Israel: Palestinians Stockpiling Rocks Inside Al-Aqsa Mosque (Times of Israel)
Hundreds of young Palestinian men are now routinely stockpiling large quantities of rocks and slabs of stone
in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, in order to attack Israeli security forces, security officials told Israel's Channel 2 news.
Israeli officials said young Palestinian men were being allowed to hide out in the mosque by the authorities from the Waqf, or Muslim Trust, that administers the site, and that they used the holy place as a stronghold for what have become routine attacks on Israeli security forces.
See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel:
The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Palestinians Riot in Hebron (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians rioted on Wednesday evening in the West Bank city of Hebron. The IDF said that approximately fifty Palestinians threw stones at an IDF post.
During its attempts to disperse the mob using riot dispersal methods, seven Palestinians were injured.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Palestinians threw stones at police at the main entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Egypt Clamps Hold over Mosques to Control Message - Maggie Michael (AP)
Egyptian authorities are tightening control on mosques around the country, purging preachers and seeking to control the message, as the military-backed government cracks down on Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood following his ouster last summer.
The Religious Endowments Ministry now sets strict guidelines for sermons and some 12,000 freelance preachers have been barred from delivering sermons.
The aim, officials say, is to prevent mosques from spreading extremism, after widespread criticism that the Brotherhood and its more ultraconservative allies used them to build support, recruit new followers and sway voters.
Understanding Iran - Dror Eydar (Israel Hayom)
Iranian-born David Menashri, a professor of Middle Eastern studies, is one of the most prominent experts on Iran in Israel. Speaking of the interim agreement with Iran, he said:
"The U.S. did not understand that by the laws of the Persian bazaar it could have gotten much more, because Iran needed the U.S. more than the U.S. wanted Iran. And the U.S. did not collect the proper price."
"Iran is in trouble.... Iran has two million [university] students. Who is going to hire them? They know how people in the world live."
"The young people of Iran are the most secular in the Arab world. They no longer believe the slogan that Islam is the solution."
"Neither Israel nor the Americans are the existential threat to the Iranian regime; it is the young people of Iran."
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- Syrian Opposition Accuses Assad's Forces of New Poison Gas Attack
Opposition activists accused President Assad's forces of a new poison gas attack in Damascus on Wednesday, posting footage of four men being treated by medics with oxygen. They said the chemical attack was the fourth one this month. (Reuters)
- Pushing the 2-State Path in Gaza - Jodi Rudoren
To define Ezzeldin Masri's battle as uphill is an understatement. He runs the Gaza branch of OneVoice, a group that promotes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Gaza, the ruling Hamas party of Islamic militants opposes negotiations with Israel.
Masri, 43, the son of a school principal, was sent by his parents to Chicago in 1990. He earned degrees at Northeastern Illinois University and "lived next to Jews in Skokie." He returned in 2003. A week after Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007, "masked men with guns" broke into the office "and confiscated all my files and computers."
"The population of Gaza is not interested in the two-state solution," he explained. "They are interested in the right of return." So the breakdown of American-brokered negotiations this month barely registered a blip. 62% of Gazans oppose extending the talks, compared with 52% of West Bankers, according to a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hebron Terror Attack Had the Markings of an Organized Attack - Yoav Limor
Israeli defense officials said the terror attack near Hebron on the eve of Passover that killed Israel Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi and wounded his wife had the markings of an organized terror cell. This was a planned attack, carefully executed far from any military positions in the area. The perpetrator's weapon was an AK-47 and not an outdated rifle. The shooter had an obvious escape plan, likely with the assistance of another individual. The shooting took place in an area where Hamas has significant presence on the ground.
In September 2013, Staff Sgt. Gal (Gabriel) Kobi was killed in the area by a Palestinian sniper. Israeli and Palestinian security forces coordinated their efforts on Tuesday in the wake of the shooting.
- Abbas: Security Cooperation with Israel Will Continue, Regardless of Talks Outcome - Elior Levy
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told visiting Israeli Knesset members in Ramallah on Wednesday that he is committed to the continuation of the security coordination with Israel, regardless of whether the ongoing peace talks are extended or indeed successful.
See also Security Contact with Israeli Officials at All-Time Low
Communications between Palestinian and Israeli officials are "at the lowest level politically, economically, and at a security level," PA security spokesman Adnan Dmeiri said Thursday. (Ma'an News-PA)
- Hamas: 357 Activists Arrested by PA Forces since January
A report released Wednesday by the Gaza Ministry of Planning says that PA security forces arrested 357 members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian factions across the West Bank in the first quarter of 2014. They include 91 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, 194 members of other factions, 30 freed prisoners, and 42 university students. 231 arrests were made in March alone. The report alleged that many of those detained were tortured during their detentions.
The claims come after a hoped-for rapprochement in relations between the two main Palestinian factions turned sour in recent months.
- Conflict Management, Not Resolution: America's Role in Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations - Uzi Rabi
After nine months of fruitless negotiations, Israel and the Palestinians are back where they began. Israel has accused the Palestinian side of breaching its agreement to negotiate in good faith with Israel through American mediation. This follows an American effort that appears to be designed primarily to continue the negotiating process, rather than provide the structure for reaching a final agreement. As such, the U.S. appears to be in conflict management mode, not conflict resolution mode.
Abbas continues to adhere to a phased approach by continuing to take what he can get. The marketplace bargaining over inducements to keep the negotiations going has nothing to do with the larger core issues. Thus, the American position may be shifting from resolving the conflict to simply managing it, where the priority is finding an interim method for avoiding another regional crisis.
The writer is Director of Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
- Hamas Is the Greatest Obstacle to Peace - Elliott Abrams
This week, Palestinian terrorists attacked an Israeli family on their way to a Passover seder in the West Bank. The terrorists murdered the father of the family and left the wife wounded. Speaking in Gaza, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said the attack "brought back life to the path of resistance" against Israel.
The Hamas charter makes it clear that the murder of Jews is not only defensible but necessary. Thus we see Hamas' leader applauding the murder.
There is a precedent: In 2002, Hamas proudly claimed responsibility for a bombing at a Passover seder in a hotel in Netanya, Israel, that killed thirty people and injured well over a hundred. The fact that Hamas is ruling half of Palestine is the greatest obstacle to peace. Those who continue to believe peace is "an inch away," or that construction of houses in Israeli settlements is the true barrier to peace, should ponder Haniyeh's celebration of terrorism and murder.
(Council on Foreign Relations)
- Iran Seeks to Retain Nuclear Breakout Capacity - Mark Dubowitz
American officials are now brimming with optimism about the possibility of a final nuclear deal before the summer, based on a complicated technical compromise that will likely permit Iran to retain essential elements of its military-nuclear infrastructure. Washington has gone from "disclose and dismantle" - insisting that Iran come clean on its military-nuclear activities, coupled with demands to dismantle its military-nuclear infrastructure - to "defer and deter." The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Telegraph-UK)
- Don't Celebrate Assad's Victory Too Soon - Abdulrahman al-Rashed
If Iran hadn't taken a strategic decision to save Bashar al-Assad's regime, he would not have even lasted until 2013. If Iran hadn't employed its regional militias, such as Hizbullah, Assad would not still be in his palace. But has the Assad regime really won? The facts on the ground are greater than the temporary results of recent battles.
Assad's forces and his allies' militias only control one-third of Syria today, and they don't even fully control this one-third. It's a dangerous war of attrition that all the participants cannot tolerate, except for al-Qaeda groups which arrived in the country on a one-way ticket as they are willing to fight to the death.
The relationship between the regime and the people has been broken. The Syrian army has shrunk as a result of defections and losses. Assad and his security forces represent a small sectarian minority controlling a country where a big majority - 70% - are Sunnis. The war on the regime will continue until the regime falls.
Palestinian Deception and the Unwarranted Trust of the West:
The Case of Palestinian Accession to International Conventions - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- On 1 April 2014, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed letters requesting that "the State of Palestine" be granted accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.
- This action by the Palestinian leadership, and the consequent, hurried acceptance of the Palestinian applications by the UN and by the Swiss government, raise serious questions both regarding the flawed perception as to the very existence and legal status of a sovereign state of "Palestine," as well as to the potential implications of what are serious violations of the Oslo Accords and of the very integrity of the international law of treaties.
- If the UN and the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands acted in accordance with their legal and moral duties pursuant to international treaty law and practice, they would have determined that the requests by the Palestinian leadership for accession to the conventions fail to meet the requirements of international law.
- Statehood can be achieved only in accordance with the accepted international law criteria of a permanent population, a defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Pending fulfillment of these criteria, the Palestinians cannot represent themselves as a sovereign state that can accede to international conventions, especially when such conventions specifically condition accession to states only.
- In 2011 the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian request for membership, citing disagreements on whether "Palestine" fulfills the requirements set forth in the UN Charter for membership. Nothing has changed since then.
- All 15 conventions listed in the Palestinian requests for accession require that only states be permitted to accede. By rushing to accept the Palestinian accession requests, the depositories are in fact undermining the very integrity of international treaty law and creating dangerous precedents.
Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.
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