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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu: Will annex West Bank settlements if re-elected




Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would extend the country’s sovereignty over parts of the West Bank if re-elected in the April 9 legislative polls, a major policy shift that would stir Arab opposition.

Just three days before Israelis vote on whether he should get a fifth term, Netanyahu said on Saturday that he was contemplating moves that would upend decades of the nation’s policy acknowledging that the lands it seized in the 1967 war would be part of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, Efe news reported.

The Prime Minister’s apparent push to cement control over the West Bank comes in the wake of victories in getting the US to acknowledge Jerusalem as the country’s capital and its sovereignty over the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967 as Israeli territory.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has become more strident in speaking about lands seized, saying territory taken in a defensive war need not be returned.

On Saturday, an Israeli Channel 12 interviewer asked Netanyahu why, with the broad consensus of Israel’s right wing over the sovereignty for the settlements, he hadn’t annexed or placed Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank during four years of leading a right-wing government.

“We are on the way; we are in discussions about it and other things… Everyone understands the next term will be fateful,” he said.

Netanyahu went further, contradicting previous American-led peace plans that would have allowed Israel to negotiate the annexation of large settlement blocs but not smaller isolated settlements that would break up the continuity of an eventual Palestinian state.

“I am going to apply Israeli sovereignty, but I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements.”

Israeli sovereignty would ensure that Israeli civil law applies in its settlements there, while annexing them would claim the territory outright.

Netanyahu is trying to marshal his right-wing base, as his party, Likud, is in a tight race with a coalition led by his former army chief of staff, Benny Gantz, and trails him in most recent polls.

Right-wing parties are doing well enough that the prime minister could still be in position to form a government, but the election is expected to be close.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that there were “two good people” running in Israel’s coming election and that the race would be tight.

Israel already controls the West Bank militarily, allowing Palestinians a limited form of autonomy in a few densely populated pockets. Applying Israeli sovereignty and civil law or annexing territory outright would be fiercely opposed by the nearly 3 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank as well as much of the Arab world.

Netanyahu previously had backed resolving settlements’ fate in final status discussions, though in recent years has said he won’t support the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israelis have grown accustomed to viewing Israeli settlements as part of their country. Polls show about half of Jewish Israelis no longer support a Palestinian state.

The Trump administration is expected to release its peace plan shortly after the Israeli elections, and little is known about it. The Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the President understands Israel’s need to maintain security control over the West Bank.

The premier has made last minute election policy shifts before.

In 2015, he came out against a Palestinian state just days before the vote, when polls suggested that he was trailing Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog.

International News

WHO acknowledges Dharavi’s success over Covid-19



In a major to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation and Maharashtra government’s morale, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has lauded their success over the Covid-19 outbreak in Dharavi – Asia’s largest slum.

WHO Director-General Tedros A. Ghebreyesus, at a press conference late on Friday, referred to the achievements made in the Dharavi among other similar examples globally.

“Even in Dharavi, a densely packed area in Mumbai, a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission, and suppressing the virus,” Ghebreyesus said.

In this context, he pointed out that there are many, many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the Covid-19 outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control, as in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy, Spain and South Korea.

Responding quickly, the BMC said: “Thank You, WHO for acknowledging #Mission Dharavi where it partnered with citizens to ‘Chase the Virus’ from one of the most populous blocks of the city”.

“With your guidelines and Mumbai’s community efforts, we will beat Covid-19 one block at a time by Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating,” the BMC’s return tweet said.

Ghebreyesus also stressed the need for community participation and collective solidarity – akin to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s appeal two days ago for forming Corona Vigilance Committees right down to the village levels, and asking NGOs to adopt Mumbai slums with public partnership to beat the Coronavirus.

Reacting to the WHO DG’s comments, Health Minister Rajesh Tope admitted that “we have worked very hard from day one along with the people of Dharavi” and even in Malegaon, Nashik, and now the results are showing in both places.

“It was an aggressive fight, surveillance of the population, early detection of symptoms, isolation in government quarantine centres in a huge way, all precautions like fogging the area regularly, disinfecting public toilets repeatedly daily, starting fever clinics, providing portable chest x-ray machines, temperature guns, etc, even in Malegaon,” Tope told IANS.

He said that in both places, “we have managed to flatten the curve, we don’t expect it to worsen any further, but we also can’t take chances so will continue to remain vigilant”.

Education Minister and MLA from Dharavi Varsha Gaikwad said she was “proud of all Dharavians.. as today they have set an example for the world.

“WHO has recognized and praised our efforts against this war (vis-A-vis) Corona… Let’s keep up the good work and we will fight in the strongest way,” a thrilled Gaikwad tweeted.

The WHO head also cautioned that from countries where there is exponential growth to places that are loosening restrictions, are “now starting to see cases rise”.

For this, Ghebreyesus assured that WHO will continue to work with partners to ensure that the poorest and most marginalized are prioritized.

“That means restarting routine immunization and ensuring that medical supplies reach health workers across the worlda Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn the Covid-19 pandemic around,” Ghebreyesus asserted.

After the success in Dharavi — chronicled in a series of reports by IANS over the past three months — the model is being replicated in north Mumbai where there has been a huge spike in recent weeks with a public-private-partnership.

However, both Maharashtra and Mumbai have a long way to go yet as the state has 9,893 deaths and 238,461 cases while Mumbai stands at 5,205 fatalities and 90,461 cases till date.

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International News

Donald Trump expected to refile paperwork to end DACA program



US President Donald Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that offers protections for thousands of young immigrants and work lawfully.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hinted in an interview on Monday that the President was readying executive action on immigration issues, but he did not offer specifics, reports Xinhua news agency.

The US Supreme Court, which ruled last month that the Trump administration failed to give an adequate justification for terminating the program as required by federal law, made clear that the President had the authority to rescind the program.

“We have to refile,” the President told Fox News days after the ruling.

“And everything’s going to work out for DACA and the young people, who aren’t so young, if you want to know the truth.”

DACA was established via an administrative memo in 2012 when Barack Obama was in office.

The Trump administration in 2017 rescinded DACA, which shields certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation.

The move was a central feature of the President’s initial efforts to restrict immigration upon taking office, The Hill news website said in a report on Monday.

Trump’s 2017 rescission of the program gave Congress six months to create a statutory replacement for DACA, while shutting down new applications and renewals, but without prematurely ending the two-year permits granted by the program.

It was unlikely that a new rescission would abruptly end benefits for current DACA recipients.

Trump has in recent weeks turned to immigration issues to appeal to his core supporters as he scuffles in polls, analysts observed.

If the Trump administration refiles this week, the new DACA policy will coincide with the official visit of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Mexico is the country of origin for a majority of DACA recipients.

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International News

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tests COVID-19 positive



Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but was feeling “strong and energetic”.

In a tweet on Friday, Qureshi said that he had a slight fever earlier on Friday and had immediately quarantined himself at home, reports Dawn news.

“I have now tested positive for COVID-19… I feel strong and energetic. I will continue to carry on my duties from home…”

Several politicians, including members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have been diagnosed with the virus over the past few months as it continues to spread in Pakistan.

Prominent political leaders who have contracted the virus so far include National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, PPP leader Saeed Ghani and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, all of whom have recovered.

In June, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had also tested positive for the virus.

Former Balochistan governor Syed Fazal Agha, PTI Punjab MPA Shaheen Raza, Sindh Minister for Human Settlements Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, MNA Munir Khan Orakzai and PTI’s Mian Jamshedud Din Kakakhel are among politicians who passed away after contracting the virus.

Pakistan, one of the worst hit South Asian countries, has so far reported 221,896 COVID-19 cases, with 4,551 deaths.

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