Pope Francis: "Not Recognizing Israel as Jewish Is Anti-Semitic" - Avi Lewis (Times of Israel)
Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman on Thursday quoted Pope Francis as saying that "anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel - and their right to exist - is guilty of anti-Semitism."
Nusra Front Leader in Syria Calls for Hizbullah's Ouster from Lebanon - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
Abu Mohammed al-Golani, head of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, told Al-Jazeera on Wednesday: "The defeat of Hizbullah is only a matter of time. Once Bashar Assad falls, [Hizbullah] will move south. Even its position in the Dhahiyeh [Beirut's southern suburb and a Hizbullah stronghold] will become tenuous. This will happen without us even intervening in Lebanon."
Golani then called on "all parties in Lebanon" to participate in Hizbullah's ouster.
The word "Israel" was not uttered by Golani even once during the entire interview.
Man Arrested in Cyprus Suspected of Planning Terror Attack Against Israelis (Reuters)
Cypriot police suspect a Lebanese-born man with a Canadian passport, whom they arrested on May 27, of planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island after they found almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in his basement, local newspapers reported on Friday.
Authorities were investigating his links to Hizbullah.
Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Israelis and the island hosts an Israeli embassy in Nicosia.
Islamic State-Linked Terrorists in Sinai Threaten to Attack Eilat - Yasser Okbi (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
According to Egyptian media reports, the Islamist group Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, on Thursday "threatened to strike the Eilat port, following coordination with Islamic State's wing in the Gaza Strip."
In addition, the call by Abu Othman al-Mosley on the Sinai Province Facebook page urged Islamic State-aligned terrorists in Sinai to "make their way to the Gaza Strip to fight against Hamas' military branch, Izzadin Kassam, and take over control of the Strip."
Islamic State Shoots Dead 20 in Ancient Palmyra Amphitheater (Reuters)
After taking control of the Syrian city of Palmyra last week, Islamic State militants on Wednesday "executed around 20 men in the Roman amphitheater and called people to watch," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The city's 2,000-year-old ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
National Home Front Exercise to Test Israel's War Readiness - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
A nationwide Home Front Command military exercise will commence next Sunday and continue through Thursday throughout Israel.
The exercise will simulate
a multi-front war, meaning simultaneous rocket barrages from southern Lebanon and Gaza, with damage to essential strategic sites such as seaports and airports, power stations, and water facilities.
The exercise will also incorporate large-scale terror attacks.
UN: 22,000 Fighters from 100 Countries in Syria and Iraq - Gedalyah Reback (Times of Israel)
A UN Security Council report released last week says that up to 22,000 recruits from over 100 countries are in Syria and Iraq.
Several countries are now home to 1,000 or more returned fighters, including Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and France.
Video: Robert Wistrich Addresses Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Prof. Robert Wistrich, Head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and one of the speakers at the 5th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, died several days later in Rome on May 19.
He was scheduled to address the Italian Senate on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Michael Khoury: Israeli Arab Promotes Trade in Canada - Paul Lungen (Canadian Jewish News)
Michael Khoury is Israel's trade consul to Canada. A Christian Arab, he hails from Shfar'am, near Haifa.
He said in an interview in May, "The Arabs are a minority in Israel and the Christians are a minority inside the minority. We are 20% of the Arab minority."
"It's very important to be part of Israel. We want to be a part in every aspect, in representing the country abroad, and professionally and personally. I feel really part of Israel...and I talk to people as an Israeli."
"I think it even makes it interesting for people to see something different, that somebody who's not Jewish is representing the State of Israel. It surprises people in a positive way. I think it's good. There are a few people like that, representing Israel abroad, mainly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
Credit Card Giant Visa Opens Israeli R&D Center - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
International credit card and finance firm Visa is opening a start-up R&D center in Israel, said David Page, co-creator and innovation partner at Visa Europe Collab.
"Four Israeli companies - Zooz, Prontoly, Payitsimple and MyCheck - have already entered the Visa Europe Collab innovation pipeline and more fresh and exciting concepts are coming through the door every day," he said.
MyCheck, for example, has developed an app that allows users to pay bills at restaurants, bars, hotels, and other places of entertainment using their smartphones - turning the smartphone into a kind of credit card.
Visa joins MasterCard, which has been working in Israel for over four years.
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- Pentagon Plans to Directly Arm Sunni Fighters in Iraq vs. ISIS - Kristina Wong
After Sunni tribal fighters faced an embarrassing defeat by the Islamic State last week in Ramadi, they complained that they had not received payment or any U.S. military equipment from the central government. The Pentagon now has plans to provide military equipment directly to Sunni tribal fighters, a Defense Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday, a shift from its current policy to provide the equipment only through the central government in Baghdad. (The Hill)
- U.S. Allies Not Waiting for Iran's Sanctions to Come Down - David R. Sands
Already a number of countries - including some key U.S. allies - are lining up partners and announcing deals for the day when economic and financial sanctions against Tehran are lifted.
Italian oil executives visit Tehran. French farmers and fisheries discuss technological exchanges. Pakistan prepares to lay down a major oil pipeline through Iran, while India opens talks about developing a major port in the Gulf of Oman.
The enthusiasm for deals could prove a political headache for the Obama administration, which has insisted that current sanctions could quickly "snap back" into effect if Tehran was caught cheating. (Washington Times)
- Israel Appeals to World to Oversee Gaza Rehabilitation
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called upon the international community to establish a body to oversee rehabilitation in Gaza.
"I call on all the nations of the world to come and see how we can formulate an international initiative which will improve the lives and conditions of the residents of Gaza," the president said on Wednesday. Rivlin said the rehabilitation of Gaza is "in our interest," adding that a rehabilitation initiative must take into account "the non-negotiable condition that Gaza will not be used as a front to attack Israel at any given moment." (Indo Asian News Service)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Backs "General Idea" behind Arab Peace Initiative - Raphael Ahren
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he welcomed the general idea behind the Arab Peace Initiative - a regional agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states.
The Arab Peace Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, has many problematic aspects to it, the prime minister said, such as its call for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinians refuges to Israel.
"This initiative is 13 years old, and the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed. But the general idea - to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries - is a good idea." Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that given Iran's nuclear and regional aspirations, the moderate Arab states and Israel have a common enemy and grounds for increased cooperation.
(Times of Israel)
See also The Arab Peace Initiative - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Netanyahu: Israel Seeks "a Demilitarized Palestinian State that Recognizes the Jewish State" - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, briefing diplomatic reporters on Thursday, said that any agreement with the Palestinians would necessitate a long-term Israeli presence throughout the West Bank. He said that the real question is not where the borders will be, but, rather, "what will be on the other side of that border." "Who will be in charge of the security in areas where Israel leaves?"
When he is assured by various international interlocutors that Israel's security needs will be taken care of, he asks, "by whom?...Who will deal with the tunnels? Who will prevent the smuggling of weapons? Who will prevent the manufacturing of weapons?...My position remains a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state." (Jerusalem Post)
- UN Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict Wants IDF on Blacklist - Itamar Eichner
The UN secretary-general's envoy for Children and Armed Conflict recommended this week to include the IDF on a blacklist of countries and organizations accused of regularly causing harm to children. The blacklist includes al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Taliban.
Israel has warned Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that such a move will have far-reaching repercussions on Israel-UN relations.
A senior Israel Foreign Ministry official said:
"There are unfortunately a lot of situations in which children are killed in zones of conflict and yet no one dares put them on the list. Do you know how many kids the Saudis have killed while bombing Yemen? I want to see the UN secretary-general's Algerian envoy dare to include Saudi Arabia on the list." (Ynet News)
- The Crisis of the Assad Regime - Jeffrey White
Regular Syrian army units and irregular units alike appear to lack offensive spirit and are even showing signs of halfhearted defense. Even strong defensive positions such as Wadi Daif and Hamadiya and the Mastumah military camp in Idlib province have fallen surprisingly quickly. Regime units such as Republican Guard formations, the "Tiger Force," and the "Desert Hawks" are still capable of serious fighting, but these represent less than 10% of Syrian forces and have only a limited capability to affect the broad military situation.
While the regime still enjoys advantages in terms of aircraft, heavy armor, and artillery, opposition forces are now heavily armed with weapons taken from regime forces and some key systems (e.g., antitank guided missiles) provided from external sources.
Regime military capabilities are on the decline. Intervention by its allies has prevented this trend from becoming fatal, but that may be unsustainable. U.S. policymakers are given to saying the Syrian conflict has no military solution, but in fact such a "solution" is emerging.
The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Rumors of the Assad Regime's Demise Are Overstated - Phillip Smyth
Rumors of the Assad regime's impending demise are greatly overstated.
Iranian-backed foreign-fighter recruitment and deployment have increased dramatically. Early in 2014, the deployment of pro-Assad foreign fighters hit a significant snag when thousands of Iraqi Shiite militiamen started returning to Iraq following the Islamic State's gains there. However, Hizbullah soon picked up the slack.
Hizbullah's military deployments within Syria have expanded along with its increased numbers. Following the melting of the winter snows, Hizbullah launched a major offensive in the Qalamoun region. Since May 1, it has announced the deaths of 35 of its fighters.
- Hizbullah's Desperate Recruiting Drive - Myra Abdallah
Hizbullah has been losing ground in Syria. According to the Lebanese Al-Modon, in pro-Hizbullah circles, "words are being whispered about great losses. Some people have gone even further and said that the size of losses in Syria exceeds the total losses incurred by the party since the beginning of its conflict with the enemy [Israel] in 1982." Consequently, Hizbullah has started to take unusual measures, recruiting heavily, including teenagers, to uphold its Syrian front. Several Bekaa Valley residents confirmed that a lot of young men have joined Hizbullah's military specifically for the money, with amounts ranging between $500 and $2,000.
- Hizbullah's War of Survival - Zvi Bar'el
Hizbullah is trying to recruit Palestinians from refugee camps to fight in Syria for $400 a month. At the same time there are reports of weakening discipline in Hizbullah ranks, weapon thefts and a massive transfer of Hizbullah money to European banks. Iran reportedly intends to investigate what happened to the huge financial assistance it has given Hizbullah.
See also Hizbullah in Syria: Plan B or a Quagmire - Joyce Karam (Al-Arabiya)
- Why There Is No Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process - Michael Doran
Every informed observer knows there is no chance of moving Israel-Palestinian relations forward in the next two years - and also that, what with the Arab and Muslim Middle East exploding in violence, Benjamin Netanyahu is hardly the only skeptic in Israel when it comes to advancing a two-state solution any time soon. Had Isaac Herzog, the leader of Israel's main opposition party, won the election in March, the prospects of reaching such a compromise solution would have remained the same as under Netanyahu: that is, next to nil.
Let's not forget that, back in April 2014, it wasn't the Israeli government that put the final nail in the coffin of the American initiative to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu, for his part, grudgingly accepted the Americans' draft framework agreement; Mahmoud Abbas refused. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.
- Hamas Rockets Killed More Civilians in Gaza than They Did in Israel - Evelyn Gordon
A March report by Amnesty International on Hamas rocket fire during last summer's war in Gaza notes that Hamas rockets killed more civilians in Gaza than they did in Israel. Altogether, Amnesty said, the rockets killed six Israeli civilians and "at least" 13 Palestinian civilians. That figure came from a single misfired rocket that killed 13 civilians in the Al-Shati refugee camp. In other words, Amnesty didn't bother checking to see whether other Hamas rockets also killed civilians; it simply cited the one case it couldn't possibly ignore.
But according to Israel Defense Forces figures, 550 rockets and mortars fired at Israel fell short and landed in Gaza, including 119 that hit urban areas. It defies belief to think those other 549 rockets and mortars produced no casualties. Since Gaza has no warning sirens or bomb shelters, those misfired rockets almost certainly killed dozens, and quite possibly hundreds, of civilians. (Commentary)
See also Hamas Used Gaza's Main Hospital as a Detention, Interrogation and Torture Center - Elhanan Miller
According to a report by Amnesty International released Tuesday,
Hamas used abandoned sections of Gaza's main hospital, Shifa, "to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects." (Times of Israel)
- After Abbas, An Abyss:
The Palestinian Succession Crisis - Ghaith al-Omari and Neri Zilber
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently turned 80 and is known to be an industrious smoker. His successor by law is the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas official Aziz Duwaik, who is currently imprisoned in Israel. The Palestinian parliament has not met in over seven years, and Abbas himself is now a decade into a four-year presidential term that began in 2005. He rules by presidential decree in the West Bank.
The clear assumption is that the next president after Abbas will hail from Fatah. No clear successor has come to the forefront, however, and the pool of potential candidates is both too large and too shallow.
- Khamenei's Nuclear Instructions: Public Versus Private - Mehdi Khalaji
On May 23, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araqchi were questioned by members of parliament during an off-the-record session of the Majlis. Leaked statements from the session show that what Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says in public about the ongoing nuclear talks with the P5+1 may differ from the private instructions he is giving to Iranian negotiators.
Araqchi said that the Iranian team will accept the enhanced verification measures called for under the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, including inspection of Iran's military facilities - provided that these powers are not exploited by foreign agents.
The leak shows Zarif saying, "Access would be controlled....If IAEA inspectors claim that there is a suspicious activity in a military facility...we take the inspectors there blindfolded until they get to the specific point they want to see. We would cover the areas we don't want them to see...this is controlled access." The writer is a fellow at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The U.S.-Israeli Relationship Really Is Too Big to Fail - Aaron David Miller
President Obama was six years old in 1967, when most of the pro-Israeli narratives surrounding the 1967 War solidified American support for Israel among American Jews and non-Jews alike. Instead, Obama's view of Israel was shaped in the 1980s, when Palestinian grievances began to turn the image of Israel as David into the perception of the Jewish state as Goliath. In the president's perception is a strong sense that the Israelis must be the magnanimous party. Indeed, unlike his two predecessors - Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - Obama is much less inclined to give Israel the benefit of the doubt.
The Iranian nuclear issue is a source of tension that will continue. For Netanyahu, a deal with Iran will sow more disorder into an already chaotic region, and it will threaten Israel. For Obama, a deal brings order - it creates a framework to avoid war and press Tehran to cooperate on a variety of other regional crises such as those in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
America has few friends in the Middle East these days. Despite its imperfections, Israel is the only democratic ally there that shares American values and some of its interests, and is stable too. The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as a Middle East negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations.
- The Argument for Justice for the Jews - Melanie Phillips
The belief that the Jews in Israel are interlopers into a land that historically belonged as of right to Palestinian Muslims is a total inversion of history.
In fact the Jews are the only people, as a people, for whom Israel was ever their national kingdom. In the 1920s, the international community acknowledged this in the Mandate for Palestine, which committed Britain to restore the Jewish national homeland by settling the Jews in what is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. That legal Jewish right to settle all the land has never been abrogated.
To say that Israel's actions are illegitimate and even illegal is a lie. The Arab aggressors are the real interlopers. Throughout history the claims of any aggressor which has tried to exterminate a nation have been considered forfeit. To argue otherwise is to appease murderous aggression and abandon its victims to injustice, lies and further attack. The argument for Israel has to be the one that until now has not been made: the argument from justice. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (Jerusalem Post)
- Why Boycotting Israel Is a Bad Idea - David Wolpe
In a world in which there are few protests on campuses about Russia's treatment of Ukraine, the Taliban's treatment of women, or ISIS's history of beheadings, the nation-wide focus on Israel raises some suspicions.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are 49 countries where Muslims are the majority, 158 countries and territories where Christians are the majority, and one country where Jews are. Yet Israel is routinely condemned, and the court of common sense offers a strong verdict that anti-Semitism has something to do with it.
The arguments for BDS don't make sense. If you say it's to help the Palestinians, then BDS is a bad tactic because it could hurt the Palestinian economy. If you say it's for democratic reasons, then it's by working within the democratic process, not by seeking to coerce it, that one gets results.
The BDS campaigns will not and cannot work. When a nation's security is at stake, making the citizens feel less secure is not a recipe for compromise. A nation surrounded by hostile powers is not moved to negotiate by threats from friends. The writer is Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
- The Demons of the Farhud Pogrom Are With Us Still - Lyn Julius
On 1 June 1941, the two-day Baghdad pogrom known as the Farhud erupted.
As Salim Fattal describes in his vivid memoir In the Alleys of Baghdad:
"Helpless Jews had been cornered in their homes and fallen easy prey to robbers, murderers and rapists, who abused their victims to their heart's content, with no let or hindrance. They slit throats, slashed off limbs, smashed skulls. They made no distinction between women, children and old people. In that gory scene, blind hatred of Jews and the joy of murder for its own sake reinforced each other."
The Farhud (meaning "violent dispossession") paved the way for the dissolution of the 2,600-year-old Jewish community of 140,000 Jews within ten years. Jews had comprised a fifth of Baghdad. But the Farhud was not just another anti-Jewish pogrom. The Nazi supporters who planned it had a more sinister objective: the round-up, deportation and extermination in desert camps of the Baghdadi Jews. Days before the Farhud broke out, the proto-Nazi youth movement, the Futuwwa, went around daubing Jewish homes with a red palm print.
Six months after the end of World War II, and before Israel was established, vicious riots broke out in Egypt and Libya - the latter claimed more than 130 lives. Every Arab state adopted anti-Jewish measures. The result was the exodus of nearly a million Jews from the Arab world.
Hamas Regularly Inflicts War on Israel, Suffering on Gazans - Jeff Robbins (Boston Herald)
- Amnesty International has released a report finding that during its war against Israel last summer Hamas engaged in a "brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings" against Palestinians. The report detailed the "extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others."
- Also on Tuesday, the World Bank issued a report showing that, after promises to help rebuild Gaza, Gaza's best friends have stiffed it. Qatar, which helped Hamas launch the attack on Israel in the first place, has paid only 10% of its pledge. Saudi Arabia too has paid only 10%. Kuwait promised $200 million, and has paid not a dime. By contrast, American taxpayers have largely fulfilled our government's $200 million pledge.
- Donor aid that actually does arrive in Gaza is frequently diverted by a regime interested in replenishing its arsenals and rebuilding tunnels from which to stage raids on Israelis.
- Gaza's problem is not that Israel, tired of seeing its communities attacked, imposed a blockade to try to keep the rockets out of Gaza. Its problem is Hamas, which insists on a strain of extremism unpalatable even to the Arab states, and on keeping a destitute populace destitute so that it can maintain its campaign to eliminate Israel.
- When, as seems inevitable, Hamas once again decides to resume major attacks on Israel and Israel in turn is obliged to try to stop them, those who have indulged Hamas and the suffering it causes will find a way to avoid confronting Gaza's fundamental fact of life: As long as Hamas runs their lives, the people of Gaza have precious little reason for hope.
The writer, an attorney in Boston, is a former U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Council.
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