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April 14, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Man with History of Anti-Semitism Jailed in Fatal Shooting of Three at Kansas Jewish Centers - Laura Bauer (Kansas City Star)
    Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, a Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism, is suspected of killing two people outside Overland Park's Jewish Community Center and then a third at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.
    A television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car yelling, "Heil Hitler."
    The two victims shot in a car at the community center, William Lewis Corporon, a doctor, and Reat Griffin Underwood, his 14-year-old grandson, had come for auditions for the KC SuperStar singing contest. Both attended the United Methodist Church.
    See also Netanyahu Sends Condolences to Families of Kansas Jewish Center Shootings (Jerusalem Post)

Stopping Cash Payouts Will Test Iranian President Rouhani's Popularity - Jason Rezaian (Washington Post)
    More than 90% of Iranians receive monthly direct deposits from the government of about $15 to buy staples, a program launched in 2010 by then-President Ahmadinejad. In the following 38 months, more than $50 billion was paid to Iranian bank accounts.
    In a bid to cut spending, the Iranian government has now ended this massive cash assistance program and launched a celebrity-driven campaign to convince millions of Iranians that they do not need the help. It's unlikely to be a popular message.

UK Labour Leader Ed Miliband Visits Aunt in Israel - Tamara Cohen (Daily Mail-UK)
    UK Labour leader Ed Miliband last saw his aunt Sarah Ben Zvi when he was seven years old. Miliband and his wife Justine met her and other relatives at a kibbutz near Tel Aviv for a traditional Friday night meal.
    Mrs. Ben Zvi, 84, grew up with Miliband's mother Marion, her first cousin, in Czestochowa in Poland. When the Nazis invaded, Miliband's mother, sister and grandmother were sheltered by nuns in a convent, while Sarah survived the Nazi concentration camps.

A Christian Pastor's Passover Sermon - Victor Styrsky (Times of Israel)
    On Monday evening, Jewish families around the world will sit down with their friends and neighbors to teach their children the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt. But Jews will not be alone in studying this event; Christians will also sit together and study the Exodus.
    For many of my faith, Passover's discussions center around Jesus' Last Supper - which was a Passover Seder.
    Pastor Victor Styrsky is the eastern region coordinator for Christians United for Israel.

IDF Soldiers with Autism Apply Special Skills in Intelligence Unit (Israel Defense Forces)
    Within the IDF's Special intelligence Unit 9900 are a group of highly qualified autistic soldiers who have remarkable visual and analytic capabilities which they use to interpret aerial and satellite photographs.
    They can detect even the smallest details, undetectable to most people.
    Col. J, the commander of Unit 9900, said the success of the project exceeded the expectations of its initiators.

The First Israeli Space Mission to the Moon - Viva Sarah Press (Israel21c-YouTube)
    SpaceIL is a private Israeli team vying for the Google Lunar X Prize that seeks to land an Israeli spacecraft on the moon.
      View an interview with Kfir Damari, co-founder of SpaceIL, and Adam Green, head of mission analysis.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: Short-Term Iran Nuclear Threshold Is "Unacceptable"
    Israel described as "unacceptable" on Monday remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting cautious openness to negotiating a nuclear deal that would keep Iran six to 12 months away from bomb-making capability. "In the past, and also recently, what we heard from the Americans, including publicly, and from the Europeans and even from the Russians, was that Iran must be distanced years - not months but years - from nuclear weaponry," Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli cabinet minister in charge of nuclear affairs, told Israel Radio.
        "We will not be able to adopt and accept any agreement that keeps Iran within a range of months to a year from nuclear weaponry, because such an agreement would not hold water," Steinitz said. "It would also prompt Iran to get nuclear weaponry, and Sunni Arab countries like Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, perhaps also Turkey and the UAE, to seek to launch a nuclear arms race."  (Reuters)
  • Iran Says It Is Entitled to Enrich Uranium to 90 Percent
    The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to the level of 90%, and that Tehran plans to build four new nuclear plants with Russia's help.
        "We believe that we are entitled to any right that any NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and (International Atomic Energy) Agency member has, which means that enrichment (of uranium) from 1% to 90% is our right," Salehi said in a televised interview on Sunday. He said that Iran has accepted limiting its enrichment program to the level of 5% only as a voluntary move, based on the Geneva deal between Tehran and the 5+1 group in November. (Fars-Iran)
  • U.S. Tells Iran, UN It Will Deny Visa to Tehran's UN Envoy Pick - Carol E. Lee
    The Obama administration has informed Iran and the UN that the U.S. will deny a visa to Tehran's choice as its next UN ambassador because of his ties to the 1979 hostage crisis. Hamid Aboutalebi served as a translator for radical Iranian students who stormed the American embassy in Tehran 35 years ago and took 52 diplomats hostage.
        White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Aboutalebi wouldn't receive a visa to work at Iran's UN mission in New York. President Obama is also reviewing legislation approved by Congress that would deny Aboutalebi a visa, Carney said. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Obama and the U.S. Congress Find a Red Line to Agree On - Araminta Wordsworth (National Post-Canada)
  • Iran's Oil Exports Surge above West's Sanctions Cap - Ron Bousso and Timothy Gardner
    Iran's crude oil exports have surged to their highest in 20 months, far exceeding a 1 million barrel-per-day limit set by the West under an interim deal on curbing Tehran's nuclear program. The International Energy Agency's monthly report revised February's global crude imports from Iran to 1.65 million barrels per day. China, India, and South Korea accounted for the rise in imports. (Reuters)
  • In Assad's Coastal Heartland, Syria's War Creeps Closer
    A three-week-old offensive by rebel fighters in the north of Latakia province has shattered the sense of relative security in this coastal bastion of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority. Rebels are now fighting in the hills overlooking the sea, bringing the country's main port of Latakia within range, even as Assad sounds ever more confident of holding on in Damascus. Yasmin, a woman in Latakia, said school buildings have filled up with Alawite refugees who fled villages further north to take shelter in the city.
        Local people say they have begun to see Iraqi Shi'ite militiamen along the coast, apparently boosting the ranks of the Syrian military. The Iraqis have joined those from Lebanon's Hizbullah as well as advisers and commanders from Iran in aiding Assad. (Reuters)
        See also Assad's Unofficial Iraqis - Hamza Mustafa
    Iraqi militia fighters have done much to take the pressure off Syrian government forces in and around Damascus. Whereas Hizbullah's contributions to the war effort have been concentrated on the Lebanese border, Iraqi fighters are now an important part of the regime's forces in the south of the country.
        The Al-Abbas Brigade is the most prominent militant group fighting in Syria. First appearing in 2012 in the Sayyidah Zaynab area, it is a well-trained military group equipped with modern weaponry, making it highly effective in urban combat. Most of its fighters are Shi'ites. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA: Reports about Progress in Talks with Israel Are Exaggerated - Jack Khoury
    Talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are set to go on until April 29, although Israeli reports about progress in the talks are exaggerated, PA officials told Ha'aretz on Saturday. "We feel that the Israelis are talking about some progress - and are even starting to believe it themselves - even though it's a lie and there's actually no breakthrough. Everything seems stuck," a high-ranking Palestinian official said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Riot at Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    Hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli police officers stationed at the Mugrabi Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Defense Official: Israeli Interests Needn't Be Identical to U.S. on Ukraine Policy - Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis
    Responding to reports that senior figures in the Obama administration have expressed disappointment with the lack of support from Israel for the American position on the Ukraine crisis, the head of the Israel Defense Ministry's political-security department, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, told Army Radio on Sunday: "Israel is watching the conflict in Ukraine....The U.S. is involved in its own way, but our [Israel's] security interests should not be defined as identical to that of anyone else, even the U.S."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Is Iran about to Violate the Interim Deal? - Jennifer Rubin
    Vladimir Putin is edging toward a deal with Iran that would make a mockery of the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran. News reports confirm that "Russia could exchange nonmonetary goods for up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian petroleum each day under the possible arrangement, which may ultimately pave the way for as much as $20 billion in trade." The State Department acknowledges that the deal would violate the interim deal.
        The recent reports prompted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to write to President Obama, telling him, "If Iran moves forward with this effort to evade U.S. sanctions and violate the terms of oil sanctions relief provided for in JPA [the interim agreement with Iran], the United States should respond by re-instating the crude oil sanctions, rigorously enforcing significant reductions in global purchases of Iranian crude oil, and sanctioning any violations to the fullest extent of the law."  (Washington Post)
  • In Jordan Town, Syria War Inspires Jihadist Dreams - Ben Hubbard
    In Zarqa, Jordan, the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who gained infamy for his bloody reign as the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq during the early years of the American occupation there, the increasingly sectarian war in Syria has ignited militants, inspiring the largest jihadist mobilization the city has ever seen. Jordanian analysts and Islamists estimate that 800 to 1,200 Jordanians have gone to fight in Syria, more than double the number who fought in Afghanistan or Iraq.
        Sitting in his book-lined living room, Mohammed Abu Rahaim, a professor of Islamic culture, proudly swiped through photos on his phone and spoke of his two sons who had joined the Nusra Front in Syria. Harith, 32, left a wife, three children and a steady job. One photo showed him with a rifle at his side, heating water on a wood fire. The next photo showed him dead, his bearded face protruding from a body bag.
        Mr. Abu Rahaim said that when the phone call came with the news, "I got out of my car and bowed to God," proud that his son had achieved the martyrdom he so desired. Like many others, he saw jihad in Syria as a noble effort to replace the countries created by colonial powers with an Islamic state. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Sees Influence Growing in Syria - Ali Hashem (Al-Monitor)
  • Palestinian University Students' Trip to Auschwitz Causes Uproar - William Booth
    Professor Mohammed S. Dajani, who founded the American studies program at al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, took 27 Palestinian college students to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland a few weeks ago as part of a project designed to teach empathy and tolerance. The trip was paid for by the German government. Upon his return, his university disowned the trip, his fellow Palestinians branded him a traitor and friends advised a quick vacation abroad.
        A university student who went on the trip said the visit changed him. "You feel the humanity. You feel the sympathy of so many people killed in this place because of their race or religion."  (Washington Post)
  • Scare Tehran, Please - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Participants in the Vienna nuclear talks have described the proceedings so far as a take-and-give exchange, where the Iranian negotiating team grimaces and the Americans back off. The Obama administration hasn't yet wanted to push, for example, on an inspections regime that would allow the IAEA to visit undeclared Revolutionary Guard sites that may house nuclear-weapons-related research. Since the guards oversee the entire atomic program, a rational person might conclude that a nuclear deal denying the IAEA spot inspections at Revolutionary Guard facilities is defective. (Weekly Standard)
  • Palestinian Recognition of Jewish Israel Is Critical for Peace - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror
    My involvement in the negotiations and in private meetings with Palestinians over the past year has made it clear to me that the diplomatic process is not about "land for peace." It is not about the 1967 borders, but about unpacking the conflict between Israel and Palestinians going back to 1948. Thus, if an accord between Israel and the Palestinians does not include Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jews, such an accord will not be worth the paper it is written on. Until the end of 2013, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror served as National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and chairman of the National Security Council. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

Blaming Israel - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • Several well-known members of America's foreign policy establishment have just published an open letter to Secretary of State Kerry, entitled "Stand Firm, John Kerry," blaming Israel for every problem in the peace negotiations. The authors say that the "enlargement" of Israeli settlements is the central problem in getting to peace.
  • But there is no "enlargement" of Israeli settlements. There is population growth, especially in the major blocs that Israel will obviously keep in any final agreement. But enlargement, which logically means physical expansion, is not the problem and is rare in the West Bank settlements. The authors don't seem to know this.
  • With respect to the Jordan Valley, they do not acknowledge something every serious expert knows: that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan also has grave concerns about security in the Jordan Valley and does not want to see a quick withdrawal of Israeli forces from that long border.
  • Let's hope Kerry does "stand firm" against an analysis that blames one side exclusively for the failure to make peace, and ignores the history and complexities of the negotiations.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.

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