Poll: 72 Percent of Americans Have Favorable View of Israel (Gallup)
72% of Americans have a favorable view of Israel, up from 66% in 2013. Israel is by far the most positively reviewed Mideast country.
The Palestinian Authority was viewed favorably by 19% and Iran by 12%, based on Gallup's 2014 World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 6-9.
Report: CIA-Trained Syrian Rebels Ambushed by Islamists near Jordan Border (World Tribune)
Western intelligence sources said a CIA-trained Sunni rebel force linked to the Free Syrian Army and financed by Saudi Arabia was ambushed in southern Syria on Feb. 15 within hours of crossing the Jordanian border.
"There were significant casualties among the rebels and many of them fled," a source said.
Jordan's Arab Potash Signs Israel Gas Accord - Shoshanna Solomon and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan (Business Week)
Noble Energy Inc., a partner in Israel's Tamar natural-gas field, and Jordan's Arab Potash Co. signed an export agreement on Wednesday.
Jordan is seeking to secure its energy supply after repeated disruptions to imports of Egyptian gas as a result of pipeline bombings in Sinai.
Egyptian TV Play Claims Israel's Mossad Was Behind Arab Spring - Itamar Sharon (Times of Israel)
A play recently broadcast on Egypt's al-Hayat TV suggested that Israel's Mossad instigated the Arab Spring in an attempt to "sow disunity" in the Arab world.
The play, titled "The Spy," is set in Mossad headquarters in Israel where bearded, sidecurl-sporting caricatures of Orthodox Jews plot against the Arab world.
The group is shown discussing a "huge operation of espionage and sowing disunity" which will take place in Egypt as part of their effort to launch revolutions across the Arab world.
Ancient Town Discovered in Israel Is 2,300 Years Old (Israel Antiquities Authority)
The remnants of a rural settlement inhabited for two centuries during the Second Temple Period were uncovered during work on a natural gas pipeline to Jerusalem.
The site reached the height of its development in the Hellenistic period during the third century BCE.
The excavations yielded numerous finds including grinding and milling tools, pottery cooking pots, jars for storing oil and wine, oil lamps, and over sixty coins from the reigns of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus.
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- Framework Is Set for Iran Nuclear Talks - Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman
Iran and world powers have agreed to a framework and timetable for negotiations aimed at permanently ending the military threat posed by Tehran's nuclear program. Iran and the P5+1 will meet again in Vienna on March 17 to 20 and are preparing to have monthly meetings to try and forge a final, comprehensive deal. This week's first round of talks discussed mainly the format of the forthcoming talks.
The U.S. is seeking a major rolling back of Iran's nuclear infrastructure, including the dismantling or mothballing of thousands of Tehran's centrifuges used to produce nuclear fuel. Washington also wants Iran to shut a heavy water reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium and an underground uranium enrichment facility nearly Qom.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Iranian President Rouhani Calls for the Liberation of Jerusalem
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a meeting with Palestinian Parliament Speaker Salim Zanoun on Wednesday, called for the liberation of the Holy Quds (Jerusalem) from the yoke of Israel.
"One of the wishes of the Iranian nation is liberation of the Holy Quds," Rouhani said.
The Iranian president regretted that the occupation of the Holy Quds still continues, and hoped that "the Palestinian nation and the entire Muslim world will find a serious solution to this occupation." (Fars-Iran)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S.: Chief PA Negotiator's Comments Against Israel Harmful to Negotiations - Yitzhak Benhorin
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed concern Wednesday over comments made by Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, who recently threatened to call for an economic boycott of Israel if the current peace talks fail. "The secretary [of state] will make clear that these kinds of comments are disappointing, that they are unhelpful, especially coming from someone involved in the negotiations, indeed the lead negotiator." (Ynet News)
- Arafat Recognized Israel as a Jewish State - Ari Shavit
Ha'aretz's editor in chief David Landau and senior diplomatic reporter Akiva Elder asked PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 2004: Should Israel continue to be a Jewish state? "Definitely," Arafat replied. The two experienced interviewers doubled-checked: Definitely? "Definitely," confirmed the interviewee. Thus Ha'aretz's lead headline on June 18, 2004, was: "Arafat: Israel is Jewish," with the story declaring: "Yasser Arafat 'definitely' understands that Israel must preserve its character as a Jewish state."
What Arafat permitted, Abbas cannot forbid.
- Boycotting Israel and the South Africa-Apartheid Analogy - David Bernstein
Advocates of an economic and cultural boycott of Israel often compare their cause to the international boycott of South Africa in the 1980s, with "Israel's occupation of Palestinian land" deemed an analogous crime to South Africa's apartheid. But what if South African history had developed like Israeli-Palestinian history has?
What if Nelson Mandela, while speaking of peace and reconciliation in English to Western audiences, gave speeches in African languages promising that he would fight to drive whites out of South Africa until blacks won a total victory? What if a rival black group, opposed to negotiations, began a bombing campaign against South African whites in Johannesburg and Capetown, specializing in blowing up civilian buses?
What if South Africa's president offered a settlement well within the parameters of the result the international community expected, but Mandela refused the offer, and failed to make a counter-offer? What if Mandela then unleashed terrorist forces against white South Africa, targeting buses, wedding halls, bars, and cafes, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of white South Africans?
The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law.
- The MOOC from the Technion - Thomas L. Friedman
Beginning March 2, Prof. Hossam Haick will teach the first ever massive open online course, or MOOC, on nanotechnology in Arabic. Haick is an Israeli Arab from Nazareth and will be teaching this course from his home university, the Technion, Israel's premier science and technology institute. So far, there are 4,800 registrations from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, the UAE and the West Bank. Iranians are signing up for the English version.
Haick, 38, whose Ph.D. is from the Technion, where his father also graduated, is a science prodigy. He and the Technion already have a start-up together, developing "an electronic nose" - a sensory array that detects unique markers in exhaled breath that reveal different cancers in the body.
Some 19% of the Technion's students today are Israeli Arabs, up from 9% 12 years ago. This story is a useful reminder that Israel is a country, not just a conflict.
(New York Times)
- Gulen's Formidable Network in Turkey - Bill Park
An extensive network of people and institutions in Turkey owe allegiance to the charismatic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who since 1998 has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. His followers are believed to be deeply entrenched in the police force and judiciary.
The educational, charitable, media and business empire that Gulen has spawned began in the 1960s as a network of religious schools that now encompasses hundreds of schools and universities. Gulen's disciples have established leading media outlets, a business association, hospitals, clinics, hotels, charities and banks.
His brand of Islam is moderate. He is opposed to terrorism, and preaches tolerance and interfaith dialogue. He supports democracy, free markets and Turkey's Western alignment. He has openly criticized Ankara's rift with Israel.
The writer is a senior lecturer at King's College London.
Strategic Shifts Needed in the Iran Negotiations - Michael Singh (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The six-month interim agreement with Iran increases the regime's breakout time by several weeks, but Tehran can significantly reduce that time in the long run by continuing to perfect advanced centrifuges. And by continuing missile work, it can also improve its delivery capability.
- Enhanced inspections increase the West's chances of detecting a breakout, but in the interim agreement, such efforts apply only to declared facilities; they provide little assurance of detecting covert facilities, where Iran would be more likely to attempt a breakout.
- While any long-term agreement must deal extensively with Iran's nuclear fuel fabrication activities, it must also do much more to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
- U.S. negotiators should insist that any long-term accord limit Iran's research and development efforts related to enrichment, reprocessing, and weaponization, as well as its ballistic missile and space launch programs. They should also require that Tehran fully come clean regarding its past nuclear work.
- When U.S. negotiators characterize their own previous position that Iran must suspend all enrichment and reprocessing work as "maximalist," the implication is that it was unreasonable. This gives important negotiating leverage to Iran.
- Even if U.S. officials have in fact abandoned hope of requiring Iran to fully suspend enrichment, they would still be well served tactically to characterize zero enrichment as reasonable and dismiss Tehran's professed desire for a large enrichment infrastructure as unreasonable.
The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute.
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