Iranian Commander: Front Line Now in Southern Lebanon (Times of Israel)
Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, boasted of Iran's robust influence in the Middle East Saturday, claiming victory in Syria, and said that his country's first line of defense is now the Lebanese border with Israel.
"Our frontmost line of defense is no more [in southern Iran], rather this line is now in southern Lebanon [on the border] with Israel, as our strategic depth has now stretched to the Mediterranean coasts and just to the north of Israel," Safavi told a group of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) veterans, the semi-official Fars news outlet reported.
Hamas Leader: We Will Never Accept Quartet Conditions on Israel - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
Hamas political bureau deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said Saturday that Hamas and the other Palestinian factions have "temporarily" agreed to a Palestinian state on land conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, "without recognizing the Zionist entity."
He said Hamas does not intend to recognize Israel or abide by previously signed agreements.
"Hamas will remain loyal to the right of return and to liberation," he was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying.
Report: Pakistani Intelligence Planned Terror Attacks on U.S. and Israeli Consulates in India (Press Trust of India)
Central Indian security agencies have claimed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had plans to carry out terror attacks on two foreign consulates in India, based on evidence given by a Sri Lankan national during his interrogation.
Sakir Hussain, who was arrested on April 29 in a coordinated operation involving various countries, said he had been hired by an official in the Pakistani high commission in Colombo as part of the ISI's plans to conduct reconnaissance of the U.S. consulate in Chennai and Israeli consulate in Bengaluru.
Hussain named Amir Zubair Siddiq, a visa counsellor at the Pakistani mission in Colombo, as his handler.
Ukrainian Jews Immigrate to Israel Amid Growing Unrest (Times of Israel)
19 Ukrainian Jews immigrated to Israel on Sunday. According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, almost 800 people arrived from Ukraine in January-April 2014, and over 200 have signed up for May.
Syrian Rebel Infighting Kills 62 (VOA News)
Heavy fighting between rival rebel factions in eastern Syria has killed more than 60 fighters and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in the past few days.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Nusra Front have been fighting over control of territory they previously took from Syrian government forces.
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- Islamic Jihad Gains New Traction in Gaza - Jodi Rudoren
Islamic Jihad and its Al-Quds Brigades are having something of a renaissance. Last month the group fired a barrage of 100 rockets toward Israel in less than an hour. Polls show that support for Islamic Jihad among residents of Gaza remains far below that of the leading political factions but has seen an uptick as the group has lately built health clinics, opened schools, and expanded its family-mediation services, backed by Iranian funds.
Though not a signatory to the reconciliation pact, Islamic Jihad would join Hamas as part of the formal Palestinian leadership if the deal were implemented. There is scant ideological space between the two movements. Egypt recently allowed three of the group's senior leaders to leave Gaza to meet the group's chief in Beirut - something no Hamas official had been allowed to do since last summer's military-backed ouster of President Morsi of Egypt.
A senior IDF intelligence official said Islamic Jihad's Gaza force numbered 4,000, compared with 10,000 in Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Together, he said, the two groups have manufactured 200 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv, ten times the number they possessed two years ago.
(New York Times)
- In Iraq and Syria, a Resurgence of Foreign Suicide Bombers - Mark Hosenball
There has been a resurgence of suicide bomb attacks in Syria and Iraq, many carried out by foreigners drawn to the conflicts from across the region and from Europe, representing a disturbing shift in tactics among radical jihadists, U.S. and European security and intelligence officials say.
In the last year the rate of suicide bomb attacks in Iraq has risen sharply, back to levels not seen since 2007, U.S. officials said.
In March and April alone, at least 14 Tunisians fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) blew themselves up in Iraq.
Other suicide bombers in Iraq included fighters from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Many appeared to be Saudis, Libyans, Egyptians, Moroccans and Jordanians. (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Israel Memorial Day
- Netanyahu: We Owe Our Existence to Fallen Heroes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the opening ceremony of Memorial Day in Jerusalem on Sunday, praised the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the State of Israel. "The fallen of Israel's wars are our national heroes. We would not be here today if not for their willingness to lay down their lives so we could be here." (Ynet News)
- Peres: "We Still Live by the Sword, But We Strive for Peace" - Omri Efraim
Israel marked the beginning of Memorial Day with a minute of silence as a siren sounded across the country on Sunday. At the state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, President Shimon Peres said the State of Israel "was founded with the blood of our sons, with the sweat of the pioneers and the foresight of the prophets....to be an enlightened and productive society; to be a free and democratic society; to strive for peace."
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said: "While the siren sounds...I return to my friends and partners from along the way, who worked to build Israel's defense brick by brick. I recall their laughter, their gaze, their faces. I carry with me the determination and resolve they had in our way."
"They knew well and good that at times the mission is very costly, and they were willing to pay the price. Here in this special place, we stand as one, with one heart, and remember the fallen, and promise to do everything in our power to deserve the dedication of the fallen, for our future and the future generations." (Ynet News)
- The Tragic History of the Two-State Solution - Jeffrey Goldberg
Over time I've noticed that Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama often neglect to mention a true, and relevant, fact about the pursuit of peace in the Middle East: The Israelis pursued a two-state solution even before there was an Israel. The Palestinians, and their Arab advocates, have rejected each previous attempt to bring about such a solution.
The Palestinians, and their appointed (or unappointed) Arab representatives, have passed up numerous opportunities over an almost 80-year period to divide Palestine among its two native peoples, Arabs and Jews. The Israelis have repeatedly sought territorial accommodation.
It would be useful for American diplomats, and others, to acknowledge this history when they speak about current Israeli recalcitrance. It would also be smart to take into account this history when offering predictions about the future of the two-state solution.
- Israel and China, a Win-Win Relationship - Amos Nadai
The Chinese leadership looks first of all inward. The regime's primary challenge is preserving the economic growth rate, and its foreign policy moves are directed at that goal. China's interest is in securing markets and access to energy and other natural resources.
Among the Chinese leadership and public there is a broad base of sympathy towards Israel. Chinese society is unfamiliar with anti-Semitism and believes in the Jewish genius, seeing Israel's economic and scientific achievements as objects of admiration.
As a person who was in touch with policy-makers in the U.S., I can say for certain that economic cooperation with China will not jeopardize our relations with the U.S. After all, the U.S. itself is tied to China in a thick web of financial, economic and industrial cooperation. The writer served as Israel's ambassador to China from 2007 to 2012 and as director-general for Asia and the Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
PM Adviser's Book on Jerusalem Unity Published in China - Shlomo Cesana
The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Netanyahu adviser Dore Gold's best-selling book about Israel's historical links and legal rights to a unified Jerusalem, has been translated into Chinese and will soon hit the shelves in Beijing. The book passed through the rigorous review of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's publishing house, the World Affairs Press, without being changed or edited. The foreword to the Chinese edition was written by Ma Xiaolin, a member of the Communist Party central committee's research institute.
"The timing of the book's release is especially important with the growing interest from China in the Middle East and its future role in the region," Gold said. "This book can help contribute to the effort to get closer with one of the most important powers in the world." (Israel Hayom)
Israel Memorial Day
- The Massacre at Kfar Etzion on the Eve of Israel's Birth - Peter Beaumont
On 14 May 1948, just before David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence, he received a telegram: Jewish forces "waving a white flag at Kfar Etzion resulted in a massacre of the defenders by the Arabs."
Yossi Ron, now 67, was one year old when he became an orphan. His father, Yechiel Rosenfeld, was one of those executed after the fall of the kibbutz by local Arab militiamen on the grounds of the old German Monastery in Kfar Etzion. His mother, Tzipora, a nurse as well as a fighter, was killed by grenades thrown into the monastery's cellar. They were among 127 killed.
In 1967 Jews returned to the ruined kibbutzes and the Etzion Bloc was re-established, its prime movers the 71 "children of Etzion" who had lost parents in the battle. (Guardian-UK)
See also From the Ashes of the Etzion Bloc - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
Time for a More Pragmatic Approach to the Middle East - Editorial (Washington Post)
- Secretary of State John Kerry's quixotic attempt to broker a final peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians stumbled to an end last week - or at least "a pause." The secretary's intense focus on trying to wring compromise from Israeli and Palestinian leaders never made much sense; his energies would be much better spent developing workable strategies for troubles in other parts of the world.
- PA President Mahmoud Abbas has launched yet another reconciliation initiative with the Islamic Hamas movement, but numerous "unity" plans announced in the past have foundered because of Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel or renounce terrorism. Hamas is unlikely to fundamentally change its stance.
- The U.S. should seek to reverse the deterioration of Palestinian government that has occurred since 79-year-old Abbas - whose term as elected president expired more than five years ago - forced out a reformist prime minister. Corruption has steadily increased, as have human rights abuses.
- New elections should be held, with the proviso that groups advocating violence are excluded. Palestinian statehood must be built on the foundation of working democratic institutions. The Obama administration should place that principle at the center of a new, more pragmatic policy.
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