January 30/14

Bible Quotation for today/You are like salt for the whole human race
Matthew 05/13-16: "“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.  In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven".

Is Lebanon going to face the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah
Elias Bejjani/The level and depth of corruption, humiliation for the human dignity, detachment from God and disrespect for His Commandments in all domains that Lebanon has reached is not that much different from the evil status of the ancient cities of Sadom and Gomorrah. One wonders if the same disastrous fate is going to be replicated with Lebanon. In Christian and Islamic traditions, Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of God's wrath.[2][Jude 1:7] Sodom and Gomorrah are used as metaphors for vice and deviation from all that is righteous. Who can save Lebanon from its vice clergy, politicians and officials? Are we hoping God will send a holy profit like Lot to save the country and its people?. There is no doubt that the current status of Lebanon is as bad as was that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why? Simply because the rich Lebanese people have spent five thousand dollars for the New Year party ticket while the majority of the Lebanese people are living under the poverty line. Because the top Lebanese clergymen are preaching corruption, Because the officials are mercenaries and the politicians turn the holy country into a market for evilness. The conduct of all these top notch leaders is not that much different from the conduct of the people Sodom and Gomorrah. So why not facing the same fate? 

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For For January 30/14
Syrian terror group a threat to US, says intelligence chief/AFP/January 30/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 30/14
Lebanese Related News
IAF chief: Israel will destroy Hezbollah bases in Lebanon, even ones in residential areas
Steinitz: No diplomatic accord can completely ensure Israel's security
STL Overrules Defense Objection to Videoconference Testimony of 9 Witnesses, Prosecution Shows Pictures of Hariri
Suleiman: Names of Ministers, Distribution of Portfolios Will Be Tackled in Next 2 Days
Salam Meets Suleiman in Baabda over Cabinet Lineup Draft
Hezbollah: No all-embracing Cabinet without Aoun
Berri Warns of Hindering Cabinet Formation, Says Crises Born from Local Factions
March 14 Calls for National Reconciliation that Does Not Rule Justice Out
Al-Rahi Warns of Falling into Presidential Vacuum
Saqr Charges 13 with Belonging to Abdullah Azzam Brigades
Man Kidnapped for Ransom in Oyoun al-Siman
Report: Hizbullah Performs Maneuvers in Dahieh to Confront Possible Takfiri Attack
Alleged Booby-Trapped Cars Stolen around Same Time, Currently Kept in Syria's Yabrud
Cellular-blocking devices remain idle in Roumieh
Man found dead in apparent suicide in Beirut
Maronite charter to urge coexistence, timely elections
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Pope Francis Makes the Cover of Rolling Stone
IAEA visits Iranian mine as part of nuclear transparency pact
U.N. Mediator Doesn't Expect 'Substantive' Result at Syria Talks Round
Canada's Ambassador Bennett Denounces Church Attacks in Nigeria
Minister Seeks to Diffuse Spat with Netanyahu over Peace Talks
Syria Has Shipped Less than 5% of Chemical Arms
Syria Opposition to Hold Talks with Russia
U.S.: Syria May Be Able to Produce Biological Weapons
Tolerated Syria Opposition Criticises Regime Geneva Document
Sinai-based jihadist group claims responsibility for latest Egyptian attacks
Brief cabinet crisis averted by pro-settlement minister’s apology for criticizing Netanyahu

IAF chief: Israel will destroy Hezbollah bases in Lebanon, even ones in residential areas
By REUTERS/J.Post/01/29/2014
Israel accused Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas on Wednesday of putting "thousands" of bases in residential buildings and said it would destroy these in a future conflict, even at the cost of civilian lives. The unusually explicit threat by air force chief Major-General Amir Eshel appeared to be part of an effort by Israeli officials to prepare world opinion for high civilian casualties in any new confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel says Iran and Syria have supplied improved missiles to Hezbollah, which fought the technologically superior Israeli military to a standstill in a 2006 war in Lebanon. "We will have to deal aggressively with thousands of Hezbollah bases which threaten the State of Israel and mainly our interior," Eshel said in a speech, citing Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon among the locations of the bases. Other Israeli officials have alleged that Hezbollah uses Lebanese civilian homes as missile silos or gun nests. Eshel said the guerrillas sometimes had entire floors of residential buildings ready, under lock and key, to be used in combat. "Above and below live civilians whom we have nothing against - a kind of human shield," he told the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, a think-tank near Tel Aviv. "And that is where the war will be. That is where we will have to fight in order to stop it and win. Whoever stays in these bases will simply be hit and will risk their lives. And whoever goes out will live." Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Tuesday that Hezbollah now had around 100,000 missiles and rockets, or 30,000 more than figures given in official Israeli assessments in 2013. Last year, Ya'alon showed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an Israeli map of alleged Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanese villages, apparently to demonstrate the risk of a high civilian death toll in any new war. Hezbollah does not comment on its military capabilities but says these have been honed and expanded since the 2006 fighting, in which 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 Israelis were killed. It says it needs its arms to defend Lebanon from Israeli attack. Eshel said Israel's military was "dozens" of times more powerful than Hezbollah and had more capabilities than in 2006. "Our ability today to attack targets on a large scale and with high precision is about 15 times greater than what we did in the (2006) war," he said, saying such intensity was required to keep the fighting short "because the more protracted the war, the more missiles we'll be hit with here". Much of Hezbollah's attention is now devoted to Syria, where its fighters have been helping President Bashar Assad battle an almost three-year-old insurgency.
While content to watch Hezbollah and the Islamist-led Syrian rebels fight each other, Israel worries that its Lebanese foes will obtain more advanced weaponry from Assad's arsenal. On at least three occasions last year, Israeli forces allegedly bombed suspected Hezbollah-bound arms convoys in Syria. Asked whether Israel had done too little to intercept such transfers, Eshel said Israeli forces still had the upper hand. "I don't think this is a failure," he said. "I think the State of Israel has extraordinary deterrence which should not be discredited - significant deterrence, bought in blood."

Syrian terror group a threat to US, says intelligence chief
(AFP) / 30 January 2014
James Clapper says Syrian regime now may have the ability to produce biological weapons on a limited scale.  Syria’s civil war serves as a “huge magnet” for terror groups while sub-Saharan Africa has become a “hothouse” for extremists, US intelligence chief James Clapper warned on Wednesday. Presenting an annual intelligence assessment of global threats, Clapper described a mounting danger from militants aligned or inspired by Al Qaeda, even as the terror group’s core leadership has been steadily weakened in Pakistan. The raging conflict between President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and rebel forces has lured Al Qaeda-linked militants to Syria, where they could possibly prepare to mount attacks on the West, Clapper said.“Syria has become a huge magnet for extremists” who can now recruit, train and equip a growing number of militants there, he told the Senate Intelligence Committee. America’s intelligence agencies estimated that there were about 26,000 “extremists” operating in Syria out of a total opposition force of 75,000 to 110,000, Clapper said. The conflict had attracted roughly 7,000 foreign fighters from some 50 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Europe, he said.
The presence of the hardline militants was of “tremendous concern” among US allies, particularly among European governments, who fear foreign fighters will return home to carry out attacks, he said.
“We’re seeing now the appearance of training complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries, and, of course, conduct more terrorist acts,” he said.
Clapper said Syria resembled the semi-autonomous tribal belt in northwest Pakistan, which has served as a sanctuary for the Taleban and members of Al Qaeda.
Echoing Clapper’s comments, Mathew Olson, head of the National Counter-terrorism Center, said “a permissive environment, extremist groups like Al Nusra and the number of foreign fighters combine to make Syria a place that we are very concerned about, in particular the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Syria to the West.” Clapper also offered a warning on advances in Syria’s biological weapons programme. Although Syria has agreed to eliminate its large arsenal of chemical weapons, the regime now may have the ability to produce biological weapons on a limited scale, he said.
“We judge that some elements of Syria’s biological warfare programme might have advanced beyond the research and development stage and might be capable of limited agent production, based on the duration of its longstanding programme,” he said. Clapper offered no further details, but it was the first time officials had stated publicly that spy agencies believed Syria had made significant strides in its biological programme. Neither Assad nor the rebel groups appeared able to achieve a decisive victory on the battlefield in the next six months, said Clapper, adding that the war would further foment Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions across the region. Clapper also said America’s 16 intelligence agencies believed sub-Saharan Africa would “almost certainly” experience more security turmoil in 2014, as the region had turned into an incubator for extremists. “The continent has become a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups, which increasingly launch deadly asymmetric attacks, and which government forces often cannot effectively counter due to a lack of capability and sometimes will,” Clapper said in written testimony to senators. He said countries in the Sahel region, including Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania, faced the threat of terror attacks due to their backing of a French military intervention in Mali launched a year ago. The region also faced pressures from swelling youth populations and “marginalised” ethnic communities that are frustrated over a lack of government services and jobs, according to Clapper.
The annual report from the intelligence community addressed Ukraine’s dramatic political stand-off, describing President Viktor Yanukovych as “firmly intent” to hold on to power.
The Ukrainian leader appeared prepared to resort to force or other illegal means to prevail against popular protests, according to Clapper. A Russian aid package to Ukraine signed in December will prevent a financial crisis in the “short term” but will increase Kiev’s dependence on Moscow and leave it vulnerable to Russian pressure, he wrote. Clapper denounced an avalanche of leaks from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, saying the disclosures of National Security Agency eavesdropping had put diplomats, spies and soldiers at risk and damaged foreign partnerships. He called on Snowden and his “accomplices” to return the documents he had “stolen.”
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STL Overrules Defense Objection to Videoconference Testimony of 9 Witnesses, Prosecution Shows Pictures of Hariri

Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/..The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Wednesday overruled objections by the Defense lawyers, who had asked the court not to allow that nine witnesses give their testimonies via videoconference, as the Prosecution exhibited a number of pictures of former premier Rafik Hariri without revealing the significance of the displayed material. After discussing administrative and logistical issues linked to the February 14, 2005 assassination of ex-PM Hariri, the Prosecution exhibited pictures obtained from the witness Ahmed Ismail, head of the photography department at the al-Mustaqbal newspaper.The Prosecution's representative said Ismail gave his first testimony on September 1, 2010, noting that he occupied the same post at al-Mustaqbal newspaper in February 2005.
After the Prosecution displayed pictures of ex-PM Hariri and several other figures, Presiding Judge David Re asked the Prosecution's representative to clarify the significance of the pictures and why they are of importance to the case. The Prosecution replied by saying that Hariri's movements are of importance to the Office of the Prosecutor and that it used pictures to identify the places the ex-PM used to frequent prior to his assassination.
Among the exhibited pictures were one of Hariri and slain minister Bassel Fleihan at the entrance of the parliament building and another of the ex-PM outside the Café de l'Etoile in downtown Beirut that was taken shortly before the attack on February 14, 2005. Co-prosecutor Alexander Milne said a picture of Hariri's visit to Maronite Archbishop of Beirut Boulos Matar will help the Prosecution verify that he did meet Matar on Feb. 10, 2005. At that point, the STL Defense said it understood the purpose behind exhibiting the pictures, which might be used as reference during later stages of the trial, but asked for information about the pictures, the individuals, the locations and the times. The Prosecution then continued its presentation and showed pictures of the blast scene that were taken shortly after the explosion and a picture of ex-PM Hariri with MP Marwan Hamadeh at the Qureitem palace. The Prosecution's representative noted that not all pictures were personally taken by the witness Ahmed Ismail as some of them were taken by photographers who work under his supervision at al-Mustaqbal newspaper's photography department. She also noted that not all photographers were considered witnesses. In response to a judge's question, the Prosecution's representative said the blast scene was restricted to public access for around a year. Co-prosecutor Milne said the yellow police tapes were not visible in the pictures because they were close-ups, adding that all vehicles were removed on the night after the blast. He said experts from a Dutch forensic institute had thoroughly inspected the blast scene before removing the cars one by one. Milne noted that the pictures were obtained from various sources, noting that a team of Swiss forensic experts had taken pictures of the blast scene. Before adjourning the session to February 3, Judge Re said the Prosecution had requested that nine witnesses give their testimonies via videoconference and that the Trial Chamber had asked Defense lawyers to submit any observations. He then announced that the counsel of the accused Assad Sabra did not have any objections while the lawyers of the accused Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine and Hassan Oneissi had objected against resorting to the videoconference system. But Judge Re approved the Prosecution's request, noting that videoconference testimonies respect the rights of the accused.
Re asked the STL's Registrar to appoint the needed employees to take the testimonies of the nine witnesses via videoconference and asked the court to provide the necessary protection measures to a witness who has requested to give his testimony via videoconference. In its morning session, the STL Trial Chamber had discussed administrative and logistical issues linked to the February 14, 2005 assassination of ex-PM Hariri.
Seven witnesses have given their testimonies since last week and others are scheduled to give their testimonies starting Monday. The February 2005 seafront blast killed 22 people including Hariri and wounded 226, leading to the establishment by the United Nations Security Council of the STL in 2007. Although the attack was initially blamed on four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, the court in 2011 issued arrest warrants against Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 50, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 37, all members of Hizbullah. The four suspects were indicted in 2011 with plotting the attack, but have not been arrested. A fifth, Hassan Habib Merhi, was charged late last year in the case and is also still at large.

Hezbollah: No all-embracing Cabinet without Aoun
January 29, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Caretaker Minister of State Mohammad Fneish ruled out Wednesday the formation of an all-embracing government that excludes the Free Patriotic Movement, adding that his party, Hezbollah, would remain committed to the memorandum of understanding with its Christian political allies. “Our relationship with the Free Patriotic Movement is based on an understanding and a strategic, constitutional vision based on the National Pact and we can only be together. No one should bet otherwise,” Fneish told the Central News Agency. “No one can disregard the Aounist movement and [there will be] no all-embracing government without this movement,” he added. Asked whether Hezbollah would take part in a government without FPM leader MP Michel Aoun, Fnesih said: "Things should not reach that point.” Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman met Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to decide on the fate of the new Cabinet. Earlier, Sleiman met with caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who has been tasked by MP Walid Jumblatt to negotiate the formation of an all-inclusive Cabinet. Aoun has voiced opposition to the principle of rotating ministerial portfolios, insisting his bloc retains the Energy Ministry, currently held by his son-in-law, in a move that has obstructed the formation of an all-embracing government. Hopes of ending the government formation deadlock were raised earlier this month after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri agreed to join a Cabinet with Hezbollah. One of Hariri’s main conditions to joining a government with his long-time rival, however, is the rotation of ministerial portfolios based on party and sect. Hezbollah along with its March 8 allies have warned against the formation of a fait accompli Cabinet which Salam and Sleiman seem adamant on forming in the case talks fail. Fneish said Salam should exert additional efforts to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of breaking the 10-month political deadlock. “What is needed is to search for a solution to this crisis and overcome obstacles because the country does not deserve to remain in this crisis or move to other crises. Therefore, the prime minister-designate should exert additional efforts,” he said. The Hezbollah officials also said that the parties have the right to know how the prime minister-designate sought to distribute portfolios among the political parties.

Suleiman: Names of Ministers, Distribution of Portfolios Will Be Tackled in Next 2 Days

Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/President Michel Suleiman expressed his satisfaction with the general proceedings linked to the efforts to form a new government, reported the Saudi al-Sharq newspaper on Wednesday.
He told the daily: “Starting Wednesday or Thursday we must start with placing the mechanism for the formation.” He explained that this entails proposing names of potential ministers and the distribution of portfolios. Asked whether the new cabinet will be a neutral or all-embracing one, he replied: “We are working on both formations.” Meanwhile, concerned sources told the daily that the government will not be formed in the next two days, but it will likely be unveiled next week. The government formation process has made progress with the majority of factions reaching an initial agreement over an 8-8-8 lineup that grants each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists eight ministers. Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun's refusal of the rotation of power in cabinet has however emerged as an obstacle in the process. He is refusing to give up the energy and telecommunications portfolios that are part of his movement's share in the resigned government of caretaker Premier Najib Miqati.

Salam Meets Suleiman in Baabda over Cabinet Lineup Draft
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/Prime Minister-designate Tammam on Wednesday met with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace to discuss "the latest developments in the cabinet formation process," state-run National News Agency reported. As he entered the meeting, Salam told reporters that he would not make a statement after the talks. Salam was expected to present his first cabinet lineup draft to Suleiman amid exerted efforts by the rival parties to form an all-embracing government. Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said "Salam was seen entering the Baabda Palace while carrying a gray dossier that contains lists of candidates' names."
Later on Wednesday, Salam met with caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour and discussed with him the issue of the cabinet line-up, according to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3).
According to An Nahar newspaper, Salam was expected to discuss with Suleiman one or two cabinet lineup drafts before taking a final decision on Thursday. "Salam did not carry any cabinet line-up with him to Baabda and efforts to reach a settlement are still ongoing," the Free Patriotic Movement's mouthpiece OTV reported later on Wednesday. In remarks to LBCI television, Abu Faour said the visits he made Wednesday "have led to some new ideas," hoping FPM leader MP Michel "Aoun will accept them." Quoting sources, MTV said "things are still complicated and unripe for the formation of an all-embracing, political government.""Abu Faour told Salam this evening that the indications are not positive," MTV said. "Abu Faour's visit to Ain al-Tineh did not lead to anything new amid (Speaker Nabih) Berri's rejection to give the finance portfolio to Aoun," MTV added. Quoting informed sources, MTV said "Hizbullah has asked for more time to find solutions to the General's demands." The government formation process has made progress with the majority of factions reaching an initial agreement over an 8-8-8 lineup that grants each of the March 8 and 14 camps and centrists eight ministers with rotating portfolios. However, Aoun has impeded the agreement after rejecting the rotation of ministerial portfolios as he insisted on retaining the energy and telecommunications ministries. An Nahar daily reported that Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat delegated Minister Abou Faour to hold talks with several parties to discuss the cabinet formation process on Tuesday. Abou Faour met with President Suleiman also and informed him about his talks with the rival parties. According to As Safir newspaper, Abou Faour's exerted efforts reached a dead end. The daily also reported that FPM's caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil held talks with Marada movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh. Speaker Nabih Berri's adviser caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil also contacted Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's aide Hussein Khalil and Hizbullah Liaison and Coordination Officer Wafiq Safa. As Safir newspaper also reported that Suleiman and Salam held a meeting on Monday night at the residence of Metn MP Michel Murr in Rabieh.

Berri Warns of Hindering Cabinet Formation, Says Crises Born from Local Factions

Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri warned on Wednesday from impeding the cabinet formation process, stressing that the concept of rotation in ministerial portfolios should be inclusive. “We are used to hold others responsible for our crises but it's clear that the problem is from within the local parties,” Berri said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. The speaker pointed out that the rival parties failure to resolve the ongoing row over Prime Minister-delegation Tammam Salam's cabinet lineup would lead to either the formation of a neutral cabinet or a political de facto government that might be boycotted by the main Christian parties. “Forming an all-embracing cabinet is half way to staging the presidential elections on time... Whoever wants the presidential elections to be carried out should seek the formation of a consensual government,” Berri, head of the AMAL movement said. He pointed out that the matter will have a positive impact on the presidential elections. Berri expressed fear over the “ongoing obstruction,” noting that he is waiting for new developments in this regards. He called on the rival parties not to “waste the golden chance to form a cabinet that includes everyone.”“If it was necessary for me to intervene to facilitate the cabinet's lineup I would, but till now am standing my grounds,” Berri said. The cabinet formation process reached an impasse after being put on front burner after Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun insisted that his bloc retain the Energy and Telecommunications Ministries portfolios, currently held by caretaker Ministers Jebran Bassil and Nicolas Sehnaoui respectively. In addition to his rejection to the concept of rotation of ministerial portfolios.
Reports said that President Michel Suleiman and Salam could resort to a neutral government or an all-embracing cabinet excluding the FPM if Aoun remains adamant to reject the rotation of portfolios.

March 14 Calls for National Reconciliation that Does Not Rule Justice Out
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/The March 14 General Secretariat called on Wednesday for a national reconciliation that does not overlook the rulings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, demanding also respecting the Baabda Declaration. "We call on the Lebanese factions to reconcile on clear grounds based on the constitution and on applicable laws,” the secretariat said in a released statement after its weekly meeting, noting that a real state should confiscate illegal weapons and have a monopoly in using arms. The statement added: “Reconciliation, however, should not be prioritized over justice or cancel the rulings of the court.”"And for justice to be fruitful, all the Lebanese must hold onto the Baabda Declaration and drop the army-people-resistance equation. This should be the basis of any ministerial policy statement.”The conferees expressed: “The Lebanese have a historical responsibility to control the fate of their country amid the deterioration of the situation on all levels. They should draw an end to the demonic cycle of death and violence.”"Justice is the only tool that ends wars in Lebanon and the STL bears a great responsibility because for the first time in the country's history, criminals are brought to justice to prevent impunity.”March 14's statement comes amid the ongoing hearing sessions of STL, which is trying four suspects accused of executing the explosion that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.

Al-Rahi Warns of Falling into Presidential Vacuum
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi warned on Wednesday from presidential vacuum, considering that this hypothesis means “death.”“The problem is that everyone wants to divide the country according to his perspective instead of becoming as one,” al-Rahi said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. The Patriarch stressed that a “new president will be elected inevitably.” He rejected any attempts to “postpone the presidential elections,” describing it as “death.” Al-Rahi called for respecting the constitution. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May, but there are fears that the differences between the March 8 and 14 camps would lead to a vacuum in the country's top post. Al-Rahi announced on Tuesday that a national pact will be issued after the monthly meeting of the Council of Maronite Bishops on February 5.
The cabinet formation process reached an impasse after being put on front burner after Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun insisted that his bloc retain the Energy and Telecommunications Ministries portfolios, currently held by caretaker Ministers Jebran Bassil and Nicolas Sehnaoui respectively. In addition to his rejection to the concept of rotation of ministerial portfolios. However, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was appointed in April, is holding onto the concept of “fair, balanced and comprehensive rotation of portfolios,” which is rejected by the Free Patriotic Movement. Al-Rahi told As Safir daily that “Christians should play their important role in Lebanon and the Arab world,” adding that the “Arab spring will only bloom through Lebanon.” He also warned Christians of slipping over into a “sectarian trap,” considering it their “end.”The political upheaval that has swept the Arab world over the past three years has led to a rise of radical Islam, leaving minority Christians feeling threatened and sometimes forcing them to emigrate. Eastern Christians number between an estimated 10 and 13 million. They make up 36 percent of the population in Lebanon, 10 percent in Egypt, 5.5 percent in Jordan, 5.0 percent in Syria, up to 2.0 percent in Iraq, 2.0 percent in Israel and 1.2 percent of Palestinians, according to the Oeuvre d'Orient Catholic association.

Man Kidnapped for Ransom in Oyoun al-Siman

Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/Julien Georges Antoun, 27, was kidnapped in the Oyoun al-Siman region on Tuesday, reported the National News Agency on Wednesday. The kidnappers contacted his mother by telephone to demand a ransom on three million dollars for his release. His SUV was found abandoned in the Oyoun al-Siman region. The details of how he was abducted were not disclosed.

Report: Hizbullah Performs Maneuvers in Dahieh to Confront Possible Takfiri Attack
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/Hizbullah has taken defense measures in its stronghold of Dahieh in Beirut's southern suburbs to confront any possible takfiri attack, reported the daily An Nahar on Wednesday. It said that the party performed a defense maneuver two or three days ago to combat such an attack in light of the discovery of a plan to carry an assault. The maneuver entails locking stores in the area, evacuating the streets within ten minutes, and preventing any gatherings. Party officials overseeing the maneuver also urged people to head to the higher floors of buildings during a possible takfiri attack in order to keep ground floors vacant for Hizbullah fighters in case of direct combat with takfiris, who may take to the streets ahead of any suicide attack, stated An Nahar. In addition, it said that Hizbullah is attempting to limit the entrances to Dahieh to ten in order to properly monitor the flow of vehicles and pedestrians. Moreover, party lawmakers have removed the blue license plates off their cars that indicate their position in parliament. Hizbullah's measures caused major traffic on Tuesday as merchants sought to fortify their stores with sand bangs in order to confront any possible emergency. Local schools also offered their students first aid training and put in effect an evacuation plan in case of emergency.
A group suspected of links to al-Qaida warned on Friday that all areas of Lebanon where Hizbullah operates are "legitimate targets" for attack, urging Sunnis to avoid them. "We, al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, announce that Iran's party (Hizbullah) and all its bases and... bastions are legitimate targets for us, wherever they are," the group said in a statement posted on the Internet. The statement came three days after the group -- which is believed to be a branch of the Syrian al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked rebel movement -- claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik that killed four people. Tuesday's was the sixth in a string of attacks targeting Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon since the Lebanese group acknowledged sending members into neighboring Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Assad's regime against rebels and jihadists.

Saqr Charges 13 with Belonging to Abdullah Azzam Brigades
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged on Wednesday 13 people with belonging to the armed terrorist group, the al-Qaida-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, reported the National News Agency. Detainee Jamal Daftardar is among those who have been charged. They were accused of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon and recruiting and training individuals ahead of transporting them outside of Lebanon. Saqr also charged them with forging identification papers, firing rockets towards Israel, and possessing weapons and explosives. Daftardar was arrested in the western Bekaa region on January 15. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the November 19 double suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The brigades have claimed responsibility for attacks throughout the region, including the 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and firing of several rocket strikes from Lebanon towards Israel.

Alleged Booby-Trapped Cars Stolen around Same Time, Currently Kept in Syria's Yabrud
Naharnet Newsdesk 28 January 2014/Investigation revealed on Tuesday that the eight booby-trapped cars whose description was recently made public for suspecting their use in possible future bombings were all stolen in 2013 by a person called Eid Rasamni. "Investigation revealed that these vehicles were all stolen around the same time by Eid Rasamni,” LBCI television said. It added: “Rasamni was paid a certain amount of money to hand over the vehicles to several people and networks that were positioned in the Bekaa.”LBCI had broadcast on Monday what it called a “security” list circulated by the army's Intelligence Bureau that identify eight cars that “could be used in terrorist acts,” demanding security checkpoints to seize these vehicles. LBCI noted on Tuesday that the Anti-Theft Bureau arrested Assadallah Assi and Nabil Moussawi, who was held on charges of selling cars that were booby-trapped in Beirut's southern suburbs. Moussawi admitted that he had transferred two cars to a person from the Tlais family in the Bekaa town of Brital, who in his turn sold them to a person who hails from the Syrian town of Yabrud, according to LBCI. "All stolen cars were transferred from Mount Lebanon to Brital, and then to Yabrud.” LBCI provided also information on the owners of the stolen vehicles: “The Range Rover car belongs to Milad Saade who hails from the Keserwan district, the BMW is owned by Excellent car rental office, Amal Masri's Hyundai CR-V was robbed in Kfar Meshki, the Nissan Sunny is owned by al-Jada rent a car in Jbeil, the Hyundai Getz is owned by al-Mada rent-a-car that is located in the Shouf region of Aley, the Nissan Altima is owned by Moufid Shayya and the Kia Cerato is owned by Bassel Radwan that both hail from Aley while the Chevrolet Aveo belongs to Option car rental office.”It interviewed one victim of these theft incidents, who revealed he was robbed in August 2013. "We knew it was in Brital but no one contacted us,” he told the TV station, adding that he was informed that the thieves were in the Syrian town of al-Qalamoun. Meanwhile, a security source told MTV that these cars were either booby-trapped inside Lebanon or in neighboring countries.
"In Lebanon, the cars have been either stolen or rented using fake identification papers and have been booby-trapped inside Palestinian camps or in border regions in the North or the Bekaa. These cars cross the border using fake identification documents,” the source said. "Brital is the site for forging false identification documents using very accurate seals,” it noted. "Whereas cars booby-trapped outside Lebanon are transferred from Syria, particularly from Yabrud and other regions controlled by the Syrian regime, or they are transferred from Iraq where terrorist groups are located.” Lebanon has recently been the scene of several booby-trapped car explosions that have killed and wounded dozens of civilians. The latest round of bombings targeted the Bekaa's Hermel region and Beirut's southern suburbs of Haret Hreik, that was hit twice by blasts in January.
And in December 27, 2013, a huge explosion targeted the convoy of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah, killing him and several others that were at the scene of the blast.

Cellular-blocking devices remain idle in Roumieh
January 29, 2014/By Jana El-Hassan/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Mobile phone jamming devices installed last year in Roumieh's notorious prison have so far been unused, enabling Islamist detainees to freely communicate with the outside world and reportedly plot attacks with jihadists. The existence of such devices, aimed at disrupting cellular phone and internet use by prisoners, was reported by As-Safir Wednesday. Experts at the Telecommunications Ministry told The Daily Star the devices were installed in mid 2013, but have not been used since. A security source said the devices, which can also block 3G mobile networks, have been idle for technical reasons. During a testing period following installation, residents living in the nearby vicinity of Lebanon’s largest prison complained that the devices had obstructed their mobile phones from connecting to a service provider. The residents reported the issue to prison authorities who deactivated the devices in an attempt to reset them and limit their coverage to few meters around the prison, the source said. “Experts are trying to find a way to limit the coverage of these devices to the surrounding parameters of the prison,” the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star. A report published by the local daily said Islamist inmates in Roumieh’s Block B were using 3G networks on their phones to coordinate terrorist activities and recruit fighters for the Nusra Front, a radical rebel group fighting in Syria. Authorities are unable to wiretap emails and other content published online in jihadist-related forums, where the detainees coordinate with their accomplices outside prison, the report, quoting security officials, said. Hundreds of Islamist prisoners have been detained without trial since 2007. The men were apprehended for allegedly fighting against the Army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon and belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam. The inmates, who have instigated several riots inside Roumieh prison, reportedly enjoy some degree of freedom inside their cells. Several media reports, including Wednesday’s article in As-Safir, linked some inmates to recent car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs that have been claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian and local rebel groups. According to the source, the Islamist inmates were recently joined by other detainees suspected of taking part in last year’s clashes between the Army and armed supporters of Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir in the coastal city of Sidon. The source said the aim of installing the mobile phone jamming devices was to foil attempts made by detainees to escape, after several inmates fled the prison in the past few years.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who could not be reached for comment, told As-Safir that the prosecution’s office allowed prisoners to own cell phones, making the Justice Ministry the responsible party.
Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told The Daily Star that security measures, including the installation of the devices, were part of Charbel's prerogative.

Man found dead in apparent suicide in Beirut
January 29, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A man was found dead in an apparent suicide in the upscale Beirut neighborhood of Verdun Wednesday, a security source told The Daily Star. Mazen Amine Merhi was found with a single gunshot wound below the mouth, the source, quoting a preliminary police report, said. The distance between the weapon used and the man’s face was estimated to be one centimeter, prompting police to believe the man had committed suicide. Merhi was found locked in his vehicle outside Building 730 in Verdun. Forensic experts arrived to the scene of the incident. Merhi is a relative of the wife of former Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalife.

Maronite charter to urge coexistence, timely elections
January 29, 2014/By Wassim Mroueh/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Maronite Church will issue a National Charter next week, Patriarch Beshara Rai said Tuesday, with sources saying the document would call for coexistence in Lebanon and highlight the need to hold presidential polls on time. “It [the charter] is based on three factors: national principles, concerns and priorities,” Rai told visitors at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarchate. “It includes around 10 pages. Work on it began last August after a series of meetings with Lebanese officials on all levels and after listening and discussing their concerns and aspirations.” The head of the Maronite Church said the charter would be announced next Wednesday following the monthly meeting of the Council of Maronite Bishops at Bkirki. Former Minister Wadih al-Khazen, who heads the General Maronite Council, described the document as “a road map for Lebanese politicians to build a state in the full sense of the term.” Speaking to The Daily Star, Khazen added that the document aimed to revive the role of Christians in Lebanon and was the beginning of a series of events to mark 100 years since the establishment of Greater Lebanon in 1920. Khazen said the charter would emphasize the need to hold presidential elections and parliamentary elections on time, and would highlight the need for a Cabinet and the revival of state institutions.The constitutional period for electing Lebanon’s new president begins on March 25, two months before the term of President Michel Sleiman officially expires.
There are fears that Parliament will fail to elect a president amid sharp divisions between the March 8 and the March 14 coalitions. Conditions and counterconditions by both camps have prevented Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam from putting together a government in the months since he was nominated last April. Uncertainty also surrounds the fate of parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for November.
Last June, the legislature extended its term for 17 months after rival parties failed to agree on a new electoral law. Bishop Bulos Sayyah, a senior official at the Maronite church, said only that the charter was “comprehensive and important” without further elaboration. He added that the current situation in Lebanon had prompted the document’s release. Other sources from Bkirki said the charter would update the principles announced by the Maronite Conclave in 2006. The Conclave’s statement underscored the importance of coexistence, freedom, equality and diversity in Lebanon and stressed the need for “creative interaction” between Muslims and Christians.
The sources said the new charter would touch on the regional situation and the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq as well as highlight the need for coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon.
With regard to the political crisis in Lebanon, the document is expected to stress that depriving Christians of fair representation in the new Cabinet violates the National Pact.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is insisting that his group retain the Energy Ministry as a condition for joining an all-embracing government. If the FPM, like the Lebanese Forces, chooses not to participate in the Cabinet, the new government would not have representatives from either of the two major Christian parties. The Maronite Church has played an important role in the modern history of Lebanon.
In September 2000, following a meeting under Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the Council of Maronite Bishops called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and for Hezbollah to hand over its weapons arsenal to the state. The statement was followed by a growing chorus of demands by Lebanese politicians for Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon, culminating in a massive demonstration in Downtown Beirut on March 14, 2005, one month after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Syrian army pulled out from Lebanon just over a month later.

U.N. Mediator Doesn't Expect 'Substantive' Result at Syria Talks Round
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 January 2014/U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday he did not expect a week of peace talks in Geneva between Syria's warring sides to produce "anything substantive". "To be blunt, I do not expect that we will achieve anything substantive," Brahimi told reporters after a fifth day of talks in the Swiss city, which are set to conclude Friday. He stressed though that he had not expected to make much progress during the first round of talks, which mark the first time the two sides have sat down face-to-face in a bid to end the civil war that has claimed 130,000 lives and forced millions from their homes. "I am very happy that we're still talking. That the ice is breaking, slowly, but it is breaking," Brahimi said. "These people have not sat together for three years. They do not expect that there'll be a magic wand," he added. He hailed the two parties for their willingness to "stay on and talk," but stressed that "the gap between them still seems quite large."The U.N.-Arab League envoy said the delegations from President Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition National Coalition would decide on Friday when they would meet again in Geneva for a second round of talks, likely after a week. "I hope the second session will be more structured and more productive," he said. He called on Washington and Moscow, which respectively back the opposition and the regime and which instigated the talks, to "use their influence with the parties.""They are using their capacity to convince, which is more than my capacity to convince," he said. After days of deadlock, the two sides both voiced a grain of optimism earlier Wednesday, telling reporters that a morning session had been "positive". Wednesday's discussions had finally focused on the Geneva I communique -- the never-implemented roadmap to peace put out by global powers during talks here in 2012, but the two sides disagree sharply on what part of the text the talks should focus on. The opposition insists a transitional government, which does not include Assad, must first be agreed upon, while the regime rules out Assad's departure and says the talks should focus on fighting "terrorism". Source/Agence France Presse.

Canada's Ambassador Bennett Denounces Church Attacks in Nigeria
January 28, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“Canada condemns the terrible attacks by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria that have killed nearly 100 people and wounded many others.
“On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my prayers and deepest sympathies to those injured in the attacks and to the families and friends of those who lost their lives.
“Canada stands with the Government of Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and hopes it will bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.
“Such violence, including that perpetrated against any faith community, must not be tolerated.
“In December 2013, Canada listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Its members are responsible for hundreds of attacks and the deaths of more than 1,000 innocent people.”

Israel's Strategic affairs minister, Steinitz: No diplomatic accord can completely ensure Israel's security
By JPOST.COM STAFF/01/29/2014/Strategic affairs minister says past Israeli withdrawals showed no security arrangement can guarantee Israel's safety. Yuval Steinitz‏ Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz‏ Photo: INSS
No diplomatic accord can completely ensure Israel's security, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday during his remarks at the INSS annual security conference. Steinitz said previous Israeli withdrawals from major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip have taught Israel that no security arrangement can guarantee Israeli citizens' safety. After leaving the major Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria, Palestinian incitement has increased and the second intifada brought to the loss of hundreds of Israeli lives. Since Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, some 11,400 rockets were fired from the Strip into Israel and numerous terror attacks originated from the enclave, including the 2006 kidnapping of Gilad Schalit. "We must not delude ourselves," he said. "No one, not us nor our American friends, can assure us that any security arrangements can stop what happened after [these withdrawals] from happening again in Neblus." The situation in the Middle East is ever changing and nebulous, and no one can predict how the region would look like five years from now, Steinitz said, which Israel can only strive to minimize the threat, but not to completely eliminate it. He did not express much optimism in the peace process, saying this is more of a diplomatic process that while it is important, it is unlikely to produce a peace accord. "Unfortunately we are not seeing any indication that there's real willingness on the other side - primarily the Palestinian Authority - for peace," he said. "[PA President Mahmmud] Abbas may not be a proponent of violence and terror like his predecessor [Yasser] Arafat, but the level of incitement and anti-Semitism in the PA has reached new heights," he added. "The sub-text Palestinian children receive at Abbas' schools and on PA television is very clear, the State of Israel must be annihilated sooner or later, and the Jews must be annihilated sooner or later," Steinitz noted. He noted that after the Israeli government decided to launch an international PR campaign against the incitement in the PA, both the Palestinians and the US have asked to re-form an Israeli-American "Anti-Incitement Committee."Steinitz said he objects the reformation of such a committee, unless Abbas stops "preaching [against Israel] on a daily basis and sending out these messages."
"There used to be such a committee, and it didn't change anything," he added.

IAEA visits Iranian mine as part of nuclear transparency pact
IAEA inspectors investigate mine; hope to calculate amount of uranium and potential for weapons production. Bushehr nuclear Iranian
Iranian security official at Bushehr nuclear plant. Photo: REUTERS
DUBAI - UN nuclear inspectors visited an Iranian uranium mine for the first time in nearly a decade on Wednesday, Iranian media reported, as Tehran gradually opens up its disputed nuclear program to greater international scrutiny.A three-member team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) went to the Gchine mine near the southern Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas, a spokesman for Iran's atomic energy organization said. The IAEA was last there in 2005. They "are now conducting their inspection," Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted as saying on the web site of Press TV, Iran's English-language state television.
Allowing the UN nuclear agency - which is investigating suspicions that Iran may have carried out atomic bomb research - to go to Gchine was among six concrete steps Iran agreed to under a Nov. 11 cooperation agreement with the IAEA. The IAEA-Iran deal is separate from a Nov. 24 breakthrough accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for a limited easing of sanctions that have battered its economy. That agreement took effect on Jan. 20. Both accords signaled a rapid improvement in Iran's troubled ties with the outside world, made possible by the June election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as president on a platform of ending Tehran's international isolation. Going to Gchine would allow the IAEA to know the amount of uranium mined there, making it "harder for Iran to generate a secret stock of natural uranium", the US Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said last month. As the first step to be implemented under the Iran-IAEA agreement, UN inspectors went in December to the Arak heavy-water production facility, a plant that is linked to a nearby reactor under construction that the West fears could yield plutonium for nuclear bombs once operational.
The other measures concerned provision of information about nuclear facilities Iran has said it plans to build.
The IAEA says it needs such access and data to gain a better understanding of Iran's nuclear program and to ensure there is no diversion of atomic material for military purposes.
Iran says it is only refining uranium to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants. But the same material can also provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb if enriched more.
The two sides will meet on Feb. 8 to discuss future steps under the cooperation agreement, with the IAEA expected to press for more access and information related to its investigation into alleged nuclear weapon research by Iran. Tehran denies the accusations and says they are fabricated.
Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Sinai-based jihadist group claims responsibility for latest Egyptian attacks
01/29/2014/Al Jazeera journalists to face trial for aiding “terrorist organization” by supplying them with money, equipment and information. Egyptian soldiers keep guard in Sinai
Egyptian soldiers keep guard in Sinai Photo: REUTERS/The Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility in a statement released on the Internet for the assassination of a senior Egyptian Interior Ministry official outside his home in Cairo. On Wednesday, an army spokesman blamed the assassination, and another, also on Tuesday, of a policeman guarding a church, on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The jihadi group also claimed responsibility for an attack on a gas pipeline in Sinai. The death of Gen. Muhammad Saeed, head of the technical office in the Interior ministry, suggested guerrillas were stepping up their campaign against the state. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (“Supporters of Jerusalem”), which posted a video online this week of what it said was its fighters shooting down an Egyptian military helicopter with a surface to-air missile (SAM), is causing concern in Washington.Meanwhile, Egypt will put an Australian, two Britons and a Dutchwoman on trial for aiding 16 Egyptian members of a terrorist organization, the public prosecutor said on Wednesday, describing the four as Al Jazeera correspondents. According to the website of the Qatar-based television channel, three of its journalists, Peter Greste (an Australian), Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were detained in Cairo on December 29. The prosecutor said the four had published lies that harmed the national interest and had supplied money, equipment and information to the 16 terrorists. The foreigners were also accused of using unlicensed broadcasting equipment. Al Jazeera’s Cairo offices have been closed since July 3, when security forces raided them hours after the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Qatar was a strong financial backer of Egypt during Morsi’s year in power and the Gulf Arab state has vehemently criticized his overthrow and the ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s Press Syndicate condemned the string of recent arrests and assaults on journalists, issuing a statement on Tuesday.
“Pitting citizens against journalists with false claims” could bring the country “back to the eras of deposed presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi,” it said, according to Daily New Egypt.
The government has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group and continued its crackdown on Tuesday, seizing the assets of 46 Brotherhood leaders, Ahram Online reported.
Separately, Special Envoy of the Middle East Quartet Tony Blair arrived in Cairo on Wednesday on a private jet to discuss regional issues with Egyptian officials.

Brief cabinet crisis averted by pro-settlement minister’s apology for criticizing Netanyahu
DEBKAfile Special Report January 29, 2014/Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday, Jan. 29, demanded Naftali Bennett, the pro-settlement Jewish Home party leader and Minister of Industry and Trade apologize or be sacked, for brusquely criticizing his proposal to leave Jewish settlements in a future Palestinian state.
The minister apologized without delay, regretting that “his concern for Israel’s future and security” was taken as a personal attack on the prime minister, whose leadership in difficult circumstances he respected. But he didn’t climb down. It was his duty, the minister stressed, to voice his belief that abandoning Israel citizens to Palestinian sovereignty was a dangerous notion that must be dropped.
DEBKAfile: A cabinet crisis has been averted for now over the concessions urged on the prime minister by US Secretary of State John Kerry for the sake of a peace accord with the Palestinians. But by playing his cards too close to his vest, Netanyahu is exposing himself to more criticism and a loss of respect from within his own government.
Too often his words are countered or contradicted outright.
The Bennett episode roseout of the frustration of a member of the security cabinet which Netanyahu keeps in the dark over his solo performance.
But also today, Netanyahu was actually contradicted for insisting that the peace framework document that John Kerry is about to present to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a US document, which represents America’s take on the points agreed and does not oblige Israel to accept its contents.
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stepped forward to deny this. Addressing a National Security Institute conference in Tel Aviv, the ambassador said that the framework agreement mostly incorporates ideas presented by the two sides (Israel and the Palestinians), with only a few inserts of American origin.
Ambassador Shapiro must be presumed to have been authorized by Secretary Kerry to publicly challenge Prime Minister Netanyahu – and not for the first time.
Since mid-December, DEBKAfile’s sources have disclosed elements of the framework proposal which conflict with Netanyahu’s public comments.
Without going into the rights or wrongs of the dust-up between the prime minister and Bennett, it is evident to DEBKAfile’s sources that Netanyahu has most probably been prevailed upon by Kerry to make fairly far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians - particularly on the scale of Israel’s withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. This information he has not shared with his ministers and as it comes out, more ructions are to be expected.
In Jerusalem, for example, Netanyahu almost certainly agreed to cede to Palestinian rule the Arab-populated suburbs of Shuafat, Beit Hanina, the Shuafat refugee camp and the large village of Issawiya. This village, which is a notorious hotbed of terror ruled by the radical Palestinian Democratic Front, has sprawled up the slopes of Mount Scopus by unopposed wildcat construction.
So the Palestinians are now also laying claim to Mt. Scopus, which has been the seat of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem without interruption since its foundation in 1918.
Even under Israeli control, heavy military and police backup is needed for entering Issawiya, which is less than 10 minutes drive from Jerusalem downtown. An outbreak of violence was quelled with difficulty by Israel border police this Wednesday. Under Palestinian control, no one doubts that this village will be one of the first sources of rocket fire on Jerusalem when even Israeli security forces are unable to subdue its hate-filled inhabitants.
Strategically, too, giving up Issawiya would mean Israel is relinquishing control of the highway connecting Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim, throwing in the towel of a struggle waged for years to maintain territorial contiguity between these two Israeli cities.
If Netanyahu’s standing within his cabinet is waning, it is because in the view of many politicians and circles outside politics his tactics in the conduct of negotiations with Kerry and the Palestinians does not bear muster by democratic standards – and above all in Israel itself – for the handling of issues of vital concern to the nation’s security and very future.
In the case challenged by Bennett, Netanyahu appears to have yielded substantially in private to his two negotiating partners and then, when criticized, pretended the concession was not for real but a tactical stratagem for showing up Palestinian intransigence and insincerity in pursuing peace diplomacy.
It was therefore up to critics to trust him and shut up, a demand that Naftali Bennett contemptuously spurned.
Netanyahu is creating a confusing world of double and triple mirrors. The respect he claims is slipping away from him and exposed him to the less than respectful contradiction by the US ambassador.
And when he protests time and time again that his foremost concern is national security, his words are often thrown back at him - as they were Wednesday by Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen Aviv Kochavi, who warned shortly after the US ambassador’s comments that “170,000 rockets and missiles are threatening Israel.”
This figure was bigger before Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last year, he said, and diminished in the course of the Syrian war. “But the number will rise again,” Kochavi assured his listeners.
About Iran, Kochavi said: “The Iranian nuclear project goes on and a decision by the Iranian leader will determine whether one or more nuclear bombs are built. In Washington, Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that Iran has no technological bars for producing a nuclear bomb. It depends solely on a political decision.
The prime minister has neer tried to reconcile his avowed focus on security as his paramount concern while allowing Israel’s enemies to constantly build up the number of rockets aimed at Israel, or with Iran remaining with a single dilemma, reported repeatedly by DEBKAfile in the past year, of whether to build one nuke or an arsenal, without Israel lifting a finger to forestall this threat.
It is this disparity between word and deed that is costing Netanyahu national and personal respect at a time that he needs it most.