Israel Launches Spy Satellite into Space - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Israel launched the Ofek 10 spy satellite into orbit on Wednesday. The satellite has advanced day and night photography capabilities and will work in all weather conditions, the Defense Ministry said.
Ofek 10 is the seventh Israeli satellite currently in orbit.
See also Israel's New Spy Satellite Means Closer Tabs on Iran - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
Report: Iran Cuts Funding for Hizbullah - Yasser Okbi (Jerusalem Post)
Asharq Al-Awsat, citing Lebanese sources, reports that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's austerity policies have stopped the flow of money to Hizbullah by Tehran's Foreign Ministry, although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to fund Hizbullah through his separate budget.
Adding to Hizbullah's problems is close monitoring of funding sources by American and European countries.
For example, on Tuesday, Germany outlawed the Berlin-based fundraising group Orphaned Children Project-Lebanon because it was found to be transferring money to Hizbullah.
Lebanese media also reported that European intelligence agencies have recently been cooperating to prevent the transfer of funds to Hizbullah from South American and African countries.
What's Behind Abbas' Renewed Courtship of Hamas? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
Now that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has surprised the U.S. and Israel with his decision to apply for Palestinian membership in 15 international institutions and treaties, he seems to be preparing another surprise: a unity agreement with Hamas.
The current crisis in the peace talks has prompted many Palestinians, including Abbas loyalists, to renew calls for unity between Fatah and Hamas as a way of confronting Israeli-American pressure.
The PA's message to Israel and the U.S. is: You either give us all that we are asking for or we will join forces with Hamas.
Hamas representatives say that Abbas' security forces are continuing their crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank.
Abbas knows that Hamas would take advantage of any reconciliation to advance its goal of seizing control over the West Bank.
New U.S.-Made Transport Aircraft Inducted into Israel Air Force - Gareth Jennings (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
On Wednesday, the Israeli Air Force formally inducted into service the first of six Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules transport aircraft currently on order.
See also Israel Greets the Super Hercules - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
The C-130J, known as the Super Hercules in the U.S. and as the Samson in Israel, can be refueled in midair, can fly 30% farther than the Rhino, which carried Israel's troops to Entebbe, and can carry 25% more weight.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon thanked the U.S., "in my name and in the name of the citizens of Israel," for "the tremendous support that the State of Israel receives from you."
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- Khamenei: Iran Will Never Give Up Its Nuclear Program
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed talks with world powers but warned Tehran will never give up its nuclear program. Khamenei told a gathering of nuclear scientists: "All must know that despite continuation of the talks, activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of nuclear research and development won't be halted at all....None of the country's nuclear achievements can be stopped, and no one has the right to bargain over it." (BBC News)
See also Iran Rules Out Discussing Military Program in N-Talks
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday in Vienna: "We emphasize that topics that have to do with Iran's defense program have no place in these negotiations," the Fars News Agency reported.
- Extensive Disagreements Remain in Iranian Nuclear Dispute - Rick Gladstone
Iran and the six major powers negotiating a permanent agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute concluded a two-day round of talks in Vienna on Wednesday, asserting that "a lot of intensive work" remained to complete a draft accord by their self-imposed deadline in three months.
The next round of talks will be held May 13. A joint statement issued by the negotiators suggested that both sides were still struggling with extensive disagreements and described the further negotiations as an attempt to "bridge the gaps in all the key areas." (New York Times)
- Israel "Deeply Disappointed" by Kerry's Remarks on Peace Talks - Isabel Kershner
Israel said on Wednesday that it was "deeply disappointed" by Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks that appeared to lay primary blame on Israel for the crisis in the American-brokered Middle East peace talks. Kerry's remarks "will both hurt the negotiations and harden Palestinian positions," said an official in the Israeli prime minister's office.
The official said Kerry "knows that it was the Palestinians who said no to continued direct talks with Israel in November; who said no to his proposed framework for final status talks; who said no to even discussing recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; who said no to a meeting with Kerry himself; and who said no to an extension of the talks."
The Israeli official added: "In the understandings reached prior to the talks, Israel did not commit to any limitation on construction. Therefore, the Palestinian claim that building in Jerusalem, Israel's capital, was a violation of the understandings is contrary to the facts. Both the American negotiating team and the Palestinians know full well that Israel made no such commitment." (New York Times)
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- Foreign Minister Lieberman: Kerry Says He Didn't Blame Israel for Crisis in Talks - Barak Ravid
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday and said that he does not blame Israel for the crisis in talks with the Palestinians. Lieberman said that Israel is in favor of continuing negotiations and that it had already proved its willingness and ability to reach peace as seen with Egypt and Jordan. He told Kerry: "Everyone in Israel knows that you are a true friend. We both want to reach an all-encompassing peace agreement with our neighbors." (Ha'aretz)
See also Secretary of State Kerry Meets Foreign Minister Lieberman (State Department)
- Israel Urges UN Action Against Hizbullah
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor called on the Security Council to take drastic steps against Hizbullah in the wake of the group's admission that it had planted a bomb targeting IDF troops on the Israel-Lebanon border last month. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, Prosor noted that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah's admission of responsibility in an interview published Monday is further evidence that Hizbullah continues to operate south of the Litani River, near the border with Israel, which is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1791 that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
(Times of Israel)
- U.S. Needs to Plan for the Day after an Iran Deal - David H. Petraeus and Vance Serchuk
In the aftermath of a negotiated settlement with Iran over its illicit nuclear activities, the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran would lead to the economic empowerment of a government that is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Indeed, even under crippling sanctions, Iran has managed to provide robust support to extremist proxies as part of its broader geopolitical agenda across the Middle East and beyond - activities antithetical to U.S. interests and to those of our closest allies.
While it is possible that a nuclear deal would pave the way to a broader detente in Iran's relations with the U.S. and its neighbors, it is more plausible that removing sanctions would strengthen Tehran's ability to project malign influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, the Arabian peninsula and the Palestinian territories. Rather than marking the end of our long struggle with Iran, therefore, a successful nuclear deal could result in the U.S. and our partners in the Middle East facing a better-resourced and, in some respects, more dangerous adversary.
Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons ought to be our foremost priority, and a diplomatic agreement that truly bolts the door against that danger is worth potential downsides. But we need to recognize there are genuine trade-offs involved in even the best possible nuclear deal.
Rather than freeing Washington to reduce the U.S. footprint in the Middle East and focus elsewhere, a nuclear agreement with Tehran is likely to compel us to deepen our military, diplomatic and intelligence presence in the region in order to help partners there balance against increasing Iranian power.
David H. Petraeus is a former director of the CIA and a former commander of U.S. Central Command. Vance Serchuk is an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
- Jerusalem Is Not Up for Grabs - Efraim Inbar
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that Israel's plans to build additional apartment houses in Gilo, a southern Jerusalem neighborhood beyond the Green Line, are partly responsible for the current impasse in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
This indicates profound American misunderstanding of the situation, because Gilo, with more than 40,000 residents, is to be part of Israel under any agreement. Moreover, the peace negotiations have little chance of succeeding as long as the Palestinians demand to partition Jerusalem.
All polls show that over two-thirds of Israelis feel that Jerusalem should remain the united capital of Israel, while only 20% favor its division. Moreover, polls show clearly that a large majority of Jerusalem Arabs oppose being subject to Palestinian rule.
Keeping Greater Jerusalem, which includes the settlement blocs that President George W. Bush recognized as realities that must be accommodated in a future settlement, is a strategic imperative. The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University.
The Crisis in the Peace Talks Was Pre-Planned by the Palestinians - Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- In March 2014, Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, prepared a 65-page document that surveys the diplomatic process and offers a list of recommendations for the PA to achieve Palestinian sovereignty in the territories demarcated by the 1967 lines. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has recently implemented some of these recommendations.
- The recommendations include submitting a request to immediately join the Geneva Conventions; declaring the impossibility of extending the negotiations after the end of the nine-month period on April 29, 2014; and opposing the Israeli proposal that the settlement blocs become part of Israel in any final agreement.
- The plan also includes activating bilateral committees with Russia, the EU, and the UN, and cooperating with the monitoring committee of the Arab Peace Initiative, to muster support for the Palestinian anti-settlement position; urging the states of the world to uphold the European Union's guidelines regarding settlement activity; and escalating the peaceful popular struggle against settlements and the [security] fence.
- The PA's latest moves reflect the long-term strategy Abbas has been implementing, which involves using diplomatic means to obtain international recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 lines without the Palestinians having to make concessions on the fundamental issues of the conflict, particularly the refugee issue and what is called the "right of return."
- The signing of the 15 international conventions is part of a gradual Palestinian move to statehood which, unlike a unilateral declaration of statehood, does not occur with one move. Abbas has previously made political moves in defiance of the United States and Israel without fearing the pressures and threats directed at him, as in his November 2012 appeal to the UN General Assembly for an upgrade of the PLO's status to UN nonmember observer state. Now, too, he feels confident in his ability to take unilateral steps without incurring serious damage.
- The Palestinians believe they can use the diplomatic-legal arena to overcome Israel's power and gradually subject it to diplomatic and economic pressures to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank in a way similar to Israel's unconditional withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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