Friday, March 28, 2014

From Ian:

Sarah Honig: Some are more equal
Quite clearly, the US president and secretary of state don’t subscribe to George Orwell’s ever-relevant observation that “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
*Therefore, woe to the Quixotic sorts – both on America’s home turf and abroad – who insist on telling Obama and crew precisely what they’re loath to hear. Woe all the more to the recidivists who persist in upsetting the Obama administration’s omniscient ones.
Very obviously Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon is among the least stomached recidivists, even if he speaks his mind at closed meetings or in private conversations.
Ya’alon must come to grips with the fact that freedom of speech isn’t universally countenanced in our Obamaesque existence. Someone can be counted upon to leak or record uncomplimentary evaluations of the dear leader and then woe to him who dared tell it like he sees it.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Arabs No Longer Take Obama Administration Seriously
There is a feeling among many Arabs and Palestinians that the Obama Administration has no clue as to what it wants from the Arab world. They point out that the Obama Administration has failed in its policies toward several Arab countries, especially Egypt, Libya and Syria.
Abbas, in wake of growing US pressure on him, evidently sees the Arab summit as a "victory" for the Palestinians. As one of his aides explained, "The Arab summit's announcement is a political and moral boost for the Palestinian leadership."
Abbas might eventually agree to the American demand to extend the peace talks at least until the end of the year. But this does not mean that he is going to change his position regarding recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Nor does it mean that Abbas is about to make real concessions on any of the core issues, such as the future of Jerusalem or the issue of borders.
The extension of the talks means only one thing: that Abbas will be able to use the new time given to him to try to extract further concessions and gestures from the U.S. and Israel, while all the time bearing in mind that Obama and Kerry are willing to do almost anything to avoid a situation where they are forced to admit that their efforts and initiatives in the Middle East have failed.
Hillel Neuer: Another outrageous UN appointment
Bowing to new pressure from the powerful Arab Group in the race to replace controversial official Richard Falk, the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council has decided to ignore the vetting committee’s official choice, and instead appoint Christine Chinkin — co-author of the Goldstone Report, and a law professor at the London School of Economics – as the UN’s next special rapporteur on “Israel’s violations of the bases and principles of international law.”
In a second highly controversial move, the president also announced that he would name Falk’s wife, former Turkish government adviser Hilal Elver, to another top U.N. human rights post.
The only power that can yet stop these outrageously partisan and problematic appointments before tomorrow’s plenary decision is the Obama Administration.
When council president Baudelaire Ndong Ella tomorrow moves the nominations, the U.S. — if it is to live up to its pledge to use its UNHRC membership to fight bias, politicization and double standards — must take the floor, call a vote, and vote No.

UN blasts Israel, Hillel Neuer calls out hypocrisy of Russia, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey

Meet the New Special Rapporteur, Same as the Old Special Rapporteur
Falk was always going to be a tough act to follow. This is the man who has accused the Jewish state of “slouching toward nothing less than a Palestinian Holocaust.” Yet, the monitoring group UN Watch has complied a rogues gallery of some of the other candidates. Many had their money on Falk’s friend and close associate Phyllis Bennis who assisted Falk in compiling a number of his reports, some of which were so pro-Hamas that the Palestinian Authority actually blocked Falk from presenting one of them.
Then there was the application from British lawyer Michael Mansfield, who along with the eminent Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters served as a leading “juror” for the Russell Tribunal, which has been described as a Stalinesque show trial of one-sided evidence against Israel. Mansfield also acted as the attorney defending the Palestinian bombers convicted of the 1994 attack on London’s Israeli embassy and has condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden. Among the other applicants was the already mentioned Makarim Wibisono, who has gone out of his way to talk down Israeli suffering, referring to “the handful of Israelis who have died,” and claimed that Israel uses terrorism as a “flimsy pretext” for its acts of aggression. Then there was former Dutch ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jan Wijenberg who has claimed that the European Union is an instrument of Israeli foreign policy and that a “creeping genocide” is taking place in Gaza.
UN body panned for unprecedented anti-Israel resolution
The Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday that a resolution expected to be passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council later this week goes beyond the international community’s ordinary criticism of the settlements, is akin to a call for boycotts against Israel, and jeopardizes the current peace talks.
Other Jewish and pro-Israel groups joined the organization in attacking the council’s alleged anti-Israel bias, calling on it to remove from its agenda a fixed item dedicated exclusively to criticizing the Jewish state.
“Once again, a UN body makes it its business to inappropriately delegitimize and isolate Israel,” Abraham Foxman, the national director of the New York-based ADL, said.
Peace Now Activists Confused By UN Resolutions Not Mentioning Israel (satire)
Israeli organizations opposed to Israel’s settlements and policies toward the Palestinians expressed puzzlement today after the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly condemned North Korea and Russia, respectively, without singling out Israel for opprobrium. The organizations said they remain at a loss to explain why anyone would want to focus on the faults of countries other than Israel.
“Our assumption has always been that the best way to bring Israeli policies in line with our vision of nihilism is to enlist the international community in the effort to undermine Jewish sovereignty,” said Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from all areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines, which will ease the eventual transition into just another Arab state that persecutes Jews. “But we’re challenged by these new developments, which clearly imply that the same international community has actual ideals in mind.”
JPost Editorial: Prisoners for peace?
Abbas’s Kuwait performance was another example of how depressingly little goodwill there is on the side of the Palestinians. Recognition is an issue on which the Palestinians could have shown flexibility.
On other issues the situation is no less bleak. The sides are deeply split on anything from military arrangements in the Jordan Valley to the return of Palestinian “refugees,” to the status of Jerusalem, to the question of settlement blocs.
Under the circumstances, with practically no headway made in the talks till now, what good could possibly come of the release of prisoners, many of whom are murderers? Indeed, the very concept of releasing prisoners is morally problematic. When the present round of negotiations was launched under the ambitious leadership of Kerry, we opposed the very concept. Conditioning Palestinian agreement to talk on the release of Palestinian terrorists – many of whom are guilty of the intentional murder of women and children and the elderly – made no sense, we argued, as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued to rage. At the end of a process of reconciliation and mutual recognition between Israelis and Palestinians, it could conceivably be argued that the release of prisoners would be a part of a healing process. These prisoners would in that future day of peace not be received as heroes by Palestinian society, but as sad reminders of a violent time when Palestinians mistakenly believed that they could use terrorism to secure a homeland.
Israel delays prisoner release due for Saturday night
Israel will not release a fourth batch of 26 Palestinian security prisoners Saturday night as stipulated under the framework deal that led to the renewal of negotiations last July.
The five-minister committee chaired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that is empowered to choose which convicted terrorists will be released would need to have met on Wednesday to make a Saturday-night release possible.
The names must be made public 48 hours – not including Shabbat – prior to the prisoners going free in order to allow appeals to the High Court of Justice against the move.
No date for convening the committee was publicized.
Outgoing security adviser: ‘Palestinians haven’t budged’
Amidror highlighted the importance of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Such recognition, he said, is not important for Israel — which will continue defining itself as it wishes — but for Palestinian society, to “close the issue of 1948,” or the very existence of Israel.
“The more I speak to Palestinians, the more I understand that the real issue for them is 1948, not 1967,” he said. “It’s clear to me that if the agreement with the Palestinians does not include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
PA Minister: There Will be 'Protests' if Terrorists Not Released
Qaraqe said that he holds Israel responsible for the consequences of not releasing the terrorists on time, warning of the “anger in the Palestinian street.”
Israel agreed, when talks began in July, to release 104 terrorists in four batches, as a “gesture” to the PA. Three of the four releases have already gone through.
However, there has been little progress in the talks so far to justify the fourth release. In addition, the PA chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, admitted earlier this month that Abbas was staying in talks solely for the sake of the terrorist releases.
In the wake of these statements, government ministers have been pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to go through with the fourth release.
BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse
The BBC fails to inform readers that the prisoner releases were from the very beginning tied to the talks’ progress – of which there has been little to date – as explained by the Israeli prime minister to his electorate last July.
The BBC fails to inform audiences that the subject of which prisoners are to be released and when is decided by a committee of Israeli ministers – not by the Palestinian Authority.
Of course no attempt is made by the BBC to point out to audiences the absurdity of the discordant assumption by the Palestinian Authority that it can demand the release of murderers who are citizens of the state in which they are imprisoned due to their having killed citizens of the same state.
Canada: Talks should consider Jewish refugees from Arab states
The Canadian government reiterated its position that the fate of Jewish refugees from Arab countries should be considered in any final peace deal with the Palestinians, but hinted that the current negotiations should be allowed to proceed without the issue complicating them.
“Fair and equal acknowledgement of all refugee populations arising out of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the recognition of Jewish refugees,” Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement Wednesday. “Such recognition does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.”
Baird’s statement follows a decision by the House of Commons, which earlier this month adapted a report submitted to parliament last year to recognize the experience of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
The new "treasure map" to Bedouin landholdings
In the fall of 2013 the organization Rabbis for Human Rights boasted that it found new evidence about Bedouin land rights in the Negev. On November 24th, they published their report “primary Zionist document reveals Bedouin ownership.” They were so sure of themselves they even posted the 1920 report on the net. Pro-Bedouin researchers Ahmed Amara, Oren Yiftachel and Sandy Kedar then published an op-ed in Haaretz, mentioning this document and claiming that the Negev “never belonged to the state” and “Bedouin claims stand on firm historical and legal problems.” Unfortunately the newly revealed document doesn’t show anything of the sort.
Let’s take a tour through the new claims. Luckily for all concerned, the reader can go check the documents themselves. In fact, this open-source presentation of material and evidence for all to see is for the best. Scholars and organization like RHR have for years hidden behind claims of having “specialized knowledge” of these issues and framing them with fancy terms about “justice” and “settler-colonialism.” But the emperor has not clothes - the documents prove the diametric opposite of what the activists claim they show.
Haifa’s new subterranean hospital runs major drill
When the missiles were falling on Haifa during the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, Israelis scurried down to bomb shelters. But not everyone was able to make it down to safety; the elderly, the infirm, and especially those hospitalized in northern Israel had no choice but to hunker down and pray that Hezbollah’s missiles missed them.
To prevent such a scenario from recurring, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa spent over $100 million and eight years constructing the world’s biggest fortified hospital. This week, it conducted a drill simulating what it would be like to move hundreds of patients from entire units — including the intensive care units — downstairs into the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital.
Israel Allows 500 Truckloads of Building Material to Enter Gaza for Turkish Hospital
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday accepted the recommendation of Major General Yoav Mordechay, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), to approve the entry of construction materials, electrical equipment, telecoms and plumbing materials to assist and support the construction of a Turkish hospital in Gaza.
According to the Turkish request that Israel approved, the building material comprises 500 truckloads, with 70 truckloads containing electrical and communications equipment.
Major Guy Inbar, the COGAT spokesman, described the background of the hospital project as being emblematic of the instability of the Gazan regime.
Hamas in Gaza Takes War Against Israel Underground, Literally
With that in mind, Hamas has taken great pains to keep the underground channels secret from the prying eyes and ears of Israeli intelligence, always substantial in Gaza. In October, after Israeli troops discovered a mile-long tunnel, Haniyeh said “thousands of heroes have been working in silence, below ground, to prepare for the coming battles in Palestine.” But an Israeli official says that in the interests of operational security in fact only about 100 fighters are involved, carefully vetted from Hamas’ military wing. Precautions around the digging itself sound like scenes familiar to prison escape movies: The work is slow, in order to prevent detection by Israeli surveillance. In any given moment only between five to seven people work underground, says the Israeli official. The waste and dirt are evacuated in sacks and boxes in order not to raise suspicion.
The official says the tunnel typically starts a few hundred meters from the fence, inside a house or chicken coop owned by Hamas supporters, who give their consent and receive compensation. (The Israeli military located a tunnel originating in the side room of a mosque, apparently on the assumption that Israeli forces would not attack a holy place.) The depth at the entrance runs to a depth of 18 to 20 meters. As the diggers proceed, engineers follow pouring concrete to reinforce the walls and the ceiling. The electricians follow later, installing lights, and ventilation. Communication lines are also spread along side the tunnel in order to enable communication between the various parts of the tunnel, in the absence of a cellular reception, which at any rate, would be vulnerable to interception by Israeli’s signal-intelligence services.
Egyptian citizenship was granted by Morsi to 13,000 Hamas members
Egypt has accused the Hamas regime of harboring Brotherhood leaders in the Gaza Strip. On March 1, Brotherhood deputy guide Mahmoud Ezzat was said to have been killed in a shootout in a hotel near Gaza City.
Ezzat was said to have been directing the revolt in Egypt with help from Hamas and Al Qaida-aligned militias.
The sources said most Hamas members were believed to live in Cairo and Alexandria. But they said the Interior Ministry assessed that at least several thousand were based in the Sinai Peninsula, undergoing a revolt since 2011.
“We believe that we will find a good portion of these terrorists and send them back to where they came from,” the source said.
Syrian Violence Spills Into Turkey, Lebanon As Hezbollah Tries to Boost Image
Violence generated by the Syrian conflict spilled across both the Turkish and Lebanese borders on Monday and into Tuesday, deepening worries not just that chaos will splash beyond Syria but also that other actors may be drawn into the fighting.
A series of incidents erupted between Turkey and Syria, including one that saw Syrian missile systems lock onto nearly half a dozen Turkish F-16s patrolling the Turkey-Syria border.
UN: Syria refugee crisis poses major threat to Lebanese stability
An influx of almost 1 million refugees from Syria into neighboring Lebanon poses a serious threat to the already fragile country, but donor nations may not grasp the potential impact of further destabilization, a UN official said on Thursday.
"There is not a single country in the world today that is shouldering as much in proportion to its size as Lebanon," said Ninette Kelley, regional representative for Lebanon for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
"If this country is not bolstered, then the very real prospect of it collapsing and the conflict of Syria spreading full force to Lebanon becomes much more likely," she said during a visit to Washington.
Erdogan, Israel and the upcoming Turkish municipal elections
Erdogan has been in power since 2003, and has a track record on Israel, and it is a sorry track record that has essentially destroyed the political and security elements – though not the business components – of a once thriving relationship.
No one in Jerusalem is buying the idea that after the municipal elections, if Erdogan wins and his political fortunes receive a boost, all will return to normal.
If anything, the concern is that the opposite will occur.
Turkey calls Syria security leak 'villainous,' blocks YouTube
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday denounced as "villainous" the leaking of a recording of top security officials discussing possible military action in Syria to the video-sharing site YouTube.
Turkish authorities ordered the shutdown of the site.
Erdogan's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the posting a "declaration of war," an apparent reference to an escalating power struggle between Erdogan and rivals.
The anonymous posting was an audio file with photographs of the officials involved.

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