Islamic Militants Jockey for Power beyond Israel's Border with Syria - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
The two most powerful Sunni groups that control territory in Syria
on Israel's northern border are the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front,
with several thousand fighters, and the ISIS-linked Yarmouk Martyrs
Brigade (YMB), which has up to 1,000 members.
The overall assessment remains that these jihadi groups are too preoccupied fighting each other to open a battlefront with Israel.
YMB sprung an unexpected offensive against Free Syrian Army (FSA)
forces in southern Daraa province in late March-early April, joining
forces with a smaller ISIS-linked group, the Islamic Muthanna Movement
(IMM). However, FSA has since retaken all the territory it lost.
Lebanese Army Builds New Observation Towers on Israeli Border - Ahiya Ravid and Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
The Lebanese army has built several observation towers on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel in recent weeks.
The towers enable the observation of Israeli military bases, the
border fence, the patrol road next to the border fence, civilian roads
in Israel, and various towns and kibbutzim along the border.
Israeli Arabs Who Joined ISIS - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
So far, nine Israeli Muslims who joined ISIS have been killed in Iraq and Syria, and 35 are on active duty there.
Relative to the size of its Muslim community, Israel has been much
less affected than Western countries with fewer Muslims, which have had
more ISIS volunteers.
This is because the majority of Israeli Arabs and their leaders reject the ISIS interpretation of Islam.
Israel Allows Cement into Gaza after 2-Month Ban (Ma'an News-PA)
Israel allowed the entry of cement into Gaza on Thursday
following a two-month ban, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli authorities implemented a ban on cement deliveries to
private entities on April 3, following the discovery of a tunnel passing
from Gaza into Israel - the first of two to be found - and accused
Hamas of diverting construction materials from their intended legitimate
Israeli Unemployment Falls Below 5 Percent - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
Israel's unemployment rate dropped from 5.3% in March to 4.9% in
April, a low not seen in decades, according to figures published Monday
by the Israel Bureau of Statistics.
Amsterdam to Pay Jewish Community $11M for Holocaust Survivor Taxes (JTA)
The city of Amsterdam will give its Jewish community $11 million as
compensation for taxes imposed on Holocaust survivors who returned home
following World War II.
Survivors were made to pay a tax because their homes were left
empty during the Holocaust. They also had to pay back taxes for the
years they had been taken away.
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- Netanyahu Offers to Hold Direct Talks with Palestinian President in Paris
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a multilateral French peace
initiative as he met French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday,
offering instead to hold direct talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas in Paris. "It can still be called the French initiative because
you would host this genuine effort for peace," Netanyahu said.
"But here's the difference: I will sit alone, directly, with President
Abbas in the Elysee palace or anywhere else that you choose." Netanyahu
has regularly called for direct talks and offered to meet Abbas, and he
reiterated his argument on Monday that peace would not be achieved
through "international diktats." (France 24)
See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets French Prime Minister Valls (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Palestinians Reject Netanyahu's Call for Direct Paris Talks - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
- ISIS Bombings in Syria Regime Heartland Kill 148
Seven near-simultaneous bombings claimed by Islamic State in
northwestern Syria killed 100 people in Jableh and 48 in Tartus, the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A car bomb exploded at a bus
station in Tartus and as people began to flock to the site, two suicide
bombers detonated explosive belts. In Jableh a car bomb and three
suicide attackers targeted the bus station, a hospital, and a power
station. One attacker detonated explosives inside the emergency room of
a hospital treating victims of the first attack in Jableh.
- Most Palestinians View Government as Corrupt - Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh
The secluded "Diplomatic Compound" -
a gated community of villas with well-tended flower gardens built for
senior Palestinian Authority officials on subsidized land near the West
Bank town of Ramallah - may help explain why Palestinians almost
universally believe there is corruption in the government of President
It is one of the symbols of what many Palestinians think of their
leaders - that they are cut off from the people and award themselves
special privileges. A recent poll found that 95.5% of Palestinians
believe there is corruption in Abbas' government.
The PA government hasn't submitted annual budget reports for
mandatory audits for four years, effectively preventing scrutiny of how
millions of dollars are spent, said corruption monitor Aman, the
Palestinian branch of Transparency International. Former Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad was credited by international donors with making public
spending more transparent, but Fayyad resigned in 2013 amid tensions
with Abbas and Fatah. The public has complained loudly over issues of
nepotism and disproportionately high salaries for select senior
officials, some of whom make $10,000 a month.
See also Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Egypt Trying to Arrange Netanyahu-Abbas Meeting
Egyptian President el-Sissi is working to arrange a meeting in Cairo
between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas to
jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Yediot Ahronot
reported Tuesday. Cairo hopes to arrange a three-way summit "in the near
future" in which Sissi would act as an intermediary, a Palestinian
(Times of Israel)
- Palestinian Woman Attempts to Stab Israeli Police Officer at Jerusalem Checkpoint - Ben Hartman
A Palestinian woman brandishing a knife ran toward Israeli security
forces at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem on Monday before being shot
- Is the Status Quo between Israelis and Palestinians Sustainable? - Aaron David Miller
Secretary of State John Kerry has said repeatedly that "the status quo
between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not sustainable." Yet
Israelis and Palestinians have their own agendas and concerns, and
their rationales and fears of dramatically changing the status quo
outweigh the risks of managing it.
A conflict that is perceived to be existential in nature isn't just a
real estate deal.
At the Camp David summit in July 2000, I heard Yasser Arafat say
several times that he wouldn't give the Americans the chance to walk
behind his coffin. Translation: Don't think I'll sign a deal that will
get me killed. He knew that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had been at
Camp David, too, in 1978 with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and
that despite getting 100% of Sinai back, the Egyptian leader had been
Paradoxically, close proximity helps mitigate the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians have a dependency on Israel
for water, electricity, access to the outside world, and a range of
goods and services - including employment opportunities. At the same
time, the continuation of Palestinian violence, a hostile Hamas
government in Gaza, a Middle East in meltdown, an Arab world distracted
by Iran and the Islamic State, and Israel's growing closeness with Egypt
all create very little chance that there will be an intense focus on
negotiations to create a Palestinian state.
The writer is vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.
- India Embraces an Iranian Port - Max Bearak and Brian Murphy
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Tehran on Sunday and Monday
to ink a major trade deal with Iran, where he evoked the "past glory" of
India and Iran's shared history. India has been eyeing the port of
Chabahar on Iran's southern coast for many years. "What this agreement
does is to enable us quick movement of goods first to Iran and then
onwards to Afghanistan and Russia through a new rail and road link,"
said Nitin Gadkari, an Indian minister who oversees infrastructure
India is mostly just trying to grab a piece of Iran's
post-sanctions economic growth. India will extend a $150 million credit
line to Iran to build the port, and a special economic zone will be
established there, in which India will set up factories that can run on
Iranian fuel at discounted rates.
- Sykes-Picot and the Zionists - Martin Kramer
In his memoirs, Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader who midwifed the
Balfour Declaration, wrote of Sykes-Picot that it was "fatal to us." The
Sykes-Picot map's treatment of Palestine divided it five ways.
Part of the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee was to be under
direct French control. The eastern shore of the lake and the Golan are
marked off as part of an Arab state under French protection.
The bulk of the country - including Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth,
Tiberias, and Gaza - was to be governed by "an international
administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after
consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the
other Allies [the reference is to Italy], and the representatives of the
Shereef of Mecca." The ports of Haifa and Acre, and the plain between
them, were to be under direct British administration. Britain wanted
this as an end point for a railroad from Baghdad to the Mediterranean.
The south of the country, including Hebron and Beersheba, as well as
Transjordan, were to be part of an independent Arab state or
confederation of states under British protection.
Chaim Weizmann was distressed to find that the agreement displayed
not a single trace of consideration for Zionist aims. From April 1917,
Weizmann devoted himself and his movement to overturning Sykes-Picot.
The Zionists had one aim: to swap the Sykes-Picot partition plan for an
exclusively British protectorate over the whole of Palestine.
Sykes-Picot became a dead letter as regards Palestine no later than
1918, if not earlier. The writer is president of Shalem College in
Jerusalem. This essay is based on his presentation at the conference on
"100 Years Since the Sykes-Picot Agreement," Jerusalem Center for
Public Affairs, May 18, 2016.
Is Building Terror Tunnels a War Crime? - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
Gaza residents told the New York Times
they live in fear that Hamas' massive tunnel-building project beneath
their homes will bring down another round of death and destruction upon
their families. They had no doubt that much of the aid and building
materials that have been sent to Gaza to rebuild the homes that were
destroyed the last time Hamas started a war with Israel are being
diverted to tunnel-building.
But when asked whether Hamas building tunnels in residential
neighborhoods whose only purpose is to facilitate cross-border terror
raids into Israel is a war crime, Human Rights Watch official Sari
Bashi, described as an "expert on international law regarding warfare,"
told the Times that building terror tunnels is "not explicitly prohibited."
Really? It would seem obvious, even to those who aren't
"experts" in international law, that structures built solely to
facilitate efforts to cross an international border to murder and kidnap
are illegal. Indeed, terrorism, whether it is committed via a tunnel or
with rockets shot indiscriminately at cities (as Hamas did several
thousand times during the 2014 war), is always illegal.
The Times article is a reminder that as much as Hamas
poses a terrible threat to Israel, the people who suffer the most from
its despotic rule are the citizens of Gaza, who must cope with the
consequences of the armed conflict that the terror group will not give
It should be recalled that the only reason why Hamas is free to
create a tunnel system under the border with Israel is because in 2005
the Jewish state withdrew every soldier, settler and settlement from
of Palestinian public opinion show that most of the people of Gaza and
the West Bank probably share Hamas' goal of destroying Israel rather
than merely getting their own state alongside it. But the residents of
Gaza understand that they are the ones to pay for this ideological