Report: Kerry Working on New Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks (Times of Israel)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking to hold direct, intensive talks between Israel and the Palestinians under the auspices of regional Arab powers, Israel Channel 10 TV reported Wednesday.
Kerry wants negotiations to last two months and involve Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar.
Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted at the possibility of such a track on Wednesday, when he called for Arab involvement in the peace process.
Israeli Intelligence: Syria Retains Small WMD Capacity - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
The Assad regime continues to maintain a "residual" chemical weapons capacity, amounting to perhaps a few tons, according to Israel's intelligence agencies.
Israel maintains that the regime still has secret caches of chemical weapons. A senior Israeli defense official said the American intelligence community doesn't dispute this assessment.
Fatah: Hamas Leaders Stole $700 Million Collected for Gazans (MEMRI)
Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf told the PA's Al-Awda TV on Sep. 16:
During the Gaza war, "Hamas leaders in Gaza received $700 million... from all over the world. Where is it? We have seen televised fundraisers by Hamas supporters and allies, in which hundreds of millions were collected. Can anybody tell me where the money went?"
Nazi Hunters Find 80 "War Criminals" - Andrea Thomas (Wall Street Journal Europe)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said on Wednesday that it sent a list of 80 former members of Nazi death squads to the German government, urging authorities to prosecute those still alive.
Efraim Zuroff, the center's top Nazi hunter, said the list included 76 men and four women whom it had identified as members of the Nazis' SS-led Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe.
The squads murdered more than a million Jews, Gypsies, political opponents and local elites in Poland, the Balkans and the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1943.
"There is no reason to ignore these people just because they are elderly. They also don't deserve any sympathy since they obviously had none for their victims," Zuroff said.
Israel to Allow 500 Gazans to Visit Jerusalem for Muslim Holiday (Ma'an News-PA)
Israeli authorities have granted 500 Palestinians from Gaza three-day permits to visit Jerusalem over the Eid al-Adha holiday, a Palestinian official said Wednesday.
This was the first time Israel had granted such a large number of visitor permits to Gazans since Hamas took power in 2007. The Palestinians are all over the age of 60.
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- Obama Meets with Netanyahu at White House - Katie Zezima and Carol Morello
President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday amid a dramatically changed Middle East. Netanyahu praised the U.S. for its campaign against the Islamic State. "Israel fully supports your effort and your leadership to defeat ISIS," Netanyahu said. "We think everybody should support this." Netanyahu also thanked the U.S. for its "unflinching support you gave Israel during our difficult days" during the Gaza war. (Washington Post)
See also Netanyahu to Obama: Don't Allow Iran Deal that Leaves It at Nuclear Threshold - Matt Spetalnick
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama on Wednesday that he must make sure that any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave it at the "threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons. "As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu said. "I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen." (Reuters)
- Hamas Seeks to Establish Islamic State in Place of Israel
Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Zahar announced Tuesday, "We don't want to establish an Islamic emirate in Gaza; we want an Islamic state in all Palestine."
Al-Zahar vowed that his movement will follow "the program of resistance," adding that "during the last war on Gaza, we learned how to liberate all the occupied lands of Palestine." (Xinhua-China)
- Islamic State Dispersing to Impede U.S. Airstrikes - Tony Capaccio
Islamic State terrorists are dispersing and changing tactics to make it harder for U.S. airstrikes to target them, the Pentagon's spokesman said. "They're blending in more" with the population and dispersing, and "they aren't communicating quite as openly or as boldly as they once were," said Rear Admiral John Kirby.
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- Israel Okays New Homes for Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem
A Jerusalem committee gave its final approval last week to advance the construction of new housing in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon said Wednesday. The move was largely symbolic, as the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee had formally announced the project in 2012. Half of the housing units will be designated for Arab residents, while the remaining apartments will house Jews, Army Radio reported.
(Times of Israel)
See also Netanyahu Rejects U.S. Censure of Israeli Housing Moves in Jerusalem - Herb Keinon
The Prime Minister's Office said that the step taken on Givat Hamatos was a "technical step" taken at the local level on a plan approved over two years ago, and that an NGO group publicized the most recent step on Wednesday in order to harm the prime minister's meeting with President Obama. Netanyahu said that the issue did not come up in his two-hour meeting with Obama. (Jerusalem Post)
- Netanyahu: I Won't Tell Jews They Can't Buy Apartments in Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
After the White House criticized the purchase by Jews of apartments near Jerusalem's Old City, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "It is better to know the material before deciding to take such a stance....Arabs in Jerusalem are free to purchase apartments in the western [part of the] city and no one is arguing against it....I have no intention of telling Jews they can't buy apartments in east Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination - not against Jews and not against Arabs....No one stole those houses or confiscated the property. Arabs are selling houses to Jews and Jews are selling houses to Arabs." (Ha'aretz)
- Jerusalem Mayor: We Won't Apologize for Building
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat responded to U.S. criticism over Israel's plan to build new housing in the city. "I will not cooperate with a construction freeze against the Jewish people in the capital of Israel. Discrimination based on religion, race and sex is illegal - it is not permitted in the U.S. or in any other enlightened country." (Ynet News)
- The Khorasan Group Should Scare Us - Matthew Levitt
More of a cell or network than a distinct group, Khorasan operates in Syria under the umbrella of the local al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, but it appears to function independently of Nusra and report back to al-Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan.
U.S. officials say the network only emerged on the ground in Syria over the past year, its members dispatched there by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for the express purpose of using the vacuum created by the war in Syria to "develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations," according to a BBC report.
U.S. officials now see the Khorasan group as the primary al-Qaeda entity plotting near-term attacks against the West. By September, a Pentagon spokesman said, intelligence reports indicated the Khorasan group was "in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks."
Before moving to Syria last spring, Khorasan head Mohsen al-Fadhli, a longtime al-Qaeda operative, had been living in Iran, where he served as al-Qaeda's "senior facilitator" overseeing a network who were "working to move fighters and money through Turkey to support al-Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria," according to the State Department.
With ISIL commanding all the attention, al-Qaeda appears especially keen on carrying out an attack to prove its continued relevance.
The writer is director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism & Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Iran Taking Advantage of the Focus on ISIS - Clifford D. May
The president had been demanding that Iran's rulers dismantle key elements of their nuclear program and disclose past weaponization activities. Now, he appears prepared to settle for disconnecting some centrifuges or reducing the uranium gas fed into them (both easily reversible), deferring demands that Iran's rulers admit past weaponization until after a deal is signed, and hoping that breakout to nuclear weapons can be deterred through enhanced inspections and whatever economic leverage the West retains - probably not much since a senior official in charge of the negotiations is already promising to suspend major sanctions soon after a deal.
The Islamic State's flamboyant barbarism has been consuming the oxygen, making it easy to forget that Iran has long been, according to the U.S. State Department, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Negotiations with Iran are to conclude Nov. 24. The president would be wise to make clear that no agreement is preferable to a bad agreement.
The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Life and Death with Hamas - Editorial
Last week we had another illustration of the defining moral difference between Israel and Hamas.
Thousands of mourners marched in honor of Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, both affiliated with Hamas, who murdered three Israeli students.
Now compare this to the Israeli response to the horrific, retaliatory killing of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair. Israeli authorities pulled all stops to hunt down and arrest those suspected in the killing.
In the clash between the Jewish state and its enemies, it helps to remember that one side uses all its might to bring to justice those who target innocent life - while the other too often celebrates this deadly work so long as the target is a Jew.
(New York Post)
Iran on the Verge of a Diplomatic Triumph - David Frum (Atlantic Monthly)
- The rulers of Iran stand on the verge of scoring a stunning diplomatic triumph over the U.S. Even more impressive: They did it all on bluff.
- A year ago, the rulers of Iran faced disaster. Their currency had lost 3/4 of its value, due in largest measure to the tough economic sanctions signed into law by President Obama at the beginning of 2012. Inflation was raging, unemployment was surging. And their most useful regional ally, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, seemed doomed.
- Today, the U.S. is coordinating bombing missions with Assad. Iran has obtained considerable sanctions relief. Its currency has strengthened, inflation has abated, and foreign trade and investment are reviving. The U.S. has progressively reduced its demands for nuclear limits on Iran.
- The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has retreated from the longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its nuclear centrifuges, allowing its nuclear-enrichment capacity to remain intact, marking the latest in a series of American climb-downs.
- On the present trajectory, any final agreement will leave Iran paused on the verge of nuclear-weapons capability - and this time, with the U.S. having signed away any non-military means of preventing Iran's final drive to complete a bomb.
- The U.S. - which began the nuclear talks from a position of strength - has acted throughout the negotiations like the weaker party. The U.S. visibly hungered for a deal, and Iran took advantage of that hunger.
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