India's New Foreign Minister a Strong Fan of Israel - Marissa Newman (Times of Israel)
Sushma Swaraj, India's newly appointed foreign minister, has in the past publicly defended Israel against critics, and is said to be a strong admirer of the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.
Swaraj served as chairwoman of the Indo-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group from 2006 to 2009.
Israel Agrees to Spend Half of Iron Dome Funds in U.S. - Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg)
The Israeli government has agreed to spend more than half the funds the Pentagon provides for its Iron Dome missile-defense system in the U.S.
Funds going to U.S. contractors for components of the Israeli-built, Pentagon-funded system will jump to 30% this year and 55% next year, according to a U.S. Missile Defense Agency report to Congress, bolstering the political appeal of the project in America.
The agreement includes a provision allowing production of any part to revert to Iron Dome's Israeli maker, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., if its U.S. price exceeds what it would cost to make in Israel by 5% or more.
Top Iranian Officer Said Beheaded in Syria - Spencer Ho (Times of Israel)
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Col. Mohammad Eskandari was recently killed and decapitated in Syria by the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, according to reports Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Eskandari was quoted telling Iranian media: "Today's war in Syria is really our war with America."
Egypt Polls Open for 3rd Day, Few Voters Show Up (AP-Washington Post)
Egypt's presidential election entered its third day on Wednesday as authorities extended the voting in a scramble to bolster an unexpectedly low turnout.
Opponents of the front-runner, former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, say the turnout debacle shows deep discontent with el-Sissi, not just among his Islamist foes but also among a broader section of the public.
Photos: Syria's Oldest Synagogue Destroyed by Assad - Josh Rogin (Daily Beast)
Syrian Army forces flattened the 400-year-old Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus over the weekend.
The area where the synagogue once stood has been under bombardment by Assad's forces for months.
Before the conflict, the synagogue held thousands of religious and cultural treasures, including hundreds-years-old Torah scrolls, historical texts, precious dining ware, and ancient Judaica.
All of the Jewish heritage items that remained inside the synagogue are feared lost.
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- Obama to Outline Strategy that Aims to Avoid Overreach Overseas - Julie Pace
President Barack Obama will make the case for a foreign policy strategy that aims to avoid overreach during a commencement address Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A White House official said Obama will argue that the U.S. remains the only nation capable of galvanizing action and will make the case that American power needs to be part of a sustainable international system. He will argue that his foreign policy philosophy is not isolationist, but rather "interventionist and internationalist."
Some foreign policy analysts argue that he has over-corrected and his aversion to military action makes it harder for the U.S. to levy credible threats that force international foes to change their behavior. "He's far too risk adverse a president," said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations. "And in a world where no one will lead except America, he has abdicated and surrendered much of the leadership." (AP-Newsday)
See also Obama Omits Mideast Peace Process in U.S. Foreign Policy Speech - Michael Wilner
In his foreign policy address at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama does not plan on discussing the Middle East peace process, sources said. His choice to completely omit the topic reflects how poorly negotiations went between the two sides over the course of nine months.
- Obama Close to Authorizing Military Training of Syrian Rebels - Adam Entous
President Barack Obama is close to authorizing a mission led by the U.S. military to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the regime and al-Qaeda-linked groups, a move that would significantly expand Washington's role in the conflict, U.S. officials said. A new military training program, if implemented, would supplement a small train-and-equip program led by the CIA that Obama authorized a year ago.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Syrian Rebels Describe U.S.-Backed Training in Qatar - Nancy A. Youssef
In a documentary broadcast on Tuesday on PBS, moderate Syrian rebels describe their clandestine journey to Turkey and then on to Qatar, where they received three weeks of training in how to conduct ambushes, conduct raids and use their weapons. The U.S. has stepped up the provision of lethal aid to the rebels. In recent months, at least five rebel units have posted videos showing their members firing U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles at Syrian positions.
"They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road," said one fighter. "They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush." (McClatchy)
- Hizbullah Chief Goads Israel, U.S. - Barbara Opall-Rome
Speaking on May 25 in the southern Lebanese Hizbullah stronghold of Bint Jebail, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah vowed to retain his organization's vast military arsenal in defense of Lebanon, Arabism and Islam. Nasrallah said the Iranian-backed organization is "improving its power" to confront Israel as well as American and Western governments seeking to topple Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Israeli intelligence estimates some 5,000 Hizbullah fighters are battling on behalf of Assad.
In a recent interview, a senior officer with command responsibility along Israel's northern border said Hizbullah is paying a high price in Lebanon in terms of lost domestic support and lost manpower as a result of its support of the Assad regime. "They're being blamed for bringing the violence and carnage of global Jihad into Lebanon," the officer said. (Defense News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu on Jerusalem Day: Jerusalem Will Stay Reunited
At a ceremony marking Jerusalem's reunification on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
"47 years ago, Jerusalem was reunified as a singular entity. That's how it's been and that's how it will always be....We take care of the nation's heart. We will never divide our heart. This is the heart of the nation and it must be united."
Israel marks the city's reunification with Jerusalem Day, which is celebrated every year on the Hebrew calendar date, Iyar 28, with parades, ceremonies, and celebrations around the country. Thousands flock to the Western Wall, which was part of the area reclaimed from Jordan in 1967.
See also Jerusalem: A City on the Rise - Nir Barkat
Jerusalem, the oldest new city in the world, is the heart and soul of Jewish people all over the globe and the spiritual center of the world for over three billion people of faith. Freedom of religion is strictly maintained in the city. In 2008, the annual number of tourists was less than 2 million. In 2013, we reached 4 million tourists. The writer is the mayor of the City of Jerusalem.
- Ya'alon: Turkey Not Yet Ready to Normalize Relations with Israel - Yaakov Lappin
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon expressed hope on Tuesday that relations with Turkey would go back to normal, despite a decision by a Turkish court to issue arrest warrants for senior Israeli former defense officials. "Unfortunately, the Turkish side is lacking readiness to resolve the issue, and this [court indictment] is part of a campaign taking place due to internal Turkish reasons." (Jerusalem Post)
- A Palestinian Terror Government - Zalman Shoval
According to unconfirmed reports from Washington, the U.S. intends to recognize the Palestinian unity government when it is established, even if Hamas does not accept the Quartet's conditions (recognition of Israel, cessation of terror and adherence to past Israeli-Palestinian agreements). The official excuse will be that the Palestinian government will be comprised of "technocrats," not political figures. This argument is not exactly convincing, as half of the ministers will be appointed by Hamas, a group that the U.S. itself has defined as a terrorist organization.
PLO and Fatah accepted, at least outwardly, certain rules and commitments, particularly regarding terrorism and violence, which enabled the ban on talking with them to be lifted. Hamas, on the other hand, has never forsworn terrorism. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
- The Pope's Holy-Land Trip Wasn't About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Emma Green
Even though Pope Francis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his trip wasn't about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was about Christians.
The Vatican emphasized that the purpose of the journey was a meeting between Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, the archbishop of Constantinople and primary leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians. Fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI spearheaded a meeting with Patriarch Athenagoras, marking the first time a Roman Catholic pontiff had met with an Eastern Orthodox patriarch since 1054.
In the declaration signed by Francis and Bartholomew, one theme stuck out: the prevention of Christian persecution. "We express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands," they said. "We especially pray for the churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events." (Atlantic)
Europe's Complacency in the Face of
Extremism and Anti-Semitism - Freddy Eytan (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The recent elections for the European Parliament illustrate the gradual breakdown of the "European Union" ideal in favor of a closed and inward-looking nationalism. Over a quarter of the members of the new parliament are active in neo-Nazi movements or parties fighting for the dissolution of the EU and the expulsion of foreign immigrants.
- There are two primary reasons for the political upheaval in Europe: a record number of abstentions and utter apathy, and a dangerous downswing in economic conditions, with 27 million unemployed.
- The success of the extremists in the European Parliament also derives from the fact that since Europe's international borders were opened, there has been a huge surge of millions of immigrants from North Africa, black Africa, and Eastern Europe. Brussels has a majority Muslim population and there are currently over 30 million Muslim immigrants in Western Europe alone.
- Recent years have seen an increase in anti-Semitic attacks. Since the 1980s there have been terrorist attacks against Jewish restaurants, schools, and synagogues, and Jewish cemeteries across Europe have been desecrated.
- Europe is consciously overlooking the fact that Enemy No. 1 is within it. Its name is Islamic Jihad. Instead of using all possible means to deter and uproot this most dangerous phenomenon, Europe chooses instead to occupy itself with the Palestinian problem and endless condemnation of Israeli government policy.
Amb. Freddy Eytan, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel's embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
See also Jerusalem Troubled by Rise of Far Right in European Election - Raphael Ahren
Jerusalem is worried about the results of this week's European Parliament elections, in which far right and even neo-Nazi parties drastically gained strength, a senior Israeli official said Monday. "Of course it's our business. We're talking about rise of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups who managed to get elected and gained institutional respectability and will be able to exert influence over policy-making," the official said. (Times of Israel)
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