Momentum Shifts in Syria, Bolstering Assad's Position - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
Not long ago, rebels on the outskirts of Damascus were peppering the city with mortar rounds and government soldiers were defecting in droves. That momentum has now been reversed.
In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate.
At the same time, the U.S. has shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons.
Although few expect Assad to reassert his authority over the whole of Syria, even some of his enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months in what amounts to a rump state in central Syria backed by Russia, Iran and Hizbullah.
About 60% of the Syrian population lives in government-controlled areas, while the rebels effectively control 60-70% of the actual territory, said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syrian expert with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Fatah Leader Calls Abbas a "Tyrant" and a "Dictator" - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)
Dr. Sufian Abu Zaida, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a lecturer in political science at Al-Quds University, published an article on several prominent Palestinian websites describing Mahmoud Abbas as an authoritarian ruler who hoards all power to himself.
"He is chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the State of Palestine and president of the Palestinian Authority, and he is also head of the Fatah movement and the general commander of the [security] forces, and due to the disruption of the activity of the Legislative Council, his [presidential] orders become law."
Abu Zaida mentions former Palestinian police commander Ghazi al-Jabali, who was accused of a major embezzlement of public funds and vanished from the West Bank. A month and a half ago, he returned and the charges against him were dropped by the president's office.
PA Holds Official Funeral for Terrorist Who Murdered 14 Israelis - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday held a military funeral for Ahmed Abu al-Sukkar, a former Fatah terrorist who was involved in a 1975 bombing in Jerusalem's Zion Square that killed 14 and injured more than 60.
Abu al-Sukkar died of a heart attack on Tuesday at age 78. PA President Mahmoud Abbas published a statement describing Abu al-Sukkar as a faithful struggler for the Palestinian cause.
Head of U.S. European Command Visits Israel (Israel Defense Forces)
The Commander of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), General Philip M. Breedlove, arrived in Israel on July 14 for a two-day working visit as part of the annual joint training and learning schedule between the IDF and EUCOM.
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- Behind Egypt's Coup, Acrimony between Morsi and Top General over Sinai
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed after nearly a year of acrimonious relations with the head of Egypt's military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, according to interviews with Egyptian defense, security and intelligence officials. The military was worried that Morsi was giving a free hand to Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula. Morsi ordered el-Sissi to halt a planned offensive in November on jihadis who had killed Egyptian soldiers. The military identified Gazan militants involved in the killing of the 16 soldiers, but Morsi rejected a request by el-Sissi that he ask Hamas to hand them over for trial.
The military leadership has long held the conviction that the Brotherhood puts its regional Islamist ambitions above Egypt's security interests. Its alliances with Gaza's Hamas rulers and other Islamist groups alarmed the military. Officials said the military leadership also believed the Brotherhood was trying to co-opt commanders to turn against el-Sissi.
See also Three Egyptian Policeman Killed by Gunmen in Sinai
Islamist militants killed three Egyptian policemen overnight in separate attacks in north Sinai, medical and security officials said on Thursday. Gunmen attacked a police station in Sheikh Zuweid, killing one and wounding two. Another policeman was shot dead by gunmen outside his home in El-Arish. Late Wednesday, militants opened fire on a police station in El-Arish, killing a policeman on guard outside the building.
- Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Insist on Morsi's Return - Liz Sly
Two weeks after Egypt's first democratically elected president was overthrown by the country's powerful military, Muslim Brotherhood protesters are seeking to send a message that Egypt will become ungovernable unless deposed president Morsi gets his job back.
At the impromptu encampment outside a mosque in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City, Brotherhood volunteers run a field hospital, kitchens and a television network, which broadcasts live from a satellite truck. Most members of the Brotherhood's top leadership body, as well as almost all of the ministers who served in Morsi's ousted government, are living here. More than two dozen of them face arrest warrants, according to Gehad e-Haddad, a spokesman for the Brotherhood.
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- Israel Seeks to Get EU to Freeze New Settlement Guidelines - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday hoping to convince the EU not to formally publicize new guidelines on settlements. Israel believes the regulations would have negative ramifications on both the peace process and its ties with the EU. The guidelines would significantly restrict Israeli institutions from taking part in various EU programs.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who met EU envoy Andreas Reineke on Wednesday, said it was important for the Europeans to let Israel and the Palestinians determine the border in negotiations, and that it was not for the EU to unilaterally do it for them.
See also PA Official: EU Guidelines Harm Palestinians - Daniel Siryoti, Shlomo Cesana and Hezi Sternlicht
A senior PA official said Tuesday that the new EU guidelines relating to the territories is "going to be disastrous economically and socially for the Palestinian community." He said the European move will freeze joint projects, force employers to stop hiring Palestinians to work on joint projects with Israelis, and could lead to widespread layoffs of Palestinians laborers working in West Bank industrial zones.
Sammer Darawsha, who works in a joint Israeli-Palestinian agricultural project funded by members of the EU, asked, "If they take away our livelihoods and food, exactly what kind of peace will be here?" A veteran businessman said on Tuesday, "It must be understood that the Arab side is also going to be harmed by this directive. Indeed, a generous portion of the labor in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is Palestinian." (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli Arabs Protest in Galilee Against Morsi's Ouster
In Kafr Kana in the Galilee near Nazareth, more than 2,000 supporters of the Islamic Movement in Israel demonstrated on Saturday against the military overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, Israel Radio reported. The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Saleh, said those who acted against Morsi were also operating against Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestine. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israeli Arabs Protest Jews Visiting Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Some 150-200 Israeli Arabs demonstrated on Monday near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem against Jews entering the Temple Mount, police said. Some protesters were waving Palestinian flags. (Jerusalem Post)
- The First Casualty of the EU Settlement Directive: John Kerry - Avi Issacharoff
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority suffered a serious blow on Tuesday at the hands of the U.S.' ostensible ally in the quest for peace, the European Union. The immediate effect of the EU's new policy directive barring cooperation with Israeli entities over the pre-'67 line will be a hardening of the already inflexible Palestinian position.
Rather than pushing both sides towards greater flexibility, the EU is essentially saying to the Palestinians, "No need to hurry. Whatever you don't get by negotiations, we'll be sure to attain for you by force [of economic sanctions]." (Times of Israel)
See also When Europe Demanded Israel Surrender the Western Wall - Haviv Rettig Gur
The EU's new directive includes a requirement that all future agreements between Israel and the EU include a clause in which Israel accepts the EU position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel.
One Israeli official noted that the new EU policy is in effect demanding that Israel deny - in writing - any rights to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, Judaism's holiest site. By conditioning further dealings with Israel on a government acknowledgement that all territory beyond the Green Line is not part of Israel, the EU may have issued a demand to which few mainstream Israeli leaders will acquiesce.
(Times of Israel)
- The Economic Blunders Behind the Arab Revolutions - David P. Goldman
Half a century of socialist mismanagement has left Egypt and Syria unable to meet the basic needs of their people, with economies so damaged that they may be past the point of recovery in our lifetimes. It may not be within America's power to reverse their free falls; the best scenario for the U.S. is to manage the chaos as best it can.
Egypt produces barely half of the total caloric consumption of its 90 million people. The poorer half of the population survives on subsidized food imports that stretch a budget deficit close to a sixth of the country's GDP, about double the ratio in Greece. With the global rise in food prices, Egypt's trade deficit careened out of control well before the overthrow of Mubarak. If Egypt counted its people the way the U.S. does, its unemployment rate would be well over 40% instead of the official 13% rate.
In Syria, the government's incompetent water management - exacerbated by drought beginning in 2006 - ruined millions of farmers before the May 2011 rebellion. The collapse of Syrian agriculture left millions landless, many of them available and ready to fight.
The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and the London Center for Policy Research.
(Wall Street Journal)
The Baseless Hatred of the EU towards Israel - Melanie Phillips (MelaniePhillips.com)
- There is consternation in Israel over the EU's malicious decision to boycott individuals or institutions situated over the "Green Line" between Israel and the disputed territories. This would presumably include boycotting the Hebrew University which is just over that line or Jewish residents in Jerusalem's Old City - where ancient Jewish settlement far predated the arrival of a single Arab, dating as it does since King David who built it as the capital of the kingdom of the Jewish people.
- The EU says Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal under international law. But they are simply wrong. The charge totally ignores the treaties that gave the Jews the right to settle anywhere in these territories.
- Article 6 of the Palestine Mandate signed by the League of Nations in 1922 stipulated "close Jewish settlement" on the land west of the Jordan River. That Mandate treaty has never been abrogated and endures today.
- The main argument mounted by the "illegalizers" rests on their claim that Israeli settlements breach Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. But this article does not apply to the settlements.
It says: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." But none of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line has been transferred or deported, forcibly or not; they all chose voluntarily to live there.
- Moreover, the areas in question never belonged to any other sovereign power. They constitute a no-man's land, having never been allocated to any sovereign state.
- Furthermore, Israel's "occupation" of these areas is legal since it gained them in a war of self-defense in 1967, and is thus legally entitled to hold onto them until the belligerents stop waging war upon it.
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