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Yes, it is historic, but it is only an illusion of the peace President Trump vowed he’d deliver.

Back in January this year Trump announced the contours of what he called his Vision for Peace — officially known as Peace for Prosperity. Palestinians boycotted it denouncing it as money for land, in their view giving up territory in return for promises of improved business prospects, while Israel threatened to take the land regardless.

In recent years, Trump had raised expectations of a breakthrough Palestinian-Israeli deal, and with it, the prospect of an even more precipitous fall if it failed.

The new agreement is implicit recognition that Trump’s original peace plan is dead, yet it revives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political fortunes.

Netanyahu gets what he wants, decades of Arab intransigence to a deal on Israel’s terms is crumbling, at little or no cost.

The Israeli PM’s impulse to annex swaths of Israeli occupied West Bank land could have been the match to ignite tinder dry tensions, torching Palestinian aspirations for their own viable state. For now, the UAE appears to have dampened that prospect.

The joint statement states “As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s erudite Minister of State for Foreign Affairs defines the agreement’s success, in part, as “Israel’s commitment to stop the annexation of Palestinian lands, which will preserve the two-state solution.”

At first read, the agreement sounds rock-solid, but kick the tires and the threat of escalation has only been moved down the road a little. The clue is in the word “suspend.”

The architect of the agreement, Kushner, described it thus, “I believe they [Israel] will not take action to move forward unless we have an understanding between America and Israel that it’s the right action at the right time.”

When asked when that might be his reply could as well have been, how long is a piece of string? Saying, “Somewhere between a long time and a short time, that’s what temporary means.”

Netanyahu has no doubts, temporary means temporary.

“We received a request to wait temporarily from President Trump. It is a temporary postponement. It is not removed from the table, I am telling you that,” he said. He is also a skilled political operator playing to a domestic audience, annexation is less an immediate goal, more a manipulation to turn negotiations in his favor.

Gargash appears to hint that the UAE is playing for time, possibly calculating if temporary runs to the November US elections, “we think there is a never a right time, never a right moment, but at the same time if we really get this commitment it will be like diffusing a time bomb on the two state solution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no doubts that temporary means temporary.

So the timing works for the UAE — kind of — but why now for the others?

Both Trump and maybe Netanyahu face elections and need votes. And both are running out of time to cement a legacy, to shore up their otherwise relatively controversial records in office. Netanyahu has a corruption trial hanging over his head, Trump’s legal troubles are likely coming too.

In the deal Trump, and the UAE, have handed Netanyahu the means to bury his misdemeanors under a veneer of success opening the lucrative Arab market to Israel’s high tech and security.

Look no further than the second paragraph of the joint statement for the mutual back slapping and clues to the hyping of the event, “This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region.”

It was only yesterday one of Trump’s National Security advisors, Robert O’Brien, opined Trump deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.

Well why not, his predecessor Barack Obama got one and this is one piece of Obama’s legacy that Trump hasn’t been able to deconstruct — the next best thing is to get one himself.

Israel and the UAE establish 'full normalization of relations'

And what about the OTHER party whom if they were at the table could make this a truly historic moment of profound regional significance, the Palestinians.

In short, they feel sold out, again. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas labeling the deal “an aggression on the Palestinian people” and “a betrayal of Jerusalem.”

His hard-line Palestinian rivals Hamas are equally dismissive, saying: “We strongly condemn, in all possible ways, normalization with Israel, which is considered a stab in the back to the Palestinian cause”.

The reality though, even while Gargash says they’ve kept alive the possibility of a Palestinian state that would have been extinguished had Netanyahu followed through on his threat to annex chunks of the West Bank, the Emirates has re-bolded the writing on the Arab wall. Palestinians don’t conjure the regional support they once did and that means the Gulf states — who help bank roll the Palestinians — are running out of patience.

This deal reaffirms a Gulf view that Palestinian leaders are perceived as the problem, or rather their failure to clean corruption, and negotiate is the problem, albeit their counterpart for talks for the past decade, Netanyahu is not a palatable negotiating partner. Even when they play by the rules, the perception in Palestinian homes is that the deck is always stacked against them, precisely what this agreement amply reinforces.

Progressively weakened by division and radicalism, the Palestinians’ standing is shakier than it used to be. So when they cry foul they may be right, the UAE has kicked them in the shins.

What remains to be seen, is whether it’s a “pay attention” kick, as in wake up and smell the coffee, or if it is designed to fell this generation of Palestinian leaders.

Gargash isn’t talking about turning off the money tap, but he is hinting at it.

“We are committed to seeing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital of that, that is our political commitment. But on the other hand, I think we as part of our world we have been a big supporter historically of the Palestinians politically financially and otherwise,” he said.

So is it a good deal?

Gargash’s “time bomb” was ticking on them too. Witness the near calamitous backlash to Trump’s killing of Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani in January this year.

The stakes in the region are high, Iraq is less than stable, there is a war in Syria, Lebanon is in political freefall, Yemen’s war grinds on and infused in all of it an Iranian foreign policy that seeks to scuttle stability and push already sky-high tensions with the US further towards crisis.

If all that weren’t enough to encourage the UAE towards compromise on what is a monumental step for them, then the threat of economic carnage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic ratcheting regional fragility to even greater heights certainly is.

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For Trump, who lives by short-term political sells, the agreement is still only intent, nothing but hot political air until the signing in three weeks.

The test will be traction on the promise of bilateral deals to be signed on “investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment” turning in to tangible results.

Netanyahu has fewer worries now, the hitherto immovable object of Arab opposition to Israel’s terms has shifted, and Trump says more Arab states will come on board.

Even if you are Palestinian, the agreement is better than drowning, but only marginally.

And how long can all sides keep treading water? That could depend on the American electorate and a president with the acumen, energy and passion to make a real difference, and if that’s lacking, then treading water will work out just fine for Netanyahu.

Does anyone come out ahead?

The UAE has certainly diplomatically upstaged its bigger regional partner Saudi Arabia. And has gained some, albeit temporary, leverage over regional security, while maintaining some independence of Trump’s hawkish policies on Iran.

And whatever opprobrium the UAE gets from Palestinians the Arab street isn’t in firmament so costs on that are low.

Ultimately the deal is only as strong as the benefits all parties get, and yet again with Trump in office, Netanyahu appears to have bagged the lion’s share of those.

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Trump’s ex-Russia adviser Fiona Hill: US increasingly seen as ‘object of pity’

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“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Fiona Hill, who was a witness in the Trump impeachment hearings, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Tuesday during the Citizen by CNN 2020 conference. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Asked whether the US is still seen as a model, Hill replied, “Unless we get our domestic act together, no.”

Her comments come on the heels of a recent Pew Research Center survey among 13 nations that found America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among its key allies, with part of the decline linked to the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill, who was a national security adviser until she left the administration last summer, told CNN on Tuesday.

She said it’s the “bungled handling of Covid, on top of race relations, on top of our political polarization and the spectacles that we’re presenting to the outside world is what’s really pushing all of this.”

Hill said it would be “difficult” for NATO to survive under a second term of President Donald Trump, adding that the US needs to “revitalize our commitment to NATO.”

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she said.

During congressional hearings in the 2019 impeachment inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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House hits pause on spending vote as Hill leaders resume talks

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Both Democrats and Republicans are eager to reach a deal to avert last-minute drama, though the two parties have squabbled for weeks over various funding and policy provisions in the continuing resolution, which would buy more time for negotiations on a broader spending deal.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, though he did not comment when asked if he’d spoken with Pelosi.

Without a spending agreement, top Democrats and Republicans would find themselves exactly where they don’t want to be just weeks before the election — perilously close to the Sept. 30 deadline with no agreement to keep the government open.

A deal had appeared to be coming together on Friday, including tens of billions of dollars in farmer payments that Republicans sought in exchange for $2 billion in pandemic-related nutritional assistance that Democrats wanted.

But last-minute objections to the trade relief — including Democratic concerns that the president is leveraging the money to boost his reelection chances — tanked the talks. House Democrats ultimately released stopgap legislation on Monday that lacked both provisions, drawing the ire of McConnell, who tweeted that it “shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need.”

Both Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding yet another government shutdown under President Donald Trump, and have supported a bill to extend funding through mid-December.

Senate Republicans on Monday said a lack of relief for farmers in the stopgap spending bill is problematic. But most stressed that it’s not worth shutting down the government in protest and said their side of the Capitol could still attempt to amend the bill.

“We could offer an amendment to try to put it back,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the trade aid on Monday. “Or we could vote against the CR. But I’m for running the government. I’d prefer to keep the government running.”

Asked if Republicans would be willing to spend more on food-related assistance in exchange for the farm aid, Shelby said Tuesday: “I’d listen to reason on that.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, slammed the lack of assistance for farmers. But when asked if Republicans would shut down the government without it, he replied, “No.”

As of Friday, Democrats had dropped a request that would extend the Census Bureau’s Dec. 31 deadline to turn over apportionment data used to divvy up House seats to the president — potentially punting the final handling of census data to Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he’s elected this November. Democrats had also failed to secure $3.6 billion in election security grants.

The GOP demands for farm aid, however, have emerged as a sticking point for many rank-and-file Democrats, who have been increasingly irate about Trump’s blatant use of farm aid for political purposes. That includes a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wis., last week, where Trump touted the taxpayer money as if it were a gift from him.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 4 Senate Democrat and ranking member of the agriculture committee, this week criticized Trump’s use of the program as a “slush fund” and argued Republicans have been unwilling to agree to stricter guardrails around how the aid can be spent.

“This is not just a political fund for the election,” she said.

Helena Bottemiller Evich contributed to this report.

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Nicola Sturgeon Has Banned Household Mixing In Scotland And Claimed English Measures Do Not Go Far Enough

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)


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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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