A Sad Evening in Washington, as Palestinians Celebrate Unity - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
A group of Israeli and Palestinian businessmen arrived on Thursday at the State Department in Washington for a festive dinner at which Secretary of State John Kerry would be launching a grandiose plan to fire up the Palestinian economy.
It included the investment of billions of dollars in projects and infrastructure by giant multinational corporations, who were enlisted to lay down the foundation of a future Palestinian state.
A day before the festivities, news of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas arrived.
Kerry, who was caught completely off guard, was furious. One of those invited to the dinner said that Kerry had even considered cancelling the entire event.
The Troubling Reality of Gaza's Terror Tunnels - Smadar Perry (Ynet News)
Scores of Hamas terrorists emerging from a tunnel from Gaza discovered last month, one of the four tunnels unearthed in the past year, could have reached the closest Israeli community within five minutes.
Last week, after I entered the "Israeli" third of a tunnel without bending down, I asked a senior IDF officer if he could promise that another Palestinian tunnel was not being dug out under our feet as we spoke. "One?" He replied. "Why not 10?"
This is Hamas' flagship project in Gaza. Their prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, boasted that "thousands of heroes are working quietly underground, preparing the next battles over Palestine."
The most annoying thing is that they are lining the tunnels with the cement we transfer to Gaza.
The Threat to Israel from Gaza - Yaakov Lappin (Gatestone Institute)
Gaza has transformed itself in recent years into one of the world's most active terrorist havens.
According to Israeli intelligence estimates, Hamas has amassed over 5,000 short-range rockets and dozens of medium-range rockets that all can reach greater Tel Aviv, and place 70% of Israeli civilians in range.
Additionally, Hamas is building extremely long attack tunnels that stretch for more than a kilometer, that can be used to inject terror cells into Israel to carry out attacks or kidnap soldiers. Hamas pours millions of dollars into these tunnels.
Hamas' fighting divisions consist of some 16,000 gunmen.
Moreover, Hamas is not alone. With the aid of Iranian funds and training, Islamic Jihad has built up a fighting force of 5,000 armed men and more than 2,000 rockets, and that number is growing.
There are also 4,000 or so members of smaller Gazan terror groups, each armed with its own mini-arsenal of rockets, bombs, and assault weapons.
Many of these groups are loyal to the vision of al-Qaeda and maintain ties with fellow jihadis in neighboring Sinai.
Hamas Leader Condemned the Killing of Osama Bin Laden - (Prime Minister of Israel-Facebook)
In May 2011, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, President Abbas' new partner, condemned the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Increasing Attacks on Israel's Northern Border - Nicholas Blanford (IHS Jane's)
Israel's northern border with Lebanon and Syria, which since summer 2006 has experienced its most sustained period of calm in four decades, witnessed a spike in low-level attacks against Israel Defense Forces targets during a 19-day period in early March, likely conducted by Hizbullah.
The most significant incident occurred on 14 March, when two IEDs exploded simultaneously, targeting an IDF jeep approximately 900 meters inside the Shebaa Farms. Hizbullah is the only militant faction in Lebanon with the experience and expertise to carry out such an attack.
On 18 March, an IED packed with anti-personnel steel balls exploded beside the Israeli security fence south of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, wounding four IDF soldiers, one of them seriously.
The recent spate of hostilities will not dissuade Israel from its policy of striking arms consignments destined for Hizbullah.
Iran Cuts Gasoline Subsidies (AP-Washington Post)
Iran cut a portion of its gasoline subsidies Friday in a move that will test public support for President Hassan Rouhani.
Under the new pricing scheme, gas will cost 83 cents a gallon, compared to 45 cents today.
Egyptian Army Says Sinai Secured (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
The head of Egypt's forces in Sinai, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Al-Shahat, claimed Thursday that Cairo had gained "complete control over the situation" in the Sinai Peninsula.
"There is obvious stability in Sinai despite rumors that there are still terrorist elements and tunnels in North Sinai," he said.
"One or two incidents will not rattle us...but I can say that we are tackling the issue [of terrorism in Sinai] with an iron fist."
Bedouin Soldier Attacked in Home Village for Volunteering for IDF - Israel Moskovitz (Ynet News)
Sgt. Adham Saab, 21, dreamt of volunteering to serve in the IDF since the age of 10, but one month after beginning his service, he was attacked in his Bedouin village by more than 10 men who disapproved of his choice to serve.
"They cursed at me and yelled, 'bastard soldier' and then they hit me in the head with a metal bar and I lost consciousness," said Saab. "I haven't been back to my village since the attack....My family left the village after a few months."
Saab now lives in Kibbutz Nir-Eliyahu.
Israeli Machine Makes Drinking Water from Thin Air - Giovanna Rajao and Michael Schwartz (CNN)
The Israeli company Water-Gen has developed an Atmospheric Water-Generation Unit using a heat exchanger to chill air and condense water vapor to produce drinking water from thin air.
"Air conditioning is extracting water from air. But the issue is to do it very efficiently, to produce as much water as you can per kilowatt of power consumed," said co-CEO Arye Kohavi.
The system produces 250-800 liters of potable water a day, depending on temperature and humidity conditions, and uses two cents' worth of electricity to produce one liter of water.
Developed primarily for the IDF, Water-Gen has already sold units to militaries in seven countries.
For India, Kohavi says Water-Gen's units can produce a liter of water for 1.5 rupees, as opposed to 15 rupees for a liter of bottled water.
Water-Gen has also developed a portable, battery-operated, water purification system that fits into a backpack and filters what was undrinkable water into potable water.
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- Hamas Deal Last Straw for Congress on U.S. Aid to Palestinians - Julian Pecquet
Wednesday's announcement of a reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah triggered an instant call for retaliation on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Middle East and authored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, called for an immediate suspension of U.S. aid to the PA. The 2006 law prohibits support for a "Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority."
"The Administration must halt aid to the Palestinian Authority and condition any future assistance as leverage to force Abu Mazen [Abbas] to abandon this reconciliation with Hamas and to implement real reforms within the PA," Ros-Lehtinen said. "U.S. law is clear on the prohibition of U.S. assistance to a unity Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and President Obama must not allow one cent of American taxpayer money to help fund this terrorist group."
Her Democratic counterpart on the subcommittee, Ted Deutch of Florida, said, "Be certain that the Palestinian Authority will face significant consequences if a unity government is formed that includes terrorist members of Hamas." (Al-Monitor)
See also Congress Eyes Steps to Defund PA
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Thursday she is ready to launch steps to defund the Palestinian Authority in the wake of its unity agreement with Hamas.
"I'll be working with the State Department on the logistics of suspending assistance....At this point the law is clear, their actions are clear and the path forward is clear."
On Wednesday, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, said, "Not only does this action potentially derail any hope of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it puts in jeopardy future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority." (JTA)
- U.S. Unwilling to Give Up Mideast Peace Process Yet - Lara Jakes
On Thursday Israel's security cabinet agreed to shelve the negotiations with the Palestinians as the result of a new deal struck by the Palestinian Authority to create a reconciliation government with the militant group Hamas.
Secretary of State John Kerry sought on Thursday to portray the latest setback with as much optimism as the dismal development would allow: "There is always a way forward." Even diplomats and experts sympathetic to Kerry's desire to soldier on with the talks declared the Mideast peace process on life support.
Kerry acknowledged said Israeli and Palestinian leaders needed to be willing to make compromises to keep the nine months of negotiations alive beyond an April 29 deadline. Hamas has called for the destruction of the State of Israel, and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU.
- U.S. Protests Iran's Election to UN NGO Committee
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power protested the election of repressive regimes including Iran to the UN Committee on Non-governmental Organizations which deals with civil society groups accredited to the UN. Power accused Iran in a statement Wednesday of regularly detaining human rights defenders and "subjecting many to torture, abuse and violations of due process." (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Whoever Chooses the Terrorism of Hamas Does Not Want Peace
In the wake of the PLO-Hamas unity agreement, Israel's Security Cabinet decided that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for Israel's destruction.
In addition, Israel will respond to unilateral Palestinian action with a series of measures.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
"Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen [Abbas] formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.
Abu Mazen has formed an alliance with an organization whose covenant calls for Muslims to fight and kill Jews. Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles and rockets at Israeli territory and has not halted terrorist actions against Israel even for a minute."
"The agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas was signed even as Israel is making efforts to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. It is the direct continuation of the Palestinians' refusal to advance the negotiations. Only last month Abu Mazen rejected the framework principles proposed by the United States."
"Abu Mazen has refused to even discuss recognizing Israel as the national state of the Jewish People. He violated existing agreements by unilaterally applying to accede to international treaties and then formed an alliance with Hamas.
Whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Netanyahu: Mideast Peace Talks "Essentially Buried" If Hamas-Fatah Deal Stands - Bret Baier
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that peace talks are "essentially buried" if PA President Mahmoud Abbas forges ahead with a new agreement with Hamas. "Yesterday, with the pact with Hamas, the Palestinian people went, took a huge step backward, away from peace, away from a good future for themselves....They chose to make a pact with the people committed to our destruction, and that doesn't square away with peace." (Fox News)
See also Video - Netanyahu: "Would You Negotiate with a Government that Calls for the Destruction of America?" - Andrea Mitchell
Prime Minister Netanyahu told MSNBC on Thursday: "We will not sit and negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, in which Hamas has an effective share of power. And neither would you. Would you negotiate with a government backed by al-Qaeda? That calls for the destruction of America? That has murdered Americans?" (MSNBC)
See also Netanyahu Keeps Door Open to Future Negotiations - Herb Keinon and Michael Wilner
After Israel suspended diplomatic talks with the Palestinians over Wednesday's Hamas-Fatah reconciliation pact, Prime Minister Netanyahu told MSNBC he will "be there in the future if we have a partner that is committed to peace." (Jerusalem Post)
- Lauder: "Abbas Could Not Have Done More to Destroy the Peace Process" - Sam Sokol
The international community now sees and understands that the Palestinian Authority does not want peace, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "This is one of the times when people realize what's really happening and there is no question about it," Lauder said. "How can Israel negotiate with an organization that wants its destruction?"
"People get it, and the American government gets it, which is important. They realize that Abbas could not have done more to destroy the peace process." (Jerusalem Post)
- Will Kerry Continue the Peace Negotiations If Hamas and Fatah Unite? - Elliott Abrams
Secretary of State Kerry has put enormous effort into the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. On Wednesday, Fatah and Hamas announced they would be forming a Palestinian unity government. It is very striking that while Kerry is working hard to get talks launched, Abbas is working hard to achieve an agreement that would scuttle them.
If Abbas chooses Hamas instead of the negotiations with Israel, I would hope the Obama administration denounces that choice and supports Israel in its unwillingness to proceed with the negotiations.
One goal of the new unity government agreement would be to hold elections. The lesson we should have learned from the mistakes we made in the 2006 elections won by Hamas is that terrorists cannot be allowed to run.
As Yossi Beilin once wrote, "There can be no doubt that participation by Hamas in elections held in the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 is a gross violation of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement. Hamas is a movement that has, through its covenant, raised the banner of incitement to hate and kill Jews. That this military organization, appearing as a political party, is allowed to abuse democracy is a prize for terror and violence."
He was right, and the U.S. should not repeat the error we made in 2006. Secretary Kerry should make it clear to Abbas that choosing a unity government with a terrorist group is choosing to end negotiations with Israel - and that he will end his own efforts should that step be taken. (Council on Foreign Relations)
- Abbas Embraces the Islamists - David Horovitz
When announcing the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal, Hamas' Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, far from expressing an improbable new desire to enter talks with the Zionist enemy, restated his organization's consistent position that the peace process with Israel does not serve Palestinian strategic interests.
The Palestinian shift we are observing is not one of Hamas undergoing moderation, but of Abbas' Fatah willingly submitting itself to the bear hug of the Islamic extremists.
Abbas has not been prepared to work energetically to create a climate among his people in favor of the compromises necessary for Palestinian statehood alongside, and peace with, Israel. He's not reined in the toxic anti-Israel orientation of the Palestinian media. He's not revolutionized the Palestinian education system. He's hailed evil men and women who have murdered Israelis, extorted their releases from Israel's jails as his price for consenting to negotiate with Israel, and welcomed them home as heroes.
Abbas is no Anwar Sadat, no King Hussein. He simply was not willing to tackle the profound anti-Israel sentiment among his people, and was certainly not prepared to risk his own well-being, for the noble, high-risk cause of a negotiated path to statehood.
With Wednesday's superficial unity deal, Abbas is escaping the deeply uncomfortable pressure to compromise with Israel and instead embracing a veneer of Palestinian unity. It was also an act that underlined the impotence of the American interlocutors, whose warnings against an alliance with Hamas were blithely ignored. It likely marks the start of an intensified Palestinian effort to demonize Israel on the world stage.
(Times of Israel)
- Ending Illusion of Peace-Seeking Abbas - Guy Bechor
Mahmoud Abbas' decision to join forces with Hamas, whether it happens or not, is a slap in the face of anyone who saw him as a "partner," and especially U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the EU.
The Palestinian Authority has received close to 7 billion euros from the EU since 1994, unconditionally and unsupervised, but new legislation by the European Parliament plenum on April 3, 2014, has set some conditions. If the PA sets up a joint government with Hamas, it will be impossible to transfer even one cent to it, because Hamas is officially a terrorist organization, both in Washington and Europe.
Unity with Hamas is a slap in the face for many of the Arab regimes too, as it is basically a shift to cooperating with their enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. It is an insult to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other states that see radical Islam as an existential threat.
Just imagine what would have happened if Israel had transferred territories in the center of the country [the West Bank] to the Palestinians, and then the unity with Hamas and Jihad had taken place. Israel would face missiles directed at Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
- The Evenhandedness Trap - Asaf Romirowsky
Prevalent among American foreign policy-makers is the view that both parties in the negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians, are equally responsible and equally to blame. This is a flawed reading of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, one must start with the fact that the majority of the Arab-Muslim world has always seen the Jewish state as an abomination. Palestinian national identity is predicated on winning a zero-sum struggle with Zionism, not a vision of a state of their own. The writer is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum.
- Analyst: There Will Never Be Palestinian Reconciliation - Nasouh Nazzal
Reconciliation is a method for the Palestinian leadership to pressure Israel, said Dr. Abdul Sattar Qasem, who heads the Political Science Department at Al Najah University in Nablus in the West Bank. "The Ramallah leadership uses this tactic as a negotiating tool to press Israel and the U.S. Administration, knowing that reconciliation with Hamas will have major implications for the entire peace process....Fatah and the Ramallah government have used this tactic several times in the past." "Neither Fatah nor Hamas is serious about Palestinian reconciliation," he maintained.
- Palestinian Reconciliation: Real Unity, or Tactic? - Amira Hass
There is reason to believe Abbas is using the reconciliation (like his repeated announcements about dismantling the PA and the tactical applications to join various UN conventions) as a way to pressure Israel and the U.S. by demonstrating that he has other options. There is reason to believe that Hamas is using reconciliation as a way to soften Egypt's policy toward it, and perhaps gain some easing of the blockade that Cairo has imposed on Gaza.
The PLO and Hamas have different, if not contradictory, worldviews. The nationalist PLO will continue to suspect Hamas of being more committed to the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamic principles. Hamas will go on being hostile toward the secular culture that has always been part of the PLO, and see it as the result of negative Western influences.
- Israel Cannot Accept the Emerging Accord between the U.S. and Iran - Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror
An accord between the P5+1 and Iran that would allow Iran to maintain a full nuclear fuel cycle is unacceptable to Israel. None of the assumptions behind the emerging accord are sound: Neither the assumption that a monitoring regime could guarantee identification in real time of Iranian violations; nor the assumption that the U.S. would act with alacrity if a breach is identified; nor the assumption that in the real world Iran will truly be deterred by U.S. threats. An agreement along these lines would be far worse than no agreement, and could force Israel to respond independently.
The writer is a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and chairman of the National Security Council.
- Why Iran's Missiles Matter - Ilan Berman
In the current debate over the Iranian bomb, the White House is staying quiet about its concerns over the regime's progress on missile development.
To curb the threat posed by Tehran's atomic ambitions, any diplomatic deal will need not only to limit Iran's capability to make nuclear weapons, but also its ability to deliver them. However, on April 16, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan publicly declared, "Iran's missiles are not up for discussion under any circumstances."
According to U.S. intelligence assessments, Iran is already the most formidable missile power in the Middle East.
The mainstay of Iran's arsenal is the Shahab-3, a medium-range missile unveiled publicly more than a decade ago.
Today, the Shahab is estimated to be nuclear-capable and have a range of between 900 and 1,200 miles - putting all of Israel within striking distance.
In addition, in 2005, Iran became the first space-faring nation in the Muslim world when it successfully launched a surveillance satellite into orbit from a missile base in Russia.
The same rocket booster used to place a payload into low-earth orbit can be married to a two-stage ballistic missile to create one of intercontinental range. Iran, in other words, is building the capability to become a global missile power with the capability to hold at risk Western Europe - and beyond.
Last year, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center assessed that Iran "could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015."
This means that ballistic missiles need to be part of any serious discussion about limiting Iran's strategic capabilities.
The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.
- Egypt and Saudi Arabia Battle the Jihadist Current - Jacques Neriah
Following the lead of Egypt, Saudi Arabia has decided to join the battle against jihadists in the Middle East, where movements led by al-Qaeda and Iran strive to topple the ruling Arab regimes. The leading regimes realize that these movements have a common goal: to destroy the prevailing political order and replace it with either a Sunni caliphate based on the strictest interpretation of Islamic law or a state modeled after the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saudi Arabia has started to take action against the global jihad's funding sources, primarily wealthy citizens in the kingdom itself, and has further increased intelligence cooperation with the United States. Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel Does Not Place Its Relations with the U.S. and Russia on the Same Plane - Zalman Shoval
Reports surfaced that officials in Washington are angry with Israel for its "display of neutrality" with regards to the Russian "invasion" of the Crimea. Israel is not "neutral" and does not place its relations with the U.S. and Russia on the same plane: The U.S. is a friend and ally and its democratic values are ones that most Israelis espouse.
However, Vladimir Putin's Russia is not the communist Soviet Union and its relations with Israel are completely different, for the better. Israel also holds a sense of responsibility for the Jews in Russia and in Ukraine. Some 200,000 Jews live in Ukraine today, even more in Russia. Any unequivocal stance taken by Israel in support of one side or another in the conflict would be to the detriment of both Israel and our fellow Jews in those nations. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- Israel Encouraging More Christians to Join Military Service - Dan Williams and Ori Lewis
Israel said on Tuesday it was stepping up efforts to encourage military enlistment by Christian Arab citizens, a community which has traditionally stood alongside the Muslim community on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
Israel's Christian Arabs number about 160,000, 2% of the state's 8 million people, and the expected number of conscripts - now about 100 - will rise in coming months, a senior military officer said. "We intend to appeal to the Christian population of conscription age (17 and 18) and will send them call-up notices to volunteer for service," Lt.-Col. Amir Hai said Tuesday.
"I welcome this important, historic step...for the Christian community to be a member of Israeli society, equal in rights and duties," Father Gabriel Nadaf, head of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, told Army Radio. Sammy Smooha, professor of anthropology and sociology at Haifa University, noted, "There are greater numbers of Christians going for civilian national service options," as well. He described those enlisting as a phenomenon driven by concern at the persecution of Christians in the Muslim Middle East and a desire for social advancement in Israel.
- An IDF Soldier Faces Anti-Israel Hatred in the U.S. - Hen Mazzig
When I served as a soldier in the West Bank, I got used to having ugly things said to me, but nothing prepared me for the misinformation, demonization of Israel, and the gut-wrenching, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hostility expressed by many students, professors, church members, and even high school students in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.
At a BDS event in Portland, a professor from a Seattle university told the crowd that the Jews of Israel have no national rights and should be forced out of the country. When I asked, "Where do you want them to go?" she calmly answered, "I don't care. I don't care if they don't have any place else to go. They should not be there." I responded that she was calling for ethnic cleansing.
My experiences in America have changed me. I never expected to encounter such hatred and lies. I never believed that such anti-Semitism still existed, especially in the U.S.
The writer is the Campus Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest chapter of StandWithUs. For almost five years he worked in the COGAT unit that attends to the needs of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
(Times of Israel)
World Powers Must Reject Iranian Offer - Amos Yadlin (Ynet News)
- The Iranian strategy in the negotiations with the world powers is to preserve and maximize their achievements and to minimize the concessions. So instead of accepting the powers' demand to alter the Arak reactor so that it would not be able to produce fissile material for a bomb, Iran is offering technical changes which will reduce the production ability, but will not abolish it. Such technical changes are reversible in case of an Iranian decision to violate the agreement.
- The American focus is on a tight system of inspection in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the future, but it is insufficient. International inspection systems have always failed. They already failed in the past to discover on time the efforts made by Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Iran to secretly develop a military nuclear program.
- There is a need, therefore, to agree on parameters which will keep Iran away from the bomb by extending the time required to develop a nuclear weapon if it decides to expel the inspectors.
The powers must demand that Iran dissolve most of the centrifuges and leave a symbolic number of non-advanced centrifuges. They must demand that the uranium enrichment stockpile in Iran will be limited to a low level, less than the amount required for one bomb.
- They must also demand the dismantlement of the enrichment site inside a mountain near Qom, and demand that the Arak reactor be altered so that it would not be used for military purposes.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, serves as director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
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