Five Principles for a Good Nuclear Deal with Iran

aipac-american-israel-public-affairs-committee1American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC

Congress must continue to insist on a good deal that eliminates every Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon. When reviewing the deal, Congress must ensure that each of the following five minimum criteria is met:


  1. Inspections and Verification – Inspectors must be granted unimpeded access to suspect sites for “anytime, anywhere” inspections, including all military facilities.
  1. Possible Military Dimensions – Iran must completely explain its prior weaponization efforts. Otherwise, it will be impossible to establish a baseline to measure Iran’s true capabilities and future actions.
  1. Sanctions – Sanctions relief must only begin after the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies that Iran has complied with its commitments under the agreement.
  1. Duration – A deal must last for decades to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear threshold state with a virtually instant breakout time after 12 or 13 years.
  1. Dismantlement – Iran must dismantle its nuclear infrastructure such that it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

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Why Israel is skeptical of Iran, and America should be, too

New Hampshire Union Leader — I NEVER DO anything without keeping one eye on Iran. Admittedly, it sours the atmosphere. But you would too if you were Israeli, against whom threats from Tehran have become a matter of routine.

Take for instance Mojtaba Zolnour, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s deputy representative to the Revolutionary Guards, who was recently quoted as saying the “government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel.”

Not too long ago, the Supreme Leader himself publicly laid out nine reasons why Israel should be annihilated. He proceeded to answer questions such as, “What is the proper way of eliminating Israel?” or “What is the most urgent action to take (to) militarily confront Israel?”

An article recently published in the influential Persian-language Iranian website Alef claimed that Jews are “human history’s most bloodthirsty people.” The article provided “evidence based on “historical events” drawn from some of the most infamous blood libels in Europe. Alef is owned by Ahmad Tavakkoli, a member of Iran’s parliament and cousin to the Larijani brothers: Mohammad, Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Sadeq, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Iran, and Ali, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament.

At least the Iranians are consistent.

Tehran continues to work overtime as it flexes its muscles throughout the Middle East. In Yemen, one of its ships barges into port. In Gaza, it upgrades ties with Hamas. They continue to push forward in Syria and Iraq, continue to threaten Bahrain, and continue to hold American hostages (such as Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian).

Indeed, as nuclear negotiations advance, there is no calming news about Iran. And no international body reflects this sentiment better than the United Nations.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was recently bashed by the Iranians when he dared to say: “If we have a reason to request access (to military sites), we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.” A seemingly straightforward concept, yet apparently Iran refuses to appreciate. 

The U.N. Sanctions Committee reportedly found that Tehran tried to bypass international sanctions by using false documentation. This was done in an attempt to purchase compressors with nuclear use from a U.S. corporation. Thankfully the attempt was uncovered in time to prevent the sale.

Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iran, recently condemned the sharp increase in executions within the last few weeks in the Islamic Republic. In many instances, executions have gone unreported by official sources, and the names of prisoners remain upnpublished. According to their report, the latest wave brings the total number of executions since January 1 to more than 340, including at least six political prisoners and seven women. 

The list of transgressions goes on, but a single page simply could not hold them all.

The United Nations can see that everything Tehran does runs counter to the accepted norms of international relations. The harsh truth on Iran is this: duplicity is the nature of the regime. They put on a good front when it suits them, but internally they rule with an iron fist and externally they seek to destabilize the region for their own benefit. The U.N. has realized this, just as Israel did long ago. Other governments and international organizations must come to the same realization on their own before the situation becomes dire.

Iran walks the walk when it comes to implementing its toxic ideology of hate and hegemony on the ground. Israel, routinely threatened from top to bottom by Tehran, doesn’t have the luxury of optimism. It shouldn’t be hard for our friends and allies to understand our skepticism when it comes to Iran; all they need to do is look closer at what the United Nations is experiencing regularly in this context. There is still time to strive for a better deal, but with nuclear negotiations advancing toward the June 30 deadline, an effort in this regard may unfortunately be too little too late.

Yehuda Yaakov is Consul General of Israel to New England.

Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards

Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.

IranKerryZarifNuclearTalksRTR4V44L-198x132Signatories include Dennis Ross, who oversaw Iran policy at the White House during the first Obama term; former CIA director David Petraeus; Robert Einhorn, a State Department proliferation expert who helped devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran; Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on nuclear policy; and Gen. James E. Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations”

Endorsed by a Bipartisan Group of American Diplomats, Legislators, Policymakers, and Experts

Washington Institute for Near East Policy (June 24):

The emerging agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. It will not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear enrichment infrastructure. It does not address Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, its ballistic missile arsenal, or its oppression of its own people.

The emerging nuclear agreement must provide the following:

  1. Monitoring and Verification: The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must have timely and effective access to any sites in Iran they need to visit in order to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere.
  1. Possible Military Dimensions: The IAEA inspectors must be able, in a timely and effective manner, to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities. This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.
  1. Advanced Centrifuges: The agreement must establish strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first ten years, and preclude the rapid technical upgrade and expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity after the initial ten-year period.
  1. Sanctions Relief: Relief must be based on Iran’s performance of its obligations. Suspension or lifting of the most significant sanctions must not occur until the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken the key steps required to come into compliance with the agreement. Non-nuclear sanctions (such as for terrorism) must remain in effect and be vigorously enforced.
  1. Consequences of Violations: The agreement must include a timely and effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically if Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, including by denying or delaying IAEA access.

Click here for the full open letter.

Islamic Jihad supports Ship to Gaza

“Report: Islamic Jihad threatens to break Gaza ‘cease-fire’ if Israel stops new flotilla”

Activists aboard a flotilla to Gaza [file]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Activists aboard a flotilla to Gaza [file]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (June 16) — A senior official from the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has reportedly threatened to break the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that ended last summer’s conflict in Gaza if Israel stops any new flotillas attempting to break the naval blockade of the Strip.

According to a Channel 2 report Sunday, senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batash said his group was closely monitoring a Swedish ship that has set sail toward the coastal Palestinian enclave.

In comments cited by Channel 2 regarding the Swedish Marianne of Gothenburg – the first boat in the Freedom Flotilla III to leave for Gaza – al-Batas said he hoped the vessel would make the same uproar in the international arena as did the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla did in 2010.

As the trawler left Sweden in May, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel will not allow unauthorized boats to enter its territorial waters.

Without relating to the Marianne, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that “if the so-called helpful Gaza flotillas were really interested in the welfare of the population in Gaza, they would send their aid via Israel. The fact that they insist on a flotilla demonstrates this is an unnecessary provocation.”

According to the website of Ship to Gaza Sweden, the vessel is scheduled to stop at ports in Helsingborg, Malmo and Copenhagen, as well as other ports.

The trawler does not have room for a significant cargo but will be carrying solar panels and medical equipment, according to the organization.

It is carrying five crew members and eight passengers.

Click here for original source.

Israel says war in Gaza was moral and deaths are the fault of Hamas

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The Washington Post (June 19) — Israeli officials issued a broad defense Sunday over how their country waged the war in the Gaza Strip last summer, making a case that Israel sought to minimize civilian casualties as the Islamist movement Hamas put its people in the line of fire and cynically used the ensuing death and destruction to stoke anti-Israel propaganda.

The Israeli report is timed to preempt what officials here assume is the imminent release of a critical report by the U.N. Human Rights Council on possible criminal acts by Israel and Hamas in the Gaza war.

Israel has declined to cooperate with the U.N. fact-finding mission, citing what it calls prejudicial resolutions by the U.N. council and its experience with a previous U.N. investigation into Israel’s military during the 2008-2009 Gaza war. That report was chaired by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who in 2011 withdrew a sensational charge contained in his report — that it was Israel’s policy to intentionally target civilians.

Israel predicts the new report from the United Nations will be a hatchet job. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that anyone who wants to read “the truth” should download the Israeli report. “Whoever wants to automatically — and without foundation — blame Israel, let them waste their time with the U.N. Human Rights Council report,” he said.

The U.N. report could be an important document for the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, who is conducting a preliminary examination to decide whether war crimes were likely committed in Gaza and whether the court has jurisdiction.

Netanyahu and his new cabinet have been arguing that the greatest threat facing Israel comes not from Hamas rockets in Gaza, but from Palestinians and their supporters in Europe and America who want to isolate, embarrass and press Israel. Their goal is to force an end to the 48-year military occupation of the West Bank and allow for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

“Israel is under an unprecedented attack of delegitimization. This attack is not substantive, it is political,” Netanyahu said upon receiving the new report at a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “This is our response.”

The Israeli report is an attempt to indict Hamas for its behavior during the war and to show that Israel’s military was a moral force.

“We’re not ashamed of the facts,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said at a press briefing conducted in English. “Israel is following international law,” she said, even when fighting “the most cruel, cynical and violent terrorists.”

The United Nations has reported that more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the conflict and that the majority were civilians, including more than 500 children.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday produced a different count of the Palestinian dead: 936 (44 percent) militants; 761 (36 percent) civilians; and 428 (20 percent) “yet to be categorized,” all males ages 16 to 50.

Dore Gold, the new general director of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the war against Hamas was forced upon Israel by Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilian centers, which he called an obvious war crime.

The 4,500 mortars and rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza had a range that could reach 70 percent of the Israeli public and caused widespread terror as was intended, with 10,000 Israelis along the Gaza border fleeing their homes, according to the report.

The discovery of 32 “attack tunnels” dug by Hamas (14 crossed the border into Israel, 18 were headed that way) lengthened the war, the report stated, because the Israeli military had to enter Gaza to destroy them.

In the immediate area near the Gaza border, where air raid sirens rang day and night, the Israelis say 38 percent of children were diagnosed as suffering from full or partial symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The war cost Israel almost a billion dollars in lost gross domestic product and almost $40 million in direct damages, according to the Israel Tax Authority. Six civilians in Israel and 67 Israeli soldiers were killed in the conflict.

For all this — and the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians — the Israelis blame Hamas, mostly for embedding its forces among civilians.

The report includes documents recovered by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip that extol the advantages of fighting the enemy — that is, Israel — in a dense urban environment filled with civilians.

Other Hamas texts in the report advise the populace to declare to the media that all dead Palestinians were “innocent civilians.” Internet postings from Hamas also show that the group urged civilians not to flee their homes because the leaflets being dropped by Israeli forces urging them to do so amounted to “psychological warfare.”

Israel says 550 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel and its forces from “sensitive sites” such as schools, U.N. facilities, hospitals, mosques and churches.

Click here for full article.

Ten Ways Israel Is Treated Differently

Israel-CrosshairsThe Huffington Post (June 16) — It’s appalling to see how Israel is treated by a totally different standard than other countries in the international system. Of course, Israel deserves scrutiny, as does every other nation. But it also merits equal treatment — nothing more, nothing less.

First, Israel is the only UN member state whose very right to exist is under constant challenge.

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel embodies an age-old connection with the Jewish people as repeatedly cited in the most widely read book in the world, the Bible, that it was created based on the 1947 recommendation of the UN, and that it has been a member of the world body since 1949, there’s a relentless chorus of nations, institutions, and individuals denying Israel’s very political legitimacy.

No one would dare question the right to exist of many other countries whose basis for legitimacy is infinitely more questionable than Israel’s, including those that were created by brute force, occupation, or distant mapmakers. Just look around at how many nations fit those categories, including, by the way, quite a few Arab countries. Why, then, is it open hunting season only on Israel? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s the only Jewish-majority country in the world?

Second, Israel is the only UN member state that’s been targeted for annihilation by another UN member state.

Think about it. The leadership of Iran, together with Iran-funded proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, has repeatedly called for wiping Israel off the map. Is there any other country facing the threat of genocidal destruction?

Third, Israel is the only nation whose capital city, Jerusalem, is not recognized by other nations.

Imagine the absurdity of this. Foreign diplomats live in Tel Aviv while conducting virtually all their business in Jerusalem. Though no Western nation questions Israel’s presence in the city’s western half, where the prime minister’s office, Knesset (Parliament), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are located, there are no embassies there.

In fact, look at listings of world cities, including places of birth in passports, and you’ll see something striking — Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; Pretoria, South Africa; Lima, Peru; and Jerusalem, sans country — orphaned, if you will.

Fourth, the UN has two agencies dealing with refugees.

One, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), focuses on all the world’s refugee populations, save one. The other, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), handles only the Palestinians.

But the difference goes beyond two structures and two bureaucracies. In fact, they have two different mandates.

UNHCR seeks to resettle refugees; UNRWA does not. When, in 1951, John Blanford, UNRWA’s then-director, proposed resettling up to 250,000 refugees in nearby Arab countries, those countries were enraged and refused, leading to his departure. The message got through. No UN official since has pushed for resettlement.

Moreover, the UNRWA and UNHCR definitions of a refugee differ markedly. Whereas the UNHCR targets only those who’ve actually fled their homelands, the UNRWA definition covers “the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948,” without any generational limitations.

Fifth, Israel is the only country that has won all its major wars for survival and self-defense, yet is confronted by defeated adversaries who have insisted on dictating the terms of peace.

In doing so, ironically, they’ve found support from many countries who, victorious in war themselves, demanded — and, yes, got — border adjustments.

Sixth, Israel is the only country in the world with a separate — and permanent — agenda item, #7, at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

No other member state, including serial human-rights violators like North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Sudan, gets its own agenda item. Only the sole liberal democracy in the Middle East is treated in this blatantly biased manner because that’s the way it works — the bad guys circle the wagons to protect one another, and, at the same time, gang up on Israel, creating an automatic majority against it.

Seventh, Israel is the only country condemned by name this year at the World Health Organization annual assembly as a “violator” of health rights.

This canard takes place despite the fact that Israel provides world-class medical assistance to Syrians wounded in the country’s civil war and Palestinians living in Hamas-ruled Gaza; has achieved one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates for all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike; is among the very first medical responders to humanitarian crises wherever they may occur, from Haiti to Nepal; and is daily advancing the frontiers of medicine for everyone, something that can’t be said for too many other nations.

Eighth, Israel is the only country that’s the daily target of three UN bodies established and staffed solely for the purpose of advancing the Palestinian cause and bashing Israel — the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People; and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs.

Ninth, Israel is the only country annually targeted by up to 20 UN General Assembly resolutions and countless measures in other UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.

Indeed, astonishingly, each year, Israel is on the receiving end of more such efforts than the other 192 UN member states combined. No one can seriously argue that this is remotely warranted, but it’s a reality because in every UN body, except the Security Council where each of the five permanent members has a veto, it’s all about majority voting.

When close to two-thirds of the world’s nations today belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, and when they elect a country like Iran as its chair, with Venezuela on deck, that just about says it all.

And tenth, Israel is the only country targeted by the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.

Has anyone seen any significant campus activity that takes aim at true human rights offenders, including some in Israel’s neighborhood, who behead, forcibly convert, and expel Christians; drop chemically-laced barrel bombs on civilians; deny Palestinians full rights; and use capital punishment, including for minors, with abandon?

Has any student group tried to prevent undergraduates from traveling to any country other than Israel, as was the case with a recent “pledge” circulated at UCLA?

Has anyone seen any flotillas or flytillas organized by European far-left groups that don’t involve an anti-Israel angle?

Has anyone seen movements for companies to pull out of any country other than Israel?

Turkey, as but one example, has brazenly and unjustifiably occupied one-third of the island nation of Cyprus for 41 years, deployed an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops there, and transferred countless settlers from Anatolia, yet there’s not a peep against Ankara from those who purport to act in the name of “justice” and against “occupation.”

Given political realities, tackling any of these instances of egregious double standards and blatant hypocrisy can be a daunting challenge. And, still worse, this list is not complete.

The old advertisement proclaimed that you don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Jewish rye bread. Well, surely, you don’t have to be a pro-Israel activist to be troubled by the grotesquely unjust treatment of Israel. All it takes is a capacity for moral outrage that things like this are happening today.

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Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted

Hirsh_Top_WEB-1024x719Report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Executive summary:

  • The Gaza War 2014: The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted is a researched and documented narrative that relates the truth as it happened. Israel was the target of thousands of rockets and mortar attacks against its civilian population, with some Israeli areas targeted that had three times the population density of Gaza. Israel clearly acted out of self-defense.
  • Though the images of the moment may have reflected massive damage in Gaza, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced on November 6, 2014, that Israel had gone to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.” A team of senior U.S. officers was sent to learn from Israel’s tactics. An analysis of UN satellite photos taken during the war shows that 72 percent of all damaged areas in Gaza were “within two miles of the Israeli border.”
  • While this was a war Israel did not want, it was a war that inadvertently preempted a terrorist massacre inside Israel’s heartland, principally through a network of sophisticated tunnels built deep under the border, and intended to stream hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated terrorists, many on suicide missions, in the quiet of night, to destinations where they could kill as many innocent people as possible and leave Israel mauled as never before. This was potentially Hamas’ terrorist version of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli forces in Sinai and the Golan Heights.
  • Israel suffered 74 dead in the war. Had the Iron Dome system not intercepted 735 rockets fired from Gaza, the Israeli casualty count would have been incalculably higher. Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15, as did Israel, Palestinian wartime fatalities would have numbered less than 200, as opposed to more than 2,100 who died by the time Hamas agreed to a final ceasefire on August 27. Thus, Hamas was fully responsible for more than 1,800 Palestinian deaths.
  • Moreover, while UN and Palestinian sources claimed that 72 to 84 percent of Palestinians in Gaza killed during the war were civilians, there are strong reasons to argue that the percentage of civilian casualties was less than 50 percent, a low one-to-one combatant-to-civilian ratio that is unprecedented in modern-day warfare. In addition, we don’t know how many Palestinians in Gaza died as human shields or of natural causes during the 50 days of war, or how many were casualties of the 875 Palestinian rockets known to have landed inside Gaza.
  • Yet many in the international community uncritically accepted the narrative about the war advanced by Hamas and its allies. A discerning look at the facts of what happened, however, would lead to the conclusion that it is Hamas, not Israel, which should be in the dock for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Click here to read the full report.

Israel ‘exceeded legal standards’ in Gaza conflict, military group tells UN

Ex-generals, chiefs of staff, say IDF’s ‘scrupulous adherence’ to laws of war cost Israeli lives, army took ‘extensive measures’ to protect Gazan civilians

Infantry soldiers operating on the ground during Operation Protective Edge, July 20, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit / Flickr)

Infantry soldiers operating on the ground during Operation Protective Edge, July 20, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit / Flickr)

The Times of Israel (June 14) –A multinational military group comprised of former chiefs of staff, generals and politicians submitted a report to the United Nations on Friday indicating that Israel went to great lengths to adhere to the laws of war and to protect Palestinian civilians during last summer’s 50-day war with Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip.

The report was submitted to the official UN probe into Operation Protective Edge, the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, which is expected to issue its own report in the coming days. The findings are set to be discussed at the end of the month before the council.

The High-Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict in 2014 held a fact-finding mission to Israel between May 18-22. It was sponsored by a pro-Israel group, was reportedly given unprecedented access to senior officials, and investigated allegations of war crimes and disproportionality.

The group found that “during Operation Protective Edge last summer… Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

They wrote that “in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.”

The mission specified that, according to its findings, the summer conflict was “not a war Israel wanted,” and it exercised great restraint in the months preceding the war when its civilian centers, especially in the south, were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza.

“The war that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists was a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens and its territory against sustained attack from beyond its borders,” the group wrote, adding that even in that time of war, Israel took extraordinary measures to protect the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians.

“Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances,” the report read.

The 50-day war is said to have killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip; and 73 Israelis, including 66 soldiers.

While acknowledging that some Palestinian deaths were caused by some errors and misjudgements during the war, the panel said Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups “as the aggressors and the users of human shields” were responsible for “the overwhelming majority of deaths in Gaza this summer.”

Israel said about half of those killed in Gaza were combatants and blamed Hamas for all civilian casualties, since it placed military infrastructure in residential areas.

The mission, sponsored by the Friends of Israel Initiative, was headed by the former chief of staff of the Bundeswehr and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann, and included 10 other generals, chiefs of staff, politicians and officials from Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia, Colombia, the US and the UK.

Click here for full article.

Palestinian children parade with toy machine guns

At West Bank kindergarten graduation ceremony, preschoolers perform to song promising enemies will be turned into ‘body parts’

Screen-Shot-2015-06-08-at-7.29.39-PM-e1433781710921-635x357The Times of Israel (June 9) — Children in a kindergarten run by a Palestinian charitable organization recently held a graduation ceremony in which preschoolers wore military uniforms and brandished toy machine guns as they performed a parade routine to a song vowing violence against enemies, a media watchdog group said.

The ceremony was filmed by a television station affiliated with the Palestinian Authority and posted on the internet last week, according to the US-based group MEMRI, which translated and posted the clip on Monday.

The kindergarten is in Anabta, in the Tulkarm area of the West Bank, and belongs to the Anabta women’s charity association, MEMRI reported.

A large photograph of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat was on the stage where the children performed.

The room was festively decorated, and the performance was watched by what appeared to be several dozen adults.

According to MEMRI, the words of the song to which the children performed run as follows:

“On the mountains, behind the hills, within the valleys – you will be defeated, you will be defeated.

“Whether you come by sea, or by air – you will be crushed, you will be crushed.

“If you stretch your hand, it will be chopped off. If you just look with your eye, it will be gouged out. The defeated army will be too terrified to come back.

“We come for you before, and woe betide you if we come back again. You come to this land alive, but you will leave it as body parts.”

Click here for full article.

Click here for the video clip.

Abbas to Syria’s Palestinian Refugees: Go to Israel or ‘Die in Syria’

PA President Mahmoud Abbas

PA President Mahmoud Abbas

The American InterestFaced with the suffering of their own people, the Palestinians’ leadership recently decided not to help. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a deal with Israel brokered by the United Nations that would allow Palestinian refugees living in Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas stated unequivocally that “we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return.” The Palestine Liberation Organization has also ruled out any military action to help the 18,000 or more refugees who are trapped in the Yarmouk camp near Damascus.

Abbas’s cold-blooded response reveals something fundamental about Palestinian society and identity. Far more than territory, the key Israeli-Palestinian issue is the idea of a Palestinian “right of return”—the belief in a legal and moral right of Palestinian refugees, and more importantly their descendants from around the world, to return to ancestral homes in [Israel’s part of] what was once Mandatory Palestine. This belief is so vital to Palestinian national identity that their leaders would rather they die than give it up and have a chance to live.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 1948 supposedly codifies this “right.” However, a closer look reveals it to be conditional: “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and … compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.” The resolution also calls for the United Nations “to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.”

Interestingly, all the Arab States in the UN at the time (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) voted against the resolution, since it implicitly accepted the partition of Mandatory Palestine that recognized the Jewish right to a state. But the actual text of the resolution has been irrelevant since the beginning; Palestinian identity has crystallized around the dream of an unconditional “right of return,” as has Palestinian propaganda to the world.

Since 1948, the “right of return” has been repeated innumerable times and has become rooted deeply in Palestinian culture. Abbas himself stated that “the right of return is a personal decision… neither the PA, nor the state, nor the PLO, nor Abu-Mazen [Abbas], nor any Palestinian or Arab leader has the right to deprive someone from his right to return.” Put this way, which Palestinian would be the first to violate a cultural norm?

More amazing still is the extent to which this imaginary right has been embraced elsewhere. One example, of many, is the American Friends Service Committee, a leading architect of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which calls for the “implementation of refugees’ right of return, equality, and justice for Palestinians and Israelis.” This simply means the end of Israel as a Jewish state, hardly equality or justice for both peoples. Such dishonesty about this pivotal Palestinian demand prolongs the crisis.

Abbas’s statement takes that “right” a step further still. He has effectively said it is an obligation for Palestinians to die rather than return under the wrong circumstances by moving to the territories of the Palestinian Authority itself and renouncing the desire to settle in what is now Israel. The centrality of the “right of return” to Palestinian identity, along with the concept of “resistance” as a means to restore both “justice” and “honor,” have reliably thwarted any consideration of resettlement. Now Abbas has laid out fully the idea of death before dishonor, or even the possibility of life under Palestinian Authority rule.

There have only ever been two solutions to the Palestinian problem, repatriation and resettlement. While at the beginning Israel offered to accept meaningful numbers of Palestinians, anything short of a complete restoration has always been off-limits politically among Palestinians. Now as Palestinians are dying, the barriers have been raised that much higher.

Al-Jazeera editor Mehdi Hasan recently wrote, “Now is the time for those of us who claim to care about the Palestinian people, and their struggle for dignity, justice, and nationhood, to make our voices heard,” but added that “Our selective outrage is morally unsustainable. Many of us who have raised our voices in support of the Palestinian cause have inexcusably turned a blind eye to the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed by fellow Arabs in recent decades.” That criticism applies first and foremost to the Palestinian leadership.

Click here for full article.

Implications of the Fall of Key Syrian and Iraqi Cities to ISIS

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (May 27):

Ramadi, Iraq (Wikipedia)

Ramadi, Iraq (Wikipedia)

  • The fall of the major cities of Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq to the Islamic State is part of the disintegration of the Middle East’s nation-states.
  • Assad-controlled Syria has shrunk to half its size and lost control of almost all of its borders. 
  • The Islamic State (IS) finds itself almost within shelling distance from Baghdad and bordering Saudi Arabia and Jordan, raising acute fears in both countries. On the Syrian front, IS has advanced to striking distance of Damascus.
  • The United States was surprised by the Islamic State’s victories, seeing the fall of Ramadi as a “set-back.”  A “sit and wait and see” policy may explain U.S. policy in Syria.
  • The battles have proven that the Shiite armies had no resolve or will to fight the Sunni jihadists. This leaves open the option of Iran and its proxies enlarging their involvement.
  • Hizbullah has been engaged in battle in Syria and has become an important pillar of the Syrian regime. Hizbullah has taken heavy casualties.

With the fall of Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) in Syria and Ramadi, east of Baghdad, to the Islamic State (IS), and the fall of the strategic town in the north of Syria – Jisr el Shughur – to the Jabhat el Nusra, the Middle East has entered a new phase in the disintegration of its nation-states.

The fall of Ramadi and Palmyra came as a stunning surprise to both analysts and intelligence agencies (including the United States) who only a few weeks ago claimed that IS had been contained. After the Iraqi forces’ recapture of Tikrit in April 2015, it seemed as if it was the beginning of the “reconquista” against the Sunni jihadist organization that had also suffered from the loss of several top commanders and the incapacitation of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reports claimed he was unable to lead and conduct the Islamic State’s affairs following a severe injury in March 2015.

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Diplomatic Activism Won’t Bring Israeli-Palestinian Peace

1332Israel Hayom (June 1) — The Europeans have decided that the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Holy Land, over a hundred years long, must finally end. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini recently came to Israel to convey the EU’s impatience with the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. France intends to bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council to set an 18-month deadline on the resolution of the conflict.

The European intentions are laudable, but seem to be removed from the Middle Eastern reality. While partition of the Land of Israel between the Jews and the Arabs living in this small part of the world is desirable, the Palestinian national movement has proven to be the wrong partner to implement partition and is largely responsible for the failure of the two-state solution.

The Palestinian national movement seems unable to reach a historic compromise with the Zionist movement as it still seeks control over the Temple Mount, a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and the complete absence of any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian media and education system perpetuate the conflict by inciting against Jews and their link to the Land of Israel. Indeed, the gap in positions between Israelis and Palestinians is extremely large and cannot be bridged overnight. It is totally unrealistic to expect an agreement on final status issues in the near future.

The bitter truth is that the two societies still have the energy to fight for what is important to them. Ethno-religious conflicts usually end when at least one of the sides displays great weariness. The gullible Europeans are having difficulty realizing that peace is not the most important value for the Israelis or the Palestinians.

In addition, the Palestinians failed to capitalize on the opportunity to build a state. The most remarkable failure and most devastating to the state-building attempt was the loss of a monopoly over the use of force. This led to chaos and the loss of Gaza to Hamas in 2007. As long as Hamas plays a central role in Palestinian affairs, no real Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation is possible. What happened in the Palestinian territories reflects a phenomenon widespread in the Arab world, the collapse of statist structures. Arab political culture seems unable to sustain statist structures or overcome tribal and sectarian identities.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is not that different than Arab political entities such as Libya, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen, which are unable to effectively govern their territories. The PA and its leadership are basically sitting on Israeli bayonets that make sure the PA-ruled territory is clear of radical violent elements that want to topple the illegitimate rule of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israel. This is the essence of the security cooperation between Israel and the PA. Economically, the PA is also dependent upon interactions with Israel and Israel’s cooperation with donor states.

Above all, the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state, a core issue in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Israel, under the leadership of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, recognized the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” in 1978, the Palestinians still have not reciprocated. Moreover, the growing appeal of Islamism within Palestinian society, a phenomenon reflecting regional trends, makes the recognition of a Jewish state increasingly difficult. Denying the legitimate right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel only reinforces the large Israeli consensus that the Palestinians are not a serious partner for peacemaking.

The turmoil in the Arab world has also hardened Israeli positions in negotiations with the Palestinians. Political circumstances may change suddenly in the Middle East, making defensible borders imperative. Israeli presence along the Jordan River is a vital security requirement for Israel. It is a pity that the Palestinians have not yet internalized this change and are failing to calibrate their aspirations to the reality on the ground. Unfortunately, realism is hardly part of the maximalist Palestinian political culture.

Therefore, the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains intractable. The two-state solution that everybody pays lip service to is simply not a realistic outcome under the current circumstances.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly accepted a working paper submitted by the U.S. in an effort to salvage the negotiations with the Palestinians. But Abbas refused to accept the American document, effectively ending the American diplomatic efforts. As expected, Netanyahu’s latest concession — negotiating the borders of the settlement blocs — did not satisfy Palestinian desires. Over the years, the Palestinians have rejected generous offers by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak (2000) and Ehud Olmert (2008). Obviously, Netanyahu cannot do better.

A resolution to the conflict is not in the cards. The best that can be achieved is interim agreements, tacit or formal, that do not entail grave security risks for Israel. Even the Obama administration learned the hard way that conflict resolution should be substituted with conflict management. That is the only strategy that has a chance to minimize suffering on both sides and achieve a modicum of stability in a stormy Middle East.

The European peace offensive, another exercise in futile diplomacy, will in all probability produce another bout of diplomatic activism in pursuit of another forum for an Israeli-Palestinian exchange of views that will similarly fail. Such failures hardly discourage professional diplomats who make an honorable living by trying to bring peace. The Quartet will probably also try again to make peace. We should wish all of them luck.

Efraim Inbar, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, is the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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The Truth about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

Does it stand for Middle East peace or does it seek Israel’s destruction?

bdsflyer1FLAME – Facts & Logic from the Middle East:

Leaders of the effort to boycott, divest from and apply sanctions against Israel — the so-called BDS movement — say they stand for an “end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” “justice in Palestine” and “freedom for the Palestinian people.” But what are the real motives of BDS leaders — do they really want peace between Israel and the Palestinian people?

What are the facts?

While the BDS movement uses highly emotive language in their appeals for support—such as “ending repression” and “Israeli war crimes”—a closer look at the real motives of the movement reveals a more sinister goal.

First, note that the BDS movement focuses only on alleged war crimes and repression by Israel—and ignores real war crimes and tyrannical repression by other Middle Eastern nations and terrorist organizations. When Hamas and Hizbollah target thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian populations in violation of international law, BDS utters not a word of criticism, let alone a call for boycotts or sanctions. When Iran’s government violently crushes peaceful protests and Egypt stifles its press and political opposition with a dictatorial hand, BDS is likewise silent. Why?

By singling out Israel for criticism and economic pressure, BDS employs a double standard—a hypocritical and dishonest tactic frequently used by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate groups.

The reason, as we’ll see, is that the BDS movement is not really interested in alleged war crimes or repression. Rather its purpose is to delegitimize and then destroy Israel.

The second critical fact about the BDS movement is that while it masquerades behind words like “freedom” and “occupation,” one need only listen closely to its rhetoric to realize that these are code words for the elimination of Israel.

BDS leaders oppose a two-state solution—why? While the United States, Western European powers, Israel and the U.N. Security Council have embraced a “two-state solution” as the basis for peace in the Middle East, BDS leaders, such as Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti, are clear: They openly and outspokenly oppose a two-state solution. Why?

Because when BDS supporters talk about “the occupation of Palestine,” they refer not to disputed West Bank territories, but to all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—including all of Israel. When they talk about “freedom,” they don’t mean freedom from security roadblocks, they mean freedom from Jews in their midst. When they talk about “occupation,” they mean not just Israeli security forces in the West Bank, they also mean Israelis “occupying” the state of Israel.

The third telling fact about the BDS movement is that it consistently and vehemently opposes any efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work in peace and on peace. For example, BDS leaders advocate boycotting cultural exchanges between Israelis and Palestinian artists. They condemn educational cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian universities. Most revealingly, they oppose peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, calling them “collaborationist.”

BDS is not about “occupation.” In short, BDS is not about peaceful coexistence or ending the “occupation” of the West Bank. Indeed, Omar Barghouti, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University and BDS founder, admits, “If the occupation ends . . . would that end support for BDS? No it wouldn’t—no.”

Not only do BDS leaders admit this, but they implacably support the “return” of nearly five million descendants of Arab refugees who left during Israel’s war of independence in 1947. In fact, most of these Palestinians are not truly refugees—fully 95 percent of them have never set foot in Israel.

Most importantly, the immigration of millions of Arab refugees’ descendants to Israel would make Jews a minority in their own state. As President Obama has correctly noted, “The ‘right of return’ would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state, and that’s not an option.” Yet destroying Israel by flooding it with millions of Palestinians is precisely what BDS leader Barghouti insists upon: “This (the right of return) is something we cannot compromise on.”

BDS’s goal: “Extinguish Israel as a Jewish state.” BDS unequivocally rejects Israel’s many peace offers—including numerous land-for-peace proposals supported by the United States—and rejects Israel’s willingness to sit down to direct peace talks without preconditions.

Thus, the facts make BDS’s intentions clear: Rather than being a movement that seeks peace and freedom, it is a movement motivated by an obsessive hate of Zionism and Jews and opposition to the Jewish state—one bent on fomenting strife, conflict and enmity until Israel is utterly defeated.

If you support peace between Israel and the Palestinians, if you support two states for two peoples—living side by side in cultural, social and economic harmony—please oppose the ill-intentioned BDS movement in your community. Speak out against hateful, one-sided campaigns to boycott Israeli goods, to divest from companies that do business with Israel and to enact sanctions against the state of Israel. This is not the path to peace!

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North Korean nuclear, missile experts visit Iran

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the test-fire of a strategic submarine underwater ballistic missile (not pictured), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015. REUTERS / KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the test-fire of a strategic submarine underwater ballistic missile (not pictured), in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015. REUTERS / KCNA

Reuters (June 1) — An exiled Iranian opposition group said on Thursday that a delegation of North Korean nuclear and missile experts visited a military site near Tehran in April amid talks between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.

The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. Analysts say it has a mixed record and a clear political agenda.

Iran says allegations that is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability are baseless and circulated by its enemies.

Iran and six world powers are trying to meet a self-imposed June 30 deadline to reach a comprehensive deal restricting its nuclear work. Issues remaining include monitoring measures to ensure it cannot pursue a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Citing information from sources inside Iran, including within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Paris-based NCRI said a seven-person North Korean Defence Ministry team was in Iran during the last week of April. This was the third time in 2015 that North Koreans had been to Iran and a nine-person delegation was due to return in June, it said.

“The delegates included nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems,” the NCRI said.

The Iranian embassy in France dismissed the report.

“Such fabricated reports are being published as we get closer to final stages of the talks and also because there is a high chance of reaching a final deal,” Iran’s state website IRIB quoted an unnamed Paris-based Iranian diplomat as saying.

In Washington, the State Department said it was examining the claims but had been unable to confirm them.

“These allegations, we’re taking them seriously,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters. “We have not been able to verify them thus far.”

There have previously been unconfirmed reports of cooperation between the two countries on ballistic missiles, but nothing specific in the nuclear field.

The U.N. Panel of Experts which monitors compliance with sanctions on North Korea has reported in the past that Pyongyang and Tehran have regularly exchanged ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions.

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Moscow changing tack on relationship with Assad

Syrian opposition sources say Russian planes have not delivered military supplies to Syria for last three months, U-turn partly driven by desire to boost economic ties with Gulf states.

In this February 7, 2012 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (L) meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

In this February 7, 2012 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (L) meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

(UK) (June 1) — Clear signs are emerging of a dramatic U-turn in Russia’s policy toward the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, with Moscow even beginning to consider a “future without Assad” for the country, sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moscow, along with Tehran, is one of the biggest supporters of the Assad regime, but the sources say there has been a recent change in comments from Russian officials as well as other, more substantive, changes indicating a major shift in Russia’s relationship with the Syrian government.

Western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that during a recent and unpublicized high-level meeting of security officials aimed at tackling the threat of terrorist groups to international security, the representative of the Russian delegation was asked a question regarding Moscow’s view of the possibility of a Syria “after Assad.”

According to the sources, who have requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, the representative said that “what concerns Russia is to safeguard its strategic interests and secure the future of minorities” in Syria, as well as ensuring the country remained united.

The sources said delegates at the meeting, which took place in a European city the sources declined to name, were shocked by the admission, which would represent the first of its kind from a Russian official. Russia has frequently used its UN Security Council veto to block any international action against the Syrian president and his regime.

The sources added that upon hearing the comments from the Russian representative, some of the other delegates immediately left the room in order to telephone their superiors and inform them of what they had just heard.

Meanwhile, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, sources from the Syrian opposition said Moscow had also recently transferred around 100 senior diplomatic and technical officials working in Syria back to Russia.

Many of them were working in the Damascus operations center providing support to Syrian security and military officials, alongside their Iranian counterparts and members of the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

The sources, who requested anonymity in order to protect their identities, said the Russians left for Moscow on a plane via the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, accompanied by their families.

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