Thursday, April 24, 2014

From Ian:

Efraim Karsh:The Palestinians' Real Enemies
For most of the twentieth century, inter-Arab politics were dominated by the doctrine of pan-Arabism, postulating the existence of "a single nation bound by the common ties of language, religion and history. … behind the facade of a multiplicity of sovereign states"; and no single issue dominated this doctrine more than the "Palestine question" with anti-Zionism forming the main common denominator of pan-Arab solidarity and its most effective rallying cry. But the actual policies of the Arab states have shown far less concern for pan-Arab ideals, let alone for the well-being of the Palestinians, than for their own self-serving interests. Indeed, nothing has done more to expose the hollowness of pan-Arabism than its most celebrated cause.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Analysis: Abbas’s message - My demands, or else...
Wednesday’s “historic” agreement between Hamas and Fatah should be seen in the context of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s efforts to send a message to Israel and the US concerning the crisis in the peace talks.
Abbas’s message: Look what I’m capable of doing if you don’t comply with my demands.
The timing of the Fatah-Hamas accord is not coincidental. One week before the expiration of the April 29 deadline for the peace talks with Israel, Abbas has clearly decided to try every available maneuver to exert pressure on Israel and the US.
His first move came two weeks ago in the form of a televised ceremony in which he signed applications to join 15 international treaties.
Then came threats to resign, dismantle the PA and “hand the keys back to Israel.”
J Street: Negotiating with Hamas is Pro-Israel
The Middle East advocacy group J Street is urging the United States to negotiate with the terror group Hamas, which announced that it has formed a unity government with the opposing Fatah Palestinian political party.
J Street is now advocating that the United States include Hamas in its efforts to form a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
J Street’s announcement was issued after a top Hamas official made it clear that the new Palestinian unity government would not recognize Israel or renounce terrorism.
J Street wants to ‘test’ Jewish state out of existence
The PLO is not now and never was committed to a “two-state solution” (TSS) in the sense of a Jewish and Arab state living peacefully side by side. The TSS, to the PLO, has always meant an Arab-only apartheid state next to an “Israel” which implements the Arab ‘right of return’, and therefore ceases to be a Jewish state. This ambiguity has been consistently maintained throughout the ‘peace process’, which is one of the reasons it has consistently failed.
The ‘test’ proposed by the deliberately ‘naive’ leaders of J Street is for the US to force the implementation of some form of TSS. At very least it will include Israeli withdrawal from the territories. If the PLO fails to meet its commitments, what will happen? Will Israel send the IDF back into the territories, which will at that point be a sovereign ‘Palestine’? Will it un-bulldoze the settlements that it will have destroyed? Will it put its society back together after the upheaval caused by the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of its own people?
EU hails Fatah-Hamas deal, says peace talks priority
The European Union welcomed Thursday the unity accord between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas but said the priority remains peace talks with Israel.
“The EU’s top priority is that the current talks continue beyond April 29,” said a spokesman for EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton, referring to the deadline for a US-led effort to broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.
“The EU has consistently called for intra-Palestinian reconciliation behind” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, spokesman Michael Mann said in a statement.
Such an understanding was “an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two-state solution [with Israel],” Mann added.



Abbas embraces the Islamists
Wednesday’s superficial unity deal — the new incarnation of an on-off partnership between rival Palestinian factions that thoroughly loathe each other — was Abbas’s latest act of willful weakness. He is escaping the deeply uncomfortable pressure to compromise with Israel and instead embracing a veneer of Palestinian unity. It was also an act that underlined the impotence of the American interlocutors, whose warnings against an alliance with Hamas were blithely ignored.
Terribly, it opens the path to a possible deterioration into more of the violence that blighted all of our lives a decade ago. It likely marks the start of an intensified Palestinian effort to demonize Israel on the world stage, with the international community unlikely to need much persuading that Netanyahu is the architect of all our region’s misfortune.
Good news for Israel? Anything but. Good news for nobody but the extremists.
Elliott Abrams: Why Kerry on?
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry has put enormous effort into the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Most recently, there has been talk of a three-way deal wherein Israel releases 426 prisoners (some of them murderers, and some of them citizens of Israel), the United States releases the spy Jonathan Pollard, and the Palestine Liberation Organization agrees to stay at the negotiating table for a year.
But with today's news, one has to ask, "What is the point?" For today it was announced that Fatah and Hamas "would seek to form an interim unity government within five weeks." "The announcement was made," press reports state, "by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, and Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah, an envoy of internationally backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas." Of course, similar previous efforts have all failed and this one is likely to fail as well. But it is very striking that while Kerry is working hard to get talks launched, Abbas is working hard to achieve an agreement that would scuttle them.
Abbas-Hamas Deal 'a Tragic Game Changer'
Gold, who served in the past as advisor to Netanyahu and Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, and currently heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has reportedly recently returned to serve as a part-time advisor to the Prime Minister.
Hamas, he said, “is recognized by the world as an international terrorist organization; by the European Union, by the United States, by Canada and many others. And [PA head] Mahmoud Abbas has been working very hard with Secretary of State John Kerry, as our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has worked hard, and all of a sudden, it seems that in the last month, Abbas just simply does not want a negotiated solution.
“He said 'no' to President Obama. He said 'no' to even discussing with Israel in the future the possibility of them recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – we're asked to recognize a Palestinian state – and now he turns to hug Hamas. He wants a deal with Hamas and doesn't want peace, and that's a tragic development.”

PA assures reconciliation agreement requires Hamas recognition of Israel's existence
A senior PLO official, Jabril Rajoub, told Army Radio on Thursday that the reconciliation agreement signed Wednesday between Fatah and Hamas is based on Abbas's terms, including working towards a two-state solution that recognizes Israel's existence.
Hamas will have to implement Abbas's policies, Rajoub stressed.

"We weren't willing to sign the reconciliation agreement without it being clear to all factions that we are driving forward our nation to a two-state solution," he said.
New Palestinian Government Refuses to Renounce Violence
Events took another surprising turn this afternoon when top Hamas official Hassan Yousef announced that the terror group would not renounce its commitment to violence and the destruction of Israel, according to Palestinian groups monitoring the situation.
Hamas will not recognize Israel—a chief sticking point in peace talks with Abbas—and “will not give up the resistance,” which is widely interpreted to refer to Hamas’s ongoing terror attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.
The announcement of the unity government came just days after Abbas threatened to completely dissolve the PA should peace talks come to a complete halt.
Abbas in 2009: There is "no disagreement between Fatah and Hamas about belief, policy or resistance”
The agreement signed yesterday between Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah and the terrorist organization Hamas to form a unity government should not have surprised international observers. For years Mahmoud Abbas has been seeking and demanding unity between Fatah and Hamas, despite international recognition of Hamas as a terror organization. In 2009, Palestinian Media Watch documented Abbas' assertion that there is nothing to prevent unity because Hamas and Fatah agree on all important issues:
"There is no disagreement between us [Fatah and Hamas]: About belief? None! About policy? None! About resistance? None! So what do you [Hamas] disagree about? Why are you not signing the [reconciliation] agreement?" [Official Palestinian Authority TV Dec. 31, 2009
Even Leftist Ministers May Agree to Stop Talks
Even the most government's fervent believer in the “peace process,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the negotiations team, appeared flummoxed by the latest events Wednesday. “This is a very problematic development, which harms the peace efforts that have been going on intensively and the chance that was only created recently,” she said. “The reconciliation agreement that [PA chief] Abu Mazen signed with Hamas is a bad step that casts a heavy shadow on the possibility of advancing in the talks,” she wrote on Facebook.
Livni clarified that no negotiation with Hamas is possible as long as Hamas does not recognize Israel.
Liberman: No peace as long as Palestinian unity deal stands
He said the deal meant Israel “has no partner” and said it signified a move toward Hamas gaining greater influence in the West Bank.
Reiterating his claim that Abbas is guilty of “diplomatic terror,” Liberman said Israel wasn’t surprised by the Fatah-Hamas pact, as Abbas had tried several times to blow up the Israeli-Palestinian talks during the last few months. He also said that he expects international pressure on Israel to continue engaging in the current US-brokered peace talks, yet asserted that Washington supported Jerusalem’s decision to cancel a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
“It is clear that as soon as Abbas chose to unite with Hamas, it is impossible to make peace with Israel,” the foreign minister told Israel Radio.
Lapid questions whether Palestinians want state
During a speech to representatives of the European Jewish Congress in Tel Aviv, Lapid lambasted what he characterized as the Palestinians’ stubborn attitudes in peace negotiations.
“The fundamental principle of a nation that wants independence is if you are given something then take it, afterwards you can bargain about the details,” he said, noting that 90 percent of the issues could be resolved easily with the other 10% of core issues, such as Jerusalem’s status, dealt with later.
“As far as I know the Palestinians are the first nation in history that treats independence like a zero sum game.”
US to reassess aid to Palestinians if unity government deal reached
The United States would have to reconsider its assistance to the Palestinians if Islamist group Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization form a government together, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties," the official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations above, its policies and actions, and will determine any implications for our assistance based on US law," the official said.
Congress members call to cut PA funding in wake of unity deal
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the author of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, called for an immediate suspension of US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The 2006 law, passed after Hamas won that year's legislative elections, prohibits support for a "Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority."
"The Administration must halt aid to the Palestinian Authority and condition any future assistance as leverage to force Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] to abandon this reconciliation with Hamas and to implement real reforms within the PA," Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Middle East, said in a statement. "U.S. law is clear on the prohibition of U.S. assistance to a unity Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and President [Barack] Obama must not allow one cent of American taxpayer money to help fund this terrorist group."
Defying Commitments to U.S. & West, PA Moves to Unify with Hamas
The central diplomatic and psychological role played by Palestinian commitments is one of many reasons that the international community has long demanded that any Palestinian government meet its previous obligations. A January 2006 statement by the international Quartet group was explicit on the core issues of renouncing violence, meeting previous agreements, and recognizing Israel:
The point has has also been echoed by American and international diplomats for the better part of a decade, and every time the Palestinians made stabs at forming a single government. In February 2012, Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Doha, Qatar, to reach political reconciliation, prompting EU commissioner Catherine Ashton to insist that “the new government should remain committed to achieving a two-state solution with Israel and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.” In May 2011, when PA President Abbas said he was working to establish a new unity government, President Barack Obama emphasized that “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
The Trouble with Gaza
The trouble for Hamas is that it is not alone. With the aid of Iranian funds and training, Islamic Jihad has built up a fighting force of 5,000 armed guerrillas. Islamic Jihad has more than 2,000 rockets, and that number is growing. Should Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, give the order to Islamic Jihad, a confrontation in Gaza could quickly begin, leaving Hamas with the option of either trying to face down a fellow terror organization or joining it in a war against Israel.
There are also 4,000 or so members of smaller Gazan terror groups, each armed with its own mini-arsenal of rockets, bombs, and assault weapons. Many of these groups are loyal to the vision of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri of an Islamic caliphate, and maintain ties with fellow jihadis in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula.
These groups are, it seems, outraged by what they see as Hamas's soft policy on Israel, and have pledged soon to resume hostilities against it.
Therefore, even if Hamas wanted to extend a truce for years, its ability to do so is seriously in doubt. Further, as Israel's policy of containment is founded on the idea of a deterred Hamas reigning in the other terror organizations, a failure by Hamas to do so would lead to a collapse of that approach.
It is for this day that the IDF is preparing around the clock. In the meantime, as Gaza continues to fester with radical terror organizations, its unfortunate population continues to pay the price.
Rockets fired at Israel after Palestinian unity deal struck
Later on Wednesday, five Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza toward Israel. Four of the rockets failed to reach Israeli territory and the fifth exploded near the Israel-Gaza border fence. No injuries or damage were reported.
This was the second time this week that the Israeli Air Force struck Gaza. On Monday, the IAF targeted a number of terror sites in Gaza in response to rocket fire.
Hamas, Hezbollah hit Egypt jails, witnesses tell Morsi trial
Former interior minister Mahmoud Wagdi told the court members of “Hamas, [Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine] al-Qassam Brigades, (Palestinian Islamists) the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah … entered Egypt through the border with the Gaza Strip helped by Bedouins from Sinai” on January 28, 2011.
Wagdi was named interior minister three days after the militants are alleged to have entered Egypt.
He said that after crossing the border, they “destroyed” several police installations in the Sinai, before attacking “the prisons of Abu Zaabal, Al-Marg and Wadi Natrun that had political elements from Hamas and Hezbollah,” Wagdi said.
Egyptian Journalist: Al-Sisi Has Jewish Origins, Grew Up Next to Abdel Nasser and Moshe Dayan

Iran Nuke Official: Concessions Can Be Reversed in “2 or 3 Weeks”
A top official linked to Iran’s atomic agency bragged this week that a critical uranium-related concession made by Tehran under the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) could be reversed in a matter of weeks, part of a broader speech that included boasts about the quality of new Iranian centrifuges – a twentyfold increase in enrichment capacity – and the creation of new Russian-built energy plants:
"Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announced “Oxidizing 5% uranium does not mean the elimination of uranium… It is a mistake to say that we lose our reserves by oxidizing uranium…We can transform our 5% uranium to 20% within two to three weeks if needed.”
“Possible Military Dimensions” of Iranian Nuclear Program Under Increased Scrutiny
Reuters on Monday conveyed statements from Iranian officials describing efforts by the regime to prepare a document that would comprehensively lay out the development of the country’s weapons program, a statement that the outlet read alongside long-standing and explicit demands from the West that Tehran must account for possible military dimensions (PMD) of its atomic program:
Iranian diplomats had suggested in March that they might just wait until the very end of negotiations to address PMD-related issues, generating concerns that they intend to maneuver Western negotiators into a position where the Iranians would functionally dare the West to scuttle a mostly written deal over Iranian intransigence on those issues.
The West wants Iran to account for activities ranging from what are widely believed to have been tests related to the development of nuclear warheads – in 2011 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accused Tehran of work at its Parchin military facility that provided “strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development” – to Iranian military participation in the development of the country’s uranium stockpile.
MEMRI: IRGC Qods Force Commander Soleimani: 'War Is A Grand School For Love, Morals, [And] Loyalty'
The commander of the Qods Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qassem Soleimani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, recently delivered several ideological speeches praising war, the Islamic Revolution, and Leader Khamenei, and attacking the U.S. and Sunni Muslim countries.
Praising the Islamic Revolution and its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Soleimani claimed that the revolution had brought the Islamic world out of the crisis that it had been in since the fall of the Islamic regime in the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century. He added that Iran continues to export the revolution successfully, even to Saudi Arabia, which is the stronghold of the Sunni world.
Only Iran, he said, and not Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, can lead the Muslim world, because it supports Islamic groups around the globe and defends Islam from attack.

Soleimani also said that the Shi'ite crescent in the Middle East was economic as well as political because it includes the oil-rich regions of eastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. He added that Iran was successfully thwarting the global attack on the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.


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