U.S. Glad "Noxious" UN Rights Envoy for Palestine Leaving - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
The U.S. on Monday welcomed the imminent departure of Richard Falk, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power condemned "Falk's relentless anti-Israeli bias, his noxious and outrageous perpetuation of 9/11 conspiracy theories."
"His publication of bizarre and insulting material has tarnished the UN's reputation," she said. "The United States welcomes Mr. Falk's departure, which is long overdue."
Photos: Hamas Rally at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem - Tom Gross
(Mideast Dispatch Archive)
While Al-Quds University claimed that last November's Fascist-style Islamic Jihad rally on its Jerusalem campus was a one-off event, a Hamas rally was held on campus on Sunday, March 23, 2014, with the full cooperation of university authorities.
Photos include masked, black-clad demonstrators carrying rockets.
Pipeline Politics in Syria - Maj. Rob Taylor (Armed Forces Journal)
In 2009, Qatar proposed to run a natural gas pipeline through Syria and Turkey to Europe. Instead, Assad forged a pact with Iraq and Iran to run a pipeline eastward, allowing those Shia-dominated countries access to the European natural gas market while denying access to Sunni Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
These states, it appears, are now attempting to remove Assad so they can control Syria and run their own pipeline through Turkey.
In Syria, the Sunnis have tried to unseat the Alawites ever since France installed them during the French mandate that ended in 1943. But now the stakes are higher, thanks to natural gas.
The writer is an instructor at the Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth.
Egyptian Court Sentences 529 to Death in Killing of Police Officer - Laura King (Los Angeles Times)
A criminal court in Egypt on Monday sentenced 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to death after they were convicted of attacking a police station and killing a policeman in Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo.
Israeli, Greek and U.S. Navies Hold Mediterranean Sea Drill - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Israeli, Greek and U.S. military personnel on Tuesday began a two-week, trilateral exercise in the Mediterranean Sea called "Noble Dina 2014."
The drill will involve hundreds of military personnel deployed on ships, planes and submarines, Israeli Navy sources said.
A drill in Crete will feature undersea divers and other specialists deployed for port protection.
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- Standoff Over Prisoner Release Threatens Mideast Talks - Jodi Rudoren
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks revived by Washington last summer are scheduled to continue until April 29, but a showdown is likely this week over the release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners.
A growing number of Israeli leaders have threatened to halt the release unless the talks are extended.
The problem is further complicated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas' demand that Arab-Israeli prisoners be included, something the Israelis insist they never agreed to and vigorously oppose.
Secretary of State John Kerry's initial goal of having the two sides reach a final-status agreement during the nine-month talks was abandoned long ago, and the framework outlining core principles of a deal that he has been pressing for the past two months has now been all but shelved.
Israel committed to freeing 104 long-serving prisoners in exchange for a Palestinian vow to refrain from pressing for statehood through UN organizations. But without a promise to extend the talks, Israeli ministers, including Tzipi Livni, the prime promoter of the peace process, see little point in releasing more prisoners only to have Abbas take the international steps a few weeks later.
To those who say the Israelis are balking on a promise, Israeli leaders argue that the release was to be a result of nine months of negotiations, which have not really taken place: The last substantive meeting between the sides was in November. There was never an "automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to progress in negotiations," Livni said last week.
(New York Times)
- Shia Fighters Tip Balance in Assad's Favor in Syria - Erika Solomon
Shia Muslim foreign fighters are coming to Syria to fight for President Assad in numbers that some observers argue match or even outnumber the Sunni militants who have joined the armed opposition.
The mobilization of Shia fighters appears to be more successful than that of their Sunni counterparts, some argue, because it is organized and encouraged by Iran, from where recruits are trained and sent to Syria in groups. Tehran's systematic support makes Shia fighters a more unified force than the Sunni foreign fighters who tend to travel alone to Syria and join disparate groups.
A tool used to motivate Shia fighters is the sect's own apocalyptic scripture, which predicts that the savior, or Hidden Imam, will return after a massive battle in Syria. (Financial Times-UK)
- Canadian Court: Turn Over Iranian Assets to Terror Victims
An Ontario judge has ordered the seizure of more than $7 million worth of bank accounts and property belonging to Iran, in a historic ruling that will turn over the assets to victims of militant groups that it bankrolled. Ontario Superior Court Judge David M. Brown ordered the liquidation of two of Iran's Canadian bank accounts and a pair of properties that operated as ostensible Iranian cultural centers.
Joseph Cicippio, an administrator at the American University of Beirut who was abducted in 1986 and held for five years by militants from Hizbullah, and Edward Tracy, a bookseller living in Beirut who was abducted the month after Cicippio, will share a Scotiabank account containing $1.65 million and a Royal Bank account with 330,000 euros ($511,220). Both accounts were held in the name of the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa.
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- EU Ready to Pay Palestinians Who Renounce Right of Return - Raphael Ahren
The European Union is willing to provide financial compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who renounce their "right of return" in a final peace deal with Israel, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen
He also said that if the Palestinians sign a permanent peace treaty, Brussels would be willing to significantly upgrade commercial and trade cooperation which could help stabilize the new Palestinian state, thus preventing a "failed state" that would become a "launching pad" for attacks against Israel. (Times of Israel)
See also EU-Israel Ties Growing, Despite Disagreements
Dan Catarivas, the director of Foreign Trade and International Relations for the Manufacturers Association of Israel, said Monday that the volume of trade between Israel and the EU is more than $41 billion a year, with 31% of Israel's exports going to the EU. "Europe is and will be our major partner in the years to come," he told a conference on Europe and Israel, sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. "Emerging markets like China and India are nice, but Europe is our bread and butter."
(Media Line-Ynet News)
- IDF: Recently Uncovered Gaza Tunnel Reached 700 Meters into Israel - Gili Cohen
A tunnel discovered last week near the border with Gaza extended 700 meters into Israel, according to the army, deeper than the other three tunnels from Gaza found in the past year and a half. For most of its length, the tunnel was 8 or 9 meters below ground, but in some parts, it went as deep as 20 meters.
The IDF believes that the tunnel was built by Hamas for the purpose of carrying out a terror attack in Israel.
- Israel Breaks Up Two West Bank Terror Cells - Yaakov Lappin
The Israel Security Agency and the IDF arrested a terrorist cell from Nablus whose members shot at an Israeli civilian vehicle and threw a bomb at another near Kedumim on Jan. 15,
security forces announced on Monday. In the months prior to the attack, the five-member cell was involved in two additional shooting attacks in the area.
In addition, security forces arrested a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist cell responsible for a gun and grenade attack on an IDF post near Bir Zeit
on Feb. 25. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinians Plan for When Peace Talks Fail - Jonathan Schanzer and Grant Rumley
If the Israeli-Palestinian talks break down, the Palestinians have a plan ready and waiting. Abbas is almost certainly set to renew the international campaign for recognition of Palestinian statehood. In December, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there were 63 member agencies of the UN that the PLO sought to join. Not only would the Palestinians gain acceptance as a state through these agencies (and do so outside of the bilateral peace process), but Israel is concerned that the Palestinians would also try to isolate Israel from these agencies.
Washington maintains laws prohibiting the funding of UN agencies when the PLO gains membership.
In October 2011, after the Palestinians joined UNESCO, U.S. funds were slashed. If they pursue their strategy, the U.S. could be forced to choose between the State of Palestine and 63 different UN agencies.
- Two Peoples, One Land? - Allon Hachmon
An old anti-Zionist argument, recently reasserted, holds that Zionism required that the Arabs in the land had to be driven out to make room for the new settlers.
I knew that this thesis was deeply flawed from my personal observations.
In 1935, as the Nazi influence grew, my family escaped from Germany and joined other families to form a new settlement in Palestine in 1936. They named it Kfar Shmaryahu (next to Herzliya). The families cleared the rocks, drilled a well and paved a road before erecting a bunch of modest homes and farming the land. All this was done on previously unoccupied land - land that was lying fallow next to an Arab village called Sidna Ali. The people of Sidna Ali left in 1948 but were not driven out by any Israeli forces.
In 1936, my parents and others saw large parts of the land that were lying fallow, uncultivated, and not settled; they believed that there was no reason why they could not share the land with the Arabs, and they did hope that Jews and Arabs could all live in peace together.
The writer is a professor of international relations at George Washington University.
Escalation on Israel's Northern Border - Udi Dekel (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
- Israel has been preparing for escalation in the northern theater for a long time. It fears that the events in Syria will spill over into Israel, creating an area along the Golan Heights border that is not controlled by a central government and that will be used by rogue terrorist and jihadi elements against Israel.
- It is likely that the three violent incidents in March - two on the Syrian border, in territories controlled by the Assad regime and Assad loyalists, and the third in the area of Mount Dov, a Hizbullah stronghold - were Hizbullah attacks against Israel.
- Hizbullah has regained some obvious self-confidence after achieving military successes in Syria in the Yabrud sector and driving rebel forces from the Syrian-Lebanese border.
- Assad likely understands that if Israel has to intervene in the conflict in Syria, there would be a dramatic change in the balance of forces arrayed against him, to the point that his regime could be jeopardized. However, he has also received enough messages making it clear that Israel prefers not to intervene in Syria's domestic conflict.
- Israel's offensive response against the Syrian army on the Golan Heights indicates its assessment that Hizbullah is responsible for the IED attack in the Golan and that it was carried out with the knowledge of Assad's forces.
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Udi Dekel is Deputy Director of INSS.
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