Saturday, March 28, 2015

From Ian:

Ben-Dror Yemini: We don't need another failure
Given the upheaval in the Arab world, Obama needs to ask himself why he thinks a Palestinian state is viable right now; meanwhile, Israel's right needs to understand that its actions are leading to a bi-national state.
The Muslim world is undergoing a massive upheaval. Arab identity is disappearing. National identity is falling apart. The identity on the rise is Islamic, tribal and sectarian. Death and destruction have reached monumental proportions.
Muslims are murdering hundreds of thousands of Muslims. None of the bloody conflicts – between Shias and Sunnis, and between Sunnis and Sunnis – have anything to do with Israel or the Palestinians. Most of those perpetrating the killings don't even know where Israel is on the map.
The Palestinians are deep in the picture. According to a study carried out by a research institute in Qatar, they lead the way in terms of support for Islamic State and the implementation of Sharia law. And just like everywhere else where radical Islam rears its head, Hamas, too, is sowing death and destruction.
The most peaceful place in the Middle East is the Israeli-controlled West Bank. Over the past six years, 122 Palestinians have been killed there. So when Obama talks about the chaos in the Middle East because of Israel, he appears to be living in a world of his own. Because of Israel? How does Obama come up with such an assessment of the situation?
Anne Bayefsky: UN says Israel, not Iran, North Korea or Syria worst violator of human rights
What country deserves more condemnation for violating human rights than any other nation on earth? According to the U.N.’s top human rights body, that would be Israel.
Last week, Israel was the U.N.’s number one women’s rights violator. This week it is the U.N.’s all-round human rights villain.
The U.N. Human Rights Council wrapped up its latest session in Geneva on Friday, March 27 by adopting four resolutions condemning Israel. That’s four times more than any of the other 192 UN member states.
There were four resolutions on Israel. And one on North Korea -- a country that is home to government policies of torture, starvation, enslavement, rape, disappearances, and murder – to name just a few of its human rights violations.
Four resolutions on Israel. And one on Syria. Where the death toll of four years of war is 100,000 civilians, ten million people are displaced, and barrel bombs containing chemical agents like chlorine gas are back in action.
Four resolutions on Israel. And one on Iran. Where there is no rule of law, no free elections, no freedom of speech, corruption is endemic, protestors are jailed and tortured, religious minorities are persecuted, and pedophilia is state-run. At last count, in 2012 Iranian courts ordered more than 30,000 girls ages 14 and under to be “married.”
Prosor to UN Security Council: 'Break silence' on 'plague' of minority persecution in Mideast
Israel's envoy to the United Nations Ron Prosor on Friday called on the UN Security Council to "break its silence" on the "plague" of persecution of minorities in the Middle East.
Prosor noted the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, saying the phenomenon of persecution continues "without interruption and under the nose of the international community."
In a meeting of the 15-nation body on minorities in the region, Prosor warned that millions of Christian, Kurds, Yazidis, Baha'i and Jews are still facing persecution in the Middle East.
"It doesn't matter where you come from, what faith you belong to, or what politics you preach, no decent human being can ignore the calamity facing minorities in the Middle East," Prosor told the council.
Amb. Prossor at UNSC on on attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East

Gabriel Nadaf: It’s Hard to Be a Christian Arab in Israel, But Not Because of Prejudice
My name is Gabriel Nadaf and I have the privilege of being a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth in the Galilee. My people have mistakenly been called “Christian Arabs” but the reality is that we are Arameans, descendants of people who lived here in Israel since the time of the Bible.
Israel’s Interior Ministry has recently recognized us as the “Aramean nation,” following a lengthy public campaign. Partners in this effort were a number of Israeli Zionist organizations.
In the past three years I have become a controversial figure in Israel for the simple reason that I embrace Zionism, Jewish sovereignty in Israel, and the tolerance, respect and opportunity that has grown out of that sovereignty for all. I believe that our youth – Christian youth –should fully integrate into Israeli society. Part and parcel of that integration includes serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s Army, or undertaking some other form of national service, which Israel routinely provides for teenagers.
Organizations that are participating in the campaign to stop the Aramean community from integrating into Israeli society via Army/national service include Adalah, Mossawa, Baladna, +972 and others. They are Israeli non-profit organizations – some are composed of Israeli Arabs and others are on the extreme left and are anti-Zionist. These NGOs reject Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. They would like to cancel the law of return and remove the Jewish character of Israel.
All of these organizations claim that they are fighting for the weak, for the minorities who cannot stand up for themselves and demand and fight for their own rights. But ultimately, the actions of these NGOs beg the question of what rights they are really fighting for, whose interests they are protecting, and what their real agenda is.
Clearly these NGOs have no interest in seeing Christian Arabs become part of Israeli society. Much like the Arab countries that have used Palestinians in various refugee camps as pawns in fighting the State of Israel, these NGOs are content to reduce my community to cannon fodder in their efforts to de-legitimize Israel.
Yemen turmoil escalates as Arab states plan ground invasion
In the air assault codenamed “Operation Decisive Storm,” Saudi Arabia deployed some 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported. Also involved were aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt, though it was not clear which carried out actual strikes.
Once the airstrikes have weakened the rebels and their allies in the military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a ground invasion of Yemen is planned by Egyptian, Saudi and other forces.
The assault will come from Saudi Arabia and by landings on Yemen’s coasts along the Red and Arabian seas, according to three Egyptian military and security officials.
Three to five Egyptian troop carriers are stationed offshore, they said, although the number of troops was not specified, and the timing of the operation was not given.
The aim is not to occupy Yemen but to weaken the Houthis and their allies until they enter negotiations for power-sharing, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plans with the press.
At Arab League summit, Egypt says backs unified Arab force against regional threats
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told an Arab League summit on Saturday that Cairo backed calls for a unified Arab force to confront regional security threats.
Sisi also said Egypt's participation in a military campaign against Shi'ite Houthi militias in Yemen, which has been led by Saudi Arabia, aimed to "preserve Yemen's unity and the peace of its territories."
Saudi-led air forces struck a convoy of Yemeni Houthi fighters advancing on Aden from the east on Saturday, residents said, and the Saudi navy evacuated diplomats from the southern port city.
The Iranian-allied Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters, seeking to overthrow the Western- and Saudi-allied President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, have continued to make gains since the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against them early on Thursday.
Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi arrived in Egypt on Friday for the 26th Arab League summit which will focus on the Saudi-led military campaign against his Houthi militia opponents.
Turkish Pres Mulls Entering Yemen Fray: Iran 'Has Begun Annoying Us'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged his full support to the Sunni Arab coalition currently fighting the Shiite Houthi rebels that have taken over Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Stating that Iranian attempts to “dominate the region” have “begun annoying us,” Erdogan noted that Turkey is ready to further involve itself in the conflict “if there is a role to play.”
“Iran is trying to dominate the region. Could this be allowed?” Erdogan asked in statements to the press this week. “This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this.” Erdogan called for Iran to “withdraw any forces” in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
Iran has not only supported the Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, but taken on an increasingly prominent role in Iraq, fighting against the Islamic State and strengthening Shiite rebels. American military experts have become increasingly concerned regarding Iran’s intervention in the war against the Islamic State.
Pakistan May Join Saudi Yemen Offensive, Help 'Encircle Iran'
Pakistan said Thursday it was examining a request from Saudi Arabia to participate in the Saudi-led military operation against Iran-backed Shi'ite Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Official Saudi news agency SPA reported Pakistan was among five Muslim countries that have “declared their willingness to participate” in the offensive, along with Jordan, Sudan, Morocco and Egypt.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received a request from Saudi Arabia, but did not elaborate further.
“I can confirm that we have been contacted by Saudi Arabia in this regard,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Thursday. “The matter is being examined. That’s all I have to say at the moment.”
According to media reports, the Saudis want Pakistan to assist in air strikes and ground operations.
MEMRI: Arab Gulf Media Supports Sunni Military Campaign To Push Back Shi'ite Iranian Expansion
Shortly after midnight on March 26, 2015, Saudi King Salman bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz announced the launch of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, intended to restore the Yemeni regime headed by President 'Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and to drive back the Houthi rebels. The military operation was a response to the request of President Hadi, who on March 24 sent an urgent letter to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders asking them "to provide urgent assistance by every necessary means, including military intervention, in order to defend Yemen and its people against the Houthi aggression."
That very day, Saudi Foreign Minister Sa'ud Al-Faisal announced that Saudi Arabia was "prepared to meet any request by the Yemeni president on Yemen's behalf, whatever it may be and in any domain." He added that "Yemen's security and the security of the GCC states are one, and cannot be separated." A statement issued at the onset of the operation by Saudi Arabia, the Union of Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait – namely all the GCC states except Oman, which has adopted a different policy regarding the situation in Yemen – likewise declared that these states had decided to "meet President 'Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's request to defend Yemen and its people against the aggression of the Shi'ite militias … that are supported by regional forces who aim to take over Yemen and turn it into their regional base of influence." The statement explained that this aggression threatens not only Yemen but the entire region, as well as "international peace and security," and in particular Saudi Arabia, since the Houthis were concentrating forces, heavy weapons, and missiles on its borders. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-'Arabi also expressed full support for the operation.
Nasrallah: Arabs should unite to attack Israel, not Yemen
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday bemoaned the Saudi-led Arab coalition engaged in a campaign against rebels forces in Yemen, saying Arabs should unite against Israel rather than the Houthi militias who have taken over the capital Sanaa and much of the country over the past months.
The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite terror group slammed Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, calling it “surprising and painful.”
Hezbollah, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels, is supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its main regional rival. Iran has openly armed and assisted Hezbollah since its creation, but both Iran and the Houthis deny Tehran has sent arms to the Yemeni rebels.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would have been glad to be “partners” in a coalition against Israel, but lamented the fact that “for decades there has been no ‘Decisive Storm,’ not even a slight gust of resolve to fight Israel.”
Nasrallah expressed wonder that Riyadh felt compelled to intervene in Yemen, when “everything that has happened in our region for years didn’t necessitate Saudi intervention.” (h/t NormanF)
Abbas urges Arabs to intervene in conflicts across region
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday urged Arab leaders to intervene in conflicts across the Middle East, including on behalf of the Palestinians, just as they had in war-torn Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi separatists have made great advances and forced the country’s leader, Abdel Rabbo Mansour, to flee the region.
Speaking at an Arab Summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Abbas said he hoped “Arab countries would adopt similar policies as they have in Yemen throughout all the Arab countries that suffer from internal conflicts such as Palestine, Syria, Libya and Iraq.”
Houthi Crisis Sheds Light on Antisemitism and Plight of Jews in Yemen
As Shi’a Muslim Houthi rebels continue overtaking Yemen and the country’s capital, Sana’a, after the escape of Western-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour, the Houthis vowed to take revenge on “the Zionist Saudi regime” in their country.
This is not the first time the rebels have used the term “Zionist” or other pejorative slogans referencing Israel and Jews, such as their use of “Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews” on flags and other propaganda materials. Last week, a suicide bomber blew up a Houthi mosque where the crowd had been shouting “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam. Allahu Akbar,” The Times of Israel reported.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s small Jewish community finds itself in a precarious position amid the ongoing conflict.
“The situation is very bad here. Every day—there is danger. We want to sell the house, but can’t. No one wants to buy. The [non-Jews] want us to leave without getting money. We want to get out of here as quickly as possible,” said Avraham, 40, a father of five from the city of Rayda, reported Israel Hayom.
“We know that you in Israel are worried about us and are thinking of us. Our country is being taken over and there isn’t much we can do. We want to move to Israel but we have matters to finish tending to and everything here is very difficult,” said Yehiye, 35, a father of six from Sana’a.
Is US-Israel crisis a speed bump or sign of a long-term conflict?
President Barack Obama’s refusal to accept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ostensible recommitment to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has watchers of the U.S.-Israel relationship wondering if the recent crisis is a mere speed bump or a sign of a deeper shift in ties between the countries.
Netanyahu moved quickly last week to emphasize that his statement on the eve of his reelection that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch did not represent a policy shift away from a two-state solution. But Obama administration officials were unwilling to accept that clarification, a point the president emphasized in a press conference Tuesday when he said that differences with Israel were “substantive” and not easily papered over.
“The central question is whether this is a temporary blip on the radar screen or whether there’s something deeper and more structural going on,” said David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director. “We have to know the answer to that in order to know whether we can put the U.S.-Israel train back on track, as we all would like.”
Along with other Jewish organizational leaders and pro-Israel lawmakers, Harris has been urging the White House to tone down its rhetoric in recent days, but Obama’s comments on Tuesday – his most detailed on the rift since the Israeli election – suggest the administration is not heeding those warnings.
Leading US Rabbi Joins Chorus of Concern Over Obama Administration’s Attacks on Israel
One of America’s most prominent rabbis, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, has voiced concern over the Obama Administration’s latest assault on Israel, following the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.
In an email to congregants on Wednesday, Lookstein, the spiritual leader of New York City’s famed Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue and principal of the prestigious Ramaz school, said that while “I try to steer clear of politics in my sermons and in messages to the community. There are times, however, when an exception should be made.”
“One of those times is now,” the rabbi continued, “when reports are coming from the administration in Washington of a need for reassessing the Israel/United States relationship.” Lookstein, who was ranked by Newsweek in 2008 as the most influential Orthodox pulpit rabbi in the United States, followed with a full-throated endorsement of an article by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who argues that “there is zero chance” that the right climate for the establishment of a Palestinian state will come “now or even soon.”
France to Launch Push for UN Resolution on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
France is planning to launch a push for a United Nations Security Council resolution that will lay out the parameters for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“We have said that these parameters have to be defined and recognized by the Security Council and that obviously the two parties have to discuss, but the discussion will be accompanied by an international effort,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday, Reuters reported.
France, along with the United Kingdom and Germany, drafted a Security Council resolution late last year after the council voted against a Palestinian-initiated resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories by 2017. But those countries decided to table the resolution until after the recent Israeli election.
The United States voted against the Palestinian-initiated resolution, but President Barack Obama has indicated that the U.S. may “reassess” its options regarding Israel in the U.N.
U.S. Gives Cool Reception to French Peace Talks Initiative
The United States provided a cool reception on Friday to a new French initiative on a new Security Council resolution to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"We're not going to get ahead of any decisions about what the United States would do with regard to potential action at the UN Security Council," a U.S. official told AFP, hours after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced the plans.
"We continue to engage with key stakeholders, including the French, to find a way forward that advances the interest we and others share in a two-state solution," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Fabius told reporters at UN headquarters in New York earlier on Friday that discussions on a text for the new resolution would start "in the coming days."
The Security Council in December rejected a resolution that would have set a deadline for reaching a final peace deal and pave the way to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Hamas Denounces EU Decision to Keep it on Terror Blacklist
Hamas on Friday denounced a European Union decision to keep the group and de facto Gaza ruler on its terrorism blacklist, despite a court ordering its removal.
"This decision completely contradicts the court's ruling," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP.
"It is unjust and wrong to our people and legitimate resistance, and also encourages the occupation to continue its crimes," he added, referring to Israel.
"We reject this decision and call for its review, and to remove all forms of injustice against our people and Hamas," Barhum declared.
Brussels has lodged an appeal against a December ruling by the bloc's second highest court that Hamas should be removed from the list for the first time since 2001 - a ruling made the same day the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted “in principle” to recognize Palestinian Arab statehood as an outcome of peace talks.
Egypt’s ruling of Hamas as terror group possibly annulled
A lawyer who successfully petitioned an Egyptian court to brand Hamas a terror organization has withdrawn the claim, leading to some reports in Arab media Friday that the move annulled the ruling. But others claimed it still stood, at least for now.
According to various Arab media reports, attorney Samir Sabry, who had originally argued that Hamas was involved in attacks against Egyptians and should thus be dubbed a terror group, pulled the motion after the state appealed the court’s decision.
Sabry explained that he didn’t want the court ruling to interfere with Cairo’s role as a mediator between Hamas and Fatah in Palestinian reconciliation efforts, according to the Cairo Post.
While the Cairo Post said Sabry’s withdrawal effectively annulled the court’s ruling, it’s status remained unclear on Friday. Jordan-based Al Bawaba News stated that the move did not automatically invalidate the decision, and that the court would need to decide on its fate.
Further court deliberations would reportedly be held on Saturday. (h/t Yenta Press)
Hamas: Amnesty Report 'Adopts the Israeli Version' of the Story
Hamas on Friday rejected a report by Amnesty International accusing the group of war crimes during last summer's war with Israel, the Ma’an news agency reported.
Hamas criticized the findings of the group’s report as being unbalanced and adopting "the Israeli version of the story", according Ma'an.
In a statement, the group said that it is the right of Palestinians to defend themselves “against both the ongoing Israeli occupation and Israeli military offenses.”
"War crimes have clear specifications, according to the Rome Statute, that do not in any way apply to the Palestinian resistance, which was, is, and will defend its people," said Hamas.
The report released by Amnesty International on Thursday said that Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war had killed more civilians inside Gaza than inside Israel.
UN Agency Criticizes Israel for Acting in Self-Defense, Says Palestinians Should Stop Using Human Shields Only If "Possible"
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ("OCHA") released a report condemning Israel for military actions combatting terrorism in the "occupied Palestinian territories." The report, "Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2014," denounces measures taken by Israel to protect its own civilians, including:
- The killing of terrorists: "27 & 29 June: The Israeli Air Force kills three members of armed groups. Since the beginning of 2014, Israeli forces have killed at least five members of armed groups in similar operations."
- Restricting imports of construction materials used by Hamas to create terror tunnels into Israel: "Since June 2007, citing security concerns, Israel has imposed restrictions on the passage of goods into Gaza, in particular construction materials."
- Restricting Palestinian movement while searching for the three teenage boys kidnapped in June 2014: "Following the abduction of three Israeli youths who were subsequently killed, the Israeli authorities imposed movement restrictions, focusing on the Hebron area, including invalidating permits to access East Jerusalem, Israel and some settlement areas, and Jordan."
In contrast to its stark condemnations of Israel, OCHA advised that Palestinians stop using human shields, only if possible. "Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip should refrain from the indiscriminate firing of rockets and other projectiles at Israel and, to the extent possible, ensure that civilian areas in Gaza are not used to launch attacks or to shield military forces or installations."
Dore Gold: Iran Takes Over Iraq
What is Iran is trying to achieve in Iraq? This was recently revealed on March 8, by Ali Younesi, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In the past, Younesi served as the powerful intelligence minister under President Mohammad Khatami. Younesi said that Iran was once again an empire. Its capital was Iraq. He added: “There is no way to divide the territory of Iran and Iraq.” He spoke about an eventual “union” between the two countries. In short, he was speaking about an Iranian takeover of Iraq.
In fact, last December over a million Iranian Shiites entered Iran for the Ashura festivals in the Shiite holy cities. According to Iraqi sources they crossed the international borders without any passports; Iraqi authorities do not know how many remained or if they left.
It appears that the recent changes in the Middle East have not only melted the borders between Syria and Iraq, but also between Iraq and Iran. In the past, Iraq served as a buffer state separating Iran from the rest of the Arab world.
With the Iraqi buffer removed, there will be a territorially contiguous line from Tehran to Jordan’s eastern border. It was noteworthy that General Suleimani was quoted as saying that Iran could control events in Jordan, the same way it operated in Iraq and Lebanon. Days later the Revolutionary Guards denied that Suleimani made such a statement and issued their denial through the Iranian Embassy in Amman.
Yet there were other developments detailed in Al Jazeera on March 16 that show how Iran was already at Jordan’s doorstep. It was deploying its Revolutionary Guards forces, as well as those of Hezbollah (and other Shiite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan) in southern Syria, in an area adjacent to the Jordanian border.
Iran is clearly exploiting its nuclear talks with the West to establish its hegemonic position and erect a new regional order from Yemen to Kurdistan. But above all it is what is going on in Iraq today that is altering the shape of the Middle East and consequently the kinds of challenges Israel is likely to face in the years ahead.
Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran
NBC’s Richard Engel reported Friday that U.S. officials were stunned they were not given any notice before Saudi Arabia launched attacks against Houthi rebels. According to Engel, military leaders were finding out about the developments on the Yemen border in real time.
Engel said officials from both the military and members of Congress believe they were not given advanced warning because the Arab nations do not trust the Obama administration after they befriended Iran.
“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.
This is hardly the first time the U.S. has been caught off guard with the shifting dynamics in the Middle East as a result ofAmerica’s retreating role in the region. Just over one month ago, Egypt launched strikes against the Islamic State compounds in Libya, avenging the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, without coordinating with the administration.
Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran

Lausanne Dispatch: Iranian Intransigence in Nuke Talks Draws French Rebuke
The Iranians continue to show signs of inflexibility in the negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in comments to reporters at United Nations headquarters in New York, said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was “not very precise” about Tehran’s willingness to compromise in his telephone conversation with French President Francois Hollande Thursday. Fabius is scheduled to arrive in Lausanne on Saturday morning. France has taken the toughest line of any of the P5+1 countries during the negotiations, reportedly causing tensions between Paris and Washington. At one point during the negotiations, Fabius called the French negotiating team to urge them not to make any more concessions.
Iranian intransigence has been a thematic element of the nuclear talks. On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that immediate lifting of sanctions was a prerequisite for a nuclear deal and made clear that “This is the position that the government has insisted on from the start.” In May 2014, Reuters reported that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called demands for halts on ballistic missile production “stupid and idiotic.” When the U.S. delegation said that it wanted to discuss ballistic missile development and past possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, Zarif “merely laughed and ignored the remarks,” according to an Iranian present at the scene. That same month, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) stated, “The Arak heavy water reactor is unalterable and will remain a heavy water reactor.” Also that month, at an AEOI ceremony in Tehran, Rouhani announced that Iran “will not retreat a single step in the field of nuclear energy and we will not accept nuclear apartheid.”
Expert: Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure Vulnerable to Military, Economic Pressure
Proponents of the deal being negotiated argue that since a military strike would, at best, add one or two years to Iran’s breakout time, a deal that constrains Iran’s nuclear program for ten years will be a better guarantee that Iran couldn’t develop a bomb. But because of the difficulties of building, maintaining and, if necessary, reconstituting a nuclear program, the timeline to a bomb after a strike would likely be much longer.
The Smith/Samuels analysis also has implications for continuing the current sanctions regime. Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, argued in an interview last September that the imposition of sanctions has been counterproductive.
The net result of all these sanctions is that when the sanctions started to be imposed, we had less than two hundred centrifuges. Today, we have twenty thousand.
Zarif is conflating correlation with causation. Because a nuclear program requires a huge investment in infrastructure, the building of centrifuges was done in spite of the sanctions, not because of them. Rather than indicating that sanctions failed, Zarif’s argument underscores the lengths Iran went to defy six United Nations Security Council resolutions calling on it to stop enriching uranium until it came into compliance with its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
Saudi Arabia will not rule out building or acquiring nuclear weapons, the country’s ambassador to the United States has indicated.
Asked whether Saudi Arabia would ever build nuclear weapons in an interview with US news channel CNN, Adel Al-Jubeir said the subject was “not something we would discuss publicly”.
Pressed later on the issue he said: “This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.”
The ambassador’s reticence to rule out a military nuclear programme may reignite concerns that the autocratic monarchy has its eye on a nuclear arsenal.
Western intelligence agencies believe that the Saudi monarchy paid for up to 60% of Pakistan’s nuclear programme in return for the ability to buy warheads for itself at short notice, the Guardian newspaper reported in 2010. (h/t Yenta Press)
Israel allowed for the release of a document detailing past nuclear weapons work
The document appears to have been categorized as "declassified" upon its submission, suggesting the US government assessed at the time that its findings would be low-impact if ultimately made public.
So, too, must have been the assessment of the Israeli government in 2014, as it was given the opportunity to keep the document secret and declined to do so.
"We did inform the Israeli government of our planned release of the documents and they did not object," Army Col. Steven Warren, director of Pentagon press operations, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.
Upon receiving a FOIA request concerning information sensitive to foreign governments, the US informs the relevant partner, giving them the opportunity to formally object.
"The US government was by law required to release the report upon such a FOIA request unless we had a written request from the relevant foreign government– Israel– that the information continue to be withheld," one senior administration official told the Post on Friday night. "Israel did not object to the release of this information."
The official said that, without Israel's protest, the Pentagon had "no legal basis to withhold the report."
Pictured: Father who blamed police for not stopping his daughter joining ISIS screams 'burn USA' - and stands just feet from Lee Rigby's killer - at Muslim demo
His face twisted in fury, Abase Hussen punches his fist into the air and launches into an Islamic war cry.
‘Burn, burn USA,’ he yells from his prime spot at the front of one of the most notorious rallies in recent times.
Once the crowd is whipped into a fever, an American flag is set on fire and held aloft by a fanatic. Video footage shows Mr Hussen desperately trying to hold the burning flag as the chanting behind him intensifies.
Mr Hussen – the father of one of the three schoolgirls who fled Britain to join Islamic State – then turns his attention to a burning Israeli flag on the floor and begins to chant and gesture toward it.
He is one of a dozen fanatics standing behind a banner which proclaims: ‘The followers of Mohammed will conquer America.’ Behind him, hundreds of fanatics repeatedly chant incendiary slogans while holding menacing black jihadi flags.
Among the rabble-rousers was notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary, who has led a number of Islamist groups that were subsequently banned.
Alongside him stood Michael Adebowale, one of the two Muslim converts who murdered and almost beheaded Fusilier Lee Rigby in the name of Allah eight months later.
Toulouse rabbi ordered to remove kippah at voting station
The chief rabbi of Toulouse filed a complaint with police for discrimination after an election inspector demanded he remove his kippah at the ballot.
Avraham Weill filed the complaint on Thursday in connection with an incident that occurred Sunday, the France 3 television channel reported.
When Weill entered the Ecole du Nord school in Toulouse to vote in the first round of France’s regional elections, a volunteer inspector affiliated with the Community Party told him he needed to remove his kippah, citing the need to uphold “the [voting] station’s neutrality.”
Weill was allowed to vote at the insistence of other inspectors who intervened after Weill protested the Communist delegate’s decision, which Weill deemed discriminatory. The chairwoman of the voting station, who has the authority to overrule other inspectors, was absent when Weill came to vote, the report said.
Human Rights Group Blasts Lena Dunham’s ‘Jewish Boyfriend or Dog’ Quiz
Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday criticized a “troubling” essay written by actress Lena Dunham, in which she compares her Jewish boyfriend to her dog. The ADL said the article evokes offensive stereotypes about Jews.
“Some will certainly find offensive Lena Dunham’s stereotypes about cheap Jews offensive. Others will take issue with the very idea of comparing a dog and a Jewish boyfriend,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “The piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the ‘No Jews or Dogs Allowed’ signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as ‘dogs.’”
The ADL added that it doubts Dunham intended to evoke the offensive comparisons.
Dunham’s controversial piece, titled “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” was published in the March 30th issue of The New Yorker. The creator of the HBO series Girls asked her readers to guess whether a number of statements applied to her dog or her Jewish boyfriend.
SolarEdge surges in trading debut as IPO raises $126 million
SolarEdge Technologies Inc., a maker of components for photovoltaic systems, surged in its trading debut after raising $126 million in an initial public offering.
SolarEdge jumped 15 percent to $20.70 at the close in New York, after pricing 7 million shares at $18. The company is trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker SEDG.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG were lead underwriters, and Needham & Co., Canaccord Genuity Inc. and Roth Capital Partners co-managed the offering, according to a statement Thursday. The underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase as many as 1.05 million additional shares.
SolarEdge, based in Herziliya Pituach, Israel, has shipped about 1.2 gigawatts of inverter systems annually since 2010 for projects in 73 countries, according to a Feb. 18 Securities and Exchange filing announcing the IPO. Plans for the offering were reported in September.
Stock Index Focusing on Israeli Tech Announced
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and BlueStar Indexes issued a new stock index, a “Start-up Nation Index,” called TA -BIGITech, that will track Israeli tech stocks, regardless of which stock exchange they are listed on, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
“As you know, there aren’t that many Israeli tech stocks on the TASE,” BlueStar Indexes founder and chief investment officer Steven Schoenfeld said. “They go public in London or New York, so this this index helps raise the visibility of tech stocks.”
“Start-up nation is one of the most powerful brands for Israel, so this is the Start-up Nation Index,” he said. …
The index is currently composed of 57 companies, including CheckPoint, Amdocs, Stratasys, Nice, Mobileye and Mellanox, and has an aggregate market capitalization of $75 billion, about triple that of the TA -TechElite benchmark.
Women of Israel, brace yourselves - Richard Gere is coming
Richard Gere, the heartthrob actor who has starred in hit films like Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentleman, will arrive in Israel on Sunday as the guest of the Peres Center for Peace.
Gere will meet with former president Shimon Peres as well as Arab and Jewish children participating in coexistence initiatives under the auspices of the Peres Center.
The children will show Gere the progress they have made while taking part in joint youth soccer teams that advance values of tolerance and respect between Jews and Arabs.
“Richard Gere is a close, personal friend of former president Peres, and he is an enthusiastic supporter of Peres Center for Peace initiatives since the center was founded in 1996,” the Peres Center said. “During Gere’s previous visit to Israel in 2003, he met with children to encourage their activities promoting co-existence.”
Gere is also in the process of filming for a movie he is set to appear in, Oppenheimer, which is being directed by acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar.
Parody videos put Passover twist on pop
If there had been just one “Uptown Funk” parody for Passover, Dayenu. It would have been enough.
But there are two professionally produced knockoffs of the hit Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson song, which seems to be this year’s “Let it Go” when it comes to Passover-themed parody videos
The viral video tradition has seemed to have started ever since Hanukkah 2010, when the Maccabeats turned Mike Tompkins’ “Dynamite” into “Candlelight,” parody videos seem to have become a regular Jewish holiday ritual.
In Michael Har Paz’s version, commissioned by the Orthodox outreach group Aish HaTorah, tzitzit-and-sunglasses-wearing guys in a mix of frum and hip-hop attire sing and dance inside an upscale house and on the streets of what appears to be a West Bank settlement.

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