June 03/14


Bible Quotation for today/Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also
John 12,26-30/Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say "Father, save me from this hour"? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today

At times we can be self-absorbed. Lord, help us to open our hearts to others and to serve those who are most vulnerable.
Pape François
Parfois, nous nous fermons sur nous-mêmes… Seigneur, aide-nous à aller vers les autres, à servir les plus faibles.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For June 03/14

Lebanese Patriarch’s historic visit to Israel prompts mixed sentiments/By Martin Armstrong |Al Arabiya/June 03/14

Two presidents later, Egypt gets Sisi/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 03/14


The Daily Star Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For June 03/14

Lebanese Related News

Geagea: Campaigns against Rai obstruct coexistence

Jumblat: Impact of Regional Disputes on Christians Made al-Rahi's Trip to Jerusalem Inevitable
Qassem: State Must Address Collaborators Issue, Balance of Power Only Allows Consensual President

Rai to intervene to release former Iraqi minister

Kataeb Rejects Replacing Presidential Vote with Parliamentary Elections

Salam: Cabinet must maintain momentum
Police free lawyer, arrest his kidnappers

Lebanon says security behind review of refugees

Beirut may face 10-hour power cuts

Three Arab journalists win 2014 Samir Kassir Award

World Bank chief in Lebanon for talks on economy

Tehran not discussing Lebanon with Riyadh:official

Kataeb call for pressure group to elect president

Lebanon postpones official school exams

Lebanon approves policy to limit refugee influx

Syria Conflict Costs Lebanon $7.5 Bln

Jumblat Denies Traveling to Paris to Meet Hariri

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Gunmen kill nine in Nigeria church attack

US specialist: Deal with Iran to come in winter

Iran's Khamenei warns supporters of Syrian rebels
Ayatollah calls for better relations with Arab Gulf states
UN probe of Iran nuke program may slow Iran talks

US will continue to fund Fatah-Hamas government

Palestinian unity government sworn in at Ramallah ceremony
Palestinian unity government moves forward while Israel and US equivocate

Russian hypocrisy
Israel hits back after fire from Gaza, Syria

Report: Kerry, Abbas to meet in Jordan

Can global diplomacy solve Mideast conflict?

334 people tortured to death in Syria in May

Lebanese Patriarch’s historic visit to Israel prompts mixed sentiments
By Martin Armstrong | Special to Al Arabiya News
Monday, 2 June 2014
The Palestinian camp of Dbayyeh lies in the hills just north of Beirut. It’s view of the Mediterranean blocked by a 5-star hotel. Many Lebanese are unaware of its existence despite its status as the only majority Christian Palestinian camp in the Middle East. Dbayyeh is palpably different to Lebanon’s other Palestinian camps.
There are no checkpoints, and no Palestinian political iconography in its bougainvillea lined streets – products of the fact that any Palestinian Liberation Organization presence was eradicated during its occupation by various Christian militias during Lebanon’s civil war. The some 4,000 residents of the camp express a sense of isolation from both other Palestinian camps in Lebanon and the Lebanese population at large. In the last couple of weeks such emotions have been heightened.
On Saturday 24th May Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, the highest ranking Christian religious figure in Lebanon, set out on a week-long visit to occupied Palestine and Israel in the process becoming the first Lebanese religious leader to enter the Jewish state since its foundation in 1948.
Rai’s trip was met with strong domestic opposition principally from Hezbollah, the Shia party-cum-militia currently fighting in support of the Assad regime in Syria, who described it as a normalization of ties with the enemy. Israel has invaded Lebanon a number of times, the last of which was in 2006, and the two countries remain technically at war. However residents of Dbayyeh, the majority of who are Maronite, and Melkite Greek Catholic supported Rahi’s visit.
Christian solidarity in the Middle East
Elias Ghorayeb, a project coordinator at the camp’s Joint Christian Council centre, described the trip as an important display of Christian solidarity in the Middle East at a time of heightened vulnerability with war threatening the vitality of the Christian community in Syria and Lebanon experiencing a worrying vacuum in the presidency, the highest ranking Christian post in the country’s state apparatus.
The Palestinian camp of Dbayyeh lies in the hills just north of Beirut. (Photo courtesy: Martin Armstrong)
“I am fully behind the mission. There are around 11,000 Maronites in Palestine. It is Rahi’s right to visit his flock, and their right to welcome his presence,” said Ghorayeb.
“However it also serves as a reminder of our own isolation from our ancestral and spiritual homeland.”
Across the Israeli border some Lebanese citizens face a similar sense of alienation from home. An estimated 3,000 Lebanese Maronites, former members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and their families currently reside in the Jewish state. The SLA was a militia that worked under Israel’s payroll during the country’s twenty year occupation of south Lebanon and many members, fearful of retribution, sought safe-haven across Lebanon’s southern border when the occupation ended in 2000.
On Wednesday 28th May Rahi met with former SLA members in the village of Capernaum, pledging that he would work with Lebanese authorities to facilitate their return to Lebanon. Rahi’s stance drew sharp criticism from Hezbollah with one MP loyal to the Shia party stating such “Israeli agents” were a source of shame to Lebanon. Rumors even spread in local media that Rahi could be targeted in an assassination attempt.
Ghorayeb supported Rahi’s initiative expressing sadness that Lebanese citizens were unable to return home.
“They were living under Israeli occupation. Many were forced by circumstances to collaborate,” said Ghorayeb. “Of course people made mistakes. But they have become estranged from family members across borders. Children have also been forced to bear the burden of their parents.”
However Ghorayeb was not optimistic that Rahi’s endeavors would be successful due to political opposition. In Capernaum some of the Lebanese citizens Rahi met expressed similar sentiments. Others simply stated that they were happy to remain where they were, rather than return to a homeland where they could be subject to persecution.
Residents of Dbayyeh, most of whose families fled to Lebanon from al-Bassa, Haifa, and Jaffa in 1948, dream of returning. However Lebanon bans its citizens from travelling to Israel making even a visit impossible. The policy is unlikely to change anytime soon given ongoing animosity between the two states. Last month Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil filed a complaint to the U.N. Security Council accusing Israel of ongoing violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“When I was a child growing up every night before bed my grandmother used to recall stories of growing up in Palestine before we were forced to leave. From generation to generation we repeat these stories,” said Nabila Habib.
“Sometimes Muslims ask me if I as a Christian have an equivalent to the Hajj to Mecca. I tell them I do but I am unable to complete it. We cannot go on our Hajj.”
Some residents of Dbayyeh have however ventured across the border. During Lebanon’s Civil War following Israel’s invasion in 1982 Abbas (a pseudonym), visited relatives in Jaffa on four occasions before the occupation came to an end in 1990. At the time the SLA, many of whose members now reside in Israel, held sway over southern Lebanon.
“I never had any problems in the south of Lebanon when I crossed the border back and forth,” said Abbas.
“The Civil War here in Lebanon was terrible. Here in Dbayyeh and even more in other camps Palestinians suffered greatly. But at that time it was possible to visit my country,” continued Abbas.
“Others have not had this opportunity. I can’t see this changing.”
**Martin Armstrong is a freelance journalist based in Beirut. His work has been featured in publications including VICE, Al-Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune, and Lebanon’s Daily Star. You can follow him on Twitter @scotinbeirut

Geagea: Campaigns against Rai obstruct coexistence
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The attacks on Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai over his controversial visit to Israel are cruel and an assault on the national coexistence formula, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Monday. During a phone call to congratulate Rai on safely returning to Lebanon after his trip to the Holy Land, Geagea expressed his disapproval of the campaigns waged against the patriarch, calling them “cruel and overstepping the institutions ... of Lebanon,” according to a statement from the LF leader’s office. Geagea added that in some places the negative campaigns “even obstruct the pact of co-existence.” Rai’s trip to Israel and the West Bank has received repeated criticism in Lebanon, especially from Hezbollah who view the visit as a “historic mistake” and the beginning of normalizing relations with Israel. The patriarch has also been condemned for suggesting that the families of former members of the South Lebanon Army – who colluded with Israel during its 22-year occupation of the country – should be able to return home and not be considered agents of the enemy. Geagea also told Rai of his severe dissatisfaction with parliamentary blocs that have been blocking the presidential vote and the two discussed what should be done to prevent a possible vacancy. They agreed to keep channels open to try to thwart the present gridlock, with Geagea saying that “a vacancy would not be tolerated” in the highest post in the country.

Jumblat: Impact of Regional Disputes on Christians Made al-Rahi's Trip to Jerusalem Inevitable

Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat defended on Monday Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's recent trip to the Holy Land, questioning the uproar created over the visit and the failure of the majority of the parties to defend him. He said in his weekly editorial to the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “Al-Rahi's trip was inevitable given the negative repercussions the security and political developments in Palestine, Syria, and Iraq are having on the region's Christian population.”The trip emphasized the need for the people to remain attached to their homeland regardless of the hardships they are facing, remarked the MP. “The patriarch made very bold and brave stands in this regard,” he noted. “His visit gave Palestine's Christians and Arabs a glimmer of hope during the critical time they are enduring. He also succeeded in avoiding Israel's exploitation of the trip,” added Jumblat. “Al-Rahi's trip was strictly pastoral and religious,” he stressed.
Moreover, the PSP chief questioned the criticism directed against the patriarch for meeting several members of the South Lebanon Army during his visit, saying: “It should be noted that those members come from all religions and sects.” “The families and children of the so-called collaborators were forced by the Israeli occupation to cooperate in one way or the other with the enemy, so they should not be labeled as such,” he said. “The boycott of visits to Palestine over the decades has cleared the way for Israeli practices that have displaced the Palestinian people, created an artificial entity, and eventually led to the current reality due to the Arab defeats over the years,” continued Jumblat. “The Palestinian people have been left to lead the struggle alone to obtain their legitimate rights,” he stated. Furthermore, he voiced his rejection of the normalization of ties with Israel, adding however that new approaches with Palestinians should be adopted in order to motivate them to remain in their homeland.
The MP later received a telephone call from al-Rahi, who lauded him on his stance on his visit to the Holy Land, said the National News Agency. Commenting on the Interior Ministry's measures to curb the flow of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jumblat hailed the step, especially in light of the recent provocations made during the Syrian presidential elections. “This is a logical and objective measure that has been appropriately timed,” he remarked. The Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations should not to return home as of June 1, warning they will lose their refugee status in Lebanon. Saturday's decision comes three days before Syria is to witness the first presidential elections since the eruption of the ravaging civil war that has torn the country in the past three years.  On Wednesday and Thursday, thousands of Syrians streamed to their embassy in Yarze near Beirut to vote in the presidential polls, in what Damascus' Lebanese and Syrian critics have described as a prearranged “show of force. The midweek, poorly organized vote triggered a suffocating traffic congestion in the area, stranding thousands of commuters in their cars amid an excruciating summer heat.
The March 14 alliance strongly criticized the elections at the embassy, calling for dropping the refugee status of those whose life is not in danger and who are constantly traveling across the border.
Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas later announced on Monday that the Interior Ministry's decision “will take effect as of today.” “The security forces at the border will be informed to refuse entry to any refugee arriving from a secure region in Syria,” he added. “The majority of the Lebanese parties view this issue as a Lebanese one, not a political or discriminatory case,” he said.

Qassem: State Must Address Collaborators Issue, Balance of Power Only Allows Consensual President
Naharnet/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem reminded Monday that his party had left the issue of Israeli collaborators for the Lebanese state to address, noting that the current “balance of power” in the country does not allow the election of a new president without consensus among the rival parties. “The resistance has acted honorably during all junctures, including during the liberation when we did not harass anyone and left the issue of collaborators for the Lebanese state to address according to its laws, without any intervention from our side,” Qassem said during a Hizbullah ceremony. He said the rule in this issue is that “the guilty must be held accountable,” describing the prosecution of former South Lebanon Army members as both “a responsibility and a duty.”
“We worked with all the honest parties for the sake of rebuilding the country and we have the right to say that had it not been for the resistance, there would not have been any construction in the country,” Hizbullah number two noted. “And had it not been for the 'sacred defense', we would not have been able to repel the threats … and prevent them from destroying all the accomplishments achieved in Lebanon,” Qassem added, referring to Hizbullah's military intervention in neighboring Syria. Qassem's remarks come in response to recent controversial statements by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who said Friday that the Lebanese state must not deal with those who fled to Israel in 2000 as “criminals.”“We are not collaborators. I did not see any Lebanese collaborating against Lebanon,” al-Rahi said after meeting a group of exiled Lebanese during a visit to the Israeli village of Isfiya near Haifa, which came as part of his landmark visit to the Holy Land.
“Had they fought against Lebanon? Had they fought against the Lebanese state? Had they fought against Lebanese institutions?” al-Rahi asked rhetorically.
Israel has invaded Lebanon several times, occupying part of the country's territory for 18 years until it withdrew in 2000 following armed resistance spearheaded by Hizbullah. In 2006, a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead. Separately, Qassem urged an end to political “acrobatics” in the issue of the stalled presidential election, stressing that “everyone knows that the balance of power in Lebanon does not allow the election of a president without consensus.” “Let us reach an agreement today as that would be better than reaching an agreement ten months or a year from now. It is better not to waste time because the result is the same,” Qassem urged. Turning to the issue of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Hizbullah official called for “embarking on preparing a fair electoral law based on proportional representation in order to confront the challenge that we will face in less than three months.” “If you want real changes in this country, let us reproduce authorities, and parliamentary elections are the only way to reproduce authorities,” Qassem suggested. He stressed that the rival political forces can agree on a “fair” electoral law ahead of the parliamentary elections that are scheduled for the fall of this year, urging swift efforts in this regard. On Sunday, Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said the country should head to parliamentary polls in order to prevent a protracted presidential vacuum. “The priority is for the election of a president, but should that not be possible, we must hold parliamentary elections,” said Aoun, who is a member of the bloc led by Free Patriotic Movement chief and presidential hopeful MP Michel Aoun, a key Hizbullah ally. Parliament had failed to elect a successor to president Michel Suleiman -- whose six-year term ended on May 25 -- despite having held five electoral sessions for that purpose. Until the moment only Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering MP Henri Helou have announced official presidential nominations, while Aoun has insisted that he will only run in the race as a “consensual candidate.”Aoun's demand and the March 8 camp's rejection of Geagea's nomination prompted the Hizbullah-led March 8 forces to boycott four electoral sessions that required a quorum of two thirds of the 128-member legislature.

Syria Conflict Costs Lebanon $7.5 Bln
Naharnet/The conflict in Syria has cost Lebanon $7.5 billion as it struggles to cope with hosting more than a million refugees from the neighboring country, according to World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim.
"We estimated last summer that the impact of the crisis on Lebanon was $7.5 billion," Kim said late on Sunday in the Saudi city of Jeddah, which he visited in the first stop of a regional tour. He said the conflict has had a "profound" impact on Lebanon and Jordan, which also hosts around 600,000 Syrian refugees. The conflict that broke out in March 2011 with demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar Assad descended into a civil war that has killed more than 160,000 people, and driven millions from their homes. Kim said the World Bank is trying "as much as possible" to help the two countries that host the largest Syrian refugee populations. Lebanon's gross domestic product dropped 2.9 percent annually between 2012 and 2014, according to World Bank estimates, while 170,000 Lebanese fell into poverty and the unemployment rate doubled to more than 20 percent. The World Bank warned that refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are putting extra strain on services such as water, electricity, waste disposal, primary education and health, while increasing competition for scarce jobs. "The international community needs to step up its support to the Jordanian and Lebanese hosting communities," said Kim in the statement. "The people of these countries have demonstrated unprecedented generosity. They should not be left to shoulder this crisis alone."After visiting Saudi Arabia, Kim will travel to Lebanon and Jordan.Source/Agence France Presse

Rai to intervene to release former Iraqi minister
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai will intervene to secure the release of the former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz at the request of his son, Al-Markaziah News Agency reported Monday. Ziyad Tariq Aziz visited Rai in Bkirki and asked the prelate to intervene and ask that Iraqi authorities release his father, who he said was in critical condition due to old age. The son also said his father, the only Christian who was part of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, was in a coma state. Aziz also relayed to Rai a message from the Iraqi Chaldean patriarch, who the son said had visited the former Iraqi official in prison. Rai promised Aziz to intervene once again - the Lebanese patriarch had pleaded to Iraqi authorities to release the official during his visit to Baghdad in 2011.
Despite repeated calls to release Aziz, who was sentences to 15 years in prison for crimes he committed during Saddam’s reign, Iraq has refused to set him free.

Kataeb call for Maronite pressure group to elect president

June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The Kataeb party Monday called for the formation of a Maronite pressure group in order to push lawmakers to elect a new president. Following its weekly meeting the Kataeb issued a statement arguing that the election of a president would be the best way to deal with the critical issues facing the country, including the wage-scale increase, the Syrian refugee crisis and maintaining internal stability. The Kataeb reiterated the need to follow through with its leader Amine Gemayel’s initiative to form a Maronite pressure group, which would work at the national level to push for another presidential election, while consulting Maronite leaders. Since March, Maronite leaders have been aiming to form a pressure group to mobilize political parties in order to come to a consensus over the presidential issue. The party rejected the option of focusing on parliamentary polls to counter the gridlock over the presidential election, arguing that “once process does not cancel out the other,” and that focusing on the legislative elections would render the presidential post irrelevant. The party also called for resuming talks over the draft electoral law, which concluded at an impasse last year. The party said such a law should ensure fair representation and be just toward youth, women and expats. Touching on the Lebanese University’s decision to postpone examinations in a bid to pressure the government to make institutional appointments and promote contract lecturers to full-time staff, the Kataeb demanded more information in order to come to an agreement that would mitigate between the state and the rights of public sector employees. The party stressed that any resolution reached over the issue should work around the clock to save the academic year. The party also called for an investigation to be conducted into the chaos that came with the Syrian presidential election at its diplomatic mission May 28, stressing on the need to rethink the categorization of refugee status.

Tehran not discussing Lebanon presidency with Riyadh: official
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Iran and Saudi Arabia were not discussing the presidential election in Lebanon, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said Monday. Hussein Amir-Abdollahian denied in a TV interview reports that the two regional powers were holding any meetings to examine the issue of the presidential election or to agree on a consensus presidential candidate. Former President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ended last month, and Parliament has so far failed five times at electing a new president. Saudi Arabia and Iran back the rival March 14 and March 8 groups respectively, but the former invited Iran’s foreign minister to visit Riyadh last month, hinting at the possibility of a thaw between the two regional powers. Rapprochement between the two countries would have ramifications across the Middle East, potentially cooling political and military struggles especially in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. A Lebanese national unity government was formed in February after a 10-month stalemate, with many giving credit to a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. – The Daily Star

World Bank chief in Lebanon for talks on ailing economy
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: World Bank Group President Monday arrived in Lebanon where he is expected to hold talks with officials on the energy and education sectors as well as the impact of the Syrian crisis on the country's ailing economy. Upon his arricval at the Rafik Hariri International Airport, Kim said his visit was the first by a World Bank president in 14 years. He said the purpose of his trip was to discuss ways to meet the urgent needs of the country particularly in terms of reform in various sectors, encourage economic growth and plan long and short-term strategic plans.
Kim also noted that he would meet with officials from the Education Ministry to review the challenges and provide his view of the future in light of the so-called Arab Spring which he said represented an opportunity for advancement. The World Bank is set to prepare a review of the Lebanese economy, its challenges and prospects for the future at the end of Kim's tour. Economy Minister Alain Hakim who welcomed Kim to Lebanon at the airport said the visit was of utmost importance for Lebanon. “There are two reasons for Kim’s visit: the first concerns the presence of Syrian refugees which has become a huge burden on Lebanon and the second is to draft a plan with the World Bank for the energy sector,” Hakim told reporters. Before arriving to Lebanon, Kim warned that refugees in Lebanon and Jordan were putting extra strain on services such as water, electricity, waste disposal, primary education and health, while increasing competition for scarce jobs. "The international community needs to step up its support to the Jordanian and Lebanese hosting communities," said Kim in the statement. "The people of these countries have demonstrated unprecedented generosity. They should not be left to shoulder this crisis alone.""We estimated last summer that the impact of the crisis on Lebanon was $7.5 billion," Kim said late on Sunday in the Saudi city of Jeddah, which he visited in the first stop of a regional tour.
He said the conflict has had a "profound" impact on Lebanon and Jordan, which also hosts around 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Journalists from Egypt, Tunisia and Syria win the 2014 Samir Kassir Award
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The EU Special Representative for Human Rights Monday said the freedom of expression and freedom of the media were two essential prerequisites for active and engaged citizenry. "Without freedom of expression and freedom of the media, an informed, active and engaged citizenry is impossible," Stavros Lambrinidis said during the annual ceremony for the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press in Beirut. Lambrinidis highlighted how freedom of expression online and offline was essential for the fulfilment and enjoyment of a wide range of other human rights, including freedom of association and assembly, freedom of thought, religion or belief, the right to education, the right to take part in cultural life, the right to vote and all other political rights related to participation in public affairs. The Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press is granted by the European Union, and rewards journalists who have distinguished themselves through the quality of their work and their commitment to human rights and democracy. Organised every year since 2006, the Samir Kassir Award honours the memory of Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir who was assassinated on 2 June 2005 in Beirut. As in previous years, an independent jury selected the winners. It comprised seven personalities from Europe and the Middle East. The award ceremony was hosted by Mona Wehbi, journalist at Al-Hurra TV. The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, underlined that "the yearly edition of this unique award is a tangible proof of the EU's unwavering support to freedom of expression as a key element of deep democracy.""Journalists pay a high price to expose abuses and raise awareness about violations of fundamental rights,” Eichhorst continued. “Rewarding excellence in journalism needs to be distinguished because our ability to act as informed citizens of the world also depends on media that can work freely and safely."
The three winners of the 2014 edition, each of whom received awards worth €10 000, included print journalists Hanene Zbiss from Tunisia and Mohamed Abo El-Ghit from Egypt and Syrian journalist and filmmaker Orwa Mokdad. El-Ghit published his article “Season of the living dead” in renowned Egyptian Al-Shorouk newspaper on January 3, 2014. In his article, El-Ghit described the violent clashes that opposed, before the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. “He deplores the "herd" mentality that pushed people from both sides to resort to the worst levels of violence,” according to a statement issued by the EU delegation. As for Hanene Zbiss, she published her investigative report “Quranic kindergartens in Tunisia” in the magazine “Réalités” (Realities) on October 10, 2013. Her article describes how Tunisia has witnessed, since the January 2011 uprising, the proliferation of so-called “Quranic kindergartens,” established by religious associations.Syrian journalist and film maker Orwa Mokdad won an award for his audiovisual report titled "Syrian Music." Mokdad’s work depicts how the Syrian war affected young Syrian singers and musicians living in Beirut and their struggle to combat violence through art.

Ayatollah calls for better relations with Arab Gulf states
Associated Press/06.02.14/ Israel News
Comments come during state visit by Kuwaiti Emir to Tehran; Both sides hope to increase trade profits.

TEHRAN - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for better ties with Gulf Arab nations during a rare visit Monday by the Kuwaiti emir, intensifying a push by Tehran to mend relations with the US-allied countries on the other side of the Persian Gulf. Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah's two-day trip, which began Sunday, follows visits by Iran's foreign minister to his oil-rich nation and other Gulf Arab states in recent months. Moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to improve relations with Arab countries after he came to power in August. Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia and its smaller Gulf neighbors long have been wary of Tehran's influence in the region, and like their Western allies are concerned that the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions could lead to the development of atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear program has only peaceful aims.
Relations between Shiite powerhouse Iran and the Gulf states have been further strained by the civil war in Syria. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states have thrown their support behind the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad's government, which is supported by Tehran. Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, sounded a conciliatory note on the second day of the Kuwaiti leader's visit. Iranian state TV quoted him as saying that regional security "depends on good relations among all countries of the region," and that differences between them will only benefit their common enemies. He expressed hope for "a new chapter" of economic relations between Iran and Kuwait. Trade between the two stands at about $220 million, according to state television.
It was Sheik Sabah's first trip to Iran since he became emir of Kuwait, which has a sizable Shiite minority, in 2006. Kuwait's first deputy premier and foreign minister, Sheik Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, described earlier talks between the emir and Rouhani as "constructive" and said it was important for countries in the region to have normal relations with Iran, according to the official Kuwait News Agency.
The emir is the second Gulf leader to visit Iran since Rouhani's election last summer. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of Oman - which has long sought to balance relations with both Iran and the West - visited in August. Rouhani reciprocated the gesture earlier this year. Iranian officials have invited other Arab leaders to visit as well. Saudi Arabia last month extended an offer for Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit the kingdom, though no trip has been confirmed.

UN probe of Iran nuke program may slow Iran talks
Ynetnews / 06.02.14/Associated Press/IAEA chief says investigation into suspected atomic weapons program could stretch past the July 20 deadline for comprehensive agreement with West.
The head of the UN nuclear agency suggested Monday that a probe of suspected atomic arms work by Iran may stretch into next year – which would push Tehran's overall nuclear agreement with world powers long past the July 20 target date. The International Atomic Energy Agency investigation is formally separate from six-power talks with Iran that are meant to build on a first step-accord struck late last year and focus on substantially trimming Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for full sanctions relief. The US and its western allies at the negotiating table insist that Iran and the IAEA must wrap up the investigation as part of the overall nuclear agreement that Iran and the powers want to finalize by July 20. On Monday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told reporters he doesn't believe either side expects his agency to conclude its probe by then – raising new doubts about the deadline. He could not say if the investigation would finish by year's end. Speaking to the 35-nation IAEA board, Amano said Iran is cooperating "substantively" with the probe, but it is too early to make an overall judgment. After years of deadlock, Iran recently submitted documents to the IAEA for the first time, to back its claim that its tests with a special kind of detonator were meant only for civilian purposes. Iran denies any interest in nuclear arms. But agency officials say they have other documentation indicating that those experiments were linked to research on setting off a nuclear charge. The detonator suspicions are only a small part of a wide range of alleged nuclear weapons-related experiments that Amano – and the United States – want cleared up.The nuclear talks resume June 16. Hopes for meeting the target date already dimmed after major disagreements at the negotiating round last month prevented the two sides from starting to draft a pact as hoped. The talks can be extended by mutual agreement. But the US and Iranian governments are under huge domestic pressure to show progress – from both Iranian hardliners and US congressional critics.

US will continue to fund Fatah-Hamas government

Ynetnews/Yitzhak Benhorin/06.02.14/State Department spokeswoman says Obama administration will "evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly."
WASHINGTON – The US State Department announced Monday night that it planned to continue disbursing aid to Palestinians, after President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new unity government earlier in the day which incorporated Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that "based on what we know" President Barak Obama's administration intended to continue working with the Fatah-Hamas unity government. Psaki said that Abbas promised to commit to the terms of the Quartet, and that the US will "evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly." The Quartet, a joint initiative of the European Union, United Nations, Russia, and the United States, demands an end to violence and that the Palestinians recognize Israel and all agreements signed with the Jewish state.

Palestinian unity government moves forward while Israel and US equivocate

DEBKAfile Special Report June 2, 2014/US Secretary of State John Kerry stated after his Sunday night phone call to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) that the Obama administration would judge the Palestinian unity government, due to be sworn in Monday afternoon, June 2, by its deeds. Recognition would depend on the new regime recognizing Israel, upholding previously-signed Palestinian international undertakings and abstaining from terrorism and other violence. Abbas sidestepped those commitments by assuring the Secretary that the new Palestinian ministers were appointed by him and they would conform with his wishes and policies. Kerry must realize, after a year of being messed about in an abortive peace process, that Abu Mazen is a chameleon, apt to trot out different words and decisions as the moment takes him. But how to explain the acceptance of this sliding scale by the Secretary of State and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and their equivocations in the face of the most outrageous Palestinian pretences? debkafile offers three possible explanations for their meekness:

1. John Kerry has chosen to put a brave face on the crash of his Middle East initiatives in late April and carry on as though his efforts may yet bring Israel and the Palestinians together for a peace accord – even though it is clear to the region and even Washington that the process is dead.
2. Netanyahu Sunday issued a dramatic call to the world not to recognize the new Palestinian unity government. “Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction,” he said. “Such a government would not bolster peace but strengthen terror.” He added later that he couldn’t understand how when terrorism raised its head in Europe, in the form of the vile murders at the Brussels Jewish Museum, there were European leaders who had friendly words for the Palestinian terrorists, Hamas.
The same night, another Palestinian rocket landed on the Israeli side of the Gaza border.
Later, the prime minister was quoted as telling the security cabinet that he had been assured that Washington would not extend “immediate” recognition to the new Palestinian government.
This phrasing betrayed Netanyahu’s awareness that the Obama administration did not propose to put up a fight against dialogue with Hamas, notwithstanding its terrorist record.
Therefore, while condemning the Palestinian government of reconciliation and promising to cut off ties, the Israeli prime minister has not suspended the transfer of funds to Ramallah or abandoned cooperation with Palestinian security services.
And so, as Abu Mazen’s new government goes forward, Israel’s high rhetoric will lose its resonance.
3. debkafile’s Washington and Jerusalem sources report that Washington did inform Jerusalem that it stands by a written US commitment not to recognize or cooperate with a Palestinian regime which has a Hamas component. It was first given in May 2011 by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and endorsed by her successor John Kerry at the outset of Israel-Palestinian peace talks last year.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu can’t avoid seeing that the Obama administration is looking for a way to wriggle out of this pledge.
Hamas too, had to grapple with Abu Mazen’s prevarications. It did so by staging a crisis every few hours up to the last minute before the final installment of the new government at 1 o’clock Monday.
The union, if it finally comes to be, will stand on shaky legs and be only skin deep.
Hamas has no intention of giving up its control of the Gaza Strip and subsuming its rule into the joint government, or of giving up its autonomous military arm, the Ezz e-Din Al-Qassam.
Even Palestinian daydreamers can’t imagine Hamas and Fatah agreeing on conditions for holding free elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for a new parliament and president to succeed Abbas.
Therefore, John Kerry, Binyamin Netanyahu, Abu Mazen and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are all playing along with a political game, although even play-acting may have consequences when politicians are on the stage.
One is the postponement of the agonizing decisions the Israeli and Palestinian leaders would have been compelled to make for a peace accord. But the big winner is Hamas - which is why it is willing to put up with a lot – although it dug in its feet at the last moment over the office of Palestinian prisoners and demanded that all Palestinian security agencies declare war on “the Zionists.”
By its reconciliation with Abbas’ Fatah, this extremist Islamic group gains respect in Tehran and Moscow, after losing its allies in Damascus and Cairo, as well qualifying for international legitimacy without compromising its basic tenets and practices.

Palestinian unity government sworn in at Ramallah ceremony

History in Ramallah as Palestinian unity government overcomes last minute threat from Hamas over key issue of Palestinian ministry of prisoner affairs.
Elior Levy/Ynetnews/06.02.14/The Palestinian unity government has been sworn in at the PLO headquarters in Ramallah, with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas present at the event. The brief ceremony at Abbas' West Bank headquarters was preceded by last-minute haggling over the makeup of the 17-member Cabinet of technocrats, signaling the continued tensions between the long-time rivals.
Hamas' threatened Monday to backtrack from its commitment to form a unity government with Abbas' Fatah because of the latter's move to dissolve the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. The group called the idea a "stab in the back" of Palestinian prisoners. However, the government actualized after an agreement regarding the ministry was reached, according to which the ministry's responsibilities would pass to Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah until a final solution to the issue will be found. Abbas spoke at the event, and said it "marked an end to Palestinian division." Hamas in Gaza welcomed the coalition government of "all Palestinians". Hamas's exiting prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the event was a "historical day which we forged together for the sake of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause." Haniyeh further said that "today there is an army in the figure of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas' military wing). We are leaving the government, but the resistance is in excellent shape and can deter and protect that the Palestinian people." Haniyeh also praised the Palestinian prisoners hunger striking in Israel. During the new government's first meeting, which was chaired by Abbas, the president said that the government is committed to the two-state solution along the 1967 border lines, recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and respecting past agreements.
"We are committed to what we said. Cooperation with Israel regarding security matters will continue so as to preserve the Palestinian interest," Abbas said.
Hamdallah will continue to serve as prime minsiter and Riyad al-Maliki will remain the minister of foreign affairs. Adnan al-Husseini was appointed minister of Jerusalem affairs, Yusef Idees as minister of endowments and religious affairs, Nayef Khalaf will be minister of local governance, Salim al-Saqqa minister of justice, Khawla al-Shakhsheer minister of education and higher education, Rula Maaya as minister of tourism. Muhammad Mustafa will retain his position as deputy prime minister for economic affairs, and Shukri Bishara will stay on as minister of finance, Ma'an reported. Moments before the start of the swearing-in ceremony, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayeh said the dispute was resolved and Hamas' TV station, al-Aqsa, carried the ceremony live. Before the ceremony, Hamas' Gaza spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said that any unilateral move on part of Fatah to ratify the government would devoid it of legitimacy.
According to the spokesperson, Hamas has taken issue with Abbas' plan to dissolve the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs in favor of forming a prisoner affair administration that would be under the PLO's control. The prisoners' minister deals with Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Palestinians view the detainees as freedom fighters while Israel denounces them as terrorists.
"No, and a thousand times no. How could we possibly abandon those who have spent most of their life (in prison) for the sake of God?" Hamas Interior Minister Fathy Hammad told a gathering in Gaza that had been expected to celebrate the new government.
Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya took things one step further and told Palestinian news agency Ma'an that Hamas would not join a unity government which does not include such a ministry.
Dissolving prisoner affairs ministry is a "stab in the back of hunger striking Palestinian prisoners," he added. "We have made concessions in all stages and we agreed that the premier of the unity government be affiliated to Fatah, and we agreed that some of the ministers be affiliated to Fatah and the left wing Palestinian factions. However, some sides misunderstood our lenience and flexibility."
However, senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said that the unity government would be announced and sworn-in at 1 pm, as scheduled, regardless of Hamas' threats, Ma'an reported.
"Those who want to join the government are welcome, and those who want to evade and thus put obstacles in the way just as Israel does, let them take responsibility for their behavior," al-Ahmad told the Gaza-based al-Quds radio station, Ma'an reported. When asked by the Palestinian news agency to comment on Hamas' decision not to join a government which does include a prisoners' minister, the Fatah official said he "no longer knows who to converse with within Hamas." He further stress that the PLO has been nothing but committed to the causing of Palestinian prisoners, citing the last round of now defunct peace talks which he claimed Abbas ended after Israel refused to free a group of Palestinian prisoners. Over the past seven years, repeated reconciliation attempts have failed, with neither side willing to make significant concessions, even though the split is unpopular among Palestinians. But both Palestinian factions now have incentives to repair ties. Hamas is in the midst of a major financial crisis due to a border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, while Abbas is in need of a political accomplishment following the collapse of peace talks with Israel in late April.
Roi Kais, Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

Israel hits back after fire from Gaza, Syria
June 02, 2014/Agence France Presse
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Rocket fire from Gaza and Syria hit Israel early Monday in two separate incidents that prompted the Israeli military to hit back, just hours before the swearing in of a new Palestinian government. The exchanges of fire took place as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to unveil a new government pieced together as part of a surprise April reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, that has been fiercely opposed by Israel. eli warplanes staged two bombing raids on targets in central and southern Gaza following rocket fire on southern Israel, a spokesman said. "After two rockets were fired at Israeli territory over the last two days, the Israeli airforce attacked two terrorist sites in central and southern Gaza," he said, noting the raids were successful. Since the start of the year, about 150 rockets have struck Israeli territory, but the border has been relatively calm for the past few weeks.
Meanwhile in the north, Israeli troops fired across the Syrian cease-fire line in the occupied Golan Heights after a projectile struck Israeli territory, the military said.
"Earlier this morning, a projectile fired from Syria exploded near an Israeli position on Mount Hermon," a military spokesman told AFP, saying troops had responded with artillery fire towards the area from which it came. Army radio said three mortar bombs had been fired from Syria, although only one had struck inside Israeli-held territory.
Israel, which is technically at war with Syria, seized 1,200-square-kilometer of the Golan Heights plateau during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of projectiles, mostly stray, hitting the Israeli side, prompting an occasional armed response.
The tension spiked just hours before the formal unveiling of the new Palestinian government at a ceremony at Abbas' Muqataa headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The new government, which will be headed by Rami Hamdallah - the current prime minister in the West Bank - will count a total of 17 ministers. Five of them, including Hamdallah, hail from Gaza.
Although the formal line-up has not yet been made public, it has been pieced together by Abbas's mainstream Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas movement.
Technocratic in nature, it will not have a political mandate but will be tasked with organizing elections within six months.
Israel has vowed to boycott the new government, with officials reportedly warning that after it is sworn in, they would hold Abbas directly responsible for any rocket fire emanating from Gaza.

Russian hypocrisy
June 02, 2014/The Daily Star
Senior Russian officials have recently seen no problem in engaging in the most blatant kind of double standard when discussing developments in Ukraine and Syria. In statement after statement, top Russian officials have provided a new definition of hypocrisy. They have stood firmly behind President Bashar Assad as he goes ahead with holding a presidential election while overseeing a horrific crackdown against his opponents, suffering from a conflict that has now killed more than 160,000 people. However, the same Russian officials have been up in arms because the authorities in Ukraine, meanwhile, have held elections as they carry out an anti-separatist crackdown that has killed dozens. President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of the fact that he is trying to restore superpower status to his country, and he has rewarded the Assad regime with military assistance, financial backing and multiple vetoes in the Security Council throughout the uprising. While the hesitation and weakness of the United States might be responsible for encouraging Putin, people in this part of the world should also note that he has agreed with Israel to upgrade bilateral ties – one form of this stepped-up cooperation is by establishing a “hotline” between their two capitals. Russia’s behavior on Syria is about cold, naked geopolitics, and not any special attachment to the leaders there, and certainly not the people. The deaths of 160,000 Syrians and the displacement of millions more present no obstacle for Putin. But if a change in policy is required, one can be sure that Russian interests – and not Syrian ones – will win out, irrespective of the hypocrisy we have seen until now.

Two presidents later, Egypt gets Sisi
Monday, 2 June 2014/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
No Egyptian president assumed the post without confronting several problems. Gamal Abdel Nasser had to eliminate his partner Mohammad Najib in order to become president. Anwar al-Sadat fought off a battalion of suspicious men and conspirators, and he only assumed governance after a difficult and vast purging campaign. After Sadat was killed by conspirators from among his own forces, Hosni Mubarak left a trail of death and blood on his way to the palace to perform his oath.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will assume the presidential post while being aware that the current era is more difficult than any era confronted by any previous president.
Sisi is in control of a country with a former government that was on the brink of collapse, a country that is drowning in its economic crises. Egypt will confront the challenge of terrorism, which will keep the state busy for years. Several organizations, supported by domestic and foreign parties aiming to topple the government, are involved in this terrorism.
Sisi will also confront the Muslim Brotherhood which will spare no efforts to see him fail.
His tasks will be difficult and they will be bigger than anything Egypt previously confronted; from maintaining security, to confronting the Brotherhood’s incitement, to improving citizens’ livelihood, to providing jobs and healthcare and to restoring Egypt’s regional political role.
Mubarak was toppled during the January 25 revolution while the country was in chaos. What protected the country from collapsing was the presence of renowned institutions like the army. These institutions prevented the situation from escalating into the likes of situations seen in Syria, Libya and Iraq. After Mohammad Mursi was toppled on July 3, 2013, Egypt once again was on the verge of collapse. Governance is currently Sisi’s responsibility. The situation is more difficult than before, and we don’t yet know the capabilities of the upcoming cabinet.
Mursi’s broken promises
After he was elected, Mursi set a standard of governance. He pledged to fulfill 64 promises - including those linked to security, bread, fuel and cleanliness - in 100 days. However, he failed to acheive anything even after 300 days in power! His rosy promises made people angrier and pushed them to strike and block roads. The country was heading towards chaos, and perhaps collapse. Mursi was a mere front for Muslim Brotherhood guide Khairat al-Shater and his extremist group. They were all occupied with political battles against their rivals and they sought to eliminate them via the media, judiciary and police.
The Brotherhood are experts at creating chaos. Chaos itself is one of the reasons they failed to govern the country
When it comes to the current era in Egyptian politics, the situation of President-elect Sisi is not any better in terms of people’s expectations. People expect him to improve their living conditions. This means that he won’t let the Brotherhood and other extremists distract him by entangling him in political struggles and thus exhausting the state.
Creating chaos
The Brotherhood are experts at creating chaos. Chaos itself is one of the reasons they failed to govern the country when they got a chance. They spent an entire year of governance engaged in political struggles.
We must not forget that President Sisi is the heir of two regimes melded together - that of Mubarak and that of Mursi. During Mubarak’s era, the future was unknown. Meanwhile, the beginning of Mursi’s era in power was frightening because Mursi was heading towards a form of fascist, exclusionary rule.
Egypt must succeed because its success serves everyone. Egypt is the center. It is either a center of stability or a center of chaos. It either brings security to the entire region or becomes a source of regional problems. There are huge capabilities that can help restore the country’s former status if the new ruler succeeds at employing them and achieving the aspired-to miracle. There is a chance thanks to the presence of Arab and international support, and I don’t mean financial support. There is a real international desire for Egypt to succeed politically. This will not be possible unless President Sisi manages to foster the conviction that a government with staying power has been established after everybody’s participation and to everyone’s satisfaction.
Having faith in the government can create an atmosphere conducive to positive change.
*This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 2, 2014.