Thursday April 18, 2024

Trump in the soup, faces rallies, critical remarks

By our correspondents
January 16, 2017

70 countries show anger at policy towards Palestinian issue; Beijing warns One China policy non-negotiable; protests across America against president-elect’s

proposed policy about migrants; CIA director warns against

absolving Russia of recent actions

PARIS: Major powers will signal to US President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday that a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is the only solution, with France warning him that plans to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem could derail the peace efforts.

Some 70 countries, including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are in Paris for a meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected as “futile”. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be represented.

But, just five days before Trump is sworn in, the conference provides a platform for countries to send a strong signal to the incoming American president.

Trump has pledged to pursue more pro-Israeli policies and move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been for 68 years, to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel’s capital despite international objections.

Calling it a provocation, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the move would have serious consequences on the ground.

“One cannot have such a clear-cut, unilateral position. You have to create the conditions for peace,” he told France 3 television.

Paris has said the meeting will not impose anything on Israel or the Palestinians and that only direct negotiations can resolve the conflict.

A draft communique reaffirms existing international resolutions, urges both sides to restate their commitment to the two-state solution and disavow officials who reject it.

The communique asks the protagonists to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations”.

The diplomats said the communique could be toughened up with an allusion to Trump’s plans for Jerusalem and whether to have a follow-up to the French initiative intensely debated.

“This conference is among the last twitches of the world of yesterday,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “Tomorrow will look different and that tomorrow is very close.”

Relations between the United States and Israel have soured during President Barack Obama’s administration, reaching a low point late last month when Washington declined to veto a UN resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the settlement programme threatened Middle East peace and the two-state solution.

Palestinian President Authority Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he had told Trump that a move to Jerusalem would kill off the peace process and strip the US of its role as honest broker — and could lead to the Palestinians going back on their recognition of Israel.

Home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities, France has tried to breathe a new life into the peace process over the past year.

It believes that, with the uncertainty surrounding how the next US administration will handle the issue, it is important to push the sides back to talks rather than allowing a fragile status quo to fester.

But with elections coming up this year in France and Germany, and Britain appearing to align itself more closely with the Trump administration on the issue, the prospects of the European Union, the largest economic partner for both Israel and the Palestinians, taking a lead on the matter appear unlikely.

Arab states also have concerns about how Trump’s relationship with them will turn out, and have taken a cautious line.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered to support immigrant rights at rallies around the US, denouncing President-elect Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric and his pledges to build a wall on the US-Mexican border and to crack down on the Muslims entering the country.

“We are not going to allow Donald Trump to bury the Statue of Liberty,” Sen Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, told a standing-room-only crowd at historic African-American church in downtown Washington during one of dozens of rallies around the nation.

In Chicago, more than 1,000 people poured into a teachers’ union hall to support immigrant rights and implore one another to fight for those rights against what they fear will be a hostile Trump administration.

Ron Taylor, pastor of Chicago-area Disciples for Christ Church and executive director of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organisations, told the audience there, “Regardless of what happens in the coming days we know that good will conquer evil and we want to say to each and every one of you, you are not alone.”

In Los Angeles, several hundred people rallied at a downtown Mexican-American cultural center and plaza. Some carried signs saying “Here to Stay” and chanted “Si se puede,” Spanish for “Yes, we can.”

The protests mark the latest chapter in a movement that has evolved since 2006, when more than a million people took to the streets to protest a Republican-backed immigration bill that would have made it a crime to be in the country illegally.

Saturday’s events in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, California, and elsewhere took place as thousands participated in a “We Shall Not Be Moved” march and rally in Washington ahead of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday.

The line to enter Metropolitan AME Church in Washington stretched nearly a city block. The people included immigrants who lack permission to be in the country and their relatives and supporters. Also present were elected officials, clergy and representatives of labour and women’s groups.

Participants carried signs with messages including “Resist Trump’s Hate” and “Tu, Yo, Todos Somos America,” which translates to “You, me, we all are America.”

“I stand here because I have nothing to apologise for. I am not ashamed of my status because it is a constant reminder to myself that I have something to fight for,” said Max Kim, 19, who was brought to the US from South Korea when he was 6 and lacks legal permission to stay in the country.

The Washington crowd urged Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress not to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, aimed at helping people like Kim who were brought to the country as children.

Michael Takada of the Japanese American Service Committee urged the Chicago audience to “disrupt the deportation machine” that he and others fear will ramp up under the new president. He also urged them to keep a close eye on their local police departments and speak out if they see those departments help “ICE to deport our community members.”

Dr Bassam Osman, chair and co-founder of The Council of Islamic Organisations of Greater Chicago, elicited one of the loudest cheers from the crowd when he called out the president-elect by name in an opening prayer: “Lord, this land is your land, it is not Trump’s land.”

While there was plenty of cheering, there was also uneasiness and fear of what’s to come after Trump is sworn in.

Rehab Alkadi, a 31-year-old mother of a young son who came to the United States four years ago from war-torn Syria, said she doesn’t believe she can be deported because “there is a war in Syria, but who knows. It’s so scary, what Trump says,” she said. “He said a lot of things bad about the Muslim people.”

In Los Angeles, Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said, “We put the Trump administration on notice that we’re not going to sit idly by while he destroys our community.”

Now the focus is on the next administration. As a candidate, Trump promised his supporters stepped-up deportations and a Mexican-funded border wall, but it is unclear which plans the celebrity businessman will act on first, and when. And many immigrants are fearful of the campaign rhetoric but less motivated to protest in the absence of specific actions.

Many participants said they would keep the pressure on Trump and said they planned to participate in next Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

“The threat of deportation is imminent for our communities,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of “United, We Dream,” one of the rally’s organisers. “We will keep fighting. We’re not going back into the shadows.”

Meanwhile, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan issued a stern parting rebuke to President-elect Donald Trump on the week he assumes the US presidency, warning him against absolving Russia for recent actions and to watch what he says.

“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests and so therefore when he speaks or when he reacts, just make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound,” Brennan said on Fox News Sunday.

“It’s more than just about Mr Trump. It’s about the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, Beijing warned the US that the One China policy was non-negotiable, after Donald Trump suggested he could abandon the decades-old diplomatic principle and boost ties with Taiwan.

“It is not up for negotiation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.

“There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable region of China and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China.”

Trump has threatened to get tough with what he sees as unfair Chinese trade practices, and suggested that the One China policy could become a bargaining chip.

“Everything is under negotiation, including One China,” he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published.

Trump has already irked China by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen after he won the presidential election, upending decades of diplomatic precedent in which the White House has foregone direct communication with the leader of Taiwan.

Beijing considers the island to be a breakaway province to be brought back within its fold, by force if necessary.

“We urge the relevant party in the United States to realise the extreme sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and to respect commitments made by previous American governments (and) avoid undermining the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations,” Lu Kang added.

Beijing first warned the US president-elect on the issue in December, after the billionaire businessman said he did not see why Washington must “be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade”.

The Asian giant said it could back “forces hostile to the US” if Trump followed through with his threats.

Trump also defended his controversial call with President Tsai in his interview with the Journal.

“We sold them $2 billion of military equipment last year. We can sell them $2 billion of the latest and greatest military equipment but we’re not allowed to accept a phone call,” he said.