Mashaal: Hamas Remains Committed to Jihad Against Israel - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas is committed to holy war against Israel, its leader Khaled Mashaal affirmed on Wednesday.
"Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad," he said, calling for the "liberation of our lands and holy sites and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes."
An Israeli official in Jerusalem responded that his remarks "expose the myth that Hamas has somehow changed or moderated its positions."
See also At Hamas West Bank Rally, Calls to "Strike Tel Aviv!" - Noah Browning (Reuters)
Over a thousand supporters of the Islamist group Hamas on Wednesday marched through the streets of Ramallah, a West Bank stronghold of its Fatah rival, chanting "Strike Tel Aviv!"
Syrian Air Strike on Aleppo School Kills 18 (Reuters)
An air strike on a school in Aleppo by President Assad's forces killed at least 18 people on Wednesday, mainly children, a day after attacks on Syrian cities killed more than 100 people, activists said.
The Syrian civil war now kills between 200 and 300 people a day.
Abbas Pumps New Life into Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
Just when everyone thought that Hamas - an officially designated terrorist group and an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood - was on its way to vanish as a result of Egypt's tough measures, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stepped in to save the movement by inviting its leaders to join a Palestinian unity government.
Abbas' alliance with Hamas is likely to put him on a course of collision with the Egyptian government, which regards Hamas as a threat to Egypt's national security.
If Abbas has decided that Hamas is a legitimate partner and is worthy of joining his government and the PLO, why shouldn't the Muslim Brotherhood also demand equal treatment from the Egyptian authorities?
Abbas' rapprochement with Hamas can only embolden Muslim fundamentalists and undermine moderate secular forces throughout the Arab world.
Intel to Invest $6 Billion to Upgrade Israeli Facility - Adrian Filut (Globes)
Intel Corp. will invest $5-6 billion in upgrading its Kiryat Gat computer chip production facility.
Intel Israel currently has four development centers and two production plants in Israel with 9,855 employees.
Intel VP and Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg said, "In 40 years, Intel has exported goods worth $35 billion, mostly from its production centers in Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem."
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- Syria "Stalling" on Giving Up Chemical Weapons, U.S. Says - Ernesto Londono and Greg Miller
The effort to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program has ground to a halt because Syria is holding on to 27 tons of sarin precursor chemicals as leverage in a dispute with the international community, according to U.S. officials. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is insisting that a network of tunnels and buildings that were used to store the weapons must be destroyed. The Assad government has argued that the facilities should be repurposed.
The OPCW says that the Chemical Weapons Convention requires Syria to eliminate facilities that were used to produce and store chemical weapons.
"Until and unless all of the declared material is removed from the country," and any lingering questions about additional, undeclared stockpiles are addressed, "it is unwise for OPCW to be satisfied with leaving these production facilities partially intact," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Robert P. Mikulak, the U.S. representative to the executive council of the OPCW, said, "Twelve chemical weapons production facilities declared by Syria remain structurally intact. Why is that? The answer is Syria's intransigence." (Washington Post)
- State Department: Iran Remains a State Sponsor of Terrorism
The State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, released Wednesday, continues to describe Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism: "Iran continued its terrorist-related activity, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and for Hizbullah. It has also increased its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle arms to Houthi separatists in Yemen and Shia oppositionists in Bahrain."
"Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its regional proxy groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East."
(U.S. State Department)
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- Kerry Expected to Resume Push for Israeli-Palestinian Talks after Pause - Herb Keinon
Secretary of State John Kerry's aides said that he would again try to get the sides back to the negotiating table after a pause of several months.
One Israeli government official familiar with the negotiations said, "We would have liked to see a successful outcome to the negotiations. But what we saw was a Palestinian side that didn't engage in good faith when the Americans put on the table principles for final status. In dealing with the core issues, the Palestinians ran away." The Palestinians rejected an American package to continue the talks, he added.
- Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Deal Imminent - Itamar Eichner
A senior Israeli political source confirmed that a normalization agreement between Israel and Turkey could be expected soon. "Erdogan feels it's the right time to make peace with Israel and bring the relationship back to normal. This is definitely a positive development. Turkey is an important regional ally and it is very important to restore its relationship with Israel, especially at such a turbulent time in the Middle East," the source said.
- Israel Arrests Members of Jerusalem Terror Cell - Daniel K. Eisenbud
Israeli security forces said Wednesday they had arrested five terror suspects from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya for a six-month terror campaign against residents of the adjacent French Hill neighborhood and the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University. Their attacks included throwing firebombs at a synagogue and setting fire to a police vehicle in November, throwing firebombs at an apartment in February, and throwing firebombs at a night club in April. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel Arrests Members of Hamas West Bank Terror Cell
Israeli security forces said Wednesday they had broken up a Palestinian terrorist cell linked to Hamas in the West Bank city of Kalkilya. The seven members of the cell, who were manufacturing explosives and planning bombings and shooting attacks, were detained between December and March.
- Moving Beyond the "Peace Process" - Amir Taheri
In 1948 there was no Palestine problem; there was an Israel problem, in that the Arab League wouldn't tolerate a Jewish state in its midst. Nor was the 1967 war about Palestine. Egypt's Nasser, who started it, said the objective was "throwing the Jews into the sea." At no point was creating a Palestinian state even considered. Nasser failed, and the new status quo favored Israel by widening its security perimeter - with territories taken from Egypt, Jordan and Syria, not from Palestine.
The demand for a return to pre-1967 borders is bizarre, to say the least. In 1967 there were no borders, just ceasefire lines drawn in 1948 - lines that symbolized an unstable status quo that led to two wars. Going back to them means returning to a situation that breeds war, not peace.
The "peace process" also ignores a fact well established in human history: Every war ends with a winner and a loser; the winner dictates the new status quo and the loser grudgingly accepts. Israel is perhaps the only winner to be prevented from even thinking about cashing its chips. Each time it won a war, the UN and other outsiders intervened to put the whole thing on a different trajectory.
All that the various "peace initiatives" have done is to raise Palestinian expectations beyond what any Israeli government could accept.
(New York Post)
- Kerry's Apocalyptic Warnings Are Counterproductive - Aaron David Miller
Kerry's recent comments about apartheid fit into the warnings Kerry has given to both sides - usually the Israelis - of the dire consequences should they fail to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the past year or so, Kerry has prophesied about the dangers of violence, demography, and boycott. But this is counterproductive.
The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Iranian Strategy Feeds Off Perceived Western Weakness - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
With a further round of the nuclear talks between Iran and the West to be held in mid-May, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to encourage the advancement of Iran's nuclear program. While giving the talks a green light, he is at the forefront of pessimism about the chances of reaching a comprehensive agreement.
Khamenei insisted that despite the ongoing talks, no R&D activity would be stopped or slowed down. He stressed that the main advantage of Iran's nuclear program is the "strengthening of national security," a surprising admission considering Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.
Discussing the dilution of Iran's 20% enriched uranium to 5 percent, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Bahruz Kamalvandi made clear that Iran would not lose its uranium stockpiles: "We can convert the uranium enriched to 5% to a level of 20% in two or three weeks if we need to."
Given Iran's repeated statements in this regard, the situation assessment is basically one of Western weakness. This will likely lead Iran to toughen its position in the nuclear talks.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israeli-Palestinian Dispute No Longer Occupies Center Stage - Richard N. Haass (Wall Street Journal)
- The Obama administration's extraordinary commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is difficult to justify. Even before the recent breakdown in talks, the dispute didn't appear ripe for resolution.
- And it must be acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute no longer occupies center stage in the Middle East. The emergence of a separate Palestinian state wouldn't affect the troubling events in Syria, Egypt or Iraq.
- The one vital undertaking in the Middle East that the Obama administration has pursued energetically is negotiating with Iran to place a ceiling on its nuclear capacity and potential.
- The administration deserves praise for ratcheting up sanctions against Iran - Tehran's interest in a nuclear deal has increased as a result.
- The challenge will be to come up with an agreement that is enough for Iran and not too much for us and for Israel.
The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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