New weekly jobless claims total rises to 742,000 – first increase since October
Trump announces news conference on ‘a very clear and viable path to victory’
A Los Angeles urban planner who made homelessness and housing the central issues of her campaign and condemned the Los Angeles police department for “responding to protests against police brutality with more police brutality”, won a crucial local race this November.
Nithya Raman, 39, joins the list of Bernie Sanders-endorsed progressives who have beaten Democratic party incumbents in closely-watched races. Her opponent, David Ryu, had been endorsed by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.
Raman’s Los Angeles city council victory won’t change the balance of power among Democrats in Washington. But her win does show the impact progressives can have by organizing at the local level, and the intensity of enthusiasm she prompted among Angelenos has earned her comparisons to the New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Raman’s campaign was powered by local advocacy groups, including the Sunrise Movement and Democratic Socialists of America, and she has endorsed a swathe of bold progressive policies, from backing a Green New Deal, to arguing that some of the Los Angeles police department’s budget should be diverted to pay for unarmed community crisis specialists and outreach workers. She is pushing for a rent forgiveness program in response to the coronavirus crisis, and opposes all policies that criminalize people who are unhoused.
Read Lois Beckett’s interview with Nithya Raman here: ‘We knocked on 80,000 doors:’ how progressive Nithya Raman won Los Angeles
Donald Trump has cast himself as an isolationist president focused on Americans. However, in one major foreign policy issue, Israel and Palestine, the US leader has possibly made more of an impact than any of his predecessors.
What has he done?
The list is long but has generally focused on making concessions to Israel’s ultranationalist government, weakening the Palestinians, and pressuring Arab states to end regional isolation of Israel.
Early in his term, Trump recognised Israel’s claim to the divided city of Jerusalem and moved the US embassy there, taking a clear side in one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East.
In January, Washington went even further by releasing a “vision for peace” that afforded Israel’s government the majority of its territorial demands by recognising vast swathes of the Palestinian territories as part of Israel.
Trump has also recognised Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights – an area Israeli forces captured from Syria and that the country still claims sovereignty over.
Aren’t these all symbolic gestures?
Yes, in some respects they are. Regardless, the impact of these moves has been momentous as they have broken a decades-long US foreign policy status quo. Israel has been emboldened in its efforts to entrench the occupation. Meanwhile, few Palestinians believe Joe Biden, who is close to the Israel lobby, will prioritise rolling back these measures if he considers it at all.
Why has Trump taken such an interest in the issue?
The president’s own views on the Middle East have often been opaque. Apart from his anti-Muslim rhetoric, Trump has displayed a fairly light grasp on major issues in the region.
It has been the people around him who appear to have driven the vision.
Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization real estate lawyer with almost no prior experience of foreign relations, was picked to be Washington’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Greenblatt, who has now left and works for an Israeli investment company, has said settlements are not an “obstacle for peace”.
Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, another former Trump Organization lawyer, has been even more vocal in his pro-settler views, and has strong personal ties to the movement. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has spoken with disdain about Palestinians, has equally been a key figure.
Read more of Oliver Holmes’ report from Jerusalem: Will Trump’s major foreign policy legacy be Israel and Palestine?
Mike Pompeo makes provocative visit to Israeli settlement
Mike Pompeo has visited an archaeological dig run by an Israeli settler group accused of displacing Palestinian families from their homes in occupied neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.
The trip on Wednesday night was the first time a US secretary of state had officially visited a settlement, a deeply provocative move that previous American administrations went to lengths to avoid.
“Wonderful to see the work being done to preserve the ancient @City_of_David and the new discoveries by archaeologists working in the area,” Pompeo, who is on a three-day tour to the region, tweeted on Thursday morning.
The City of David, a huge tourist attraction next to the Old City in East Jerusalem, is run by Elad, an Israeli settler organisation that seeks to strengthen the Jewish presence in the neighbourhood of Silwan at the expense of its Arab residents.
EU diplomats have criticised the dig as seeking to ignore the ancient city’s diverse history in favour of “an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings”.
Elad has expanded by buying Palestinian houses and using Israeli laws that allow the state to take over Palestinian property. Approximately 450 settlers now live alongside almost 10,000 Palestinians in Silwan.
Pompeo’s trip, part of a farewell international tour, is expected to include an equally explosive visit to an Israeli winery in a settlement deep in the occupied West Bank. On Thursday, Pompeo said he would visit the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war and now claims as its own.
Read more of Oliver Holmes’ report from Jerusalem: Mike Pompeo makes provocative visit to Israeli settlement