Hizbullah Targeted with Its Own Tactics by Al-Qaeda-Linked Group - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
The double suicide bombing that rocked Beirut's Shiite neighborhood, al-Dahiyah, on Wednesday - killing at least six and injuring dozens near an Iranian cultural institute - illustrated Hizbullah's near-helplessness in the face of radical Sunni terrorism.
Time and again, Sunni terrorists have succeeded in striking at Hizbullah's most sensitive site, despite unprecedented security arrangements taken by Hizbullah to prevent attacks of this sort.
Hizbullah was among the first militant groups to introduce suicide bombing to the Middle East, and now it finds itself the target of an ongoing wave of suicide attacks.
On Tuesday, Lebanese media reported that 27 Hizbullah fighters were killed in an ambush near the Lebanon-Syria border.
After Wednesday's suicide bombings, rockets exploded in a Shiite village in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Syrians Seek U.S. Asylum via Mexico - Miriam Jordan (Wall Street Journal)
More Syrians are arriving in Mexico on tourist visas and using the country as a gateway to possible U.S. asylum.
The Department of Homeland Security in fiscal 2013 recorded 118 Syrian "credible-fear" referrals, up from five in fiscal 2010. In these cases, migrants declare fear of harm if returned to their home country and may stay in the U.S. while pursuing asylum.
In fiscal 2013, the U.S. approved 94% of Syrians' credible-fear requests; it approved every case in the first quarter of fiscal 2014.
Germany Arrests Three Former Auschwitz Guards (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
Three men suspected of having served as SS guards in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz were arrested in Germany on Wednesday following a federal push to investigate Nazi crimes.
An estimated 900,000 people - mostly Jews - were killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz in occupied Poland during World War II.
German federal authorities announced last year they would pursue charges against 30 suspected former Auschwitz guards after the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011.
That case established that death camp guards could be convicted as accessories to murder even if there was no evidence that they personally committed atrocities.
Egyptian Troops Kill a Dozen Militants in Sinai (Al Ahram-Egypt)
An air offensive by Egyptian Apache helicopters Thursday targeted a militant hideout south of Rafah, killing at least five suspected Islamist militants and injuring several others, eyewitnesses told Reuters.
Elsewhere in Sinai, six militants were killed late Wednesday in a separate strike in Sheikh Zuweid, the state news agency MENA reported.
IDF: Rocks, Firebombings on the Rise in Gush Etzion - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Maj. Ayalon Peretz, Operations Branch officer for the IDF's Etzion Regional Brigade, said Thursday, "We are now seeing a rise of 'popular violence,' characterized by rocks and firebombings."
Finland Acquires Israeli Military Equipment, Services (Helsinki Times-Finland)
Finland has sealed a new deal for 16.2 million euro with Israeli information technology company ECI Telecom (ECI).
ECI has been building the telecommunications network of the Finnish Defense Forces for more than a decade.
LAPD Explores Israeli Security Solutions - Simone Wilson (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez, a 30-year veteran of the department, tweeted updates at nearly every stop of his homeland security tour of Israel.
The 8-member Los Angeles delegation visited the headquarters of Nice Systems, an Israeli security and cyber intelligence company that can intercept and instantly analyze video, audio and text-based communications. (An inspirational poster on the wall read: "Every voice deserves to be heard.")
The group visited private security firms and drone manufacturers, as well as a "safe city" underground control center in Rishon LeZion, which receives live streams from more than 1,000 cameras with license plate recognition installed throughout the city.
Surveillance drones were hot items on the tour, particularly HoverMast, a new tethered drone from Sky Sapience that would be helpful for crowd control at special events. The HoverMast can intercept wireless communications, and its cameras are capable of facial recognition.
The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: "They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world."
The Israeli Take on Start-Up Risk - John Reed (Financial Times-UK)
Israel's Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) loans money for new ventures and technologies that are promising but also risky. The Israeli state puts up money without asking for equity and demands repayment through a royalty on relevant sales if the business succeeds.
Few other countries offer the same ecosystem of support for science, technology, research and funding under one roof, or extend quite the amount of risk capital the OCS does.
A recent study on research and development in Israel by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that every 1 million shekels lent by the government generated further R&D of two to three times the amount of the grant given.
Miss Israel Pays Surprise Visit to Philadelphia 76ers Practice - Amishai Gottlieb (Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)
On Wednesday, the players and coaches at the Philadelphia 76ers received a surprise visit from Miss Israel,
Yityish "Titi" Aynaw, who is touring America as an Israeli ambassador.
The Israeli beauty queen last year became the first Ethiopian-born woman to win the Miss Israel beauty pageant.
Aynaw, who went on to represent Israel in the Miss Universe contest in Moscow, is currently a college student at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Video: Sunshine Across Israel (Israel's YouTube Channel)
Israelis lip-dub Matisyahu's hit "Sunshine" on the background of some of Israel's most beautiful sites.
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- Iran Boosts Military Support in Syria to Bolster Assad - Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi
Iran has stepped up support on the ground for Syrian President Assad, providing hundreds more military specialists to gather intelligence and train troops.
This further backing from Tehran, along with deliveries of munitions and equipment from Moscow, is helping to keep Assad in power. Analysts believe this renewed support means Assad felt no need to make concessions at currently deadlocked peace talks in Geneva.
In addition there are thousands of Iranian paramilitary Basij volunteer fighters as well as Shi'ites from Iraq who were brought into Syria to support Assad. A Syrian opposition source said in recent months Iranian-led forces had begun operating in coastal areas including Tartous and Latakia. They wear Syrian military fatigues and work with Syrian air force intelligence.
- Iran's Hackers Are America's Newest Cyber Threat - Shane Harris
In March 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, publicly announced the creation a new Supreme Council of Cyberspace to defend the Islamic republic's computer networks and develop news ways of infiltrating or attacking the computer networks of its enemies. In late 2012, U.S. intelligence officials believe hackers in Iran launched a series of debilitating assaults on the Web sites of major U.S. banks. Last year, U.S. officials say that Iranian hackers infiltrated a large unclassified computer network used by the Navy and Marine Corps. Officials now say it took the Navy four months to fully clear its systems and recover from the breach.
"Iran should be considered a first-tier cyber power," Gabi Siboni, a cyber security expert with Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, said in Washington last December. Some analysts have blamed Iran for an attack on the computers of Saudi Aramco that erased data from 30,000 computers, but didn't affect oil and gas production and distribution.
James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, recently warned that Iran's "development of cyber espionage or attack capabilities might be used in an attempt to either provoke or destabilize the United States or its partners." (Foreign Policy)
- Iran's Higher-Grade Enriched Uranium Stockpile Falls after Nuclear Deal
Iran's stockpile of higher-enriched uranium declined significantly for the first time in four years after a Nov. 24 nuclear deal with world powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Thursday. Iran's reserve of uranium refined to 20% fell to 161 kg. in February from 196 kg. in November, after Iran suspended higher-grade enrichment and converted some of the material into oxide and diluted some to a lower purity.
However, the stock of 5% uranium rose to 7,609 kg. from 7,154 kg. in November.
- Energy Firms in Talks to Sell Israeli Gas to Egypt - Joshua Mitnick and Summer Said
The drilling consortium led by Israel's Delek Group Ltd. and Texas-based Noble Energy is holding initial talks on a deal to supply gas to Egypt. On Wednesday the consortium signed a deal to supply gas to Jordan.
The potential deal with Egypt would involve exporting up to eight billion cubic meters of gas a year from the Leviathan field. It would go to liquefied natural gas facilities run by the UK's BG Group PLC in northern Egypt via an underwater pipeline or the existing Ashkelon-el-Arish line in the Sinai Peninsula, according to two Egyptian officials.
Importing gas from Israel is a cheaper option for Egypt, which has been overwhelmed by local demand and can't meet foreign export commitments. Such an agreement would be a reversal from previous years when Egypt exported gas to Israel.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Israel, Turkey Step Up Gas Export Negotiations
Turkey could emerge as a potential transfer hub for Europe and a key customer of Israeli gas starting from 2017, the Turkish media speculated on Wednesday.
Turkey's Vatan daily said on Wednesday that representatives from U.S.-based Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Group are in talks with four Turkish energy firms for the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline via Turkey to Europe.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Kerry: I Know Israel Won't Accept Turning West Bank into Gaza - Herb Keinon
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast Thursday on Israel Channel 2 TV: "One thing I know a hundred thousand percent is that you can't turn to the people of Israel with the prospect that what you are offering is going to turn the West Bank into Gaza. Israel's security is iron clad as a priority in this issue." Kerry said he was not asking Israelis to accept an agreement based solely on hope. "I don't want this to be a leap of faith, but a leap of rationality and a choice based on a very understandable and tangible set of guarantees." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Newfound Jewish Roots Gave Kerry a "Deep" Bond with Israel - Raphael Ahren
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says his feelings toward Israel changed 10 years ago, after he found out that he had Jewish grandparents.
"It's a connection that's deep. I lost a great-uncle in the Holocaust and a great-aunt. I never knew that until then. To learn that, after years of being passionate about 'never again,' with respect to the Holocaust, and then to understand that you are biologically and personally connected to that, is very moving," he said in an interview aired Thursday by Israel's Channel 2.
Kerry found out in 2004, when he was running for president against George W. Bush, that both his father's parents were born Jews and converted to Christianity because of anti-Semitism, and they changed their name from Cohen to Kerry when they immigrated to the U.S.
Kerry added in the interview, "I have no argument with anyone in Israel who says that no deal is better than a bad deal. I say that myself....I'm not in the business of trying to put together a bad deal." (Times of Israel)
- Netanyahu Visits IDF Field Hospital for Syrians - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday visited an IDF field hospital in the Golan Heights that treats Syria's wounded.
"This place separates the good in the world from the evil in the world," he said.
The good is Israel, which "saves lives from the daily slaughter taking place in Syria. This is the true face of Israel."
The evil is Iran, which is arming those carrying out the slaughter.
"All the children wounded, to say nothing of those killed, were harmed as a result of Iran arming, financing and training the Assad regime in the mass slaughter it is perpetrating....Iran has not changed its aggressive policies. Iran has not changed its brutal character; Iran continues to support the Assad regime, which is slaughtering its citizens. This is the true face of Iran." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Video: Israel Field Hospital Treats Syrian Civil War Victims - Nick Robertson (CNN)
- Presbyterian Delegation Visits SodaStream Plant - Gavriel Fiske
14 Presbyterian Church leaders from the U.S. visited the controversial SodaStream factory in Ma'ale Adumim during a trip to Israel last week.
Last month, a group associated with the church had distributed a one-sided learning guide, "Zionism Unsettled," on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A press release from the visiting group said that the visit "strengthened their belief that the location of the factory enhances the business as well as the interpersonal relations between the Israelis and Palestinians." (Times of Israel)
See also Presbyterian Group to Fight Anti-Israel Faction in Church - Joshua Levitt
A pro-Israel faction called Presbyterians for Middle East Peace said on Thursday it would fight a church document on Zionism described as seeking the "end of the Jewish State of Israel." PFMEP described itself "as a grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers who want the Presbyterian Church USA to be an effective peacemaker in the Middle East."
"The materials in 'Zionism Unsettled' argue that Zionism (a Jewish state) is inherently discriminatory, and that the very idea of a homeland for the Jewish people is illegitimate....The Irish, Armenians, Japanese or Czechs may have a problem with the...vision of a world with no nations rooted in religious or ethnic identity." (Algemeiner)
- Anti-Israel NGOs Spark European Calls for Reform - Benjamin Weinthal
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, briefed members of the European Parliament on Tuesday in Brussels, outlining irregular funding practices for EU-funded NGOs in the Middle East, including organizations that seek to delegitimize Israel. "Some [EU] money goes to BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] and other ways to sabotage Israel's judicial system, he said, while presenting a report titled "Evaluating Funding for Political Advocacy NGOs in the Arab-Israeli Conflict."
Bastiaan Belder, a Dutch MEP (member of European Parliament) and chair of the parliamentary delegation for relations with Israel, said, "I am deeply concerned about the findings of the report and I call upon the European Commission and the EU Delegation in Israel to stop the funding to NGOs that undermine Israel's legitimacy and the Middle East peace process."
Sarah Ludford, a British MEP, said the report "raises serious concerns which the European Commission needs to answer in a very detailed, open and forensic manner, which it has not so far done....It is not acceptable for European taxpayers' money to fund political activities which are in basic contradiction to EU goals....To have EU money supporting the BDS agenda is shooting ourselves in the foot." (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran Nuclear Charades in Vienna - Claudia Rosett
When the latest round in the Iran nuclear talks, held this week in Vienna, wrapped up on Thursday, after three days of secret conclaves, the only clearcut "progress" the diplomats had to report was that they had agreed on a schedule and "framework" to do more talking.
As things now stand, what are the benefits of this process for America and its allies? Well, there's a temporary pause in some aspects of Iran's nuclear weapons program, but nothing to really impede Iran rolling forward again, should its rulers so choose. There's also the pleasure of imagining that Iran's aging Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, having presided for decades over Iran's quest for the ultimate weapon, might decide he'd prefer to be remembered as the ayatollah who surrendered his nuclear ambitions to Catherine Ashton and Wendy Sherman.
What now appears to be playing out at the bargaining table is a potentially protracted, ill-defined gamble, led by the EU and the U.S., that Iran is ready to be talked out of its nuclear program. The model that comes to mind is North Korea. The pattern there was one of procedural triumphs, announced as progress, only to be followed by Pyongyang's reneging, cheating, pocketing the gains and concessions won at the bargaining table, and walking away.
The writer is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Why Are We Ready to Fight: An Analysis of the Recent Words of IRGC's Top Commander
The Prophet of Islam has said, "Whoever has not fought for his Imam or does not wish for Jihad, he will die a hypocrite."
Now in compliance with the Great Prophet of Islam and to show his obedience to his Imam, the Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, has recently stated that "we are ready for the big fight with the United States." His wish for Jihad is actually a statement on behalf of the younger generation who have not tasted the sweet flavor of Jihad and wish for this holy war in order not to die a hypocrite.
U.S. statesmen should come to know that any future war between Iran and the U.S. will guarantee survival of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and total destruction and annihilation of the United States. In this war, total victory will be for the Muslims. Thus, the U.S. and Israel should know that they cannot issue ultimatums to a nation whose ideology and thought has no place for defeat since Muslims are not too much in love with anything to be afraid of losing it and be made to accept disgraced negotiations to escape war.
- The Israeli Strategy Against the Iranian Nuclear Project - Shmuel Even
Beginning in 2009, under the Netanyahu government, Israel
devised a new strategy against the Iranian nuclear program that
included: clandestine countermeasures to thwart the program (a strategy
employed in the preceding years), an intensive diplomatic effort, and
the presentation of a concrete military option.
The new strategy's success was proven by the leverage it created
to propel the international effort to stop the nuclear program, by
intensifying sanctions to a level that brought Iran to the negotiating
table. It is possible that Iranian fear of an Israeli attack was also a factor.
At the same time, this strategy has not yet brought the desired results.
The road to a solution of the Iranian nuclear project is still in its initial
phases. It appears that the U.S. did not fully take advantage of the means of
pressure available to it and, at
an early stage, it hastily released Iran from the Security Council demand
for complete dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure. The writer is a senior research fellow at INSS.
(Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
- Syria's Uncontainable Threat - Michael Gerson
At some point, it becomes hard to play down the worst refugee crisis since Rwanda and a death count approaching that of the Bosnian war. Some propose to accept that Assad is ascendant and engage him in a counterterrorism strategy. But that would not only reward mass atrocities, it would also be the acceptance of Russian and Iranian strategic dominance in the Middle East and the betrayal of our current friends.
Additional help to acceptable rebels? This is beginning to happen. Leaders of aid organizations in Jordan report seeing trucks with Saudi aid driving north across the border into Syria each night. The hope is that Syrians, not generally known for religious radicalism, will marginalize religious radicals in a post-Assad government. But first the rebels must survive.
- If Assad Falls, Will Jihadists Take Control in Syria and Attack Israel? - Ariel Ben Solomon
The number of jihadists in Syria has grown from 2,000 to more than 30,000 in two years, and if Assad falls, they "are going to move and deflect their effort and attack Israel," a senior intelligence official told AP on Sunday. In the wake of jihadist gains in the region, "the West and Israel are not in a hurry to get rid of Assad," said Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.
Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said, "I think it is clear that the U.S. is resigned to Assad staying. The chemical deal, actually a very good one in its own right, along with the Geneva talks, are a recognition that Assad is staying and can continue killing his people with wild abandon." The problem is that the jihadists could ultimately turn their attention against Israel, or that Syria will become "a virtual Iranian-Hizbullah client state. If the regime stays in power, it will largely be because of Iran and Hizbullah and it will be beholden to them, not just in partnership as in the past," said Freilich. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinians: Eight Million Refugees Must Return to Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
PA President Mahmoud Abbas is facing criticism from Palestinian refugees for saying that he does not want to "flood" Israel with millions of refugees.
Dr. Esam Udwan, an expert on refugee affairs, said, "Who said that there are only five million refugees? The real number is eight million. Abbas mentioned the five million who are registered with UNRWA and benefit from its services. But there are millions of others who do not receive services from UNRWA and are not registered with it. This does not mean that they should be denied the right of return."
Ali Huwaidi, another expert on Palestinian affairs, said, "Our refugees will not accept any alternative to their right to return to their homeland and we do not care what Abbas' position is." Many Palestinians said that Abbas was not authorized to make any concessions or speak on behalf of the refugees.
The reactions to Abbas' statements show that any agreement that Abbas reaches with Israel under U.S. pressure will not signal the end of the conflict.
They also show that millions of Palestinians continue to believe that one day they will be allowed to move to Israel, regardless of whether or not a Palestinian state is established in the West Bank.
- The Muslim Martin Luther?
Fethullah Gulen Attempts an Islamic Reformation - Victor Gaetan
In a video posted on his Web site last December, the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen called on God to curse Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This went far beyond the bounds of political debate in Turkey. Whereas Erdogan may frequently indulge in Islamist political rhetoric, it is Gulen that has tried to make actual contributions as an Islamic intellectual and develop a genuinely modern school of Islam that reconciles the religion with liberal democracy, scientific rationalism, ecumenism, and free enterprise. Regardless of who wins the battle for Turkey's political future, it is vital that Gulen's religious legacy be preserved.
- Israel and the Lessons of Mandela - Warren Goldstein
The South African experience taught the seemingly self-evident idea that you cannot make peace on your own, no matter how much you want to. The ANC and Nelson Mandela are universally acclaimed for their sincere, accommodating and committed peacemaking efforts in bringing an end to apartheid and the country's racial conflict. Yet their example serves to illustrate that to make peace, you need to have an equally committed peace partner on the other side of the negotiating table.
President F.W. de Klerk came forward to be Mandela's partner for peace. De Klerk possessed the will and the mandate to pursue peace and reconciliation, and we are now celebrating the 20th anniversary of freedom and democracy in South Africa.
Israel, meanwhile, waits. A succession of unprecedented, all-encompassing offers to establish a Palestinian state were put forward by prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert but were flatly rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
When the Camp David peace talks (2000) collapsed due to the intransigence of Yasser Arafat, President Bill Clinton had the integrity to acknowledge the truth behind what had happened. He did not blame Israel for the Palestinian rejection of the most generous Israeli offer in history. Clinton didn't punish or sanction Israel for not making peace alone, and he did not pressure Israel into making dangerous, unreciprocated concessions.
The writer is chief rabbi of South Africa.
- The Apartheid Smear - Alan Johnson
The idea that Israel is an "apartheid state" is the intellectual foundation of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). This is a smear - a malicious lie that does huge damage to the peace process. The smear causes political polarization, damaging the chance of compromise, mutual recognition and reconciliation.
Being a "Jewish state" does not make Israel an apartheid state. Israel is not a theocracy (rule by clerics) or a state exclusively for Jews, but a democracy, governed by the rule of law as drafted by an elected parliament. The Palestinian Authority is not a "Bantustan." the security barrier is not an "Apartheid Wall," and settlements have not killed the two-state solution.
The smear originated in the well-funded and often anti-Semitic "anti-Zionist" campaigns waged by the Communist states for Cold War purposes from the 1940s to the 1980s. (BICOM)
Security Arrangements: A 4-Level Game - Kobi Michael (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
- The U.S. paradigm on security arrangements in an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is military in substance and does not adequately address other aspects. In fact, it is important to achieve security for Israel through a combination of four elements: the military element; the element of Palestinian governance and the statehood (political) logic guiding the future Palestinian state; the element of regional cooperation; and the element of international legitimacy.
- From the perspective of Israel's interests, a viable Palestinian state that takes governmental responsibility and exercises a monopoly on the use of force is an essential condition for ensuring stability and security. A Palestinian state that falls into the pattern of a failed state is liable to become a subversive and hostile entity and develop into a grave security threat to Israel.
- The more the Palestinian Authority resembles a viable state that behaves according to political reasoning, the easier it will be for Israel to show more flexibility on security arrangements and increase the Palestinian areas of responsibility in place of the physical presence of Israeli forces. On the other hand, any evidence that the PA is unable to act as a viable state means that Israel will be less willing to forego some of its security demands or to show more flexibility.
- To this end, the international community cannot continue adhering to its familiar format of support for the PA. Rather, targets, milestones, and especially benchmarks for performance and success should be defined in a controlled process that accompanies and guides the Palestinians.
- The distress of the moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, and their concern about deterioration in the regional theater resulting from domestic unrest, the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, the escalation of the Sunni-Shiite conflict, and Iran's growth as a regional power, combined with the perceived weakness of the U.S. as a leading power, heightens the common interests of Israel and important countries in the region.
- This time, however, Israel must take advantage of the concern of the moderate countries in the Arab world and, taking the initiative, demand responsibility from the Arab world in exchange for Israel's consent to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. In a certain sense, this is a case of historic justice because the Arab world bears real responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem and hence also for solving it.
The writer, a senior research fellow at INSS, served as the deputy director and head of the Palestinian desk at the Israel Ministry for Strategic Affairs.
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