Shimon Peres on Egypt: Learn from Gaza

Israeli President Shimon Peres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference in his resdency on February 01, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. Merkel has travelled to Israel with members of her cabinet in order to conduct joint government cabinet meetings with their Israeli counterparts. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

President reminds German chancellor that Hamas rose to power following democratic elections in Gaza, says ‘we must ensure that human rights are guaranteed in a real democracy’

Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / YNET) — President Shimon Peres met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his official residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The main issue on the agenda was the situation in Egypt following theviolent uprising.

The president warned the chancellor that “the world must learn from what happened in Gaza. Democracy begins with elections – but does not end with elections. Democracy is a civilization, and if you choose the wrong side you bring about the end of democracy. We must ensure that human rights are guaranteed in a real democracy.”

Peres reminded Merkel that Hamastook over Gaza following democratic elections. “The world saw what happened in Gaza when they pushed for democratic elections and a radical and dangerous movement, which won’t give the Gazans one day of democracy, rose to power.

Addressing the Iranian nuclear program, he said that “all options are on the table.”

The president thanked the German chancellor for “your clear stand on Iran and for trying to prevent any danger which is unnecessary to peace and the free world. Your voice is loud and clear and all options are open.”

He explained in the closed meeting that “Iran is trying to force an extreme religious hegemony on the Middle East and Islamic countries.”

Merkel said she agreed with Peres’ remarks on the Iranian threat, saying that this was a problem which threatened the entire world and not just Israel.

“Israel’s security is a global matter, not a bilateral matter,” she said, adding that “in light of the recent events, it’s time to speed up the peace process.”

She clarified that the Palestinian Authority’s leadership was strong. “I believe I have arrived in Israel at a very important time. Time is essential to guarantee that Israel remains an independent state within its borders. The concept of two states for two people cannot remain a statement – it must be seen on the ground.”


Jordan's king appoints new prime minister after protests

Marouf al-Bakhit attends a news conference after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (unseen) in Baghdad August 15, 2006. Credit: Reuters/Karim Kadim/Pool

Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – King Abdullah of Jordan, a close U.S. ally, Tuesday replaced his prime minister after protests over food prices and poor living conditions, naming a former premier with a military background to head the government.

A Jordanian official said the monarch officially accepted the resignation of Samir Rifai, a wealthy politician and former court adviser, and asked Marouf Bakhit to form a new cabinet.

Demonstrators inspired by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt had called for Rifai’s dismissal.

“(Bakhit) is a former general and briefly ambassador to Israel who has been prime minister before. He’s someone who would be seen as a safe pair of hands,” said Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East policy studies at London’s City University.

“I wouldn’t see it as a sign of liberalization. With his previous premiership, he talked the talk of reform but little actually happened,” she said.

Under fire from an enraged public over high food prices, Rifai announced wage increases two weeks ago to civil servants and the military in an attempt to restore calm.

Protests have spread across Jordan in the last few weeks, with demonstrators blaming corruption spawned by free-market reforms for the plight of the country’s poor.

Many Jordanians hold successive governments responsible for a prolonged recession and rising public debt that hit a record $15 billion this year in one of the Arab world’s smallest economies, heavily dependent on foreign aid.


Shimon Peres: 'Democracy is not only about elections'

Israeli President Shimon Peres shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a joint press conference in his resdency on February 01, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. Merkel has travelled to Israel with members of her cabinet in order to conduct joint government cabinet meetings with their Israeli counterparts. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / JPOST) — President Shimon Peres met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Beit Hanassi on Tuesday, where they discussed Egypt, peace talks, and the Iranian nuclear program.

During the meeting, Peres said that the world saw the results of democratic elections in Gaza, where Hamas was elected.

“Democracy can not start and end in elections only,” Peres said. “True democracy begins on the day after the elections, in granting human rights and concern for citizens’ welfare.

“If a religious extremist dictatorship rises the day after democratic elections, what are democratic elections worth?” Peres asked.

He added that Iran is working to “bring a religious extremist hegemony to the Middle East. The Iranian problem and international terror,” Peres explained, “is not an Israeli monopoly, but an international problem.”

Merkel told Peres that, now more than ever, it is important to accelerate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Peace between Israel and the Palestinians need to ensure Israel’s security, define borders of a Palestinian state, and solve core problems,” Merkel said.

She also agreed with Peres’ statement that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the entire world, and noted that she had arrived in Israel at a “historic moment.” She stressed that Israel’s security is a global matter and not a bilateral one, and that Germany would do whatever it can to guard Israel’s security and stability.  (*)

Jordan's King Dismisses Government Amid Protests

Jordan's Royal Palace says the king has sacked his government. Above, Jordanian protesters in Amman on Jan. 29. (Photo : AP)

AMMAN, Jordan, Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / WSJ) — Jordan’s Royal Palace says the king has sacked his government in the wake of street protests and has asked an ex-army general to form a new cabinet.

King Abdullah’s move comes after thousands of Jordanians took to the streets—inspired by the regime ouster in Tunisia and the turmoil in Egypt —and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms.

The Royal Palace says Mr. Rifai’s Cabinet resigned on Tuesday.

King Abdullah also nominated Marouf al-Bakhit as his prime minister-designate. No other details were immediately available.  (*)

Palestinians to hold municipal elections

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Feb 01 (KATAKAMI.COM / JPOST) — The Western-backed Palestinian government in the West Bank says it will hold local council elections “as soon as possible.”

The move appears to be a response to unrest in Egypt, where demonstrators have staged days of rallies against the authoritarian government. The Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s Cabinet said Tuesday it will set dates for the vote next week.

Fayyad hopes to hold elections in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But in reality, Gaza will likely not participate since it is controlled by the rival Hamas militant group.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled local elections in the West Bank in 2009 when it appeared that his Fatah movement would lose to independents.   (*)

Israel 'hopes for early stabilization' in Egypt

Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender


Feb 01 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Israel hopes the situation in Egypt will stabilize soon, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender said on Tuesday.

“Egypt is Israel’s foremost partner in the region,” she said. “So it is, without a doubt, important for our country that the political situation in Egypt stabilizes as soon as possible.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier expressed hope that the political crisis in Egypt would not affect the peace accords between the two states, and also warned about the threat of radical Islamists coming to power.

Thousands of opposition supporters are gathering on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square for a major demonstration seen as the biggest challenge so far to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak three-decade rule. The opposition has claimed the protest will involve a “million people” angered with Mubarak’s non-democratic policies and demanding major political reforms in the country.

Although sporadic clashes between protesters and supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party have been reported since the outbreak of the protests on January 25, the latter have so far refrained from large-scale demonstrations despite the fact that the ruling party involves some 3.5 million members.

The unrest in the country, which has already claimed the lives of at least 150 people and injured some 4,000, is likely to turn even more violent if clashes break out between Mubarak supporters and protesters.  (*)

Obama trying to stop anti-US demonstration in Egypt

President Barack Obama


Feb 01, Cairo (KATAKAMI.COM / ANTARA/IRNA-OANA) – The Obama administration is continuing lobbying with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his deputy Omar Suleiman to stop anti-US demonstrations in Egyptian cities including Cairo.

According to the latest reports available, Mubarak`s numerous sessions with ranking military officials as well as the direct contacts made by US President Barack Obama have been continuing till this morning to find any kind of way possible to prevent the millions-strong demonstrations from turning into a rally against the US and the Zionist regime.

The concern is due to reports by some Egyptian intelligence officials who said yesterday that there was a strong possibility of seeing the flags of the US and the Zionist regime torched during the Tuesday demonstrations by the Egyptian public.

There are also possibilities that the continuing unrest in the country would lead to attacks on the US embassy and American citizens by the angry crowds.

Political observers believe the Egyptian nation`s demonstration is rapidly gaining new dimensions and momentum giving rise to speculations that the preserving of the Mubarak regime is no longer a priority with the Washington officials.

The latest decisions by the US administration to evacuate its citizens from Egypt indicates the high concerns on the part of the US officials about the fact that the millions-strong demonstration in Egypt is adopting slogans against the US and Israel.

A Cairo citizen, introducing himself as Abdullah, said people have reached the conclusion that the US is stopping Mubarak from leaving his post and as such is confronting the will of the Egyptian nation.

Latest news from Cairo have it that the army commanders have been ordered to use violent methods against the public if demonstrations develop a new face by adopting anti-US moves.

Egypt, particularly during the Mubarak rule, has been a strategic US ally in the region.(*)


U.S. urges Egypt's Mubarak do more; envoy in Cairo

FILE : U.S. President Barack Obama meets with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak at the White House in Washington in this August 18, 2009 file photo. Obama on Sunday urged an "orderly transition" to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on Mubarak to step down but signaling that his days may be numbered. REUTERS/Jim Young/Files


Feb 01 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – The United States urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday to do more than name a new government in response to mass protests and sent an envoy to Cairo to reinforce the message.

Former U.S. ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner was on the ground in Cairo as U.S. officials sought to bring pressure on Mubarak without openly calling on him to step down.

Officials said the Egyptian government needs a path to a credible presidential election in September as part of an “orderly transition.” Also needed are a lifting of emergency law and negotiations with a broad cross-section of Egyptians, including opposition groups, they said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wisner “has the opportunity to gain a perspective on what they’re thinking and what their ideas are in terms of process that we’ve clearly called for.”

Still walking a diplomatic tightrope, the White House insisted President Barack Obama was not calling on Mubarak to step down after a week of street protests against him and said it was up to the Egyptian people to decide their own future.

Still, the United States has started to think about the long-term implications of the protests and scenarios for what might come next, according to an analyst who was present at a White House meeting on the subject.

Obama has voiced concerns to aides that any U.S. effort to insert itself into the situation could backfire.

After a weekend in which Mubarak named a new vice president but still clung to power, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “This is not about appointments, it’s about actions.”

“Obviously there is more work to be done. … The way Egypt looks and operates must change,” Gibbs said.

The White House said Vice President Joe Biden called King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain on Monday and reiterated the strong U.S. focus on opposing violence and support for human rights, free speech and an orderly transition to a government responsive to the Egyptian people’s Aspirations.

As the crisis led to an surge in crude oil prices, a U.S. lawmaker called on the White House to set aside its delicate balancing act and call on Mubarak to step down.

“While initially it may have been prudent for the Obama administration to walk that rhetorical tight rope to keep the confidence of regional leaders, that moment has surely passed,” said Democratic Representative Gary Ackerman.

Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress who attended a meeting with White House national security aides and outside analysts on Monday, said the administration was thinking about what will happen next.

“They were very focused on … some of the longer term consequences, not only in Egypt but also the consequences this may have on the region,” he said.

The problem for U.S. policymakers is: who would replace Mubarak, a stalwart ally for 30 years? They fear the possibility of radical Muslims taking over in a country of paramount strategic importance to Washington.

Stephen Grand, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, said U.S. officials “seem to have in mind a managed transition that avoids the creation of a vacuum that extremist elements might exploit.”

“This could mean the creation of a caretaker government that oversees the rewriting of the constitution and the holding of free and fair elections,” he said.

The crisis is taking its toll on oil markets.

Brent crude oil futures surged to $101 a barrel, a 28-month high, as anxieties rose that protests in Egypt could spark instability across the Middle East and disrupt oil shipments through the Suez Canal.

U.S. stocks rose as investors focused on the expanding U.S. economy and rising earnings, satisfied the situation in Egypt would not escalate into widespread violence or turmoil. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed up 0.77 percent, at 1,286.12.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s energy panel, warned on Monday that the escalating protests in Egypt could affect U.S. access to affordable energy supplies.

Egypt’s Suez Canal allows the transport of crude oil and liquefied natural gas bound for the U.S. and other countries.

National security aides at the White House were monitoring the effect the unrest and uncertainty in Egypt may have on oil and financial markets. Gibbs said no disruptions had been reported in the Suez Canal.  (*)




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