Egypt's Ex-Spy Chief Omar Suleiman Announces Presidency Bid - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
Former President Hosni Mubarak's intelligence chief and vice president Omar Suleiman on Sunday declared himself a presidential candidate, giving Egyptians a chance to cast a vote against the revolution and for the old order.
Suleiman, a retired general, could become a magnet for the support of Egyptians unhappy with the revolt that ousted Mubarak.
See also On Israel, Brotherhood's Shater Not the Most Hostile of Egypt's Presidential Candidates - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
The position on Israel of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater is not significantly different from other candidates; indeed, some are more overtly hostile than he is.
See also Egypt's Brotherhood Picks Alternate Candidate - Aya Batrawy (AP)
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood announced Saturday it is nominating party leader Mohammed Morsi as a back-up candidate for president in the face of attempts to disqualify their primary nominee, Khairat el-Shater.
Israeli General: Assad Could Survive 2012 - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
Head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, said in an interview Friday that advanced weaponry has made its way into Hizbullah's hands in Lebanon.
He also predicts that Bashar Assad will not be deposed in the near future. "Last October, we said it would take 18 months, and I think that we underestimated the situation. In my view, it will take even longer."
"The traditional leadership surrounding him remains intact. You have to remember that this is an aging group of leaders whose best years are well behind it. While it is very experienced, it is doubtful whether it has the energy necessary to withstand a challenge of this scale."
Iran and Hizbullah "are up to their necks with what is happening there," he added. "There are military trainers, instructors, and, to the best of my knowledge, combatants as well."
Golan explains why Assad doesn't involve Israel in a war and deflect attention away from the predicament in which he finds himself:
"Assad understands very well that drawing in Israel would weaken his regime, since it would result in damage to the army which is his primary crutch."
Hamas Government Executes Gazan for Collaborating with Israel (Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades-Hamas)
The Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Gaza implemented three death sentences on Saturday, including one on a man found guilty of collaborating with Israel, providing information that led to the killing of a number of Palestinian operatives.
Patriarch's Death Allows Coptic Christians to Visit Israel - Roi Kais
208 Coptic Christians arrived in Israel on Friday to visit Christian holy sites ahead of Easter, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
This comes in the wake of the death of Patriarch Shenouda III, the head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, who for decades prohibited Copts from traveling to Jerusalem and other sites.
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- U.S. Defines Its Demands for New Round of Talks with Iran - David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger
The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of the recently completed Fordo nuclear facility deep under a mountain, according to American and European diplomats.
They are also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country.
That negotiating position will be the opening move in what President Obama has called Iran's "last chance" to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the UN and the West diplomatically.
(New York Times)
See also A Diplomatic Outcome with Iran Acceptable to Israel - Anshel Pfeffer
In two Passover interviews, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined the diplomatic outcome with Iran that Israel could live with. He told Maariv:
"First of all, that there will be a real reversal of the Iranian nuclear program. That means ending the enrichment of uranium and removing the enriched material out of Iran. Iran can receive uranium for non-military purposes. I would mention also reversing that bunker at Qom, what do they need it for? If Iran does these things, it will really look as if it intends to stop its nuclear program."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN that "we told our American friends, as well as the Europeans, that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiations to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that - no more enrichment to 20%." (Ha'aretz)
- Iran Rejects West's "Demands" before Elusive Talks
Iran on Sunday rejected demands the West is reportedly to submit at talks, saying it will neither close its Fordo nuclear bunker nor give up higher-level uranium enrichment.
Those two demands were "irrational," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, told ISNA news agency.
Fordo "is built underground because of sanctions and the threats of attacks," he pointed out. Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20% purity would likewise continue, Abbasi Davani said. (Al Ahram-Egypt)
- Syria Peace Plan in Disarray as Assad Backs Away from Troop Withdrawal - Adrian Blomfield
President Bashar al-Assad's government backed away from a pledge to complete a troop withdrawal before Tuesday's deadline as the opposition claimed more than 1,000 people had been killed since a UN-backed ceasefire deal was struck.
Syria's foreign ministry claimed that a previous commitment to halt the fighting by April 10 had been "misinterpreted" by UN envoy Kofi Annan.
Officials in Damascus announced that a withdrawal of government troops and tanks from population centers would only take place if rebel forces guaranteed in writing that they would lay down their arms.
Annan accused Damascus of breaking its word.
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- Muslim Brotherhood: We Will Not Put Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty to Referendum - Zvi Bar'el
"We will not put the Camp David accords or any other agreement Egypt has signed to a national referendum," said Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament Abd Al-Maujood Al-Dardiri on Friday. Al-Dardiri is currently in the U.S. heading a delegation to convince the U.S. government and the public that there is no reason to fear Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt.
- Israelis and Palestinians to Resume Talks - Raphael Ahren
Israeli government officials confirmed that Prime Minister Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho had met with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in preparation for an upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad on April 17.
(Times of Israel)
- Iran's Limited Escape Options - Karim Sadjadpour
When Iran felt compelled to compromise in the past, oil cost less than $25 a barrel. Today, oil prices hover around four times that amount, softening the blow of sanctions. It's possible that in the near term Supreme Leader Khamenei will attempt a tactical and temporary compromise to stave off pressure and peel China and Russia away from the U.S. and the EU. There are no indications, however, that Khamenei feels forced to make the types of meaningful and binding nuclear compromises that would reassure the U.S. and potentially placate Israel.
No nuclear deal with Tehran can be made without Khamenei, yet it is almost as unlikely that any deal can be made with him. In effect, Khamenei's obstinance due to his belief that U.S. policy is regime change, not behavior change, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- A Response to "A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians" - Michael Oren
The claims made by Richard Stearns in "A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians" are completely without foundation and are libelous to the State of Israel. With the exception of very few individuals who have raised security concerns, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue.
Israel, the only Middle Eastern country with a growing and thriving Christian population, remains committed to maintaining its superb relations with Christian communities worldwide. The writer is the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
- Why It Pays to Restore Synagogues in the Arab World - Lyn Julius
The Christian Science Monitor treated us to a fairy tale the other day, with Nicholas Blanford gushing about the Maghen Avraham synagogue, now being restored in Beirut: "The first rabbi in nearly four decades is expected to arrive soon.
'Once the rabbi is here, we will be able to hold weddings again,' says a Jewish Council member in Lebanon."
To what congregation would this rabbi minister, given that there are perhaps a dozen Jews in the country? What happy couples would he marry, given that there are few eligible young people?
The report is typical of a trend hailing the restoration of Jewish buildings as somehow indicative of pluralism and tolerance in the Arab world.
As one journalist put it, "Tolerance of Jewish cultural remains can be exchanged for Western goodwill and aid without necessitating any messy engagement with actual Israelis." How is it that these countries can get away with ethnically cleansing their Jewish communities yet reap the PR benefits of restoring Jewish buildings?
(Times of Israel)
Report: Israel Threatens to Strike Militants If Egypt Fails to Secure Sinai - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
See also Egypt to Deploy More Troops in Northern Sinai - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Israel has warned Egypt that it would take action against militants in Sinai if Cairo did not take responsibility and secure the countries' shared border, Egyptian officials indicated on Saturday. The reported message was transferred days after Sinai militants fired a volley of Grad-type Katyusha rockets into a residential area of the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
- The Egyptian Supreme Military Council is aware of its ineptitude in Sinai, especially after Bedouin militias "conquered" two police stations in El-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, and are not allowing Egyptian forces to monitor the trade taking place through tunnels between Sinai and Gaza.
In response, Egypt began sending reinforcements to natural gas facilities and El-Arish last week.
See also Don't Count on Egypt in Sinai - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
The Egyptian government announced on Saturday that, in cooperation with Israel, it has started deploying troops in northern Sinai to stop anarchy and terror there. The head of Egypt's forces in Sinai, Gen. Salah al-Masri, said the Egyptian interior ministry had reinforced its presence there with 150 police officers and members of special forces and other units, along with dozens of armored cars, in order to secure the main road between El Arish and Rafah; maintain control of the area close to the Israeli border; and defend the natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan, which has repeatedly been sabotaged over the last year.
- Egyptian sources confirmed that they had recently arrived at an agreement with Israel on the entrance of seven army battalions into Sinai - a total of 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers - within the framework of the accords between the governments on military activity, for the purpose of restoring order in the area.
- Israel remains skeptical about the Egyptian announcements, although it sees them as positive signs.
- Israeli security officials recently estimated that more rocket and mortar attacks from Sinai on Eilat, like the one last week, are merely a matter of time. The dilemma of Israel's political leadership is how to curb strikes from Sinai without prompting a grave deterioration in its relationship with Egypt and jeopardizing the peace.
- By now it's clear that the Egyptians won't be doing the job for us - not because they don't want to, but rather, because they cannot. Their control in central and eastern Sinai is weak. Hence, Israel must do the job.
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