SINCE THE RAPTURE OCCURS BEFORE THE FUTURE 7 YR TREATY IS SIGNED, I WONT BE AROUND TO HAVE THE ACTUAL TREATY SIGNING. BUT UNTIL THEN THIS SITE IS DEDICATED TO THE BEGININGS OF THE ISRAELI / ARAB PEACE PROCESS. AND AS CLOSE TO THE 7 YEAR SIGNING THAT WE GET BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE SAVED TO HEAVEN. UNTIL WE MEET JESUS IN THE CLOUDS BODILY, AND COME TO EARTH 7 YRS LATER.

Monday, December 18, 2017

THE USELESS UN WANTS TO STEAL JERUSALEM BACK FROM ISRAEL WITH A RESOLUTION. BUT THANK YOU JESUS FOR LEADING NIKKI HALEY TO PROTECT ISRAEL

JEWISH KING JESUS IS COMING AT THE RAPTURE FOR US IN THE CLOUDS-DON'T MISS IT FOR THE WORLD.THE BIBLE TAKEN LITERALLY- WHEN THE PLAIN SENSE MAKES GOOD SENSE-SEEK NO OTHER SENSE-LEST YOU END UP IN NONSENSE.GET SAVED NOW- CALL ON JESUS TODAY.THE ONLY SAVIOR OF THE WHOLE EARTH - NO OTHER. 1 COR 15:23-JESUS THE FIRST FRUITS-CHRISTIANS RAPTURED TO JESUS-FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT-23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.ROMANS 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.(THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE)

LUKE 21:28-29
28 And when these things begin to come to pass,(ALL THE PROPHECY SIGNS FROM THE BIBLE) then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption (RAPTURE) draweth nigh.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree,(ISRAEL) and all the trees;(ALL INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES)
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.(ISRAEL LITERALLY BECAME AND INDEPENDENT COUNTRY JUST BEFORE SUMMER IN MAY 14,1948.)

JOEL 2:3,30
3 A fire devoureth (ATOMIC BOMB) before them;(RUSSIAN-ARAB-MUSLIM ARMIES AGAINST ISRAEL) and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.(ATOMIC BOMB AFFECT)

ZECHARIAH 14:12-13
12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet,(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB) and their eyes shall consume away in their holes,(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB) and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.(DISOLVED FROM ATOMIC BOMB)(BECAUSE NUKES HAVE BEEN USED ON ISRAELS ENEMIES)(GOD PROTECTS ISRAEL AND ALWAYS WILL)
13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.(1/2-3 BILLION DIE IN WW3)(THIS IS AN ATOMIC BOMB EFFECT)

EZEKIEL 20:47
47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.

ZEPHANIAH 1:18
18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

MALACHI 4:1
1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven;(FROM ATOMIC BOMBS) and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

And here are the bounderies of the land that Israel will inherit either through war or peace or God in the future. God says its Israels land and only Israels land. They will have every inch God promised them of this land in the future.
Egypt east of the Nile River, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, The southern part of Turkey and the Western Half of Iraq west of the Euphrates. Gen 13:14-15, Psm 105:9,11, Gen 15:18, Exe 23:31, Num 34:1-12, Josh 1:4.ALL THIS LAND ISRAEL WILL DEFINATELY OWN IN THE FUTURE, ITS ISRAELS NOT ISHMAELS LAND.12 TRIBES INHERIT LAND IN THE FUTURE

UN Security Council considering resolution to annul US Jerusalem decision-Vote possible in next few days; US veto would stop move; Turkey has vowed to go to non-binding General Assembly if thwarted at Security Council-By Agencies-DEC 17,17-TOI

The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would nullify US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Reuters reported Saturday.According to the report, the one-page text, seen by the news agency, was drafted by Egypt and does not specifically mention the US or Trump.Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon slammed the move as another Palestinian attempt to rewrite history.“No vote or discussion can change the clear reality — Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, now and always. We will continue to fight for the historical truth, this time, together with our allies,” Danon said.The report came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Muslim nations would ask the United Nations for an “annulment” of Trump’s December 6 decision.It’s highly unlikely that any resolution would pass the Security Council, where the US is one of five permanent members with a veto. US Ambassador Nikki Haley is a staunch supporter of Israel, who has made eliminating UN bias against Israel a key goal. Haley praised Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as “the just and right thing to do.”Erdogan said the initiative would start at the UN Security Council, where a vote would carry more weight, but promised, if it was vetoed there, that “we will work within the UN General Assembly for the annulment of this unjust and lawless decision.” General Assembly decisions are non-binding.The draft UN resolution “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” Reuters said.It also “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to resolution 478 (1980) of the Security Council.” Trump in his declaration said he was giving instructions for the eventual relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.The draft council resolution “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions,” Reuters said.In December 2016, toward the end of the Obama Administration, the Security Council voted through a resolution that “underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” Bitterly opposed by Israel, the vote passed 14-0 with the US abstaining. Trump’s transition team reportedly tried to block the resolution.Erdogan’s comments followed Wednesday’s summit of Muslim and Arab nations — the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation — which declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and urged the world to recognize the state of Palestine.Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s December 6 decision on recognizing Jerusalem.With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the Wednesday summit in Istanbul fell well short of agreeing on any concrete sanctions against Israel or the United States.But its final statement declared “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine” and invited “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”The statement declared Trump’s decision “null and void legally” and “a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts” that would give impetus to “extremism and terrorism.”It also said Trump’s move was “an announcement of the US administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace” in the Middle East, echoing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector, which the international community regards as annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.In his address from the White House, Trump said that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.Trump, whose declaration was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.Erdogan — who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause — denounced Israel at the Wednesday OIC summit as a state defined by “occupation” and “terror.”“With this decision, Israel was rewarded for all the terrorist activities it has carried out. It is Trump who bestowed this award even,” said Erdogan, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the OIC.He said all countries who “value international law and fairness” should recognize “occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” saying Islamic countries would “never give up” on this demand.Using unusually strong language, Abbas at the summit warned that there could be “no peace or stability” in the Middle East until Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of a Palestinian state.Moreover, he said that with Trump’s move the United States had withdrawn itself from a traditional role as the mediator in the search for Mideast peace.“We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on. Because it is completely biased towards Israel,” Abbas said.Trump’s announcement last week prompted an outpouring of anger in the Muslim and Arab world, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the Jewish state and show solidarity with the Palestinians.Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, has called for a new intifada against Israel and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers. Abbas’s Fatah movement called for days of rage in response to Trump’s declaration.

Furious Palestinians reject White House talk of Western Wall as Israel’s forever-After Trump official says US can't 'envision any situation' in which Wall not part of Israel, Abbas spokesman says this is unacceptable violation of law; Fatah vows 'resistance'-By Eric Cortellessa and Agencies-TOI-DEC 17,17

The Palestinian Authority bitterly rejected comments by a senior official in the Trump Administration on Friday that the White House “envisions” the Western Wall will remain part of Israel under any accord with the Palestinians.Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, declared Saturday that the PA would not accept any changes to what he called the borders of East Jerusalem. Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City with the Temple Mount and Western Wall, from Jordan in the 1967 war.“We will not accept any changes on the borders of East Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rudeineh said. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process,” he added.“The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or moving the American embassy, or such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation,” he said.“For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.”Mahmoud al-Aloul, Abbas’s deputy in Fatah, also slammed the White House official’s comment, and vowed to step up protests.“We have adopted a policy of popular resistance and now we will raise the level of resistance,” he was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “The occupation is responding to the resistance with unprecedented violence toward the (protesting) youths.”The administration official’s comments followed US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Western Wall remarks were certain to delight Israeli leaders — the Western Wall is the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray — and infuriate the Palestinians.“We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel,” the official said, speaking ahead of US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel next week.“But as the president said [in his speech last week on Jerusalem], the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” the official said.Furthermore, the official added, “We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.”The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment on the remarks.Pence is due to arrive in Israel on Wednesday. His trip was delayed so that he could help push a tax reform bill through Congress that Trump heavily supports.While in Israel for three days, Pence will speak at the Knesset, visit Yad Vashem, and is slated to light a menorah at the Western Wall, which stands adjacent to the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism and site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.Pence is likely to visit the Western Wall without accompanying Israeli officials, just as Trump did in May. Trump, who became the first ever serving president to go to the Wall, said that part of his trip to Israel was a private visit.Friday’s statements marked an abrupt shift from US comments ahead of Trump’s visit to the Wall, when a US official was reported to have angrily rejected a request that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany the president, and then sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple itself and thus the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer. It was captured along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.Before Trump’s visit to the Wall, no serving US president had ever visited the Western Wall, because US policy has been that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.Pence will not meet with  Abbas or Palestinian officials on his visit — since they refused to see him in protest over Trump’s recent Jerusalem decision. Abbas has said the Jerusalem recognition means the US administration can no longer play a role in the peace process.In his address from the White House last week, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his move as a “recognition of reality” — based on Jerusalem’s status as the seat of Israel’s government.His declaration, welcomed by Netanyahu and Israeli leaders across most of the political spectrum, prompted widespread violent protests in the region; four Palestinians died on Friday during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza, including one who was shot after stabbing an Israeli Border Police officer.Amid these developments, the White House also announced on Friday that it would deploy its top peace envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region next week to try and advance the administration’s peace efforts.“As we have said since the Jerusalem announcement, we anticipated reactions like the ones going on in the region but are going to remain hard at work on our peace plan,” a senior administration official told The Times of Israel.

Israel’s leaders atypically quiet after Abbas asserts their state is invalid-Evidently disinclined to rub salt into wounds after Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital, ministers largely disregard speech in which PA head intimated Jews falsify faith, history-By Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber-TOI-17 December 2017

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this week threatened to cancel his agreements with Israel, appeared to accuse Israel and/or Jews of falsifying history and religion, and asserted that Israel does not meet the criteria for statehood and thus that the international community should reconsider its recognition of Israel.But while American Jewish groups — including, most unusually, J Street — issued highly critical responses to the PA chief’s address in Istanbul, Israel’s leaders and officials were markedly subdued in their response, apparently preferring not to kick a man when he’s down. Having pocketed the long-coveted American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Jewish state’s leaders may have decided, for a few days at least, not to pour additional salt on Abbas’s wounds.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a relatively mild response to Abbas’s ferocious speech Wednesday at the Organization for Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s “Extraordinary Islamic Summit,” but his office chose not to directly address some of Abbas’s most incendiary rhetoric, and numerous other Israeli leaders, contacted by The Times of Israel, also chose not to comment. A rare exception was Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who in a written response, castigated Abbas for what she called his “path of lies” and for denying “the Jewish people’s connection to its land.”The relative quiet in Jerusalem may also reflect the Trump administration’s repeatedly declared insistence — since the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6 — that it remains committed to brokering a landmark Israeli-Palestinian agreement, with Jerusalem careful not to make statements that might be regarded in Washington as further complicating that ambition. Sensitivities are particularly acute, furthermore, ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel next week, during which he is not now expected to visit the Palestinian territories, having been rebuffed by Abbas.In the past, by contrast, Netanyahu has frequently issued damning criticism of Abbas’s speeches, including accusing the PA president of refusing to accept Israel in any borders, peddling lies and libels, and proving that he is no partner for peace.In his hour-long address in Istanbul, at an emergency summit of Islamic and Arab nations convened in the wake of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, Abbas denounced the US administration, threatened to abrogate all peace agreements since Oslo, and vowed to seek full membership for the “State of Palestine” at the United Nations. While he has issued similar threats in the past, however, he also made fresh inflammatory accusations.Notably, for instance, he declared that “there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them,” in a comment that appeared to refer to Israel and/or Jews.That section of his speech, translated by The Times of Israel, went as follows: “At this occasion, I don’t want to discuss history or religion, because there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them. But if we read the Torah, it says that the Canaanites lived here before Abraham and haven’t left since that time. It hasn’t been interrupted. That’s in the Torah. If they want to fabricate, ‘to distort the words from their [proper] usages,’ as God said. I don’t want to get into religion.”The phrase “to distort the words from their [proper] usages” is an expression directly quoted from the Quran, widely interpreted to refer to the Jews.In another passage of his address, as translated by the Washington Free Beacon, Abbas argued that Israel does not fulfill the criteria of statehood, and urged the nations of the world to rethink their recognition of the State of Israel.“International law says that the state must meet three conditions: authority [i.e., government], population and borders. But the third condition is not available in Israel, and I challenge it to say where its borders are. This leads us to [the conclusion] that recognizing it is invalid,” he said.The Palestinian president was likely referring to the declarative theory of statehood, which postulates that an entity needs to fulfill certain objective criteria before it can be considered a state. According to the first article of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which has traditionally been recognized as the benchmark to determine what constitutes a state under international law, a state needs to possess the following qualifications: a permanent population; a defined territory; government, and capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Israel has no defined borders, hence no defined territory, and therefore cannot be considered a state, Abbas seemed to be arguing.“I wonder,” he went on, “how can world nations remain silent to these violations of international law, and how can they continue to recognize Israel and deal with it while it mocks everyone, and continues to violate the agreements signed with it, and persists in its repressive and colonialist practices, and the creation of an apartheid, and the desecration of our peoples and our Christian and Islamic sacred [places]?”The official Palestinian news agency Wafa published its own text of Abbas’s speech in Arabic, and excerpts in English.Netanyahu responded to Abbas’s speech in general terms on Wednesday.“The Palestinians would do well to recognize reality and work toward peace, not extremism, and acknowledge an additional fact regarding Jerusalem: Not only is it the capital of Israel but in Jerusalem we uphold freedom of worship for all faiths and it is we who are making this promise in the Middle East even though no one else does and despite frequent severe failures in this regard,” Netanyahu said at an event for outstanding Mossad personnel in the President’s Residence. “Therefore all these statements fail to impress us. The truth will win in the end and many countries will certainly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and also move their embassies.”Queried on some of the specific passages of Abbas’s speech, however, the Prime Minister’s Office had no further comment. Likewise, the Foreign Ministry merely responded to queries by referring to Netanyahu’s comments. (Netanyahu serves as his own foreign minister.)-The Times of Israel contacted numerous politicians — including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Defense Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, and opposition leaders Avi Gabbay and Yair Lapid — but they either refused to comment or did not reply.Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely responded in writing: “Abu Mazen [Abbas] insists to continue on the path of lies and to deny the Jewish people’s connection to its land. When the Hasmoneans returned to the Kingdom of Israel [around the year 110 BCE] no one disputed the Jewish people’s historic connection to the Land of Israel. Every stone in Jerusalem testifies to the thousand-year-old connection between the Jews and their land,” she told The Times of Israel.“The Palestinian leadership does not work for the benefit of the Palestinians, but rather only deals with negating Israel’s right to exist,” she went on. “This way, they will continue to watch from the sidelines as Israel flourishes and thrives, while they are losing the world’s sympathy.”Asked by The Times of Israel to respond to the passage of the speech in which Abbas appeared to accuse Jews and/or Israelis of fabricating history and religion, the PA president’s adviser on religious affairs, Mahmoud al-Habash, said Friday: “What he means is something in our faith. In the Quran. We don’t blame the Jews as Jews. We don’t consider ourselves in conflict with Judaism. You have to take the speech as a whole. From the beginning to the end. Don’t try to pick and choose some statements here and words there, trying to form something about the president.”“Abbas is not anti-Semitic,” Habash went on. “We are Arabs. We consider ourselves to be part of the Semitic people. We don’t want to enter the religious area in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is exactly what Abu Mazen means. We don’t fight against Judaism. We don’t fight against Jews. We are fighting against the occupation. This is our position. This is the position of President Abbas.”Queried on who Abbas meant by “them” in the quote, “There is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them,” Habash said: “The occupiers. Any colonial occupation can do anything to convince the people, to convince the world, that he’s right, including, as you mentioned, distorting religion. This is not just for the Jews or some faiths here or there. Anybody who uses religion in the political conflict could be included in what Abu Mazen said. Anyone who uses religion for bad means in a political conflict, as Abu Mazen quoted the Quran saying, they ‘distort the words from their [proper] usages.’ It means don’t try to take the religion to bad areas in your political or personal conflict between each other. Religion belongs to God.”Pressed on the widespread interpretation that this Quranic verse refers to Jews, or as it says “Beni Israel,” Habash said: “‘Beni Israel’ is not the Jews. The Jews are not all part of the Beni Israel. Beni Israel means the children of Yaaqub. But there are many Jews that are not part of the Children of Yaaqub. There are many Arab Jews on the Arabian Peninsula in the era of the Prophet Mohammad. I have many examples of Jews not from the Beni Israel. I advise all people, Jews and non-Jews, don’t try to use religion in this conflict with the Palestinians.“Abu Mazen said in this speech, I don’t want to debate with them religion or history. It’s not a conflict about religious or historic narratives. The conflict focuses on the political issue. When you end your occupation of Palestinian land, everything will be ended. You will not find us in conflict with you.”Habash said he was “sure that many of the Israeli leaders will try to take to the statements to another area and to find some words in the speech and change the meaning of the words. Don’t try. We are focusing on specific points: the occupation and our national rights.”Regarding Abbas’s call to countries to review their recognition of the state of Israel, Habash said: “You know why Abu Mazen said this: because Israel until now doesn’t have specific borders. Any state, if you want to recognize a state, you have to recognize it within its borders. Where is the borders of Israel? Could Netanyahu himself draw the borders of Israel? If I want to recognize Israel, where are the borders to recognize? This is what Abu Mazen means. If any state wants to recognize Israel, okay, but you can recognize it in specific, well-known borders. But where are its borders? This is the question. This is not new. It’s not new.”

Fatah calls for ‘angry’ protests against US during Pence’s Jerusalem visit-Abbas adviser denounces White House's unilateral decisions regarding holy city, rejects 'any changes on the borders of East Jerusalem'-By Agencies and TOI staff-DEC 17,17

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on Saturday called for “angry” demonstrations next week to protest against a visit to Jerusalem by US Vice President Mike Pence after Washington said it would recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital.“We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit on Wednesday of US Vice President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump’s decision,” Fatah said in a statement.Breaking with decades of US policy, President Donald Trump also said on December 6 that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And, in a move that further angered the Palestinians, a White House official said Friday that the US could not “envision any situation” under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel.The moves were welcomed by Israel but have stirred widespread condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the West Bank and Gaza. Trump stressed that the city’s borders should be agreed upon between the sides under a peace deal, and that access to holy sites must not be impeded.The December 6 Jerusalem declaration by Trump also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.Ahead of Pence’s visit, a senior Trump administration official said Friday that the White House “envisions” the Western Wall will remain part of Israel under any accord with the Palestinians.Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments.“We will not accept any changes on the borders of East Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rudeineh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process.”“The continuation of this American policy, whether through the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or by moving the American embassy, or other such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation,” he said. “For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.”Mahmoud al-Aloul, Abbas’ deputy in Fatah, also slammed the White House official’s comment, saying they would step up protests.“We have adopted a policy of popular resistance and now we will raise the level of resistance,” he was quoted as saying by Ynet’s news site. “The occupation is responding to the resistance with unprecedented violence toward the [protesting] youths.”The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple itself, and thus the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer. It was captured, along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.Pence, who is set to go to the Western Wall, will likely visit the holy site without accompanying Israeli officials, just as Trump did in May. Trump, who became the first ever serving president to go to the Wall, said that part of his trip to Israel was a private visit.The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Israel sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for two of four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during violent protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. One of the men was fatally shot after stabbing an Israeli border police officer near Ramallah.Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula, located between Jerusalem and the West Bank.Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where Hamas, the terror group that rules the enclave, had on Friday called for a “day of rage.”One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a Palestinian who AFP reported lost his legs in an Israeli attack a decade ago, and who, with his wheelchair, was a regular feature at protests along Gaza’s border with Israel.The Israeli army has said it fired selectively on chief instigators during “extremely violent riots” along the border on Friday.Another Palestinian was killed in clashes in Anata on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem, the PA health ministry said, naming him as Bassel Ibrahim, 24. It said he had been shot.

Arab Israelis protest US Jerusalem recognition in Jaffa, north-Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags, chant their willingness to die for holy city's Al-Aqsa Mosque-By TOI staff-DEC 17,17

Hundreds of Arab Israelis on Saturday protested against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with participants waving Palestinian flags and declaring their willingness to die for the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.The largest demonstration was in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Jaffa, with protesters affiliated with the Islamic Movement chanting they were ready to die for Al-Aqsa, Channel 10 reported.The mosque, the third holiest site in Islam stands on the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount.They protesters carried a picture of Sheikh Reid Salah on which it was written “Jerusalem and the land are ours.”Salah, a firebrand preacher and leading member of Israel’s now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamist Movement, is currently on trial for incitement to terror.The protests came as police in Jerusalem arrested 14 people overnight suspected of involvement in rock-throwing and other violence against security forces. Some violent incidents and clashes with police were also registered in East Jerusalem overnight.Earlier in the week, dozens of Arab Israelis demonstrated outside the American embassy in Tel Aviv against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs criticizing Trump, including one that likened the American president to a snake.On Saturday, Israeli security forces remained on high alert in preparation for a possible renewal of riots in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a day after four Palestinians died in clashes and attacks on Israeli troops.Tensions could be further stoked following a senior White House official’s statement to reporters Friday that the administration “cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel” in any peace accord.Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of their intended independent state.Palestinians have been outraged by President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.But Palestinian leaders, angered by what they see as the US dismissing their claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, have called for demonstrations and “days of rage.” Hamas leaders also urged the start of a new intifada, or uprising.Agencies contributed to this report.

Security forces brace for renewed Palestinian protests amid Jerusalem tensions-Police in Jerusalem arrest 14 people suspected of involvement in violence, a day after 4 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza during clashes and attacks-By TOI staff    Today, 11:09 amUpdated: 17 December 2017

Israeli security forces were on high alert Saturday in preparation for a possible renewal of riots in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a day after four Palestinians died in clashes and attacks on Israeli troops.Tensions could be further stoked following a senior White House official’s statement to reporters Friday that the administration “cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel” in any peace accord.Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of their intended independent state.Police in Jerusalem arrested 14 people overnight suspected of involvement in rock-throwing and other violence against security forces. Some violent incidents and clashes with police were also registered in East Jerusalem overnight.Thousands demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza Friday against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.One man, Mohammed Aqal, was shot near Ramallah after stabbing an Israeli Border Police officer in the upper torso while wearing a mock suicide belt. He was taken away by Palestinian medics and later died of his wounds.The Palestinian Authority health ministry said a second man was shot and killed in clashes in Anata on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem.Two more Palestinians were killed along the Gaza-Israel border, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said. The army said it opened fire on the “main instigators” of violent protests at the Gaza border after they failed to heed repeated calls to stop approaching the fence.Following noontime prayers riots were reported in most major Palestinian cities. Demonstrators burned tires and threw petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that dozens of protesters sustained light wounds.Israeli officials said the number of violent protesters dropped significantly this weekend compared to the last.Palestinians have been outraged by President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.But Palestinian leaders, angered by what they see as the US dismissing their claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, have called for demonstrations and “days of rage.” Hamas leaders also urged the start of a new intifada, or uprising.In Jerusalem itself, around 30,000 people prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount Friday, according to the Islamic organization that administers the site. The vast majority left without incident, but small scuffles broke out in the Old City.Earlier on Friday, a 30-year-old Israeli was lightly injured near the West Bank town of Hizme, outside Jerusalem, when Palestinians threw rocks at his car.During riots at various locations in the capital in recent days, protesters threw stones, glass bottles, Molotov cocktails and other objects at officers as well as blocking roads, burning garbage cans and shooting firecrackers at police. Several officers have been injured.The West Bank has also seen daily confrontations between protesters and IDF troops.On Israel’s southern border with Gaza, protests along the border fence have been accompanied by a marked uptick in rocket attacks, with over a dozen missiles fired since Trump’s speech. Hamas, the terror group which rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers.Agencies contributed to this report.

Mayor in town of Jesus’s birth reinstates Christmas festivities-Nazareth's Ali Salam had previously announced festivities were canceled because of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital-By TOI staff-DEC 17,17

The mayor of Nazareth said Saturday that Christmas celebrations would go ahead in Jesus’s hometown, days after announcing holiday festivities would be canceled in protest of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.“Reports that Christmas events were canceled this year are incorrect,” said Ali Salam, who is mayor of the town in northern Israel. “Just as every year, the city is decorated for the holiday and we are excited to receive the tens of thousands of visitors who will arrive, and to give them a festive and special experience.”Salam, who is Muslim, said people of all faiths were welcome to visit the city.“[I] invite all the residents of the State of Israel — the Jews, Muslims and Christians — to come to the city of Nazareth and take part in the Christmas celebrations,” said Salam. “Nazareth is the city of peace and brotherhood between religions and nations, and there is nothing like the spirit of the holiday and the shared experience to prove it.”Salam’s statement came as the start of the Christmas festivities was set to begin in Nazareth later Saturday with the lighting of the tree.It marked a reversal from Thursday’s announcement by Nazareth’s city council that Salam had ordered the axing of all planned artistic events, including a festival and large Christmas market.“Our identity and faith aren’t up for debate,” Salam had said Thursday. “The decision [by Donald Trump on December 6 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel] has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will thus cancel the festivities this year.”Nazareth is one of the holiest cities in Christendom because it was there that the angel Gabriel is believed by Christians to have told the Virgin Mary she would conceive and bear Jesus.According to the New Testament, Jesus also grew up in the town.The annual celebrations are a major tourist draw and source of income for the city, which is inhabited primarily by Arab citizens of Israel, two-thirds of whom are Muslim and the remaining third Christian.In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that, after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue.He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, and condemned by the vast majority of the international community. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

Egypt opens Gaza border for four days-Entry into Gaza allowed, but only humanitarian cases can leave; some 20,000 Gazans are seeking to exit-By AFP and TOI staff-DEC 17,17

Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday for only the second time since the Palestinian Authority took control of the crossing from the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip.The Hamas-run interior ministry, which was organizing departures from the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis, said the crossing would stay open for four days but, in the Egypt direction, for humanitarian cases only.Those cases include people needing medical treatment unavailable in Gaza, as well as students enrolled at Egyptian universities, and Gazans with jobs abroad.There were tearful scenes at the makeshift departure point as families said their farewells.Rafah is Gaza’s only border crossing not controlled by Israel.Hamas handed control of the Gaza side to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority on November 1, as the first part of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal designed to end a bitter, decade-long split.That was supposed to have been followed by the handover of full civil control in Gaza by December 1.But the target date was missed amid differences over the future of tens of thousands of civil servants recruited by Hamas since it seized control of the territory in 2007. Hamas is also refusing to give up its arms and its military wing.The Palestinian Authority has not agreed to lift sanctions on the Strip, including sanctions on payments for electricity.Egypt opened the border for three days last month — the first time it had done so since the reconciliation deal.Prior to that, the crossing had been open for just 14 days this year, according to the Hamas-run interior ministry.Up to 20,000 Gazans have applied to enter Egypt, far more than are able to cross during the brief openings.Some 200 people passed through on Saturday morning, 10 of them medical cases, the ministry said.Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to prevent Hamas, a terrorist group which seeks to destroy Israel, from importing rockets, arms, and materials to construct fortifications.

Amid uptick in rockets, Labor chief says Israel losing deterrence in Gaza-Gabbay slams defense minister for expressing 'understanding' for attacks when saying they come from internal Palestinian power struggles-By TOI staff-DEC 17,17

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay said on Saturday that the recent surge in rockets launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip was reducing Israel’s deterrent capability against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.“We are losing our deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas in Gaza,” Gabbay said at a cultural event in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.Gabbay criticized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for asserting last week that the recent rocket fire was the result of internal Palestinian political spats and not an indication that terrorist groups were no longer afraid of Israel.“He is a defense minister, not a military analyst,” Gabbay said. “These are dire statements that could be interpreted by the other side as a understanding attitude on our part toward the launches at the south.”On Thursday, Liberman called on Israelis to “relax,” despite the dramatic increase in the number of rocket attacks from Gaza over the past week.Speaking from the southern city of Sderot, Liberman said the rocket fire was the result of internal Palestinian political spats and not an indication that terrorist groups were gearing up for another war with Israel.The reassurance from the ordinarily bellicose defense minister appeared to be a response to growing calls for the Israel Defense Forces to take more aggressive action against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the rocket attacks.In the past week, over a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. A number of them fell short, five were shot down by the Iron Dome defense system, and six struck Israel, two of them causing damage in the southern town of Sderot.After more than three years with limited rocket fire from Gaza — 26 rockets were fired in 2015, 20 in 2016, and nine from January to November 2017 — the sudden spike in December has raised concerns that Israel might be headed for another war with terrorist groups in the Strip.The Israel-Gaza tensions have been fed by Washington’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration, terror group Hamas called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.On Friday, three Palestinians were killed in clashes between Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza, as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated for a second week against the shift in US policy regarding Jerusalem. A fourth was fatally shot stabbing an Israeli border police officer near Ramallah.At the cultural event on Saturday, Gabbay echoed the sentiment of other Israeli lawmakers that Jerusalem should remain under Israeli sovereignty, and not be shared with Palestinians, who seek the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.“People came to Israel because of Jerusalem,” he said. “We have to restore our control of the capital and create positive motivations to do so. It’s one city.”

As IS crumbles, experts warn of threat posed by foreign fighters-Thousands of jihadists may have escaped war zones, many of them with fighting skills and bomb-making knowledge-TOI-DEC 17,17

WASHINGTON — An estimated 40,000 people traveled from around the world to take up arms for the Islamic State group as it occupied territory in Syria and Iraq and declared a caliphate in 2014.A few hundred are believed to still be fighting as IS struggles to survive, having lost most of its territory to campaigns by Western-backed Syrian and Iraqi coalition armies.But what happened to the rest? Many thousands were certainly killed in the intense fighting, but US experts believe many have survived, posing a formidable threat going ahead.“The issue is: how many have died? How many are still there and willing to fight? How many have gone elsewhere to fight?” said Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation.“How many have given up? I don’t think we have a good answer.”International counterterror groups are putting huge efforts into answering those questions, working hard to name, count and track IS foreign fighters.In France, officials say, around 1,700 people went to Iraq and Syria since 2013 to join IS. Of those, 400 to 450 have been killed, and 250 returned to France.Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on December 8 that about 500 are still in the Iraq-Syria theater, and for them it is now very hard to return to France.But that leaves another 500 whose whereabouts are unknown, many of them with the skills of war, wielding weapons and making bombs.-‘One-way ticket’-Terrorism specialist Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University estimated during a conference Wednesday that “thousands” have escaped the war zone.“Today, some of them are most likely in the Balkans, lying low for the time being, waiting for the opportunity to infiltrate themselves to the rest of Europe,” he said.Some have traveled to other jihadist fronts, according to Thomas Sanderson, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project.For example, he said, at least 80 IS fighters from Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have joined the IS-allied Abu Sayyaf insurgents battling government forces in the southern Philippines since this past May.Local people in the northern Afghanistan province of Jowzjan have told AFP that French-speaking IS veterans — from France or northern African countries — have recently set up camp there.And they also have the option of other conflict zones in northern Africa, like Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere where jihadist groups akin to IS are conducting violent insurgencies.The defeat of IS on the battlefield in Syria in Iraq did not close off escape routes. IS fighters were able to blend in with civilian refugees or bribe their way to sneak into Turkey.Many don’t have much choice but to continue to fight: they never had a plan to return to their home countries, where they face imprisonment in most cases, according to Jones.“For many, it was a one-way trip. They wanted to live in the caliphate, permanently. So we don’t see a major move back,” Jones said.

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June By Nikolaj Nielsen-EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, 15. Dec, 17:46-The prospect of EU states going to a vote next June on a deeply-disputed measure to impose mandatory asylum-seeker quotas on member states appears increasingly likely."I am not a fan of qualified majority decision-making but it is in the treaty," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on Friday (15 December).The issue of assigning a set number of how many asylum seekers each member state must take has underpinned sharp disputes among EU states. The Visegrad four, composed of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, flat out refuse the concept as opposed to Germany and Italy.Speaking alongside European Council president Donald Tusk, Juncker said some member states at an EU summit dinner in Brussels on Thursday are prepared to use the vote should a consensus become unattainable."Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard but we have to try our very best," said Tusk.Tusk described relocation as an insignificant response to migration, which has instead taken disproportionate political dimensions."This is the most time consuming issue or dimension when it comes to migration debate," he said.But any move towards a majority vote in June is anathema among an EU leadership that continues to grapple with the concept of solidarity.A consensus, they argue, is better suited to rolling out EU-wide policy following the debacle over a two-year scheme to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other member states.The 2015 scheme, which ended this past September, has soured relations and resulted in legal battles between the European Commission and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - an 'east-west' division of member states Tusk referred to at the opening of the summit on Thursday.A similar quota scheme is now part of a larger asylum reform proposal to distribute people in need of international protection to EU states on a more permanent long-term basis.EU leaders are supposed to reach a decision on this reform, also known as the Dublin regulation, by next June.The broader dispute underlies other realities among thousands stuck in over-crowded Greek islands in the lead up to winter."Solidarity on migration is not a theoretical debate," said Oxfam's EU migration policy adviser Raphael Shilhav.He said those stuck on the Aegean islands are now "paying a daily price that EU leaders are ignoring."-Damage control-Juncker also went into damage control after his migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, labelled Tusk "anti-European" for describing relocation as "highly divisive" and "ineffective"."Donald Tusk is not anti-European, he is a pro-European," Juncker said, in response to Avramopoulos' comments."I know that Avramopoulos as a good commissioner and I think this is a real misunderstanding," he said.Tusk also weighed in, telling reporters that as European Council president he does not take sides with any group of member states or regions.The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have taken the lead among member states, against Germany, in opposing any system that would require them to accept asylum seekers based on quotas."But I do insist on my right and duty, because this is in fact my obligation, to come forward with an honest and factual analysis of the situation," he said.

EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks By Eszter Zalan-EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, 15. Dec, 17:13-EU-27 leaders on Friday (15 December) approved moving Brexit talks with British prime minister Theresa May onto the next phase, and start discussions about a transition period possibly as soon as in January.They agreed that sufficient progress has been achieved on the terms of divorce on citizens' rights, the Irish border and financial settlement with the UK.European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker commended May, saying she is a "tough, smart, polite, friendly negotiator".It took ten minutes for leaders to adopt the guidelines for the transition talks to begin in January.They had a "sober and short" discussion on the transition period, an EU source said.To kick off those transition talks, the EU commission is expected to propose a negotiating mandate next Wednesday to be adopted by member states in January.In the meantime, the EU and UK will transpose the deal reached last Friday (8 December) on key divorce issues into a legal text.The EU also wants more clarity from the UK on what sort of trade and future relationship it envisages after Brexit to be able to start discussions on that future after March, when EU leaders adopt another set of guidelines for those talks."It is now time for internal EU-27 preparations and exploratory contacts with the UK, to get more clarity on their vision," European Council president Donald Tusk told reporters after the meeting.Friday's guidelines set out that the transition period should be "clearly defined and precisely limited in time", suggesting it would be designed to coincide with the end of the next seven-year EU budget that runs out in 2020.In September, May outlined an "around" two-year-long transition period after the UK leaves the bloc in March 2019."It is important that it is time limited ... We have to make sure [a country that leaves] doesn't stay in a transition stage for ever – it wouldn't work for either the UK, nor the EU," Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar told press after the meeting.-Transition conditions-The EU has said that during the transition period the UK will have to abide by EU rules and regulations as if it were member, but without a seat at the table. That means no UK commissioner, no MEPs, and no UK minister at council meetings.The EU's rules for transition include complying with EU trade policy, which means the UK could start its own bilateral trade negotiations (but cannot conclude them before the transition period ends), and can ask the EU and third parties to roll-over existing trade accords.The UK will also need to continue to respect the rulings of the the EU's top court, the European Court of Justice during the transition period, an anathema for hardcore Brexit supporters.After the guidelines were adopted, May thanked her European counterparts."Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership," she tweeted.In a separate tweet she promised "securing the greatest possible access to European markets, boosting free trade with countries across the world, and delivering control over our borders, law and money" in the Brexit deal.May on Thursday night had updated the leaders on the divorce deal. Nobody commented on her intervention, but her brief talk was received with a round of applause."Some of us thought that she did make big efforts and this has to be recognised," EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday.There was unease in Brussels over a Westminster vote on Wednesday that gives a final say to MPs on the Brexit deal, with concerns over May's ability to negotiate an agreement.But EU leaders offered their support to May."Everyone appreciated her personal efforts and engagement," Christian Kern, Austria's prime minister said Thursday night.Unity-The unity achieved at the end of the first phase of Brexit talks, and how it could be maintained, was very much on the mind of leaders on the summit.German chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Friday at her press conference that upcoming negotiations will be even tougher than the previous nine months of talks."Unity was very much the topic of the discussion," Varadkar said, adding that individual bilateral negotiations with the UK should be avoided.EU countries have started already and will continue to hold internal discussions on their priorities for the future relations.Divergences in priorities could surface, and thus be exploited by British negotiators, although leaders seem keen to avoid that.-Dutch tight-lipped-Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte at his press conference on Friday refused point blank to give details on the priorities in the future talks for the Netherlands, which is one of the countries that has been seen as a potential ally for the UK."I am not going to answer that, because then I would be breaking the unity of the 27," he said."The most important decision we made today was that we will do this behind the scenes, and that we will protect the unity of the 27," Rutte added."Remaining united was already challenging during the first phase," Rutte said, referring to the UK as "smart negotiators" who knew how to "call capitals"."We managed to keep that unity and really have the ambition to do the same in the next period," the premier added.

Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group By Peter Teffer-EUOBSERVER

Brussels, 15. Dec, 09:21-The most senior official in the Dutch finance ministry is expected to be chosen as head of the Eurogroup Working Group on Friday (15 December).Tuomas Saarenheimo, the only other candidate, dropped out of the race on Thursday, making it virtually certain that Hans Vijlbrief will lead the influential Brussels-based committee, which prepares the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, the Eurogroup.The move will secure Dutch continued influence in discussions about the euro, after their former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem leaves the post of Eurogroup president in January 2018.Dutch media reported the news on Thursday, saying that Vijlbrief will officially be chosen via teleconference on Friday.A source in the Council of the EU confirmed to EUobserver that there was "only one candidate left", while a Finnish source told this website that the Finnish candidate, Saarenheimo, permanent under-secretary at the Finnish ministry of finance, dropped out on Thursday."He withdrew his candidacy because there was more support for the Dutch candidate," the Finnish contact said.The Eurogroup Working Group is made up of senior officials from euro area member states, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.Outgoing Eurogroup Working Group president Thomas Wieser, an Austrian, had been in the post since January 2012.The position is for two years, but can be extended.'Most powerful man in Brussels'-Yanis Varoufakis, who was Greece's finance minister and Eurogroup member for seven months in 2015, described Wieser as "the true power broker within the eurozone".Varoufakis wrote in his 2017 book Adults in the Room that Wieser was "the most powerful man in Brussels, far more so than Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, or Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and finance affairs … or even, on occassion, Dijsselbloem himself.""At such times he seemed to run the whole show," Varoufakis wrote about Wieser in his political memoirs, in which he gave his view of the struggle between debt-ridden Greece and the troika of creditors.He criticised the Eurogroup Working Group as "the shadowy crucible in which the troika forges its plans and policies".Wieser had also been the man who gave press off-the-record briefings ahead of Eurogroup meetings.-Dijsselbloem for Vijlbrief-The support for Vijlbrief suggests that the Dutch government played it smart by not accepting an extended six-month mandate for Dijsselbloem, as proposed by France and Germany.According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the Hague dropped Dijsselbloem so that they can focus their lobbying efforts on behalf of Vijlbrief – as securing both positions for such a relatively small member state would be unlikely.The newspaper noted that to the chagrin of its Benelux partner Luxembourg, the Netherlands supported the Portuguese candidate to succeed Dijsselbloem, and not the Luxembourgish one.According to UK newspaper the Financial Times last August, France initially also had a candidate for the Eurogroup Working Group.Hans Vijlbrief, who holds a doctorate in economics, had been the most senior civil servant at the Dutch finance ministry since 2011. Before that he worked for a decade at the ministry of economic affairs, where he also had experience in the 1990s.