Benny Morris: The Mideast Peace Process's Biggest Myth
Benjamin Netanyahu and his relationship with assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin continue to arouse controversy in Israel. Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, recounted in January on an episode of PBS’s Frontline, “Netanyahu sat next to me when I was ambassador in Israel at the time of Rabin’s funeral. . . . I remember Netanyahu saying to me: ‘Look, look at this. He’s a hero now, but if he had not been assassinated, I would have beaten him in the elections, and then he would have gone into history as a failed politician.’” Netanyahu’s office denied that he said it.Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: We Want Our Own Knesset
Last November was the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Rabin. It remains a contentious date in Israeli history. The occasion was accompanied by the publication of several works, most notably by former Newsweek Jerusalem bureau chief Dan Ephron’s Killing a King and a documentary by one of Israel’s leading filmmakers, Amos Gitai, Rabin, the Last Day. A major question raised by both was whether Middle Eastern history, including Israeli-Palestinian relations, would have developed in a radically different direction had Rabin lived. It boiled down to whether the assassination had aborted a peace process that would or could have culminated in a historic peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and, by extension, the Arab world as a whole.
Apparently Najat Abu Bakr forgot that she is a member of the Palestinian parliament and not the Israeli one. She and her colleagues have no right to criticize President Abbas or any senior official in Ramallah. Such criticism is considered an "insult" to top officials and even an act of treason.IDF rescues two soldiers from massive Kalandiya riot; 5 troops wounded
And so we have two legislators. One is forced to seek shelter within her own parliament for fear of being arrested by the Palestinian security forces. The other receives all the rights and privileges enjoyed by her fellow Arabs inside Israel -- in spite of her immensely provocative behavior.
That is the difference between a law-abiding country and the Palestinian Authority, which has been functioning for many years as a mafia.
Najat Abu Bakr and many Palestinians dream of the day they too will have a Knesset, a true parliament, where leaders are held accountable.
The IDF and the Border Police launched a dramatic rescue operation to extract two Oketz K-9 unit soldiers who accidentally strayed into the Palestinian Kalandiya neighborhood north of Jerusalem on Monday night, and found themselves in the midst of a massive riot, which later turned into a gun battle between Palestinian gunmen and security forces.
Palestinian sources said two Kalandiya residents were killed in the fire exchange. Israeli sources said they knew of one Palestinian gunmen who was shot dead, after he fired on, and struck, a Border Police officer in the knee.
A total of five Israeli security personnel were injured in the clashes; four lightly, and the fifth, the wounded Border Policeman, was listed by doctors at Hadassah University Medical Center on Jerusalem's Mount Scopus as being in moderate condition.
An army source said the incident began at around 10:50 p.m. on Monday night, when the vehicle carrying both soldiers entered Kalandiya.
"We don't yet fully understand how it got there. The soldiers became surrounded in a very big riot, with many rocks thrown at their vehicle. They continued driving, and then Molotov cocktails were thrown at them, setting the vehicle on fire," the source said.
At that stage, the soldiers escaped their vehicle and split up.
IDF Central Command dispatched large numbers of forces to Kalandiya to rescue the soldiers. One maintained cell phone contact with the army throughout the incident, and was rescued within 30 minutes as he hid in a yard. The second soldier was rescued shortly before midnight from the settlement of Kochav Yaakov.
'Last resort' measure used to ensure troops weren't nabbed in Qalandiya, army says
The IDF employed the controversial Hannibal Protocol, which grants troops near complete freedom of operation in order to prevent the capture of fellow soldiers, during a rescue mission in the Qalandiya refugee camp on Monday night, the army said.Right-wing activist Glick returns to Temple Mount
The directive was ordered after two IDF soldiers were forced to abandon their vehicle after being attacked when they accidentally entered the camp, necessitating a rescue mission.
The rare protocol, considered a measure of last resort, is generally ordered to prevent the possible kidnap of Israeli troops and is considered a major operational undertaking, involving the possible use of massive firepower, even at the risk of endangering the kidnapped soldier’s life.
The IDF said it employed the measure after realizing that one soldier was unaccounted for, in order to “keep everyone on the same page,” an IDF spokesperson said.
A well-known Israeli activist in favor of increased Jewish presence on the Temple Mount returned to the powder keg holy site Tuesday for the first time since he was the target of a 2014 assassination attempt.Jordanian Waqf minister: No negotiations with Israel over Temple Mount cameras
Yehudah Glick, who advocates for Jewish prayer at the holy site, toured the esplanade with his wife and lawyer, and was surrounded by police, who were not informed of his visit ahead of time, according to Channel 2 news.
Last week, a court cleared the right-wing activist of accusations that he had pushed an Arab woman who then broke her arm. The court canceled an order keeping him away from the Mount.
Jordanian Waqf Minister Hail Daoud denied Israeli reports on Tuesday about progress in Israeli-Jordanian negotiations over surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount, claiming that such negotiations have never taken place.MK Svetlova: Palestinian terrorists act just like Israelis did
In an interview with Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour, Hail said that reports about Israeli-Jordanian negotiations lack any credibility, stating that "there are no negotiations between us and the Israelis over this issue."
"Jordan will still have authorities related to the installation of surveillance cameras, their transmissions and the inspections on them, owing to its special role as al-Aksa’s defender," he added.
Hail emphasized that Jordan, and not Israel, had demanded to install surveillance cameras on Temple Mount under Jordanian inspection in order to defend al-Aksa and document Israeli infringements on religious rights.
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) has commented on the controversial comparisons between the families of terror victims and those of their murderers.Former Military Intelligence officer: Palestinian leaders not paying price for promoting terror
"People who find themselves in a violent struggle act in violent ways and this is true for our people as well. We remember the incidents that led up to the creation of the State and more, so we know exactly how a people that desires its freedom acts," she told Army Radio.
MK Svetlova emphasized that she is not justifying terror attacks. "This does not justify the incitement, this does not justify anything. But we must not forget that we are only seeing a very small part of what is shown to us by the news channels."
She added that the Palestinians "remind us of ourselves, of our society, much more than any other Arab society. The Palestinians are derived from us. We are exactly the same.
"During the time of the yishuv [pre-state Jewish community in Israel - ed.] how many people denounced the attacks in the Haifa market for example? How many people denounced the attacks on the King David Hotel? They didn't have a death culture either, certainly not. I believe that the Palestinian society is a humane society.”
Israel has been too soft on Fatah and Palestinian Authority leaders who promote incitement to terrorism, a former Military Intelligence senior officer told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.Portugal journalists: Slain Palestinian terrorists are not ‘murdered’
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence, said that a decision by PA President Mahmoud Abbas last year to talk about “dangers” to the Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem in speeches was a way to signal to Palestinians that he wanted “popular resistance,” which then turned into a five-month-long wave of knife, gun, and car ramming attacks against Israelis.
Kuperwasser is now the Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he recently published a paper outlining his position.
He was asked to comment on current military intelligence assessments that attribute the violence primarily to social media incitement, and call for greater economic opportunities and the introduction of a diplomatic horizon as steps to calm the area.
“These have a role. But first and foremost, it was the decision by Palestinian leaders in October, according to which, they needed something more significant to bring world attention to the Palestinian issue. The leadership saw that the world was tired of the Palestinian issue, and wasn’t dealing with it. Abbas gave two speeches, one of which was about the need to ‘do something’ regarding al-Aksa.”
The union of Portuguese journalists has rejected a complaint by the Palestinian Authority about a reporter’s use of the word “murder” to describe only victims of terrorist attacks and not their perpetrators.Israel and the World’s False Moral Equivalence
Portugal’s Syndicate of Journalists published its decision last week on a complaint that Hikmat Ajjuri, the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Portugal, filed in December against Henrique Cymerman, the Israel reporter for Portugal’s Independent Communication Company, or SIC.
The December 13 report by Cymerman focused on incitement in the Palestinian Authority “to kill Jews,” as Cymerman, who is Jewish, described it. In the report, Cymerman said that many of the perpetrators of attacks against Israelis regard their actions as part of a holy war. He also interviewed people who said it was in reaction to the Israeli occupation.
The item had an on-screen caption that read “22 Israelis were murdered and roughly 100 Palestinian assailants were killed.”
Ajjuri complained the article was biased because it “equates the occupier and the occupied and goes further to justify the cold-blooded murder by the Israeli occupation forces of Palestinian youths and children.”
Israeli military operations have frequently been targeted for criticism by Western pseudo-humanitarians. Now, Israel’s response to the wave of individual Palestinian terrorist acts is also in the crosshairs. The reporting of such events is often characterized by false moral equivalence –comparing Israeli actions with premeditated, cold-blooded murder.At opening day of UN "Human Rights" Council, UN Human Rights Chief Equates Boko Haram & Israel
Philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtein has pointed out the dangers of false moral equivalences. He said that “if we could not distinguish between an accidental death resulting from a car accident and an intentional murder, our criminal justice system would fall apart. And if we cannot distinguish the killing of combatants from the intended targeting of peaceable civilians, we live in a world of moral nihilism. In such a world, everything reduces to the same shade of gray and we cannot make distinctions that help us take our political and moral bearings.”
This is illustrated by two classic cases, among many.
First, US Secretary of State John Kerry compared the three people murdered in the 2013 Boston Marathon to the nine “activists” killed by Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara ship in the flotilla that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2013. Kerry falsely mischaracterized these flotilla passengers as innocent activists and bystanders, much like the truly innocent Boston victims.
Speaking at the opening of the UN "Human Rights" Council session in Geneva on February 29, 2016, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein lined up alleged violations by the democratic state of Israel in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" with "attacks of Boko Haram" - a terrorist group. In the words of the statement:Election of Syria, Venezuela to Leadership Posts on UN Committee Sparks Outrage
"It is extremely alarming that so many conflicts, crises and humanitarian emergencies are currently raging, with repeated violations of the norms that protect people's rights and lives. In ... the countries around Lake Chad which have suffered the attacks of Boko Haram; ... the Occupied Palestinian Territory; ... millions of lives are threatened, and millions of homes are destroyed."
A Jewish human rights group criticized the election of Syria and Venezuela to leadership posts on a United Nations committee focused on human rights, calling it evidence of the “hypocrisy of the U.N. system.”Analysis: A weakened Turkey seeks Israel's help to break growing isolation
B’nai B’rith International circulated a press release Friday expressing outrage after Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Rafael Darío Ramirez Carreño and Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari were named to leadership positions on the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization.
“B’nai B’rith International is outraged at the election of Syria and Venezuela to key leadership positions on a committee focused on eliminating the ‘subjugation, domination, and exploitation’ of global populations,” the human rights group said.
“The Syrian regime denies the rights of its own people, year after year subjecting them to brutal conditions as it continues to unleash a war against its own population. Human rights violations in Venezuela are well-documented and abhorrent.”
“The election of these two nations, notorious and unrelenting human rights abusers, once again demonstrates the hypocrisy of the U.N. system,” the group said.
Instead, Turkey finds itself in a conflict with Russia and Iran over Syria, where Erdogan hoped to see President Bashar Assad ousted. Erdogan supported the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and now he finds himself at odds with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Because of Turkey's uncompromising fight against its Kurdish population, as well as in Syria and Iraq, Ankara is also losing its influence with NATO and with the US. Turkey is now more isolated than ever and is therefore interested in renewing ties with Israel, in the hope that the Jewish state can help Ankara improve its standing in Washington. Turkey also needs natural gas from Israel in order to diversify its sources of energy and to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.Egypt MP who met Israeli envoy suspended for 10 sessions
Most of the disagreements between Israel and Turkey stemming from the Marmara incident have already been rectified. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed. Israel has already made clear that it is prepared to pay some $25 million in compensation to the families of the victims. Turkey has deported senior Hamas military wing official Salah Aruri from the country and has tightened its supervision of the organization's members at Israel's request. Ankara has also agreed to institute special legislation that will prevent IDF commanders from standing trial for the Marmara incident.
However, the bigger problem to be solved is connected to Hamas in Gaza. Turkey is looking for a foothold in the Strip. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is strongly opposed to this, with his main argument being, to use a schoolyard expression, "You started it." Meaning, Erdogan broke the rules, and therefore he bears the responsibility for rectifying the situation. Egypt's Sisi as well is not prepared to easily forgive and grant Erdogan a prize for his behavior, as if nothing happened.
If the golden formula is found, and the crisis is indeed solved, it will be part of a three-way deal: Israel-Egypt-Turkey, in which the strategic alliance with Egypt is much more important to Israel than rehabilitating ties with Turkey.
Anyways, as the phrase goes, it's not over until it's over.
Egypt's parliament on Monday voted in favor of suspending a parliamentarian who met Israel's ambassador to Egypt for 10 plenary sessions, the Al-Ahram newspaper reported.Palestinian FM to international community: Ban Israeli settlers from your countries
According to the report, the MP, Tawfik Okasha, was suspended for insulting the House speaker and not for his meeting with the Israeli ambassador, though another special committee had been formed to take charge of questioning Okasha for that meeting.
A report prepared by a special parliamentary committee found Okasha guilty of directing an insult to constitutional law professor and parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al in a plenary session last week.
The committee said that many MPs testified that Okasha showed disrespect for the speaker and disrupted old parliamentary rules and precedents during the session.
The committee originally decided that Okasha be banned from attending three plenary sessions only, but upon the request of many MPs, parliament voted in favo of stiffening the penalty to 10 sessions, according to Al-Ahram.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki on Tuesday called on the international community not to allow Israeli settlers to enter their countries and to boycott products from those West Bank communities.Top Arab MK accuses Israel of murdering Yasser Arafat
“They must not deal directly or indirectly with the occupation system, in addition to not allowing the entry of illegal settlers into their country,” Malki said.
He spoke to the UNHRC during the opening of the high level segment of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
It marks the first time that he or any high level Palestinian official has delivered a speech under the high level segment of the meeting.
The leader of Israel’s main Arab political party on Monday accused the Israeli government of murdering Yasser Arafat.Ex-Shin Bet head Dichter slams Joint List leader’s ‘murder’ claim
In an interview on Channel 2, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint (Arab) List in the parliament, said the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service murdered Arafat. He said that Avi Dichter, who headed the Shin Bet in 2004 when Arafat died, “sent the people” who murdered him. Dichter is now a Likud MK.
Various Palestinian leaders, and Arafat’s widow Suha, have claimed since the PLO chief’s death that Israel assassinated him, an accusation Israel has always denied. Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris at the age of 75 in November 2004, after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. French investigators last April announced they had not found evidence he had been poisoned, and a French prosecutor subsequently closed the case.
IAF takes possession of David's Sling air defense systemWith his “unfortunate statement,” Odeh had become “the representative of Hamas leaders in the Knesset and abandoned the security of Israel’s citizens – Jews as well as Arabs,” Dichter said.Dichter said he was honored to have had the job of “protecting Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs and Odeh himself, from the murderous terror led by the same people Ayman Odeh defends.”Various Palestinian leaders, and Arafat’s widow Suha, have claimed since the PLO chief’s death that Israel assassinated him, an accusation Israel has always denied.Arafat died in Percy military hospital near Paris at the age of 75 in November 2004, after complaining of stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. French investigators last April announced they had not found evidence he had been poisoned, and a French prosecutor subsequently closed the case.Israel killed Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi in Gaza air raids in 2004.
The Defense Ministry and US Missile Defense Agency began handing over control of the David's Sling air defense system to the Israel Air Force on Tuesday.Terror-glorifying PA minister cancels appearance at Hebrew U
The development comes after a series of successful trials were completed in December, said the Ministry's Home Administration, which is in charge of developing missile defenses.
The IAF's Air Defense Branch has now begun receiving the main components of David's Sling.
Last week, an Israeli security source said David's Sling "will become operational this year," and is "an inseparable part" of Israeli air defenses.
Dr. Mahmoud al-Habash, a PA minister and senior adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, has canceled his planned participation in a Hebrew University panel today (Tuesday).Family of Ethiopian-Israeli missing in Gaza appeals to international community
The panel was to focus on the political process and include MK Ofer Shalah (Yesh Atid). Without Habash, though, organizers say that they are canceling the event.
“This follows notification from Palestinian Authority officials that their highest security echelons had received information about threats to Dr. al-Habbash's life, and therefore they would not allow him to attend the meeting, where he was slated to discuss topics including the stalled political process and the security situation,” read an official statement from the Hebrew University.
It emphasized that “The Truman Institute did not give in to pressure during the past week to cancel the event, but rather canceled it today following the notification from the Palestinian Authority.”
Professor Menahem Blondheim, the head of the Truman Institute, says, “We regret that dialogue was once again prevented, and that we who are engaged in the important work of advancing peace were not able to continue and carry out this important mandate."
The family of a mentally ill Ethiopian-Israeli man believed to be imprisoned in Gaza is appealing to the international community to help bring him home.Hamas Boasts Possession of Anti-Aircraft Guns Capable of Hitting Israel Air Force Jets
Relatives of Avraham Mengistu, who wandered into Gaza in 2014 and has not been seen since, were in Geneva Monday to meet with diplomats and appeal for international help, Agence France Press reported. Geneva is where the United Nations’ European headquarters is located.
“We are kept in the dark,” Mengistu’s brother Gashao, 30, told AFP, accompanied by his father, Ayaline, and mother, Agurnesh.
Avraham Mengistu was 29 when he disappeared and was suffering from severe depression. Israel’s Defense Ministry believes that Mengistu was held by Hamas after illegally crossing the border, but the Islamist movement governing Gaza has provided no information about his whereabouts or condition, according to AFP.
Hamas now possesses anti-aircraft (AA) guns capable of targeting Israel Air Force planes, the US-based Israel Project’s Arabic-language news site Al-Masdar reported on Monday.Hamas Commander, Accused of Theft and Gay Sex, Is Killed by His Own
The terror group revealed its Soviet-developed GSh-23L AA gun during a military parade in Rafah in the Gaza Strip last week. The parade was attended by senior Hamas officials, including Ismail Haniyeh, the organization’s former prime minister in Gaza. The gun, originally developed for use by military planes, has been modified for ground anti-aircraft use and can target helicopters and jets.
Al-Masdar indicated that Wilayat Sina – ISIS’ Sinai branch – likely smuggled the AA guns to Hamas from Libya, delivering them to the Gaza Strip via the Palestinian terror group’s extensive tunnel network.
The death of Mahmoud Ishtiwi had all the trappings of a telenovela: sex, torture and embezzlement in Gaza’s most venerated and secretive institution, the armed wing of Hamas.Elliott Abrams: The Syria “Cease Fire”
Mr. Ishtiwi, 34, was a commander from a storied family of Hamas loyalists who, during the 2014 war with Israel, was responsible for 1,000 fighters and a network of attack tunnels. Last month, his former comrades executed him with three bullets to the chest.
Adding a layer of scandal to the story, he was accused of moral turpitude, by which Hamas meant homosexuality. And there were whispers that he had carved the word “zulum” — wronged — into his body in a desperate kind of last testament.
His death has become the talk of the town in the conservative quarters of Gaza, the Palestinian coastal territory, endlessly discussed in living rooms, at checkpoints and in cabs. But to astute Gaza observers, this was more substantive than a soap opera.
Continue reading the main story
Mr. Ishtiwi, who is survived by two wives and three children, was not the first member of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, to be killed by his own. What was unprecedented was the way his relatives spoke out publicly about it.
The family was considered Hamas royalty for having sheltered leaders wanted by Israel, including Mohammed Deif, the Qassam commander in chief lionized by Palestinians. Mr. Ishtiwi’s mother even sent Mr. Deif, who has lost an eye and limbs but has survived repeated assassination attempts by Israel, a tearful video message in which she entreated him to release her son.
The Syrian American Council last week distributed a memorandum, whose full text is below, about the new cease fire that has been negotiated between John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, and other parties. The Council, speaking on behalf of a number of Syrian groups that oppose both jihadis and Assad, found the agreement wanting, and explained why.Advanced Israeli Drones Purchased by Russia Discovered in Syria, Aiding Assad, Iran, Hezbollah Forces
It’s worth a careful read, for it exposes what a bad deal we’ve signed, and what a benefit it is to the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia. At bottom, the agreement treats Russia like a peace partner, when in fact it is a partner of Assad’s in murdering hundreds of thousands of Syrians. And the agreement’s terms allow Russia and the regime plenty of room to go on attacking whomever they wish to attack, under cover of this “cease fire.”
Why would an American diplomat ever make this deal? There are two possible answers: he doesn’t quite understand what he’s doing, or he’s making the best of a hopeless situation created by President Obama’s refusal to act decisively in Syria. Either way, the deal is likely to fail– and “success” in its written terms will help Russia, Iran, and the regime gain ever more ground. Ten or twenty years from now, documents like this will be studied in grad schools, just as they study agreements like the Kellogg-Briand Pact that outlawed war in 1928. Agreements such as this are worse than doing nothing because they tend to legitimize the actions of our enemies. And meanwhile, the killing in Syria will go on. The Washington Post‘s story on Syria today began thus:”Syria’s hard-won truce began to fray Sunday, with Russian warplanes resuming airstrikes on towns and villages in the north and fresh reports of artillery fire across several front lines.”
For the first time since Russia became engaged in the Syrian civil war, it has emerged that President Vladimir Putin’s army has been making use of Israeli technology and weapons in the attempt to preserve the regime of President Bashar Assad, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Monday.Rafsanjani and Iran’s ‘House of Cards’
Aerial photos revealed that Israeli drones are being used by the pro-regime axis — comprised of Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and Hezbollah — against rebel forces in Syria. The unmanned planes, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), were purportedly sold to Russia as a way of keeping Moscow from selling the S-300 missile-defense systems to Iran – a maneuver that did not pay off, judging by recent announcements that the delivery is going ahead as planned.
The drones were seen around a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakiya. The significance of this discovery, according to Channel 2, is that companies interested in exporting military equipment to Russia must now re-submit requests for authorization to conduct business negotiations and receive export permits. These requests will be handled by a special technology committee.
It may be partly about ideology, or reflect an exhaustion with the ideas of the revolution, but the primary driver of this new desire for openness is the economy. As another cunning politician once put it, “It’s the economy, stupid.”Iran Elects Hardline Officials Accused of Murder
Two caveats should be introduced here: First, Rafsanjani, Rouhani and their allies in the “moderate” camp are devotees of Iran’s revolutionary regime. They do not want a coup or a revolution, but rather the preservation of the Iranian system. Both were involved in past campaigns against “enemies of the regime.”
Second, with all due respect to Iranian politics and “democracy,” the conservative establishment is not defeated. Far from it. They, too, have shown that they have phoenix-like powers. The conservative ayatollahs and Khamenei have no intention of raising a white flag or quietly fading into the night. They and their allies in the Revolutionary Guards will continue to influence Iran’s foreign policy, its Middle East wars and its deployment of terror groups in various countries.
Indeed, Friday’s triumphant “moderates” will be there to help the Guards obtain ever larger funding — made possible by the very openness to the West that so troubles the hardliners.
The real battle is just beginning. The conservative establishment won’t abandon the field so quickly. This is still revolutionary Iran, the same one that operates so many terror cells across the globe. But now it has a particularly skilled and veteran operator back at, or at least near to, center stage.
Early election results from Iran indicate that the country elected on Friday another crop of hardline officials, including those who have expressed hatred for the United States and Israel and who stand accused of planning the murder of political opponents, according to information provided by organizations that observed the elections.Iran's nuclear chief: Israel isn't a state, therefore it's not a threat
As the names of those officials who won a seat on Iran’s Assembly of Experts and other governing bodies begins to emerge, experts say it is becoming clear that hardline extremists will continue to control the Iranian government.
While some western media outlets have claimed that reformists made inroads in the latest election, regional experts explained that this is not the case, as moderate political camps ultimately endorsed on their voting lists more hardline candidates aligned with the Iranian ruling regime.
The Obama administration on Monday declined to comment when asked about the preliminary results, with officials stating that they will “reserve judgment” until final tallies are issued later this week.
This election is being viewed as particularly significant since the current Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is in poor health. The Assembly of Experts will be responsible for selecting his replacement.
Iran’s Guardian Council, which oversees elections, is believed to have disqualified at least 60 percent of the potential candidates, including around 99 percent of those billed as reformists. As a result, even moderate political camps were forced to include hardliners on their own voting lists.
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, has dismissed Israel as a threat to the Islamic Republic, saying Tehran's lack of recognition of the Jewish state renders its warnings as "empty threats."Zarif: Iran will continue to develop missile program
"We essentially do not see [Israel] as a state, therefore it's not a threat to Iran," London-based news outlet Al-Araby al-Jadeed quoted him as saying in an interview published Monday.
Salehi made the remarks in response to a question about his estimates on the chance of an Israeli-Iranian war in the wake of the nuclear deal reached last year with world powers.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signaled that warming relations with the West after the nuclear deal would have no impact on Iran developing its missile program.
“We will not get permission from anyone for our missile and defense capability,” said Zarif on Sunday in an interview with the Students News Agency ISNA.
He added that the United States should seriously work to remove sanctions on the country. “We are still waiting to see whether the US is serious in its commitment or not.”
The foreign minister also opened the door to talks on other issues with the US, saying it depended on the decision by Iranian officials. Zarif said the US still needs to build trust with Iran.
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