Thursday, March 20, 2014

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: The Failure of the Mideast 'Peace Process'
In Israel, there is bewilderment that it alone is being held responsible for the absence of peace.
After all, while Mr. Netanyahu has accepted the prospect of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Mr. Abbas has said repeatedly that the Palestinians will never accept that Israel is a Jewish state.
He also continues to insist on the right of every Palestinian "refugee" to immigrate not just to Palestine but also to Israel, which would destroy it as the Jewish national home.
In addition, despite President Obama's statement this week that Mr. Abbas has "consistently renounced violence," the Palestinian Authority continues to incite hatred against Israel through its educational materials and regime-controlled media, and permits and glorifies acts of terrorism by the al Aqsa brigades and others.
Yet the U.S. and U.K. hold only Israel's feet to the fire. Why? An important part of the answer lies in the inherent nature of the "peace process" itself.
Clifford May: Middle East future shock
The Palestinians have evolved into a two quasi-state non-solution. One state is in the West Bank, where Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority maintains control, only thanks to Israeli assistance — a fact not discussed in polite diplomatic company.
Mr. Abbas clearly has no intention of ending the Palestinians' conflict with Israel. Even if he did, he has no mandate: He's now in the ninth year of a four-year term as president. Mr. Abbas also knows that were he to sign a deal, he'd be painting a bull's-eye on his back — one that every jihadist in the region, Sunni and Shi'a alike, would be eager to draw a bead on. One more thing: Why would Mr. Abbas' successor see himself as bound by anything Mr. Abbas agreed to?
Gaza is the second Palestinian quasi-state. Mr. Abbas dares not even set foot there. Hamas took power eight years ago, promising good governance and the continuation of the fight to "liberate" every inch of Israel from the despised Jews. Today, Gaza's economy is crumbling and Hamas' ability to wage war is limited.
Abbas asks Obama's help to free jailed Palestinian leader Barghouti
Any move to free such a high-profile figure as Barghouti would probably ignite a political fire storm in Israel. By the same token, it would shore up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's standing at home and help give him domestic cover to carry on the as-yet unproductive talks with Israel.
A Palestinian official said Abbas had written to the United States asking them to bring about the release of ill prisoners, female inmates and minors, as well as Barghouti and two other high-profile leaders - Ahmed Sa'adat and Fouad Al-Shobaki.
"The president renewed his demand during the recent meetings in Washington," said Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, referring to Abbas's trip to Washington this week to discuss the shaky peace process with President Barack Obama.
An Israeli court sentenced Barghouti to five life sentences and 40 years in jail in 2004, finding him guilty of orchestrating ambushes and suicide attacks during the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, that was raging at the time.

AP Questions Barghouti’s Terror Conviction
Israel prides itself on the strength of its judicial system and the rule of law, which is certainly comparable to those of other Western democracies such as the U.S. or UK.
Palestinian terror leader Marwan Barghouti was convicted in a civilian trial in an Israeli courtroom in 2004. But how does the Associated Press describe him?
According to several top officials, the Palestinians are seeking the freedom of Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences for his alleged role in killings of Israelis, as part of any plan to extend negotiations with Israel beyond an April deadline.
Talk is cheap, releasing convicted terrorists just to talk is not
Apparently, Abbas is convinced that the administration is so desperate not to have the talks collapse that it will pressure Israel to release Barghouti. The article adds that there are two other prisoners whom Abbas wants released as a reward for his negotiating, Ahmad Saadat and Fuad Shobaki.
Saadat was the ringleader of the cell that assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Shobaki provided the funds to purchase the Iranian arms found on the Karine A. Shobaki and Saadat had been in a Palestinian prison as part of an agreement signed in 2002. There were American and British observers who were monitoring the prison to ensure that the prisoners stayed in prison. But in March, 2006 the American and British governments charging that “the Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to comply with the core provision of the Jericho monitoring arrangement” withdrew the observers. Fearing that this was a prelude to the prisoners’ release, Israel sent in troops to take custody of the prisoners.
The fact that the Saadat and Shobaki are in Israeli custody, is evidence that the Palestinian Authority can’t be trusted to keep agreements. Furthermore, they, like Barghouti, were convicted of terrorism after the Oslo Accords, showing that they didn’t abide by that treaty. (It’s interesting too that the Palestinians would bring up Shobaki just two weeks after Israel intercepted the Klos-C, another ship bearing Iranian arms.)
PA Minister Lambastes Arabs for Spurring Palestinians to Wage War against Israel

The Fake Palestinian Generational Divide
Younger Palestinians have no such compunctions about pretending to want to live in peace alongside Israel. What they want is to extinguish Jewish sovereignty in any part of the country. This has nothing to do with a desire for equal rights or democracy, which, despite the assertions of his son, the elder Abbas (currently serving in the ninth year of the four-year presidential term to which he was elected) denies his people, as do his Hamas rivals in Gaza.
If the Palestinians wanted an independent state alongside Israel, they could have had it more than a decade ago and can still claim it by Abbas saying two little words—“Jewish state”—that signify he means what he says about peace. The fact that he won’t means that the contrast between him and younger Palestinians who say they want one state to replace Israel is a difference without a distinction.
Stats Debunk Demographic Threat to Israel
When it comes to the West Bank the matter is slightly more complicated. The Haaretz-J Street-Beinart mantra, that has now been adopted by Obama too, is that Israel cannot maintain a presence in the West Bank and remain both a Jewish and democratic state. This is also misleading. The democracy argument is particularly flimsy because the Palestinians are supposed to be able to vote in their own elections. The fact that the Palestinian Authority never holds any is beside the point.
That said, even if Israel were to have to include the West Bank Palestinians in the demographic equation, things are still nowhere near as bleak as is often suggested. As Uri Sadot wrote in Foreign Policy in December, if one were to take an upper estimate of the number of Arabs in the West Bank (some claim over of 2.5 million people) and add it to the number of Arabs in Israel, then these people would still constitute less than a third of the overall population. Yet it is increasingly being suggested that the Palestinian Authority may have grossly misled the international community about the number of Palestinians that actually live in the West Bank. A 2006 study by academics at Bar Ilan University made a strong case for the belief that the PA may have inflated its population statistics by up to a million people by double-counting certain groups and including Palestinians living overseas. This would have the advantage of not only damaging Israeli morale, but more importantly it allows the PA to extract more funds from the international community on the grounds it has this much larger population to provide for. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Ya’alon apologizes for remarks disparaging the US, again
Two days after sparking a dispute between Israel and the US by disparaging Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon walked back his statement in a phone call with his American counterpart late Wednesday night.
Ya’alon told Chuck Hagel he had no intention of harming the US or ties with it, according to a Hebrew-language statement released by his office. The apology was Ya’alon’s second in two months for remarks disparaging the Obama administration.
“In my statements, there was no antagonism or criticism or intent to harm the United States or [Israel’s] relations with it,” he said. “The strategic relationship between the two countries as well as the personal relationship and mutual interests are of utmost importance. I value the relationship at all levels, between Israel and the United States in general and the security establishment in particular.”
For Abbas, peace is treason
In other words, Abbas was telling Obama that he might agree to a framework for the extension of talks if his war-like demands continue to be met. Or maybe not.
Nor was mention made of Monday’s demonstrations throughout the PA against “American pressure.”
In a show of support for and to strengthen Abbas’ intransigence, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron and Jericho to protest a US framework for extending negotiations beyond their original April deadline.
If it sounds odd that Abbas was being cheered by the very people opposing Washington’s efforts, there is a simple explanation. Last week, he reassured the masses that he wasn’t going to sell out to the US or Israel.
“I am 79 years old,” he declared. “And not ready to end my life [committing] treason.”
Palestinian Authority Threatens to Resume UN Campaign
A lead negotiator for the Palestinian Authority in the ongoing U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel on Tuesday threatened to resume a unilateral push for international legitimacy at the United Nations if the fourth and final agreed upon round of prisoners are not released, Egypt’s Al Ahram daily reported, citing the Associated Press.
Nabil Shaath said that if the prisoner release is called off, the Palestinians will “immediately” turn to the UN. According to reports, Israel is pushing for an agreement to extend the current round of talks beyond the April deadline, imposed by the U.S., and views the prisoner release as a carrot for advancing the talks rather than an end-goal.
The State Department’s Campaign Against the ‘Jewish State’ Idea—in 1954
Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark last week that it is a “mistake” to insist that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state brings to mind a little-known episode in the early 1950s, when the Eisenhower administration briefly embraced the notion that Israel should stop identifying itself as a Jewish state.
The key figure in this unusual chapter in U.S.-Israel relations was a young U.S. Army officer named Henry A. Byroade, who in 1952 was picked by President Harry Truman to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, although he had no Middle East-related experience or education.
Crimea 'No Better Than Palestine' Says Russian Minister
The Crimean economy is "no better than Palestine", Russian Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev has claimed.
“The peninsula is not self-sufficient when it comes to the entire group of vitally important resources — first of all, electricity and water,” Mr. Slyunayev said.
“About 80 percent of water comes to its territory through the northern Crimean canal from the Dnieper River. Also, 80 percent of Crimea depends on imports of electricity.”
The Palestinian economy is hugely dependent on aid from the international community, as well as a line of credit from the State of Israel.
The IDF: Still the Most Moral Army in the world
When a terrorist grabs a child and holds him to the chest as a shield, the Israeli sniper is not to fire. The writhing, frightened child he holds has value.He selects a child because he knows the IDF’s code of ethics better than most of the world does. He knows we won’t be shot. He’s right.
Bentzi asserts that while the greater world will never recognize the IDF’s code of ethics, we don’t practice it for their benefit, so world opinion is not of our concern. Yes, our priorities include keeping our nation safe – we are trained as soldiers and we must protect Israel. But we cannot demote ourselves to savagery, as once we compartmentalize human life into “valuable” and “insignificant” we cease to be a nation worth protecting.
As border heats up, reservists train for Syria scenarios
As the Syria-Israel border heated up in the wake of Tuesday’s attack on an IDF patrol and Israeli retaliatory strikes on regime army positions, IDF reservists trained this week for scenarios they might face in a hypothetical operation in Syria.
Though the Yiftah Brigade’s exercises were not tied specifically to this week’s events, the growing uncertainty in the border area adds urgency to grueling training to prepare for combat against jihadist groups, Hezbollah, and the Syrian army.
According to the Ynet news site, the brigade, part of the new Bashan Division based on the Golan Heights, trained on Hummers designed to mimic tanks after doing an exercise in their Merkava 3 tanks seven months ago in the Negev training base Tze’elim.
Israel said to be budgeting billions for Iran strike
Israel is still preparing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, including a specific military budget running to NIS 10 billion ($2.89 billion), despite the developments in talks between world powers and Tehran.
Details of the budgeting came to light during Knesset joint committee sessions on IDF plans that were held in January, Haaretz reported on Thursday.
Israel can operate in Iran if it needs to, IDF chief says
Israel’s security forces have the capability to carry out military operations in virtually every part of the globe, including Iran, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday, adding that Israel had already conducted dozens of covert operations in foreign and enemy countries.
“Last week, the navy returned from a distant operation,” said Gantz, during a discussion with high school students, referring to the interception off the coast of Sudan of an alleged Iranian arm shipment aboard the Klos-C cargo vessel, later towed to Israel. “Our Air Force is wherever we want it to be,” he continued.
“I did not even mention the dozens of secret activities, some of which took place last week, and [some] just as we speak,” he said. ”I am talking about close range operations and long-range ones — Iran, and so on. These are not areas that are beyond the IDF’s reach.”
Arab rioters hurl stones at MK Feiglin on Temple Mount
Hundreds of Arab youths gathered on the Temple Mount Thursday morning to protest Likud MK Moshe Feiglin's visit to the contested holy site.
Police arrested two youths for hurling stones toward the minister and an accompanying group of right-wing activists.
Authorities ordered Feiglin to leave the compound and worked to disperse the rioters.
PMW: Fatah celebrates anniversary of killing of 37 Israeli civilians
In keeping with their annual tradition, Fatah and the PA celebrated the anniversary of the most lethal terror attack against Israel.
In 1978, terrorist Dalal Mughrabi led a group of terrorists from Lebanon into Israel, where they hijacked a bus and killed 36 Israeli civilians, 12 of them children, and 1 American civilian.
At an event, Fatah's spokesman Ahmad Assaf praised terrorist Dalal Mughrabi as "an extraordinary example of struggle, whose headline is bravery, heroism, sacrifice and courage" and who "inspired her generation and the next generations." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 12, 2014]
The official Palestinian Authority daily reported from the event that "Fatah promised to the masses of our heroic people that it would remain loyal to the promise of the Martyr Dalal and her companions, and to all the Martyrs, until freedom, independence and return." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 17, 2014]
Abbas' advisor praises murderer of 37 civilians

The Syrian inferno
If Syria teaches us anything, it is that territory still counts and counts big, contrary to trendy wishful-thinking.
Defensible lines and protected sanctuaries have not been rendered redundant.

Just as crucially, we must not overlook the unresponsiveness of the family of nations. If that is how they sermonize ineffectually over the mass murder of Arabs with whom they sympathize, it is safe to assume that they would be far less moved about what befalls unpopular Jews.
This is all vital to consider as Syria descends into a fourth year of hell.
Disarmament team: Nearly half of Syrian chemicals removed
The joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement late on Wednesday that 45.6 percent of the chemicals had been removed from Syria's Latakia port for destruction outside the country.
It has asked to be given until August 27 to complete the removal of the chemicals, which would put the mission two-and-a-half months behind schedule.
How Has Bashar al-Assad Held On For So Long?
Zisser stressed that Assad has managed to stay in power so long precisely because he was not deposed immediately, noting the complexity of divisions among the Syrian population and staunch support of Assad among certain parts of the Syrian population despite the chaos, all of which prevented a timely ouster.
40% of Syria's population are minorities who tend naturally to support a dictatorial ruler, according to Zisser, adding that they prefer Assad to regimes which may persecute them, particularly when the alternative is a radical Sunni Islamic regime. Al Qaeda forces have already forced local Druze communities to convert to Islam or die.
Syria creates ‘space agency’ despite war
State news agency SANA said the cabinet had approved a project to create the so-called Syrian Space Agency, “with the goal of using space technology for exploration and observing the earth.”
SANA said the government hopes to employ such technology “in the service of development.”
The three-year civil war has destroyed the economy and seen Western sanctions slapped on Damascus, raising questions about how Syria would fund the new research initiative.
Russia suggests it may respond to US Crimea sanctions in Iran nuclear talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the sanctions "unacceptable." But some of the Russians included on the list of individuals have scoffed at the measures which would freeze their assets in the United States.
Ryabkov gave few details on what form those measures could take but suggested that six-party talks over Iran's nuclear program could provide a means of response.
Opinion: Obama, the Bomb and the Fatwa
When lobbying to prevent further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, US President Barack Obama often refers to a fatwa, an Islamic religious opinion. According to Obama, the fatwa supposedly issued by “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, confirms Tehran’s claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Obama does not quote the text of the mysterious fatwa, nor does he tell us where and when he saw it.
The trouble is that no one has actually seen the fatwa, although many people comment on it. In a bizarre twist, some mullahs even quote Obama as the source that confirms the existence of the fatwa. “Our Supreme Guide has issued a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons, as confirmed by the President of the United States,” Ayatollah Mahmoud Yussefwand told the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) last week.
In Nuclear Talks, Iran Spars With World Powers Over Future of Arak Reactor
The U.S. wants Iran to address concerns over the nuclear reactor in Arak, which according to the International Atomic Energy Agency could produce plutonium for nuclear bombs.
“We have long said that we believe that Arak should not be a heavy water reactor as it is, that we did not think that that met the objectives of this negotiation,” a U.S. official told Reuters.
Iran, however, has said it will not shut Arak down.
Iranian Official: Ashton an Old Lady, Ban Ki-moon a Puppet; Westerners Are Animals

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