Report: Hamas to Demand Key Positions in Unity Government (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas will demand that its members fill key roles in the unity government with Fatah if it is to agree to allow PA President Mahmoud Abbas to serve as the interim government's prime minister, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Thursday.
Palestinian sources said Hamas would demand that its members serve as deputy prime minister and control the interior, justice and finance ministries.
U.S. Sees Signs of Iran Activity in Yemen - Tom Finn
Iran is becoming more active in Yemen, U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein said on Monday.
The northern "Houthi" rebels are members of the Zaydi branch of Shi'ite Islam. "We do definitely see a rise in Iranian finance, efforts on the part of Iran to increase its influence not only with Zaydi Shia elements but with Sunni elements as well," Feierstein said.
Tunisia, Egypt Islamists Signal Bigger Religion Role - Tom Heneghan (Reuters)
After months of reassuring secularist critics, Islamist politicians in Tunisia and Egypt have begun to lay down markers about how Muslim their states should be - and first signs show they want more religion than previously admitted.
Popular List, the party tasked with writing Tunisia's new constitution, announced on Monday its draft called Islam "the principle source of legislation" - a phrase denoting laws based on sharia (Islamic law).
On Tuesday, Egyptian Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said his group wanted a president with "an Islamic background."
Armed Men Attack Egypt's Islamist Presidential Hopeful (Reuters)
A leading Islamist candidate for the Egyptian presidency, Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh, 60, was attacked by armed men and was in intensive care suffering from a brain concussion, aides said Friday.
Abol Fotoh was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood when he defied its decision not to put up a presidential candidate.
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of the most widely respected Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world, has described Abol Fotoh as the "leading candidate."
Prisoner in Iraq Tied to Hizbullah Faces U.S. Military Charges - Charlie Savage (New York Times)
The Obama administration has approved military commission charges against a Lebanese man accused of helping kill U.S. troops in Iraq.
Ali Musa Daqduq is accused of being a Hizbullah operative and was the last detainee held by American forces in Iraq. He was turned over to Iraqi custody in December before they withdrew.
On Jan. 3, military prosecutors swore out an eight-page charge sheet for Daqduq, accusing him of murder, perfidy, terrorism and espionage, among other war crimes. A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, said the government was "working with Iraq to effect Daqduq's transfer to a U.S. military commission consistent with U.S. and Iraqi law."
Rise in Crime Intensifies Unease in Once-Safe Egypt - Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan (Los Angeles Times)
The revolution that inspired Egypt one year ago has set loose a menacing air: a woman gunned down in a rich Cairo neighborhood, a rash of carjackings, a deadly soccer riot, and a stream of smuggled arms that has given muscle to criminal gangs.
Al Ahram newspaper reported an unprecedented jump in violent crimes in 2011, with 2,774 killings and 2,229 kidnappings.
In Japan, Israelis Bring Trauma Expertise to Tsunami Victims - Boaz Arad (JTA)
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck off the coast of eastern Japan.
Arriving in Japan shortly after the disaster, the Israeli NGO IsraAID's small team of volunteers has supplied medical relief items, provided training to handle post-traumatic stress disorder and organized art, music, movement and drama therapy sessions for residents of the many small towns devastated by the tsunami.
The sessions, which utilize a mostly nonverbal approach to help people express their feelings, have been so successful that IsraAID is now planning to operate a training center for at least another year and a half.
"Israel, sadly, is pretty much a trauma lab," says Meirav Tal-Margalit, an IsraAID volunteer and movement therapist who works with residents of the rocket-stricken Israeli town of Sderot.
"We have extensive experience in this field, and the tools we use here have been proven effective worldwide....We make cultural adaptations, of course, but in the end we are all human and we share the same fears and the same dreams."
"The main idea behind our activities is to supply the Japanese with the therapeutic tools and the know-how to help them deal with the trauma themselves," says project manager Yotam Polizer. "We locate local community leaders and professionals from the health and education sectors, and work directly with them. They then use what they learn and pass it on to many more people than we can reach on our own."
Chiho Shimura, who left her business in Tokyo to volunteer with survivors in her native Ishinomaki, a badly devastated port city, said, "We've had Japanese social workers come here and talk to people, but they were not able to do what the Israelis have done. They immediately saw into our hearts. They definitely saw into mine."
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- UN Panel Accuses Syrian Government of Crimes Against Humanity - Alan Cowell and Steven Lee Myers
A United Nations panel concluded Thursday that "gross human rights violations" had been ordered by the Syrian authorities as a matter of state policy, amounting to crimes against humanity.
The panel of three investigators, led by Paulo Pinheiro, a Brazilian professor, said the orders had come from "the highest levels of armed forces and the government."
"The commission received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protesters, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate tank and machine-gun fire."
The investigators said the report was based on 369 interviews with victims, witnesses, defectors, and other people with "inside knowledge" of the situation in Syria.
(New York Times)
See also List of Top Syrian Officials Suspected of Crimes Against Humanity Given to UN - Stephanie Nebehay
A confidential list of top Syrian officials suspected of ordering crimes against humanity including murder, abductions and torture has been given to the UN for possible future prosecution, UN investigators said on Thursday. Syrian forces bent on crushing a popular uprising have shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the "highest level" of army and government officials, an independent panel said in a report.
The three-member panel had drawn up a secret list of names of commanding officers and officials alleged to be responsible for gross violations. (Reuters)
See also Analysts: Syria's Alawites to Fight to Death for Power (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
- U.S. Offers India Help in Replacing Iran Oil Supplies - Pratish Narayanan and Anto Antony
The U.S. government has offered to help India get alternative supplies for Iranian oil, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The U.S. may help broker deals with suppliers such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is in talks with countries around the world on reducing their dependence on Iranian oil, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. (Bloomberg)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- UN Security Council Condemns Terror Attacks on Israeli Diplomats - Shlomo Shamir
The UN Security Council strongly and unanimously condemned the recent attacks on Israeli representatives and diplomats in India and Georgia on Thursday. Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor told Ha'aretz, "It has been seven years since the Security Council has spoken out against terror attacks on Israel and its citizens....The unanimous condemnation is a significant step for the fight against terror."
- Israel, Egypt Working to Stop Hamas Attacks from Sinai - Yaakov Katz
Israel and Egypt are working together to stop Hamas terrorists from "cynically using" the Sinai Peninsula to perpetrate terror attacks against Israel, Brig.-Gen. Nadav Padan, commander of the IDF's 80th Division, said Thursday.
"We regularly coordinate with the Egyptians and synchronize our efforts to coordinate joint action against Hamas."
100 km. of a newly built barrier along the 240-km. border is now complete. The IDF is also investing large resources in intelligence gathering, to create a clearer understanding of terrorist groups that operate in Sinai.
The Egyptian military currently operates four battalions within Sinai, which are mostly used to protect tourist sites as well as the gas line that runs through the peninsula. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved the insertion of two more battalions but the Egyptians have yet to act. A senior IDF officer said that terrorist elements were moving freely throughout the Sinai and sometimes right under the nose of the Egyptian security forces. In addition, in 2011, over 16,000 African migrant workers illegally crossed into Israel via the border.
- Expert: Time Remains to Explore Non-Military Options against Iran Nukes - Oren Kessler
Discussing Iran's nuclear program, a former high-ranking Israeli official said in a closed seminar at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel lAviv University:
"Israel is independent - it will do what it has to do....Israelis have surprised the world in the past, and we could do the same again." He said time remains to explore non-military options against Tehran. "Crippling sanctions can be effective," he said. "Now the Iranians are paying attention - during the first four rounds of sanctions, they weren't."
The former official said he believes Iran intends to reach "breakout capacity" whereby it would develop all the capabilities to build an atomic weapon but would remain at the nuclear threshold until a time of its choosing. "Iran will likely be at that threshold for years, not months," he said. A policy of containing or deterring a nuclear Iran, he said, is all but impossible: "Are we able to contain a non-nuclear Iran? Hardly. How then will we ever contain or deter a nuclear one?"
- Israel Watches Syria, Hopefully, But Warily - Ethan Bronner
Israelis see the downfall of Assad in Syria as welcome since it would deal a major blow to Iran. But without a central authority, Syria could descend into chaos and enable terrorist bases on Israel's northeast border. Israel worries that the Golan Heights could become to the north what the Egyptian Sinai has become to the south: a staging ground for anti-Israel action.
This led an aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu to say that it was lucky Israel had never returned the Golan Heights to Syria since it has served as a buffer to the violence in the past year.
(New York Times)
- America's Alibis for Not Helping Syria - Fouad Ajami
The silence of President Obama on the matter of Syria reveals the general retreat of American power in the Middle East. Yet topple the Syrian dictatorship and the access of Iran to the Mediterranean is severed, leaving the brigands of Hamas and Hizbullah scrambling.
Plainly, the Syrian tyranny's writ has expired. Ironically, it was the Assad tyranny itself that had provided transit and sanctuary for jihadists who crossed into Iraq to do battle against the Americans; it even released its own Islamist prisoners and dispatched them to Iraq with the promise of pardon.
It is an inescapable fate that the U.S. is the provider of order in that region. We can lend a hand to the embattled Syrians or risk turning Syria into a devil's playground of religious extremism. The Syrian army is demoralized and riven with factionalism and sectarian enmities. It could be brought down by defectors given training and weapons; safe havens could give disaffected soldiers an incentive, and the space, to defect. In a battered Syria, a desperate people await America's help and puzzle over its leader's passivity.
The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also A Time to Act:
The U.S. Needs to Help the Syrian People - Editorial (New Republic)
- Syria's Arsenal of Unconventional Weapons Must Be Destroyed - Lenny Ben-David
Syria has hundreds of long-range missiles, some equipped with cluster-bomb warheads suitable for dispersion of chemical weapons. Some of the chemical warfare activity is done in cooperation with Iran, which provides training and equipment.
A CIA study released in 2010 stated, "Syria has had a CW [chemical weapons] program for many years and already has a stockpile of CW agents, which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missiles and artillery rockets."
Persistent reports over the last decade suggest that Saddam Hussein smuggled elements of his WMD programs to Syria before he fell.
The destruction of Assad's WMD and missile arsenal would be a powerful signal to the ayatollah regime in Iran to "cease and desist" its nuclear weaponization program. It would be proof that indeed "all options are on the table" - including wiping Syria's table clean.
The writer was deputy chief of mission of Israel's embassy in Washington.
(Times of Israel)
- Abbas Punts on the Mideast Peace Process, Again - Jackson Diehl
Israeli officials contend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a serious run at negotiating terms for statehood with the Palestinians last month - only to run into the same brick wall encountered by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in 2008. Once again, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proved unwilling to engage on a serious proposal. By the Israeli account, both sides presented substantive proposals at the meetings.
Netanyahu's negotiator Isaac Molho presented a 21-point document at the first meeting on Jan. 3 on issues Israel wished to discuss, ranging from security and borders to alleged incitement of violence in the Palestinian media. At the last meeting on Jan. 25, Molho set out Netanyahu's proposal on borders for a Palestinian state. It called for annexation of the large blocs of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.
While the talks went on, Israeli officials held separate discussions with Quartet broker Tony Blair about confidence-building concessions to Abbas, including a prisoner release, the expansion of Palestinian police authority in the West Bank and economic projects.
But Abbas chose not to engage. There were no more meetings. Soon afterward Abbas met with Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Hamas movement, to renew a contrary initiative - a Palestinian unity government. Not for the first time, the Palestinian leader punted.
- Peculiar Proliferation of Palestine Refugees - Daniel Pipes
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), founded in 1949, defines its wards with great specificity: "Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict." Accepting UNRWA's (exaggerated) number of 750,000 original Palestine refugees, only a fraction of that number, about 150,000, remain alive.
But contrary to universal practice, UNRWA made a little-noticed decision in 1965 that extended the definition of "Palestine refugee" to the descendants of those refugees who are male, a shift that permits Palestine refugees uniquely to pass their refugee status on to subsequent generations.
In contrast to all other refugee populations, which diminish in number as people settle down or die, the Palestine refugee population has grown over time to 5 million today. Thus is the "Palestine refugee" status set to swell indefinitely.
All other refugees from the World War II era (including my own parents) have been long settled. The Palestine refugee status already has endured too long and needs to be narrowed down to actual refugees before it does further damage. The writer is president of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
- Why We Fight - Michael Dickson
I spent last week with several Israeli soldiers. University students, in their mid-20s and all active reservists, they recalled their battle experiences prior to a major speaking tour of campuses around the world.
Yair told me about being in a battle with Hizbullah terrorists during the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
A truck arrived in the middle of the battle. Ten boys, about eight years of age, got out of the truck, armed with guns.
In the middle of battle, Yair saw the moral depravity of the enemy and knew in that moment why he fights.
Adam told about receiving a call to his mobile phone from the anguished leader of a Palestinian village at the height of the violent Palestinian intifada. His job was to be a liaison between humanitarian NGOs, Palestinian leaders and the IDF.
A Palestinian boy had got his arm stuck in the blades of an olive press in a hostile Palestinian village.
While entering the village, the locals stoned their vehicles but after saving the boy's life, they left to Palestinian cheers.
Lital asked me to consider the case of a pregnant Palestinian woman who was brought to a checkpoint in an ambulance which, once inspected, was found to be carrying concealed explosive devices. "Take a second," she asked me, "to understand what kind of dilemma an 18-year-old soldier is presented with when on the one hand she sees a heavily pregnant woman, apparently desperate to go to hospital, but at the same time fears it is a hoax that will cost others' lives."
Knowing she faces an enemy that would use a pregnant woman about to deliver as a decoy, and the clear and present danger that Israeli citizens face from this threat, Lital was clear why she fights.
These young IDF army officers will be visiting communities and campuses across the U.S. and the world over the next couple of months. They are not politicians. They are representatives of a citizens' army of a people who wish to live in peace and freedom, a freedom that must be fought for. And that is why they fight. The writer is Israel director of StandWithUs.
- Fighting Fair: The Ethics of Warfare - Gary Rosenblatt
Moshe Halbertal, a professor at New York University Law School and professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University, and a co-author of the Israel Defense Force's code on war ethics, asserts that the Palestinian combatants' goal is to erase the distinction between civilians and soldiers, making every Israeli a target, anywhere and at any time.
Speaking recently on "Morality on the Battlefield," he said an army has "an obligation to defend its own citizens," and Israel has a military code of ethics because it wants its army to be victorious and its soldiers to "feel they behaved properly as human beings." The Israel Defense Forces considers itself, and is viewed by many, as the most moral army in the world.
In his critique of the Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza war, Halbertal asserted that the report, in refusing to admit that Gaza fighters wore civilian clothes and hid among the population, failed to deal with the pressing dilemma of how any moral army should respond to asymmetrical warfare.
In the 2002 battle of Jenin, during the second intifada, Israel sought to root out Palestinian terrorists from the refugee camp and chose not to bomb it out of concern for civilians there. Instead, it sent its forces in on the ground, resulting in 23 IDF soldiers killed.
The most effective and ethical form of warfare is targeted killing, Halbertal said, going after the enemy's leadership and combatants at minimal risk to civilians, often through the use of drones. In an allusion to the deaths of scientists involved in Iran's nuclear efforts, he said that "those making the bomb are agents of threat and can be classified as combatants."
Halbertal's sober assessment of Israel's ethical standards of war left me proud of the seriousness with which Israel takes its responsibility in the ongoing struggle to maintain a moral stance against immoral enemies.
(New York Jewish Week)
- Why Christians Are Advocating for Israel - Debra Rubin
Stanley Gonzalez-Martinez, a Hispanic Catholic, and Alexis Crews, an African American Catholic at a historically black college, are among thousands of non-Jewish students at North American colleges and universities who wear their love for Israel on their sleeves. "Non-Jewish students vastly outnumber the number of Jewish activists motivated to support Israel," says Stephen Kuperberg, the Israel on Campus Coalition's executive director. Christians United for Israel has 98 campus chapters - created at the behest of students, CUFI's executive director, David Brog, says. Five hundred students attended last summer's CUFI Washington Summit.
(Times of Israel)
Obama's Iran Options - Michael Gerson (Washington Post)
By building a broad international coalition against Iran and applying effective sanctions, the Obama administration has raised the stakes of the confrontation. After an initial period of naivete, the administration concluded that inducements would not be enough to hold back Iran's nuclear ambitions. The only hope is the application of costs that Iran cannot bear. Sanctions have not caused Iran to back down, but the approach is not yet exhausted. It is worth another twist of the tourniquet to reduce significant exceptions and exemptions.
- The Iranians have traditionally used diplomatic meetings as a method to weaken sanctions in exchange for the promise of more meetings. A negotiation conducted by America and Europe that eases pressure only as a reward for compliance would send a final signal of seriousness.
- The containment of an Iran with nuclear weapons is not a serious option. Behind a uranium shield, the Iranian regime would increase its support for terrorism and destabilize its neighbors, who would find a nuclear deterrent of their own highly desirable. And how would promises of future containment be minimally credible? If Western nations did nothing before Iran had nuclear weapons, why would they become more determined after Iran possesses them?
- A limited strike on a few key facilities, including Iran's two uranium enrichment sites, it is true, would only buy time. The message, however, would be clear enough: If you keep at it, we'll do it again.
- Close cooperation with Israel in designing a targeted strike against enrichment facilities would have an added benefit. If the Israelis are convinced that America - after a last diplomatic push - is serious about preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, Israel would be less likely to take quick action of its own. American resolve is the best guarantee of Israeli patience.
Obama wants to be known for winding down long wars. But he has shown no hesitance when it comes to shorter, Israel-style operations. He is a special ops hawk, a drone militarist. Iran should take this fact seriously as it calculates its next move.
See also An Israeli Strike on Iran? Not So Fast - David Horovitz
Prior to Israel's last two operations against nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007), Israeli leaders did not spend weeks and months talking endlessly about the nature of the danger and an imminent possible resort to military force. There was silence. And then there was devastating intervention.
This time, on Iran, Netanyahu, Barak and others have talked and talked.
This is not the behavior of a nation that has decided on military action; it is the behavior of a nation seeking to sound the alarm. Israel evidently wants Iran to know that it is potentially poised for action in order that the international community will ratchet up the sanctions.
All those well-sourced articles, with their tantalizing aroma of insider information, are adding to that impression. Which, presumably, is precisely what those anonymous security sources who spoke to those authors want to achieve: Bolster the sense that Israel feels it may soon have to resort to military action - precisely in order that Israel does not have to resort to military action.
(Times of Israel)
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