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May 19, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Assad Regime Withholding Sarin Precursor Chemicals, Protecting 12 Chemical Weapons Production Facilities - Michael Weiss (NOW-Lebanon)
    The Assad regime is withholding 27 tons of sarin precursor chemicals as "leverage," to quote the Washington Post, in an ongoing argument with the West about the fate of its chemical manufacturing and storage plants.
    According to Robert P. Mikulak, the U.S. envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), "12 chemical weapons production facilities declared by Syria remain structurally intact" and "the Assad regime has delayed the operation [to eliminate these facilities] at every opportunity."
    Nor are these facilities in rebel-held or rebel-interdicted hot zones: they're fully under the control of Damascus in the network of tunnels and buildings which the regime built to conceal its chemical weapons program in the first place.

1,000 U.S. Troops Arrive in Israel for Joint Missile Defense Drill (Ynet News)
    Some 1,000 American soldiers have arrived in Israel for a joint drill on Sunday to test the two nations' missile defense systems, Israel Radio reported.
    Both Hizbullah in the north and Hamas to the south use missile strikes on Israeli civilian population centers as a key strategy during conflict.

Israel Extends Hand to Flood-Ravaged Serbia and Bosnia (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is sending aid to help rescue efforts in Serbia and Bosnia, where record floods have left thousands homeless.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Sunday with his Serbian counterpart Alexander Vucic to offer assistance in the aftermath of the disaster.
    Netanyahu said that Israel has already sent tons of medical and humanitarian aid to Serbia.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Wins Euroleague Basketball Title (Ynet News)
    Maccabi Tel Aviv won its sixth Euroleague title by beating hot favorites Real Madrid 98-86 in overtime on Sunday.
    More than 10,000 Israelis flew to the final held in Milan, and all over Israel citizens watched on TV.

U.S. Vetoed Israeli Missile Shield for Poland - Ami Ettinger (Israel Defense)
    The U.S. prevented the sale of David Sling missiles, manufactured in Israel by Rafael, to Poland after that country expressed interest in acquiring the missile defense shield.
    Two American companies are competing for the Polish deal.

Chinese Police Blame Muslim Separatist Group for Train Station Bombing - Sui-Lee Wee (Reuters)
    Chinese police blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for a train station attack in the western city of Urumqi in April that killed three people and injured 79, Xinhua said on Sunday.
    The attack occurred in the Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic group, many of whom are Turkic-speaking and call Xinjiang "East Turkestan."
    Ten members of the group set off explosives and slashed people with knives at the station's exit.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Nuclear Talks with Iran Fail to Yield Pact, Officials Say - Steven Erlanger
    The latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers ended on Friday in Vienna, with Iranian and American officials saying that progress was slow and difficult, with serious gaps between the two sides on basic issues like the size of any nuclear enrichment capability Iran would be permitted to retain. Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said "there was no tangible progress in this round of the talks" and that differences were too large to begin drafting an accord.
        A senior American official said, "Iran still has to make some hard choices.... We are concerned that progress is not being made and that time is short." The two sides had set a July 20 deadline to resolve their differences, although a temporary agreement late last year incorporated the possibility of another six-month extension, which seems likely. (New York Times)
  • Syrian Air Defense Chief Killed
    Gen. Hussein Ishaq, the head of Syria's air defenses, was killed when rebels attacked an air defense base at Mleiha near Damascus on Saturday. (BBC News)
  • Report: Iranian Defector in U.S. Oversaw 1983 Beirut Embassy Bombing - Mark Landler
    A new book, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird, shines a spotlight on the April 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people, 17 of them American, including eight CIA officers, one of them Ames. Bird asserts that Iranian intelligence officer Ali Reza Asgari, who defected to the U.S. in 2007 and is still living here under CIA protection, oversaw the 1983 bombing, as well as other terrorist attacks against Americans in Lebanon. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Whoever Sees the Establishment of Israel as a "Disaster" ("Nakba") Doesn't Want Peace
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Last week, the Anti-Defamation League issued a global report in which it compared levels of anti-Semitism among adults in various places around the world. It seems that the place with the highest level of anti-Semitism is the Palestinian Authority, where 93% of adults hold anti-Semitic views. This is the result of the Palestinian Authority's unceasing incitement, which distorts the image of the State of Israel and the Jewish People."
        "They define the existence and establishment of the State of Israel as a disaster that must be corrected....Whoever sees the establishment of the State of Israel and its continued existence as a disaster does not want peace."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Netanyahu Congratulates Modi for Victory in India Election
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday and congratulated him on his election victory. In their phone call, they agreed to deepen cooperation between the two countries. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Anticipates Warm Ties with New Indian Prime Minister
    Modi, who heads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), "has long courted political and trade links with the state of Israel," according to the International Business Times. "Modi's ties to Israel, which BJP officials strongly endorse, has turned into a financial bonanza for the western Indian province of Gujarat, where he has served as chief minister for the past 13 years."
        Israel had reportedly poured billions into the province for projects in the fields of industrial research and development, agriculture, solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, water recycling and water desalination plants. (Times of Israel)
        See also Islamic World Wary of Closer Indo-Israeli Ties (Peninsula-Qatar)
  • Israel Restricts Palestinian Banking, Electricity - Moti Bassok and Avi Bar-Eli
    Israel has barred Palestinian banks from making shekel deposits in Israel, as part of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the collapse of peace talks and the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Meanwhile, the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation began to reduce its supply of electricity to the West Bank for one hour a day, citing the 1.5 billion shekels the PA owes it. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinians Attack Israeli Reporter: 1 - Avi Issacharoff
    I've been covering the Palestinian territories for many years, but I found myself seconds away from being beaten to death by a mob of Palestinian masked men during clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia, north of Jerusalem, on Friday. Two plainclothes members of the Palestinian Authority security forces happened to be nearby and waded in to extricate me as I was being hit and kicked. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians Attack Israeli Reporter: 2 - Avi Issacharoff
    For quite some time, those of us Israeli journalists reporting on the Palestinian scene have been finding it increasingly difficult to be in the heart of the action in the West Bank, in the Palestinian cities. We've been threatened increasingly frequently, told to get out, to go away. Over the past few months our relationship with Palestinian journalists has changed, cracked.
        Partly this stems from an initiative of a group of Palestinian journalists, with political pretensions, to "punish" their Israeli colleagues for the fact that they are denied access to Israel. The effort to kick Israeli journalists out of PA areas has created a violent, incendiary atmosphere against us.
        On Friday, a certain red line was crossed, the threats and the hostile atmosphere escalated into real violence. For almost 14 years, I have been reporting on the Palestinian arena. I've been at mass gatherings in Gaza, where tens of thousands of Hamas supporters, hundreds of them brandishing weapons, called out, "Death to Israel." And yet, an incident like Friday's had never happened to me. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Journalists' Association Condemns Attack on Israeli Journalists (Jerusalem Post)
  • Blaming Israel Again - Elliott Abrams
    On Thursday, the New York Times reported that "the president believes that more than any other factor, Israel's drumbeat of settlement announcements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem poisoned the atmosphere and doomed any chance of a breakthrough with the Palestinians." First, note that the term "settlement" is used for construction in Jerusalem, Israel's capital. Second, note that there is no reference to the 10-month settlement freeze Israel undertook in November 2009. For that decision Netanyahu got nothing in return from the Palestinians - who did not come to the table until the tenth month, when they knew the freeze was ending.
        Third, note that the reference is to a "drumbeat of settlement announcements" rather than actual construction. That's because there is no big increase in settlement activity. A careful analysis would show that the administration's accusation of vast increases in construction activity is wrong. Moreover, a settlement freeze has never been a precondition for talks before the Obama administration tried to make it so. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Rouhani Is No "Moderate" on Human Rights - Irwin Cotler
    The systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed - if not sanitized - by the preemptive international focus on the nuclear issue. Yet these serious human rights abuses in Iran continue unabated - or have even intensified - under Rouhani's "moderate" presidency.
        When the U.S. negotiated an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, it did not turn a blind eye to the USSR's human rights abuses. Instead, the Helsinki Final Act linked the security, economic, and human rights "baskets," with human rights emerging as the most transformative of the three. Negotiations with Iran should replicate this approach. The writer is former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. (Algemeiner)

The Nakba - Perpetuating a Lie - Moshe Arens (Ha'aretz)

  • The Nakba is a bald-faced lie - and peace will not be built on a lie. The date that the Nakba demonstrators have chosen to mark the day - May 15 - is the day on which the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded Israel with the intention of destroying the nascent Jewish State. The combined attack of the regular Arab armies on that day proves beyond doubt that the Nakba, "the Catastrophe," is a catastrophe that the Arabs brought upon themselves.
  • With all the sympathy that we can and should muster for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in Palestine that resulted from the mistakes made by their leaders and the leaders of the Arab world - mistakes which the local Arab population supported without dissent - those who argue that we in Israel should recognize the Nakba are lending a hand to perpetuating a lie and engaging in Soviet-style manipulation of history.
  • The Palestinian Arabs are not the only Arabs who have suffered as a result of their leaders' mistakes. Just look at Syria, where the number of casualties and refugees by now exceeds by far the plight of the Palestinian Arabs.
  • Germans and Japanese, nations that were devastated by war initiated by their leaders, well understand that they themselves are the guilty ones for the tragedies that they suffered as a result.
  • Victory in Europe Day, May 8, is not commemorated in Germany as the day of the German catastrophe, nor is Victory in Japan Day, August 15, commemorated in Japan as the day of the Japanese catastrophe. The Palestinians can take a lesson here.
  • But far more importantly, the recognition by the people of Germany and the people of Japan of their guilt for their own suffering and the suffering of others paved the way to peaceful relations with their former enemies.

    The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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