Israel to Hold Knesset Elections on March 17 (Times of Israel)
Knesset faction leaders agreed on March 17, 2015, as the date for new elections, in a meeting with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday.
See also New Election Will Mute Calls for Israeli Concessions, Temporarily - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
As Israel heads to the polls again, pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks will ease.
"The countries seeking to recognize Palestine argue that their move is intended to exert pressure on Israel to make concessions. They know that this won't be effective in the middle of an Israeli election season," a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.
Iranian Hackers Attacked 50 Targets in 16 Countries - Nicole Perlroth (New York Times)
Iranian hackers were identified in a report released Tuesday as the source of coordinated attacks against more than 50 targets in 16 countries, many of them corporate and government entities that manage critical energy, transportation and medical services.
Over the course of two years, according to Cylance, a security firm based in Irvine, Calif., Iranian hackers stole confidential data and infiltrated computer networks to such an extent that they could take over, manipulate or easily destroy data on those machines.
Targeted countries included the U.S., Canada, Israel, India, Qatar, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, Germany, France, UK, China and South Korea.
After Joining IS, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis Expands Operations in Egypt (Al-Monitor)
In recent weeks, the terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has joined the Islamic State, has planted 21 bombs almost daily along several routes taken by the Egyptian army and security officials in northern Sinai.
The security services discovered and dismantled seven bombs, while 14 exploded. Six of the bombs killed four security men and wounded 24.
A researcher specializing in jihadist groups in Sinai explained: "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is increasingly using bombs because they are unable to face the Egyptian army, which is better equipped and larger."
China to Send Pandas to Haifa Zoo - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
The Chinese government has agreed to send a pair of pandas to the Haifa Educational Zoo in Israel.
Haifa zoo staff will fly to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to learn about the optimal living conditions and special diets of the pandas, which live almost exclusively on bamboo.
The zoo will construct a special compound for the bears before their arrival.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- French Parliament Votes to Recognize Palestinian State - John Irish
French lawmakers on Tuesday voted 339-151 to urge their government to recognize Palestine, a symbolic move that will not immediately affect France's diplomatic stance. Most Western European countries do not recognize Palestine as a state, supporting the Israeli and U.S. position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, "Israel believes that the vote...will only jeopardize the possibility of reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians....Such decisions only toughen the Palestinian positions and send a wrong message to the leaders and peoples of the region." (Reuters)
- UN Resolution: Israel Must Renounce Nuclear Arms - Alexandra Olson
The UN General Assembly voted 161-5 to approve an Arab-backed resolution Tuesday calling on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight. The U.S., Canada, Palau and Micronesia joined Israel in opposing the measure, while 18 countries abstained.
Israel has long argued that a full Palestinian-Israeli peace plan must precede any creation of a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel also argues that Iran's work on nuclear arms is the real regional threat.
U.S. representative Robert Wood said the measure "fails to meet the fundamental tests of fairness and balance. It confines itself to expressions of concern about the activities of a single country."
He warned that such resolutions only undermine prospects for progress.
- Houthi Advance in Yemen May Provoke Egyptian Intervention - Walaa Hussein
Egyptian experts predict that Egypt would intervene in the Yemen conflict to prevent the Houthis from gaining control of the strait of Bab al-Mandeb on the Red Sea. Retired Egyptian Maj. Gen. Hossam Sweilem told Al-Monitor, "Exactly as Iran controlled the power in Lebanon through the Shiite party Hizbullah, Iran is attempting to control the regime in Yemen through the Houthis, who are also Shiites."
"Egypt must anticipate and prepare to intervene militarily to prevent the Houthis closing the Bab al-Mandeb strait because it would put it under the control of Iran - like the Strait of Hormuz [in the Persian Gulf]. This would have negative effects on the Suez Canal and would make it a battle of life or death for Egypt." (Al-Monitor)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Ya'alon: Iranian Regime Has to Be Stopped - Yaakov Lappin
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told visiting Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes on Tuesday that "Iran remains the central element leading to instability in the Middle East. In one way or another, this regime has to be stopped, not only in the nuclear matter. This is a hostile regime that challenges the West here in the region, and instigates terrorism everywhere, not just against Israel but against Western interests all over the world."
Any agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 powers has to tackle Iran's "support of terrorism, the military dimensions of the nuclear project and the missiles," Ya'alon said. "The West has the ability to deal with this messianic regime. This can be done by increasing sanctions." (Jerusalem Post)
- International Red Cross Official: World Holds Israel to Legal Double Standard - Yonah Jeremy Bob
Jacques De Maio, head of the International Red Cross in Israel and the Palestinian areas, said Tuesday that the world was holding Israel to a double standard when it came to war crimes allegations.
"Why is there so much more focus on Israel than on Syria [and] other places where many more civilians are dying?" he asked at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, pointing out that "in other ongoing wars, more civilians die in one week than in Israeli wars in a full year." (Jerusalem Post)
- Egypt Seeks Russian S-300VM Air Defense System - Zvi Magen and Yiftah Shapir
Egypt and Russia are holding talks on the purchase of the S-300VM air defense system.
The S-300V system was developed in the 1980s for the Soviet land forces, and all its components are mounted on tracked vehicles.
This system should not be confused with the various models of the S-300 system (S-300P) which were offered at one time to Iran and Syria.
However, the air defense system is considered to be of a higher quality than the systems previously supplied to the Middle East.
Egypt today is not in conflict with Israel, yet entry of such systems into the region could have precedent-setting consequences.
Concluding the deal with Egypt helps improve Russia's standing internationally. It may also serve as an example for other countries in the Middle East and thereby challenge U.S. interests in the region.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Hizbullah's Syria Problem - Matthew Levitt
Hizbullah desperately wants to avoid a full-blown military conflict with Israel right now and is limiting its attacks on Israel to small roadside bombs along the Lebanese border and attacks by local proxies on the Golan Heights. Israeli military officials point to 15 such attacks since March.
Hizbullah is heavily occupied fighting Sunnis both in Syria, where it has already lost as many as a thousand experienced fighters, and increasingly at home in Lebanon.
However, Hizbullah's use of local proxies and terrorist operatives dispatched around the world is likely to increase in frequency and, as U.S. counterterrorism officials have warned, these plots may not be limited to targeting Israeli interests alone.
The writer is director of the program on counterterrorism and intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Lawfare in the Wake of the Gaza War - Peter Berkowitz
Last summer Hamas launched another round of warfare against Israel. In the wake of that 50-day military conflict, international actors are launching another round of "lawfare" against Israel. In theory, calling Israel to account seeks to safeguard human rights and uphold international law. In practice, it criminalizes Israel's right to defend itself and abuses key principles of international law.
Also, by rewarding Hamas, which commits the double war crime of militarizing urban areas in Gaza and targeting civilian populations in Israel, the lawfare aimed at Israel incentivizes terrorism and weakens the ability of the U.S. and the West to defend themselves. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Blacklisting of Pro-Israel Watchdog NGO Monitor by the Associated Press - David Bernstein (Washington Post)
- Former AP journalist Matti Friedman's article for Tablet this past summer about how the media frames the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians provides a rare insider perspective from someone who actually worked for a major media company's Jerusalem bureau. Friedman is back with an even more revealing article in The Atlantic. He ruminates about how many Israel correspondents act not as objective journalists, but as part of a class of mostly foreign elites who have taken up the Palestinian cause.
- The Associated Press, according to Friedman, actually banned its journalists from interviewing Gerald Steinberg, an American-Israeli professor who runs the watchdog organization NGO Monitor out of Jerusalem. "In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor."
- Steinberg and NGO Monitor are huge players in the debate over the role NGOs play in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and have been particularly effective in revealing how many NGOs in both Israel and the territories that are hostile to Israel's existence receive the bulk of their funding from European governments.
- I've been following NGO Monitor for years, and have yet to see the organization tell any lies or make any significant errors, which is much more than one can say for, e.g., Human Rights Watch and other anti-Israel organizations routinely relied upon by the media as objective sources.
The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law.
See also Imagining Racism to Demonize Israel
Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is funded heavily by foreign governments, promotes a database of discriminatory Israeli laws that has been cited in the New York Times. As noted by Ha'aretz columnist Mira Sucharov: "I took a closer look at the list...one refers to the use of the Menorah on the Israeli stamp; another mentions the use of the Hebrew date in government correspondence; and a third cites the Star of David on Israel's flag. By this reasoning, the flags of Denmark, Sweden and Iceland are 'discriminatory' against non-Christians."
Adalah claims that laws benefiting those who completed military service discriminate against Arabs, ignoring the fact that thousands of Arabs, including Bedouin and Druze, serve in the armed forces and are allotted the same benefits package as other veterans. The database repeatedly misquotes and misconstrues laws, while 44 of the 101 items were proposals that never became law.
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