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Trump Outlines Mideast Peace Plan That Strongly Favors Israel

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WASHINGTON — President Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan with a flourish on Tuesday, outlining a proposal that would give Israel most of what it has sought over decades of conflict while creating what he called a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.

Mr. Trump’s plan would guarantee that Israel would control a unified Jerusalem as its capital and not require it to uproot any of the settlements in the West Bank that have provoked Palestinian outrage and alienated much of the outside world. He promised to provide $50 billion in international investment to build the new Palestinian entity and open an embassy in its new state.

“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security,” the president said at a White House ceremony that demonstrated the one-sided state of affairs as he was flanked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel but no counterpart from the Palestinian leadership, which is not on speaking terms with the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump insisted his plan would be good for the Palestinians and in his speech reached out to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, calling on him to join talks to advance the proposal. “President Abbas,” he said, “I want you to know that if you choose the path to peace, America and many other countries, we will be there, we will be there to help you in so many different ways.”

The event in the East Room of the White House had a Kabuki-theater quality to it as Mr. Trump ended years of suspense over a highly anticipated peace plan. But rather than viewing it as a serious blueprint for peace, analysts called it a political document by a president in the middle of an impeachment trial working in tandem with a prime minister under criminal indictment and about to face his third election in the span of a year.

Nearly three years in the making and overseen by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the plan is the latest of numerous American efforts to settle the 70-plus-year conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it marked a sharp turn in the American approach, dropping decades of American support for only modest adjustments to Israeli borders drawn in 1967 and discarding the longtime goal of granting the Palestinians a full-fledged state.

The proposal imagines new Israeli borders that cut far into the West Bank, and, at least in the short term, calls for what Mr. Netanyahu has described as a Palestinian “state-minus,” lacking an army or air force. The White House called it “a demilitarized Palestinian state” with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River, although over time the Palestinians would assume more security responsibility.

Mr. Trump said it was the first time that Israel had authorized the release of such a conceptual map illustrating territorial compromises it would make. He said it would “more than double Palestinian territory” while ensuring that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.” The White House said in a fact sheet that Israel had agreed to “a four-year land freeze” to preserve the viability of a Palestinian state.

Mr. Netanyahu welcomed the plan, describing it as “a realistic path to a durable peace” that “strikes the right balance where others have failed.” Calling Mr. Trump the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, Mr. Netanyahu added: “It’s a great plan for Israel. It’s a great plan for peace.”

The new Palestinian state would have a capital, which the proposal called Al Quds, that would include some of the outer portions of East Jerusalem. The plan would preserve the status quo at the sprawling compound that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, or Al Aqsa, which is the name of one of two main Islamic shrines there. The location is the holiest place in Judaism and the third-holiest place in Islam, and the site of numerous clashes over the years. Muslims would continue to be permitted to visit Al Aqsa Mosque.

The Trump plan promises a $50 billion economic plan for the new Palestinian state that the White House claimed would create 1 million new jobs over 10 years, double the size of the Palestinian economy, cut poverty in half and reduce unemployment below 10 percent.

By asking the Palestinians to make far more territorial concessions than past proposals, though, Mr. Trump’s plan provided an American imprimatur of support to decades of aggressive Israeli settlement-building in Palestinian areas seized in two wars between Israel and Arab states. And it sent a grim message to the Palestinians that they have missed their chance to win the “two-state solution” they long pursued — as least so long as Mr. Trump is president.

Mr. Kushner and a small circle of Trump officials chose not to pursue the traditional path of brokering talks between the two parties that could lead to a joint proposal, but to hand one down from Washington. Peace-process veterans say that last happened under President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Working secretively, Mr. Kushner and his team — which included the American ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, a strong supporter of Israeli settlement construction — consulted closely with Mr. Netanyahu’s government. But their contact with Palestinian officials ended after Mr. Trump moved the United States embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in December 2017.

Rather than court the Palestinians after that, the Trump administration only increased pressure on them, cutting off American funding for Palestinian areas and shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

That dashed the initial hopes of Palestinians who believed that Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach toward foreign policy, and his love for a grand deal, could lead him to pressure Israel to a degree they felt previous American presidents had not.

In the near term, the 80-page plan is most likely to stir up Israeli and American politics. Mr. Trump is sure to cite the plan’s pro-Israel slant on the 2020 campaign trail to win support from conservative Jewish Americans in Florida and other key states, along with the Evangelical Christians who are some of his strongest backers and support Israeli expansion in the Holy Land.

While the Palestinians are nearly certain to reject the plan, Trump allies say they will be closely watching other Arab governments with whom Mr. Trump has established close relations and who have thawed relations with Israel, to see whether they might give the plan any political cover.



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Donald Trump in India: US president addresses massive India rally

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) embraces US President Donald Trump upon his arrival at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on February 24, 2020.Image copyright
Getty Images

US President Donald Trump has arrived to a thunderous reception in Gujarat on his first official visit to India.

Mr Trump is addressing a massive public rally with PM Narendra Modi at the Motera stadium, the world’s largest cricket venue.

More than 100,000 people present at the venue burst into applause as the two leaders entered.

Mr Trump’s visit will focus on deepening ties between the world’s two largest democracies.

The event at Motera stadium is being compared to the “Howdy, Modi!” event the two men held in Houston last year, which was attended by 50,000 people.

On his way to the stadium, Mr Trump participated in a 22km (13.5 miles) roadshow, as thousands of people lined the roads. Billboards along the route were emblazoned with pictures of the men and carry slogans such as “two dynamic personalities, one momentous occasion”.

He entered to the music of Elton John playing on the speakers. Mr Trump’s love of his songs is well documented.

The road show also featured performers from across the country, showcasing the arts from different Indian states.

Image caption

More than 100,000 people packed Motera stadium for the rally

Mr Trump earlier made a quick stop at the Sabarmati Ashram, where Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in Gujarat, lived for 13 years.

Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tried their hand at the charka or spinning wheel, which is used to spin cloth. Gandhi popularised the act as a form of protest against foreign-made cloth during India’s independence movement.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Mr and Mrs Trump tried their hand at spinning cloth, while Mr Modi (left) looked on

“To my great friend Prime Minister Modi, thank you for this wonderful visit,” Mr Trump wrote in the ashram visitor’s book.

Ahead of his visit, Mr Trump had said he was looking forward “to being with the people of India”.

“We are going to have many millions and millions of people. It’s a long trip. I get along very well with Prime Minister Modi. He is a friend of mine,” he said.

“I hear it’s going to be a big event… the biggest event they ever had in India.”

But amid the fanfare, a much-talked about trade deal is unlikely to happen during the visit.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTrump: ‘I look forward to being with the people of India’

What is at stake during this visit?

The US is one India’s most important trade partners, with bilateral trade totalling $142.6bn (£110.3bn) in 2018. The US had a $25.2bn goods and services trade deficit with India, its 9th largest trading partner in goods.

Despite growing political and strategic ties, there’s been tension over trade issues. Mr Trump has said India’s tariffs – taxes on imports – are “unacceptable”, and has described India as the “king” of tariffs.

In June 2019, the US ended preferential trade status for India, the largest beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) – a scheme that allows some goods to enter the US duty-free.

The move caused a diplomatic rift between the two countries after India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionModi to Trump: “My honour to introduce you to my family”

An official US report last year said India’s tariff rates on other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) remain “the highest of any major economy”.

The two sides have also differed over price controls on medical equipment and India’s new rules on data storage.

The trade deal was likely to resolve some of these issues. But just days before the visit, Mr Trump announced that he was “saving the big deal for later on”.

Reports say negotiations continued between the two sides until last week, but they were not able to reach a consensus on issues like the restoration of the GSP for Indian goods, and India agreeing to open some of its key markets for US goods.

The two sides are also expected to sign a clutch of other agreements relating to intellectual property rights, trade and homeland security.

In a clear sign of ever closer defence relations, India is expected to sign two big deals with the US to acquire 30 American defence helicopters – MH-60R Seahawk and AH-64E Apache – worth more than $2.6bn.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

A massive reception has been planned for Trump and Modi in Gujarat

Also, the US energy firm Westinghouse is expected to sign a new agreement with state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India for the supply of six nuclear reactors, according to Reuters news agency. The US has been discussing the sale of nuclear reactors to India since a 2008 landmark civil nuclear energy deal.



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Italy stocks set to plummet as virus prompts shutdown

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Italian stocks are set to plunge Monday morning as the euro zone’s third-largest economy grapples with the largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia.

European markets are set for sharp declines at the open as investors weigh up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak but not nearly as much as in Italy, where the FTSE MIB index is set to open 904 points lower at 23,835, according to IG.

There are widespread concerns over the spread of the virus in northern Italy; the country has now 152 confirmed cases and three deaths due to the virus, with a sharp spike in cases over the weekend.

The government has placed around a dozen towns in the north under quarantine with the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto — where the cities of Milan and Venice are located respectively — the focus of the rise in coronavirus cases. The regions make up around 30% of Italy’s economic output, while the majority of the quarantined towns are just south of the financial hub of Milan.

Schools, museums, universities and cinemas have been closed while other public events, including Serie A soccer matches, have been canceled. Milan’s opera house, La Scala, canceled performances and while Giorgio Armani’s fashion show went ahead as part of Milan Fashion Week, no buyers or media were present.

Venice’s world-famous Carnival, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, was due to end on Tuesday but was cut short on Sunday as the government introduced “urgent measures” to contain the virus, including restricting access in and out of affected areas.

A woman wear a protective mask in Venice, Italy, on February 23, 2020 due to concerns over coronavirus infection. The carnival was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

NurPhoto

Meanwhile, concerns over the virus and quarantine measures have prompted panic-buying with Twitter users showing various supermarkets in the north with empty shelves. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Monday that latex gloves, hand disinfectant gel and bleach products were in short supply as inhabitants sought to protect themselves.

Italy’s authorities have scrambled to contain the spread of the virus but the head of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, conceded Sunday that it was still trying to find “patient zero,” the first carrier of the virus in the country.

“We still cannot identify patient zero, so it’s difficult to forecast possible new cases,” Borrelli told a press conference. The World Health Organization is sending a special mission to Italy to try to track down more details on the source of the infections.

Paolo Gentiloni, European commissioner for the economy and a former prime minister of Italy, told CNBC Sunday that “there is absolutely no reason for panic.”

“There is a reason to have confidence in institutions and Italian authorities. They know the situation. They are taking the good measures. So the European Union is perfectly confident on what the Italians are doing. But I repeat, there is no reason for panic.”



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Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Submits Resignation Letter

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They were the strangest of political colleagues: a nonagenarian onetime autocrat and the former protégé he had jailed for sodomy.

Mahathir Mohamad, the 94-year-old prime minister of Malaysia, and his perennial presumptive heir, Anwar Ibrahim, joined forces in 2018 to oust a governing party to which both had once belonged. That party, the United Malays National Organization, known as UMNO, was at the center of the 1MDB scandal, the brazen looting of billions of dollars of Malaysia’s public funds.

But the unwieldy coalition that brought Mr. Mahathir and Mr. Anwar together crumbled on Monday, the latest twist in a caustic rivalry that goes back decades.

After a flurry of meetings that had political analysts feverishly analyzing whose car was pulling up in which driveway, Mr. Mahathir submitted his letter of resignation as prime minister on Monday afternoon.

The move, however, does not appear to be designed to result in Mr. Mahathir actually giving up leadership of Malaysia, a job that he has held twice.

If Malaysia’s constitutional monarch accepts the resignation letter, the two vying political blocs in the country both appear to support Mr. Mahathir continuing as prime minister — jilting Mr. Anwar.

“The wonderful thing for Mahathir is that it is impossible for him to lose because heads he wins, tails he wins,” said James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania.

It was a sleight of hand characteristic of Asia’s shrewdest veteran politician — and it left Mr. Anwar fuming, yet again, about a political elder who has repeatedly broken promises that he would eventually step aside to allow Mr. Anwar to become prime minister.

The realignment also raises questions about the future of political and economic overhauls in a country where Malay nationalist politics were promoted during Mr. Mahathir’s first term in office, from 1981 to 2003, and look to be gaining ground again.



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