Australia Drops "Occupied" from References to Israeli Settlements (Australian Associated Press-Guardian-UK)
The Australian government has ruled out using the term "occupied" when describing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, suggesting a shift in its foreign policy.
Attorney general George Brandis, speaking on behalf of the minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, said, "The description of East Jerusalem as 'occupied' East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful."
"It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language."
Syria Islamist Eclipsing Al-Qaeda's Zawahiri as Jihadi Leader (AFP)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), appears to be surpassing al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri as the world's most influential jihadist.
"For the last 10 years or more, (Zawahiri) has been holed up in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and hasn't really done very much more than issue a few statements and videos," said Richard Barrett, a former counter-terrorism chief at MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service.
"Whereas Baghdadi has done an amazing amount - he has captured cities, he has mobilized huge amounts of people, he is killing ruthlessly throughout Iraq and Syria."
King's College London Professor Peter Neumann estimates that 80% of the 3,000 Western fighters in Syria have joined the ISIL.
Video: Rolling Stones Play Tel Aviv - Stelli Solomonov (Ynet News)
The Rolling Stones took the stage in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park on Wednesday for their first concert in Israel before 50,000 fans.
See also Mick Jagger's Top 12 Hebrew Phrases - David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
Israeli NGO Designs Kid-Friendly Wheelchair - Miles Rosenblatt (No Camels-Israeli Innovation News)
The Israeli NGO "Wheelchairs of Hope" has designed an affordable wheelchair built especially for children.
"The current wheelchairs available for kids are merely adult wheelchairs, just reduced in size," said Pablo Kaplan, co-creator of the project.
Kaplan teamed up with Israel's Ziv-Av Engineering and Nekuda Design Management to reinvent the children's wheelchair.
"The results at ALYN rehabilitation hospital were fabulous. It was very emotional for us because when the children moved from a traditional chair to ours, they didn't want to give it back."
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- Obama Administration Seeks to Bridge Rift with Israel over Palestinian Unity Government - Anne Gearan
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Tuesday defended the willingness of the U.S. to recognize and fund a new Palestinian government affiliated with Hamas. She stressed that the announced lineup of ministers includes none who are members of the militant Palestinian group that has advocated Israel's destruction. "They are all technocrats, unaffiliated with any political party, and are responsible for facilitating new elections," Harf said.
Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, wrote on his Facebook page:
"Had Hamas changed, it would be one thing. But Hamas hasn't changed. It remains as committed to Israel's destruction today as it was yesterday."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told AP: "All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas' embrace of Hamas, and most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas...is simply unacceptable."
Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and a foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, said any international move that legitimizes Hamas is a dangerous mistake.
"I don't think that people in Washington understand the depth of Israel's disappointment over the decision to support this government," Gold said.
"Hamas isn't just a terror organization....Hamas is an organization that has adopted an agenda to annihilate Jews." (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Has Been Speaking to Hamas through Back Channels for More than Six Months - Sheera Frenkel
U.S. officials have been holding secret back-channel talks with Hamas over the last six months, according to senior American and Palestinian diplomatic officials.
The meetings were held between U.S. intermediaries and Hamas' leadership, which lives outside the Gaza Strip, in third-party countries.
During the talks, Hamas gave assurances including a commitment to maintaining a ceasefire with Israel. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denied there was any such back channel.
- Iran's Leader Says Obama Has Removed Military Option - Thomas Erdbrink
Speaking from a stage decorated with a banner proclaiming "America cannot do a damn thing," Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday asserted that the Obama administration had taken the option of military intervention to resolve conflicts off the table. A "military attack is not a priority for Americans now," he concluded. "They have renounced the idea of any military actions," he said, reacting to President Obama's speech last week at West Point, in which he asserted that the U.S. had other ways of carrying out foreign policy besides military force.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Lawmakers: Aid to Palestinians Must Be Reviewed - Michael Wilner
On Capitol Hill, reaction to the formation of a Palestinian unity government unified congressmen from across party lines. U.S. aid to the Palestinians must be reviewed, lawmakers said with one voice.
Leaders of every relevant committee agreed that laws passed by Congress since 2006 require a cut in aid should Hamas play a role in the Palestinian government. The legislation ties the delivery of aid not to the formal appointment of Hamas officials, but on involvement of Hamas in the government.
- U.S. Missed an Opportunity to Push for Reform of Hamas - David Horovitz
Mere hours after PA President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a government backed by the Islamic extremist Hamas group, the U.S. State Department declared that it would work with the new government because it "does not include members affiliated with Hamas," although the ministers were all approved by Hamas.
Rather than rushing to embrace a Palestinian government in which an unreformed Hamas is a central component, what was to stop the U.S. conditioning its acceptance on a reform of Hamas? What was to stop Washington saying that it would be happy to work with Abbas' new government, the moment its Hamas backers recognized Israel, accepted previous agreements and renounced terrorism?
The peace process has collapsed and Israel is getting a disproportionate amount of the blame. Hamas, committed to the obliteration of Israel, is now part of an internationally recognized Palestinian government. And the P5+1 nations, led by the U.S., are working toward a deal that will enshrine Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities. Israel may not be a perfect ally, but we deserve better than this.
(Times of Israel)
- State Department Winks at Palestinian Merger with Hamas Terror Group - Editorial
The 1988 Hamas Charter explicitly commits the Palestinian terror group to murdering Jews. Thanks to the formation this week of an interim government uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. supports to the tune of more than $400 million a year, the American taxpayer may soon become an indirect party to that enterprise. U.S. law prohibits dispensing taxpayer money to any Palestinian entity over which Hamas exercises "undue influence."
The Oslo Accords and its progeny, including the 1998 Wye Memorandum, set very clear limits on the extent and potency of the PA arsenal. Under the Wye Memorandum, the PA is required to "establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of" illegal weapons. Nobody should count on Abbas to exercise meaningful control over Hamas' arsenal, much less its behavior.
(Wall Street Journal)
- The New York Times and Israel - Gilead Ini
There is a double standard at the New York Times that flows from its practice of advocacy journalism that strains to downplay the Palestinian Authority's share of responsibility for the conflict while slurring the Jewish state. In the paper's news pages during one recent month, Israeli leaders are said to be "shrill," "stubborn," "strident," "abrasive" and "cynical," while PA leaders are "moderate" and "conciliatory." The writer is a senior research analyst at CAMERA and co-author with Ricki Hollander of the six-month study, Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.
- Taking Iran's Anti-Semitism Seriously - Jeffrey Herf
Radical, theologically based hatred of Judaism, Zionism, and the State of Israel is part of the core ideological beliefs of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran's radical anti-Semitism is a paranoid conspiracy theory that claims that the powerful and evil "Jew" is the driving force in global politics.
Iran is the first government since Hitler's in which anti-Semitism constitutes a central element of its identity. An Iran with nuclear weapons would thus be the first government since Hitler's to be both willing and able to threaten a second Holocaust. A close and honest look at the beliefs of Iran's leaders would undermine the hope that the Islamic Republic is actually a normal, rational actor in world affairs.
The writer is Distinguished University Professor of history at the University of Maryland.
The Reconciliation Agreement Allows Hamas to Re-enter the West Bank - Ehud Yaari (Times of Israel)
- Hamas leaders have now changed tack toward transplanting the Hizbullah model from Lebanon to the Palestinian territories. This means integrating into the general political system while retaining independent, well-equipped armed forces and striving to maintain control of Gaza through its existing grip on local bureaucracy, its wide network of social institutions, and its 20,000 well-trained military cadres and security personnel.
- Outgoing Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh described the new formula best, declaring this week: "We leave the government but stay in power....We give up the chair but not the role we play."
The group's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades will not be disarmed or come under any PA supervision and will continue to grow as a powerful "resistance."
- Hamas seems determined to exploit the reconciliation agreement as a means of resuscitating its political organization and clandestine terrorist activities in the West Bank.
The revival of open Hamas activities in the West Bank is affecting the PA's security organs, whose officers no longer intervene in Hamas gatherings.
- Hamas' resurgence in the West Bank is especially noted in the refugee camps outside the main cities.
By this time next year Hamas could have a solid foothold in the West Bank and a veto power over PA and PLO decisions.
- Western countries quick to endorse the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation should be aware of what is really happening here: Instead of the PA regaining its "southern provinces" in Gaza, it is in fact Hamas re-entering the "northern provinces" in the West Bank.
The writer is an International Fellow with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.
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