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Erdogan Playing with Fire - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is crossing the line between verbal escalation and military confrontation.
Last week the Turks reported on what they characterized as an "Israeli military provocation," claiming that Israeli fighter jets hovered above a Turkish Navy taskforce securing the gas drills planned by Turkey near Cyprus.
The IDF denied the report, but it makes no difference. The Turks are conveying a message that physical friction exists with Israel.
A few weeks ago, a Turkish battleship sailed in the eastern Mediterranean along the same route as the Mavi Marmara while moving abnormally close to Israel's shores.
While the ship did not enter Israel's territorial waters, it sailed in ranges where military vessels usually update friendly states about their presence in order to avoid misunderstandings.
In general, Turkey has boosted its operations in the Mediterranean, both in the air and at sea, for no reason and without any perceptible strategic threat.
A senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official recently summoned Arab ambassadors in Ankara and boasted about scrambling jets on several occasions and chasing away Israeli fighter jets flying near Syria's shores.
Senior NATO officials have implored their Turkish counterparts to stop playing with fire.
Syrian Diplomats Harass Expatriate Dissidents - Peter Apps (Reuters)
Syrian diplomats in foreign capitals are mounting campaigns of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside their embassies, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Embassy officials had filmed some of those involved in the protests, and in some cases relatives in Syria had been deliberately targeted for harassment, detention, torture and outright disappearance.
Who Will Question Iranian Terror Financier in Canada? - Michael Rubin (Commentary)
The Iranian press is reporting an embezzlement scandal. Three billion dollars went missing from an Iranian bank, the largest single instance of embezzlement in a regime where graft is commonplace. Now, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the managing director of Bank Melli, has reportedly fled to Canada.
Bank Melli has been involved in the transfer of funds to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah through the Qods Force, as well as Iran's nuclear program. Bank Melli was among the Iranian financial institutions which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in 2007.
Khavari's flight provides a potential windfall for Western intelligence analysts. Given his position, Khavari likely knows the ins-and-outs of Iranian terror finance. His testimony can provide smoking guns with regard to Qods Force head Qasem Suleimani and other senior Iranian officials.
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- Palestinians Say Freeze in U.S. Aid Taking Effect - Mohammed Daraghmeh
Palestinian officials said Monday that the U.S. has suspended West Bank development projects worth tens of millions of dollars after Congress froze funding. Hassan Abu Libdeh, the Palestinian economics minister, said he was informed Monday by officials of USAID that two projects - worth $55 million and $26 million - were being put on hold for lack of funding. The Palestinians have received about $500 million a year from the U.S. alone in recent years.
See also U.S. Congressional Committee Explains Blocking Palestinian Aid - Natasha Mozgovaya
Bradley Goehner, Communications Director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, explained Monday why almost $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority has been put on hold.
"Committee Members are seeking further details about how funds have been used in the past, how they will be used, safeguards, and the system in place to phase the Palestinians away from dependency on the U.S. This is a tool of Congressional oversight."
"Members believe that the funding cannot be considered in a vacuum, and that the PA's activities at the UN, its arrangement with Hamas, and its failure to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state must all be taken into consideration," he added.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is lobbying Congress to unblock the aid.
- Syrian Regime Detains 3,000 in 3 Days - Zeina Karam
Syrian troops have detained more than 3,000 people in the past three days in the rebellious town of Rastan, activists said Monday. Over the past week, the military fought hundreds of army defectors who sided with anti-regime protesters in Rastan.
See also The Last Days of Assad's Syria - Theo Padnos (New Republic)
- Hillary Clinton Warns Against Even Symbolically Recognizing Jerusalem as Capital of Israel - Rick Richman
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is warning that any American action, even symbolically, toward recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel must be avoided since it would jeopardize the peace process. Her warnings were issued in a brief filed with the Supreme Court - in which she is arguing that a law she voted for when she was Senator is unconstitutional because it could require the U.S. government to give to an American citizen born in Jerusalem papers showing the birthplace as Israel.
Clinton is being sued by an American, Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002 to American parents who want his birthplace to be listed on his passport as Israel. Clinton's brief alleges that any American action that "symbolically or concretely" signals it recognizes Jerusalem being in Israel would "critically compromise the ability of the United States to work with Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region to further the peace process." (New York Sun)
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- Israeli Prime Minister Meets with Visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta on Monday. Panetta said: "The most important thing I bring with me is the continuing commitment to the security of Israel. We have been strong allies, we have been strong partners. We have always made a commitment to do everything we can to support the security of Israel and as the Secretary of Defense, I intend to continue that commitment."
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Panetta Urges Israel, Palestinians to Negotiate - David Alexander
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday called for "bold action" from Israeli and Palestinian leaders to achieve peace after cautioning that Israel was becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East.
"I want to emphasize that there is a need, and an opportunity, for bold action on both sides to move toward a negotiated two-state solution. There is no alternative to negotiations," Panetta said. On the flight to Israel, Panetta said he would make clear to Israel that the United States would protect its "qualitative military edge."
See also Panetta's Pointless Warning to Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Israel Monday that its increasing isolation in the region means it must take "risks for peace." But this is not likely to make much of an impression with the Israeli people for the simple reason that Israel has been taking risks for peace for 18 years. After the 1993 Oslo Accords, the peace offers that both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas rejected, and the withdrawal from Gaza that turned that area into a terrorist state, Israel has taken terrible risks for which it has gotten little reward.
The Panetta visit is meant to reassure the Israelis who are understandably worried about the way in which the Arab Spring has led to more hate for the Jewish state rather than democracy for the Arabs. It is an unfortunate fact that there is nothing Israel can do to repair relations with countries like Turkey and Egypt, whose governments are whipping up antagonism for reasons that have little to do with the policies of the Netanyahu government. (Commentary)
- Egypt to Charge Israel Higher Prices for Natural Gas - Fadi Mualem
Egypt will sharply raise the price of natural gas it sells to Israel, Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Abdullah Ghorab told Al Ahram Tuesday. He said, "Whoever pays more will receive preference for our gas."
See also Israel Spends Extra $2.67 Million Daily Due to Egypt Gas Stoppage - Ahmed Feteha (Al Ahram-Egypt)
- The Palestinian Statehood Showdown - Yossi Klein Halevi
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN General Assembly that Israel bears sole blame for the origins of the conflict, that Israel is the sole obstacle to resolving it, and that, in effect, the Jews have no connection to the Land of Israel. And he receives a standing ovation. Barack Obama, Israelis' least favorite president, emerges as the defender of truth, while Bill Clinton, whom Israelis adored, joins the distorters.
Israel, Obama said, deserves recognition not because of the Holocaust but because Israel is the Jews' historic homeland. But as it turned out, only Israelis seemed to be listening. The media response was largely contemptuous: Obama wasn't motivated by moral clarity but by political expedience, addressing not the Muslim world but American Jewish voters. Three years of estrangement had their effect: When Obama finally spoke the truth, few seemed to believe he meant it.
In a sense, Abbas' speech was a response to Obama's: The Jews have no legitimacy in the land. That is the message Palestinians routinely receive from Abbas' media. There is a direct link between erasing the Jews from their own land and history and a view of the conflict which places all blame on Israel. In Abbas' telling, there were no Israeli peace offers, only colonialist oppression. Abbas' speech does indeed explain why there is no peace and no Palestine, but in the opposite way he intended.
- Israel's Bitter Lessons from International Forces - Dore Gold
UN Resolution 1701, which brought the Second Lebanon War to a close, created a new, more robust international force and was hailed at the time as a great diplomatic achievement.
Five years later, Hizbullah has returned to southern Lebanon with a force similar to what it had prior to the war. There are now close to 40,000 rockets in Hizbullah's total arsenal in Lebanon, of which 30,000 are located south of the Litani River, in the zone that was not supposed to have any weapons other than those of UNIFIL or the Lebanese Army.
According to Resolution 1701, UNIFIL should be going into the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon to remove the Hizbullah weaponry stored there in violation of Resolution 1701. The chances that European troops would be willing to risk their lives and move into Shiite villages to take out weaponry are almost nil. Already in July 2011, France's UNIFIL force came under attack, leading President Sarkozy to threaten to pull out his troops.
What does this experience mean for proposed international forces in the Jordan Valley to safeguard the demilitarization of a Palestinian state? If UNIFIL cannot guarantee the demilitarization of southern Lebanon, how will international forces help guarantee the demilitarization of a Palestinian state in the West Bank?
Obama's Speech at UN Should Not Have Been a Surprise - Editorial (Albawaba-Jordan)
The stunned expressions on Palestinian delegates' faces as they listened to President Obama bluntly reject their bid for statehood at the UN was proof of just how far they had allowed themselves to believe in their own hype. Palestinians actually believed that they had driven a wedge between Israel and its American backers.
- Obama is an American president who has gone beyond all others in standing up for Palestinian rights and aspirations, who is openly antagonistic to Israel's leadership, and who has frequently stated his goal of a fast track to Palestinian statehood. Yet when the cards were down, President Obama demolished years of Palestinian self-deception.
- Over the years, Americans have come to a better understanding of - and an empathy towards - the plight of the Palestinians, but this has not translated into a lesser support for Israel. Yes, Americans feel that Palestinians should get their own state, but no, the Americans do not believe that it must come at Israel's expense.
- Americans have generally sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians and today, Israel still enjoys vast support in American society. They may have differences over certain policy issues, including the issue of settlements, but these are in no way divisive differences.
- President Obama knows that he cannot walk directly counter to the expressed wishes of his electorate. Despite all the hype about the "Israel Lobby," the opinion polls tell us (and the President) that the average American still values Israel and sides with it.
- To the White House, the Palestinians' UN move looks like treachery and a deliberate attempt to insult President Obama. There is usually a price to pay for such behavior.
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