August 21/14

Bible Quotation for today/Temptation
01Corinthians/Chapter 10/01-18/ Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  and all ate the same spiritual food;  and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.  However with most of them, God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  Let us not commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.  Let us not test Christ, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents.  Don’t grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer.  Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.  No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say.  The cup of blessing which we bless, isn’t it a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, isn’t it a sharing of the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf of bread, we, who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf of bread.  Consider Israel according to the flesh. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 20 & 21/14

Is Iraq’s Haidar al-Abadi another sectarian leader/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 21/14

Gaza’s Hostages/By: Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat/August  21/14

The Real Middle East Crisis Is Economic/Michael Singh /New York Times/August 21/14
Saudi Arabia's Shifting War on Terror/By: Lori Plotkin Boghardt/Washington Institute/August  21/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 20 & 21/14

Rai arrives in Irbil in support of Iraqi Christians

Al-Rahi Urges from Erbil International Community to Mobilize to Defend Iraq's Christians
Berri: Parliament must legislate
Berri Lauds Cabinet Decree, Salam Expresses Readiness to Hold Parliamentary Polls

Beirut airport urges early passenger check-in

Future MPs: Priority for president over elections

Abu Faour: Health Ministry to cover implants

UCC to maintain exams boycott, blames politicians

High shipping costs hinder exports

Slapstick education

Huge Blaze Near Ferzol Grocery Market

Report: Tough Conditions on Swap of Islamists for Lebanese Soldiers, Policemen

Uruguay Sending Mission to Lebanon to Meet Syrian Refugees 

Qahwaji to Russia to Diversify Army Weapon Sources


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 20 & 21/14

Israel leaders’ stubborn belief in Hamas' desire for war's end led the country back to war

Hamas fighters show defiance in Gaza tunnel tour

Gaza terrorists continue to pound southern Israel with rockets, drawing IDF response

'It's time to abandon truce talks, reach decisive victory over Hamas'

Israeli strike kills wife, son of Hamas military chief

Report: Qatar threatened to expel Mashaal if Hamas okayed Egypt-proposed truce

Report: Qatar threatened to expel Mashal

Following new rocket strikes, Israel has a clear message for Hamas

Hollande: 'We need a global strategy to fight ISIS'
ISIS says it beheads U.S. journalist

Mother mourns U.S. journalist ‘beheaded’ by ISIS

Another American hostage at risk by ISIS

Iraqi army’s fails to recapture Tikrit

U.N. to airlift aid to 500,000 displaced Iraqis

Iraq says it is troubled ISIS smuggling oil to export markets
Scene of fighting, grandiose Mosul dam always beset with problems

German minister accuses Qatar of financing ISIS

World leaders betray those they honor on World Humanitarian Day

Decapitated bodies of 4 men found in Egypt's Sinai
Militants attack major air base in eastern Syria


Rai arrives in Irbil in support of Iraqi Christians
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A delegation headed by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai arrived Wednesday in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, in a show of support with the thousands of Christians suffering the advance of Islamist militants. Kurdistan's Regional Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, Irbil Governor Nawzad Hadi and a number of officials were at the airport to welcome the delegation, the state-run National News Agency said.  Following a brief rest at the airport’s VIP lounge, the delegation, which includes Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Joseph Younan and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem, headed to the Chaldean Catholic Church, home for Christian refugees fleeing attacks by ISIS. Speaking at the Beirut airport before the trip, Rai strongly criticized superpowers and Arab countries for showing no support as Iraqi Christians fled after the militants' threat. Rai criticized “potential world powers and Arab states [that] have not stood in support for the protection of Christians in Iraq, Syria and other [countries],” the NNA said. At the local level, Rai said he was willing to meet Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah in the wake of the escalating terrorism concerns. "A dialogue committee already exists between Bkirki and Hezbollah, and we are ready to hold any meeting in this respect," Rai said in response to a question. “We also stress that the Lebanese people should unite and assume their responsibilities so that, together, we can face the great danger ‘ISIS’ which began to enter into Lebanon

Al-Rahi Urges from Erbil International Community to Mobilize to Defend Iraq's Christians
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi rejected on Wednesday “the fragmentation of peoples' security by terrorist organizations.”He urged during a visit to the Iraqi Kurdish region of Erbil “the international community to mobilize” to thwart the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups. Al-Rahi traveled to Kurdistan in Wednesday at the head of a delegation of patriarchs, in a show of support to the persecuted Christians. “We should work on liberating the Christians who should remain in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world,” he added.
“We must remain in these countries because the world is in need of the light of the Bible,” he declared. “We demand that the displaced be allowed to return to their land with dignity. We will not accept anything less than that,” stressed al-Rahi. The patriarch was accompanied on his trip by Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan and Ignatius Aphrem II, the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church. “We are heading to Erbil as a first step in the implementation of the statement issued by the patriarchs in their last meeting,” stated al-Rahi ahead of his departure from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport. “The first and essential clause in the statement is our support for Christians who have left their houses because of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations,” he added. The clergymen are scheduled to meet with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Raphael I Sako upon their arrival to Erbil. Islamic State militants in Iraq have been waging a campaign against minorities in Iraq, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
Pope Francis called Monday for collective action through the United Nations to "stop unjust aggression" in Iraq. Last week as thousands from Iraq's Yazidi and Christian minorities fled attacks by IS jihadists, Francis made a plea to the U.N. to do all it could to stop the violence. The Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations, Silvano Tomasi, had voiced support days earlier for U.S. air strikes, in a rare exception to papal policy promoting peaceful conflict resolution. The United States has launched dozens of air strikes in Iraq since early August to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushing back IS militants in the north.

Future MPs: Priority for president over elections

The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future Bloc MPs called Wednesday for giving priority to electing a new president over holding the parliamentary elections, arguing that the bloc supported extending Parliament's term only to facilitate the presidential election and avert a total vacuum. MP Samir Jisr said the Cabinet decree calling on the electorate to vote in parliamentary elections scheduled for November was “a right step.”“The Future Movement is in favor of holding elections, on condition that the presidential poll comes first,” Jisr said in an interview with Al-Fajr Radio. “(Future) leader Saad Hariri’s backing of the extension of Parliament’s mandate is not absolute, it is only meant to facilitate the election of a new president of the republic,” Jisr added. His colleague, MP Jean Ogassapian, warned against setting a precedent of having constitutional institutions function under prolonged presidential vacuum. Speaking in an interview with Radio Voice of Lebanon, Ogassapian dismissed the feasibility of holding general elections in the absence of a president. “How can we appoint a new prime minister and hold consultations without a president,” he asked, arguing that the country would then suffer a vacuum in all its constitutional bodies. “It is impossible to install constitutional institutions under presidential vacuum. Priority should be for electing a president, to be followed by general elections,” Ogassapian said.
“If we don’t elect a president, the only available solution will be extending the parliament’s mandate for a short while until a president is elected,” he added. On his part, MP Amin Wehbi, said the Future Movement's insistence on electing a president first “reflects the party’s keenness to preserve the Christian top post.”“We are attached to this post, which is in the national interest of all Lebanese. The Christian role is a guarantee for freedoms and diversity in the country, not to mention that the vacuum at the top post causes imbalance and malfunction in public institutions,” Wehbi told Radio Orient.
The Cabinet signed a decree Tuesday calling on the electorate to vote in general elections set for Nov. 16. But the move, which came hours after the expiration of the legal deadline to publish the decree, does not necessarily mean that election will be held on time.

Berri Lauds Cabinet Decree, Salam Expresses Readiness to Hold Parliamentary Polls

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri praised a cabinet decision calling on the electorate to participate in the parliamentary elections scheduled for November, as Prime Minister Tammam Salam said his government's move was aimed at sending a message that it was ready to hold the polls. The cabinet “decree is a first step towards holding the parliamentary elections,” Berri was quoted as saying by several local newspapers that were published on Wednesday. “It is a sign that I am right in rejecting to extend parliament's term,” he told his visitors. The speaker reiterated his rejection for another extension, stressing that he “wasn't thinking about his personal interest in staying a speaker.”“What's the point of extending the tenure of an assembly that does not meet to elect a president or legislate?” he asked. The parliament has failed to find a successor to President Michel Suleiman, whose six-year term ended in May over differences on a compromise candidate. Several blocs have boycotted the sessions aimed at electing a head of state, causing lack of quorum. The failure to elect a president left the country's top Christian post vacant, raising fears of a bigger vacuum if the parliamentary elections were not held. On Tuesday, Salam proposed during a cabinet session the decree calling on electoral bodies to begin preparing for polls. While all ministers signed it, it came after the expiry of the legal deadline to publish the decree. The constitution stipulates that there should be a 90-day period between signing the decree and holding the vote. Accordingly, the decree should have been published before August 18 as the polls are scheduled to take place on November 16, 2014 following the 17-month extension of the parliament's term last year. The cabinet decided to immediately publish in a special supplement with the official gazette. Salam was quoted as saying on Wednesday that the cabinet's decision was an expression of its readiness to hold the polls. “The 24-hour delay is a technical issue that could be bypassed,” officials close to the PM said. The officials threw the ball in parliament's court, asking if the different parties represented in the legislature wanted to hold the elections or extend its term again. Last week, Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush proposed a draft-law for the extension of the parliament's term by two years and seven months, citing security reasons.

Berri: Parliament must legislate
The Daily Star/BEIRIUT: It’s the duty of the Parliament to make laws, Nabih Berri reminded lawmakers Wednesday, as debate continues over a second extension of the legislature's term.
“Making laws is the duty of the Parliament,” Berri said during his weekly meeting Wednesday with lawmakers.The speaker also stressed on the need to hold timely parliamentary elections. Berri has rejected the extension of Parliament on the grounds that lawmakers have failed to address the growing problems that the country is facing. With the exception of a burst of activity after the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's Cabinet in February, Parliament has convened only a handful of times since it extended its term last year by 17 months. The legislature is currently deadlocked over the election of a new president, with many Christian and March 14 MPs boycotting sessions over the vacuum in the presidency while Hezbollah and March 8 lawmakers are boycotting the electoral sessions.
This deadlock has left Parliament unable to address a rash of urgent issues, including the drawn-out battle over a new salary scale for public sector workers, which has led to a wave of protests and strikes over the last several years. On Tuesday, Berri reportedly insisted that parliamentary approval of a controversial salary raise was a “must” before approving official certificates for Grade 9 and Grade 12 students. “Official certificates ... inevitably require Parliament to pass the law,” visitors of Berri quoting him as saying. "If Parliament convened for a legislative session, no items on its agenda would be discussed, including the certificates draft law, unless [lawmakers] first approved the salary scale bill." On Tuesday, Parliament’s Education Committee recommended that lawmakers draft a law to legalize the passing certificates. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab decided to issue passing certificates for Brevet and Baccalaureate students after the Union Coordination Committee said it wouldn’t end its boycott of official exams correction. The results of the official exams, required for students to enroll in university, have been caught in the ongoing battle over a new ranks and salary scale for Lebanon's public workers. Civil servants and teachers are demanding a 121 percent raise, matching one given to judges, and have held a series of protests and strikes over the last several years to pressure Parliament to approve the draft law. Lawmakers have come out in support of a new salary scale; however, the bill is being held up over disagreements on the size of the wage hike and the mean to finance it.

Beirut airport urges early passenger check-in
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Airport officials now urge passengers to arrive three hours before flights from Rafik Hariri International Airport. A statement issued by the airport Wednesday said the new guideline was aimed at avoiding congestion at the airport during the peak summer season.

Uruguay Sending Mission to Lebanon to Meet Syrian Refugees
Naharnet/A delegation from Uruguay will head to Lebanon on Friday to select 120 Syrian refugees who can go to the South American country, the country's Human Rights Department said. Forty of the refugees are scheduled to arrive in September and the rest next year. Human Rights Department spokeswoman Nathalia Platas said Tuesday that 60 percent of the people in the families chosen must be under 18 years of age. Families also should have at least one person willing to work, probably in agriculture. She said religion won't be a factor in selection, but the refugees will have to understand that women and men have equal rights in Uruguay and both boys and girls have to attend school. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights selected the candidates who will be interviewed. Platas said most had suffered or witnessed torture in some form. Opinion polls indicate most Uruguayans favor accepting the refugees, though a majority dislike President Jose Mujica's offer to take other refugees: six prisoners to be released from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, including four Syrians. United Nations officials say there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees, many filling camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Germany and Brazil have offered to take thousands of them. Associated Press

EDL Files Charges against 3 Contract Workers for Defamation, Shutting Company
Naharnet/The Electricite du Liban administration announced on Wednesday that it is taking legal action against three contract workers for their recent actions at the company's headquarters in Beirut's Mar Mikhael neighborhood, reported the National News Agency. It said that the administration filed the charges against them for closing the company and preventing its employees from heading to their jobs.
They have also been charged with defamation against EDL and its board of directors, as well as misleading the public through spreading false rumors. The charges were filed against L.M., B.B., and A.S.
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, the General Prosecution, and Internal Security Forces were informed of the measure and requested to take the necessary action “to put an end to the flawed situation at the company.”The EDL workers went on an open-ended strike last week after accusing the state-run firm of not abiding by the law following a decision for the employment of only 897 out of the 2,000 workers. The workers erected tents at the company's headquarters and several of its branches, and closed its doors to stop any employee from going in. On Monday, contract workers blocked roads across Lebanon after security forces arrested several of their colleagues during a protest that turned violent in the southern city of Tyre. Two men were apprehended when the workers clashed with the security forces for reopening a road they had blocked near the company's office in Tyre. EDL Director General Kamal al-Hayek said on Thursday that EDL was not a “barn” and denied that the law allowed all contract workers to become full-time employees.

Report: Tough Conditions on Swap of Islamists for Lebanese Soldiers, Policemen

Naharnet/Jihadists, who are holding Lebanese army troops and policemen captive, have reportedly announced conditions for their release despite the denial of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and mediators. Al-Qaida linked al-Nusra Front members have said they would release one soldier or security forces member held captive earlier this month in return for two Islamists jailed in Lebanon, al-Akhbar daily said Wednesday. But the newspaper stressed that Islamic State group's fighters have put tougher conditions, saying they would release only one of the captives in return for 10 Islamists.
It also said that Qatar was negotiating with al-Nusra Front. The jihadists overran the northeastern border town of Arsal on August 2 and engaged in battles with the Lebanese army that left scores dead and wounded. The jihadists withdrew to Syrian territories a few days later after a ceasefire was brokered by Muslim scholars. However, they took with them captives from the army and security forces. Some of them have been released in stages. Al-Mashnouq told An Nahar that he and Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi were following up the case of the rest of the captives, whose numbers are still unclear.
He denied, however, that the militants had announced their conditions for the release of the soldiers and policemen. “It is still early to discuss about the final results,” al-Mashnouq told An Nahar, stressing that their case was being resolved with “secrecy” and “calm.” “Any other method would complicate the issue,” he said. The spokesman of the Muslim Scholars Committee, Sheikh Adnan Amama, also denied in remarks to As Safir daily that the jihadists had asked for the release of specific persons from Roumieh prison. “We are still in the stage of discussing the Lebanese government’s approval to negotiate and exchange prisoners,” said Amama. He added that the committee has received assurances that the captives were being well treated.

Qahwaji to Russia to Diversify Army Weapon Sources
Naharnet/Army chief General Jean Qahwaji is scheduled to travel to Russia soon to discuss ways that Moscow can provide the Lebanese army with military aid, news reports said on Wednesday. Qahwaji aims to diversify the sources of military weapons provided to Lebanon within the $500 million quota allocated to the army and as part of the one billion Saudi grant in that regard, As Safir daily reported.
Former Premier and head of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri announced on August 6 that Saudi Arabia will grant Lebanon one billion dollars to the military institution to “combat terrorism.”
Media information said that $500 million of the grant will be given in cash to the Lebanese army to get the weapons and ammunition needed. Qahwaji had reiterated to his visitors that Hariri told him to “find the best suitable contract for the military institution, and we will be right behind you,” according to As Safir Wednesday. It also revealed that the army chief will visit Russia soon after he held several contacts with the Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin in Beirut to sign the arms deal with the leadership of the Russian army. Qahwaji is expected to visit several western and eastern capitals to purchase the weapons, added the daily, pointing that the U.S. has put its weapons warehouses in Cyprus under the disposal of the Lebanese army since the latest incidents that flared in the northeastern border town of Arsal. Hariri, who made a surprise visit to Lebanon at the beginning of August after three years abroad, had left back to Jeddah a few days afterwards to “hold discussions with Saudi leaders on the aid granted to the Lebanese army.”In December 2013 Saudi Arabia had granted three billion dollars for the purchase of arms from France for the benefit of the Lebanese army.

Decapitated Bodies of Four Men Found in Egypt's Sinai
Naharnet /The decapitated bodies of four men were found in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, security officials said, adding that they suspected jihadists had killed the victims in the belief they were supporting the army. Egypt's military has been carrying out a vast offensive against jihadist groups in the north of Sinai since militants stepped up attacks following the army's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July last year. Residents in Sheikh Zuweid town, south of Rafah, discovered the bodies on Wednesday, two days after the men had been abducted, according to the security officials.
They said the militants may have murdered the men because they suspected the victims had aided the army's offensive. A little known group had recently distributed leaflets in the region which threatened to kill anyone who collaborated with Egyptian forces, officials said. Militants in northern Sinai, which also borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, have launched a number of attacks in retaliation for a government crackdown on supporters of Morsi. At least 1,400 people have been killed in the crackdown, mostly Islamist supporters of Morsi. The militant attacks usually target security forces, but they have also led to civilian casualties. Earlier this month, a U.S. soldier with the Multinational Force and Observers mission (MFO) was wounded when gunmen shot at his camp in Sinai. Agence France Presse

Slapstick education
The Daily Star/In what is probably a dream come true for many teenagers across the world, the Lebanese Education Ministry has finally decided to grant certificates to tens of thousands of high school students, regardless of whether or not they even sat the exams. The indirect result of a teachers strike – part of wider public sector demands for higher salaries – this unfortunate turn of events reveals the deep-seated problems within the education sector in this country. However, if there is any silver lining to be found here, in this farcical situation which we have not seen the likes of since the Civil War, it will be that this should act as a catalyst to reform the sector entirely. Any such institutional system must constantly evolve and challenge itself i order to meet higher standards. Sadly this does not seem to have been the case for education. It has stagnated, with little real change over the last half a century. The sector has rarely been given as much attention as security, electricity or water – which is to say, not that much at all – and is consistently neglected. Attempts to politicize the sector abound, and the lack of a unified curriculum is a failing. That a single Lebanese history textbook cannot be agreed upon is dangerous for future generations. Many higher-education outfits exist thanks to dodgy licenses, and often serve as little more than money-making schemes. If the children and youth of today are to have any hope of leading this country in the future, they deserve an education that meets their needs and offers them the necessary challenges.

UCC to maintain exams boycott, blames politicians
Nizar Hassan| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee announced Tuesday that it would stay committed to its decision to boycott the correcting of official exams, with the long-awaited salary raise for public sector workers still to be approved. The union berated politicians for giving students passing certificates in spite of its protest. “Education Minister Elias Bou Saab and the Cabinet which backed his decision are the ones responsible for issuing the certificates,” the UCC statement said. “You disagree in politics, but you are united in attacking our rights and attacking the Union Coordination Committee,” the statement added, addressing Cabinet ministers. The union said it had been left with no choice but to maintain its boycott, vowing to file a lawsuit with the help of former Interior Minister and lawyer Ziad Baroud to prevent the certificates from being distributed. Stressing that it would be drawing up a new action plan for the coming period, the UCC said the 2014-15 academic year would commence “normally” on Sept. 1. The Representative Council for the Public Administration League echoed the UCC’s sentiments, calling for a general strike Thursday “in all ministries, administrations, governorates, qadas and municipalities,” and a protest at 11 a.m. facing the Economy Ministry in the Azarieh Building in Downtown Beirut. The UCC convened a meeting to settle a disagreement between teachers on whether they should go back on the decision to boycott the grading of exams. The Secondary School Teachers League, headed by Hanna Gharib, had called for a continuation of the boycott, while Nehme Mahfoud’s Association of Private School Teachers had said it would mark the exams for the sake of “protecting the students’ academic futures.” Earlier in the day, Parliament’s Education Committee recommended that lawmakers draft a law to legalize the passing certificates, stressing that the decision to issue them would be final, even if the teachers changed their minds about the boycott.
Bou Saab said he had made the controversial decision to issue certificates to deter the UCC from using students as a tool against politicians in their mission to get the wage hike to pass in Parliament.
Bou Saab pointed to precedent in an effort to justify his decision, saying certificates had been issued in the past with Parliament approval.
“The legalization of certificates occurred in 1975, 1978, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991,” he said. As for the military school, which usually asks that applicants have at least a 60-percent average in the Grade 12 official exams, Bou Saab said the defense minister and the Army would meet to find a solution. An Education Ministry source told The Daily Star that the passing certificates would be given not only to students who actually took the official exams, but to all who had applied for them. The candidacy card, a document given to the students allowing them to attend the exams, will be enough to ensure they pass, even if they did not attend. While most students applying to university this year likely attended the exams, there are a number of applicants each year who do not show up.
Separately, the Education Committee tasked Bou Saab with contacting the head of the Lebanese University to recommend establishing an entrance exam as a prerequisite for all its faculties.
According to the committee’s recommendation, any student with a passing certificate who wishes to enter the LU for the next academic year should take an entrance exam.
Only a few of the LU’s faculties have required incoming students to take entrance tests in previous years. However, the education minister’s decision to give passing certificates to all Grade 12 students means that even those who might have failed the official exam would be eligible for admission. Bou Saab said the high number of incoming students at private universities should be filtered with entrance exams, and urged the LU to do the same. He also said the challenging first year of university would be enough to weed out students who did not deserve to attend. Bou Saab said he was surprised the UCC was still holding meetings. “They have already missed the train and the certificates have become a fact,” he said. “Instead, they should discuss how to continue with their union work.” In what seemed to be a response to this comment, a UCC source told LBCI that the parliamentary committee was “supposed to discuss the salary scale.” For the past three years, the UCC has spearheaded ongoing nationwide protests and held open-ended strikes calling for the legislation that would enable the pay rise. However, the Parliament, which extended its mandate for 17 months in May 2013 and is likely to extend it again this month, has failed to enact the long-awaited draft law.

Report: Qatar threatened to expel Mashaal if Hamas okayed Egypt-proposed truce
By JPOST.COM STAFF /08/20/2014 /Mashaal, who is based in Qatar, has been blamed by Israeli officials in recent days for sabotaging a long-term truce along the Gaza front by repeatedly making new demands that Jerusalem is unwilling to meet. Is Qatar responsible for the collapse of the cease-fire in the South? A senior Fatah official is quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat as saying that the Qatari government threatened to expel the Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, if the Palestinian Islamist group agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.Is Qatar responsible for the collapse of the cease-fire in the South? A senior Fatah official is quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat as saying that the Qatari government threatened to expel the Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, if the Palestinian Islamist group agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.

German minister accuses Qatar of financing ISIS
By AFP | Berlin /Wednesday, 20 August 2014 /Germany’s development aid minister, Gerd Mueller, on Wednesday accused Qatar of financing the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“A story like this always has a history,” he said in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF. “Who is financing these troops? Hint: Qatar,” he added. Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel this week urged a “debate” about who has been and is financing ISIS, but without naming any countries. Meanwhile, Germany said it is ready to send weapons to support Iraqi Kurds in their battle against ISIS, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. It is a controversial issue for Germany which, burdened by its history of aggression in two world wars, has often been reluctant to send troops into foreign conflicts and which as a rule does not send weapons into war zones.

Mother mourns U.S. journalist ‘beheaded’ by ISIS
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Mother of allegedly slain photojournalist James Foley released a statement Wednesday appealing to her son’s “kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages.”Diana Foley posted the statement after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of Foley and threatening to carry out further executions until the United States ended its air strikes against the militant group. “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people,” Diane Foley wrote. In the video, which was not immediately possible to verify, a masked man performed the beheading with a short blade after warning President Barack Obama in spoken English against any further air strikes on ISIS' positions. “Like Jim, they [the remaining hostages] are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world,” the statement read. Foley also said that she has “never been prouder of our son Jim” who gave “his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”The White House said they could not verify the authenticity of the video and are were attempting to confirm if Foley had been killed, the Associated Press reported. "If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin said in a statement Tuesday.
The video
The ISIS video titled “A Message To America” begins with footage earlier this month of Obama announcing his decision to authorize military airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS targets.
“I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against the real criminals, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only the result of their complacency and criminality,” the man, who the masked man later identifies as Foley, said. “My message to my beloved parents: save me some dignity and don’t accept any meager compensation for my death from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with their recent areal campaign in Iraq,” the man, who is dressed in orange clothes, said. “I call on my brother John, who is a member of the U.S. air force, think about what you are doing, think about the lives that you destroy including those of your own family. I call on you John: Think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq, to kill those people, whoever they may have been. Think John: who did they really kill? Did they think about me, you or our family when they made that decision?” he said. “I died that day John: when your colleagues dropped that bomb on those people, they signed my death certificate. I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom to see my family again but that ship sailed.
“I guess all in all: I wish I was not an American,” he concludes, before the masked man, pointing a dagger at the reporter’s head, identifies his captive as Foley.
“This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government you have been at the forefront of the aggression toward the Islamic State [ISIS]. You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs,” the masked man said.
“Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq, your strikes have caused casualties amongst the Muslims,” the man, speaking in what sounded like a British accent, said.
“You [the United States] are no longer fighting an insurgency, we are an Islamic army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide.
“So effectively, any aggression toward the Islamic State, is an aggression toward Muslims from all walks of life, who have accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership,” he said.
The man warns Obama that any attempt to “deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in bloodshed of your people,” before conducting the execution.
"Find James Foley," the campaign run by his family to secure the 40-year-old freelancer's release, posted a public message online following the release of the video asking for time "to seek answers."
The man then holds by the shirt a second individual who is identified as Sotloff and warns Obama to cease targeting the militant group.
“The life of this American citizen Obama depends on your next decision,” he warned.
Following the release of the shocking video, British Prime Minister David Cameron broke off his holiday for meetings Wednesday on the threat posed by ISIS. Cameron was returning to his Downing Street office in London to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria as work was under way to identify the executioner in the beheading video, who spoke with a British accent.

Hollande: 'We need a global strategy to fight ISIS'
By Staff Writer | Al Arabiya News
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday he would arrange a conference next month on the threat posed by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, describing the current international situation as the most serious since 2001. “I believe the international situation is the worst we've seen since 2001,” Hollande said during an interview with the french daily newspapre Le Monde.
“We can no longer keep to the traditional debate of intervention or non-intervention,” he told the French daily. “We have to come up with a global strategy to fight this group, which is structured, has significant financing, very sophisticated weapons and threatens countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” he said. During the interview, Hollande did not say when the meeting could be held or who would be invited. He also said that the international community bore a “heavy responsibility” for what is happening in Syria, with its knock-on effects in Iraq. “If, two years ago, we had acted to ensure a transition, we wouldn’t have had ISIS,” he said. “If, one year ago, the major powers had reacted to the use of chemical weapons, we wouldn’t have had this terrible choice between a dictator and a terrorist group,” adding that the rebels “deserve all our support,” he added. Hollande announced last week that France would deliver weapons to Kurdish troops fighting ISIS fighters in northern Iraq. “I ensured that these deliveries were done with the full agreement of the authorities in Baghdad, so there was no doubt about the use of this material,” Hollande said, adding that the weapons would have to be used “within the framework of Iraqi unity”. ISIS insurgents, who have seized control of territory in both Iraq and Syria, captured wide swathes of northern Iraq since June.

Following new rocket strikes, Israel has a clear message for Hamas
Ron Ben-Yishai/ynetnews/Published: 08.19.14, 18:19 / By recalling the delegation to Cairo and striking targets in Gaza, Israel is telling Hamas: no talks under fire, and no war of attrition.
The rocket fire from Gaza on Tuesday afternoon was a flagrant breach of commitments Hamas and the others Palestinians factions made to Egypt. And in its wake, Israel is signaling to the Palestinians that it will not agree to negotiate under fire, nor is it willing to enter into a war of attrition with the Palestinian factions. As such, Israel, which recalled its negotiating team from Cairo in the wake of the rocket attacks, will not send it back before receiving cast-iron guarantees that the negotiations - if they resume - will not be held under during violations of the ceasefire. "Israel will not negotiate under fire," say Israeli officials. The same sources also say that Israel has the patience and the mental strength to resume the fight until Hamas and the other Palestinian factions realize they can not threaten it with renewed attacks, and that they are more harmed by breaching the ceasefire than they benefit from doing so. The rocket fire took the IDF and the decision-makers in Jerusalem by surprise. Even so, there had been information that the talks in Cairo were running into difficulties over Israel's unwillingness to give into Hamas demands regarding the "lesser agreement" proposed by Egypt, which was set to be signed Tuesday night.
While Hamas agrees in principle to an agreement based on a mutual ceasefire and large-scale humanitarian aid to Gaza, it would not accept Israel's demand that the aid transfers be supervised by Mahmoud Abbas' personnel - and especially not by international organizations. Hamas also demanded that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza be opened immediately. Israel was not ready to give up on its security demands, nor would it agree to Hamas' demand for a declaration that it "lifted the siege" on the Gaza Strip. These were hitches that were indeed anticipated on Monday, but which the Egyptians believed could be overcome. Therefore the Israeli delegation to the negotiations remained in Cairo and agreed for a further 24-hour ceasefire. The afternoon rocket attack was a surprise given that the negotiations had not ended, and it had seemed possible to find common ground and sign the lesser agreement proposed by the Egyptians. But once the rockets were fired at Be'er Sheva and Netivot, Israel's military and political responses were triggered almost automatically, responses that had been predetermined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, in consultation with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. The military response came in the form of immediate air strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip, alongside a political decision to recall the Israeli delegation. As stated, Israel has signaled that it will not agree to negotiations under fire, nor will it agree to enter into a war of attrition. The IDF use all of the might at its disposal to ensure that such a war does not erupt, even if it means a new ground incursion in the Gaza Strip.

Report: Qatar threatened to expel Mashal
Roi Kais /Ynetnews/Published: 08.20.14
Senior Fatah official claims Qatar claimed it would banish Hamas leader if he agrees to Egypt's compromise offer in indirect negotiations. A senior Fatah official claimed in a conversation with the Al-Hayat newspaper that Qatar recently threatened Hamas' political bureau chief Khaled Mashal that it would expel him if Hamas accepts the Egyptian ceasefire truce deal in its current format.
The same source also stated that Hamas asked Egypt that Qatar assist in ending the conflict between Israel and Hamas, adding that Cairo should invite Qatar's Foreign Minister or Qatar's head of Intelligence to take part in the indirect negotiations. Egypt, according to the same source, refused outright to consider the proposal, conditioning its implementation on Qatar's apology over the policy it adopted since the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. In addition, Qais Abu Laila, a senior leader from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was in Cairo, said Wednesday morning that the Palestinians filed a document on Tuesday agreeing to a two-stage proposal. The plan includes the lifting of the siege in its first stage, opening the crossings and reconstructing the Gaza Strip without restrictions or conditions, and postponing the discussions on more complex issues such as an airport and seaport by a month. According to Abu Laila, the two sides failed to reach an agreement during the last round of talks due to Israel's insistence on the disarmament of the factions and the limiting of their weapon build-up capabilities. Giving an example of a difference of opinions that thwarted the agreement, he claimed that Israel insisted that the opening of the Gaza border crossings would be done "in coordination with the Palestinian Authority." According to the delegate, "that would mean that Israel would be able to veto the decision whenever it wants."

'It's time to abandon truce talks, reach decisive victory over Hamas'

Moran Azulay, Attila Somfalvi
Published: 08.20.14/ Ynetnews
Ministers criticize Netanyahu for failing to convene security cabinet following collapse of ceasefire negotiations
Despite the heavy barrages that hit southern and central Israel on Tuesday night, and the collapse of ceasefire negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to convene his Security Cabinet.Cabinet ministers criticized the prime minister, saying "he's not convening the cabinet because he doesn't want to bring the decision on decisive action to a vote. He's putting up a tough front, but hopes something happens and an agreement with Hamas is reached quickly."The latest ceasefire, that was set to expire on midnight, was broken some 8 hours earlier when three Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell near Be'er Sheva and Netivot on Tuesday afternoon. The IDF responded by hitting different targets in the Gaza Strip. Many government ministers demanded Israel delivered a fatal blow to Hamas in Gaza, and abandon ceasefire talks altogether. "The government policy of 'calm will be met with calm' is fundamentally wrong. We need to talk and negotiate with Hamas only when it has surrendered. We now must seek a quick and decisive end to Hamas," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a meeting with Yisrael Beiteinu MKs. Cabinet member, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, said following the resumption of rocket fire that "when you want to defeat a terror organization, you reach a decisive victory. When we hold peace talks with a terrorist organization we get more terror. Hamas thinks that rocket fire helps them reach their goals in talks and so they fire even during a ceasefire. Rockets are not an accident as far as we're concerned, it's systematic."
Bennett went on to say that "Only a severe response, like any sovereign nation responds to rocket fire on its territory, will be able to stop the deterioration (of the situation). Sooner or later, Israel will need to subdue Hamas, there's no way to avoid it." In a Facebook post, Finance Minister Yair Lapid reiterated his position that Israel must not end Operation Protective Edge before ensuring the disarmament of the terror infrastructure in the Strip, and before the transfer of international funds to Gaza is monitored and supervised, so Israel doesn't find itself in another round of hostilities soon.
"Any future arrangement must include the dismantling of Hamas' terror infrastructure in Gaza, and complete control over the funds meant to rehabilitate the Strip," Lapid wrote. "For that to happen, I am promoting a regional conference to give a wide international cover to achieving these objectives. Without a diplomatic move, without wide international support, any attempt to reach an agreement will be the beginning of the countdown to another round of violence." "The negotiations with Hamas do not serve Israel's security interests, and there's no point in continuing them," Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said.
Science, Culture and Sport Minister Yaakov Peri said Israel must stand firm and continue making its demands. "I don't see this as the end of the negotiations yet," he said. "We need a lot of patience. We have to determinedly insist on the principles Israel has set." Housing Minister Uri Ariel said that "we must strike the Hamas enemy until we achieve victory. I suppose the prime minister and security forces in giving a decisive and painful response to the terrorists, and in restoring the security to the citizens of Israel. It can't be that we'll be responsible for halting fire while they're responsible for firing."
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said that "the Israeli government and prime minister's job is to provide protection and complete calm to the southern communities. If, as the prime minister claims, Hamas has indeed been defeated, then he (Netanyahu) is expected to reach a diplomatic accord with conditions that benefit the state of Israel. But if the government folds to bring faux-calm, as the one we experienced today, then it would indicate on the failure of a weak government."

Israel leaders’ stubborn belief in Hamas' desire for war's end led the country back to war

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 19, 2014/Most Israelis were stunned Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19, when rocket fire suddenly erupted from the Gaza Strip against Beersheba and Netivot, after they had been lulled into a sense of false security by the suspension of Hamas attacks for 135 hours. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sent the air force straight back into action to bomb “terror targets’ across the Gaza Strip, and recalled Israel’s negotiators from the indirect talks taking place with Hamas in Cairo through Egyptian intermediaries.
After a month of tough fighting and painful losses, Israelis were aghast to find themselves dumped back in the same old routine, which their leaders had vowed Operation Defensive Edge would end once and for all. By midnight Hamas had fired around 50 rockets in a steady stream across most of Israel, including Greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So what went wrong?
debkafile reports that, as recently as Monday, Aug. 18, a senior intelligence source asserted that Netanyahu and Ya’alon were satisfied with the Cairo talks, because their outcome would refute their critics, ministers and security chiefs alike, by bringing Hamas to its knees. Asked how this would come about, the source repeated the mantra heard day after day during the fighting: Hamas is looking for a way out of the conflict and wants to end hostilities, he explained. That is what we are banking on. AMAN chief Maj.Gen. Aviv Kochavi is believed by some cabinet sources to be the author of this prescription, to which the prime minister and defense minister have stubbornly adhered, against all the evidence to the contrary. They therefore held back from inflicting a final defeat on the Palestinian fundamentalists.
Even the pro-diplomacy Justice Minister Tzipi Livni faulted them by warning repeatedly that negotiating with terrorists was a bad mistake. You have to fight them and beat them hollow, she said.
Yet each time Hamas violated a ceasefire – and it happened six times in all – there was the excuse that its leaders were divided against themselves, and the heads of the Gaza faction were reasonable and logical individuals who would prefer to stop firing rockets at the Israeli population - if only it was only up to them. Even when the rockets started falling Tuesday around Beersheba, Netivot, Ashkelon, Shear Hanegev and the Eshkol district, some knowledgeable Israelis were still saying that Hamas knew nothing about it. However, Netanyahu and Ya’alon are not about to change course, athough it is obvious even to them that they have led the country into the blind alley of a war of attrition. They seem to be operating on a different level from Hamas – and even from the general Israeli population, which is sick and tired of the uncertainty and on the verge of kicking back at its leaders. Last Saturday, 30,000 demonstrators from southern Israel and their many sympathizers turned out in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, to make sure the government understood that their tolerance for the same old routine was at an end and the military must be allowed to root out the Hamas peril once and for all. A sense of defiance is palpable in the streets of towns within regular rocket range from the Gaza Strip and even farther afield. Contrary to orders from the IDF Home Command, directions to open shelters have been issued by the mayors of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Gedera, Kiryat Malachi, Sderot, Netivot and Beersheba. Some have cancelled public events and entertaiments. Parents of places next door to the Gaza Strip, who spent the summer holidays holed up indoors or away from home, now say they will not send their children to school at the start of the term in two weeks, if the present situation does not change radically.

Is Iraq’s Haidar al-Abadi another sectarian leader?
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
This is what many social media posts claimed as they dug into Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi's past, posting videos, statements and photos of him claiming they represent his orientations and ideas and calling on many to stand against him. I have reviewed many of these posts and while I cannot confirm what they imply about Abadi, I can say that the man deserves to be given a chance as he's the choice of the Iraqi people's representatives and he's also supported by Sunni, Arab and Kurdish parliamentarians and politicians.
Indeed, past experiences with Twitter, Facebook and untrusted websites have taught us that news reports carried on these sites are not always credible. They are also full of intentionally forged information. Where they do contain factual information, it is often fragmented or introduced in a manner that prevents readers from reaching objective conclusions.
We all hope that the new prime minister is a national leader for all Iraqis and that he builds a flourishing state that puts Iraq among the ranks of progressive countries and restores hope and trust in the political system. Abadi is not known for being linked to any extremist political stance, unless we recall periods of disturbances and electoral controversies. Abadi succeeds Nouri al-Maliki, who has unfortunately belittled himself and his post. Maliki transformed from being a leader of all Iraqis into a mere politician seeking to dominate all establishments. He ended up a worse model than dictator Saddam Hussein.
Abadi’s nomination came with one condition – that he not be another Maliki
Ultimate political control
Despite this, the problem was not with Maliki, but with the political system which – after he became a prime minister appointed in an alliance with other parties – allowed him to seize all political, legislative and military jurisdictions. Those who at first supported Maliki for sectarian or partisan reasons have learnt that he, like any other dictator, will not stop until he seizes ultimate control. Shiite leaderships complained about his practices and that he would resort to security and intelligence apparatuses to threaten and blackmail them. He later dared to pursue his own allies and political comrades! In the end, everyone hated him and called for removing him although he managed, through exploitation and forgery, to attain enough votes - from Sunni as well as Shiite parliamentarians - to be re-elected.
Abadi’s nomination came with one condition – that he not be another Maliki. This is what local, tribal, partisan and sectarian powers agreed to, and this is what we hope. He was appointed by parties who fought each other in the past and who finally agreed on the concept of "an Iraqi state for all Iraqis" and in which the prime minister, speaker and president represent a political system that in turn represents everyone. This serves the interests of Shiites before the Sunnis and interests of the Arabs before the Kurds and the Turkmens.
The prime minister, if he wants, could choose to focus his job on serving only his sect. He could also choose to focus on his districts and rewrite the constitution with the aim of serving only one group. In this case, however, Iraq as we know it would be no more - it would become a smaller and weaker state in a sea of bigger and stronger regional countries.
The appointment Abadi as prime minister brought a wave of optimism because Maliki's departure itself a victory for the political process and for the new Iraqi system. I am confident that if Maliki had managed to impose himself as a prime minister for a third term – as he tried to fight for until the last minute - he would have ended up hanged in one of Baghdad's squares after four years. His end would have been the same as that of the dictators who preceded him. He was a horrific tyrant, and the whole world has seen how he exploited his personal forces and whatever he put his hands on to impose himself and obstruct the naming of Abadi. We hope the Iraqis will be able to unite under Abadi's administration and that Iraq can begin a new phase which the new prime minister can launch by taking measures that will restore confidence in the political system, the post of the prime minister as well as the trust of the countries’ components.

Gaza’s Hostages

Ali Ibrahim/Asharq Alawsat
Wednesday, 20 Aug, 2014
The Gaza truce negotiations that aim to end the current and third war since Hamas took over the enclave in 2007, differ from previous ones in terms of their nature, interests and the conflicting objectives of all the visible and invisible players involved. One characteristic is the different stance being taken by the US, which, unlike previously, has preferred to take a back seat and wait for the outcome of the secret negotiations. Since US Secretary of State John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy failed to achieve a breakthrough, Washington has contented itself with issuing statements and placing limited pressure on the parties in order to ensure that the conflict does not spiral out of control. Kerry imagined he could achieve a breakthrough in the middle of the chaos ravaging the region from Iraq and Syria to Libya, not to mention the other regional hotspots that do not find their way into the headlines.
It seems that the interests of both parties involved in the current Gaza war are being served by this conflict. On the one hand, Israel is not comfortable with a Palestinian unity government and the accumulation of weapons and rockets in Gaza. On the other hand, Hamas is facing a domestic crisis represented by a growing sense of unrest on the part of the people of Gaza, which is threatening to gradually collapse its Islamist rule. Moreover, after the closure of tunnels by the Egyptian government, the Islamist movement felt the financial pinch as smuggling activities shrank. Not to mention the fact that former allies turned into enemies; the Syrian regime expelled the Hamas leadership—including Khaled Mishal himself—from Damascus, while Iran became occupied with other regional wars and began to show a tendency towards compromise on other regional dossiers, with the exception of its nuclear negotiations.
Throughout history, Egypt has enjoyed control and influence over its bordering enclave, particularly between 1948 and 1967, when Gaza was akin to a free zone. Now, Egyptian interests can best be served by achieving calm in the Gaza Strip in order to allow Cairo to focus on its domestic challenges. Cairo has taken advantage of the current talks in order to link the resolution of the current crisis to the entire Palestinian cause. At the same time, it is hoping to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) the chance to retain control over the enclave, particularly its border crossings, and end the state of Palestinian division.
Intersecting with this are other regional sides that, in one way or another, oppose the Egyptian role in Gaza for reasons unrelated to the Palestinian cause. These regional parties are seeking to make up for the loss of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo and secure spheres of influence in the region. At the same time, they are also prepared to ignite the situation in the region if this serves their interests. This may explain the stance of Hamas’s exiled leadership, which hardens its position whenever any signs of agreement emerge. This is part of the dilemma of the Palestinian leadership who, due to their exile that started in 1960s, have often found themselves obliged to take their host country’s interests into account. This is something that is not always in the best interests of the Palestinian cause.
Hamas is seeking to inherit the mantle of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and therefore the PA. However the Islamist group’s main problem is its link with the Muslim Brotherhood, and its inability to distance itself from the stance of the parent organization. Its affiliation with the Brotherhood places it at the heart of a regional conflict that the Palestinians ultimately have no interest in. Hamas’s approval of a unity government with the PA came about as a result of the worsening situation inside Gaza. After Egypt shut down the tunnels over security concerns, the Islamist movement felt the need to be part of a legitimate framework that allowed it to receive funds and pay salaries. However, this reconciliation agreement was not given sufficient time to show whether it could hold or not. In practice, the PA has not entered Gaza yet, and Fatah elements in the enclave have continued to be placed under home arrest even during the war, according to an Associated Press report published on Monday.
In the middle of these complications, one issue continues to place pressure on all sides involved, including Hamas—that of the 1.8 million civilians in Gaza who are confined to a limited territory and forced to live in a situation akin to that of prisoners in an open jail. They cannot go about their daily lives in a normal manner, nor can they dream of a better future for themselves. Palestinians cannot engage in commercial trade with the rest of the world or set up their own businesses, without knowing that this could all be destroyed by a random shell in response to a missile fired by some faction at a target in Israel that is completely unrelated to the Palestinian cause.
This problem has reached the point where we now need a real solution on the ground. We can no longer put up with further delays in peace talks aimed at the establishment of the Palestinian state. The demands put forward by the Palestinian delegation regarding the opening of an airport and a seaport in Gaza, as well as regulating trade and travel across border crossings, are urgent ones, and necessary for solving the civilian crisis. This is worth it, even if the talks only lead to the establishment of a semi-independent entity or a city port. Similar semi-independent entities, including Monaco and Hong Kong, have been able to find a way to economically sustain themselves.
The Gaza reconstruction conference will likely act as a carrot to bring about an end to the current situation and achieve a long-term truce. It will also be the passageway to finding an enduring solution to the crisis in the enclave. Investments and funds will not be funneled to the enclave while armed factions and militias are in control. The administration of the enclave will most likely be overseen by the international community as the PA returns to it in one way or another. Will the warring sides accept this settlement and agree to release the 1.8 million hostages in Gaza? There is no clear indication of this, so far.

The Real Middle East Crisis Is Economic
Michael Singh /New York Times
August 19, 2014
It would be naive to think that economic growth will solve all of the Middle East's thorny dilemmas; but it would be equally naive to believe that they can be solved without it.
President Obama surprised many recently when he diagnosed the crisis gripping Iraq as partly an economic one, noting that Iraqi Sunnis were "detached from the global economy" and thus frustrated in achieving their aspirations. While Iraq's chaos has many sources, the president is nevertheless on to something; and it's not just Iraqi Sunnis, but the entire Middle East that is detached from the global economy.
The region accounts for just over 4 percent of global imports, less than it did in 1983; Germany alone accounts for 6.4 percent. Its economic stagnation is vividly illustrated by a comparison to Asian economies. According to the World Bank, in 1965, Egypt's per-capita gross domestic product was $406, while China's was merely $110.
Today (using constant dollars), Egypt's G.D.P. has increased four-fold to $1,566, whereas China's has increased thirty-fold to $3,583. Similarly, Iran and South Korea had roughly the same per-capita G.D.P. in 1965; now South Korea's is $24,000, whereas Iran's is only $3,000.
The economies of the Middle East are not only detached from the world's, but from one another. Most exports in North America, Europe and Asia remain within those regions. Two-thirds of exports to Europe are also from Europe. In the Middle East, only 16 percent of exports to the region as a whole are from other Middle Eastern states.
While Western observers focus on political issues in the Middle East, people in the region are themselves preoccupied with economic matters. According to a recent poll, residents of the Gaza Strip overwhelmingly desire calm with Israel and the chance to seek jobs there. In another poll, Iranians listed "expanding employment opportunities" as their top political priority, far higher than "continuing our nuclear enrichment program."
But while Gazans hope for an end to their blockade, and Iranians for an end to sanctions, neither step would provide a silver bullet. Economic malaise is endemic to the region, even in places not suffering from blockades or sanctions.
This should concern Western policy makers. The distinction between economic and political problems is false. Like anywhere, economics and politics are inextricably linked. And economic progress is the key to easing the chronic instability that threatens American interests in the region.
Among oil importers, bloated public sectors are at the heart of socioeconomic woes. In places like Egypt, where the public sector employs around 30 percent of workers, post-revolution governments in search of quick economic fixes have further increased the public work force and salaries. Generous government subsidies, particularly on fuel, encourage overconsumption and favor inefficient, energy-intensive industries. Together with the large public-sector wage bills, these subsidies strain government finances, resulting in deficits, which increase the cost of credit.
These policies, together with obstacles to doing business, inhibit the sort of private-sector activity that would boost growth and employment. Across the region, unemployment -- especially among youth -- is in many cases higher than it was at the outbreak of the Arab uprisings, and economic growth is too slow to reverse the trend.
These problems aren't limited to the oil importers. The International Monetary Fund has warned that oil exporters' years of massive surpluses are nearing an end, as a result of heavy spending and growing populations. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to a decrease in oil prices, which looks increasingly likely as new sources come online internationally.
These economic problems can be fixed, however. In contrast to the region's political dilemmas -- which often seem intractable -- not only is the West able to help, but regional leaders are open to receiving help. Jordan offers an example: Amid the chaos of the Arab uprisings, Amman quietly implemented tough reforms with the assistance of the United States and the I.M.F.
Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets. They also need to ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth. Exporters need to reduce spending and diversify their economies. And both need to shrink their public sectors and modernize their educational systems.
The United States and its allies should not only provide advice in overcoming these challenges but also incentivize regional governments to take it. That means working with regional allies that are seeking to diversify and modernize their economies, and coordinating economic aid and tying it to progress on reform, including the political steps necessary to make reforms successful.
America should also promote greater economic integration by cooperating with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors, and by offering Middle Eastern states better access to Western markets, especially the European Union.
Exhortations for the United States to "do more" overseas are often criticized as veiled calls for the use of military force. But integrating economic statecraft into diplomacy would help broaden America's international role beyond the security sphere in a way that promotes long-term peace and stability.
It would be naive to think that economic growth will solve all of the Middle East's thorny dilemmas; but it would be equally naive to believe that they can be solved without it.
**Michael Singh is managing director of The Washington Institute.

Saudi Arabia's Shifting War on Terror
Lori Plotkin Boghardt/Washington Institute
August 20, 2014
The Saudi government is expanding its counterterrorism work to confront the ISIS threat.
On August 13, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre in New York. The gift reflects Riyadh's anxiety about the terrorist threat from Sunni militants inside the kingdom and on its northern and southern borders. To confront this threat, the government is expanding efforts to dilute public support for Sunni militancy at home and abroad.
Riyadh's counterterrorism record has been mixed since fifteen Saudi and four other al-Qaeda hijackers struck the United States in 2001. From 2003 to 2006, a chain of dramatic al-Qaeda attacks killed hundreds in the kingdom, spurring the government to work more vigorously to pursue terrorists at home and prevent further domestic plots.
Riyadh has also taken important measures to discourage terrorism financing abroad, clamp down on incendiary sermons by religious leaders, and detain and rehabilitate militants. Yet over the years, Washington has complained -- for good reason -- that some of these latter endeavors were significantly constrained by the kingdom's political interests and counterterrorism capabilities.
Earlier this year, Riyadh began a pronounced campaign to discourage citizen support for terrorist organizations and other groups that were unpalatable to the government. A central element of this campaign was a new law decreed by King Abdullah in February criminalizing various forms of support to certain groups. In March, a list was released naming these groups, including two jihadist organizations -- the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, which has since begun calling itself "the Islamic State") and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate. The campaign was attributed in part to charges that Saudi Arabia had been turning a blind eye to its citizens joining the war in Syria. It may also have been linked to Riyadh's uncovering of terrorist plots against the kingdom by Saudis at home colluding with Saudi ISIS members abroad.
The campaign continued to deepen as ISIS made significant territorial gains in countries north of Saudi Arabia and threatened the kingdom itself. Militant, financial, and ideological support for terrorism have since been discouraged with new vigor. During the month of Ramadan alone, which ended on July 28, Riyadh said that it was investigating seventeen clerics whose sermons failed to denounce a July 4 al-Qaeda attack in the south; it also warned against charitable giving via social networking tools because donations could fall into the hands of terrorists and announced prison sentences for four Saudi nationals who had planned to join the fighting in Iraq.
The government also announced nascent institutional changes this summer. In July, the chief of the controversial religious police told personnel that eradicating extremist ideas and confronting those who promote terrorist principles would now be among their most significant duties. "Your mission is no longer confined to monitoring shops that remain open during prayer times or instructing women to adhere to modest dress codes," he said. And earlier this month, the Interior Ministry declared that new security screenings would be required for preachers; this would presumably include screening them for support of militant ideology. Meanwhile, the kingdom's highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, announced it was establishing an interactive platform in which religious leaders will engage citizens to combat terrorist rhetoric aimed at luring youths into fighting abroad. The announcement came days after King Abdullah issued a rare public rebuke of the council for not doing enough to counter extremism.
Complementing these specific initiatives has been a sharpened focus on the dangers of supporting terrorists in recent speeches by the king and religious leaders, opinion columns in the government-sanctioned press, and television programs on state-supported channels. Lately, the ISIS threat has been identified specifically.
Many of these policy changes were apparently triggered by new concerns about the security implications of citizen support for terrorist groups abroad as well as basic border security. In May, Riyadh announced that it had uncovered terrorist plots to assassinate government officials and attack national and foreign interests in the country. Sixty-two suspects were reportedly arrested, almost all Saudi nationals. According to the Interior Ministry, some of them had been encouraged by Saudi ISIS members in Syria to carry out assassinations. Other suspects were believed to be supporting the Yemen-based affiliate al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) in fundraising and logistics. As of May, Riyadh said it was still hunting for forty-four more suspects in the plots.
The case recalled the kingdom's harrowing experience with domestic terrorism in the mid-2000s, when Saudis who had joined al-Qaeda in Afghanistan brought the jihad home after escaping the U.S. war there. More recently, Saudis have been highly represented in ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra -- hundreds are believed to have flocked to each group, perhaps more than a thousand to ISIS alone.
The lightning-fast ISIS conquest of parts of Iraq in June, coupled with the group's gains in Syria, have aggravated the threat. Riyadh boosted security along its border with Iraq in June, while ISIS showed its determination to penetrate other countries when it seized a Lebanese border town earlier this month.
Meanwhile, to the south, half a dozen AQAP members (all Saudi nationals) attacked a checkpoint from the Yemeni side of the border on July 4, killing several Saudi security officers and one Yemeni officer. Two terrorists made their way past the border and blew themselves up inside a Saudi government building several dozen miles north. This was AQAP's first incursion into the kingdom since its 2009 assassination attempt on Prince Muhammad bin Nayef al-Saud, the assistant interior minister at the time.
To make matters worse, Riyadh has discovered that some of the suspects arrested in May, and most of the assailants in July, graduated from the country's well-regarded rehabilitation program for terrorists. Last month, the Interior Ministry reportedly indicated that 10 percent of those who attend the program return to extremism. And in 2010, the kingdom noted that the figure was 20 percent for former Guantanamo Bay detainees who attended the program. Non-Saudi estimates may be higher, but even Riyadh's figures are significant given that thousands have passed through the correctional center.
Riyadh is concerned about the extent of public support for ISIS. Recently, an informal poll released on social networking sites indicated that Saudis overwhelmingly believe ISIS "conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law." In response, the government plans to survey citizen positions on the "caliphate" that ISIS declared in Iraq and Syria in June. Surveys on political topics are a rarity in the kingdom, but a 2009 poll conducted there found that 20 percent expressed a "somewhat favorable" or "favorable" view of al-Qaeda.
Washington should work with Saudi Arabia on its recent initiatives to diminish support for terrorism so that Riyadh's measures have maximum influence abroad, especially in Iraq and Syria. This entails doubling down on intelligence sharing and fine-tuning any coordination of information operations and other activities against ISIS and similar groups, with the goal of rolling back terrorist gains and thwarting terrorist agendas in these countries. The terrorist challenge in Iraq and Syria carries major implications for U.S. interests abroad and at home, and Saudi Arabia holds special influence in these countries through tribal and other linkages. This influence is particularly important at a time when many Sunni populations are afraid to participate in anti-ISIS action. At the same time, Washington must also continue to be mindful of Riyadh's failure to distinguish militancy from peaceful political expression in defining terrorism, and its antipathy to democratic agendas in neighboring countries. U.S. officials must ensure that enhanced intelligence capabilities are not employed against nonviolent political activists, including those whose calls for political reform Washington supports.
**Lori Plotkin Boghardt is a fellow in Gulf politics at The Washington Institute.

Israeli strike kills wife, son of Hamas military chief
Sakher Abu El Oun| Agence France Presse
GAZA CITY, Palestine: Israeli warplanes struck Gaza, killing the wife and child of Hamas's top military chief, the Islamist movement said Wednesday after truce talks in Cairo collapsed in a storm of violence.It was not immediately clear whether Mohammad Deif himself, who has topped Israel's most wanted list for decades, was killed or wounded in the strike that hit a house in Gaza City late Tuesday.
Hamas vowed bloody revenge, saying Israel had "opened the gates of hell." The deadly attack came just hours after a resumption of the fighting in and around Gaza after more than a week of calm as Egyptian negotiators pushed the warring sides to broker a decisive end to six weeks of bloodshed. The strike killed two and injured another 45, medics said, with Hamas confirming early Wednesday that those who died were the wife and child of Deif, who heads its armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra initially said three people were killed in the strike, among them an unidentified man, but later revised the toll down to two. He did not explain why.
He named the victims as Widad Deif and her 7-month-old son, Ali.
Hamas called on people to attend their funeral which would take place at noon at a mosque in the northern town of Jabaliya. Millions in Gaza and southern Israel spent another sleepless night as terror returned to the skies, with airstrikes and rocket fire ending an extended lull brought on by back-to-back truce agreements.
Since the violence resumed Tuesday afternoon, shattering more than a week of calm, at least 12 people have been killed in scores of Israeli strikes across Gaza, Qudra said.
A second deadly strike early Wednesday killed seven people in the central town of Deir al-Balah, among them a heavily pregnant woman and three children, he added.
In the same period, Gaza militants fired at least 80 rockets over the border, of which between 40 and 45 had hit southern and central Israel while another 24 were shot down, an army spokeswoman told AFP. it 78 targets across Gaza, she added.
The violence erupted as Egyptian mediators pushed both sides to agree on a lasting end to the conflict ahead of a midnight deadline.
So far, the bloodshed in Gaza that erupted on July 8 has claimed the lives of 2,029 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side. The U.N. says around three quarters of the victims in Gaza were civilians.
Tuesday's violence left Egyptian truce efforts in tatters, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately ordering the delegation back from Cairo. Israel has repeatedly said it would never negotiate under fire.
"The rocket fire which broke the cease-fire also destroyed the foundation on which the talks in Cairo were based," Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev told AFP ednesday.
"The Egyptian initiative is based on a total and unconditional cessation of hostilities, which was clearly broken when rockets were fired into Israel."
Most of the Palestinian negotiators, including delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed also left Cairo.
"We are leaving ... but we have not pulled out of negotiations," he told AFP, saying the Palestinians had handed a truce proposal to Israel and were waiting for the answer. "We will not come back (to Cairo) until Israel responds." Egypt expressed "profound regret at the breach of the cease-fire in Gaza" and said it was working to bring both sides back to the negotiating table, a foreign ministry statement said.
In northern Gaza City, a handful of neighbors were examining the destruction left from the evening airstrike that killed Deif's wife and child.
Witnesses said at least three rockets were fired at the six-story building, home to the Dalu family, pulverizing it into a pile of dust, debris and twisted metal and leaving a huge crater in the ground where the building once stood. A nearby bus was also destroyed, reducing to a ghostly metal frame, an AFP correspondent said.
Later in the morning, rescue workers could be seen pulling at least one body out of the rubble of the house that is located in the Sheikh Radwan district, but it was not possible to determine the victim's identity, the correspondent said. The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades vowed it would avenge their deaths, saying Israel had "opened the gates of hell on itself" by the killings and would "pay the price for its crimes."Following the attack, the Brigades said it fired 50 rockets over the border targeting occupied Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport, with sirens wailing across the south and centre and sending millions fleeing for shelter. The army confirmed a rocket hit an open area metropolitan Tel Aviv and another struck empty ground in the occupied West Bank just outside Jerusalem.