Relief Aid for Syrians Going to Regime Loyalists - Razan Zeitoune
In Syria, when a regime official calls the local Red Crescent chapter and asks for food rations, local aid workers cannot deny this request.
In many cases, regime officials pressure families benefiting from aid into giving information about rebels as a precondition for allowing aid deliveries to continue.
Frequently, relief supplies are sold at cheap prices to people who are loyal to the regime.
In addition, corruption and favoritism rule the relief distribution process. A sizeable portion of those who receive aid are not needy: their names are on the lists because they are related to some official or due to their security and military ties.
Those in charge of relief operations say they are buying the good will of the security services in order to allow a portion of aid to make it to those actually in need.
Are international organizations aware of how much aid is being cashed in by the Assad regime and its loyalists?
Palestinian Authority: Balfour Declaration a Crime against Humanity - Mohammed Mar'i (Saudi Gazette)
The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Saturday said that the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of Israel in 1948 "is a crime against humanity."
On Nov. 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour announced that his government views "with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," laying the foundation for the creation of Israel more than 30 years later.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement called upon Britain to apologize and make amends for the crimes committed against Palestine because of the declaration.
Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Strengthens Hold in Northern Syria - Gul Tuysuz, Raja Razek, and Nick Paton Walsh (CNN)
A CNN survey of towns, activists and analysts reveals an alarming increase in al-Qaeda-linked control over large swathes of Syria's rebel-held north in the past month.
Militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are the predominant military force in northern Syria.
Charles Lister, analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, said: "Although not a numerically dominant force, ISIS is playing an increasingly pre-eminent role in the northern Syrian insurgency. Much of this is a result of its capability to exploit superior levels of financing and resources."
Egypt Rejecting Refugees from Syria - Jasmin Fritzsche (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Within the last four months, hundreds of Syrian and Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria have been rejected at Cairo Airport, while others already residing in Egypt face ongoing threat of deportation and detention in poor conditions.
Along with a revival of Egyptian nationalism, the government and other loyal institutions have been creating the image of Syrians and Palestinians as being crucially involved in - and interfering with - Egypt's political situation by supporting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
As the Muslim Brotherhood is portrayed as a foreign-led, "non-Egyptian" entity, Palestinian and Syrian refugees are, in turn, demonized and viewed as a national security threat.
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- In Mideast, Kerry Tries to Nudge Peace Talks Along - Mark Landler and Jodi Rudoren
With Middle East peace negotiations showing signs of lapsing into an all-too-familiar paralysis, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jerusalem Tuesday for a flurry of meetings to reinvigorate the three-month-old round of talks. "He is trying to give a push," said a senior American official, adding that the talks were bogging down.
On Monday, Kerry denied reports that the U.S. was working on its own plan for a Palestinian state, based on the borders before the 1967 war, to present in January if there is no breakthrough in the talks by then.
(New York Times)
See also U.S. Gives $75 Million More in Aid to Palestinians - Matthew Lee (AP)
See also below Observations - Netanyahu: Palestinians Continuing to Create Artificial Crises (Prime Minister's Office)
- Israel-Palestinian Talks: Why Fate of Jordan Valley Is Key - Yolande Knell
The fertile, largely undeveloped Jordan Valley makes up a quarter of the West Bank.
It was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, and most of it is still under Israel's military and administrative control.
Israel says it cannot give up the valley for reasons of security. The fate of the valley is said to be one of the points on which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are struggling to find a compromise.
In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Knesset meeting, "Our strength is the guarantee for our existence and peace....This requires a security border in the Jordan Valley, as Rabin said in his last speech." Israeli media report that Netanyahu plans to build a new security barrier in the Jordan Valley and rejects the introduction of international forces to guard the border.
"Our experience has been that international forces just don't do the job," says Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He points to the limitations of UNIFIL, which was given responsibility for the southern Lebanon border after the 2006 war.
"Giving up the security of the Jordan Valley in a Middle East that's full of chaos? Who knows what's going to happen to Syria - maybe we'll have a new jihad stand to our east - that's a major worry for the Israeli army today." (BBC News)
- U.S.: Syria May Try to Hide Chemical Weapons
The U.S. is reviewing intelligence suggesting Syrian President Assad's government may try to keep some chemical weapons instead of turning them all over for destruction, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. "There are indications the Syrians may be intending to hold some of their stockpile in reserve," the official said. (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel-U.S. Gaps on Iran Closing - Barak Ravid
Israeli officials said Jerusalem would agree to tacitly accept American concessions to Iran if the concessions did not include significant changes to the sanctions on Tehran and ensured a halt in Iran's uranium enrichment program during the talks. Both Israeli and U.S. officials said the strategic disagreement between the two countries had been solved and that they agree that the goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and from obtaining the ability to produce such arms.
The only remaining disagreement centered on negotiating tactics. Israel believes that only strengthening sanctions and intensifying international pressure will force Iran to succumb.
The Americans, however, do not believe in additional sanctions and say increasing pressure would have an undesirable effect.
In the meantime, Israel is satisfied by agreements reached with the U.S. in recent weeks. A senior official in Jerusalem said Israel's aggressive stance since the first round of talks had prevented a complete collapse of the sanctions.
"We changed the conversation in which everyone was talking about easing the existing sanctions to a conversation in which everyone is discussing the need for preventing additional sanctions," the Israeli official said. (Ha'aretz)
- Expert: Compromise Will Likely Lead to a Nuclear Iran - Yaakov Lappin
The international community and Iran are on a path to reaching a "middle ground" deal on Tehran's nuclear program that will allow each side to claim victory, but which will allow Iran to eventually become a nuclear state, Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
An agreement will likely involve Iran decreasing its uranium enrichment activities and a timetable for inspection of nuclear facilities, though it will not include complete Iranian transparency, Rabi said. But a partial nuclear deal is a "certified recipe for creating a nuclear Iran in the intermediate future," he warned.
"The Iranian charm offensive is working on the Europeans and Americans, who do not want to get involved in another Middle Eastern saga, and want to look at the half-full glass," Rabi added.
- One Year after IDF Gaza Operation, Hamas Maintains Quiet While Preparing Future Attacks - Mitch Ginsburg
Nearly one year after Israel's eight-day offensive in Gaza, during which Palestinians fired over 1,500 rockets at Israel, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, hailed the enduring nature of the relative quiet. He asserted that Hamas has not managed to build up its stockpiles to 2012 levels and has shifted its focus to the ability to carry out strategic rocket strikes and raids. Today, "the focus is on...trying to reach farther or to carry out some strategic operations," he said, citing the recent tunnel discoveries as an example.
Kuperwasser, a former chief analyst of the IDF's Military Intelligence directorate, called the M-75 rocket, which is made in Gaza and can reach Tel Aviv, the crown jewel of the Hamas arsenal. "The fact that they got from the Iranians the know-how to produce these weapons makes it possible for them to produce them," he said, adding that Hamas operatives have traveled to Lebanon and Iran for training.
(Times of Israel)
- Poll: Americans Strongly Support Israel, Oppose U.S. Involvement in Peace Talks
A new ADL survey of the American public found continuing strong public support for Israel.
76% said Israel can be counted on as a strong U.S. ally, while 64% said they believe Israel is serious in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Three times as many Americans - 48-16 - expressed sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians. 62% of Americans said that peace between Israelis and Palestinians should be achieved by them with minimal U.S. involvement. 29% said peace could not happen without U.S. leadership.
50% (vs. 41%) support U.S. military action, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 46% (vs. 42%) believe sanctions against Iran should remain until they give up their weapons program. If Israel attacked Iran to stop its nuclear program, 40% said the U.S. should support Israel, 48% said the U.S. should be neutral, and 9% said the U.S. should oppose it.
At the same time, 81% could not trust Iran when it says it will not develop nuclear weapons, and 74% did not believe Iran will abide by its public commitment not to develop nuclear weapons.
- PA Wants EU, UN, Russia Involved in Peace Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Authority appears to be doing its utmost to internationalize the conflict with Israel.
The Palestinians want other international parties, especially the EU, UN, and Russia, to play a major role in the current U.S.-sponsored peace talks, since these parties are perceived as being more sympathetic to, and supportive of, the Palestinians.
The PA's biggest fear is that Washington will try to impose a solution that would certainly fail to win the backing of most Palestinians and Arabs. A forced solution, Palestinians warn, would severely undermine the credibility of the PA leadership, who would be accused of capitulating to American pressure. Kerry and his team are evidently unaware that neither Abbas, whose term of office expired several years ago, nor any other Palestinian leader is authorized to make real concessions to Israel.
PA officials say they are convinced that the U.S. administration has no intention to force Israel to comply with all the demands of the Palestinian negotiators, including a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. That is why Abbas has begun moves in the international community to persuade as many countries as possible to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PA's strategy now is to prove to the world that Israel is not interested in peace and that the U.S. cannot be trusted with brokering a solution.
Netanyahu: Palestinians Continuing to Create Artificial Crises (Prime Minister's Office)
At a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:
- "I believe that it's possible with intense pressure because of the sanctions regime led in large part by the United States to get Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and that's really what we're seeking. A full, peaceful, complete dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons capability, end of all enrichment, end of all centrifuges, end of the plutonium reactor. If this is achieved, I'd welcome it."
- "I'd be very worried with any partial deals that enable Iran to maintain those capabilities but begin to reduce sanctions because I think this could undermine the longevity and durability of the sanctions regime."
- "Israel wants peace with the Palestinians....We abide scrupulously by the terms of the agreement and the understandings with which we launched the negotiations. I'm concerned about their progress because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement, continuing to create artificial crises, continue to avoid, run away from the historic decisions that are needed to make a genuine peace."
- "I hope that your visit will help steer them back to a place where we could achieve the historical peace that we seek and that our people need."
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