IDF Sends Field Hospital to Philippines - Benji Rosen (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF on Wednesday sent two Boeing 747s with 234 Israeli doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as equipment, to set up a field hospital in the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan.
The Home Front Command's Search and Rescue Unit, with experience in searching damaged buildings, is also assisting Philippine authorities.
Calmest Year in Decade on Gaza-Israel Frontier - Scott Bobb (VOA News)
It has been one year since Israel and Hamas in Gaza engaged in an eight-day military exchange, with Hamas firing 1,500 rockets into Israel, reaching the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time. Six Israelis were killed and 200 wounded.
Israeli planes and artillery struck 1,500 targets in Gaza. Since then, Gaza has been calmer than at any time in the past decade, but neither side has lowered its guard.
The director of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, says that Hamas "is still a terrorist organization committed to the struggle and the destruction of Israel, committed to terrorist activities. And we have to continue to keep a very close eye on what's happening in Gaza on a daily basis."
We Pay, Iran Promises - George Jonas (National Post-Canada)
The West was ready to sign a deal with Tehran's nuclear ayatollahs in which they get billions in lifted sanctions, and in return we get a promise that they'll develop their nukes more slowly. That's the deal. We pay, they promise.
The reality is that nukes are proliferating not in peaceable kingdoms but in bellicose tyrannies, and the question is, when are we stopping them? Today, when it's already too costly, or tomorrow, when it may also be too late?
Syrian War, Hizbullah Present New Set of Threats - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly attempted to transfer advanced weaponry to Hizbullah despite Israel's warnings (which, according to officials in Washington, Israel has enforced with at least six air strikes on Syria this year).
Moreover, thanks to its involvement in Syria's war, Hizbullah has upgraded its capabilities, though it is thought to have suffered more than 250 fatalities and about 1,000 wounded in Syria.
Hizbullah is gaining experience in urban warfare and in launching offensives.
In the battle of Qusayr in June, Hizbullah operated Syrian tanks, used drones, made sophisticated use of intelligence, and conducted coordinated maneuvers at the company level (roughly 100-200 soldiers) and even higher.
Video: Syrian War Wounded in Israeli Hospitals - John Reed (Financial Times-UK)
Three Israeli hospitals treat Syrian war wounded.
Christians Queue to Join Israeli Army - Pierre Klochendler (Inter Press Service)
There are 130,000 Arab Christians in Israel. Some 100 Arab Christians are currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces, up from 35 in 2012, while an additional 500 are performing national service, up from 200.
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- Iran Talks Face Resistance in U.S. Congress - Jonathan Weisman
Secretary of State John Kerry will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday with members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to try to head off a new round of stiff sanctions on Iran that administration officials fear could derail the talks in Geneva. But they are facing bipartisan doubt about their course.
"I understand what they're saying about destroying a chance for a peaceful outcome here with new sanctions, but I really do believe if the new sanctions were crafted in the right way, they would be more helpful than harmful," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) proclaimed himself "dubious" of the possible agreement because of concerns that the administration might be willing to give too much away while getting too little in return.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the administration's fears are misplaced: "New sanctions wouldn't kick in for three to six months. The important period of time for this country, candidly for the world community, on this issue is over the next two to three weeks." (New York Times)
See also White House Blasts New Iran Sanctions as "March to War" - John Hudson
The White House and State Department blasted congressional efforts to place new sanctions on Iran as negotiations continue on the country's nuclear program. U.S. officials warned that spoiling diplomatic talks with Iran would be a "march to war." (Foreign Policy)
- Israel Halts Feasibility Study on New Construction in West Bank
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday abruptly halted a plan to explore potential construction of new homes in West Bank settlements, saying it had created an "unnecessary confrontation" with the international community that threatened to weaken his campaign "to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran."
The Housing Ministry said it had published bids seeking architectural firms to look into possible construction of 600,000 homes nationwide to ease a chronic housing crunch. An anti-settlement group said the plans included 20,000 apartments in the West Bank and 4,000 in eastern Jerusalem. Israeli officials said the matter involved a long-term feasibility study and no new construction had been approved. Any construction that does take place, they added, would be years away.
- Iraqi Jewish Archive Should Be Protected and Accessible, 42 Groups Say
42 groups, led by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Tuesday called on the U.S. government to assure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive, which America plans to return to Iraq, would be protected and continually accessible to Iraqi Jewish communities around the world. The U.S. National Archives is now displaying 24 out of 2,700 Jewish books and ancient documents that were recovered in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry (Mukhabarat) during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The collection is to be returned to the Iraqi government when its restoration is complete. But the Iraqi Jewish community says the Saddam Hussein government originally confiscated the materials from a synagogue in 1984. The Conference of Presidents called on Secretary of State John Kerry to "consult with representative bodies of Iraq's expatriate Jewish community and officials before any further decision is made" on the archive.
See also Iraqi Jewish Documents at the National Archives - Edward Rothstein (New York Times)
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- IDF Soldier Killed by Palestinian in Terror Attack - Ahiya Raved
An IDF soldier died Wednesday after being stabbed in the neck in a bus in Afula by a Palestinian from the West Bank.
Passengers stopped the terrorist and turned him over to security guards. (Ynet News)
- IAEA Inspectors to Visit Iran's Heavy-Water Reactor, Uranium Mine - Zvi Bar'el
Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi signed an agreement in Tehran on Monday with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano to allow IAEA inspectors to visit the heavy-water reactor being built in Arak and the Gachin uranium mine in southern Iran, two sites for which Iran has hitherto refused to grant access. On the other hand, these will be planned inspections rather than surprise visits.
This is Iran's first confidence-building measure, but it doesn't yet create the basis for ongoing, thorough inspections of its nuclear program. The agreement makes no mention of the military complex at Parchin, where Iran is suspected of having conducted test explosions that could be used in detonating a nuclear bomb.
- Israel Reacts with Alarm at What Its Leadership Sees as a Bad Deal - Natan B. Sachs
The common view from Jerusalem reflects a combination of short-term relief over the French resolve, and a very deep concern over the new and potentially dramatic rift with the U.S. administration. The Israelis claim that U.S. officials had previously briefed them on an outline of a deal which they, the Israelis, didn't like, but which they could have lived with. However, the Israelis claim that the terms that emerged in Geneva were far worse than previously outlined, and the Israeli surprise over the extent of the sanctions relief is genuine.
The Israelis, like the French, appear very concerned about the provisions of the interim deal that: (a) permitted Tehran to continue some uranium enrichment; (b) allowed Iran to continue building the heavy-water reactor in Arak; and (c) provided Tehran with incentives that the Israelis see as the beginning of the dismantling of the sanctions regime. Israel's concern is that the proposed sanctions relief will not, in practice, be reversible, while the Iranian commitments could be easily reversed.
Discussions in Israel suggest the Americans have been over-eager to reach a deal and had allowed the terms to erode significantly, rather than Iran feeling pressured to close a diplomatic deal in light of the biting sanctions. This plays into a common narrative in the region of a U.S. administration eager to find any diplomatic way out of a confrontation. The writer is a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.
- Oppose the Deal on Iran - Alan M. Dershowitz
The U.S. is leading the noble efforts to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough to prevent Iran from having the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Yet the deal offered to Iran - to soften some sanctions in return for a promise by the mullahs to preserve the status quo with regard to their nuclear program - does not serve the interest of peace.
The understandable concern, expressed by Israeli, French, and Saudi leaders, is that the Iranian leadership is playing for time - that they want to make insignificant concessions in exchange for significant reductions in the sanctions. These leaders, and many experienced nuclear and diplomatic experts, fear that a bad deal would allow the Iranians to inch closer to nuclear weapons capacity while strengthening their faltering economy.
Were Iran to use the current diplomatic efforts as a cover to buy time to make a preventive military attack unrealistic, this would indeed be our "Chamberlain moment," a replication of the time when the idealistic but naive British prime minister made a bad deal with the Nazis in a desperate but futile effort to avoid deploying the military option against Hitler's growing power.
To weaken the sanctions regime now, in exchange for a promise to maintain the status quo, would be bad diplomacy, poor negotiation and a show of weakness precisely when a show of strength is called for.
The leadership of the pro-Israel community, both in the U.S. and Israel, have shown rare unity around the issue of not weakening the sanctions merely in exchange for the promise of a nuclear standstill from the Iranians. (Algemeiner)
- We Must Not Capitulate to Iran over Its Nuclear Program - Con Coughlin
In previous negotiations the Iranians have frequently indulged in delaying tactics, stringing out the talks so that Western negotiators are led to believe they are about to get a deal, when in fact they were just buying themselves more time. As every nuclear expert knows, there will come a point when Iran has enough enriched uranium that it can press ahead with building a nuclear weapon.
For all the encouraging noises being made by the Iranian delegation, there has been no let-up in Iran's uranium enrichment activities.
Thankfully it has been left to the French to demonstrate that not everyone taking part in the Geneva talks is gullible enough to accept the Iranian promises of good behavior at face value.
Rouhani is desperate to get the sanctions lifted. If the sanctions really are having an impact on Iran's nuclear calculations, then all the more reason to keep them in place.
If the world is to be a safer place, then the ultimate objective of the Geneva talks must be to force Iran to stop all the activities that could enable it to build nuclear weapons, rather than easing the sanctions and letting the ayatollahs off the hook. (Telegraph-UK)
John Kerry Is Mistaken about Israel's Settlements - Alan Baker (Israel Hayom)
- Dear Secretary of State Kerry:
After listening to you declare repeatedly over the past weeks that "Israel's settlements are illegitimate," I respectfully wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill-advised, both in law and in fact.
- Pursuant to the Oslo Accords, the "issue of settlements" is one of subjects to be negotiated in the permanent-status negotiations. Your statements serve to not only to prejudge this negotiating issue, but also to undermine the integrity of that agreement. By your repeating that Israel's settlements are illegitimate, you are in fact buying into, and even fueling, the Palestinian propaganda narrative and exerting unfair pressure on Israel.
- Moreover, your determination that Israel's settlements are illegitimate cannot be legally substantiated.
The oft-quoted prohibition on transferring population into occupied territory (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) was, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross' own official commentary of that convention, drafted to prevent a repeat of the forced, mass transfer of populations carried out by the Nazis in World War II. It was never intended to apply to Israel's settlement activity.
- Attempts by the international community to attribute this article to Israel emanate from clear partisan motives, with which you and the U.S. are now identifying.
- There is no requirement in any of the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians that Israel cease or freeze settlement activity. The opposite is in fact the case. The 1995 interim agreement enables each party to plan, zone and build in the areas under its respective control.
- Israel's settlement policy neither prejudices the outcome of the negotiations nor does it involve displacement of local Palestinian residents from their private property.
The writer is a former legal counsel to the Israel Foreign Ministry and a former Israeli ambassador to Canada.
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