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Iran Talks Start after Strong Rhetoric, Low Hopes - George Jahn (AP-Washington Post)
Iran and six world powers began negotiations in Geneva about the country's nuclear program Monday with low expectations and at odds on what to talk about.
See also Iranian Foreign Minister's Speech Highlights Obstinacy, Isolation - Glenn Kessler
Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki said Saturday that Iran had no interest in possessing a nuclear weapon, that sanctions had had "no impact" and that the real problem in the region was a "Zionist regime" that had "hundreds of nuclear warheads in occupied Palestine."
PA Study Denying Jewish Rights at Western Wall Resurfaces - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Only days after it was removed from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information website, a "study" denying Jewish rights to the Western Wall in Jerusalem has resurfaced on the website of the PA news agency, Wafa, the official mouthpiece of the PLO and the PA.
Israel Hit by Arson Wave - Eli Senyor (Ynet News)
Dozens of blazes were reported across Israel Friday, on top of the massive forest fire raging in northern Israel. Police suspect that many of the latest blazes were set by arsonists.
See also Blaze in Israel Delights Many in the Arab World - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Many in the Arab world seem happy with the big fire that has been raging in northern Israel over the past few days, judging from comments by readers in several leading Arab media outlets and websites.
Many Arabs also strongly condemned Egypt and Jordan for agreeing to help in extinguishing the blaze.
Others called on Israel's enemies, particularly Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, to seize the opportunity and try to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
Obama Offers Condolences on Fire Deaths in Israel (Politico)
At a White House party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, President Obama offered condolences to those who died in a forest fire in northern Israel.
Iranian Cash Building Bonds with Bolivia - Helen Coster (Washington Post)
The year-old, $2.5 million hospital in El Alto, Bolivia, was donated by the government of Iran, one of Bolivia's newest allies.
The relationship is part of Iran's effort to gain a foothold in the region by courting Bolivia, Venezuela and other left-leaning countries in Latin America with aid and business partnerships as Iran seeks to challenge U.S. influence, experts say.
"The basic motivation is that Iran and a handful of governments in Latin America are looking for opportunities to counter and attack U.S. influence in the world," said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
In September 2007, Iran pledged $1.1 billion to help industrialize Bolivia.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- WikiLeaks: Saudis Are Chief Supporters of Terrorists - Eric Lichtblau and Eric Schmitt
Nine years after the U.S. vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say millions of dollars are flowing unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide from U.S. allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.
A classified memo sent by Secretary of State Clinton last December made it clear that residents of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors are the chief financial supporters of many extremist activities. "It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority," the cable said, concluding that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." The dispatch and others offered similarly grim views about the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reported in February that Saudi authorities remained "almost completely dependent on the CIA" for leads and direction on terrorist financing. A month earlier, the embassy reported that Treasury Department officials had provided information to the Saudi domestic intelligence service on three senior Taliban leaders who had made several fund-raising trips to the kingdom. (New York Times)
- Brazil Formally Recognizes Palestinian Statehood - Adrian Blomfield
Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, in his last month as Brazil's president, caused anger in Israel and the U.S. by officially acknowledging Palestinian sovereignty over territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
The move was denounced by Israel as a unilateral attempt to bypass the peace process that would "harm trust" between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.
- Israel, Turkey Meeting Aimed at Mending Rift
Officials from Israel and Turkey met in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday in an attempt to reduce tensions between the two nations, after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan sent two firefighting planes Friday to Israel to aid in combating a deadly wildfire.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly thanked Erdogan, then called him to thank him again, an Israeli official said. While on the telephone, Netanyahu said he hoped the two countries could discuss the state of their relationship in a different context.
Yosef Ciechanover, an Israeli representative on a UN panel established to review the May 31 flotilla incident, traveled to Geneva for the meeting at Netanyahu's request.
See also Erdogan Says Fire Aid Not Sign of Improving Ties (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Firefighters Subdue Carmel Fire - Fadi Eyadat
Firefighters managed to fully contain the massive Carmel blaze on Sunday afternoon, after 77 hours of battling the flames in northern Israel. Earlier Sunday, the world's largest firefighting aircraft, the American "Evergreen" Boeing 747 Super Tanker, took to the skies in a last push to put out the flames that were still burning through the Carmel Mountains. The firefighting forces included 35 aircraft, 24 of which were provided by foreign countries.
See also Nearly Half of Carmel Forest Destroyed by Blaze - Ehud Zion Waldoks (Jerusalem Post)
See also Video: Aerial Footage of Aircraft Fighting the Fire (Israel Defense Forces)
- Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer Dies of Injuries from Carmel Fire - Fadi Eyadat
Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer, who headed the Haifa Police Department, died on Monday after succumbing to critical injuries sustained in the huge forest fire in the Carmel region. She was critically injured on Thursday driving behind a bus full of prison guards that burned up in the flames.
See also The Cadets Burned Alive - Raanan Ben-Zur
The personal belongings of the dozens of cadets who were killed in the Carmel fire disaster Thursday are still scattered over the tables in their Prison Service school classroom. They were called to help in the evacuation of Damon Prison and left in a hurry, never to return. Their friends who were miraculously saved wept for them on Friday. Among the 49 cadets of the officers' course only a few survived the fire: Three cadets who were late in catching the bus which later caught fire; six married women with children who were told not to come; and three cadets, two of whom managed to escape the burning bus. The third cadet drove together with the course commander in a private car behind the bus.
- Other Countries Help Israel Fight Carmel Forest Fire
Countries that sent firefighting aircraft, firefighters and equipment to assist Israel in extinguishing the wildfire on the Carmel mountain range include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Jordan,
Palestinian Authority, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and U.S.
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Palestinian Firefighters Help Battle Carmel Blaze - Hassan Shaalan
21 Palestinian firefighters arrived at the Mt. Carmel region on Sunday to assist Israel in its battle against the huge fire.
- Experts: Nature Will Restore Wildlife - Judy Siegel and Ehud Zion Waldoks
According to University of Haifa experts, the horrendous fire will stimulate a rebirth in the lost forests and result in an impressive return of animal biodiversity.
Prof. Ido Izhaki, a forest expert who heads the university's Carmel Research Center, told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the dominant tree species in the forest is the Jerusalem (Aleppo) pine, which "is very suited to fires. When the temperatures rise as with a fire, the pine cones open and shoot out their seeds. Warm temperatures promote germination, and if good - but not excessive - rains follow, in the spring there will be a carpet of sprouts." (Jerusalem Post)
See also World Jewry to Raise Funds to Help Victims of Carmel Fire - Gil Shefler
"There will be a large mobilization of the Jewish world to help rebuild lives and replant the trees that have been destroyed," said Dan Diker, secretary general designate of the World Jewish Congress. (Jerusalem Post)
- Break the Silence on Syria's Nuclear Program - Graham Allison and Olli Heinonen
The U.S. has joined other major powers in a dangerous conspiracy of silence on Syria's nuclear program. Syria foreswore nuclear weapons when it ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1969 and signed a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1992.
Yet Syria was able to secretly buy a nuclear reactor from North Korea. If Israel had not bombed the Al-Kibar reactor site in September 2007, it would be producing plutonium by now for Syria's first nuclear bomb.
It is by no means certain that Damascus has given up its nuclear ambitions. Since November 2008, nine IAEA reports (the latest released last month) have documented Syria's noncompliance with its requests for more details about its nuclear program. While Syria stalls, the authority of the whole nonproliferation regime is eroding. This sets another unwelcome precedent for future proliferators. Mr. Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School. Mr. Heinonen is a former deputy director of the IAEA and now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center.
(Wall Street Journal)
- There Are No Settlers in Jerusalem - Joel Lion
In a news article on Nov. 24, the New York Times called Israelis who move into homes legally purchased from Palestinians in Jerusalem "settlers."
Today, hundreds of Palestinians are moving legally into homes owned by Jews in Jerusalem. We do not disparage them as "settlers." Rather, we call them "residents" and "neighbors."
The notion that some areas of Jerusalem - the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years - should be off-limits to Jews, while the entire city is open to Arabs, is deeply prejudicial. The suggestion that Jews, or any other ethnic group, would be denied residence in an American city would instantly be condemned as racist.
Moreover, there are no settlers in Jerusalem, which is sovereign Israeli territory.
While The Times often reports on construction in Israel, it reports much less often on the constant incitement against Israel from the Palestinian Authority, including a delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel - the biblical sites, the history and the borders of the country.
The writer is spokesman and consul for media at the
Consulate General of Israel in New York.
(New York Times)
Netanyahu: A Heartwarming Response from the International Community (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Netanyahu: No Embarrassment to Ask for Help in Natural Disaster (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Saturday evening: "I have spoken with approximately 30 heads of state and government, presidents and prime ministers, in the past three days. I must tell you that their mobilization, the warmth of their remarks, their willingness, the desire to help immediately, sometimes even before we have managed to request it, must warm the heart of all Israelis. There is very great solidarity here and there is very great cooperation, of course in keeping with their abilities. People are bringing what they have. Governments are bringing what they have."
- "After we purchase the [new] planes, the planes will join a regional network that I believe we can establish here for the benefit of all of our peoples."
See also Foreign Fire-Fighting Teams Awarded IAF Medals (IDF Spokesperson-IMRA)
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday: "In a massive wildfire in California a few years ago, the U.S. received assistance from eight countries; it neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request this assistance, including from countries from which we have made similar requests. In last summer's massive wildfire in Russia, Russia neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request assistance from Ukraine and from other countries."
- "The establishment of a local aerial firefighting force...and we are working on it...will not always free us of the need to mobilize international support."
192 crewmen received an IAF (Israel Air Force) medal at ceremonies marking the departure of the international fire-fighting teams Sunday and Monday.
All of the delegations received a
special commendation from the commander of the IAF stating: "You
have earned this honor for putting out the deadly fire in the Carmel. You
have shown responsibility, determination, friendship and courage."
- The commander of the Nevatim IAF base said: "Real friends are those [who aid friends]
in need. Israel was met by a disaster, but you were there to prove your true
friendship. We felt this throughout all the days we fought the blaze.
Myself, the IAF and the State of Israel wish to thank you and show our
respect to you."
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