April 02/14

Bible Quotation for today/

Luke 7,11-17: "Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us! ’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.


Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

Dear parents, teach your children to pray. Pray with them.
Pape François
Chers parents, apprenez à vos enfants à prier. Priez avec eux.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 02/14

Why Syria Needs a Celebrity Ambassador/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat/ April 02/14

Mansour, the Man who Carried the Night/By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq AlAwsat/April 02/14

Syria - from revolution, to chaos, to show and tell/Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya/ April 02/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 02/14
Lebanese Related News

Parliament Adopts Domestic Violence Law, Activists Criticize it

Parliament Procrastinates Adoption of EDL Workers Draft-law amid Protest

Security Plan Reaches Zero-Hour as Army Deploys Heavily in Tripoli

Army Arrests 4 at Eid's Akkar Home, ex-MP Whereabouts Still Unknown

Italy's Defense Minister Discusses with Lebanese Officials Army Assistance

Air Traffic Controllers Suspend Flights for Two Hours at Beirut Airport

Israeli Army Opens Heavy Gunfire on Outskirts of Shebaa Farms

No Bond for Detroit-area Man Linked to Hizbullah

Bomb-Laden Car Dismantled, Stolen Vehicles Seized in Arsal

Disputes Delay Appointments to Wed. as Govt. OKs Saudi Grant, Renews Terms of Salameh’s Deputies

ISF Seizes Four Stolen Cars in Several Areas of Arsal

Sidon Teacher Finds Her Baby Dead after Forgetting Him inside Car

Jumblat: Funniest Thing about Security Plan is that Top Militants were Forewarned

Miscellaneous Reports And News'

Pope receives Madonna lily seeds from BGU scientists to bloom for spring Annunciation

Ukraine Agrees to Host NATO War Games

Israel cabinet set to seal deal for Pollard’s release against hundreds of Palestinians. Kerry returns

Kerry Wraps Up Whirlwind Israel Visit, Due Back Wednesday

More than 150,000 Killed in Syria Conflict

Kuwait Defends Minister after U.S. Charge of Funding Jihadists

Britain Orders Probe into Muslim Brotherhood

Fate of Israel Spy Pollard Linked to Peace Talks

Jerusalem Latin Patriarch Condemns Israel Convent Vandalism  


Security Plan Reaches Zero-Hour as Army Deploys Heavily in Tripoli
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/The army deployed heavily on Tuesday in the northern city of Tripoli as it started implementing a security plan established by the government to end violence in the area, as President Michel Suleiman urged officials to deal firmly with all who violate the peace. Army units began deploying heavily since 6:00 a.m. in al-Qobbeh area and Jabal Mohsen. The army began removing the barricades and sandbags from the area and carried out raids to detain suspects. Checkpoints were also erected, intensified patrols were carried out and checked the identification papers of passers-by. According to LBCI, the army will enforce the plan in the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh on Wednesday. Last week, the cabinet tasked the army and security forces with seizing stockpiled arms and controlling the security situation in Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley in areas bordering Syria. The plan took into consideration the recommendations of the Higher Defense Council. Suleiman later held talks with Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Army chief General Jean Qahwaji on the Tripoli plan. He expressed his “satisfaction with the plan and the sacrifices made to ensure stability and the nation and people's security.” Tripoli witnesses frequent gunbattles between two of the impoverished neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which is dominated by Sunnis who support Syrian rebels, and Jabal Mohsen, which is dominated by Alawites, who share the same sect as Syrian President Bashar Assad. Clashes in Tripoli have left scores of casualties during the last round. More than 1,400 Internal Security Forces members are cooperating with the army to implement the security plan to restore calm in Tripoli. The army command said in a communique that it began implementing on Tuesday the security plan. The statement said that it carried out raids in several areas in Tripoli and detained several suspects, who were referred to the competent authorities. Security forces, according to NNA, detained 10 suspects in the areas of Jabal Mohsen, al-Qobbeh and al-Bqar, including five from al-Mawlawi family from Bab al-Tabbaneh. The Internal Security Forces said in a statement that 20 people were arrested so far.
The army raided the house of Arab Democratic Party politburo chief Rifaat Eid in Jabal Mohsen and searched it. Two helicopters overflew the area simultaneously for surveillance as communication in the area was cut off. Cameras and two handheld transceivers were reportedly seized at Eid's house. A source denied in comments published in As Safir newspaper that wanted suspects in the rival neighborhoods left the city. Media reports said on Saturday that head of the Arab Democratic Party Ali Eid left Lebanon to Syria, accompanied by his son, Rifaat Eid. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr convicted 21 people in the case of the double blast that targeted two mosques in Tripoli last summer. Among the convicted were Ali Eid and the head of the pro-Syria Islamic Tawhid Movement-Command Council, Sheikh Hashem Minkara.


Parliament Procrastinates Adoption of EDL Workers Draft-law amid Protest
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Lawmakers debated on Tuesday several controversial issues, including a draft-law on Electricite du Liban's contract workers, who staged a protest in downtown Beirut to press for their demands. The legislature first postponed discussion on the draft-law to another session. But it then formed a seven-member committee to study two proposals on the draft-law pending a discussion during the afternoon session.
Around 600 workers marched on Tuesday morning from the EDL headquarters in Mar Mikhael to the central Beirut district seeking to reach the closest area to the parliament building that lies in Nejmeh Square.
The head of the EDL committee of contract workers, Lebnan Makhoul, insisted that protesters would reach the square. “Our protest will only be held near the parliament,” he told MTV. The demonstrators pushed through the barricade and dozens of policemen in full riot gear blocking their way towards Nejmeh Square. But they stopped at Riad Solh square when a committee of contract workers headed to parliament to hold meetings with MPs over the controversial draft-law, which was the first item on the agenda of the three-day parliamentary session. MP Ibrahim Kanaan told LBCI after the meeting that several lawmakers, including himself, heard the demands and concerns of the protesters. Parliament later formed the committee to resolve the dispute on the draft-law and put it to vote on Tuesday afternoon. If passed during the afternoon session, the draft-law would make around 1,800 of them full-timers. The workers are insisting that the exams they need to take to become employees be carried out by EDL and supervised by the Civil Service Council. They are also demanding compensation, an item missing from the draft-law. On Monday, the workers blocked the highway near EDL's headquarters and several streets across Lebanon to press for their demands. Speaker Nabih Berri said the workers' demands were righteous but stressed at the start of the parliamentary session that “the speakership does not approve to legislate under threat.” The contract workers welcomed the lawmakers' decision to postpone discussions on the draft-law, saying had the parliament approved it, the move would have cast a gloom over their cause. “We have hope that we would reach a solution,” said Makhoul. “We won't give up our rights.”


Parliament Adopts Domestic Violence Law, Activists Criticize it
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/A controversial draft-law on domestic violence was approved by the parliament on Tuesday, although it did not meet the expectations of activists supporting the cause. The draft-law on the protection of women against domestic violence was one of the 70 items on the agenda of a three-day parliamentary session. Earlier, KAFA, a non-governmental organization that supports non-discrimination, gender equality, and women's rights within the Lebanese society, held a protest near the building of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in downtown Beirut to press MPs to adopt the draft-law with amendments introduced to it. The protesters chanted slogans against domestic violence and held banners calling for the non-adoption of a “distorted law.” But a KAFA spokesperson told TV stations that the NGO was not satisfied with the law. KAFA was calling for parliament's approval of amendments introduced to it. But MPs adopted the proposed draft-law without changes. “This is not an achievement for the Lebanese woman because it does not guarantee her full protection,” Maya Ammar, the spokeswoman, said. Layla Awada, a lawyer from KAFA, called the adoption of the law a “farce.”Speaker Nabih Berri did not allow any MP to make remarks at the legislative session in collaboration with the lawmakers, she said. “This is a punishment,” she added. Awada promised to propose amendments to the law and work on putting it back on parliament's agenda. Several Lebanese women have been killed in recent domestic violence cases which have led to a large-scale condemnation on social media.

Italy's Defense Minister Discusses with Lebanese Officials Army Assistance
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti was on Tuesday holding talks with Lebanese officials on the support to the Lebanese army and ways to improve its capabilities. “This is my first visit abroad since my appointment as defense minister,” the state-run National News Agency quoted her as saying. She said her visit had the objective to support the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and hear from Lebanese leaders their expectations on the assistance to the army. Following talks with Premier Tammam Salam, Pinotti said an international conference that will be held in Italy in April to back the Lebanese military “is very important particularly that it guarantees Lebanon's stability.” She said Italy backs U.N. peacekeepers based south of the Litani river in addition to supporting humanitarian assistance to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon in accordance with the expectations of the Lebanese government. “Italy holds onto the commitments it has made towards Lebanon,” the visiting minister stated. Pinotti, who arrived in Beirut on Monday, also held talks with President Michel Suleiman. She is expected to meet with her Lebanese counterpart Samir Moqbel and Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji. She will also visit UNIFIL's Italian contingent and other peacekeepers “to congratulate them on their mission” in southern Lebanon.

Air Traffic Controllers Suspend Flights for Two Hours at Beirut Airport
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Air traffic controllers suspended on Tuesday work at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport for two hours to protest the cabinet's failure to include them in the new wage scale draft-law. Inbound and outbound flights from the airport were suspended as the air traffic will resume normally at 12:00 p.m. A committee for air traffic controllers' committee is calling on the government to enlist their demands in the new wage hike for public employees. The Syndicate Coordination Committee said that it will stage a strike on Wednesday over the officials' failure to refer the new wage scale to parliament for approval.
However, Speaker Nabih Berri called on the joint parliamentary committees to meet on Friday to follow up the new wage scale draft-law. The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, is expected to hold a general strike at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square after the joint parliamentary committees failed last week to finalize the discussion of the new wage scale.
It accused officials of yielding to pressure from the Economic Committees when it failed to refer the wage scale to parliament. Former Prime Minister Najib Miqati's cabinet endorsed in 2012 a new salary scale for public employees ending a long dispute that had prompted the SCC to hold several sit-ins and strikes. President Michel Suleiman signed the decree mid-June 2013 and was referred to the joint parliamentary committee to study it. The wage increase will be retroactive from July 1, 2012. The state treasury will have more than $1.2 billion to cover as there are over 180,000 public sector employees including military personnel.

Israeli Army Opens Heavy Gunfire on Outskirts of Shebaa Farms
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Heavy gunfire was reported at dawn on Tuesday in the occupied Shebaa Farms near the Israeli military site of Ruwayssat al-Alam. According to the state-run National News Agency, the Israeli army opened sporadic fire on the outskirts of the occupied area for half an hour. The NNA said that the incident was accompanied by Israeli drones that flew over the Shebaa Farms, Golan Heights and Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Sheikh). An Israeli armored force patrolled the occupied parts of al-Wazzani area and al-Abbasiya. On Monday, the Israeli army planted a surveillance device along the technical fence to spy on Lebanon, the NNA reported. In March, a bomb along the Syria-Israel frontier in the occupied Golan Heights wounded four Israeli soldiers, prompting the Jewish state to retaliate by striking Syrian army positions. It was one of several incidents on Israel's northern borders with Syria and Lebanon last month. Hizbullah, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has threatened to retaliate after an air raid in February, in what was first reported Israeli strike on the group inside Lebanon since a devastating 2006 summer war between the arch-foes.

No Bond for Detroit-area Man Linked to Hizbullah
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/A Detroit-area man accused of trying to travel to the Middle East to fight alongside Hizbullah in Syria's civil war will remain in custody while his case moves through court. The government said Monday that 22-year-old Mohammad Hamdan wanted to join Hizbullah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. He is charged with violating a law that prohibits support for “terrorist groups.” Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen said that Hamdan won't be released on bond. Whalen pored over transcripts of secretly recorded conversations and said Hamdan is a "confused young man." He fears the suspect may try to flee. Whalen said there's no evidence that Hamdan wanted to harm America. But defense attorney Art Weiss vowed fight the charge. The FBI said an informant recorded conversations with Hamdan. Source/Associated Press

Ukraine Agrees to Host NATO War Games
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday approved a series of joint military exercises with NATO countries that would put U.S. troops in direct proximity to Russian forces in the annexed Crimea peninsula. "This is a good opportunity to develop our armed forces," acting defense minister Mykhailo Koval told Verkhovna Rada lawmakers ahead of the 235-0 vote. The decision came as NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels for a two-day meeting dominated by concern over the recent buildup of Russian forces near Crimea that U.S. officials estimate had at one point reached about 40,000 troops. NATO has sought to reinforce its eastern frontier after Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula and amid concerns about Kremlin's emboldened foreign policy. Russia on Monday reported pulling back a battalion of about 500 to 700 soldiers from the border region in a move that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called "a small sign that the situation is becoming less tense". Ukraine is not a NATO member and its new Western-backed leaders have vowed not to push for closer relations with the Brussels-based military alliance -- a bloc that has been viewed with deep mistrust by Moscow since the Cold War. But the ex-Soviet nation did form a "distinctive partnership" with the Alliance in 1997 and has been staging joint exercises with its state members ever since. The exercises approved on Tuesday would see Ukraine conduct two sets of military exercises with the United States this summer -- Rapid Trident and Sea Breeze -- that have prompted disquiet in Russia in previous years. Ukraine is planning two additional maneuvers with NATO member Poland as well as joint ground operations with Moldova and Romania.
The Sea Breeze exercises have particularly irritated Moscow because they had on occasion been staged in Crimea -- the home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Those maneuvers have in more recent years been moved to the Black Sea port of Odessa where Ukraine also has a naval base. An explanatory note accompanying the Tuesday bill says that the naval section of Sea Breeze would this time be conducted over a 25-day span between July and October out of two Odessa ports and "along the waters of the Black Sea". The MPs met a key demand posed by both the West and Russia by voting unanimously to disarm all self-defense groups that sprang up across the country during its political crisis. "The Ukrainian people are demanding order," acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said ahead of the 256-0 vote. "Those who carry arms -- besides the police, the security services and the national guard -- are saboteurs who are working against the country." Source/Agence France Presse.

Kerry Wraps Up Whirlwind Israel Visit, Due Back Wednesday
Naharnet Newsdesk 01 April 2014/Washington's top diplomat met Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday for the second time in 12 hours, as sources said a jailed U.S.-Israeli spy could be key to saving troubled peace talks.
U.S. peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners under an agreement that brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.
Furious Palestinian officials -- who had agreed to freeze all efforts to secure international recognition for the duration of the peace talks -- have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks. U.S. efforts to salvage the negotiations moved into high gear on Monday when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew in for a 15-hour visit which saw him meeting twice with the Israeli prime minister.
Although Kerry was scheduled to leave for a NATO meeting in Brussels on Tuesday morning, a senior Palestinian source said he would return to the region within 24 hours for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
"Kerry will fly to Europe today for previous engagements and will come back to meet the president tomorrow at noon (0900 GMT)," the Palestinian source told AFP.
A scheduled late-night meeting with Abbas on Monday was canceled after the Netanyahu meeting dragged on too late, U.S. officials said, with Kerry instead holding talks at his Jerusalem hotel with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat. Separate sources close to the negotiating teams confirmed that Washington is discussing the release of U.S.-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a way to break the deadlock.
Pollard was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for spying on the United States on behalf of Israel. One proposal could see Pollard freed before the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins in mid-April. In exchange, Israel would unblock the release of two dozen Palestinian prisoners and agree to free even more, and both parties would agree to extend the talks beyond an April 29 deadline.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki however refused to be drawn, telling reporters: "Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage and is serving his sentence. I do not have any update for you on his status."
The peace talks, which have so far yielded no obvious results, are due to draw to a close at the end of April and U.S. efforts are currently focused on getting the parties to agree an extension to the end of the year.
But U.S. officials insist things are moving, saying only that there are a lot of complex pieces to put in place.
Kerry appears to be shifting his focus away from reaching a framework agreement, and towards an arrangement to simply keep the sides talking until later in the year.
But the question of extending the talks has become intricately tied up with the fate of the 26 prisoners. Israel has said it will not free detainees convicted of deadly attacks unless the Palestinians commit to extending the negotiations. But the Palestinians say they will not even discuss any extension of the negotiating period unless Israel frees the prisoners. The Palestinians on Monday gave Kerry a 24-hour deadline to come up with a solution to the row, warning that a failure to do so would see them turning to U.N. bodies to press their claims for statehood. "If we don't get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we'll begin to ask for membership in all U.N. agencies tomorrow (Tuesday)," independent lawmaker Mustafa Barghuti told AFP following a key leadership meeting in Ramallah. The Palestinian leadership also agreed there would be no extension of the peace talks without a "comprehensive" freeze on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, two separate sources told AFP. After landing at Tel Aviv airport on Monday, Kerry headed straight to Jerusalem for a two-hour meeting with Netanyahu. The two met again over breakfast for talks lasting well over two hours.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Why Syria Needs a Celebrity Ambassador
By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat/Monday, 31 Mar, 2014
Nine minutes. No blood, no tears, no screams and no speeches. These nine minutes of footage from a refugee camp in Syria were far more expressive than other countless videos I have seen from Syria, which may have now unintentionally transformed the Syrian tragedy into a monotonous tale boring the public and leading them to seek something else to hold their attention.
The nine minutes were used to narrate some of the diaries of a little girl named Hala, and how she lives in a tent for Syrian refugees in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley.
Hala, who is described as the youngest mother in the refugee camp in Beqaa, is an 11-year-old Syrian child. She fled Syria with her five siblings after a shell landed on their house and killed her mother, and after they lost track of their father. Her oldest brother now suffers from epilepsy as a result of the shock, and her other brothers are still young.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie carried Hala’s story to the world. In nine minutes she narrated Hala’s story. The video shows Hala’s smiles and her concern for her brother when he got dizzy and how she gave him medicine. Language was an obstacle during the visit as the children do not speak English, and Jolie tried hard to understand them before translators stepped in.
Jolie’s calm voice narrated the story and spoke of the horrible magnitude of the problems facing Syrian refugees, especially women and children. She also spoke of Lebanon’s problems, with the country unable to contain the number of refugees now constituting one quarter of its population.
The video with Hala was released as controversy in Lebanon over the issue of Syrian refugees is heating up, and as political and popular rhetoric addresses the issue from a perspective that verges on racist. This has led to calls for a campaign to counter such rhetoric.
This nine-minute video was released and broadcast by global media outlets and revealed the frankest image of both the refugee crisis and Lebanon’s crisis. Lebanese politicians did not make use of Angelina Jolie’s ability to influence public opinion, as they were busy dressing up and taking photos with her. They were oblivious to the real meaning of her visit.
A few months ago, Jeremy Barnicle, chief development and communications officer at the aid organization Mercy Corps, wrote an article entitled, “Why Syria needs George Clooney.” Clooney is the celebrity who, like Jolie, is concerned with humanitarian causes and who played a role in bringing attention to the suffering of refugees from Darfur.
Western public opinion is struck with confusion and boredom when it comes to the Syrian crisis. It does not understand the complex situation and no one sees a solution on the horizon. When public opinion, especially in the West, diverts its attention from the Syrian crisis, politicians and decision-makers find respite from the pressure to resolve it.
In this case, it seems we really need Jolie and Clooney, not for marketing purposes, but for providing a new angle to bring attention back to this tragedy. The pressure that alliances of some celebrities, civil society organizations and journalists can bring to bear has proved effective in the West. Addressing the West is substantial given that solutions are in the hands of Western governments and institutions, rather than ours. Decision-making capitals exist, the UN exists and so do dozens of international aid organizations.
Angelina Jolie’s nine-minute video proved more influential than the dull speeches that exploit the Syrian people’s suffering in pointless disputes.

Mansour, the Man who Carried the Night
By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq AlAwsat/Tuesday, 1 Apr, 2014
There is a colloquial Egyptian expression that describes someone shouldering a heavy responsibility: they are said to “carry the night.” This accurately describes interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour, who will have completed almost a year in the country’s top executive post when he hands power to the elected president following the presidential elections due to take place in May.
Mansour assumed his responsibilities on July 4, 2013, following the popular uprising on June 30 that led to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and its president, Mohamed Mursi. There was great responsibility to be borne during that difficult period—a weight so heavy many would have shirked the task to avoid paying the price of taking tough decisions. Following the uprising, violent confrontations erupted in the streets, and both public pressure and public expectations were high. And, having already gone through one revolution on January 25, 2011, Egypt’s government and state institutions were already teetering on the brink of collapse.
Of course, Mansour was not alone. There was the first government formed after Mansour was sworn in as the president. In turn, that government shouldered tough responsibilities in critical circumstances. Other figures also played a significant role in the transition period and in setting the roadmap, from drafting a constitution to preparing for the presidential and parliamentary elections that have yet to take place. It is also true that the military was the de facto guarantor of stability and the backbone of the government during that tough period. But it would have been impossible to get through that phase without a president. It was Mansour who was at the helm.
Mansour was a member of the judiciary—more specifically the Supreme Court, which came under pressure during Mursi’s rule. It was besieged several times—a repellent scene. Not all Egyptians had heard of Mansour before he took office, given that he was neither a politician nor a public figure known outside judicial and legal circles. But Mansour was the right choice to lead Egypt’s transition period, given that under the constitution at the time the head of the Supreme Court was third in the line of power, after the president and the speaker of parliament. We must remember that at the time, there was neither a president nor a parliament.
Within a few months, Mansour had gained the respect of many Egyptians through both his performance and his brief and eloquent speeches. He went before the public, seeking to restore their faith in the prestige and wisdom of the president as a representative of the country following the Brotherhood’s farcical performance. Mursi’s term in office had been overshadowed by questions about who held the reins of power in Egypt: the president or the power behind him, the Brotherhood’s guidance bureau. Beyond that concern, there was the general dissatisfaction with the Brotherhood’s discriminatory and exclusivist approach, which provoked public criticism and anger.
Mansour’s task was no easy one, given that society had been on edge for so long and had become extremely polarized. The Brotherhood chose violence in an attempt to impose its will on the Egyptian people. As a result, President Mansour had to perform a difficult balancing act, quelling the violence and passing through a tough transition period while also assuring the public that their demands for change would be met.
The transition period has yet to end, but we are in the last stretch now that the presidential election campaign is underway. Still, it can be said that the most difficult stage has ended. For this, we must acknowledge the immense responsibility Mansour has borne, all the while knowing he had to carry the burden of being the captain of a ship heading into strong winds without even being able to harbor ambitions for a second term.

Syria - from revolution, to chaos, to show and tell
Tuesday, 1 April 2014/Octavia Nasr/Al Arabiya
How difficult it must be for Syria and the Syrians at this juncture. It is hard not to feel depressed, desperate and unbelievably sorrowful at how the situation has escalated so quickly and dramatically. How pitiful it is for a nation to become broken overnight, its people scattered, poor and hungry in tents waiting for donations, giveaways, or anyone who is willing to give attention to their plight. Syrians are today at the mercy of the rich and famous -- or not so rich and hoping to be famous -- and those searching for a “cause” to embrace or those looking for a photo opportunity with devastation in the backdrop. When high profile visits take place in refugee camps, the media drool for coverage. Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations never stop denouncing the violence and condemning the perpetrators. Then, what happens? Absolutely nothing.
Sadly, Syria’s refugee plight has become so redundant that even media organizations are tired of reporting on it. Evil, death and destruction have become so routine, reporters have run out of descriptions. Syria has become the alln too common story of a failed revolution and a relentless dictator. Terrorists, victims, violence and utter misery and destitution are every day’s headlines. Celebrities now show up on the scene and become the story, overshadowing the real harrowing story of suffering and despair.
Syria fatigue
I’ll purposefully avoid mentioning names, but when high profile visits take place in refugee camps, the media drool for coverage. Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations never stop denouncing the violence and condemning the perpetrators. Then, what happens? Absolutely nothing. The numbness sets in again. Depression takes hold again. The suffering of the Syrian people never stops. It continues and it becomes even more pronounced as celebrities move on to their next cause, next target, and next spot in the world. With many other concerned individuals, we do not have a solution, nor do we have a way out to offer the parties. The "Syria fatigue" that the region and the world is experiencing is the reason why the country will fall in the hands of those most patient and with the least to lose. They are the ones who will remain until the end. They are the ones who will continue to fight even if no one is left standing. In three years, Syria has turned from being the story of hope in true people’s power to a symbol of how to lose a revolution. As sad as this reality is, the harder story that the future generations will learn is even more dispiriting: That there are people who will lose everything to gain nothing at all is probably the saddest story of all. **This article was first published in al-Nahar on March 31, 2014.

Israel cabinet set to seal deal for Pollard’s release against hundreds of Palestinians. Kerry returns
DEBKAfile Special Report April 1, 2014/US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to return to Israel Wednesday, April 2. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is meanwhile calling a special Israeli cabinet session to approve a new US proposal for unblocking talks with the Palestinians which puts Jonathan Pollard’s immediate release on the table. Kerry is expected to arrive with President Barack Obama’s consent in his pocket. The deal requires Israel to free 420 jailed Palestinian terrorists, including Israeli Arabs, and promise a partial freeze on settlement construction in the course of extended negotiations, the Palestinian price for extending the talks for another nine months.. This concession will be defined as “construction restraint” to overcome the strong objections of several ministers. The US Secretary plans to stop over this time in Ramallah as well as Jerusalem to tie up the last ends of the deal and reactivate the stalled negotiations. DEBKAfile reported earlier Tuesday: US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Brussels Tuesday morning, April 1, after two rounds of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and missing out on a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. US officials reported that Kerry is now aiming for a major breakthrough in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by holding out to Israel the ultimate prize of Jonathan Pollard’s early release.
It was not clear what he had achieved before he left.
When he landed in Israel Monday night, Kerry brought Israel the fresh Palestinian demand for a tenfold increase in the number of Palestinian security prisoners listed for the fourth round of releases – 420 instead of the original 30 – to include also Israeli Arabs, which a large number of ministers oppose. Israel was also required to accept a freeze on settlement construction on the West Bank as well as Jerusalem.
These concessions were the Palestinians’ price for accepting the extension of talks up until the end of this year. Kerry agreed to put the squeeze on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu yet again. He even dangled the ultimate inducement of the possible release (no promises) of Jonathan Pollard, who has served 30 years of a life sentence in a US jail for spying for Israel.
Netanyahu has been fighting for Pollard’s freedom for more than 16 years, hoping that repeated US-initiated peace negotiations with the Palestinians would provide an opening. He came close to success in 1998 when President Bill Clinton promised to release him, but then recanted in the face of furious CIA objections. Netanyahu explained that this US concession would provide his only hope of saving his government coalition and standing up to popular resentment for surrendering to Palestinian extortion beyond accepted bounds. Administrations sources in Washington confirmed that the Pollard case would be open to discussion on certain conditions – i.e. further and bigger concessions to the Palestinians. The convicted spy, now 59, they said, would be eligible for a reprieve in November 2015. This had somewhat tempered the US intelligence agency’s resistance to his early release.
Appreciating the high value of the Pollard card, the US Secretary tried using it as a lever to extract a really major Israel concession, beyond even the latest Palestinians demands. He pushed Netanyahu hard for a far-reaching step capable of generating a dramatic breakthrough for the US peace effort he is leading.
He turned to Netanyahu because Abbas is frozen immovably in demand mode.
So instead of shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Kerry spent most of Monday night and again Tuesday morning leaning heavily on Netanyahu for an ultimate concession for the ultimate prize of a freed Pollard. He faced two major obstacles: If he caved in to the US Secretary’s wishes, Netanyahu knew he couldn’t prevent the fall of his government - even if Pollard was thrown into the mix (which is still a big if). This was one cabinet crisis he could not be sure of weathering even after surviving into his third term as head of a coalition government.
The other stumbling block was that the Palestinians, fully conscious of Kerry’s objective and his pressure on Netanyahu, saw their chance to continually up their stipulations for more Israeli concessions as the price for keeping the talks afloat. Those obstacles were still in force when the US Secretary flew out to Brussels Tuesday morning after a second round of talks with Netanyahu. What he managed to do was to shift the focus of US-Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to new terrain – American. President Barack Obama will be asked to consider making a contribution to the peace track on whose success his secretary of state has gambled heavily, by signing the papers for Jonathan Pollard’s release and then preparing it for consumption in America. Netanyahu will also be asked for some fast explaining about the price Israel is paying for him in Palestinian currency.
Pollard now has his first real chance of freedom.
But this is far from glad tidings for Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Kerry’s peace effort has demonstrated the truism established by all its forerunners that it is only kept alive by successful Palestinian blackmail. In all former cases, this formula has brought peace diplomacy to demise.


Pope receives Madonna lily seeds from BGU scientists to bloom for spring Annunciation

Pope Francis, who arrives in Israel at the end of May, has just received a special gift -- seeds of the white Madonna lily of the type that existed during the time of Jesus two millennia ago. The seeds were developed in the lab of Dr. Michelle Zakai with the help of Asael Ram at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. According to Christian tradition, the lily was connected to the Annunciation during which the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus. The Madonna lily, according to Christian iconography, symbolizes the virgin birth of Jesus in the spring. The flower appears in many Italian Renaissance paintings of Christian themes that were painted by the great artists of the day. According to the New Testament, the Annunciation occurred in Nazareth, where a church was built to mark the event. Annunciation Day, marked this year on April 3, is being marked by Catholics around the world. But Madonna lilies that grow wild in Israel and bloom at other times. The seeds were presented to the pope by University of Haifa's master degree student Inbar Blum, who is studying the management of natural resources and the environment. Blum also gave the pope a book, published by the Tourism Ministry, on the travels of pilgrims in the footsteps on Mary in the Holy Land. The delegation that visited the Vatican was lead by Blum, who said the pope was moved by the gifts. The event took place at the end of a semester of studies at the Sapienza University of Rome, sponsored by Israeli and Palestinian universities and UNESCO, in which both Israeli and Palestinians studied. The BGU researchers are cultivating the white Madonna bulbs under special hothouse conditions to make the flowers bloom in April, when Christians mark the Annunciation. The fact that the lily has now bloomed and that its origin is in the Holy Land gives it special significance for Christians, said Zakai. Inducing plants to flower unnaturally at certain times of year means improved sales. Many natural flowers sprout in the fall but flower in the spring and summer, when environmental conditions ensure the maximum pollination and seed development. These plants have a mechanism that makes it possible to 'measure and remember' the cold of winter and translate it into an operating system for blooming in the spring and summer, Zakai said.