Monday, December 09, 2013

From Ian:

Inflexible on Iran, empathetic on Palestine
In the past, Obama seemed receptive to Israeli concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program — less so to Jerusalem’s peace process demands. Now that seems to have been reversed
Obama endorsed Netanyahu’s demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people over a year ago. But on Saturday, he for the first time publicly indicated that even under a final status deal, Israeli troops will remain stationed on the territory of a future Palestinian state, at least for some time.
“Ultimately, the Palestinians have to also recognize that there is going to be a transition period where the Israeli people cannot expect a replica of Gaza in the West Bank. That is unacceptable,” Obama said, referring to the incessant rocket fire on Israeli towns that followed the 2005 disengagement from the Hamas-ruled coastal strip. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas needs to be “willing to understand that this transition period requires some restraint on the part of the Palestinians as well,” Obama said. “They don’t get everything that they want on day one.”
Why Should Anyone Believe Kerry?
Kerry’s ego may have been stroked by the Iranian deal, but his already shaky credibility is shot. There is no reason for Israel to believe American assurances and even less reason for the Palestinians not to think that they have more to gain from saying no than yes. But the consequences of this diplomatic farce are more far-reaching than the souring of relations between Israel and the United States. By setting the Middle East up for certain diplomatic failure, Kerry has set the stage for a third intifada and threatened the Israelis with it himself. He may think he can blame Israel with the violence that may come after the negotiations blow up but, like the almost inevitable Iranian betrayal of the nuclear talks, what follows will be largely on his head.
Netanyahu says recognition of Jewish state is ‘minimal requirement for peace’
Offering a laundry list of problems facing the region, Netanyahu suggested putting the conflict in perspective – but said that peace was vital nevertheless, primarily for Israelis and Palestinians themselves, referring to a final-status agreement as a “strategic goal” of his office.
The prime minister spoke after US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry gave remarks to the forum on Saturday, both discussing the Middle East peace process and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Netanyahu said the “minimal requirement for peace” with the Palestinians was their recognition of the state as home to the Jewish people with equal right to self-determination as themselves.
US ambassador rejects talk of Iran-Palestinian ‘linkage’
The United States hasn’t tied progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the US ambassador to Israel said Monday morning, playing down recent chatter regarding a possible “linkage” between the two diplomatic processes.
“There is no connection between these two issues,” Dan Shapiro told Army Radio. “These two issues are connected to Israel’s security, our security, and the security of the entire Middle East, for a quieter and more stable region. But we do not see in this any connection in which we are required to give in one and receive in the other.”
PA Rejects Release Delay, Warns 'Total Failure'
In response to reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry will delay the third batch of terrorist releases by a month, a spokesperson of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared Monday that the PA will not agree to the delay, reports Kol Yisrael government radio.
Issa Karaka, PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs, said that while an official confirmation of the postponement has yet to be made, there are definite American pressures in that direction. Karaka added that Abbas told Kerry in their meeting last week that he refuses the proposed postponement, saying the matter could negatively impact peace talks with Israel.
Kerry's delay is seen as meant to pressure the PA into accepting Kerry's proposed Jordan Valley security arrangements made last week, which PA officials say Abbas rejected as they would not have prevented Israelis from living in the area.
PLO: Palestinians won't accept current proposals from Israel
The Palestinians can’t accept any proposals or plans like the ones that are being suggested today; that solidify occupation and legalize the division of the Palestinian territories, the PLO Executive Committee announced Sunday.
The announcement, which was issued to mark the 26th anniversary of the first intifada that began in 1987, was referring to recent security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians, as proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Hamas: We Won't Cede a Single Grain of Soil
The Secretary of the Hamas government in Gaza, Abd el-Salam Siam, said Sunday in a press release marking 26 years since the outbreak of the First Intifada that the Gaza government supports all forms of the struggle against "Israeli occupation," including popular struggle, struggle through peaceful methods and armed struggle.
Hamas TV's Giant Bee Nahoul Explains the Concept of Negotiations

Israel-Syria Border a Tinderbox
Israeli military planners say that the Syrian arena has become intrinsically linked to Lebanon.
With many thousands of Hezbollah operatives fighting in Syria, and with Syrian jihadi organizations branching out into Lebanon, an incident that begins as an attack on Israel from Syria could quickly end up spreading to the Lebanese border.
Counteracting the explosiveness of the situation are a few stabilizing factors. No side in Syria is keen on opening a front with Israel and facing the IDF's firepower when it is neck-deep in a fight to the death in the Syrian civil war. Additionally, localized incidents, as again demonstrated last week, can, through a careful combination of firm responses and restraint, be contained by Israel.
UN: Israel to resume transfer of building materials to Gaza
Israel has decided to once again allow construction materials for UN projects to be brought into the Gaza Strip, the United Nations announced Monday.
The import of construction materials was suspended after the IDF discovered a Hamas tunnel leading out of the Gaza Strip in October that used 500 tons of cement.
According to Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, the UN is building schools, housing, water and sanitation facilities in the Strip, at a cost of $500 million.
Netanyahu: Iran Must Renounce Genocide
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday at the Saban Forum and said that stopping Iran's nuclear program is not enough – Iran's policy of genocide must change, too.
Netanyahu quoted incendiary statements by Iran's leaders, who called Israel "a rabid dog," among other things.
The Iranian regime, he said, "is committed to our annihilation and I believe that there must be an uncompromising demand at the Geneva talks, for a change in Iran's policy. In other words, there needs to be not just a change in the capability of Iran to arm itself, but also a change in its policy of genocide. I do not think that I or anyone can exaggerate the threat that Iran poses to the Middle East."
Iran foreign minister alludes to deceiving Obama administration during nuclear negotiations
Zarif, reporting on the Geneva negotiations to the regime’s parliament last Wednesday, alluded to deceiving the Obama administration and the 5+1 world powers, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.
“The Americans talk nonsense [on enforcing limitations on Iran’s nuclear program]… All of these [negotiations] are ultimately for [the representatives] to protect the interests of the country,” he said.
Referring to what Iran claims is its right to enrich uranium, he added, “This right is there, regardless if the West accepts it or not.”
Mike Huckabee: Israel Has ‘License’ to Act Independently on Iran (INTERVIEW)
The U.S. “has indicated that they are going to act independently of Israel as it relates to Iran,” Huckabee said, calling that a “very foolish policy.”
“I think now [the Israelis] have really a license to act without having to be scolded for not having consulted the U.S. for their plans,” he said.
Iranian paper fears ‘trap’ for Rouhani at Mandela funeral
An editorial titled “Satan lays a trap, this time in Johannesburg” in the Kayhan daily laid down the dangers to Rouhani of a chance meeting with the “head of the Great Satan government,” AFP reported on Sunday.
“Some domestic and foreign media outlets are using the funeral ceremony as a pretext to push Rouhani toward a meeting with the head of the Great Satan government,” according to the editorial board of the hardline paper.
Hizballah’s War of Shadows With Saudi Arabia Comes Into the Light
Nasrallah rarely mentions Saudi Arabia by name, only referring to the monarchy in vague terms in order to maintain plausible deniability. But that all changed on Tuesday, when he accused Saudi agents of being behind the suicide-bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last month that claimed 23 lives. (The assassination of a senior Hizballah commander on Wednesday, though the assailants remain unknown, deepened the group’s sense of embattlement.) In doing so he has openly declared a war that has long been fought in the shadows, first in Lebanon where Hizballah-allied parties are at a political impasse with the Saudi-backed Future Movement of Saad Hariri, and now in Syria, where Hizballah, with Iranian assistance, is fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad against Saudi-backed rebels. “This is the first time I have ever seen such a direct attack [by Nasrallah] against Saudi Arabia,” says Lebanon-based political analyst Talal Atrissi. “This was the formal declaration of a war that has been going on in Syria since Saudi first started supporting the rebels.”
Syrian Islamists: No to Democracy, Minority Rights
A video released by a leading Islamist faction shows Islamist military leader Abu Bilal al-Homsi exhorting his followers to reject the largely secular Free Syrian Army, led by Salim Idris.
According to Al-Homsi, Idris has said that the Free Syrian Army under his command is fighting for "democracy, secularism, communism, and the rights of minority groups", including Syrian Druze.
Rebels must fight not for democracy or rights, but for Islam, Al-Homsi declared. From the beginning, the purpose of the rebellion was to institute Islamic law, he argued.
Al-Qaeda: Death to Shi'ites for 'Damaging Mohammed's Legacy'
The video opens with a speech from a judge in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been a focal point of territorial fighting between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebel forces. The judge's job: to establish rule over the Syrian city through the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic religious law - including doling out execution orders.
"Don't fear the Egyptian or Israeli armies, the judge declares" and calls for jihadi fighters to renounce their commanding officers and remind them that on the Islamic Day of Judgement, they will be held accountable for calling off the (global) Jihad pan-Islamist organizations like Al Qaeda support.
Jordanians Protest, Demand Security
Radwan al-Nawaiseh, spokesman for the Arab People's Committees, told the newspaper that these scenes of protest in Jordan confirm that the Jordanians do not trust their government. He highlighted the significant decline in public freedoms which can lead to the deterioration of the citizens’ economic conditions.
The protests are nothing new, as Jordan has seen regular protests as a result of the Arab Spring that has toppled four regimes across the region. A combination of youths and Islamists have been demanding sweeping reforms, but King Abdullah has mostly been able to curtail the demonstrations, partially by curtailing his absolute powers.
The Cairo effect: America’s declining power from the Egyptian perspective
Egypt’s popular de-facto leader, Sisi, did the math. He remembered Obama’s indecisiveness during Egypt’s uprising and the Carter-like abandonment of Mubarak, not to mention Obama’s lack of support for Sisi’s government. On the other hand, he saw how Russia treats its allies and how far it’s willing to go to keep them in power.
Last Thursday, Russia’s most high-ranking delegation (including foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the defense minister Sergey Shoygu), has landed in Cairo and received the red-carpet welcome. The final results of the visit are still not certain; but it looks like the two countries are headed for a major arms deal and military cooperation. But, more than anything, this deal signals to America that every ally, and even patron, is replaceable.
Turkey’s Erdogan on shaky ground as elections loom
After dominating Turkish politics for a decade, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is entering election season on uncertain footing — without the support of key groups that had powered his previous electoral wins and facing divisions within his own party.
Erdogan, whom critics accuse of cutting an increasingly autocratic figure, faces municipal elections in March that are largely seen as a vote of confidence in his Islamic-based government. A poor result could weaken Erdogan just as he seeks to shift into the presidency in an August vote while still maintaining enough influence in his party to choose his successor as prime minister in parliamentary elections expected next year.
Turks detained at Auschwitz for alleged Nazi salute
Two Turkish tourists were detained by guards at the Auschwitz museum for appearing to make a Nazi salute.
The tourists, a man and a woman, both 22, were taking pictures of each other in front of the gate to the former Nazi death camp under the iconic sign “Arbeit macht frei” — “Work makes you free” — and raised their right hands in the gesture of a Nazi salute.
Both are studying history in Budapest. They had stopped at a hotel in Krakow before making their visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum.


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