US, Israeli Envoys Fly to Bahrain to Advance Nascent Ties

JERUSALEM—A high-level delegation of American and Israeli officials landed in Bahrain on Sunday on a mission to cement an agreement to establish formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab state. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Israel’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, led the delegations. The sides were expected to issue a joint statement later Sunday that would make Bahrain just the fourth Arab country to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. “My hope is that this visit marks another step forward on the road to a truly peaceful, secure, stable and thriving Middle East,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said at a welcoming ceremony at the airport. Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at a festive White House ceremony last month marking the “Abraham Accords,” a pair of U.S.-brokered diplomatic pacts with Israel. While the UAE’s deal with Israel formally established ties, the agreement with Bahrain was less detailed and included a mutual pledge to follow suit. Sunday’s one-day visit by the Israeli delegation aimed to complete that task. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani delivers a statement upon the arrival of an Israeli delegation accompanied by the U.S. treasury secretary, in Muharraq, Bahrain, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters, Pool) The El Al flight landed at Bahrain International Airport on Sunday afternoon. The kingdom’s state-owned television channels did not carry the arrival live, nor did the state-run news agency announce the Israelis’ presence. Bahrain’s state-run news agency later published pictures of the arrival, acknowledging the Israeli officials were there to sign documents “establishing diplomatic relations between the kingdom of Bahrain and the state of Israel, in addition to a number of memoranda of understanding in the areas of joint cooperation.” Mnuchin said it was “incredible” to be on what was believed to be the first flight by Israel’s national carrier El Al to Bahrain. “The opportunities here are quite enormous, both economic, trade, investment, cultural and security between the three countries,” he said. Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin arrive in Muharraq, Bahrain, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters) “Today is a great day.” Ben-Shabbat told the airport ceremony. “Another chapter in the vision of peace becomes a reality.” Israel’s commercial El Al flight 973—a nod to the international dialing code for Bahrain—flew through Saudi Arabia’s airspace en route to Manama. Although Saudi Arabia has not normalized ties with Israel, it has signaled tacit support for the moves by its Gulf neighbors, which reflect shared concerns about Iran. At Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport, U.S., Israeli, and Bahraini flags festooned the tarmac before take-off. Ben-Shabbat, one of the key Israeli officials involved in negotiations with Bahrain, said the visit could “translate plans to actions and concrete agreements” with the signing of a range of deals involving finance, investment, trade, tourism, communications, technology and agriculture. Another Israeli official said the visit would include a joint statement late Sunday formally establishing diplomatic relations, including the opening of embassies and exchanges of ambassadors in the coming months. Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of an Israeli delegation, delivers a statement upon arrival in Muharraq, Bahrain, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters, Pool) The decision to establish ties with Israel was rejected by the Palestinians, whose leadership has scathingly criticized both the Emirati and Bahrain moves as a betrayal and an undermining of the Arab stance that recognition of Israel should come only after Palestinians achieve an independent state of their own. The Palestinians have severed ties with the White House, accusing it of being unfairly biased toward Israel. U.S. officials have in turn cultivated ties between Israel and Arab states, hoping to increase pressure on the Palestinians to reduce past demands in peace talks. Bahraini civil society groups and opposition figures, already targeted in a yearslong crackdown on dissent, have also spoken out against normalization with Israel. Bahraini and Israeli officials have held numerous conversations since announcing their intention to establish full ties. Sunday’s face-to-face meetings, however, are seen as another step toward normalization. Meanwhile, Israel and the UAE have already signed a number of business, banking and intergovernmental agreements. Bahrain and the UAE signed the agreement to normalize relations with Israel in a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15. Egypt and Jordan are the only other two Arab states to sign diplomatic treaties with Israel, in 1979 and 1994, respectively. (L-R) Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan wave from the Truman Balcony of the White House after the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Sept. 15, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) The accords made public what had been a gradual strengthening of quiet ties between Israel and several Gulf states —forged in recent years over a shared concern over regional rival Iran. Other Arab countries could follow suit, with analysts and insiders pointing to Sudan, Oman, and Morocco as possibilities. The trip to Bahrain on Sunday also came as U.N. arms embargoes on Iran expired despite American objections. Bahrain, like several other Gulf Arab nations, views Iran as the most serious threat to its security in the Persian Gulf. The Israeli delegation was slated to fly back to Tel Aviv later Sunday, while the Americans will head to the UAE before flying to Israel on Tuesday. Last month, the first known commercial flight between the two countries brought a delegation of Israeli officials to Manama to discuss cooperation between Israel and Bahrain following the signing of an agreement to normalize ties. By Ilan Ben Zion

Continue Reading US, Israeli Envoys Fly to Bahrain to Advance Nascent Ties

Pelosi Unveils 48-Hour Deadline for White House on Stimulus Talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday gave the Trump administration a 48-hour deadline to reconcile differences in a stimulus package. “Where we have agreement, we don’t have agreement in the language yet, but I’m hopeful,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning. “The difference amounts to this, if you think of it this simple way: when you say ‘may,’ you’re giving the president a slush fund,” she added. “He may do this, he may grant, he may withhold.” It’s not clear what will happen if the White House and Pelosi do not resolve their policy disputes in the next two days. Over the past several months, negotiations on the stimulus package have stalled and restarted several times. On the table are stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits, small business loans, aid to cities and states, a bailout to the beleaguered airline industry, and more. “There remains an array of additional differences as we go provision by provision that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner in the next 48 hours,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said on Twitter on Saturday night. “Decisions must be made by the White House in order to demonstrate that the Administration is serious about reaching a bipartisan agreement that provides for Americans with the greatest needs during the pandemic.” Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday night for more than an hour but the two again failed to reach an accord on a stimulus deal. The last major stimulus package was the CARES Act, passed in March, although Democrats have passed two iterations of their HEROES Act, which were both denounced by White House officials and Republicans in Congress. “People in need can’t wait until February….Make a deal & put the ball in McConnell court,” wrote Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a member of the House’s progressive wing, on Twitter to Pelosi. The latest iteration of the HEROES Act is about $2.2 trillion, while Mnuchin in recent days offered a $1.88 stimulus package. Last week, some Democrats in the House called on Pelosi to accept the White House’s latest offer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) arrives at a Senate Republican policy meeting in Washington, on July 28, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Hammill said that Pelosi and Mnchuin made progress on a nationwide policy for testing and tracing, while addressing the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus impact on minority communities. A spokesperson for Mnuchin also confirmed the talks, saying the two parties would again speak on Monday. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to sign a larger stimulus package than what Democrats or Republicans have offered. “I’m ready to sign a big, beautiful stimulus,” the president said at an NBC town hall on the night of Oct. 15. He has also repeatedly called on Congress to “go big or go home.” However, if the White House and Pelosi come to an agreement, it’s possible the Senate will not pass the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he won’t support the White House’s deal, adding on Saturday that the GOP will vote on a smaller $500 billion package next week.

Continue Reading Pelosi Unveils 48-Hour Deadline for White House on Stimulus Talks

TikTok Chooses Oracle Over Microsoft to Become Their New Tech Partner

Over the last few months, everyone was glued to their phones as they waited for updates regarding the ban of TikTok – an app that has dramatically changed digital culture. After President Trump’s executive order in August forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, the fate of our favorite creators and videos seemed uncertain. However, they will not be going anywhere because TikTok has agreed to partner with Oracle. But will the US government approve this deal? Background When India banned the video-sharing app in June, American TikTok users worried that the app would be banned in the US after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in early July that they are looking into banning TikTok due to national security concerns.  BIG: After India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including #TikTok. ‘Download the App only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese’, Pompeo warns. pic.twitter.com/gtbQ9tjlCd — Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) July 7, 2020 Because TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, it is under the control of the Chinese Communist government. This raises concerns all over the world because there were allegations that TikTok is sharing private information with the Chinese government – although TikTok denied these accusations.  TikTok felt that the Trump Administration was ignoring their explanations and denials of their connections to China leading to TikTok’s lawsuit against the administration.  Due to President Trump’s distrust of China as he believes they are a huge economic competitor and responsible for the current world pandemic, President Trump did not want to take any national security risks when it comes to China. Despite Gen Z’s retaliation, President Trump set a hard deadline on ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US owned company by September 20 or it will be banned in the US by September 29.  Over the last month, TikTok has been presented with many potential buyers including Microsoft and Walmart, but people thought Microsoft would be TikTok’s new owner.  @charlesthegr8 #sponsored I might have to cop that new #xbox now #microsoft #fyp #foryou #funny ♬ Cousin Stizz – Perfect Ft. City Girls – jgonz860 Oracle Outbids Microsoft However, yesterday, Microsoft announced that ByteDance rejected their offer to buy TikTok. Today, Oracle officially confirmed that it has been chosen to become TikTok’s “trusted technology provider.” However, it is hard to tell exactly what this means. Oracle is a software company that sells software and cloud services to companies to help them manage and improve their businesses. As a “technology partner,” Oracle may be allowing TikTok to utilize its cloud infrastructure, which would attract more businesses to become Oracle clients and improve TikTok’s data security. Since the announcement of Oracle’s deal with TikTok, Oracle’s stock has increased almost 6% as TikTok is a huge platform with over 2 billion downloads worldwide. With TikTok, Oracle’s revenue is sure to increase exponentially as they will be in control of one of the world’s most popular social media networks.  “Are you buying Oracle stock today?” pic.twitter.com/lL7JTuuIl0 — Douglas A. Boneparth (@dougboneparth) September 14, 2020 Is This a Good Deal? However, some are skeptical of this deal as many are bothered by President Trump’s connection to the company. Larry Ellison is a former CEO of Oracle and currently serves as executive chairman of the board and chief technology officer. In February, Ellison hosted a fundraiser at his Coachella Valley home for Donald Trump, but was not physically present. Also, the current CEO Safra Catz was a part of President Trump’s transition team.  Oracle won the bid for TikTok. I wonder why… ?https://t.co/Ehd0u25QvB — Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) September 14, 2020 Oracle appears to get TikTok. Its chairman, Larry Ellison, is a big Trump donor. Competitor Microsoft is not. Crony capitalism is the norm. Hope it becomes the next MySpace pronto. — Michael Glassman (@MHGtweet) September 14, 2020 Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Oracle, which has zero expertise in consumer technology (as opposed to Microsoft), and is headed by Larry Ellison and Safra Catz, two of Trump’s biggest (and only) supporters in Silicon Valley, gets to buy TiKTok. https://t.co/chvNLfcQ7v — andy serwer (@serwer) September 14, 2020 Despite this, most people are ecstatic about TikTok being saved, but the deal still needs to be approved by the White House. Within the last few weeks, there have been rumors that China will prohibit ByteDance from selling its algorithm to the US; however, to prevent a ban, ByteDance must sell 100% of the company – including its algorithm. The algorithm is TikTok’s most valuable feature as its ‘For You’ page gives each user an individualized experience based on their engagement as well as allowing anyone to go viral, no matter their following.  my “for you page” is too accurate on tiktok wtf — yanisbeth? (@yanisbishh) September 12, 2020 From Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s statement, it is unclear if TikTok agreed to sell its algorithm to Oracle. According to Secretary Mnuchin’s statement to CNBC, they received ByteDance’s proposal over the weekend and will review the deal this week. Mnuchin said he will be talking with Oracle over the next few days to ensure American data and phones are secure with this deal. Even though the details of Oracle’s deal with TikTok have not been released, TikTok fans are jumping with joy as they will not have to say goodbye to their favorite videos and creators. @elianaghen BREAKING NEWS!!! Thank you Tiktok! I am so grateful! #greenscreen #tiktoksold #oracle #BoostYourMood #fyp ♬ Whole Lotta Choppas – Sada Baby Do you think the White House will approve this deal? Will TikTok sell its algorithm? Why do you think TikTok picked Oracle over Microsoft?

Continue Reading TikTok Chooses Oracle Over Microsoft to Become Their New Tech Partner