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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Good news from Iran

Here's some good news from Iran for a change: A lot of Iranian MP's are upset with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because he refuses to believe that Ayatollah Ali Khameni is infallible.
Ahmadinejad has refused to appear at the presidential palace since Friday in what is being seen as a reaction to Ayatollah Khamenei's reinstating of a minister he initially "asked to resign".

Under pressure from Ahmadinejad the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, a close ally of the supreme leader, stepped down on 17 April but was reinstated when Khamenei asked him in a letter to stay.

The president has not publicly shown his support for that decision and on Wednesday he refused for the second time to chair a cabinet meeting in which Moslehi was present. Ahmadinejad also reportedly cancelled an official visit to the holy city of Qom prompting reactions among conservatives that "the president was sulking".

Under Iran's constitution, the president is in charge of appointing cabinet ministers who will hold the ministerial office after the approval of the parliament but an unwritten law requires all officials to abide by the supreme leader.

Iran's opposition has speculated that Khamenei is worried about the increasing power of Ahmadinejad and especially his chief-of-staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Khamenei is believed to be particularly concerned about two key positions in the cabinet, the ministry of foreign affairs and the intelligence ministry, where he traditionally has influence. Ahmadinejad's administration is also accused of losing billions of dollars of Iran's oil revenues in recent years.
And the real reason why Ahmadinejad is challenging Khameni?
Conservatives believe that the increasing tension between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei stems from the growing influence of Mashaei, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as his possible successor.

Mashaei, whose daughter married Ahmadinejad's son, has become the most controversial figure in Iran, provoking harsh criticism from conservatives by favouring a greater cultural openness and opposing greater clerical involvement in the regime.
Ah yes, the good old anti-nepotism rule. He's Ahmadinejad's mechutan.

Read the whole thing. Maybe Iran can tear itself apart from within. Heh.

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Davutoğlu tries to take credit

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is trying to take 'credit' for the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. (Hat Tip: Joshua I).
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu became intensely involved in the issue after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas initiated a telephone conversation with him on March 31 and informed him of his call to Hamas on March 16. At the time Davutoğlu conveyed his support for Abbas’s announcement, in which he said he intended to visit the Gaza Strip in a bid to end the bitter split with the Hamas movement that governs the territory.

Davutoğlu initiated a telephone conversation with Abbas late on Wednesday night and the two assessed developments regarding the deal between the two Palestinian factions, diplomatic sources told Today’s Zaman on Thursday. Davutoğlu expressed his pleasure over the fact that an agreement had been finally reached, sources said.

“When Abbas called Mr. Davutoğlu on March 31, the latter urged the Palestinian leader for direct talks with Hamas. That conversation was also the reason for Mr. Davutoğlu holding talks with Mr. Mashaal,” a senior Turkish diplomat told Today’s Zaman on Thursday, referring to Davutoğlu’s meeting with the chief of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, at the Turkish Embassy in the Syrian capital on April 6.

Davutoğlu arrived in Damascus on the morning of April 6, completing a less-than-48-hour whirlwind round of diplomacy intended to take the pulse of the volatile Middle Eastern region, which has been prone to sectarian clashes and division. While in Damascus, ahead of his meeting with Mashaal, which was not announced earlier, he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The tête-à-tête was followed by another meeting between the Turkish and Syrian delegations. Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, an advisor for political and media affairs to the Syrian presidency, and Davutoğlu’s Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, also participated in the second part of the talks.

Speaking to reporters in Damascus late on April 6, after his meeting Mashaal, Davutoğlu had expressed optimism for an end to the rift between the Palestinian factions, warning that the recent upheavals in the Middle East region should cause the Palestinian issue to be ignored.

“During the meeting with Mr. Mashaal, our minister urged him to take a positive step towards Abbas’ call, underlining that this rift would otherwise seriously damage the Palestinian cause,” the same Turkish diplomat, speaking under a customary condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman. “The issue was also on the agenda for Mr. Davutoğlu’s talks in Cairo,” the diplomat added, referring to Davutoğlu’s visit to Cairo on April 10 for talks with Arab League chief Amr Moussa.

While in Cairo, Davutoğlu spoke with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi and the top item on the agenda of these talks was Palestine, the diplomat said.
Sorry, but I think the guy is just trying to toot his own horn. Calling everyone up to ask "how's it going" does not constitute playing a major role in anything.

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The Obama doctrine: Leading from behind

To those of you who - like me - have had Ryan Lizza's epic New Yorker article open in your browser all week and have not found the time to read it, Charles Krauthammer is a Godsend (Hat Tip: Stephen D).
Take proposition one: We must “lead from behind” because U.S. relative power is declining. Even if you accept the premise, it’s a complete non sequitur. What does China’s rising GDP have to do with American buck-passing on Libya, misjudging Iran, appeasing Syria?

True, China is rising. But first, it is the only power of any significance rising militarily relative to us. Russia is recovering from levels of military strength so low that it barely registers globally. And European power is in true decline (see Europe’s performance — excepting the British — in Afghanistan and its current misadventures in Libya).

And second, the challenge of a rising Chinese military is still exclusively regional. It would affect a war over Taiwan. It has zero effect on anything significantly beyond China’s coast. China has no blue-water navy. It has no foreign bases. It cannot project power globally. It might in the future — but by what logic should that paralyze us today?

Proposition two: We must lead from behind because we are reviled. Pray tell, when were we not? During Vietnam? Or earlier, under Eisenhower? When his vice president was sent on a goodwill trip to Latin America, he was spat upon and so threatened by the crowds that he had to cut short his trip. Or maybe later, under the blessed Reagan? The Reagan years were marked by vast demonstrations in the capitals of our closest allies denouncing America as a warmongering menace taking the world into nuclear winter.

“Obama came of age politically,” explains Lizza, “during the post-Cold War era, a time when America’s unmatched power created widespread resentment.” But the world did not begin with the coming to consciousness of Barack Obama. Cold War resentments ran just as deep.

It is the fate of any assertive superpower to be envied, denounced and blamed for everything under the sun. Nothing has changed. Moreover, for a country so deeply reviled, why during the massive unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria have anti-American demonstrations been such a rarity?

Who truly reviles America the hegemon? The world that Obama lived in and shaped him intellectually: the elite universities; his Hyde Park milieu (including his not-to-be-mentioned friends, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn); the church he attended for two decades, ringing with sermons more virulently anti-American than anything heard in today’s full-throated uprising of the Arab Street.

It is the liberal elites who revile the American colossus and devoutly wish to see it cut down to size. Leading from behind — diminishing America’s global standing and assertiveness — is a reaction to their view of America, not the world’s.
Read it all. He's excellent.

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Video: LATMA tribal update with a parable

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone.

Most of this week's LATMA update is local news, but make sure you watch the bedtime story with the eagle toward the end.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Sabbath music video

This week's Torah portion includes the verse "V'Ohavta l'reiacha kamocha" (you shall love your friend as yourself) about which the great Tanna Rabbi Akiva said "Zeh klal gadol baTorah" (this is an important rule in the Torah).

Here are Eli and Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner.

Let's go to the videotape.

Shabbat Shalom everyone.

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Video: Iranian website shows disturbing Holocaust cartoons

Sunday night and Monday Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

Here are some cartoons about the Holocaust from an Iranian website.

Let's go to the videotape.

One of the cartoons shows a gas chamber into which Jews are depicted entering one by one. Above the chamber is a counter which counts the number of Jews who have entered the chamber, until it reaches six million – the number of Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. After the counter reaches the six million mark, the Jews who remain alive are seen cheering.

The clip then goes on to show a Jewish person as he approaches what appears to be an automated banking machine. He is shown to withdraw six million dollars from the machine, at which point it is revealed that the machine is in fact a “Holocaust Memorial.” The purpose of this cartoon is to criticize the world for its acceptance to pay restitution to the Jewish people over the Holocaust.

A third cartoon depicts Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as he ponders which mustache to wear, finally deciding on one that looks like a Star of David.

Also shown is one cartoon which depicts Europe as a cow, and the Holocaust as a means of milking money from the Europeans.
Read the whole thing.

Those who still think Ahmadinejad doesn't mean it are burying their heads in the sand. They are willfully fooling themselves.

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Video: Journalist abuse in the Middle East

Lara Logan may be the one appearing on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, but she's far from the only journalist who has been abused. In fact, official abuse of journalists is far worse than what Logan apparently went through.

Let's go to the videotape.

By the way, guess which is the only country in the Middle East where journalists are free to write what they please.

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Syria and Hezbullah say they'll compete to hit Tel Aviv first

'In case' of war, Syria and Hezbullah have announced that they will compete to see who can hit Tel Aviv first.
If war breaks out between Israel, Syria, and Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime will "play powerful cards" in south Lebanon and will not hesitate to respond, senior security officials in Syria said, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

According to the officials, in case of war with Israel, Syria and Hezbollah will compete with each other over who will fire the first Scud or Fateh missile at Tel Aviv.

The Syrian officials also warned that the deteriorating security situation in Syria and damage to the country's stability may also have an effect on the situation in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.
I think that the IDF should let its pilots compete over whether Beirut or Damascus will be turned to rubble first. Heh.

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Vote to kick J Street out of the JCC

Boston's Jewish Advocate has a poll that asks "Should the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston keep J Street as a member organization?"

Go here and vote no.

At this writing (several hours before you're seeing this post), the no vote is winning 55-44.

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Even Israel's space cadet realizes that Hamas-Fatah unity is over the line

Even Israel's first space cadet, Shimon Peres, has figured out that a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is the end of the line for his 'New Middle East' pipe dream (Hat Tip: Lance K).
"The move, as it stands, is a fatal mistake." A Palestinian election could lead to a "terror organization ruling both Gaza and Judea and Samaria and the triumph of Hamas' policies." [Funny, but that was the case from 1993-2006 when Fatah's 'Palestinian Authority' ruled both Gaza and Judea and Samaria. CiJ].

A Palestinian unity government with Hamas – an organization which in its charter seeks the destruction of the State of Israel – leaves Israel without a partner for peace. Instead, as Peres noted, it indicates the Palestinian Authority would prefer "walking hand in hand with a terror organization," than make any effort toward peace.

Peres added that the result of the unity government would be "continued rocket fire, the continued killing of innocent people, and the continuation of Iran's intervention, which supports and funds regional terror."


"Unite for peace instead of creating a façade of unity that would prevent you from moving in any direction. The choice is in all our hands and we mustn't miss the opportunity created to make peace in favor of incessant clashes."
No Shimon, it's not a mistake. It's what the 'Palestinians' have wanted all along. Better now than after Israel is suckered into making a massive 'withdrawal' from Judea and Samaria. Now, we know the truth. The 'Palestinians' don't want peace.

Photoshop courtesy of MR (daughter # 3 child # 5).

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Dissident Reform Jews protest Jacobs selection

You will recall that the reform movement selected rabbi Rick Jacobs as the President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Jacobs is a board member of the New Israel Fund, a member of J Street's 'rabbinic cabinet,' and has participated in demonstrations in Israel against Jewish residents of Jerusalem. He favors BDS - but 'only against the settlements.'

A group of sane Reform Jews has placed a full-page ad in many Jewish newspapers this week. I have embedded it below (Hat Tip: Dan F).

Reform Ad

I urge you to support the people who placed the ad.

That's a second voice of sanity from Jacobs' constituents. Here's the first one.

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Smart diplomacy: Syria gloating over US failure at UN

Here's some more smart diplomacy from the Obama administration: Syria is gloating over the failure of the Obama administration to get sanctions enacted and a condemnation of Syria at the United Nations.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Hot Air).

What could go wrong?

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Watch the royal wedding live here three ways

Okay, this is a shameless pitch for traffic. Here's the schedule for the royal wedding, which starts in about 40 minutes at 10:10 am BST. Below, I have embedded the livestream video of the wedding so that you can all watch it right here.
The Royal Wedding Schedule: (All Times BST)
10:10 - Prince William and Prince Harry leave Clarence House for Westminster Abbey.
10:15 - Prince William and Prince Harry arrive at the Abbey.
10:20 - Members of foreign royal families arrive at Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace.
10:20 - Kate Middleton's mother, Carole, and brother, James, leave the Goring Hotel for Westminster Abbey.
10:25 - Minor members of the Royal Family leave Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey.
10:35 - The Duke of York and his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, leave for Westminster Abbey along with the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence.
10:38 - The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall leave Clarence House for Westminster Abbey.
10:40 - The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh leave Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey.
10:48 - The bridesmaids and pages leave the Goring Hotel for Westminster Abbey.
10:51 - The bride, accompanied by her father Michael, leaves the Goring Hotel for Westminster Abbey.
11:00 - The marriage service begins and is relayed by speakers along the route.
12:15 - The carriage procession of the bride and bridegroom with a captain's escort of the Household Cavalry, followed by the Queen's procession with a sovereign's escort of the Household Cavalry, leaves Westminster Abbey for Buckingham Palace.
12:30 - The bride's carriage procession arrives at Buckingham Palace.
12:40 - Members of the Royal Family and members of foreign royal families arrive at Buckingham Palace.
13:25 - The Queen and the bride and bridegroom, together with their families, appear on the balcony.
13:30 - Fly-past by the Royal Air Force and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Would you believe that both Israel Radio and Television are broadcasting this live?

Okay, I have three livestreams for you. Let's go to the videotape.

Video streaming by Ustream

Here's the second one. Let's go to the videotape.

Here's the third one. Let's go to the videotape.

The last two livestreams are both from Hulu, and if you are outside the US you may have problems accessing them. If you have problems, go here for solutions.

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Swedish trade union invites Leila Khaled to speak

As if we needed any more evidence of how much anti-Semitism there is in Sweden, a Swedish trade union has invited 'Palestinian' terrorist Leila Khaled (who tried and failed to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York in 1970) to speak at its annual May Day event on Sunday.
A Swedish trade union has invited convicted Arab terrorist hijacker Leila Khaled to speak at its upcoming May Day celebration.

A post on the SAC-Syndikalisterna Facebook page proudly announces that “Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled” will be one of the speakers at the Stockholm LS of SAC – Syndikalisterna celebration, set for May 1.
Blame the Brits for this one. After the hijacking was foiled, the plane landed in London and Khaled was turned over to the British authorities (her partner was killed). The Brits should have locked her up for life, but they didn't.

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'Palestinian Authority' to increase activities in Jerusalem

In his 'weekly radio address,' soon-to-be-ousted, unelected 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Salam Fayyad announced that the 'Palestinian Authority' plans to increase its activities in 'east' Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in his weekly radio address that in the past two years the Palestinian Authority activity in eastern Jerusalem had advanced, in resisting the policy of the occupation in the city and in strengthening its residents.

He said that from now on, its activity would focus on advancing the transformation of the city into the capital of the soon-to-be-established Palestinian state and into a symbol of peace and interfaith and intercultural coexistence.

He said that the PA was determined to step up its involvement in eastern Jerusalem in order to improve services to residents of that part of the city, and in order to aid the institutions operating within it, primarily in the areas of health, justice, and education. This, he said, was in order to stop Israel's attempts to eliminate the nationalist dimension of the curricula in the city's Arab schools.
But is that really what the 'Palestinians' of 'east' Jerusalem want? On Thursday, I attended a conference at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at which Dr. David Pollock, the former chief of Near East/South Asia/Africa research at the US Information Agency, presented the results of a poll that he supervised in which for the first time, 'Palestinians' residing in 'east' Jerusalem were asked whether they would rather live in Israel or 'Palestine.' At least a plurality of them would rather live in Israel.

Dr. Pollock's presentation will eventually be online (it was taped) and I hope to post it then, but in the meantime, you can find the full poll results here and here. The poll results raise an obvious question: Whom does Dr. Fayyad think he is representing? Certainly not the Arabs of 'east' Jerusalem.

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Rubio calls for aid cutoff to 'Palestinian Authority'

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) has called on the Obama administration to cut off aid to the 'Palestinian Authority' in light of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.
“The announced agreement, if it becomes reality, would be a major setback for peace efforts in the Middle East and is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people. Participation in a Palestinian government of any organization, such as Hamas, that fails to renounce their calls for the destruction of Israel and the use of violence should prompt the withdrawal of our assistance. No American taxpayer money should fund a government that includes a terrorist organization dedicated to the murder of innocent civilians.”
Jennifer Rubin reports that the Obama administration has very little wiggle room, and may not only have to cut off aid to the 'Palestinian Authority,' but also, if Hamas joins the PLO (as they have declared their intention to do), the US may be required to expel the recently upgraded PLO representation from the US.
Since fiscal year 2005, annual foreign operations appropriations bills have included a prohibition on funding Hamas and the PLO, the relevant language being:
PROHIBITION TO HAMAS AND THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION.— (1) None of the funds appropriated in titles III through VI of this Act may be obligated for salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza or may be obligated or expended for assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member.
An expert on sanctions tells me the exception to this ban is limited: “In terms of U.S. aid, assistance may only be provided to a power-sharing government if the president certifies that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; and committed itself and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Roadmap.” (The president alternatively can make a limited national security certification if it is in our national interest to provide assistance to the PA president’s security and administration, to help enforce border security and to assist the PA’s judiciary.)

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me in a phone interview this morning, “There is precedent for this.” Schanzer explained that in April 2006 the United States cut off all aid to the PA after Hamas won elections. Only when Hamas staged a coup and Mahmoud Abbas set up a separate governing entity for the West Bank did we resume aid.

In the case of the current Fatah-Hamas merger, Schanzer argues that there is an immediate problem for the PA. Press reports suggest that Hamas is melding its operation into the PLO, the entity that does business and has offices in the United States. (In fact the Obama administration recently forked over more funds to upgrade these in anticipation of a peace agreement.) If this is correct, the offices would have to be closed and its representatives ejected from the country.
My question: If Hamas becomes part of the 'Palestinian Authority,' is the US required to allow Hamas representatives to be in the United States as part of the 'Palestinian Authority' observer mission? I would think not - as far as I know, the UN treaty only requires the US to admit representatives of 'states' (which is why Ahmadinejad and Gadhafi have been allowed to travel to the UN) and not representatives of terror organizations. And if the UN declares a state of 'Palestine'? I would argue that for the time being, at least, even if the UN declares it, a state of 'Palestine' would not have the required indicia under the Montevideo Convention.

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How much unity?

Say what you will about the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement that was initialed earlier this week, it's definitely not a marriage.
The two parties will largely not present a united front, and what they have agreed to is a modus operandi until they can hold elections.
But some expressed scepticism about the extent of reconciliation. Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza, described the agreement as "a very vague format which will allow Palestinians to speak with one voice but, at a practical level, there will remain two separate entities in the West Bank and Gaza in terms of security.

"Hamas will be able to maintain its militias and its rhetoric of resistance to Israel. There will not be many changes on the ground. Each one will be in charge of their territory," he said.

Hamas officials indicated that the organisation understood the unity agreement could be jeopardised by any militant operations.

"We have to be careful of how we respond to Israel because they will do everything to dismantle the agreement," said Ghazi Hamed, Hamas's deputy foreign minister. "It is clear that Israel does not like us. They want to divide us because it gives them more power. I expect they will try to provoke us and create chaos to put pressure on Mahmoud Abbas.

All sides admit that the agreement is the first step of a complicated process. Hamed said:

" The challenge will be to implement the agreement. If we succeed in choosing a strong PM and a strong minister of interior, we stand a better chance of success."

Abu Shahla said one consequence of the agreement would be that Fatah would be able to operate openly in Gaza for the first time since 2007 and Hamas would be able to do the same in the West Bank.

Following the signing of the deal, Abbas may make his first visit to Gaza in more than four years.
So the goal is to present a united front of sorts, at least through the UN vote in September. And then?

Israel should be rejecting this totally (as it is). The fact that the 'Palestinian Authority' refuses to even sit at a table with Israel, while it has gone and mended relations with Hamas to the extent that it is allowing Hamas terrorists to operate in Judea and Samaria speaks volumes as to Abu Mazen's true intentions.

The first immediate step that I would take is to end the security cooperation with the 'Palestinian Authority.' If they are going to allow Hamas to operate in Judea and Samaria, there is no point in any cooperation with them.


Overnight music video

Here are Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried singing Acheinu Kol Bais Yisrael (Our brethren the Children of Israel) and other tunes with video of Operation Cast Lead in the background. The video was made during the war.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Syria and Iran threaten the US

If you bow to enough people and spend enough time apologizing, eventually someone is going to decide you're weak and start running roughshod over you. That has apparently now happened to Barack Hussein Obama.
Syrian and Iranian officials have told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai that the Middle East will be ablaze if there is any attempt to change the balance of power within it, and threatened that harming the regime in Syria will have grave ramifications for Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, and for the U.S. forces in the region.

They said that the Syrian regime can allow mujahideen to infiltrate into Iraq to harm American interests there, and that it will be possible to harm Americans in the regions under Taliban control if they act against the Syrian regime.
What could go wrong?

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Moral clarity

Marco Rubio describes how America should respond to the slaughter in Syria.
Clearly, we should be on the side of the Syrian people longing for freedom and challenging the regime's corrupt and repressive rule. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's hesitancy to weigh in has been mistaken for indecision at best and indifference at worst. The president needs to speak directly to the Syrian people to communicate American support for their legitimate demands, condemn Assad's murderous campaign against innocent civilians, and sternly warn Assad and his cohorts that they cannot continue grossly violating human rights, supporting terrorism, and sowing instability among Syria's neighbors.

But his words must be backed by clear, firm actions. As ill-advised as it was to restore diplomatic relations with Syria by sending an American ambassador to Damascus last year, we should now sever ties and recall the ambassador at once. While Syria is already under heavy U.S. sanctions as a designated state sponsor of terror, we should expand sanctions to include persons identified as authorizing, planning, or participating in deplorable human rights violations against unarmed civilians. Our partners in Europe, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf share many of our interests in Syria and play a large role in that country, and the president must put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind an effort to convince them to adopt meaningful economic and diplomatic sanctions targeting Assad and his enablers in the regime.

America has an obligation to weigh in strongly about the situation in Syria. For years, its regime has aided the terrorist operations of Hezbollah and Hamas, supported Iran's destabilizing policies, and helped terrorists kill Americans in Iraq. The regime has not only destabilized the region but also directly acted against the national security interests of the United States. We simply cannot sit silently as innocent people peacefully challenge a regime committed to undermining the United States and its allies.

This administration must stop sitting on the sidelines as innocent Syrian people are mowed down by the regime's tanks.
Read the whole thing. He is so right.

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Lara Logan to be on 60 Minutes Sunday

Those of you near television sets with access to US stations may want to watch CBS on Sunday night. They will be interviewing one of their own, Lara Logan, who will be talking about her sexual assault at the hands of Egyptian predators in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad).
Ms. Logan, a CBS News correspondent, was in the square preparing a report for “60 Minutes” on Feb. 11 when the celebratory mood suddenly turned threatening. She was ripped away from her producer and bodyguard by a group of men who tore at her clothes and groped and beat her body. “For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands,” Ms. Logan said in an interview with The New York Times. She estimated that the attack lasted for about 40 minutes and involved 200 to 300 men.

Ms. Logan, who returned to work this month, is expected to speak at length about the assault on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.


“There was a moment that everything went wrong,” she recalled.

As the cameraman, Richard Butler, was swapping out a battery, Egyptian colleagues who were accompanying the camera crew heard men nearby talking about wanting to take Ms. Logan’s pants off. She said: “Our local people with us said, ‘We’ve gotta get out of here.’ That was literally the moment the mob set on me.”

Mr. Butler, Ms. Logan’s producer, Max McClellan, and two locally hired drivers were “helpless,” Mr. Fager said, “because the mob was just so powerful.” A bodyguard who had been hired to accompany the team was able to stay with Ms. Logan for a brief period of time.

“For Max,” the producer, “to see the bodyguard come out of the pile without her, that was one of the worst parts,” Mr. Fager said. He said Ms. Logan “described how her hand was sore for days after — and then she realized it was from holding on so tight” to the bodyguard’s hand.

“My clothes were torn to pieces,” Ms. Logan said.

She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”


Before the assault, Ms. Logan said, she did not know about the levels of harassment and abuse that women in Egypt and other countries regularly experienced. “I would have paid more attention to it if I had had any sense of it,” she said. “When women are harassed and subjected to this in society, they’re denied an equal place in that society. Public spaces don’t belong to them. Men control it. It reaffirms the oppressive role of men in the society.”
I'm a bit surprised that CBS didn't brief her as to Egypt's often sordid treatment of women before it sent her there.

Read the whole thing. I will try to post the 60 Minutes segment on Monday morning, assuming that it is embeddable.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Great news: Rafah crossing to be open permanently

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be permanently opened in the next 7-10 days.
The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza will open on a permanent basis within seven to ten days, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told Al-Jazeera during an interview Thursday.

He said during the interview that steps would be taken in order to alleviate the "suffering of the Palestinain people."
With apologies to those of you who just sprayed your computer screens....
The opening of the crossing would allow greater freedom of movement for people on both sides of the border, as well as goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission.
Two questions: Since the border is now open, there should be no more blockade and therefore no more flotillas, right? Second, what happens when Israel discovers weapons entering Gaza through the Egyptian side of the border?

What could go wrong?

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Egypt: 'Palestinians' behind Wednesday's gas explosion

This should not come as too big a surprise: the Egyptian army says that 'Palestinian' terrorists were behind Wednesday's gas pipeline explosion.
A report quoted officials who said that Wednesday's blast at a pipeline in Sinai was engineered in part by a PA terror group. Salah al-Masri, in charge of security for the Egyptian army in northern Sinai, told a Saudi newspaper that in his estimation it was impossible to say that local Bedouin could carry out such a powerful attack. He added that some PA terrorists had been arrested over the past week, and that they had been found to have been in possession of caches of weapons.

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UN diplomat overjoyed over Hamas-Fatah reunion

Robert Serry, the United Nations diplomat who serves as his organization's representative to the 'quartet,' was overjoyed at the news that Hamas and Fatah have agreed to settle their differences.
UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said on Thursday that he supports Hamas and Fatah's efforts at unity, saying they were "overdue."

"Reunification is essential for achieving a two-state solution that should be reached through negotiations," Serry said in a statement, adding that he hopes that "reconciliation will now take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace."
The European Union also seems pleased, although they are a bit more cautious.
The European Union on Thursday said that it would need to "study the details" of the deal, however it hinted that it would prefer Fatah to have the upper hand.

"We have consistently called for reconciliation and peace under the authority of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas as a way to end the division between the West Bank and Gaza and we have also consistently underlined the need for security and stability across the region," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Ashton's spokesman went on to say that she will be talking to partners both within the EU and the region in order to study the details of the agreement further.
What could go wrong?

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Confirmed: IAEA admits Israel destroyed Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

The IAEA has confirmed for the first time that the Syrian facility that was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in 2007 was a nuclear reactor.
The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Yukiya Amano, on Thursday said for the first time that Syria tried in the past to secretly build a nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by Israeli warplanes five years ago, The Associated Press reported.

Syria denies that the building which was bombed actually contained any nuclear facilities.

For over two years, Syria has refused IAEA follow-up access to the remains of a complex that was being built at Dair Alzour in the Syrian desert when Israel bombed it to rubble in 2007.

The IAEA carried out an agreed inspection of another Syrian plant earlier in April as part of a long-stalled probe into suspected covert nuclear activity.

"The inspection is being conducted as planned," an official of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, giving no further detail.
The way things are going right now, a Western coalition may thank Israel in the not too distant future for destroying that plant. Just like George Bush and Dick Cheney thanked Israel in 1991 for destroying Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981.

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IDF stops Jews from praying at Joseph's tomb

The IDF has stopped a group of 30 Jews from praying at Joseph's tomb, which was the site of a terror attack last week.
Some 30 members of a group that has made it its goal to promote Jewish settlement in and around Shechem (Nablus) attempted to enter Joseph’s Tomb in the city last night. They announced their intentions beforehand, and demanded that the holy site be freely open to Jewish worship – as stipulated by the Oslo Accords (Interim Agreement, September 1995, Annex I, Article V, clause 2b).

At present, Jewish worshipers are allowed to enter once a month – under heavy IDF guard.

The IDF fired flare bombs in the air in an attempt to locate the group, which was engaged in finding ways to detour the IDF checkpoints in the area. Ultimately, Border Guard forces arrested the entire group and returned them to area that is under full Israeli control.

Correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that in any event, Joseph’s Tomb is surrounded by PA police forces.
But let's enter into more agreements with the 'Palestinians.' What could go wrong?

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University where young royal couple studied received funding from Syria

Britain's university system seems to be addicted to money from Arab dictatorships. First, it was the London School of Economics taking money from the Gadhafi family. Now, it's the University of St. Andrews - alma mater of Wills and Kate - taking money from the Assads of Syria.
The University of St Andrews, where Prince William and Kate Middleton studied, has received more than £100,000 in funding for its centre for Syrian studies with the assistance of Syria's ambassador to the UK, Sami Khiyami.

Following questions from the Guardian about its relations with figures associated with the regime – and "in view of significant international concerns about recent events in Syria" – a spokesman for St Andrews said the university would be reviewing the centre's work "to ensure its high academic standards are maintained".

The university's association with the Assad regime has come under scrutiny in the wake of the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Syria which is estimated to have claimed 450 lives so far.
Khiyami is the guy whose invitation to the royal wedding was revoked.

Bir Zeit on the Hudson has nothing on these guys. Read the whole thing.

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And you thought your gas was expensive

And you thought your gas was expensive.
Gas prices are set to rise on Saturday night. The new price, NIS 7.62 per liter of 95 octane gas, will be the highest in Israel's history. The new price, for gas at self-service pumps, will be 3.11% higher than current prices, and is due to increased oil prices around the world, the Infrastructure Ministry said. The price at full-serve pumps for 95 octane gas will be NIS 7.75.
Be grateful for what you have. $4 gallons of gas are a pipe dream here.


Abu Bluff's PhD dissertation widely taught in 'Palestinian Authority'

The 'Palestinians' are among the World's leaders in Holocaust denial. Now, the Center for Near East Policy Research Center has found that the 'Palestinian' curriculum includes a Holocaust denying star: 'Moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, whose PhD 'dissertation' is a bevy of Holocaust denial. The Center for Near East Policy Research Center has urged Education Minister to insist that the thesis be removed from the 'Palestinian' curriculum.
The Center’s Director, David Bedein, has asked Education Minister Gideon Saar and the government of Israel to demand that the PA remove the work from its school and from its curricula.

Bedein wrote that the Center is engaged in preparing a movie on the PA educational system, in the course of which it tracks that which is taught in PA classrooms. “Throughout the educational system of the PA,” he wrote to Saar, “we have found that the doctorate of Mahmoud Abbas stars, and forms the basis of PA Holocaust studies.”
Read the whole thing.

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'Palestinians': 'Peace talks' possible but Fayyad out

Contradicting an earlier statement by Hamas 'foreign minister' Mahmoud al-Zahar, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen said that 'negotiations' between the 'big tent' 'Palestinian Authority' and Israel are possible.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signaled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for "handling politics, negotiations."
Even if this is correct, Israel ought to be refusing to negotiate knowing that the 'interim government' could be replaced by one headed by Hamas.

In the meantime, there's more good news for the 'international community.' Hamas and Fatah have agreed to relieve 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Salam Fayyad of his duties. Fayyad, a former employee of the World Bank, was the only 'Palestinian' many of the 'donor countries' trusted to handle their donations. Now, he will be gone.
The deal brings with it the risk of alienating the Western support that the Palestinian Authority has enjoyed. Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas, would not be part of the interim government. It is partly because of Mr. Fayyad, and the trust he inspires in Washington, that hundreds of millions of dollars are provided annually to the Palestinian Authority by Congress. Without that aid, the Palestinian Authority would face great difficulties.
What could go wrong?

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Tony Blair, Gordon Brown not invited to royal wedding because....

Britain's two most recent Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, are not invited to Friday's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

There are two different explanations for the non-invite. According to al-Guardian, it's all a matter of protocol.
Ministerial sources accused Clarence House of a blunder in declining to invite Labour's longest serving prime minister and his successor because they are not Knights of the Garter.

Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher, who are members of Britain's highest order of chivalry, have been invited. Major, appointed guardian to Princes William and Harry after the death of their mother, will attend. Thatcher will not attend on health grounds.

One senior Whitehall source told the Guardian: "This is courtier lunacy. It beggars belief that St James's Palace is saying … that the wedding is not a formal state occasion and … that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have not been invited because they are not Knights of the Garter."

Labour MPs have rejected a claim by St James's Palace that it is wrong to draw a parallel with the royal wedding in 1981 when all five former surviving prime ministers were invited. Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath and James Callaghan attended the Prince of Wales's marriage to Lady Diana Spencer which was a formal state occasion because he is heir to the throne.

Chris Bryant, Labour's former Europe minister, told the Daily Mail: "Those who have been prime minister have served this country, and I think that the same proprieties that have been followed on previous occasions should have been followed again."
At the Telegraph, Damian Thompson has a different explanation.
There is, however, a perfectly neat and plausible explanation, and it’s this.

Prince William cannot stand Tony Blair, whom he blames for making political capital out of the death of his mother – “the People’s Princess”, as Blair’s spin doctors dubbed her within hours of her death.

The Prince has a long memory and a capacity for cold fury. We catch a glimpse of it in the section of Blair’s memoirs relating to the week after Diana’s death: “I had also spoken to William who was not only still grieving but angry. He knew, rationally, why the week between Diana’s death and the funeral had to be as it had been. But he felt acutely the conflict between public position and private emotion.”

That anger is likely to have reawakened by Blair’s decision to record such a private conversation in the book. It is not hard to imagine William saying “I’m not having that man at my wedding” – and getting his way: after all, in nearly 60 years, only one of the Queen’s prime ministers has twisted her arm to persuade her to do something that went against her instincts, and that was Tony Blair virtually demanding that she broadcast to the nation after the death of William’s mother. And can anyone doubt that the Royal family dislikes blabbermouth Cherie more than any other prime ministerial spouse?

My guess is that the Blairs were never on the wedding list, and that this also explains the absence of the Browns. Inviting Brown but not Blair would have brought the feud into the open: the Palace could not even have trotted out its implausible Knights of the Garter story. If I’m right, then one can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Gordon and Sarah, who are being punished for the crimes of their predecessors. But perhaps they saw it coming: one doesn’t have to spend long in royal company to know that forgiveness doesn’t come easily to the Windsors.
But it's Tom Gross who has the most intriguing explanation of all for why Blair and Brown were excluded.
A “Who’s Who” of Arab dictators are invited to tomorrow’s British royal wedding, at the advice of the British Foreign office. But Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are not invited for the “crime” of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
Hmmm. You can read more about some of those dictators at Tom's site and also here. The Syrian ambassador to London has earned the distinction of being the first person ever to have his invitation to a royal wedding withdrawn on the day before the wedding. More on that story here.

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Surprise: Hamas says 'interim government' cannot work on peace with Israel

I'm sure you'll all be shocked - just shocked - to hear that Hamas 'foreign minister' Mahmoud al-Zahar has announced that the 'Palestinian' 'interim government' cannot work on peace with Israel.
Zahar said Wednesday's deal covered five points, including combining security forces and forming a government made up of "nationalist figures".

"Our program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognizing it," Zahhar said in Cairo. "It will not be possible for the interim national government to participate or bet on or work on the peace process with Israel."
They also thumbed their noses at Prime Minister Netanyahu's ultimatum that the 'Palestinian Authority' has to choose between Hamas and peace with Israel.
Both Hamas and Fatah, however, dismissed Netanyahu's ultimatum. "Abu Mazen (Abbas) has said we want Hamas, Hamas is part of the Palestinian national fabric," Fatah's Ahmad said.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Noono also said Israel was "not concerned with Palestinian reconciliation and has been an impediment to it in the past".
Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn is beside himself over what he regards as Prime Minister Netanyahu's good fortune.
The Palestinian reconciliation deal, if realized, heralds the takeover of the Palestinian national movement by Hamas, providing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an escape from the rut he has fallen into because of the deadlock in the peace process. This is just what Netanyahu needed to unite the Israeli public behind him and thwart international pressure to withdraw from the West Bank.

A "unity government" or "technocracy" - as the Palestinians called it yesterday - is a nice but empty headline. In real life, there is no a-political rule and there are no egalitarian governments. There is always a ruling side with partners being dragged behind it. The stronger, more organized, better armed side, i.e. Hamas, will rule the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, not "technocrats." This is how the communists took over East Europe after WWII.

As for Netanyahu, the Palestinian reconciliation deal justifies his warnings that any territory vacated by Israel will fall into Hamas hands and become an Iranian terror base. It strikes any proposals for interim agreements and unilateral withdrawals, intended to appease the world, off the agenda.

Only two options remain - that Israeli surrender to the expected UN resolution on Palestinian independence and agreement to withdraw to the Green Line or entrench itself in its current position.

Netanyahu is expected to choose the second alternative. Israel is being attacked with missiles on Ashdod and on school buses and explosions in the gas pipe from Egypt, he will say.

There is nothing like a sense of emergency and siege to unite the Israeli public behind his government. When the third intifada erupts, Netanyahu will be able to portray Israel's war against it as a war against Iran and its satellites and neutralize criticism from the left about missed opportunities for peace in the past two years.
Benn isn't the only one weeping over the 'Palestinian' move. Here are the more moderate Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel.
Despite the harsh response, the reconciliation may well work to Israel's advantage. Israel has been struggling internationally, as more than 100 nations prepare to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state in the UN in September. Renewed relations between Hamas and Fatah, however limited, could shed a different light on Abbas' intentions, and Netanyahu, who is due to speak before both houses of Congress next month, will be able to present the agreement as proof that Abbas doesn't really want peace.

If the reconciliation does indeed go through, Israel's immediate concern would be the future of security coordination with the PA. A Hamas foothold, however limited, would mean that Israel could not share intelligence with the PA.

Between the Hamas election victory in January 2006 and the Hamas coup in Gaza in mid-2007, Israel had been engaged in complex maneuvers to produce at least the appearance of completely excluding Hamas from any security arrangements.

If the reconciliation is accompanied by a mass release of Hamas prisoners from West Bank prisons, this would further increase the risk of terror attacks.
What none of these columnists can admit is that the key here is not that the move 'allows Netanyahu' to portray Abu Bluff as not wanting peace. Rather it proves that Netanyahu was correct all along. Hopefully, the IDF will take off the gloves and use an iron fist to ensure that terror attacks from and in Judea and Samaria don't happen. The 'peace process' is over. Oslo is over.

What could go wrong?

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Congress calls to cut off aid from the 'Palestinian Authority'

In the aftermath of Hamas' reconciliation with Fatah, there are already calls coming from Congress to cut off aid to Fatah's 'Palestinian Authority.' The following statement was issued by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on reports that Abu Mazen’s Fatah faction and Hamas, a Foreign Terrorist Organization, have agreed to form a joint Palestinian Authority (PA) government. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“The reported agreement between Fatah and Hamas means that a Foreign Terrorist Organization which has called for the destruction of Israel will be part of the Palestinian Authority government. U.S. taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten U.S. security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel.

“According to existing U.S. law, such a hybrid government cannot be a recipient of U.S. taxpayer funds because the law stipulates that the PA government must recognize the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist, among other things. Therefore, in order to implement existing law, the U.S. must end assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

“By entering into this partnership with Hamas, Abu Mazen’s Palestinian leadership has shown again that it is not a partner for peace. If reports are correct, the PA would then be standing with those who want only death and destruction for Israel.

“The Israeli and Palestinian people are eager for peace, but support for this type of PA government is not the way to get there.”
And then there's this from Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the top Democrat on on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia:
The purported deal, which does not require Hamas to accept Israel’s right to exist, or the binding nature of prior Palestinian commitments, or even to require Hamas to temporarily forgo violence against Israel (as if it were some kind barbaric of addiction, or compulsion), is a recipe for failure, mixed with violence, leading to disaster. It is a ghastly mistake that I fear will be paid for in the lives of innocent Israelis.

Rather than seizing the dynamic of this amazing Arab Spring to simply push for national elections and constitutional reform, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority has once again naively decided to test the trustworthiness of a bloody-handed bunch of terrorist want-to-be theocrats. While this step may be popular among Palestinians, many of whom wish to preserve the fantasy that they can have peace and so-called ‘resistance’ (also known in English as terrorism), the reality is that they can’t.

As in prior cases, the United States will be compelled by both law and decency to withhold any assistance that could fall into the hands or control or even partial control of anyone reporting to, or belonging to a terrorist entity, as is Hamas. And in the current political climate, even assistance that would otherwise have gone to parts of the Palestinian Authority untainted by terrorism may no longer be salvageable.

For months, President Abbas has refused partnership with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in pursuing peace negotiations. It now appears that he is writing off partnership with the United States in helping to govern and develop Palestinian society.

It’s certainly historic leadership. Just not the good kind.”
I'm not sure why Ackerman thinks that deep down Fatah has different goals than Hamas, but apparently he still does.

There are a couple of more statements to be seen as well. Read the whole thing.

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Convene the Geneva Conventions high contracting parties?

United Nations Watch has put together a coalition of human rights groups to oppose the election of Syria to the United Nations 'Human Rights Council.' Elections are scheduled for May 20. Syria is running unopposed.
Led by UN Watch, an independent human rights monitoring group based in Geneva, the coalition of rights groups from Africa, Asia, the U.S. and Europe, (see list of members below) also urged action from the UN Security Council and other international bodies to protect Syria's civilian population from government actions that it said may amount to "war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The election of 15 new council members is scheduled for May 20 at the UN General Assembly in New York. However, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that "if the council this week declares President Bashar al-Assad unwelcome as a member, it would sound the death knell for Syria's cynical candidacy to be elected a global judge of human rights."

The coalition called for leadership from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton, Ban Ki-moon, and UN rights chief Navi Pillay.
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that leadership. On the other hand, you all know that I believe Syria would fit right in at the 'Human Rights Council' anyway.

What's perhaps more intriguing in Neuer's efforts is this.
Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey was asked to convene the high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions to address the Syrian army's grave assault on thousands of civilians who are protected as non-combatants under the treaties.
That's a nice idea but there are two small problems with it. First, Calmy-Rey is a loon who's enamored with Bashar al-Assad's friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The odds of her convening this type of meeting to condemn Assad are not good.

Second, if such a meeting were to be convened, I would bet on the agenda being hijacked to discuss Israel - and more specifically the Goldstone Report.

What could go wrong?

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It's the 'peace process,' stupid!

After showing that the Obama administration is protecting Bashar al-Assad even from the sanctions that it plans to impose on the Syrian regime, Lee Smith explains why Obama is protecting Assad. In five words, it's the peace process, stupid!
So why is the administration protecting a regime that makes war against its own people as well as America and her allies? As Michael Doran explains in his latest article in Foreign Affairs (“The Heirs of Nasser”), it is because “the Obama administration has made the Arab-Israeli peace process the organizing principle of its Middle East policy.”
From the outset, the Obama administration has believed in the importance of pursuing a "comprehensive" settlement -- meaning a peace treaty that includes not just the Palestinians but, in addition, all the Arab states, especially Syria. As the administration has failed to make any headway in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the Syrian track has grown in importance. Consequently, Washington has chosen to treat Syria not as an adversary deserving containment but rather as a partner in the negotiations deserving of engagement. In fact, the Obama administration sees the peace process as an instrument for wooing Syria away from Iran. At the very least, Washington believes that by bringing Damascus to the negotiating table, it can give the Syrians an incentive to tamp down Arab-Israeli violence. But such a strategy fails to acknowledge that the Syrians understand the thinking in Washington all too well -- they recognize the United States' fervent desire for negotiations and see in it an opportunity to bargain. Damascus seeks to trade participation in diplomatic processes, which costs it nothing, for tangible benefits from Washington, including a relaxation of U.S. hostility. In short, the Syrians believe that they can have it both ways... And why would they think otherwise? After all, nobody held them responsible for similar double-dealing in Iraq, where they were accomplices to the murder of Americans.
In other words, the Obama White House’s Syria policy is not pragmatic and cautious. Rather, it is adventurist and ideological. The administration is sheltering Damascus in order to salvage its own bankrupt Middle East policy. If he loses Assad, Obama is lost in the region and the administration will be forced, obviously against its will, to recalibrate. The question is, how much will U.S. interests suffer in the meantime?
I have been arguing since before the 2008 US elections that President Obama's entire Middle East policy can be summed up in the phrase "the fierce moral urgency of creating a 'Palestinian state.'" He has no interest in anything else in the region. And it shows.

In the wee hours of Thursday, I blogged a cry by Syrian dissident blogger Farid Ghadry who wonders why the World is ignoring what's going on in Syria. It's real simple Farid: They're following the 'leader.'

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Who are the Syrian protesters and what do they want?

One of the Syrian protesters in Banias speaks in English directly to the international media and community about the false accusations by the regime about the nature of the peaceful protesters.

Let's go to the videotape.

I have to admit that even I thought that removing Assad would lead to ethnic conflict, but given what a thug he is, I thought that was preferable to the current situation. If even that's not true, why doesn't the 'international community' want to get rid of him?

See the next post.

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Getting by with a little help from his friends: UN Security Council can't agree on condemning Syria

Bashar al-Assad gets by with a little help from his friends. Thanks to the specter of Russian and Chinese vetoes, the UN Security Council failed to agree on Wednesday to condemn Syria's murderous crackdown on its popular uprising. Lebanon was also poised to vote against the condemnation.
The UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on Wednesday over a statement that would condemn the violence by security forces against demonstrators in Syria.

Diplomats told the Reuters news agency that during the discussions on the subject, the representatives of Lebanon, Russia and China said that they would oppose a decision to denounce the Syrian government’s actions.
The UN has long since outlived its usefulness. It's time for it to go.

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After pipeline explosion, Israel can meet energy needs but at a cost

In the aftermath of Wednesday's sabotage explosion of a gas pipeline near El Arish, the Israel Electric Company says that it can fulfill the country's energy needs, but at both a financial and an environmental cost.
“The Israel Electric Corporation has the means to guarantee a continuous supply of electricity to meet the country’s demands for all of its users, regardless of the cessation in the Egyptian gas supply,” said Dr. Amit Mor, CEO and energy specialist at the Eco Energy consulting firm. “IEC will do this by utilizing the Ashkelon and Hadera coal plants at maximum capacity.”

Coal currently fuels the production of 62 percent of Israel’s electricity, while natural gas accounts for 36% – two-fifths of which is supplied by Egypt, according to Mor.

Senior officials at the IEC convened on Wednesday for a discussion headed by Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal and CEO Eli Glickman to appraise the situation and determine potential alternative methods for running power plants, including the use of petroleum, the corporation said in a statement.

“We do not expect that as a result of the latest event there will be any drops in the supply of electricity from our power plants,” said National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

“The IEC is well-equipped to deal with such incidents.”

While he agreed that the IEC is completely prepared to handle the situation, Mor said that the current case will be slightly more difficult to manage than that of February “because the demand for electricity during these upcoming days and weeks is significantly higher than the demand for electricity back in the winter,” due to increased use of air conditioning.

“It was a mild winter,” he said.

In addition to making extra use of the coal plants, the IEC will probably convert several of the stations that currently run on natural gas to operate on heavy fuel oil and diesel instead, Mor predicted.

Though sufficient to fulfill Israel’s energy needs, these switches to coal and oil will cost the IEC an additional $1.5 million-$2m. per day, however, according to Mor.

“Coal prices have increased significantly in the past few weeks, due to an increasing demand for coal in China and in the international market. Now coal is more costly than the Egyptian gas,” he said.

Egyptian gas currently costs Israel somewhere between $4.10- 4.50 per million British thermal units (there are 6 million British thermal units in one barrel of oil), while heavy fuel oil costs $20 per million and diesel costs $25 per million, Mor explained.

“[Diesel] is six times higher than the price of Egyptian gas,” he continued.

“At the end of the day, we, the electricity consumers, will pay that additional cost through the price of electricity.

“If the halt of the gas supply is short, then the increase in the electricity price will be marginal, but if the halt is long or permanent, then the resultant increase in the electricity price will be significant.”
After last summer, which saw temperatures in Jerusalem soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, many people in this city have installed central air conditioning for the first time. That means that electric use this summer is likely to spike much faster than it did last summer. And the costs aren't just financial.
“Burning coal and fuel oil has adverse environment impacts because of the higher emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate metals, which have negative health effects, as well as carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming and climate change,” Mor said.

“Although heavy fuel oil is significantly cheaper than diesel, due to environmental reasons, the priority should be to utilize the diesel-based power plants before the utilization of the heavy fuelbased power plants.”
Some of you asked yesterday when Israel's newly discovered natural gas (not oil) supply from the fields off the Haifa coast would be coming online. Current estimates of that are 2013-14. Not soon enough.

And one other little tidbit I heard on Wednesday. You know how we're constantly hearing how cheaply Israel is buying natural gas from Egypt? Well, we're paying multiples of what Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are paying.

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