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Syrian General Killed by Own Troops (AGI-Italy)
An intelligence general in Syria named Adel Mustafa was killed by his own men who refused to obey his order to shoot protesting civilians in the Bab Qebli suburb in Hama.
See also Syrian Oil Minister: Syria Has Lost Two Billion Dollars in Oil Revenues (DPA)
To Syrian Rebels, Hizbullah Is the "Party of Satan" - Michael Weiss (Telegraph-UK)
The fact that Hizbullah has been for months facilitating the Assad regime's violent crackdown on protestors - for instance, by bringing in mercenaries from Lebanon to shoot Syrian army soldiers who refused to fire on unarmed civilians - has got something to do with the mass loathing by the Syrian rebels
for Hassan Nasrallah's terrorist organization.
Hizbullah flags have gone up in flames in Syria alongside not just Iranian ones, but Russian and Chinese ones as well.
Activists in Damascus say that rebels captured eight Hizbullah agents in Zabadani earlier in the week as the latter were emptying a warehouse full of guns. Those agents are now said to be dead.
Senior Fatah Official: Hamas Will Defeat Fatah in May Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Former PA minister Nabil Amr of Fatah warned Thursday that Hamas would once again defeat Fatah if and when new elections are held in the Palestinian territories.
President Mahmoud Abbas (who also heads Fatah) has announced he would like to hold elections on May 4.
Since the Hamas victory in the 2006 parliamentary election, Fatah has failed to come up with a new list of candidates.
"Unless the situation in Fatah changes, what happened in the past could occur once again," Amr said in an interview with Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
See also Palestinian Fatah Movement Ill-Prepared for Election Showdown with Hamas (AP-Washington Post)
Some say Fatah's star dimmed after two decades of corruption-tainted rule in the Palestinian autonomy zones and the failure of negotiations with Israel.
In Hebron in the West Bank, district party leader Kifah Iwaiwi said he spent much of the past four years apologizing for the past misbehavior of Fatah members.
A political takeover of the West Bank as well by an unreformed, globally shunned Hamas would isolate the Palestinians, crushing any hopes for peace and a negotiated path to Palestinian independence.
It could also mean the end to hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid from the West, which regards Hamas as a terror group.
IPU Offers Apology on Hamas (AP-New York Times)
Israel's parliament speaker, Reuven Rivlin, said he had received an apology from the Inter-Parliamentary Union for the attendance of a Hamas official at a meeting of the organization.
See also Inter-Parliamentary Union Invites Hamas to Human Rights Meeting in Geneva - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
A Leaner, Meaner Muslim Brotherhood - Michael J. Totten (American Interest)
Now that the Islamists in Egypt are no longer locked in a struggle with Mubarak's one-man regime, they are beginning to crack into factions.
Three main elements can already be identified: the old hard core that predates the 1970s, those who joined up in college and took the Brotherhood's ideas into civil society and professional organizations, and the youth.
Muslim Brotherhood Website Rife with Anti-Semitism - B. Chernitsky (MEMRI)
The website of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ikhwanonline.com, contains articles with anti-Semitic motifs, including Holocaust denial and descriptions of the "Jewish character" as covetous, exploitative, and a source of evil in human society.
In addition, articles on the site include praise for jihad and martyrdom, and condemnation of negotiation as a means of regaining Islamic lands.
Gaza's Hamas Rulers Ban Palestinian Singing Competition (AP-Washington Post)
Organizers of the Palestinian version of "American Idol" said Thursday that Gaza's Hamas rulers have banned residents from participating in the popular reality show. Hamas told them the program is "indecent."
"This is more serious than Hamas just killing fun in Gaza - they are limiting the freedoms of the people, according to their whims," said Alaa al-Abed, chief producer of the "New Star" program, now in its third year.
Hamas permits male barbershop-style singing groups that do not use musical instruments and sing of the glory of Islam and of fighting Israel.
Young, prepubescent girls also perform in their own singing groups, but teenage girls and women are never seen singing in public.
Israeli Census: 722,000 Jews Live Beyond 1967 Lines - Yori Yalon (Israel Hayom)
An Interior Ministry census report says that in 2011 the number of Jewish residents in the West Bank was 342,414.
These numbers do not include approximately 300,000 Jews who live in neighborhoods in north and east Jerusalem over the pre-1967 lines.
In addition, about 60,000 Jews study at educational institutions in Judea and Samaria.
The conclusion is that about 722,000 Jews are living beyond the "green line," including in the Golan Heights.
Swiss Direct Democracy, Islam, and the Diminishing Political Stature of Swiss Jewry - Simon Erlanger (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
Whereas the Muslim community in Switzerland is growing fast and is likely to gain influence, the Jewish community today totals less than 18,000. Given its small size, high age profile, and emigration and assimilation, the Jewish community cannot be counted on to exert any political role in the future.
Because of Swiss direct democracy, however, political correctness traditionally carries much less weight than elsewhere. Therefore, popular unease with a growing Islamic presence could make itself felt.
Dr. Simon Erlanger, an associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, teaches Jewish history at the University of Lucerne.
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- Iran, Under New Strain, Makes Offer to Talk - Farnaz Fassihi and Jay Solomon
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday that Iran was ready to return to negotiations in Turkey over its nuclear program, though U.S. officials said they had yet to see proof of that claim, as some international efforts to ratchet up pressure on Tehran progressed.
The EU is coalescing around a July 1 start for its proposed crude-oil embargo on Iran, several diplomats said Wednesday.
The EU is expected to finalize details of the embargo and other sanctions - including the time frame for their implementation - at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.
(Wall Street Journal)
- IAEA Official on Iran: "What We Know Suggests the Development of Nuclear Weapons"
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Financial Times Deutschland Thursday
that it was his duty to warn the world about suspected Iranian activities that point to plans to develop atomic bombs.
"What we know suggests the development of nuclear weapons....We want to check over everything that could have a military dimension."
Tension between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program has increased since November, when the IAEA published a report that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. "I have absolutely no reason to soften my report. It is my responsibility to alert the world," Amano said. "From the indicators I had, I draw the conclusion that it is time to call the world's attention to this risk." (Reuters)
See also Canada's Prime Minister: Iranian Regime "Frightens Me" - Robert Matas
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a consensus is growing among world leaders that Iran would have no hesitation using nuclear arms once they develop the weapons and the capability to deliver them.
"I've watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me," Harper said in a CBC interview.
"In my judgment, these are people who have a particular, you know, fanatically religious worldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes."
Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. "There is absolutely no doubt they are lying," he said. "The evidence is just growing overwhelming." (Globe and Mail-Canada)
- China Begins to Turn Against Iran - Malcolm Moore, Henry Samuel and Damien McElroy
After a visit to the Gulf in which he met the leaders of the states most threatened by Iran's aggressive foreign policy, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, issued Beijing's clearest condemnation yet.
"China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons," he said.
China appears to have sent a message to Iran that it could not rely on Beijing's unstinting support by reducing its imports of oil at a time when the U.S. and Europe are promoting an embargo on the country. Wen's trip to three of the world's biggest oil-and-gas producers was described by some commentators as an attempt to seek alternative energy sources. "Iran must understand that if it comes down to a choice, China will not alienate itself from the rest of the world for the sake of single country," said Yu Guoqing, a researcher on the Middle East at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
With a second front of pressure opening up on Iran over its support for the Syrian regime's crackdown on nationwide protests, Tehran has moved closer to global pariah status.
French officials Wednesday told Le Figaro that Iran was training 50 members of Syria's Republican Guard in anti-sedition techniques in Tehran, following a visit to Damascus at the start of the month by Maj.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force.
See also Turkey Works to Cut Dependence on Iranian Oil
Turkish refiner Tupras is working to cut its dependence on imports of Iranian oil, industry sources said Thursday.
Turkey imports more than 30% of its daily consumption from Iran.
One source said Tupras was planning to meet Saudi Arabian oil authorities this month with a view to switching to alternative crude sources by the summer.
A second industry source noted that Iranian threats to shut the Strait of Hormuz had prompted Tupras to approach new suppliers.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Top U.S. General Arrives to Convince Israel to Give Iran Sanctions More Time - Yaakov Katz
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel on Thursday for meetings with Israeli leaders. Dempsey is expected to try and reassure Israel that the Obama administration is committed to stopping Iran's nuclear program, even if it ultimately comes down to using military force. Top U.S. officials have recently said that the U.S. will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
See also U.S. Ambassador: "Sanctions Not Only Option Against Iran" - Maor Buchnik
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said Thursday that Washington has prepared a set of alternative options to deal with Iran's nuclear program, should the financial sanctions prove futile. Shapiro added that financial pressure against Iran must be stepped up in order to make Tehran understand that its actions have a price. (Ynet News)
- Palestinian Security Forces Joining Anti-Israel Demonstrations - Yaakov Katz
The IDF has identified an increase in the participation of PA security forces in anti-Israel demonstrations throughout the West Bank, senior military sources said this week.
According to one officer, the army recently arrested three Palestinian policemen in civilian clothes at demonstrations after they threw rocks at Israeli security forces. The PA is financing the weekly demonstrations held near Bil'in, Ni'lin and Nabi Salih.
- Syria-Funded Islamic Jihad Terror Cell Exposed in West Bank - Gili Cohen
In a joint operation of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, ten Islamic Jihad militants were arrested near Jenin in recent months, the IDF said Thursday. The cell was in communication with Islamic Jihad in Syria, which transferred large sums of money to purchase weapons and fund operations. The terror cell was planning attacks on IDF soldiers, shooting attacks in settlements, and abducting Israelis. The cell had ties with Islamic Jihad in Gaza and with the non-governmental organization "Soul of Jerusalem," which is sponsored by the Islamic Jihad and is outlawed by Israel.
- U.S. Terror Victims: Prosecute Palestinian Terrorists - Joanna Paraszczuk
The Parents Forum for Justice (PFJ), a group of U.S. citizens and parents whose children were murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel over the past decade, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder on Thursday asking him to prosecute the perpetrators of the bombings that harmed them and their families who were freed in Israel's recent prisoner exchange with Hamas.
Under the 1991 Anti-Terror Act, the U.S. can prosecute foreign nationals who perpetrate terrorism against American citizens, even if those acts are not carried out on U.S. soil. "These laws were enacted to ensure that American citizens abroad had the protections of U.S. criminal law, wherever those Americans may be, including in Israel," the PFJ letter said.
According to PFJ member and Jerusalem resident Alan Bauer, 83 American citizens were killed and 54 wounded in Palestinian terror attacks between 1993 and 2006.
Several of the perpetrators were released as part of the Shalit deal. "We would like the U.S. authorities to arrest those terrorists released under the Shalit deal," said Bauer. "We just want to see these terrorists back in jail." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Text of Letter: Parents Forum for Justice (Israel Resource Review)
- Iran Is Playing for Time - Ron Ben-Yishai
Iran's interest is to reach the "nuclear threshold" while at the same time completing the missile program and fortifying Tehran's nuke sites to make them immune to an aerial strike. Iran aims to achieve this without facing stifling economic sanctions already formulated by the U.S. and the West but not yet imposed. Iran is playing for time as it waves carrots and sticks in the West's face. The Iranians are also signaling their willingness to re-launch negotiations on their nuclear program. However, Iran presented a condition: No sanctions during the negotiations.
Israel's interest is to thwart Iran's plans. By the time the Americans weigh their options and make a decision, the Iranians may complete their fortification project, thereby causing Israel to miss the last chance to launch a successful, effective preventative strike. This is the reason why Israel pushes the U.S. and Europe to impose the gravest possible sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks.
- What to Do about Iran - Nicholas Burns
What to do about an increasingly threatening Iran is now the most important foreign policy challenge of 2012. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have tried since 2005 to punish and isolate Iran with ever tougher sanctions while leaving the door open to negotiations and an eventual diplomatic solution. As an Iranian nuclear weapon is rightly unacceptable to the U.S., both presidents left the threat of force on the table to concentrate the attention of mullahs in Tehran.
Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and a pernicious troublemaker in Iraq and Afghanistan. That it wants to go nuclear is not contested seriously in any major world capital. As the Bush administration's undersecretary of state working to stop Iran's nuclear program, I didn't encounter a single international official, including from China and Russia, who disagreed that Iran's enrichment efforts and missile tests are designed for just one purpose - to achieve a nuclear weapons capacity.
At the insistence of congressional leaders, Obama will now have the authority to target Iran's Central Bank and foreign firms that do business with it. Meanwhile, the European Union is on the verge of approving an equally powerful oil embargo. These will be, by far, the most lethal sanctions ever imposed on Iran.
The writer served as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008).
- Hamas Attack on Gaza Shiites May Indicate Political Shift - Hugh Naylor
Hamas security forces - up to 100 policemen and masked men in civilian clothes - stormed an apartment building in Beit Lahiya in Gaza on Saturday where Shiite Muslims were gathered to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson.
They dragging out 15 men, whom they then beat with truncheons and denounced as infidels.
"The police showed everyone black Shiite headbands and were yelling to the crowds, 'Look at these kafirs [unbelievers]!'," said Yasser Ziada, 23. "It was like they were putting on a show for us, beating them in front of everyone."
The main allies of Hamas - Iran and Hizbullah - are predominantly Shiite, or in the case of Syria's Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism.
Saturday's crackdown on Shiites - occurring as Hamas dismantles its headquarters in Damascus - may be an indication that the tectonic political shifts underway since the Arab Spring may be affecting Gaza.
Hamas is seen to be gravitating towards newly empowered Sunni Islamist groups in the Arab Spring countries of Egypt and Tunisia, opening opportunities for hard-line Hamas members to settle sectarian scores, said Hani Habib, a political analyst in Gaza.
In a statement released after the assault, the Interior Ministry in Gaza admitted carrying out the operation.
"Gaza and Palestine in general is a society that believes in Sunni Islam," adding that there were "no Shiites in Palestine."
Mustafa Sawaf, an official at the Culture Ministry, noted, "We are a Sunni society, so Hamas felt like it had to take action against them." He added that Saturday's attack was "dramatized [by Hamas] to show people in Gaza that it does not tolerate Shiites." (National-Abu Dhabi)
See also The End of the Affair between Hamas and Iran - Michael Weiss
Hamas has fallen out with its former puppet-masters in Iran. The mullahs' new favorite proxy is Islamic Jihad. These chaps are converting to Shia Islam in a bid to reclaim Iranian hegemony in Gaza.
The writer is communications director of the Henry Jackson Society.
- Israel's Trade with the Muslim World - Shuki Sadeh
Israeli business quietly thrives in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and in far-off countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Company owners on both sides do all they can to avoid harmful publicity. Contacts are made at international conferences overseas, through European and U.S. companies familiar with both sides, and directly over the Internet. "Technology, particularly the Internet, is making the world smaller," explains Eliran Malul at Arab Markets, which brokers deals in Arab countries.
Quite a number of Israeli companies export products to Saudi Arabia. This is sometimes done through their U.S.-registered subsidiaries. Israeli companies have also provided equipment such as body armor to U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia. Israel receives raw materials for its plastics industry - polyethylene and polypropylene - from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Israel's plastics industry, in turn, exports greenhouse sheeting, irrigation drippers, house and garden products, disposable utensils and food packaging to Saudi Arabia. Some of these products are made by Turkish factories established by Israeli companies.
Alon Liel, who served as Israel's ambassador to Turkey, said this inflates Israel's trade statistics with Turkey. "I assume the high trade figures with Turkey...include shipments to countries with which Israel has no relations." As Dubai was building the Palm Islands - a megalomaniac real estate project delayed by the global economic crisis - Israelis had a hand in providing some of the shingles through an Italian roofing tile company. Quite a few companies in the Gulf states rely on sophisticated Israeli technology for security purposes. Israel also exports medical, agricultural and water technologies to the Gulf states. (Ha'aretz)
- The Egyptian Army's Economic Empire - Joseph Mayton
Egypt's army is the owner and operator of a vast empire of factories, tourist resorts and real estate developments. The military loaned the central bank $1 billion to help support the sagging Egyptian pound last month, pointing up the relative wealth of the two institutions. The armed forces own and run much of the food industry, including plants manufacturing olive oil, milk, bread and bottled water - all subsidized by the government.
They also run a number of cement factories, gas stations and refineries, clothing and kitchen facilities, vehicle production factories, as well as hotels. Military businesses are free from government oversight and are not required to pay taxes.
(Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
- Why Nick Clegg Should Focus on the Settlement, Not the Settlements - Lorna Fitzsimons
"An act of deliberate vandalism" was how British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Israeli settlement building on Monday. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' demand for a complete halt to all Israeli construction over the Green Line is now a road-block preventing the commencement of bilateral talks.
By making Israeli settlements (plural) the issue, we inadvertently make the settlement (singular, and conflict-ending) almost impossible to reach because we block the direct negotiations which alone can secure a Palestinian state. The Palestinians are using settlement construction as an excuse for not talking. They negotiated with the Olmert government in 2008 with no settlement freeze.
The historical record does not bear out the idea that a settlement freeze is the indispensable condition for solving the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Oslo Accords in 1993, Camp David in 2000, the negotiations at Annapolis in 2007 were all conducted without a settlement freeze. Conversely, in August 2005, when Israel evacuated all of the settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank, the result was - more terror attacks.
Israel has not built a single new "settlement" since 1993. The announcement of contracts and the running commentary on each step of the planning process for every extension in existing communities may make it sound like there are lots of new "settlements" being built but there simply are not.
Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat has said settlements are built on 1.1% of the West Bank.
The writer, a former Member of Parliament (Labour, 1997-2005), is CEO of BICOM - the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre.
- The Case for a United Jerusalem - Nathan Diament
Some insist that the only way to resolve competing claims over the holy city of Jerusalem is to divide it.
But modern-day Jerusalem is an interwoven checkerboard of Jewish and Palestinian enclaves. Recent polling indicates that a plurality of Palestinians residing in eastern sections of Jerusalem would move to Israeli Jerusalem if given the opportunity, should the city be re-divided.
Israel has proven over the past four decades that its authority over all of Jerusalem can ensure protection of and access to holy sites. When Arabs last controlled the Old City, from 1948 to 1967, Jews were barred from access to Judaism's holiest site, ignoring the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem has been the national capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years. The international community would never expect the Islamic world to cede sovereignty over Mecca; the Jewish people ought to be accorded no less respect with regard to the Old City of Jerusalem.
The international community must take off the table the option of dividing Jerusalem, in the same way that they have ended the debate over a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees. The writer is Director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
- Former Chief Scientist: Israel to Continue as High-Tech Power - Maayan Jaffe
Dr. Orna Berry, the former chief scientist of Israel, is today the vice president and manager of the Center of Excellence for Israel-EMC Corporation. Speaking to the Maryland/Israel Development Center
on Jan. 12, she said Israel's high-tech arena will continue to thrive because the country is "sufficiently paranoid to always be transformational and to have a competitive edge."
She said it's not the IDF training per se, but the spirit of team play, the spirit of commitment and the spirit of survival that results from mandatory service.
"Israelis are never comfortable - look at our borders," she said. "We are always on our toes and that makes us globally competitive."
She cited the recent investment by Apple Corporation in Israel, the first Apple investment outside the U.S., as an example of how U.S. companies are still turning to Israel as a strategic partner.
Israel is seen as an R&D epicenter and Israeli innovation is what makes the country unique. (Washington Jewish Week)
- Video: IDF Aid Missions Save Thousands Around the World
Over the last 26 years, Israel has sent out 15 aid missions to countries struck by natural disasters. Immediately upon arriving to these countries IDF doctors set up field hospitals. Overall, medical care was given to more than 2,300 people in afflicted areas, and 220 were saved from certain death.
(Israel Defense Forces)
- The Silent Young Jewish Majority - Matthew Ackerman
It has become accepted in recent years that young American Jews are "distancing" themselves from Israel. However, a recent poll
by Mitchell Bard's American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise of 400 American Jewish undergraduate students found that 66% view themselves as feeling "very close" or "fairly close" to Israel. The AJC's 2011 annual survey of American Jewish opinion found that 68% of the general Jewish population also described their feeling toward Israel in similar terms. (Commentary)
Calculating Victory: How Iran Views Confronting the U.S. - Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Some Iranian leaders seem to believe they could advance four of their main goals through armed conflict with the U.S.: namely, resisting "global arrogance," creating disorder in the oil markets, justifying nuclear breakout, and rallying the nation.
- The Iranian navy still regards its 1988 confrontation with the U.S. - sparked by the mining of a U.S. warship - as a great victory that it studies closely, despite the sinking of several Iranian vessels. If Iran got lucky and sank a U.S. warship during an actual conflict, television viewers around the world might conclude that the U.S. Navy had lost the war no matter what happened next.
- When the U.S. got its nose bloodied by the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing and the 1993 Somali "Black Hawk down" incident, Washington withdrew its forces from both countries. Iran may hope for the same result via confrontation in the Gulf.
- The best prospect for persuading Khamenei to revert to his past cautiousness is to clearly lay out that the U.S. has red lines which, if crossed, will cost Iran dearly.
The writer is director of research and head of the Iran Security Initiative at The Washington Institute.
See also The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior - Harold Rhode (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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