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Netanyahu formally indicted in court on corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been formally indicted in court on corruption charges after he withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu was in Washington for meetings with US President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Trump’s long-delayed US-Israeli “peace” plan for the Middle East when Israel’s attorney-general filed the charges…

Netanyahu formally indicted in court on corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been formally indicted in court on corruption charges after he withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Netanyahu was in Washington for meetings with US President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Trump’s long-delayed US-Israeli “peace” plan for the Middle East when Israel’s attorney-general filed the charges in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday.
Earlier, Netanyahu said he was withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, paving the way for a trial to begin.
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister issued a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, saying the immunity proceedings in parliament would have been a “circus” and he did not want to take part in a “dirty game”.
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“I informed the Knesset speaker that I am withdrawing my immunity request,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, had been set to convene to discuss the formation of a committee to debate the prime minister’s request for immunity from prosecution on Tuesday.
The Knesset was widely expected to reject the request, which would have dealt Netanyahu a blow ahead of a parliamentary election scheduled for March 2 – the third national vote in less than a year. Netanyahu’s Likud party was planning to boycott the session.
His retraction paves the way for legal proceedings against him to go forward. A trial could take months or years and the 70-year-old leader is under no legal obligation to resign.
Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust over allegations that he granted state favours worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli media barons in return for gifts and favourable coverage.
He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media and the political left aiming to remove a popular right-wing leader.
The prime minister’s political opponents made his legal troubles a focus of their campaigns in the previous two elections last year.
‘Netanyahu hates to be the loser’
The prime minister’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White alliance, said in a statement: “Netanyahu is going to trial – we must go forward.”
“Nobody could run a country and simultaneously manage three serious criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” he added.
Akiva Eldar, an Israeli columnist at Al-Monitor, said Netanyahu had no choice but to withdraw his immunity request as he lacked sufficient support in parliament.
“Netanyahu hates to be the loser. He wanted the immunity and he wasn’t able to get it. He stood no chance. He doesn’t have a majority in the Knesset to get the immunity,” Eldar said.
The Knesset was still expected to assemble despite Netanyahu’s withdrawal of his request to form the committee, which will also address former welfare minister Haim Katz’s request for immunity from prosecution in his own corruption cases.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties in the Israeli parliament, said “the path to trial is paved and no diplomatic public relations stunt in the world” would prevent him from being brought to justice.
Netanyahu could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
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UAE formally ends Israel boycott amid U.S.-brokered deal

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The ruler of the United Arab Emirates issued a decree Saturday formally ending the country’s boycott of Israel amid a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries. The announcement now allows trade and commerce between the UAE, home to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, and Israel,…

UAE formally ends Israel boycott amid U.S.-brokered deal

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The ruler of the United Arab Emirates issued a decree Saturday formally ending the country’s boycott of Israel amid a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries.

The announcement now allows trade and commerce between the UAE, home to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and tech start-ups.

The announcement further cements the Aug 13 deal opening up relations between the two nations, which required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians. But Palestinians so far have criticized the accord as undercutting one of its few bargaining chips with Israelis in moribund peace negotiations.

The state-run WAM news agency said the decree formally ending the boycott came on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates’ leader.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM said. It lays out “a road map toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decree. “This is an important step toward advancing peace and prosperity in the region,” he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement the UAE decision “is an important step towards peace, which will yield substantial economic and commercial achievements for both people while strengthening the stability in the region.”

Already, some Israeli firms had signed deals with Emirati counterparts. But the repeal of the law widens the likelihood of other joint ventures, such as in aviation or in banking and finance.

Dubai International Airport, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates, has been the world’s busiest for international travel for years. The Dubai International Financial Center also hosts major firms who trade in the hours between Asian and European markets. Dubai already has a major gold market and growing diamond trade.

Emirati firms likely also want to access Israeli technological know-how. Some already had even before the deal – with the cybersecurity firm DarkMatter reportedly hiring Israeli military-trained hackers.

On Monday, the first direct commercial flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al is expected in Abu Dhabi, carrying U.S. and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Telephone calls already can be made between the nations.

The decree formally eliminates a 1972 law on the UAE’s books since just after the country’s formation. That law mirrored the widely held stance by Arab nations at that time that recognition of Israel would only come after the Palestinians had an independent state of their own.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, criticized the UAE’s decree Saturday as undercutting the efforts of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Israel has accused BDS activists of seeking to delegitimize its existence.

“While #BDS is proving to be an effective tool of peaceful resistance & responsible, ethical investment & consumer responsibility to hold Israel to account, this happens!” Ashrawi wrote on Twitter.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group governing the Gaza Strip since seizing it in 2007, has reiterated its rejection of the UAE-Israel deal and the ending of the boycott.

The decree “boosts the normalization with the Israeli occupation and legitimizes it on the Palestinian land,” Hamas official Bassem Naim said.

The decree shows the UAE’s eagerness to advance ties and maximize its potential benefits such as trade amid an economic slowdown, said Elham Fakhro, the senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“The decision sends a clear message that the UAE is committed to its decision to normalize relations with Israel,” Fakhro said. “It does also raise questions about possible repercussions for anyone in the country calling for the boycott of Israeli goods, now that doing so contradicts the state policy.”

The UAE is becoming the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to currently have diplomatic relations with Israel. However, while widespread public distrust of Israel persists in those nations, the UAE never fought a war against Israel, nor did it have a historic Jewish population.

In recent years, the UAE has held quiet talks with Israel and allowed Israelis with second passports into the country for trade and talks. Opening ties may also help the Emirates access advanced American weaponry, like the F-35 fighter jet that right now only Israel flies in the Mideast.

Sheikh Khalifa has ruled the UAE since 2004. He suffered a stroke on Jan. 24, 2014, and underwent emergency surgery. He has been rarely seen since in public, though state media typically publishes images of him around Islamic holidays.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has served as the UAE’s day-to-day ruler since Sheikh Khalifa’s stroke. Sheikh Mohammed has focused on increasing the Emirates’ military might amid his suspicions of Iran – an enmity shared by Israel.

While Sheikh Khalifa holds the title of president, the UAE is governed by autocratic sheikhs. Abu Dhabi, as the country’s oil-rich capital, has grown increasingly powerful since the UAE’s founding in 1971 despite each sheikhdom largely governing its own affairs.

The decree comes after a trip through the Mideast in recent days by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hoped to build on the UAE-Israel deal.

The accord also came as a major foreign policy win to Trump as he campaigns ahead of the November election against Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Both Israel and the UAE have viewed the Republican president as an ally.

___

Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

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Democrats

US Democrats formally nominate Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump |NationalTribune.com

The Democrats in the United States have formally nominated Joe Biden as their presidential candidate, designating the veteran leader as their challenger to President Donald Trump in the November election. In a virtual roll call vote on Tuesday, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all 50 US states and seven territories announced their tallies endorsing Biden.…

US Democrats formally nominate Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump |NationalTribune.com

The Democrats in the United States have formally nominated Joe Biden as their presidential candidate, designating the veteran leader as their challenger to President Donald Trump in the November election.
In a virtual roll call vote on Tuesday, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all 50 US states and seven territories announced their tallies endorsing Biden.
“Well, thank you very, very much, from the bottom of my heart,” a beaming Biden said in a live video link as he celebrated the nomination.
“It means the world to me and my family,” he added, reminding viewers he will deliver a formal acceptance speech on Thursday at the conclusion of the four-day Democratic National Convention.
Biden’s nomination was a formality as he had already won the majority of the more than 3,900 delegates back in June.
Jill Biden makes the case for husband
After Biden formally became a nominee, his wife, Jill Biden, addressed the nation for the first time as the prospective first lady.
Jill, who holds a doctorate in education, gave impassioned remarks about the closure of schools across the US and the loss of lives due to the pandemic.
She recounted her life with Joe in the aftermath of the death of his first wife and daughter in a car crash in 1972 and testified to his strength of character following his son Beau’s death from cancer in 2018.
“There are those who want to tell us that our country is hopelessly divided, that our differences are reconcilable but that is not what I see over these last few months,” Jill said.
“We just need leadership worthy or our nation and worthy of you, honest leadership to bring us back together to recover from this pandemic and prepared for whatever else is next.”
After her remarks, Joe called his wife: “The love of my life and the rock of our family.”

❤️ pic.twitter.com/wNLkBpx69P
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 19, 2020

Ex-presidents rally for Biden
The convention included presentations by Democrats, including former Presidents Jimmy Carter, 95, and Bill Clinton, 74.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command centre. Instead, it’s a storm centre. There’s only chaos,” Clinton said.
“Just one thing never changes – his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame,” he said. “The buck never stops there.”
Barack Obama will speak on Wednesday along with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
Russia investigation
On the day the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 1,000-page report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Democrats John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, and Sally Yates, a former deputy attorney general, criticised Trump’s unwillingness to address the issue.
“Donald Trump pretends Russia didn’t attack our elections,” Kerry said. “And now, he does nothing about Russia putting a bounty on our troops. So he won’t defend our country… The only person he’s interested in defending is himself.”
The Republican-led Senate committee report found that the FBI had ample cause to open an investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Ex-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said Trump began his attack on US institutions when he imposed a ban on travel from Muslim nations [Democratic National Convention/Pool via Reuters]

The report found that former campaign manager Paul Manafort, now serving a jail term for fraud, shared sensitive Trump campaign polling data with a Russian agent and was a counterintelligence threat.
Yates, who served as acting US Attorney General in the early days of the Trump administration, had warned the Trump White House about contacts with Russia in 2016-2017.
“From the moment President Trump took office, he has used his position to benefit himself rather than our country,” Yates said.
Trump claimed Obama and Biden directed US agencies to spy on his campaign in 2016 and denied coordinating with Russia, calling the Democratic allegations a “hoax”.
Republicans endorse Biden

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is among dozens of former national security officials who are lining up to support Joe Biden in November’s election [File: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters]

For a second night, the Democrats featured Republicans.
Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W Bush and appeared at multiple Republican conventions in past years, endorsed Biden.
“Our country needs a commander in chief who takes care of our troops in the same way he would his own family. For Joe Biden, that doesn’t need teaching,” he said.
Powell said he learned the same values “growing up in the South Bronx” that Biden did growing up in Scranton, a blue-collar city in northeastern Pennsylvania.
A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military position in the US, Powell’s support for Biden is likely to sway the votes of military personnel and their families concerned about national security.
A number of former Bush administration officials and military leaders have already formed a group to back Biden in the November election.

Late Senator John McCain was awarded the 2017 Liberty Medal by former Vice President Joe Biden at Independence Hall in Philadelphia [File: Charles Mostoller/Reuters]

In addition to Powell, Cindy McCain, the widow of late Senator John McCain, provided her voice for a video that aired during Tuesday’s convention featuring Biden and McCain’s friendship.
The two were members of the Senate together for 20 years before Biden became Obama’s vice president.
While McCain publicly supported Trump as the Republican nominee in 2016, their relationship behind the scenes was strained, with Trump being dismissive of McCain’s record as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
With the convention, the Democrats hope Biden will get a boost in opinion polls, which show him ahead of Trump by an average of 50.2 percent to 42.5 percent, according to a survey by RealClearPolitics.com.
Next week, the Republicans will hold their convention to officially endorse President Trump’s bid to stay in power for another term.
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