Merkel: Germany Has a "Special Obligation to Support Israel" - Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (Bloomberg)
Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Germany's sale of weapons to Israel, saying her country has a responsibility to help protect the Jewish state given that 6 million Jews died under the Nazi regime in World War II.
"We sell weapons to Israel because we believe that Israel must defend itself and is often attacked," Merkel said Tuesday in Berlin.
"We also believe that Germany has a special obligation to support Israel."
Hizbullah Has Moved into Southern Lebanon Villages - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
Muhaybib looks like a typical southern Lebanese village - a cluster of 90 houses and buildings punctuated by the minaret of a mosque.
But when the Israeli military trains its lens on that Shiite village close to the border, it sees nine arms depots, five rocket-launching sites, four infantry positions, signs of three underground tunnels, three antitank positions and a Hizbullah command post in the center of the village.
Maps and aerial photography provided to the New York Times by Israeli military officials this week illustrate that Hizbullah has moved most of its military infrastructure into the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon.
Israel says this amounts to using the civilians as a human shield. But when the next war breaks out, Israel will not hesitate to strike at those targets.
"The civilians are living in a military compound," a senior Israeli military official said.
"While making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can, we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks."
Evidence to Indict Assad for War Crimes Smuggled Out of Syria - Julian Borger (Guardian-UK)
A three-year operation to smuggle official documents out of Syria has produced enough evidence to indict President Bashar al-Assad and 24 senior members of his regime for war crimes, according to the Western-funded Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA).
The prosecution cases against the Syrian leaders focus on their role in the suppression of the protests that triggered the conflict in 2011. Tens of thousands of suspected dissidents were detained, and many of them were tortured and killed in the Syrian prison system.
The CIJA's findings are based primarily on captured documentary evidence. It has accumulated half a million pages of orders and reports sent up and down the chain of command ordering mass arrests and detentions.
The CIJA is also conducting a separate investigation into war crimes committed by extremist opposition groups.
Report: Iranians and Russians Trapped in Syrian Government Hospital Attacked by Rebels (Middle East Eye-UK)
Syrian rebels entered a hospital complex in Jisr al-Shughur
in northwestern Syria on Sunday, where 250 government loyalists have been trapped for two weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
On social media, there have been unverifiable suggestions that some of the officers inside the hospital are Iranian and Russian.
Boycott? What Boycott? - Lars Faaborg-Andersen (Ynet News)
In 1996, Israel joined the EU's R&D Framework Program, the only non-European country to be fully associated with it.
During the FP7 framework program (2007-2013), close to 2,000 Israeli researchers participated in 1,612 projects that received a total of 875.08 million euros.
The writer is the EU ambassador to Israel.
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- U.S. to Remain Vigilant Against Iran's "Reckless Behavior," Obama Tells Arab Newspaper - Michael D. Shear
"Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism," President Obama said in written answers submitted to Asharq Al-Awsat and published Tuesday in English and Arabic. "It helps prop up the Assad regime in Syria. It supports Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen. So countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran's activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations."
Obama said the U.S. would remain "vigilant against Iran's other reckless behavior" in the region by maintaining a military presence and helping Gulf nations to deter aggression. "We've continued to fully enforce sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism and its ballistic missile program - and we will enforce these sanctions going forward, even if we reach a nuclear deal with Iran." (New York Times)
See also Gen. Dempsey: Beyond Nuclear Issue, U.S. Has Five Other Issues with Iran
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said Thursday:
"There's about six things that concern me about Iran's behavior: one of which is the nuclear issue. And I'm certainly supportive of the efforts to try to resolve that one diplomatically, but we'll have other issues with Iran, whether it's surrogates and proxies, weapons trafficking, ballistic missile development, cyber activity, and on occasion, their effort to threaten freedom of navigation." (U.S. Department of Defense)
- UN Nuke Agency Head: Deal Gives IAEA Right to Access Iranian Military Sites - George Jahn
International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said Tuesday that a nuclear agreement being worked on by Tehran and six world powers would give his experts the right to push for access to Iranian military sites.
Amano said Iran specifically agreed to implement the agency's "Additional Protocol" when it agreed to the outlines of the deal now being worked on.
The protocol would allow agency inspectors much more access than they have now to follow up on suspicions of undeclared Iranian nuclear activities or equipment.
"In many other countries from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?" he said. "If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it." Amano said the agency can request access, clarification or a "short-notice inspection" anytime "there is any inconsistency (or) abnormality" to what Iran has declared as its nuclear work or assets.
- ICC Urges Israel to Give Material for Preliminary Gaza Probe
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said in an interview that she hasn't received any information yet from either side regarding last summer's Gaza war and urged Israel and the Palestinians to provide information to her. Bensouda opened a preliminary examination of the war in January.
She said the prosecutor's office will analyze the information to determine whether four criteria are met: Do the crimes come under ICC jurisdiction? Are there any national legal proceedings dealing with those crimes, which could take precedence over ICC action? Are the crimes grave enough to warrant the intervention of the world's permanent war crimes tribunal? Will it not be against the interest of justice if the ICC intervenes?
"It's really difficult to say this is going to take two months or three months, or one year or 10 years," Bensouda said, noting that in Afghanistan the preliminary probe has already taken 10 years.
See also The Gaza War 2014:
The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted - Hirsh Goodman and Dore Gold, eds. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Top Member of U.S. Negotiating Team: Most West Bank Housing Tenders Announced During Peace Talks Were on Land Abbas Agreed Would Remain Israeli - Herb Keinon
David Makovsky, a member of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's negotiating team, told a conference at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on Tuesday that
during nine months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2014, 62% of Israel's publicly announced tenders for housing beyond the Green Line were earmarked for the 1.9% of West Bank land that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had once consented would remain in Israel's hands.
Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that Israel was more "geographically cautious" with settlement announcements during the negotiating period than many realize, but this fact was not made public for political reasons. In 2008 Abbas reportedly offered a 1.9% land swap, apparently involving the area where most of the housing tenders were announced during the negotiations.
- Israel Says Unauthorized Boats Will Be Denied Entry as Gaza Flotillas Begin Again - Herb Keinon
Israel will not allow unauthorized boats to enter its territorial waters, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday as a trawler left Sweden Sunday intending to break the legal naval blockade of Gaza. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that "if the so-called helpful Gaza flotillas were really interested in the welfare of the population in Gaza, they would send their aid via Israel. The fact that they insist on a flotilla demonstrates this is an unnecessary provocation." He added that Israel is committed to humanitarian aid to Gaza and that such aid goes through Israel to the Strip on a regular basis. (Jerusalem Post)
- Defending the Gulf States from Iran - Editorial
We can expect a new round of arms sales to the Gulf. The pace of Arab purchases, up 50% in the last year alone to $18 billion, along with the types of weapons they are buying, says something about their assessment of the threat they face.
One idea is to extend U.S. defense guarantees, perhaps including the U.S. nuclear umbrella, to the Gulf.
Such guarantees would put the U.S. on the hook for the defense of regimes such as Qatar, which sponsors Hamas and has links to the jihadist Nusrah Front in Syria.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also What the U.S. Will Not Offer the Gulf States - Editorial
What's not on offer to Persian Gulf leaders is what the kings and emirs say they want, including a formal defense treaty, sales of high-tech weaponry like the F-35 warplane, and greater U.S. support for the forces fighting the Iranians and their proxies in Yemen and Syria. Mr. Obama is right to resist some of these demands. Congress would surely look askance at a treaty committing the U.S. to the defense of Doha or arms sales that put Saudi Arabia on a par with Israel.
See also Bolstering Arab Nations Must Not Undermine Israel's Security - Zalman Shoval
Washington has vowed that bolstering the Arab nations' military abilities will not undermine Israel's strategic qualitative edge, but history has taught us that this promise is not without its weak spots. The U.S.'s strategic considerations do not have to account for threats from Canada or Mexico, but Israel does not have the luxury of dismissing Middle East dynamics, even when it concerns countries with which it has peace treaties - and especially with regards to a pan-Arab army that includes nations with which such treaties do not exist. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- World Must Rein In Iran Before Inking Deal - Editorial
A deal with Iran over its nuclear program will focus almost entirely on the International Atomic Energy Agency being given unrestricted access to nuclear sites. It will not take account of Iran's deadly meddling in the Middle East. It will not commit the government in Tehran to restoring friendly relations with its neighbors in the Gulf.
Iran is suffering badly from the international sanctions imposed upon it. Popular discontent is rising. The government in Tehran is desperate for the lifting of sanctions. The minute they end, all chance of curbing Tehran's misbehavior in the region is gone.
It has to be suspected that the 12 long years of talks were all about buying time for Iranian nuclear scientists.
Forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program was never the key issue. The wider issue is convincing Iran to revert to being a good neighbor. Thus, reaching a wide agreement based on a commitment not to interfere in the affairs of other states is crucial.
The nuclear deal therefore needs to be recast. Tehran needs to be convinced that its tragic regional interference must end. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Netanyahu: Israel Is the Focus of Modern Anti-Semitism (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the 5th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism on Tuesday:
- Seventy years ago, with the end of World War II and the revelation of the horrors of the Holocaust, some believed that humanity would discard one of history's oldest hatreds - anti-Semitism. Yet today there is no doubt that we are living in an age of resurgent anti-Semitism. Now, contemporary anti-Semitism doesn't just slander, vilify and target the Jewish people. It first and foremost today targets the Jewish state.
- The big lie of anti-Semitism is propagated most enthusiastically by those who trample on the human rights of their own people.
Iran will lecture us on human rights, on the rule of law, on safeguarding human decency? They string up innocent people on cranes in the squares of Tehran and Iran's other cities. They send their goons to Lebanon, to Syria, to Yemen, slaughtering people by the thousands. They slaughter Muslims who do not share their violent creed.
- The Hamas Charter repeats the ancient libels against the Jews. It openly calls for the murder of Jews wherever they are and for the destruction of their state.
The same can be said of Hizbullah and for their common patron, Iran.
- The classic anti-Semite portrayed the Jews as the embodiment of all evil in the world.
Modern anti-Semites portray the Jewish state as the embodiment of all evil in the world.
When Hamas and Hizbullah rocketed our cities - a war crime - tens of thousands demonstrated in the streets of European capitals, not against Hamas, not against Hizbullah, but against Israel. The demonstrations, the boycotts, the resolutions are all reserved for the Middle East's one true democracy - Israel.
- There is something fundamentally wrong that this slander is reserved for the one country in the region where the death penalty is not even used against the most gruesome terrorist murderers, the one country that holds human rights sacrosanct, where equality is protected under the law - for women, for Christians, for minorities, for all.
- I don't know if we'll be able to eradicate the scourge of anti-Semitism. I know we have to fight it. If you don't fight it, these fires of anti-Semitism eventually spread and they consume everyone.
So for the sake of decency, for the sake of our common humanity, for the sake of our common future, we must all continue to stand up and fight anti-Semitism.
See also Video: Prime Minister Netanyahu's Speech at Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism (Prime Minister's Office)
See also "International Community Should Criminalize Double Standards Against Israel as Anti-Semitism" - Sam Sokol
The international community should criminalize anti-Semitism and establish a multilateral body to monitor it, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal adviser Amb. Alan Baker asserted on Monday in the text of a draft international convention. In 2013, Baker drafted a similar document banning inciting terrorism, which was promoted at the UN.
According to Baker, any manifestation of anti-Semitism that results in violence or is meant to incite violence should be considered a crime under international law. He defined anti-Semitism as including Holocaust denial; expressions of hostility or demonstrations of violence toward Jews individually or as a religious, ethnic or racial collective; and the use of "sinister stereotypes" and conspiracy theories "charging Jews with conspiring to harm humanity" and justifying the killing or harming of Jews.
See also Draft International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Anti-Semitism - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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