Israeli Prime Minister and His Country Star in "Israel: The Royal Tour" - Catharine M. Hamm (Los Angeles Times)
Travel journalist Peter Greenberg's "Israel: The Royal Tour" made its debut on Thursday. Greenberg's series gives an in-depth look at a country through the eyes of its head of state.
The hour-long film gives a close-up view of Israel that's suffused with history and humor.
The accent is on portraying a range of places, enhanced by the prime minister's willingness to pilot a boat in the Red Sea, feed dolphins, raft the Jordan River and ride a bike in Tel Aviv.
There is an end-of-the-film shot of the journalist and the prime minister reading the newspaper as they bob in the Dead Sea.
View "The Royal Tour" Trailer (The Royal Tour)
Report: Hizbullah Built Military Airport near Syria - Spencer Ho (Times of Israel)
Hizbullah has constructed a small military airport in the Bekaa Valley for transporting weapons between Syria and Lebanon, according to Lebanese officials.
In addition, housed at the base are 14 unmanned drones (Mirsad-1 and -2 types), the Israeli daily Maariv reported, citing the Qatar-based Al-Watan.
Hizbullah also reportedly dug tunnels around the base under Iranian supervision.
Egyptian Clampdown Leaves Hamas Government in Gaza on Brink of Bankrupcy - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
An Egyptian court on Tuesday banned Hamas activity in Egypt and seize its offices and assets. This is one step before declaring Hamas a terrorist organization, which is how the Muslim Brotherhood is designated.
The ban is basically a declarative step, since Hamas doesn't have any active institutions in Egypt. The court did not touch Hamas bank accounts.
Nevertheless, the ruling is a significant statement that undermines the movement's legitimacy in Egypt, and reflects the Egyptian public's mindset since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood's regime, whose leadership is accused of conspiring with Hamas against the state.
No less important is the closure Egypt has imposed on Gaza, which includes the opening of the Rafah crossing only three days every two weeks and the destruction of the smuggling tunnels, putting the Hamas regime on the brink of bankruptcy.
Many government workers have not been paid for four months.
In Pictures: Hamas Propaganda Billboards in Gaza (The National-UAE)
Egypt's Top Muslim Institution Bans "Noah" Movie (Al Arabiya)
Egypt's top Muslim institution, Al-Azhar, announced Thursday that it "prohibits the screening of a film that characterizes Noah," referring to
the upcoming Paramount Pictures movie.
"Depicting prophets in art is a crime, not art, that is harmful to the image of prophets," Salafi Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed said Wednesday.
View the "Noah" Movie Trailer (YouTube)
And the Oscar Goes to ... Israel? - David Suissa (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
The Egyptian film "The Square," which follows the uprisings in Tahrir Square, was nominated for an Academy Award.
As I watched the Arabs of Egypt scream for their rights, I couldn't help thinking that they were screaming for precisely what the Arabs in Israel already have.
As I watched Egyptian demonstrators protest the lack of opportunity in their crumbling society, I couldn't help but think about an Arab-Israeli woman, Mais Ali Saleh, who recently graduated No. 1 in her class at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
The suffering masses across the Middle East would love nothing more than to have the same freedoms and human rights that their brethren have in Israel.
While the mainstream media is still obsessed with Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians, "The Square" cuts through this fog with a missile of truth: The misery across the Middle East has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.
During Israel Apartheid Week, pro-Israel groups ought to organize showings of "The Square" and follow these screenings with panel discussions that include Israeli Arabs who can explain how different their lives would be if they lived in any Middle East country besides Israel.
Israeli Soldiers Save Palestinian Lives after Car Crash (Israel Defense Forces)
A car accident in the Jordan Valley injured four Palestinians Saturday. Rescuers from the IDF's 669 Airborne Rescue Unit evacuated
two severely injured passengers and a two-year-old infant to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital by helicopter.
"Our rescue effort was very difficult because the vehicle fell into a wadi, and we needed to rescue the passengers on foot using stretchers,"
said Jordan Valley Brigade Medical Officer Lt. Moran Gershoni. "We arrived at the scene within 10 minutes and then carried out our life-saving procedures on site."
"We treat everyone, regardless of any differences, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian civilians," she said.
Revolutionizing Indian Farming - with Israeli Technology - Rahul Vaishnavi (IANS-India)
Indian farmer Deepak Khatker, 40, visited the Indo-Israel Center of Excellence for Vegetables in Gharaunda a couple of years ago, adopted Israeli farming skills, and within months saw production increase a staggering five-fold.
Last year, over 16,000 farmers were trained at the center.
Experts from Israel organize free training sessions, teaching farmers to increase their crop yields while using fertilizer and water optimally.
"The idea is to transfer applied research and technologies to the farmers in various states across India," said Israeli Embassy spokesman Ohad Horsandi.
At present there are 10 such Centers of Excellence. By 2015, their number will increase to 28 as they branch out to flowers, bee-keeping and dairying.
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- Netanyahu in Los Angeles: "We Cannot Be Tolerant to the Intolerant"
Speaking at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles on Thursday,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was determined to contain Iran's nuclear program and protect the State of Israel from Iran.
The Iranian regime calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel "openly and unabashedly," only 70 years after the Holocaust, Netanyahu said.
"We see who is lying and we shall expose what Iran is really doing - building weapons of mass death and dispatching weapons of immediate death right now to the worst terrorist groups in the world."
"We cannot be tolerant to the intolerant. We cannot be tolerant to the fanatics," he said. "These people are out to destroy a section of people called the Jewish people. We will not let them, we shall expose them and we will fight them. And I'll tell you another thing: We shall beat them." (AP-Washington Post)
See also Seized Iran Arms Ship to Arrive in Israel Saturday
A ship carrying advanced rockets from Iran to Gaza that was intercepted by the Israeli navy will reach the port of Eilat on Saturday evening, IDF Brig.-Gen. Motti Almoz told Army Radio Thursday.
"There is clear and unequivocal information that this (shipment) came from Iran," he said. (AFP)
- Abbas Aide: Gaps Widen, Extension of Mideast Talks Unlikely - Karin Laub
Gaps between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators only have widened in seven months and an extension of talks appears unlikely after their April 29 deadline for a framework deal, Mohammed Ishtayeh, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday. "We don't have terms of reference...which means we and the Israelis are reading from different books," he added. (AP)
- Syria to Miss Deadline to Destroy Chemical Arms Sites - Anthony Deutsch
Syria will miss a March 15 deadline to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities, sources at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Thursday. An official said there were seven "hardened" aircraft hangars and five underground facilities. "None of them have been destroyed at the moment," he said. Syria has until June 30 to eliminate its chemical weapons program completely.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Captured Rockets Could Have Bypassed Israel's Anti-Missile System - Ron Ben-Yishai
According to foreign reports, Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system finds it difficult to intercept heavy, medium-range rockets like the M-302 that were captured on the Klos C ship. Such rockets are supposed to be intercepted by a system called David's Sling, which is still being developed and will not become operational before 2016. Had the rockets reached Gaza, they could have been launched unhindered at Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The shipment was at the initiative of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force and involved a very complicated logistic operation which cost tens of millions of dollars.
See also Israel in Continuing Battle Against Iranian Arms-Smuggling and Terror-Financing - Yaakov Lappin
Israel's defense establishment is continually monitoring Iranian arms-smuggling and terror-financing networks as part of a "war between wars," a security source revealed on Thursday. Not a week passes without Israel blocking or thwarting an Iranian attempt to transmit arms to terrorist entities threatening Israeli national security. Countering Iran's Quds Force can be done by sharing with other countries the name of a bank used for financing the movement of arms or by exposing the name of a company that provides components for missiles, the source said.
See also Lessons from the IDF Interception of the Iranian Arms Ship - Yossi Melman
The Israeli Navy has once again proved its ability to act successfully far from Israel's shores, as it has done for more than a decade. The intelligence that led to the ship's capture was precise. There is a high probability that the rockets were meant for Islamic Jihad which enjoys Iranian sponsorship, but the possibility that the weapons were meant for Hamas should not be ruled out. (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. Funding for Joint Missile Defense Programs Intact, Pro-Israel Groups Say - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
Rebuffing reports that President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2015 gutted funding for the U.S.-Israel missile defense partnership, Jewish groups said Thursday that the onus was on Congress, not the president, to bring funding up to previous years' levels.
The budget presented by the president for missile defense is slightly higher than numbers submitted by the White House last year for the same programs. In previous years, budgets have been further augmented by Congress allocating funding substantially above levels requested by the president.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he hoped that Congress would "do again what it has done in the past" and add over $100 million to the presidential budget for the program. "While we recognize the budgetary pressures, it is especially important this year as the United States and Israel face a proliferation of long- and short-range missiles in the hands of terrorist organizations and rogue states," Hoenlein and Conference of Presidents Chairman Robert G. Sugarman said in a statement.
"The seizure this week of a ship carrying the Iranian-supplied advanced missiles, destined for Gaza and Sinai terrorists, underscores the urgency and immediacy of expediting the development of missile defense systems." (Times of Israel)
Iran Weapons Ship
- Iran's Secret Weapons - Editorial
In a Red Sea raid Wednesday, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a shipment of
M-302 rockets that had been loaded on a freighter in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and were destined for Gaza. Iran denies sending the weapons, which happened to be disguised among cement bags labeled "Made in Iran." The seizure of the ship is a reminder that the aims and methods of Iranian foreign policy remain unchanged despite the alleged moderation of President Hassan Rouhani. (Wall Street Journal)
- No Separating Iran's Nukes From Terrorism - Jonathan S. Tobin
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the idea that there ought to be any connection between the interception of an Iranian arms shipment headed for Gaza and the U.S. pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Yet Iran's nuclear program and its participation in international terror are two elements of a common strategy aimed at destabilizing the Middle East and increasing Iranian influence. The seizure of the arms ship is a clear warning of what lies ahead if the U.S. continues to blindly pursue engagement with Iran.
While an Iran nuke constitutes an existential threat to Israel, which has been repeatedly threatened with annihilation by Tehran, a bomb also gives the ayatollahs a way of creating a nuclear umbrella over Syria, Lebanon and perhaps Gaza and the West Bank. That changes the balance of power in such a way as to threaten moderate Arab states as well as Israel.
What is really going on is a two-track policy in which Iran engages in diplomatic activity designed to deceive Western leaders and undermine sanctions on the regime, while at the same time actively building a weapon and seeking to dominate the region via terrorism and strategic alliances.
The seizure of the weapons ship ought to serve as a wake-up call to the West that nothing has changed in Iran. We should have no illusions about Iranian moderation or a desire for detente with the West.
- Red Sea Deja Vu - Aaron David Miller
The Israeli capture of a freighter carrying high-trajectory weapons from Iran to Gaza
is reminiscent of a similar episode - the seizure of the Karine A in January 2002 carrying tons of weapons shipped from Iran to the Palestinian Authority.
Karine A marked the beginning of the end of Jerusalem and Washington's efforts to even consider Arafat part of the solution.
The weapons seizure validates and legitimizes Israel's concern that Iran's regional game is still the same. It should be obvious to the Obama administration by now that while Iran may be sending signals that it's ready for some kind of negotiated solution on the nuclear issue, that hardly means it has changed its spots on other issues.
It boggles the mind to believe that the administration would be in a position to lift comprehensive sanctions if Iran is still backing the murderous Assad and supplying Hamas with weapons that can target Israeli population centers.
This episode will only add to the obvious reality that while the Iranian nuclear issue is the hottest issue on the agenda, it isn't the only one. Removing sanctions will not only depend on a resolution of the nuclear issue but on reformed Iranian behavior. It is a fantasy for Iran to feel as though it can continue to negotiate with the U.S. while supplying the enemies of its allies.
The writer, a vice-president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, served for two decades as an adviser to secretaries of state on the Arab-Israeli peace process.
- Scream and Shout that Iran Is Lying - Dan Margalit
The West had been dreaming about Iran being gradually transformed into a moderate nation when those rude Israeli commandos raided a merchant vessel, seizing M-302 missiles that had been dispatched from Syria to Gaza by way of Iran.
The seizure of the Klos C was designed to make sure Hamas did not lay its hands on a lethal weapons system whose explosive payload of 150 kg. can target major population centers in Israel. The images of Israeli special forces on that ship offer a counter-narrative in stark contrast to what the Iran-pleasers in the West are doing.
The world may be tuned out, but Israel must nevertheless scream and shout. The attempted shipment of arms through the Klos C was in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Eventually people will realize that for the ayatollah regime, lying is just part of its daily life, part of a routine.
- Behind the Goldberg-Obama Interview - Joshua Levitt
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed President Barack Obama last week on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the U.S. and he discussed the controversial interview with "Bloomberg View" talk show host Charlie Rose on Wednesday. Goldberg, who has been interviewing Obama on the subject of Israel for seven years, said that several years ago Obama thought Netanyahu would leave the stage. But "Obama's thinking about [Netanyahu] has shifted to a remarkable degree, not about his politics, but about his staying power."
Goldberg described the dynamics between Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama as a "good cop, bad cop" approach to propel the peace talks to the framework agreement.
He described Kerry's approach, which has been to note down all of Netanyahu's concerns and try to resolve them one by one.
Goldberg also saw the harsher comments from the U.S. as a way to signal to the PA that Israel is also under pressure to make the deal, and that the U.S. is not simply taking Israel's side.
Goldberg said that after backtracking on his "red line" for using military force in Syria, Obama's threats to use military force against Iran are now being seen as toothless.
He said that even "our Arab allies don't really believe Obama would ever use force." (Algemeiner)
See also With Netanyahu, Obama Plays Bad Cop to Kerry's Good Cop - Mark Landler
Obama has fixed ideas about how best to pursue peace in the Middle East, and a far less solicitous style than his secretary of state, John Kerry, who has drawn close to Netanyahu over many hours of painstaking negotiations.
With the deadline nearing for the Israelis and Palestinians to sign on to an American framework accord, Obama and Kerry have fallen into a good-cop, bad-cop routine with Israel.
Regarding the Goldberg interview with Obama, "We thought the interview didn't reflect what we think has been going on in this process with Secretary Kerry," said a senior Israeli official. "Our perception is that Israel has been going the extra mile." Israeli officials played down the long-term implications from Obama's comments. (New York Times)
- What Happened When Israel Turned Over Security Control in the West Bank to the PA? - Reuel Marc Gerecht
Most Israelis would surely prefer to have as little administratively to do with the Palestinians as possible. And it would certainly be better for Israelis if Palestinian terrorists planning a strike against Israelis were always taken down by Palestinian security forces without Israeli assistance. It would no doubt be an incredible relief to Israelis to have a responsible Palestinian gendarmerie in the Jordan Valley that could police the border to ensure nothing crosses that threatens Israel or Jordan. Duty on the West Bank is certainly no fun for Israeli soldiers.
Yet since Israel turned over part of the West Bank to Fatah, the lead group within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in 1994, Fatah-orchestrated security, despite tutorials from the Central Intelligence Agency, was an inadequate, lethal mess until the building of the West Bank barrier, started in 2002. The death in 2004 of Yasser Arafat, the spiritual father of Palestinian nationalism, helped improve the situation considerably since Arafat had personally orchestrated suicide-bombings.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
- The Palestinians' Real Enemies - Efraim Karsh
Had Israel lost its war of independence in 1948, its territory would have been divided among the invading Arab forces. The name Palestine would have vanished into the dustbin of history. By surviving the pan-Arab assault, Israel paradoxically saved the Palestinian national movement from complete oblivion.
After the war, the Arab states continued to manipulate the Palestinian national cause to their own ends. Neither Egypt nor Jordan allowed Palestinian self-determination in the parts of Palestine they occupied. In the West Bank, King Abdullah of Jordan moved to erase all traces of Palestinian Arab identity. On April 4, 1950, he formally annexed the territory and its residents became Jordanian citizens.
In Egyptian-occupied Gaza, the Palestinians were kept under oppressive military rule. "The Palestinians are useful to the Arab states as they are," President Gamal Abdel Nasser told a Western reporter. "We will always see that they do not become too powerful. Can you imagine yet another nation on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean?"
The writer is professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London and professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University.
(Middle East Quarterly)
- The False Urgency of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process - Jed Babbin
Look at the "peace process" track record. In 2000 at Camp David, Bill Clinton wanted to rush things along. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered essentially the same deal that Obama wants now - a return to Israel's 1967 lines with land swaps.
That fell apart when Palestinian chieftain Yasser Arafat abruptly left the negotiations and never asked to resume them.
In 2005, Ariel Sharon pulled back from Gaza and the West Bank - without land swaps - and the Palestinians launched rocket attacks on Israel. In 2008, Ehud Olmert presented Abbas with a map proposing a Palestinian state on nearly 100% of the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas left and never came back.
Now Obama is again pushing the same deal, cloaking it in an urgency that isn't there, because there is no flexibility whatsoever in the Palestinians' position, no compromise they will accept. The Palestinians' desire for peace was demonstrated Wednesday when the Israeli navy seized the Klos C carrying missiles for terrorists in Gaza that can reach almost all of Israel. The writer served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration and is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research.
- Palestinian Incitement - An Obstacle to Peace
The culture of hatred cultivated by the Palestinian Authority against Israel undermines the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The terrorism which results from the Palestinian hate campaign not only takes a human toll, but challenges the basic tenets of peaceful negotiations.
There has been a noticeable rise in the number of terrorist attacks and violent acts against Israeli citizens in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the start of the negotiations with the PA in July 2013.
Incitement to hatred and terrorism must end. Terrorists should not be glorified, Jews should not be demonized, and Israel's existence should not be called into question. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Implications of a Sisi Presidency in Egypt - Adel El-Adawy
Field Marshal Sisi is part of a new generation of U.S.-educated Egyptian military leaders whose close relationship with various power centers - especially his military colleagues - enhances his prospects of enduring if he becomes president. Given his extremely good chances of winning the election, it would be shortsighted for Washington to jeopardize its three-decade investment in close relations with Egypt's armed forces by prolonging its military aid suspension. Moreover, Sisi's greater focus on counterterrorism compared to his predecessors creates an opportunity to better advance mutual strategic security interests.
The writer is a fellow at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- How Talking Theology Can Help Defuse Anti-Israel Activism in Mainline Churches - Yishai Schwartz
In January, the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) published a 74-page educational booklet that accused Israel of Jewish supremacism, and essentially questioned Israel's moral right to exist. At its heart, the Christian critique of Israel is not a political problem but a theological one - which means it needs a theological solution.
The authors of the misguided tract view themselves as protecting the weak and as emulating Christ's defiance of established powers.
A theological predisposition in favor of universalism, utopianism and the pleas of the powerless makes Israel a particularly inviting target.
Those of us who believe that Zionism has at its core discernible spiritual and moral teachings must explain what these are to our Christian interlocutors: If we believe that peoplehood, historical consciousness and national identity are not outmoded constructs, we should say so. If we believe we have a duty to actualize our ancestors' millennia-old dreams and aspirations, we should say so.
If we believe that communities that share history, texts and language inspire a sense of collective responsibility unmatchable in cosmopolitan fantasies, we should say so. And if we believe that doing justice is more complex than simply acceding to the demands of the less powerful, then we should persuade others to follow. (Tablet)
The European War on Israel's Courts: The Role of Foreign-Funded NGOs in the Israeli Legal System - Anne Herzberg (Jerusalem Post)
- NGO Monitor has discovered massive funding provided by the UK, the EU and Norway to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which in turn is funneled to local NGOs in order to flood Israeli courts with hundreds of lawsuits.
Since 2011, these governments have provided the NRC with $20 million to wage legal warfare on Israel, funding at least 700 cases in Israeli courts.
- In a public presentation, an NRC-affiliated lawyer commented that the strategy behind the project is to undertake "every possible legal measure to disrupt the Israeli judicial system...to increase the workload of the courts and the Supreme Court to such an extent that there will be a blockage." In other words, the objective is to sabotage the Israeli justice system.
- The NRC has also used this funding to attack the Canadian justice system. In 2008, a lawsuit was filed in Quebec seeking to hold two Canadian companies guilty of aiding and abetting alleged "Israeli war crimes." The courts fined the plaintiffs and threw their frivolous case out of court. Refusing to accept Canadian rule of law, the NRC then filed a complaint to the UN Human Rights Council claiming that Canada had violated human rights by dismissing the lawsuit.
- It is inconceivable that the UK, the EU, Norway, or any other European country would countenance mass foreign state funding for hundreds of lawsuits in their courts on the most contentious policy and security issues. Imagine the reaction of the British government if it learned that Germany or France was providing tens of millions of euros to the IRA to finance hundreds of lawsuits in British courts challenging its policies in Northern Ireland.
The writer is the legal advisor of NGO Monitor.
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