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A Palestinian Disappears in Ukraine - Benjamin Bidder, Ulrike Putz and Holger Stark (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Dirar Abu Sisi, a Palestinian engineer from Gaza, boarded a train in Ukraine on Feb. 18. In Western intelligence circles it's been claimed that Ukrainian agents kidnapped him, then handed their victim over to the Israelis. He later reappeared in an Israeli jail.
One informant says Israel had considered Abu Sisi a high-ranking Hamas man who knows a number of secrets. Jerusalem may believe that Abu Sisi had information relating to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped four and a half years ago by Hamas, according to another source.
Facebook Removes Page Calling for New Palestinian Intifada Against Israel - Alisa Odenheimer, Brian Womack (Bloomberg)
Facebook Inc. said it took down a page promoting a new Palestinian intifada against Israel because it made "direct calls for violence," in violation of policies set forth by the social-networking site.
The site included remarks and video clips that called for the killing of Israelis and Jews, as well as the "liberating" of Jerusalem and Palestine through acts of violence, said Israel Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein.
See also Intifada Facebook Page Relaunched - Nitzan Sadan (Ynet News)
The Third Palestinian Intifada page was relaunched on Facebook just hours after being removed.
As Middle East Burns, Saudi Economy Glows - David Rosenberg (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
The turmoil in the Middle East has turned into a boon for Saudi Arabia, as oil prices have risen about 20% this year.
And, with the world's biggest reserves and excess capacity, Saudi Arabia is benefiting twice over by raising output to fill the Libyan gap.
Riots in Syria - Mordechai Kedar (Middle Eastern Insights/Bar-Ilan University)
Assad is in a trap. If he allows protests to continue, they will intensify; if he acts firmly against them, his fate
is liable to mirror Gaddafi's.
Ever since France created Syria as an artificial state lacking public
legitimacy, the country has been divided along various lines - religious
(Muslims, Christians, Druze, Alawis), ethnic (Arabs, Kurds, Armenians),
denominational (Sunnis, Shi'ites, Christian sects) and tribal.
The state is perceived by most of its citizens as a mechanism of oppression
designed to allow rule by a cruel and corrupt group, one that mobilizes the support
of family heads by distributing economic monopolies that create "fat cats"
who gobble up public money, reducing the state's ability to invest in infrastructure.
To remain in power, the controlling group employs eleven
internal security organizations, which also monitor each other.
Assad will fight with determination and without sentiment to
maintain power because, if he loses, he and his fellow Alawis are liable to
be subject to mass slaughter by the Muslim majority.
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- Ten Days of Airstrikes Fail to Cripple Gaddafi's Forces - David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim
As Gaddafi's militias beat back the rebels' advance in eastern Libya on Tuesday, it was clear that the last 10 days of airstrikes had failed to cripple his forces enough to erase their advantage in firepower. Nor have the strikes renewed the uprising that briefly threatened his stronghold in Tripoli four weeks ago. Gaddafi evidently trusted only two militias - with a total of about 10,000 men - to deploy against the rebels, said Henry Boyd, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. They are the 32nd Brigade, loyal to his son Khamis, and the Ninth Regiment, under the direction of another son, Muatassim. The big tribes close to Gaddafi have stayed more or less loyal to him in part because so many of their men enjoy the salaries and the prestige of high-ranking positions in the Libyan military.
(New York Times)
See also Washington in Fierce Debate on Arming Libyan Rebels - Mark Landler, Elisabeth Bumiller and Steven Lee Myers
The Obama administration is engaged in a fierce debate over whether to supply weapons to the rebels in Libya, senior officials said on Tuesday, with some fearful that providing arms would deepen American involvement in a civil war and that some fighters may have links to al-Qaeda.
(New York Times)
- Egyptian Foreign Minister Proposes New Ties with Iran - Mariam Fam
Foreign Minister Nabil el-Arabi said, "The Egyptian government doesn't consider Iran to be an enemy state," the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
"We're opening a new page with all countries, including Iran."
Egypt hasn't had full diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, and has accused Iran in the past of using proxy groups such as Hizbullah to increase its influence in the Middle East. (Bloomberg)
- U.S. Senators Press Clinton on Anti-Israel Incitement
27 U.S. senators pressed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday to make clear to Palestinian leaders that any incitement to violence against Israel or Jews is "not tolerable." Urging action after the grisly stabbing slayings of a family of five Israelis, including three children, the lawmakers wrote,
"The Itamar massacre was a sobering reminder that words matter, and that Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel can lead to violence and terror."
The senators told Clinton they had "serious concern over continuing incitement directed against Jews and Israel within the Palestinian media, mosques and schools, and even by individuals or institutions affiliated with the Palestinian Authority."
"We urge you to redouble your efforts to impress upon the Palestinian leadership that continuing to condone incitement is not tolerable." (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Calls for Marshall Plan for Egypt and Jordan
Prime Minister Netanyahu told a Jewish National Fund (JNF) conference on Tuesday:
"We're going through a period of turmoil that can only be called historic....Is it going to be 1989, the great revolution that unleashed the forces of liberalism and freedom in Central and Eastern Europe? Or will it be 1979, the revolution that brought the night of Iranian militant Islamic darkness over the people of Tehran?"
"The two pivotal countries that I think are important are those that have created the anchor of peace in the heart of the Middle East, and that's Egypt and Jordan.
I think what is required is a Marshall Plan by the concerned international powers, and also the public sector, to assist in the concrete development of these two economies."
We have "to put maximum pressure on the main engine that drives Islamic militancy in this region, and that is pressure on Iran, and above all, to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. That should be a main goal for all civilized society."
"You cannot have peace without security at any time in this neighborhood, but especially in these times....Under any arrangement for peace, Israel must retain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. There are other security arrangements that we need...we need them to protect the peace and we need them to protect Israel if peace unravels."
(Prime Minister's Office)
- Israel Strikes Palestinian Rocket Cell in Gaza, Kills Terrorist
Israeli aircraft struck a terrorist cell in Gaza responsible for firing rockets into Israel early Wednesday.
Islamic Jihad said one member of their organization was killed and another was injured in the strike.
- IDF Reservists Host Palestinian Children with Cancer at Israeli Ski Resort
Last week, Palestinian children diagnosed with cancer and their families visited Israel's ski resort on Mt. Hermon, accompanied by IDF reservists from the Alpine Unit. The day was part of a decade-long project in which soldiers bring up groups of mentally or physically disabled children, as well as children with terminal illnesses, to Mt. Hermon for a day of fun and relaxation. The commander of the Alpine Unit said, "Regardless of anyone's personal politics it was simply a sight that did the heart good." (Israel Defense Forces)
- Israel and the Occupation Myth - Danny Ayalon
The recent murder of a family of five in Itamar shocked Israelis to their core. A terrorist broke into the Fogels' home before stabbing and garroting to death the two parents, Udi and Ruth, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, who was only three months old. The violence and terror visited upon Israelis has little connection to "occupation" or settlements.
Pogroms happened not only before the "occupation" of Judea and Samaria, but even decades before the State of Israel was reestablished. In 1929, 67 Jews were hacked or bludgeoned to death in the Jewish community of Hebron.
Israel was assured in the past by the international community that if it just retreated from Gaza and Lebanon, peace would flourish and violence would come to an end. In both cases, this hope proved deadly wrong, and millions of Israelis have been subjected to incessant attacks from these territories since the retreat. This is not about "occupation" or territory; it is about meaningful coexistence.
The writer is the deputy foreign minister of Israel.
(Wall Street Journal Europe)
- Israel Is Resilient But Watchful - Yossi Klein Halevi
The terrorist attack on March 23 that killed one person and wounded 30 was the first bus bombing in Jerusalem since 2005. And it happened just as missiles from Gaza began falling on Israeli cities and towns for the first time since the Gaza War of 2009. After a brutal decade that began with the collapse of the peace process in September 2000, and which brought four years of suicide bombings, eight years of missile attacks, two wars, and at least two failed attempts at peacemaking, the Israeli public is resilient and sober.
This is not the time for far-reaching political initiatives. With the open question of whether Israel's peace with Egypt will survive the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Israelis are reassessing the wisdom of land-for-peace agreements with dictators. Israelis are asking a similar question about Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely resented by Palestinians as corrupt and represents at best only part of his people. Why negotiate a land for peace agreement with an unelected, one-party government?
(Wall Street Journal)
- Syria: The Sectarian Genie Is Out of the Bottle - Josef Olmert
Syrian President Assad's Alawi community, numbering about 15% of the population, is dominant due to its over-representation in the armed forces and the Ba'ath Party. This was the result of developments starting with the French Mandatory regime in Syria, which favored the non-Sunni minorities and encouraged their enlistment in the armed forces.
A British consular report from the 1870s about Syria stated, "they hate each other....Sunnis boycott the Shi'ites...both resent the Druze...all despise the Alawis."
The greatest Syrian Sunni scholar, Ibn Tayimiyya, issued a ruling in the early 14th century forbidding his followers from marrying Alawis as they were worse infidels than the Jews and Christians. Opposition sources in Syria keep referring to the support that Assad receives from Iran and Hizbullah, trying to prove the non-Sunni character of the regime.
The writer is adjunct professor at American University's School of International Service.
Can Syria's Dictator Reform? - Editorial (Washington Post)
- "Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer." Thus did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton respond to a question on Sunday about Bashar al-Assad, the latest Arab dictator to respond with fusillades to calls by his people for democratic change.
- Clinton was only reflecting a piece of wishful thinking to which the Obama administration and its congressional allies have tenaciously clung: that Mr. Assad, despite his brutality, sponsorship of terrorism and close alliance with Iran, can somehow be turned into a Western ally.
- We don't believe that Mr. Assad could deliver on promises of reform even if he wished to. His minority Alawite sect would quickly lose power in a more democratic system. Most likely the dictator is seeking to deflect the demands for change with a mixture of violence and false promises.
- If that proves to be the case, the Obama administration and others who have reached out to Mr. Assad should be ready to respond - by siding decisively with those in Syria seeking genuine change.
See also U.S. Should Encourage the Syrian Uprising - Jeff Jacoby
If the U.S. has good reason to support the popular revolt in Libya, it has considerably more reason to do so in Syria. Though Bashar Assad's brutality has not yet exceeded that of his father - in 1982 Hafez al-Assad annihilated some 25,000 civilians in the city of Hama, then literally paved over their remains - his own reign has nevertheless been a horror show of repression, torture, assassination, disappearances, and the near-total denial of civil and political liberties.
Assad is no reformer. He is a totalitarian criminal and an enemy of the U.S., and his downfall should be an explicit American aim. In his remarks on Libya the other night, the president promised that "wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States." At a moment like this, the Obama administration should be taking every reasonable step to encourage the Syrian uprising and undermine the regime.
See also Why Has the U.S. Been So Soft on Bashar Assad? - Martin Peretz (New Republic)
Israel, Grateful for Border Quiet, Not Cheering for Demise of Assad
Many in Israel view the current unrest convulsing Syria with a wary eye, fearful that a collapse of Bashar Assad's regime might imperil decades of quiet along the shared border. Privately, officials note that Syria has been careful for decades to avoid direct violence, while fighting proxy wars by backing anti-Israel groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
"That has been the working assumption in Israel for years: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," said Eyal Zisser, director of the Middle East Studies department at Tel Aviv University. "(Syria) scrupulously maintained the quiet. And who knows what will happen now - Islamic terror, al-Qaeda, chaos?" (AP-Washington Post)
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