Khamenei: Iran Needs More Concessions (U.S. Institute of Peace)
On March 7, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that Western nations only acknowledged a "fraction" of Iran's nuclear rights. "Western nations did not accomplish anything that can be construed as a concession."
Khamenei said Iran must wait until the next round of talks in April to assess the "integrity" of the world's six major powers.
Poll: 9 in 10 Americans Have Unfavorable View of Iran - Haviv Rettig Gur (Times of Israel)
A February Gallup poll found that nearly 9 in 10 Americans hold an unfavorable view of Iran. Only 9% had a positive view.
Iran was the least favorable country out of 22 measured. Israel, at 66% favorable and 29% unfavorable, came 7th, while the Palestinian Authority was at 18, with 15% favorable and 77% unfavorable.
"Continuing Gallup research has shown that Americans strongly favor Israel's side of the enduring conflict between that country and the Palestinian Authority, helping explain why the latter is in this bottom group," Gallup noted.
State Department Halts Award for Egyptian Accused of Anti-Semitic Remarks - Guy Taylor (Washington Times)
The Obama administration reversed course Thursday and said it no longer would give a prestigious international women's award to Egyptian political activist Samira Ibrahim after she was accused of posting anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist comments on Twitter.
Hours after a terrorist attack in Bulgaria in July killed five Israeli tourists, Ibrahim said: "Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news,"
the Weekly Standard reported.
Israeli Farmers Fear New Swarm of Locusts - Ron Friedman (Times of Israel)
Southerly winds may blow a new swarm of locusts into the country over the weekend, farmers in Israel's Negev feared Thursday.
The Agriculture Ministry placed area residents on high alert ahead of the possible influx of a huge swarm numbering millions of locusts.
Greece, Israel, and U.S. in Joint Naval Exercise (Kathimerini-Greece)
Greece, Israel and the U.S. on Thursday began a naval exercise in the sea around Crete and the eastern Mediterranean.
The exercise will last 15 days and involves simulated combat against submarines, air battles, and protection of offshore natural gas platforms.
Greece is participating with a frigate, a helicopter and a submarine.
Lebanese Palestinians Entering Syria to Fight Assad - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
50 Palestinians have traveled from Lebanese refugee camps to Syria to partake in "jihad" against Assad, Fatah's representative in Lebanon, Munir Al-Maqdah, told the Lebanese daily An-Nahar on Thursday.
Maqdah said 40,000 Palestinians have entered Lebanon from Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.
Women Officers Outnumber Men in the IDF - Lilach Shoval, Zeev Klein and Shlomi Diaz (Israel Hayom)
Women's roles in the IDF have undergone numerous changes in recent years.
Some 34% of Israelis serving in the IDF are women, 57% of all officers are women, 28% of career officers are women, and 92% of all army positions are open to women.
Gaza to Reduce Import of Cars Due to Oversupply (Ma'an News-PA)
The Gaza government's transportation ministry announced Wednesday that in February the number of cars entering Gaza was reduced due to oversupply.
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- Obama Tells U.S. Jewish Leaders There Will Be No "Grand Peace Plan" during Israel Trip
President Barack Obama is playing down expectations for a Mideast peace breakthrough during his upcoming trip to Israel, telling American Jewish leaders that he won't be carrying a "grand peace plan" when he arrives later this month.
Obama, in an hour-long private meeting at the White House on Thursday, acknowledged that near-term prospects for peace are bleak, according to a person who attended the discussion. But the president said a deal with the Palestinians remains the only way for Israel to achieve long-term security.
Obama said pursuing sweeping peace talks now would be premature, but that doesn't preclude him from launching a peace effort in six months or a year. (AP-Fox News)
See also Obama Meets Privately with Jewish Leaders - Scott Wilson
Jewish leaders urged President Obama on Thursday to make clear during his upcoming trip to Israel that he will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons - and to correct an early diplomatic misstep when he appeared to trace Israel's historic claim to a modern state to the Holocaust rather than to the Bible.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, asked Obama what actions he intends to take to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"I'm not going to beat my chest to prove my toughness on this," Obama said, according to participants.
Obama continued with a quote attributed to the Chinese military tactician Sun Tzu, who suggested that a "golden bridge" must be built to give a "proud people" a face-saving retreat to a diplomatic solution. (Washington Post)
- UN Human Rights Report Criticizes Palestinians
The UN Human Rights Council issued a report on March 6 on human rights violations during "the escalation between Israel, the de facto authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza" during November 14-21, 2012. After criticizing Israel, the report said:
"Palestinian armed groups continuously violated international humanitarian law, by launching indiscriminate attacks on Israel and by attacking civilians, thereby disregarding the principle of distinction. The armed groups failed to take all feasible precautions in attacks, in particular by launching rockets from populated areas, which put the population at grave risk."
"Furthermore, several Palestinians were killed by rockets launched by the armed groups that fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip [including Omar Mishrawi, the son of a BBC reporter]. In addition, seven alleged collaborators held in DFA detention facilities were summarily executed, constituting a violation of their right to life and of international humanitarian law." (UN Human Rights Council)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Frustration with EU's Policies on Rise - Herb Keinon
Israeli diplomatic officials are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the EU's pro-Palestinian tilt. While the EU talks about labeling products from the settlements, or about Palestinian hunger strikers, it is unable to call Hizbullah a terrorist organization and was slow in condemning Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's recent characterization of Zionism as a crime against humanity.
"When it comes to Israel they are very vocal," one senior official said.
"When it comes to the Palestinians, they are very timid."
Brussels' one-sided tilt, the official said, was reflected last week when the annual report of EU consuls-general in Jerusalem and Ramallah - a report that year after year slams Israeli polices - was leaked to the press.
"Every year they put out a report that is critical of Israel, even though their mandate is to strengthen ties with the PA. They never issue a report on problems inside the PA - the misuse of funds, human rights abuses there. Only on Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF Sees Continuing Syrian Stalemate - Amos Harel
A senior Israeli defense official said claims that al-Qaeda has taken control of the Syrian-Israeli border zone are a little exaggerated. Factions there identify with some of Bin Laden's ideas, but there is no unified control; it's a mixed bunch of groups that control various villages - and they're busy battling the Syrian army.
Assad actually controls only about a quarter of the country, but the opposition forces aren't organized enough to defeat him.
The rebels continue to shoot down Syrian air force planes and helicopters, while almost daily the army shoots missiles at rebel-controlled areas. Recently an average of 150 people have been killed every day. (Ha'aretz)
See also Meet Israel's New Neighbors in Syria - Eyal Zisser
The Syrian regime's grip is loosening by the day. Insurgents seized the al-Raqqah Governorate in eastern Syria over the past week, the first time an entire administrative region has fallen under rebel control.
A significant number of the rebels in the Golan Heights area belong to the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, but alongside that group are a whole host of other armed militias. These groups lack a central leadership and are mainly composed of outlaws and bandits out for a fight. These gangs seek control of the rural regions and the Syrian periphery.
These are Israel's new neighbors and we had better get used to them. If the UN Disengagement Observer Force leaves (as it might in the wake of recent developments), Israel would no longer enjoy the buffer that has separated it from the Syrian revolution.
Alas, the revolution is now part of our everyday lives. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
See also With Syrian Fighting at its Doorstep, Israel Prepares for Next Potential War with Hizbullah (AP-Washington Post)
- Arabs Increasingly Hostile toward Iran - Marc Lynch
Iran is now viewed unfavorably in a majority of Arab countries, according to a survey conducted by James Zogby of 20 Arab and Muslim-majority countries.
Iran's appeal to mainstream Arab public opinion has virtually collapsed from its 2006 peak, he found, in part because of its violent suppression of protests following the 2009 presidential election. "Syria is the nail in the coffin of Iran's favorable rating in the region," Zogby concluded.
Only two Arab countries now see Iran as a good model (Lebanon and Iraq), Iran is viewed unfavorably in 11 out of 17 Arab countries, and large majorities of Arab publics sided with the opposition Green Movement over the Iranian government and disapprove of Iran's role in Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf. These findings should put an end to the conceit that Iran is on the march or that Arabs have the slightest interest in aligning with Tehran with or without a nuclear bomb.
- Waging an "Anti-Segregation" Crusade on the Palestinians' Backs - Evelyn Gordon
The headline: "Israeli buses for Palestinians spark accusations of segregation" appeared worldwide this week.
The headline that didn't appear was: "Palestinians thrilled: Finally, decent bus service for those who work in Israel."
For years, Palestinians who work in Israel have had only two ways to get to work - take a shared taxi, which is expensive, or ride an Israeli bus, which is inconvenient. Israeli buses don't serve towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority, so Palestinian workers had to commute to where they could pick up the bus.
This week, Israel took a step toward solving this problem: It instituted bus service direct to central Israel from the Eyal crossing near Kalkilya, to serve workers from that PA-controlled city and its suburbs. As the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported, most Palestinians are thrilled: "Thousands pushed onto the Tel Aviv line. There weren't enough buses to meet the demand." As one worker explained, the new buses will save him NIS 250 a month, more than a full day's wages.
Because West Bank Jews and Palestinians don't live in the same towns, calling it "segregation" to have different buses serving Arab Kalkilya and Jewish Ariel makes about as much sense as saying that America has segregated bus lines because New Yorkers and Chicagoans ride different buses to get to Washington.
The international response to the new bus service was utterly predictable. If every Israeli attempt to offer better service to Palestinians is going to spark cries of "segregation" and "apartheid," Israel has an obvious interest in refraining from such attempts.
- Why We Give Foreign Aid to Egypt - Charles Krauthammer
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt is intent on getting the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman (the "Blind Sheik"), serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center attack that killed six and wounded more than a thousand. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is openly anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and otherwise prolifically intolerant.
Nonetheless, we should not cut off aid to Egypt. It is perfectly reasonable to cut off aid to governments that are intrinsically hostile and beyond our influence. But Egypt is not an enemy, certainly not yet. The Brotherhood aims to establish an Islamist dictatorship. Yet it remains a considerable distance from having done so. Precisely why we should remain engaged.
Any foreign aid we give Egypt should be contingent upon a reversal of repression and a granting of space to secular, democratic, pro-Western elements.
We give foreign aid for two reasons: (a) to support allies who share our values and our interests, and (b) to extract from less-than-friendly regimes concessions that either bring their policies more in line with ours or strengthen competing actors more favorably inclined toward American objectives.
- To Achieve Mideast Peace, Suspend Disbelief - Dennis B. Ross
The rise of political Islam, Syria's civil war and looming implosion, and the Iranian nuclear imbroglio not only dominate the Mideast environment, but they also render it forbidding for peacemaking between Palestinians and Israelis.
Yet the most fundamental problem between Israelis and Palestinians is the problem of disbelief. Most Israelis and Palestinians today simply don't believe that peace is possible.
Israelis feel that their withdrawal from territory (like southern Lebanon and Gaza) has not brought peace or security; instead, it has produced only violence. Why, then, should they repeat the same mistake and subject themselves to far greater, even existential, risk in the West Bank? Meanwhile, Palestinians believe that negotiations from 1993 onward failed to produce independence. Given this context of mutual disbelief, the idea that the two sides now will seize an initiative to end the conflict is an illusion.
I propose a 14-point agenda for discussions. The goal would be to chip away at the sources of each side's disbelief about the other's commitment to a genuine two-state solution.
The writer was the U.S. chief negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1993 to 2001 and a special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011.
(New York Times)
See also A Campaign to Talk Up a Two-State Solution - David Makovsky and Ghaith al-Omari
David Makovsky directs the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ghaith al-Omari is executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine. (Washington Post)
- Double Standards on Human Rights in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh
Six days after Arafat Jaradat was found dead in Israel's Megiddo Prison, another detainee, Ayman Samara, died in a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho.
Jaradat's death triggered widespread condemnations from international human rights organizations and the United Nations. Neither the UN nor the international media showed the slightest interest in Samara's case.
The PA has actively prevented Palestinian journalists from covering the mysterious death of Samara. One Palestinian reporter, who was caught interviewing people outside Jericho Prison, was detained for several hours by PA security officers.
The PA leadership would like the world to think that there are no human rights abuses in Palestinian prisons.
Once again, it has been proven that a story that reflects negatively on the PA leadership has no chance of finding its way to the international media.
At the same time, a story that reflects negatively on Israel will always be welcomed.
- Israel as a Fossil Fuel Powerhouse - Vince Beiser
Uzi Landau, the minister in charge of Israel's infrastructure, has come to Houston to invite the world's energy corporations to help Israel become a fossil fuel powerhouse. "We're an open economy, with an independent legal system," Landau pitches the crowd. "We approach women with respect. We don't hang homosexuals. We run things as you run them here in Houston."
Since 2009, two colossal natural gas fields have been discovered under Israeli waters. Combined, they hold trillions of cubic feet of gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Production is slated to begin this year. And there is certainly more down there, perhaps much more. "Ladies, gentlemen, this is a revolution as far as Israel is concerned," Landau says.
Israel's natural gas bounty means the country will not only get richer but also will likely become largely energy independent.
Israel's gas is already winning the country new friends elsewhere: Russia has signed agreements to get in on Israel's offshore finds.
Landau is selling the best-case scenario, in which Israeli gas promotes peace. Israel could export gas to the Palestinian territories and to Jordan and other nearby countries. That could boost regional cooperation and acceptance of Israel.
Iran's North Korean Example - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- North Korea can defy the world with impunity because it flouted every diplomatic agreement it signed about its nuclear program and wound up with a bomb that forever changed the strategic equation between it and the U.S. The progress of Pyongyang's Iranian ally toward the same goal and the willingness of the West to engage in exactly the same sort of diplomatic minuet puts the world's current dilemma in Korea in a sobering light.
- Like the Iranians are doing now, North Korea also engaged in a diplomatic process prior to their going nuclear. Several times they agreed to only use their nuclear plant for peaceful purposes and in exchange for those promises were rewarded by the West. But they reneged on every promise and were eventually able to announce the achievement of their nuclear goal, leaving the U.S. with no plausible method for rectifying the situation.
- The diplomatic situation with Iran is just as bleak as that previously conducted with the North Koreans. The Iranians know they have time on their side, and have discovered that they can survive even a program of tough sanctions imposed from abroad.
- As President Obama ponders the implication of North Korea's threats, he also needs to be thinking about how much more dangerous the world would be if North Korea's ally Iran also had the bomb.
- The longer a decision about using force against Iran is put off, the more likely it will be that North Korea won't be the only nation making nuclear threats against the U.S. in the not-so-distant future.
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