Full transcript of Trump’s Riyadh speech, as released by White House
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Ministers okay economic package for Palestinians ahead of Trump visit

Netanyahu: Trump a 'true friend of the State of Israel'; Trump: Israeli-Palestinian peace possible if three major faiths can cooperate; dozens of Palestinian hunger strikers taken to hospital

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from right) hosts his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from right) hosts his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Netanyahu orders all ministers to attend Trump airport welcome

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs all Israeli cabinet ministers to attend the welcoming ceremony for US President Donald Trump tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. at Ben Gurion Airport, a senior Israeli official says.

Ministers are reportedly saying they are angry that they are not slated to be part of the receiving line on the airport tarmac and so won’t be shaking Trump’s hand after he disembarks from Air Force One.

Netanyahu makes the demand at a meeting of coalition party leaders Sunday morning.

9 years for man who defrauded donors to Shalit, Carmel fire victims

The Tel Aviv District Court sentences a man to nine years in prison for defrauding donors who believed they were contributing to charitable causes, including a nonexistent fund to support the release of then-captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

The court says Ronen Bar Shira received over a million shekels by pretending to raise money for Shalit, who was released in a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in 2011, and for the victims of the 2010 Carmel forest fire.

As part of his sentence, Bar Shira is required to compensate his donors and pay an additional NIS 50,000 in fines.

Fire at Tel Aviv beachfront construction site; no casualties reported

A high-rise building under construction on the Tel Aviv beachfront is on fire, according to Ynet news site reporter Itay Blumental.

There are no immediate reports of casualties.

6 said trapped, 3 more hurt in Tel Aviv high-rise fire

Six people are reportedly trapped in a blaze inside a Tel Aviv high-rise that is under construction on the beachfront Hayarkon Street.

Three people are already rescued, all lightly hurt from smoke inhalation.

Nearby streets are closed to traffic as firefighters and ambulances crowd around the site.

Trump meeting with Arab leaders ahead of major speech

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US President Donald Trump will use the nation that is home to Islam’s holiest site as a backdrop to call for Muslim unity in the fight against terrorism Sunday, as he works to build relationships with Arab leaders.

On the second day of his first trip abroad, Trump seeks to demonstrate that he’d made progress with an agreement with Gulf Arab states on countering terrorist funding.

Under the memorandum of understanding with the Gulf Cooperation Council announced in Saudi Arabia, participants are pledging to prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals. The White House does not immediately release the document. But White House adviser Dina Powell says she hopes the deal with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be the “farthest reaching commitment to not finance terrorist organizations” and will lead to prosecutions.

Trump’s Sunday speech, the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, will address the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries to cast the challenge of extremism as a “battle between good and evil” and urge Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship,” according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press.

US President Donald Trump poses for photos with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump poses for photos with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump, whose campaign was frequently punctuated by bouts of anti-Islamic rhetoric, is poised to soften some of his language about Islam. Though during the campaign he repeatedly stressed the need to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” — and criticized his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for not doing so — that phrase is not included in the draft.

— AP

Trump: Anti-terror fight ‘not a battle between different faiths’

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US President Donald Trump will launch an appeal to confront “Islamist extremism” on Sunday, telling dozens of Muslim leaders in a speech that it “is not a battle between different faiths.”

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it,” Trump will say in Saudi Arabia, according to excerpts released by the White House.

“This is a battle between good and evil.”

— AFP

Video shows man trapped on top floor in Tel Aviv high-rise fire

Video from the scene of a fire at a high-rise under construction on Tel Aviv’s beachfront clearly shows a man standing on the building’s top story awaiting rescue as the building is engulfed in smoke.

Firefighters put out Tel Aviv high-rise blaze, 4 hurt

Firefighters gain control of the fire at the under-construction Tel Aviv high-rise.

Six trapped construction workers are rescued. In all, four people are taken to hospital with light injuries.

Iran reformists sweep Tehran council elections

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s reformists sweep to power in Tehran’s city council, winning all 21 seats and knocking the conservatives from power, local media report on Sunday.

It is another boost to the reformist camp after the resounding re-election of President Hassan Rouhani announced the day before.

The results of the council elections, which are held alongside the presidential ballot on Friday, are announced by the governor’s office.

Voters in Tehran had to choose 21 councilors for the city of nine million, and stick resolutely to the names put forward by the moderate-reformist camp.

At the top of the list is Mohsen Hashemi, son of one of the Islamic revolution’s founding fathers, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died in January.

The victory in Tehran knocks the conservatives from power in the city for the first time in 14 years.

The council will choose a new mayor when it convenes, which it must do within 45 days of the results.

— AFP

Trump scandals no issue for Saudis, minister says

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The scandals besetting US President Donald Trump at home have no bearing on an increasingly close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a senior Saudi cabinet minister says Sunday.

“Absolutely not. Our relationship is with the United States of America and it has great leadership today,” Khaled al-Falih, minister of energy, industry and mineral resources, tells AFP on the sidelines of summits between Trump and Muslim leaders from around the world.

“We are very encouraged by the position the Trump administration has taken.”

The past week has seen a string of major developments in Trump’s domestic woes, including the announcement that James Comey, the former FBI chief fired by Trump, has agreed to testify publicly about Russian interference in the US elections last year.

Some Democrats have begun to discuss methods for Trump’s ouster.

But Saudi Arabia is embracing Trump after disappointment with his predecessor Barack Obama’s perceived distance from the Middle East’s problems and a tilt toward Riyadh’s rival Iran.

— AFP

Shekel reaches highest value against dollar since 2014

The Globes business journal reports that the Bank of Israel may soon intervene to weaken the shekel as it reaches its highest point relative to the dollar since September 2014, at NIS 3.593 to the dollar.

Globes reports:

The dollar has been falling in value worldwide due to the political problems faced by [US] President Donald Trump. The shekel remains strong despite disappointing growth figures for the first quarter published last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics, which showed the Israeli economy growing at an annual rate of just 1.4%.

When foreign currency trading resumes tomorrow all eyes will be on the Bank of Israel, which over the past few months has intervened in trading to buy foreign currency every time the shekel-dollar exchange rate goes below NIS 3.60/$.

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to confront extremism in major speech

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US President Donald Trump is to urge the Islamic world to confront extremism in a highly anticipated speech Sunday to dozens of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia.

According to excerpts released by the White House, Trump will say the time has come for “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism,” calling on religious leaders to condemn extremist attacks.

But Trump, who has been accused of anti-Islamic rhetoric in the past, will also extend a hand by insisting that “this is not a battle between different faiths.”

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil,” Trump will say.

A White House official had said Trump would be “very blunt in talking about the need to confront extremism,” pointing to “the fact that many in the Muslim world have not only not done enough, they’ve actively abetted this extremism.”

“America is prepared to stand with you,” Trump will say. “But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them.”

— AFP

Trump to call on Islamic world to unite against extremism, ‘persecution of Jews’

Donald Trump will reference the persecution of Jews in his speech about extremism before Muslim leaders in Riyadh set to begin shortly.

The war against jihadist terrorism, he will say “is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”

According to excerpts of the speech released by the White House, he will add, “That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”

Ivanka Trump says Saudi progress on women ‘encouraging’

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka says Sunday that ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has made “encouraging” progress in empowering women but more freedom is needed.

“Saudi Arabia’s progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging,” Trump’s eldest daughter tells a group of Saudi women she met in Riyadh while accompanying her father on a visit to the Muslim kingdom.

“But there’s still a lot of work to be done and freedoms and opportunities to continue to fight for,” adds Ivanka, who serves as an adviser to her father.

“Around the world women continue to achieve unprecedented levels of rights and freedoms. Today you all stand on the frontlines of the fight for gender equality,” she tells a roundtable of women led by Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy president of the Women’s Sports Authority.

Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of Sunni Islam, imposes many restrictions on women. It is the only country where they are not allowed to drive. When in public, women in Saudi Arabia are expected to cover from head to toe.

A royal decree earlier this month reportedly stipulated that women are no longer required to obtain a male guardian’s consent to carry out certain activities.

— AFP

Bulgarian deputy PM may have ‘horsed around’ while visiting Nazi camp in his youth

A leader of Bulgarian Jews condemns his country’s deputy prime minister, who said jokingly that he may have behaved inappropriately when visiting a former Nazi concentration camp.

Valeri Simeonov, vice president of the United Patriots and Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister, tells the Sega newspaper on Tuesday he and some of his friends may have taken spoof pictures of themselves in Buchenwald during the 1970s.

Simeonov, 62, says this in downplaying the significance of a political scandal that earlier this week forced a member of Simeonov’s party, Pavel Tenev, to resign from the position of deputy minister. Tenev had been photographed performing a Nazi salute at a Paris museum while standing next to mannequins dressed in Nazi uniforms.

Dismissing Tenev’s actions as harmless buffoonery, Simeonov recalls traveling with his friends in the 1970s to Buchenwald, the former Nazi camp in Germany, where the Nazis killed more than 43,000 people, including dissidents, Soviet prisoners of war and many Jews — before almost all Jewish inmates were transferred to Auschwitz in Poland.

The newspaper quotes Simeonov recalling how he himself had “horsed around” in Buchenwald. “Who knows what gag photos we made there,” Simeonov tells the Sega journalist.

In a statement Friday, Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, says: “We are witnessing an ugly manifestation of disrespect toward the millions murdered in the concentration camps during World War II. Such behavior demonstrates a lack of political culture and sensitivity vis-à-vis the greatest tragedy in human history. When we talk about the Holocaust, joking is inappropriate.”

— JTA

Full White House excerpts for Trump’s imminent speech to Muslim world

The White House releases some excerpts from US President Donald Trump’s imminent speech to Muslim leaders from 35 nations gathered for an Islamic-American summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh today.

Some passages from the excerpts are quoted by various media outlets. He are the excerpts in their entirety as released by the White House:

We are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.

Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.

——–

Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.

———

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.

Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.

———

But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong – and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.

Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.

America is prepared to stand with you – in pursuit of shared interests and common security.

But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

———

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

This is a battle between good and evil.

———

That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.

Sumptuous surroundings for Trump’s speech to Muslim world

Trump will deliver his speech to leaders from 54 Muslim nations in an extravagant hall in Riyadh, in keeping with the overall pomp and circumstance with which the Saudis are hosting the American president.

Hamas says 1,000 more prisoners to join hunger strike

Palestinian sources say 200 Hamas prisoners are set to join the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons tomorrow.

If that doesn’t convince Israel to give in to prisoners’ demands for better condition, another 800 Hamas members will join the strike on Saturday night.

Over 1,000 Palestinians have been striking for nearly a month.

— Avi Issacharoff

Egypt refers 48 to trial over Islamic State church bombings

CAIRO, Egypt — Egyptian authorities refers 48 suspected Islamic State group members to military trial over three deadly church bombings, the public prosecutor’s office says in a statement on Sunday.

Of the 48 suspects, 31 are in custody and 17 still at large, it says.

IS claimed responsibility for the three suicide attacks that targeted the churches in December and April.

A December 11 attack in the heart of Cairo on the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church, adjacent to the headquarters of Coptic Pope Tawadros II, killed 29 people.

On April 9, 45 people were killed in twin church bombings claimed by IS as Christians gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

IS has threatened to carry out more attacks against Egypt’s Christians, who make up around 10 percent of its population of about 90 million.

— AFP

Trump enters hall with 54 Muslim leaders ahead of speech

US President Donald Trump, right, with daughter Ivanka Trump, center and son in law Jared Kushner, before delivering a speech in Royadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017. (screen capture: YouTUbe)
US President Donald Trump, right, with daughter Ivanka Trump, center and son in law Jared Kushner, before delivering a speech in Royadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017. (screen capture: YouTUbe)
US President Donald Trump prepares to speak in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017 (Screenshot)
US President Donald Trump prepares to speak in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017 (Screenshot)

Saudi king Salman to Trump: We’re ‘confronting scourge’ of terror

Saudi King Salman hails “deep and friendly relations” between Saudi Arabia and the US, and lauds the “historic, unprecedented summit that is being held in a time of extreme danger.”

The leaders from 55 Muslim and Arab countries are in the hall, Salman says.

Choosing Saudi Arabia for first foreign destination confirms “the interests of your country.”

Says Saudis are “confronting” terrorism, “this scourge that poses a danger to all of humanity.”

Adds that Saudis are “taking vigorous steps to realize a true partnership with a friendly United States in a way that serves our common interests and contributes to achieving peace and development for all of humanity.”

Saudi king hails Islam as religion of ‘peace,’ distorted by extremists

“Islam was and will always be the religion of mercy, tolerance and coexistence,” Saudi King Salman tells a gathering of leaders from 55 Islamic and Arab states gathered in Riyadh ahead of a speech by US President Donald Trump.

“In its prosperous times, Islam provided the best examples of coexistence and harmony between countries and individuals. Some individuals seek to present a distorted picture of this religon, seeks to convey a distorted picture conflating this great religion with violence.”

“One of the goals of Islamic sharia [religious law] is protecting life. There is no honor in committing murder.
Islam is a religion of peace that considers killing an innocent soul tantamount to killing all of humanity.”

Islam’s “tolerant values” are “peace, moderation, and refraining from destroying and corrupting Earth.”

Saudi king tells Trump Iran is source of terror in Mideast

Saudi King Salman tells US President Trump and gathered Muslim-world leaders that Iran launched the terror wave seen in the Middle East since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“The Iranian regime thought our silence was weakness and our wisdom was retreat, until we had enough of its hostile practices,” leading to Saudi involvement in “Yemen and other countries in the region.”

“We assert our respect and appreciation for the Iranian people,” Salman assures.

“We have helped our brothers and friends around the world to avoid plots targeting their security and stability.”

Saudi king urges ‘shares sacrifice’ for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Speaking to US President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman calls for “shared sacrifice and sheer determination” toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Trump to Saudi king: ‘Words do not do justice to grandeur of this wonderful place’

Trump: “I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts. I’ve always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this wonderful place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.”

Trump announces ‘new chapter’ in US-Muslim relations

Trump: “Today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to all of our citizens.”

To Muslims leaders: “I send the warmest regards from citizens of my country. I stand before you as a representative of the american people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love.”

“That is why I chose to make my first foreign trip as president to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as the custodian of the two holy places.”

US President Donald Trump delivers a speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, May 21, 2017 (screen capture: YouTube)
US President Donald Trump delivers a speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, May 21, 2017 (screen capture: YouTube)

Trump: ‘Our vision is one of peace, security, prosperity’

Trump: “Our vision is one of peace, security and prosperity. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.”

Trump lauds ‘a million new jobs’ in Muslim-world speech

Trump: “A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country. In just a few months we’ve created a million new jobs, created 3 trillion dollars of value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and invested in the American military.”

Trump: We’re investing $400 billion in our two countries

Trump: “Yesterday we signed historic agreements with the kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many hundreds of thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia. Including a $110-billion Saudi defense purchase, and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends get a good deal from our great American defense companies, the greatest in the world.”

Trump says ‘Muslim-majority countries must take the lead’ against extremism

Trump hails “new global center for combating extremist ideology,” a “groundbreaking new center [that] represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating” extremism.

Trump: Riyadh summit marks ‘beginning of the end’ for terrorism

Trump: “With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed.”

A future of peace “can only be achieved by defeating terrorism.”

Trump notes Muslims are greatest victims of Islamist terrorism

Trump: “In sheer numbers, the deadliest toll [from terrorism] has been exacted on innocent people from Arab and Muslim nations. Some estimates hold that more than 95% of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”

“We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across this planet. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure.”

He names terror groups that include the Palestinian Hamas: “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas,” whose victims “must be counted not only in numbers of dead, but in vanished dreams.”

“Middle East should become one of the great centers of commerce and opportunity, not from which refugees flee but to which people flock.”

Trump: Terror is holding back Arab world’s immense potential

Trump: “The potential of this region has never, ever been granted. 60% of the population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.

“This great potential is held at bay by bloodshed and terror.”

“There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no excusing it. Every time a terrorist kills an innocent person and invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death.”

Trump: Muslim world must carry its ‘fair share’ in fighting terror

Trump says “everyone in this room” must do “their fair share” in fight against terror.

“But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong – and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.

“Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.

“America is prepared to stand with you – in pursuit of shared interests and common security.

“But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

Trump: ‘Not a battle between faiths, sects or civilizations’

Trump: “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

“This is a battle between good and evil.”

Trump: Muslim nations must deny terrorists ‘sanctuary on their soil’

Trump: “Every country in the region has absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.”

Cites Jordanian pilots as “crucial partners” against IS in Syria and Iraq.

Notes Saudi efforts in Yemen, Lebanese military “hunting ISIS” who try to infiltrate their territory, and Emirati troops in Afghanistan.

Trump announces new effort to deny financing to terror groups

Trump: “As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory, we must also deny them access to funds.”

“I am proud to announce that the nations here today will sign an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism.”

Initiative will be co-chaired by US and Saudis, and include “every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

Trump says fighting terror means ‘honestly confronting crisis of Islamist extremists’

Trump says fighting terror “means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamic terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”

“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.”

“If you choose the path of terror, your life will be brief and your soul will be fully condemned. Political leaders must speak out to confirm this idea: Heroes don’t take lives; they save them.”

Trump promises no ‘inflexible ideology’ in fighting terror, reforming Mideast

Trump: “Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

Trump calls for equality for Christians and Jews in Mideast

Trump: “Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have effectively argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim societies. For many centuries, the Middle East was home to Christians, Jews” and other minorities. He calls for a “return” to that Middle East.

Trump: Religious peace makes peace possible between Israelis, Palestinians

Trump says religious peace makes peace possible between Israelis and Palestinians.

“If three Abrahamic faiths can join together, then peace in this world is possible, including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas.”

Trump: Iran destabilizing Mideast, ‘speaks openly of mass murder’

Iran is trying to destabilize the Middle East and “speaks openly of mass murder.”

“Among its most tragic interventions, you’ve seen it in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed numerous crimes,” including chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians.

Trump: Iranian people suffering from ‘leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict’

Trump: “The people of Iran have endured hardship and despair due to their leaders reckless pursuit of conflict and terror. Pray for the day that the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they so richly deserve.”

Trump: If terror is defeated, ‘birthplace of civilization’ can ‘begin a new renaissance’

Trump: “If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring: more suffering, more death and more despair.

“But if we act, if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens this world, then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

“The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance.”

Trump concludes his speech

Trump concludes his comments with “God bless your countries, and God bless the United States of America.”

Jordan’s Abdullah tells Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace is ‘core issue of our region’

King Abdullah of Jordan responds to Trump’s speech by highlighting Israeli-Palestinian peace and “safeguarding Jerusalem.”

A “just and final settlement” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary for combating terror, he tells Trump after his speech in Riyadh.

“No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the absence of a Palestinian state.

“This is the core issue of our region, and has driven radicalism throughout our region,” he says.

The international community and Arab and Muslim world have all backed Palestinian statehood, he says, and backed “full support for negotiations.”

He also urges “safeguarding Jerusalem,” which “must be a priority. The holy city is a strategic linchpin vital to relations between the three faiths. Attempts to change negotiating facts on the ground will have catastrophic effects.”

Full transcript of Trump’s Riyadh speech, as released by White House

The full transcript of Trump’s speech to Muslim-world leaders, as published by the White House moments after he finished speaking in Riyadh.

I want to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today’s summit. I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts. I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.

You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside another beloved leader – American President Franklin Roosevelt – King Abdulaziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries. King Salman: your father would be so proud to see that you are continuing his legacy – and just as he opened the first chapter in our partnership, today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to our citizens.

Let me now also extend my deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of the distinguished heads of state who made this journey here today. You greatly honor us with your presence, and I send the warmest regards from my country to yours. I know that our time together will bring many blessings to both your people and mine.

I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.

In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.
Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.

And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders—unique in the history of nations—is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect. To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.

For Americans, this is an exciting time. A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country: in just a few months, we have created almost a million new jobs, added over 3 trillion dollars of new value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies – many of whom are here today.

Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation. Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond.

Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.

This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.

I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.

Here at this summit we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.

Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred. And young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves and their peoples.

With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East – and maybe, even all over the world.

But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.

Few nations have been spared its violent reach.

America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks – from the atrocities of September 11th to the devastation of the Boston Bombing, to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and even South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have been victims.
But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence.

Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.

We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across the planet. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure.
The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams.

The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.

This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.
Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture.

Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage.

All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.

The entire region is at the center of the key shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz. The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.

But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.

Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.
This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.
When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.

But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong – and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.
Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.
America is prepared to stand with you – in pursuit of shared interests and common security.

But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.

For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.

Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.
We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.
Above all, America seeks peace – not war.
Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.
The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.

Many are already making significant contributions to regional security: Jordanian pilots are crucial partners against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen. The Lebanese Army is hunting ISIS operatives who try to infiltrate their territory. Emirati troops are supporting our Afghan partners. In Mosul, American troops are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland. Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner. Our longstanding partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain continue to enhance security in the region. And courageous Afghan soldiers are making tremendous sacrifices in the fight against the Taliban, and others, in the fight for their country.

As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.

I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered.

I also applaud the Gulf Cooperation Council for blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror, and designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last year. Saudi Arabia also joined us this week in placing sanctions on one of the most senior leaders of Hezbollah.

Of course, there is still much work to do.

That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them. Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.

The United Arab Emirates has also engaged in the battle for hearts and souls—and with the U.S., launched a center to counter the online spread of hate. Bahrain too is working to undermine recruitment and radicalism.
I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees leaving the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions.

That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life – including women, children, and followers of all faiths. Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities.

For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican – visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.
But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.
From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime – launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.

Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region. The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.
The decisions we make will affect countless lives.

King Salman, I thank you for the creation of this great moment in history, and for your massive investment in America, its industry and its jobs. I also thank you for investing in the future of this part of the world.

This fertile region has all the ingredients for extraordinary success – a rich history and culture, a young and vibrant people, a thriving spirit of enterprise. But you can only unlock this future if the citizens of the Middle East are freed from extremism, terror and violence.
We in this room are the leaders of our peoples. They look to us for answers, and for action. And when we look back at their faces, behind every pair of eyes is a soul that yearns for justice.

Today, billions of faces are now looking at us, waiting for us to act on the great question of our time.

Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair. But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.

Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people. Parents who no longer worry for their children, families who no longer mourn for their loved ones, and the faithful who finally worship without fear.

These are the blessings of prosperity and peace. These are the desires that burn with a righteous flame in every human heart. And these are the just demands of our beloved peoples.

I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.

Thank you. God Bless You. God Bless Your Countries. And God Bless the United States of America.

After Trump calls them terrorists, Hamas blasts his ‘complete bias’

Turkey’s Erdogan re-elected head of ruling party

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is re-elected as the leader of Turkey’s ruling party.

Erdogan, the only candidate for party chairman at a congress on Sunday of the ruling Justice and Development Party, is elected with 1,414 votes.

Erdogan was forced to cut his formal ties to the party he co-founded when he became the country’s first directly elected president in 2014.

A referendum last month eliminated a constitutional requirement mandating that presidents be neutral and cut ties with their political parties.

— AP

Top Arab MK mocks Trump visit, alleged love of ‘alternative facts’

Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel tomorrow, the head of the Arab Joint List in the Knesset has some blunt words.

“Hello President Trump,” MK Ayman Odeh begins in a video that seems to have been produced by the left-wing daily Haaretz. “You are about to spend two days with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I know you appreciate alternative facts. Well, you came to the right place. So here are a few basic truths any first-time visitor should know.”

He goes on to argue that Netanyahu does not want a two-state solution, and that the ruling Likud party wants to annex the West Bank without giving the Palestinians living there the right to vote in Israeli elections.

He then urges Trump to visit the neglected Bedouin villages of the Negev.

Herzog praises Trump speech, warns Netanyahu failing to build regional coalition

Israel’s opposition head MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) responds with glowing praise of Trump’s speech to the Muslim world.

“President Trump has laid the foundations for a dramatic regional effort,” Herzog says, “an effort that I believe has immense potential and that I have supported and worked for for a long time.”

He adds: “There is a security infrastructure in place and a shared regional interest in forging a coalition of moderates. I call on the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to join this regional coalition, and obviously renewing the negotiations with the Palestinians is a condition to forging this regional coalition which Israel is a part of.

“This is a time for leadership. We must not allow the prime minister to continue to miss this opportunity because of his fear of [Jewish Home leader Naftali] Bennett and dread of [Likud hawk Culture Minister Miri] Regev.”

Within Israel, too, “there is a large political bloc that backs taking advantage of this rare opportunity in the Middle East.”

Herzog, now in a frenetic leadership primary in his Labor Party, continues: “I intend to create cooperation across party lines to prevent Netanyahu from establishing a de facto binational state.”

US lawmakers pledge thorough probe into Comey firing

WASHINGTON — Members of key congressional committees are pledging to proceed with aggressive investigations into Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election, including why former FBI director James Comey was ousted from his job.

Comey was fired by President Donald Trump earlier this month. The former director will testify before the Senate intelligence committee after the Memorial Day holiday.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is a member of that committee and says he wants to hear directly from Comey if he felt he was put in a position “where he couldn’t do his job.” Rubio says the controversy has cast a “cloud” over the White House.

Leaders of the House oversight committee, Republican Jason Chaffetz and Democrat Elijah Cummings, say they would seek to subpoena any notes of meetings between Comey and Trump.

— AP

Anti-Semitic flyers return to Montana town

Flyers described as anti-Semitic are dropped in front of homes in Bozeman, Montana.

The incident Saturday morning is the second this month, though the actual flyers are different.

The Bozeman Police Department receives several phone calls about the flyers, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. It is not clear whether the same person or group is responsible for the second distribution of flyers, which is not as extensive as those on May 6, Bozeman Police Department Sergeant Hal Richardson tells the local newspaper.

“It’s not the same flyer as before, but is anti-Semitic; the tone is the same,” Richardson says.

The flyer shows a photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump and includes what appears to be a fictional quote in which Netanyahu describes the US as a welfare state under Israeli control.

Police are not investigating any crime, saying that the flyers fall under the category of free speech.

Anti-Semitic flyers have been distributed in other areas of Montana, including Missoula and Whitefish, the site of a planned neo-Nazi march that was later called off.

— JTA

Israeli Jewish education group reaches 1,000 students in France

An Israel-based Jewish educational group, Dirshu, enrolls its 1,000th student in France into classes devoted to studying the Talmud, a central text of Jewish tradition.

The current level of enrollment was reached two years after Dirshu, which was founded in 1997, began its current cycle of study in France, Rabbi Naftali Levy, Dirshu’s head of operations in France, told JTA Wednesday.

The organization, which is active in the United States, Canada, Israel and beyond, facilitates group and online learning sessions of segments from the Talmud as a means of reinforcing Jewish identity and knowledge among Jewish communities. The annual budget of its operations in France is roughly $80,000, a spokesperson for the group said.

France has 500,000 Jews and a network of Chabad-affiliated educational institutions that are among the country’s best schools. Non-religious Jewish organizations provide a host of study programs on secular aspects of Judaism. In March, the Paris-based Digital European Library of Jewish Studies launched a new course on the life and writings of the philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas.

However, Levy said, whereas France has thousands of young men who attend yeshivas, or religious seminaries, with intensive curricula, and a vibrant Jewish cultural scene, there is a “gap of knowledge among ordinary Jews with traditional or Orthodox backgrounds. We give them the means to deepen their knowledge,” he told JTA.

Many students of the classes, which are held in Jewish community centers and synagogues in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg and several other municipalities, are young professionals. Others are retired. Dirshu’s staff of roughly 20 rabbis gives the lessons in the evenings at varying frequency, ranging from four times a week to only once.

The threats facing French Jewry — hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks and incidents annually that watchdog groups believe are perpetrated mostly by Muslims and a rising far right — have generated growing interest in Jewish sources and identity, said Levy, who last week hosted in France the founder of Dirshu, Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter.

“At times of crisis, a community such as the French one, which has deep roots in the Jewish tradition regardless of their familiarity with the Talmud, tends to stick together,” he said. “There is a desire to draw strength from our sources.”

JTA

10,000 Israeli police, counterterrorism officials to secure Trump visit

More than 10,000 Israeli police officers, counterterrorism officials and border police will secure US President Donald Trump and his 1,000-member entourage during his visit to Israel.

There will be full security cooperation between Israel Police and American security personnel during the two-day visit, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld tells JTA on Sunday, a day ahead of Trump’s arrival in Israel.

Trump will stay in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in a bomb-proof, poison gas-proof and bulletproof hotel room built to withstand the collapse of the entire building, NBC News reports Sunday. It also will be protected by bomb-proof glass being brought from the United States, according to the report.

Every bit of food ingested by Trump and his family will first go through a tester, according to the report.

All of the hotel’s 233 rooms will be occupied by people involved in the Trump visit.

— JTA

Trump briefly sees country star Toby Keith’s Saudi show

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — American country singer Toby Keith holds a concert in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on the sidelines of US President Donald Trump’s first overseas visit.

The concert is free and open to men only. Saudis in attendance post videos online of the concert showing Keith playing guitar in a duet with an Arabian lute player.

Trump catches a glimpse of the concert with First Lady Melania Trump when, in a golf cart, they roll past a screen broadcasting it live Saturday evening, before having dinner with Saudi King Salman.

In this April 3, 2011 file photo, American country singer Toby Keith performs at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
American country singer Toby Keith performs at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, April 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

The country music star makes no reference to the Saudi concert on his regularly-updated Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia adheres to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law. Alcohol is banned and unrelated men and women are segregated in public.

— AP

Ministers okay economic package for Palestinians ahead of Trump visit

Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel and the PA, cabinet ministers approve a package of economic benefits for the Palestinians on Sunday evening.

Eight ministers of the 10-member security cabinet vote for the package, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who brought the plan to the ministers. But Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked vote against.

Among the measures presented by Netanyahu is the opening of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day, progress in developing West Bank industrial zones near Jenin and Tarkumiya (west of Hebron), and increased building permits for Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank.

Dozens of Palestinian hunger strikers taken to hospital

Dozens of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners are hospitalized today as their strike continues in its 35th day.

The prisoners are refusing food to protest the conditions of their imprisonment, demanding more family visits, restored academic studies and access to phones.

Many of the over 1,000 hunger strikers are convicted terrorists.

Netanyahu: Trump a ‘true friend of the State of Israel’

At the Jerusalem Day ceremony Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that “tomorrow, we will receive here in Jerusalem a true friend of the State of Israel, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania.”

He adds: “Jerusalem will always be the capital of Israel. The Temple Mount and Western Wall will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty.”

Rivlin at Jerusalem Day ceremony: Jerusalem cannot be divided

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the Jerusalem Day ceremony in the capital.

“I remember when in 1948, the city was torn asunder…. Until 50 years ago, anyone who stood here, on the border of the Old City, was endangering his life.

“Sometimes, I hear good citizens complaining about Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not the problem, it is the solution.”

He comes out against dividing the city into two capitals for two states.

“There are those who would use a Solomonic solution to Jerusalem. But those who would perform surgery in the city, Jerusalem is foreign to him and he is a foreigner to her. It is forbidden to divide Jerusalem.”

“The government of Israel has invested a great deal in Jerusalem…in a multi-year program to unify the city, a responsibility not only to those living in East Jerusalem, but to all citizens.”

He adds, “We witnessed a miracle and returned [to Jerusalem],” but offers the traditional warning of the Jewish tradition, “Jerusalem is a deposit we can hold as long as we are deserving of her. May we be deserving of the deposit. May we be deserving of our capital.”

Syria’s third largest city Homs clear of opposition

BEIRUT — Syria’s government announces Sunday the country’s third largest city Homs — once named the capital of the revolt against President Bashar Assad — is cleared of armed opposition for the first time in more than five years. The announcement follows the completion of the evacuation of the last rebel-held neighborhood.

Besieged for four years, al-Waer was the last opposition-controlled district in Homs. The evacuation of armed fighters, their families and opposition activists, began several weeks ago, following a deal that effectively surrenders the district following the tightening siege, coupled with a military campaign.

Similar deals have been reached recently, bringing a number of neighborhoods near the capital, as well as the country’s former commercial center and largest city Aleppo country, back to government control.

It is a major shift from a few years ago, when the armed opposition was on the rise, threatening the capital and holding on to more than half of Aleppo.

Syrian TV broadcasts from inside al-Waer district, showing children and men gathering around government-sponsored trucks distributing bread and goods.

Homs city, once labelled the capital of the anti-Assad revolution, has been at least partially controlled by the rebels since the early days of the revolt that broke out in 2011. But government forces recaptured one Homs neighborhood after the other, finally isolating the rebels in al-Waer.

— AP

Far-left activists plan anti-Trump protest outside US embassy

The far-left Arab-majority Hadash party is planning to greet US President Donald Trump with a protest outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Hadash, a coalition of socialist and communist Arabs and Jews, has been critical of Trump’s populist and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his backing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Its leader, MK Ayman Odeh, issued a mocking video yesterday assuring Trump he would encounter plenty of his ostensibly beloved “alternative facts” in his meetings with Netanyahu later today.

The protest is planned for 6 p.m., when Trump and Netanyahu will be meeting in Jerusalem. Protesters will carry “Donald Go Home” banners, the party says in a statement.

In the invitation to the protest, the organizers write that “Trump and the policies of the American administration are part of the problem, not part of the solution. After 50 years of occupation, peace between Israelis and Palestinians will come from the initiative of the nations living here, not from the interests of the American superpower, the greatest beneficiary of the ongoing wars, destruction and oppression in the region.”

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Full transcript of Trump’s Riyadh speech, as released by White House

The full transcript of Trump’s speech to Muslim-world leaders, as published by the White House moments after he finished speaking in Riyadh.

I want to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today’s summit. I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts. I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.

You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside another beloved leader – American President Franklin Roosevelt – King Abdulaziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries. King Salman: your father would be so proud to see that you are continuing his legacy – and just as he opened the first chapter in our partnership, today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to our citizens.

Let me now also extend my deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of the distinguished heads of state who made this journey here today. You greatly honor us with your presence, and I send the warmest regards from my country to yours. I know that our time together will bring many blessings to both your people and mine.

I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.

In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.
Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.

And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders—unique in the history of nations—is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect. To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.

For Americans, this is an exciting time. A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country: in just a few months, we have created almost a million new jobs, added over 3 trillion dollars of new value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies – many of whom are here today.

Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation. Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond.

Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.

This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.

I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.

Here at this summit we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.

Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred. And young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves and their peoples.

With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East – and maybe, even all over the world.

But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.

Few nations have been spared its violent reach.

America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks – from the atrocities of September 11th to the devastation of the Boston Bombing, to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and even South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have been victims.
But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence.

Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.

We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across the planet. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure.
The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams.

The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.

This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.
Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture.

Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage.

All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.

The entire region is at the center of the key shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz. The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.

But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.

Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.
This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.
When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.

But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong – and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.
Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.
America is prepared to stand with you – in pursuit of shared interests and common security.

But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.

For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.

Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.
We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.
Above all, America seeks peace – not war.
Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.
The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.

Many are already making significant contributions to regional security: Jordanian pilots are crucial partners against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen. The Lebanese Army is hunting ISIS operatives who try to infiltrate their territory. Emirati troops are supporting our Afghan partners. In Mosul, American troops are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland. Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner. Our longstanding partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain continue to enhance security in the region. And courageous Afghan soldiers are making tremendous sacrifices in the fight against the Taliban, and others, in the fight for their country.

As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.

I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered.

I also applaud the Gulf Cooperation Council for blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror, and designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last year. Saudi Arabia also joined us this week in placing sanctions on one of the most senior leaders of Hezbollah.

Of course, there is still much work to do.

That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them. Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.

The United Arab Emirates has also engaged in the battle for hearts and souls—and with the U.S., launched a center to counter the online spread of hate. Bahrain too is working to undermine recruitment and radicalism.
I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees leaving the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions.

That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life – including women, children, and followers of all faiths. Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities.

For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican – visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.
But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.
From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime – launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.

Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region. The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.
The decisions we make will affect countless lives.

King Salman, I thank you for the creation of this great moment in history, and for your massive investment in America, its industry and its jobs. I also thank you for investing in the future of this part of the world.

This fertile region has all the ingredients for extraordinary success – a rich history and culture, a young and vibrant people, a thriving spirit of enterprise. But you can only unlock this future if the citizens of the Middle East are freed from extremism, terror and violence.
We in this room are the leaders of our peoples. They look to us for answers, and for action. And when we look back at their faces, behind every pair of eyes is a soul that yearns for justice.

Today, billions of faces are now looking at us, waiting for us to act on the great question of our time.

Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair. But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.

Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people. Parents who no longer worry for their children, families who no longer mourn for their loved ones, and the faithful who finally worship without fear.

These are the blessings of prosperity and peace. These are the desires that burn with a righteous flame in every human heart. And these are the just demands of our beloved peoples.

I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.

Thank you. God Bless You. God Bless Your Countries. And God Bless the United States of America.