Speaking to a crowd of her supporters, including many independents and undecided, the former governor underlined that she was “the new generation leader that the USA needs”. “I want to make America a country we can be proud of again,” she declared, accusing Trump of having created a public debt of three billion dollars.

In a last-gasp tirade, Trump accused Haley of being allied with communists and left-wing extremists. “The people who support Nikky are pro-China, pro-Biden. She wants to raise the retirement age and tax workers,” the tycoon attacked.

Court pushes back E. Jean Carroll trial

Trump’s defamation trial brought by E. Jean Carroll won’t resume until tomorrow morning – a timeline that enables Trump to wait until after the New Hampshire primary before deciding whether to testify. Trump had shown up in the courtroom on Monday, with his lawyer saying he was prepared to take the stand, but US District Judge Lewis Kaplan adjourned the proceedings over Covid-19 concerns that led him to send an ill juror home.

The delay created an overlap between Trump’s potential window to testify and the day of New Hampshire’s primary. Meanwhile, Trump launched yet another attack on his accuser by posting on his social network ‘Truth’ an avalanche of the writer’s old tweets on sexual matters and excerpts from her interviews to demolish her credibility.

Photo: Reuters/Getty Image

Germany’s far-right AfD could face legal challenges

Germany is deliberating over what legal steps can be taken to combat the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). Anti-constitutional parties can have their state funding suspended or be banned. The German Bundestag is also debating how to deal with the AfD. A motion has been submitted by the three governing parliamentary factions – the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the neo-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). This was prompted by a media report about a meeting of right-wing extremists in which AfD officials as well as members of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) took part. The gathering is said to have been about plans for the so-called remigration (expulsion) of millions of people who have immigrated to Germany.

In the parliamentary debate, Bernd Baumann, Parliamentary Secretary of the AfD, told lawmakers the meeting was no more than a “small, private debate club” but not a “secret meeting dangerous to the public”. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) responded: “We are seeing an active effort to shift borders and to spread contempt for democracy and misanthropy into the heart of society.” Faeser said she could also imagine banning the party — but only as a last resort.

The AfD, which the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has partially classified as right-wing extremist, is enjoying record highs in opinion polls. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking to the streets to demonstrate against the anti-immigration party. Observers says it is easier, however, to exclude an anti-constitutional party from state funding. In Germany, parties are financed by membership fees, donations, and tax money. The more votes a party receives in elections, the more it is entitled to receive from state coffers. For the AfD, this currently amounts to over €10 million.

Photo: FILIP SINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Iran carries out death sentence on protester arrested in 2022

The death sentence by hanging of Mohammad Ghobadlou, the young protester arrested during the protests in Iran in 2022, was carried out this morning. Ghobadlou had been sentenced to death on charges of Muharebeh (war against God) and corruption on earth. He was accused of having hit a police officer with his car and of killing him during the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old who lost her life after being placed in custody by the morality police because she was not wearing her veil properly.

Photo: Amnesty

Race to find dozens trapped in China landslide

Two hundred rescuers raced today to find dozens of people still trapped after a landslide struck a remote and mountainous part of southwestern China, killing 11. The pre-dawn landslide buried 18 homes and sparked the evacuation of more than 200 people when it struck in Zhenxiong County, Yunnan province early yesterday. State news agency Xinhua said rescue workers are now in a “race against time” to find those missing after a night of sub-zero temperatures.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Manhunt after eight people shot in Illinois

A manhunt is under way in the US state of Illinois after multiple shootings left eight people dead, police say. Police found the bodies of seven people on Monday in two houses in the city of Joliet, near Chicago. The victims were all believed to be part of the same family, authorities said. Two separate shootings, one lethal, were also reported to police on Sunday. Police are seeking Romeo Nance, aged 23, and warn that he “should be regarded as armed and dangerous”. The motive for the attacks was not immediately clear, but the suspect is believed to have known the victims.

Football: Italy’s Gigi Riva dead at 79

The Italian and European soccer scenes are in mourning following the death, at the age of 79, of Gigi Riva – considered to be the greatest striker of the Italian national team. Ansa says “he left with the speed of ‘Rombo di Tuono’ (‘Thunderclap’) as he was nicknamed, after a heart attack on Sunday.

Riva remains the holder of the record for goals scored for the national team with 35 in 42 appearances. He was a great protagonist in the blue jersey, starting from the ‘best match ever’, Italy-Germany 4-3. Riva remained in Sardinia and, despite the fact that the big teams had chased him with extraordinary offers, he continued to say ‘no’. He was number 11 in Cagliari’s 1970 scudetto. Always a reserved and shy character, he lived in an apartment in the centre of Cagliari.

Goodbye to director Norman Jewison

Hollywood is also in mourning following the death of Canadian director Norman Jewison, author of important and diverse films such as the romantic comedy Moonstruck, the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the racial drama The Hot Night of Inspector Tibbs and the thriller The Thomas Crown Affair. He was 97. Seven times nominated for an Oscar, Jewison received the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. As a director, he was known for being able to extract great performances from his actors, 12 of whom were also nominated for the most illustrious awards in the world of cinema.#

Photo: REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

Main photo: Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki (left) talking to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (AP/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

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