Russian Missile Ship Barred from Israeli Port over Ukraine Crisis - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Israel denied a request by Moscow to let a Russian missile boat anchor at Haifa a month ago, against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, said a senior official in Jerusalem.
The official said Israel strives to maintain neutrality over Ukraine; pictures of a Russian warship in Israel would convey that Israel was siding with Moscow.
The Israel Security Agency also believed that the docking could facilitate Russian espionage activities in Israel. There were reasons to believe that a similar visit last year was a cover for spying.
Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni Given Diplomatic Immunity for UK Visit - Harriet Sherwood (Guardian-UK)
The British government has granted temporary diplomatic immunity to Tzipi Livni, Israel's justice minister and lead negotiator in recent peace talks, who will meet Foreign Office ministers in London.
The move comes amid efforts to secure a warrant for Livni's arrest by London lawyers Hickman and Rose, acting on behalf of a relative of a Palestinian killed in Israel's military assault on Gaza in December 2008 [in response to massive Palestinian rocket fire].
Working with the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), the law firm requested that police arrest Livni for suspected war crimes.
"Iran Owes Al-Qaeda Invaluably," ISIS Spokesman Says - Bill Roggio (Long War Journal)
The spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), Abu Muhammad al Adnani, has said al-Qaeda has ordered its fighters and branches to refrain from attacking the Iranian state in order to preserve the terror group's network in the country.
He said, "ISIS has not attacked the Rawafid [rejectionists, a term used to describe Shia Muslims] in Iran since its establishment....It has held back...its own anger for years to maintain the unity of the mujahideen....Let history record that Iran owes al-Qaeda invaluably."
Israelis in India Warned of Possible al-Qaeda Terror Attacks (India Today)
Israel has requested additional security for its citizens and assets in India during May and June, according to senior intelligence sources.
The Israelis fear threats from al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations AQIM, AQAP, and Al-Nasr Al Sharia, which have carried out terrorist attacks in Africa against Israeli citizens.
Cold War Spy Satellite Reveals 10,000 "New" Mideast Archaeological Sites (Ha'aretz)
Some 10,000 previously unknown ancient cities, roads, canals and ruins have been discovered following the analysis of American Cold War-era spy satellite photographs of the Mideast.
The sites may be explored on the newly launched website of the Corona Atlas of the Middle East.
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- Abe and Bibi Share Tough Line on Their Neighbors - Toko Sekiguchi
A visit to Tokyo by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu highlighted how Japan and Israel share a common thread: They both feel a threat from neighbors' nuclear ambitions, and they both have deep alliances with the U.S.
"You've called North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles a clear and present danger, and I wholeheartedly share your assessment," Netanyahu said to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday. "Those same words certainly apply to the Iranian nuclear program as well."
"Like North Korea before it, Iran wants to keep its nuclear capabilities while easing the sanctions applied to it," Netanyahu said. "We cannot let the ayatollahs win. We cannot enable the world's foremost terrorist states to get the capabilities to make nuclear weapons." (Wall Street Journal)
See also Abe, Netanyahu Agree to Join Hands on Defense, Internet Security - Mizuho Aoki (Japan Times)
- Syrian Rebels Launch Golan Heights Offensive - Jonathan Marcus
A major offensive against the Syrian army is underway in the south of the country, the fighting extending right up to the frontier with Israel.
The immediate goal of the rebels seems to be Quneitra.
Israel has declared the area along the frontier a closed military zone.
"For the past two months the Syrian army has suffered major setbacks in the southern sector," veteran Israeli strategic commentator Ehud Yaari told the BBC.
"In recent weeks the rebels have scored some significant successes, capturing the villages of Qahtania and the high ground of Tal al-Ahmar. Jaba has been captured further south.
Basically, the rebels have broken the defensive system of the Syrian forces in the area, which is relying upon heavy artillery fire in response."
Yaari explains that the Assad regime is seen in Israel as a key link between Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
"If President Assad falls, Hizbullah effectively becomes locked in southern Lebanon and this would produce a very different strategic situation." (BBC News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: If Fatah-Hamas Unity Deal Signed, We'll Hold Abbas Responsible for Every Rocket - Herb Keinon
Israel will hold PA President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for every rocket fired on it from Gaza if he goes through with his national unity pact with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday in Tokyo. "Hamas is committed to our destruction," he said. "We remain committed to advancing the peace, preferably a negotiated peace. But we can only negotiate with a government whose constituent parts are committed to peace." (Jerusalem Post)
- Lieberman: U.S. Aid Funds Palestinian Authority Stipends for Killers of Americans - Gil Hoffman
The Palestinian Authority is using U.S. aid to pay stipends to terrorists who murdered American citizens, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. If Fatah and Hamas finalize their power-sharing agreement, funding a government backed by Hamas would be illegal under American law because the U.S. has designated it a terrorist organization. But if Hamas supports a technocratic government from the outside, it is possible that the Obama administration will pressure Congress to maintain the funding.
"Abbas, who whines about the PA's finances, pays large stipends to prisoners convicted of murder and those who tried to become suicide bombers," Lieberman said. "The prisoners are given three times as much as Palestinian policemen."
- Steinitz: Abbas Torpedoed Peace Talks - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
PA President Mahmoud Abbas put an end to the peace talks,
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told the American Jewish Committee's Global Forum in Washington on Tuesday. "It is quite clear to everybody involved who left the negotiations table suddenly, who decided, two-three months ago, to leave the negotiations table and to approach the international community with requests for membership to organizations and to approach Hamas to form a unity government."
In contrast, Steinitz said, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had "accepted, with some reservations, the overall framework" put forth by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "Abbas rejected Kerry's framework and refused to meet him in Ramallah," Steinitz said.
"Nobody in the world should preach to us, pressure us, convince us to make peace - because this little country is eager to make peace," Steinitz said. While "most Israelis in order to make peace are ready to make concessions," it was important for Israelis to "know with confidence that what we are getting in return is genuine peace and real security."
"Genuine peace" means an end to the conflict - including "that Israel has the right to be accepted and recognized as a Jewish state by all its neighbors....You cannot demand Israel recognize a Palestinian state as a state for the Palestinian people and at the same time deny the Jewish people the right to its own nation state." (Times of Israel)
- "Reality as It Is": Israel Sticks to Hard Line on Iran's Rouhani - Geraint Vincent
World leaders must see "reality as it is, not as how they would like it to be," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to mark this year's Holocaust Memorial Day on April 27. At issue are nuclear negotiations with Iran. Netanyahu accuses Tehran of using the talks as a stalling tactic while it pursues nuclear weapons. Simply put, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a "wolf in sheep's clothing," he says.
Tel Aviv-based political analyst Daniel Nisman notes Netanyahu's "old school" commitment to doing whatever it takes to prevent a second Holocaust. "If the prime minister has a choice between Iran having the bomb, and not pissing off the Americans, and Iran not having the bomb, he's going to choose the latter," he said.
- Why Abbas Can't Sign a Permanent Agreement with Israel - Harold Rhode and Joseph Raskas
Palestinians say that, based on Muslim doctrine, Palestinian land reaches "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea" - that is, over all of what is now Israel. In their view, Tel Aviv is illegally occupied territory just as much as any of the settlements in the West Bank.
Americans seem to believe that all problems are solvable; if there is no solution, it simply means one has not tried hard enough. Americans generally are prepared to compromise on particular points to attain other points that are more important to them. But in the Middle East, the concept of compromise is inconceivable in the winner-take-all culture of that part of the world.
For many in the Middle East, perceived wrongdoings are never in the past and the past is never over. Wrongs - such as the Christian conquest of Muslim Spain, regardless of when they occurred - must be righted. Given the choice between war and shame, Middle Easterners will often choose war, even if that choice will result in both war and shame.
Today, any Palestinian Muslim leader who would sign a final peace agreement recognizing as Jewish any part of what had once been part of the Muslim world would be violating a core tenet of Islam. And any Palestinian leader who agreed to surrender land held in trust by the Muslim waqf would not only be humiliated, but very likely assassinated. Muslims cannot ever, under any conditions, cede territory regarded as rightfully belonging to Muslims to non-Muslims.
Palestinian Reconciliation and the Rising Power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad:
An Iranian Windfall - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Fatah and Hamas are continuing to talk in an attempt to translate the reconciliation agreement, signed between the sides on April 23, 2014, into a series of operative steps. These primarily involve integrating Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO institutions, setting up a unity government, and preparing for new parliamentary and presidential elections.
- The PA has rejected the demand that Hamas must accept the Quartet principles (renouncing terror, recognizing Israel, and recognizing the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO and the PA) before being allowed into the government or the PLO institutions. Abbas vehemently claims that Hamas is not a terror organization. Abbas' consent to integrating Islamic Jihad into the PLO implies he does not regard it as a terror group either.
- Abbas needs Hamas' cooperation to make it appear that the government of the PA exists in Gaza as well. With the PA striving for international recognition, this is of supreme importance. Hamas is clearly pleased with the international stamp of approval it expects to attain with Abbas' help.
- The entry ticket Abbas is providing Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the PLO enables them to compete for control of the PLO institutions and, through elections, to take the helm of the Palestinian national movement. In the 2006 parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas won an overwhelming majority. Thus Hamas sees a historic opportunity to upgrade its current status and is competing to become the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people both in Palestine and the diaspora.
- By repeatedly defying the United States, and being prepared to integrate Islamic Jihad as well into the PLO, and possibly also other Islamic terror organizations, Abbas is signaling that he is no longer in the American camp. Instead he is adopting positions of the rejectionist camp and seeking closer ties with Iran, ally of Hamas and patron of Islamic Jihad.
The writer is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.
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