Israel is furious at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for meeting Wednesday in Turkey with Amna Muna, a Palestinian woman who infamously lured an Israeli teen to the West Bank in 2001, where he was murdered by Palestinians.
Muna was serving a life sentence until she was released in October in a swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, "the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting murderers up on a pedestal. This raises serious questions as to their commitment and their desire to end the conflict."
U.S. Commander Visits Israel to Finalize Missile Drill
Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the U.S. Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel last week to finalize plans for the largest-ever missile defense exercise this spring, which will include the deployment in Israel of several thousand American soldiers.
The drill will include the establishment of U.S. command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany - with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.
UNESCO Funds Palestinian Magazine Glorifying Hitler
The Simon Wiesenthal Center asked UNESCO's director-general Wednesday to suspend its sponsorship of a Palestinian children's magazine that applauded Hitler for murdering Jews.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, the educational magazine Zayafuna published an essay in February 2011 by a teenage Palestinian girl who wrote about meeting Adolf Hitler in a dream.
Hitler tells her that he killed the Jews "so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world."
See also Hitler Admired in PLO Youth Magazine Because He Murdered Jews
U.S. Man Convicted of Conspiring to Help al-Qaeda
Tarek Mehanna, 29, born in the U.S. and raised in the Boston suburbs, was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to help al-Qaeda and plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Prosecutors said Mehanna and two friends conspired to travel to Yemen to receive training at a terrorism camp and eventually go on to Iraq to fight and kill U.S. soldiers there.
Mehanna returned home and began to see himself as part of the al-Qaeda "media wing," translating materials promoting violent jihad and distributing them over the Internet, prosecutors said.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
* U.S. Urges Greater Iran Sanctions Implementation
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to redouble efforts to implement sanctions against Iran, saying tougher action could slow the country's nuclear program and "show Iran there is a price to pay for its deception." "No one, after reading the November [IAEA] report, can reasonably believe Iran's contention that its continuing uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only." (AP-CBS News)
* U.S.: Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Cannot Be Resolved in the Security Council
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Wednesday: "Shouting from the rooftops of the Security Council is not going to change the situation on the ground, which is that these parties [Israelis and Palestinians] have to get back to the table and settle these issues together, and that's the way we're going to have a lasting, stable peace." "The answer to the problems in Israel with the Palestinian people can only be resolved when they sit down and talk to each other. They cannot be resolved in the Security Council." (State Department)
* Syria Army Pounds Northern Towns
Syrian military forces have killed hundreds of people in two days of tank and mortar shelling in the country's north, antigovernment activists reported, reversing dissident soldiers' recent bid to carve out a safe zone in towns near the border with Turkey. Tanks sprayed antiaircraft rounds through neighborhoods while machine gun-wielding troops stormed homes looking for activists. The surge in violence comes two days after the Syrian government agreed to admit Arab monitors. (Wall Street Journal)
See also 100 Killed in "Organized Massacre" on Syrian Village, Activists Say
As Syrian government troops advanced on the village of Kfar Owaid, about 30 miles from the northern border with Turkey in Idlib province, activists say the terrified residents fled into a valley for fear of being arrested. The troops surrounded the valley and unleashed a barrage of rockets, tank shells, bombs and gunfire in an hours-long assault, leaving no survivors. "It was an organized massacre," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The troops surrounded people, then killed them." (AP-Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
* U.S., Israel on Same Page over Iranian Threat
The U.S. understands the true military threat posed by Iran's nuclear program and is on the same page with Israel regarding the severity of the issue, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Wednesday. "The Americans are aware of the true intelligence and they understand that the Iranian threat is not something innocent, but something real," Vilnai said.
Vilnai said that the mind-set in Washington was "different two years ago," and that the U.S. position vis-a-vis Tehran's nuclear agenda today mirrors the one held in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
* Israel to EU: Focus on Iran and Syria
In response to European condemnation of Israel's construction in the West Bank, the Israel Foreign Ministry on Wednesday urged EU members of the UN Security Council to concentrate on "peacemaking in bloodshed hotspots such as Syria, on instilling democracy and moderation in Arab countries aspiring to freedom, and on defusing the global danger embodied in the Iranian nuclear race. The European UNSC members have chosen to do what is easy and unnecessary, rather than muster their courage and do that which is difficult and necessary." (Ynet News)
* Security Cameras Reduce Vandalism on Mount of Olives
A year after the Prime Minister's Office began funding security cameras in the Mount of Olives cemetery, vandals desecrating graves are caught more often, and are more easily convicted due to video evidence. In one recent case, the man arrested said he had been paid NIS 1,000 to vandalize a grave. The Mount of Olives has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
* Why Syria's Regime Is Doomed
"This is a regime that is entirely dependent on coercion, and the coercion is failing, and when a regime is entirely dependent on coercion that is not succeeding, you know that that's a regime that's not going to be around for an extended period."
"At the end of the day, the image [Bashar Assad] had created about being a modernizer was purely an image and didn't reflect reality. Some people speculate that his brother, Maher, who heads the Republican Guard, pushed him into it [the military crackdown]. I don't buy it. He presided over a very corrupt regime that depended on operating a certain way." Dennis Ross previously served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for the central region at the National Security Council. (Council on Foreign Relations)
* Stormy Weather Ahead for Hizbullah
Despite Hizbullah's repeated reassurances, it seems that the actual level of popular and political support for the group is not as solid as Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah would like us to believe. Nasrallah's continuing support for the Assad regime has been widely criticized, both within Lebanon as well as regionally. Political commentators and pundits - especially in Lebanon and within the Gulf - have publicly denounced Hizbullah's support for the Assad regime.
With Assad gone, Hizbullah could lose both political backing as well as logistical and operational assistance. Hizbullah may have a hard time building good relations with the same Syrian opposition forces that it earlier accused of being on the American and Israeli payroll. A regime change in Syria might also provide a powerful second-wind to the forces of Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" of spring 2005. The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
* Hamas for Sale?
Palestinian news sources reported this month that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan promised $300 million to the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas. According to the Arabic daily al-Hayat, the group's external leaders are fleeing Damascus. Egypt, Tunisia, and Qatar have all reportedly considered hosting Hamas' external headquarters, but each has a generally risk-averse foreign policy, under which the terrorist group would be an undue liability.
In the end, Turkish patronage of Hamas is unlikely. Hamas would destroy whatever remains of its relationship with Iran by moving into regional rival Turkey's orbit. If Hamas remains financially hobbled and homeless, after 24 years of violence, the terror group may have little choice but to bend. The writer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former terrorism analyst at the U.S. Treasury. (Weekly Standard)
Israel Is Wide Awake as Decision Time Approaches on Nuclear Iran
* Israel has been publicly debating the wisdom of a military strike on Iran's nuclear program. But it is not "sleepwalking" into a war. The Israeli discourse is a real debate driven by the feeling that Iran's nuclear project is advancing, international resolve is insufficient and regime change does not look imminent.
* Israel perceives a nuclear Iran as a potentially existential threat. The possible combination of extreme Islamism, a messianic leadership calling to "wipe Israel off the map," and nuclear weapons is deeply sobering. Given Israel's collective memory of the Holocaust and its hostile surroundings, Israelis take this threat especially seriously.
* Even assuming Iran can be deterred from using a nuclear bomb, a nuclear Iran will dramatically upset the strategic balance in a region undergoing revolutionary transition. Having defeated international pressure and acquired a nuclear umbrella, Iran will be emboldened as a radical regional pole.
* A nuclear Iran will overshadow the calculations of regional actors, trigger a regional nuclear arms race, destroy the non-proliferation treaty and increase the danger of miscalculation towards a nuclear crisis.
* Iran will escalate its destabilizing power projection, threatening Israel and moderate Arab regimes, undermining any peace process, manipulating energy markets and posing as guardian of certain Muslim communities even beyond the Middle East. Over time, one cannot rule out proliferation to non-state actors. Containment and deterrence will do little to offset these severe consequences.
* The Israeli public debate reflects the fact that Israelis do not want war. Rather, they feel that while the problem is not exclusively theirs, a failure of international pressure will leave them alone with that decision. Far from sleepwalking, Israelis have their eyes wide open and expect others to do the same.
The writer, former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.