March 31/14

Bible Quotation for today/Casting Out the Unclean Spirits

Mark 5,1-20/"They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed".

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 31/14

War Across the Borders/By: Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media/ March 31/14

Question: How was the flood in the time of Noah just/ March 31/14

Expectations were too high for Obama's Saudi visit/Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya/ March 31/14

Halt Arab League summits until we see real change/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/ March 31/14

Hamas and the Culture of Death/By: Amal Mousa/Asharq Al Awsat/March 31/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 31/14
Lebanese Related News

Geagea: Hizbullah Not Ready for Dialogue, I'll Vote for Aoun if He Withdraws Hizbullah from Syria
Suleiman, Hizbullah Rift Threatens Resumption of National Dialogue

Hizbullah Tells Baabda It Won't Attend Monday Dialogue Session

Sleiman says National Dialogue must go on

Suleiman Hopes Parties Boycotting Monday's All-Party Talks Would Attend Upcoming Sessions

Nasrallah: We don't want war with Israel but resistance the only option

Army defuses improvised bomb in Tripoli
Syrian woman, child killed at Army checkpoint in Arsal

Ibrahim says kidnapped bishops’ case ‘complicated’

Drug smuggling foiled at Beirut airport
Equal opportunity employers in Lebanon? Dream on
'Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade' Publishes Picture of Arsal 'Suicide Bomber'

Airport Security Seize Captagon with Syrian Passenger

Al-Rahi Voices Sorrow over Attack against Army, Calls on State to Fasten Grip on Security

Interior Minister Condemns Arsal Suicide Attack, Considers it "Terrorist Act"

Hezbollah, Salam denounce Arsal car bombing

Report: Berri's Presidential Elections Committee Violates Constitution

More Syrians Flee War-Torn Syria to Lebanon amid State's Failure to Deal with Crisis

Woman, Child Killed for Failing to Stop Vehicle at Arsal Checkpoint

Refaat and Ali Eid Leave Lebanon to Syria

Lebanese Woman Beaten Up by Husband, Denied Hospital Care

Miscellaneous Reports And News'

Syrian rebels allowed to attack Latakia from Turkish soil under Turkish air cover. Iran raises Cain in Ankara
UN's human rights monitor is a Mossad spy, Iran alleges
Six killed in Turkey as rival factions battle in municipal elections
Netanyahu: No deal to release prisoners without clear benefit for Israel
Netanyahu: UNHRC continues its 'march of hypocrisy' against Israel

Egypt Presidential Election Set for May 26, 27

496 Dead in Egypt 'Terror' Attacks since Morsi's Ouster, Two New Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Sentenced to Death

Turkey's Embattled PM Faces Key Test in Local Polls 


Geagea: Hizbullah Not Ready for Dialogue, I'll Vote for Aoun if He Withdraws Hizbullah from Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announced Sunday that the LF will boycott Monday's national dialogue session because “Hizbullah is not ready for dialogue,” noting that he is willing to vote for Free Patriotic Movement chief Michel Aoun in the presidential election if he pledges to withdraw Hizbullah's fighters from Syria.“We did not attend the 2012 dialogue sessions because we knew that Hizbullah was not serious about dialogue and that it would've been a waste of time ... In the past, the president used to be a mere moderator of dialogue, but today the president is practicing his constitutional powers and he has his say in things,” Geagea said in an interview on al-Jadeed television. In response to a question, Geagea stressed that President Michel Suleiman is neither in the March 8 camp nor in the March 14 coalition. And as he announced that the LF will boycott Monday's all-party talks, Geagea saluted Suleiman and pointed out that his party's stance was not related to the president but rather to Hizbullah's policies.
“I don't have a one percent hope that this dialogue could lead to results, regardless of our stance regarding the president,” said Geagea. “At the moment, dialogue will not lead to any result and we heard (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed Hassan (Nasrallah) yesterday telling us, 'let no one think of the issue of arms,'” Geagea added. “He is still stuck at the army-people-resistance formula,” he went on to say.
Turning to the issue of his nomination for the presidency, Geagea said: “There's no doubt that several difficulties prevent me from reaching the Baabda Palace but what prompted me to nominate myself are the incidents that occurred in the country over the past two years." "Nominating yourself for the presidency is not a joke or a small decision, but I fully believe that we need a qualitative leap and drastic solutions. Only the state and the statesmen can rid us of the problems," the LF leader emphasized. Asked about former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's stance over his nomination, Geagea said: “Hariri is silent over my decision to nominate myself because he is awaiting the right moment.” “Everyone in March 14 hopes to see a March 14 figure being elected as president,” he underlined. “The main reason behind my nomination is that I saw the ship sinking and we need a drastic solution,” said Geagea. “I enjoy Christian and national representation and I see myself capable of addressing all issues,” he stated. Asked whether he opposes Aoun's possible election as president, Geagea said: “If Michel Aoun says that he is with Hizbullah's withdrawal from Syria, I will be the first to vote for him.” “Let Hizbullah say that it will withdraw from Syria and hand over its arms to the state once General Aoun is elected as president and I will seek to secure General Aoun's election as president,” added Geagea. Commenting on Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh's nomination, Geagea said: “If MP Suleiman Franjieh manages to be elected as president without 'black or green shirts' and in a fully democratic manner, I will be the first to congratulate him.”He was referring to the famous "black shirts" show of force, when black-clad unarmed members of Hizbullah roamed Beirut streets, in what was perceived as a message to MP Walid Jumblat aimed at dissuading him from voting for ex-PM Hariri for the premiership after the collapse of his coalition government. “The student and syndical elections are indicative of our real representation of the majority of Christians,” Geagea noted, announcing that he does not support the election of a “consensual president.”
“Electing a consensual president means that the crisis will be prolonged for years to come and it means consensus between two camps that are the total opposite of each other,” he said.
“A consensual president means that Christians won't be represented in the presidency ... Suleiman was not the leader of a major Christian party and he came from a military background,” Geagea pointed out.
Responding to Nasrallah's remarks that resistance against Israel had never enjoyed consensus in Lebanon, Geagea said: “Had it not been for the consensus of the Lebanese since the 1990s over the resistance, Hizbullah would not have been able to liberate the South.” In addition to Hizbullah and the LF, Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh, Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan and Syrian Social National Party leader MP Asaad Hardan have officially announced their boycott of Monday's all-party talks in Baabda. Earlier on Sunday, Suleiman expressed regret over the decision by several parties not to attend the all-party talks.
“I hope that the parties that decided to boycott the National Dialogue would participate in upcoming sessions,” Suleiman said. “Let us continue discussions on the defense strategy to fortify the army's capabilities and put arms under the state's control,” he added. Suleiman also lauded the Baabda Declaration, saying: “It was adopted by the International community.”Sources close to Suleiman told An Nahar newspaper in remarks published Sunday that “any decision to postpone the national dialogue session will be based on the stances of the parties.”The rift increased recently between Suleiman and Hizbullah after the president described the so-called people-army-resistance formula as "wooden", or outdated, during a speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) in February. Suleiman's comments angered Hizbullah, which accused him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden."Nasrallah lashed out anew at Suleiman in a televised speech on Saturday without naming him. “What is golden remains golden, even if someone changes their opinion about it and said it became wooden … Others' description of things does not change the reality of these things,” said Nasrallah. “We insist more than any other group on holding the presidential elections at the earliest possible time; we even call for an early vote to establish a new phase, resume dialogue over a defense strategy and get the country out of its problems,” he added.


Hizbullah Tells Baabda It Won't Attend Monday Dialogue Session
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/Hizbullah officially announced Sunday its boycott of a national dialogue session scheduled for Monday, after party chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hinted Saturday that the group's representative was inclined to shun the all-party talks. “We have informed officials at the presidential palace in Baabda that the party has decided not to take part in tomorrow's session,” head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad told al-Manar TV. In addition to Hizbullah, several political forces from across the political spectrum have announced their boycott of Monday's session. The Lebanese Forces, the Marada Movement, the Lebanese Democratic Party and the Syrian Social National Party have said they will not attend the talks. Earlier on Sunday, Suleiman expressed regret over the decision by several parties not to attend the all-party talks.“I hope that the parties that decided to boycott the National Dialogue would participate in upcoming sessions,” Suleiman said. “Let us continue discussions on the defense strategy to fortify the army's capabilities and put arms under the state's control,” he added. Suleiman also lauded the Baabda Declaration, saying: “It was adopted by the International community.”Sources close to Suleiman told An Nahar newspaper in remarks published Sunday that “any decision to postpone the national dialogue session will be based on the stances of the parties.”The rift increased recently between Suleiman and Hizbullah after the president described the so-called people-army-resistance formula as "wooden", or outdated, during a speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) in February. Suleiman's comments angered Hizbullah, which accused him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden."Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lashed out anew at Suleiman in a televised speech on Saturday without naming him, hinting that the party was inclined to boycott the dialogue session. “What is golden remains golden, even if someone changes their opinion about it and said it became wooden … Others' description of things does not change the reality of these things,” said Nasrallah. “We insist more than any other group on holding the presidential elections at the earliest possible time; we even call for an early vote to establish a new phase, resume dialogue over a defense strategy and get the country out of its problems,” he added

Suleiman, Hizbullah Rift Threatens Resumption of National Dialogue
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman is holding on to his call for the political arch-foes to resume the national dialogue despite Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's hints that the party could boycott the session. Sources close to Suleiman told An Nahar newspaper published on Sunday that the president insists on resuming the all-party talks, pointing out that there is still time to inquire the stances of all parties before taking any decision to postpone it. “Any decision to postpone the national dialogue session is based on the stances of the parties,” the sources noted. The newspaper reported that contacts intensified between Baabda and Ain el-Tineh over the matter. It said that Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Tammam Salam are exerting efforts to deter Hizbullah from boycotting the session. The rift increased recently between the President and Hizbullah after Suleiman described the people-army-resistance formula as "wooden" during a speech at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) in February. Suleiman's comments had angered Hizbullah, accusing him of not being able to differentiate between “what's golden and what's wooden." Nasrallah lashed out at Suleiman in a televised speech on Saturday. He remarked that the president's comments on the equation will be reflected in Hizbullah's stance from participating in the national dialogue sessions, preferring instead to launch talks after the presidential vote. Informed political sources told An Nahar that Hizbullah's stance blocks the road to any possible breakthrough between the party and Suleiman. Concerning the stances of the March 14 alliance, sources close to the Lebanese Forces told An Nahar daily that the party decided not to attend the all-party talks. However, al-Mustaqbal movement sources said that the party will attend. The presidency issued earlier this month invitations to the concerned political parties to resume the national dialogue on March 31. The rival political leaders are expected to focus on the state's defense strategy, which will become a roadmap to resolve the remaining point of contentions. The last dialogue session was held on September 20, 2012. In August, Speaker Nabih Berri suggested holding a five-day dialogue retreat to discuss pending issues in the country. Later on Sunday, Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan announced that the party will boycott Monday's National Dialogue session.

Al-Rahi Voices Sorrow over Attack against Army, Calls on State to Fasten Grip on Security
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi expressed deep grief on Sunday over suicide attack that targeted an army checkpoint in the eastern border town of Arsal, calling on the state to put an end to impunity for the offenders. “We are saddened by the assault against the people of the (northern city of) Tripoli and the Lebanese army in the Bekaa,” al-Rahi said during his sermon at Our Lady of Lebanon basilica in Harissa. He lamented the attacks against the army and security forces “carried out by groups that don't believe in humanity,” expressing regret over the political cover up for them. On Saturday evening, three Lebanese soldiers were killed and four others wounded following a suicide attack near a military checkpoint in the area of Wadi Ata in Arsal. An explosive-rigged vehicle exploded as it drove past a recently erected military checkpoint in the area. The "Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade” claimed the suicide explosion, considering it a retaliation to the killing of fugitive Sami Ahmed al-Atrash. Al-Rahi urged the Lebanese government to fasten its grip on the security plan that was established by the Higher Defense Council to detain criminals and those who support them. The cabinet approved on Thursday the recommendations of the Higher Defense Council on a security plan in Tripoli and Bekaa valley's northern areas. Tripoli witnesses frequent gunbattles between two of the city's impoverished rival neighborhoods, one dominated by Sunnis who support Syrian rebels, and the other by Alawites, who are from the same sect of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Clashes in Tripoli have left scores of casualties over the past days alone. Border areas also come under rocket attacks and shelling from Syria and have witnessed abductions in return for ransom and other security incidents.

Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade' Publishes Picture of Arsal 'Suicide Bomber'
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/The so-called Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade on Sunday published a picture of a man it identified as Abdul Qader Taan, describing him as the suicide bomber who blew up Saturday an army checkpoint in Arsal's outskirts. “This is the picture of the martyr hero Abdul Qader Taan, who blew up the 'Crusader army' in Arsal,” reads the caption of the photograph that was published on the group's Twitter account. The shadowy Brigade did not mention the man's nationality or age. The group had claimed responsibility for the deadly attack overnight Saturday, saying it was in retaliation to the army's killing of the fugitive Sami al-Atrash during a raid in Arsal. On Saturday evening, three Lebanese soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a suicide attack on a military checkpoint in the area of Wadi Ata in Arsal. The fugitive al-Atrash died in hospital on Thursday after he was critically wounded in an exchange of gunfire with an army patrol that raided his house in Arsal. An army statement said al-Atrash “was wanted on charges of preparing bomb-laden cars; firing rockets and mortars at Lebanese villages and towns; kidnapping citizens; taking part in killing four citizens in Arsal's Wadi Rafeq and several soldiers in Arsal's Wadi Hmayyed; and plotting to assassinate an officer with an explosive device.”

Interior Minister Condemns Arsal Suicide Attack, Considers it "Terrorist Act"
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq denounced on Sunday a suicide car bomb attack on a military post in the border town of Arsal. “The attack against the army in Wadi Ata region in (eastern border town of) Arsal is a criminal terrorist act that will not prevent us from implementing the security plan that the cabinet established,” Mashnouq said in a statement issued by his press office. He pointed out that the “terrorist act targets the army and as well the Lebanese people and the state's entity.”The minister offered his condolences to the families of the victims, stressing that the army will carry out its tasks in cooperation with the Internal Security forces to safeguard the land and the people. “We will confront security violators regardless of their religion or political affiliations,” Mashnouq added. On Saturday evening, three Lebanese soldiers were killed and four others wounded following a suicide attack near a military checkpoint in the area of Wadi Ata in Arsal. An explosive-rigged vehicle exploded as it drove past a recently erected military checkpoint in the area. The "Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade” claimed the suicide explosion, considering it a retaliation to the killing of fugitive Sami Ahmed al-Atrash. “As long as Sunnis are targeted in Lebanon, be sure that we will respond to any attack,” the Brigade said on its account on the social media website Twitter. The fugitive al-Atrash died in hospital on Thursday after he was critically wounded in an exchange of gunfire with an army patrol that raided his house in the Bekaa border town of Arsal. The name of al-Atrash had been mentioned for the first time in media reports claiming that he collaborated with Sameh Breidi in preparing the first car bomb that exploded in the Beirut southern suburb of Bir al-Abed, a Hizbullah stronghold.

Report: Berri's Presidential Elections Committee Violates Constitution
Naharnet Newsdesk 30 March 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri's presidential elections committee violates the constitution and aims at closing the doors of the parliament in order to delay the presidential polls, the Saudi Okaz newspaper reported on Sunday. A political source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the daily that the three-member committee is to cover-up for Berri's attempt not to call for a session to elect a new president. “The committee and its endeavors is illegal,” the source said. The committee is comprised of Development and Liberation bloc lawmakers, including Ali Osseiran, Michel Moussa and Yassine Jaber. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May but the Constitution states that the parliament should start meeting March 25 to elect a new head of state. The committee's mission is to seek the opinion of the different parties on the polls, including the qualities of the president they'd like to see at Baabda Palace.

Refaat and Ali Eid Leave Lebanon to Syria
Naharnet Newsdesk 29 March 2014/Arab Democratic Party leader Ali Eid left Lebanon to Syria on Saturday, accompanied by his son, the party's politburo chief Rifaat Eid. “Ali Eid left Lebanon,” al-Jadeed television said, without providing any additional details. "Ali Eid has left Lebanon and is now in Syria,” MTV reported, quoting a security official. It added: “Refaat Eid left (the northern neighbourhood of) Jabal Mohsen at night and probably took illegal routes to cross into Syria.” According to the same source, Refaat Eid will travel from Syria to the United States.  In a related matter, radio Voice of Lebanon (100.5) reported late in the evening that general security forces arrested at a checkpoint in the northern city of Tripoli Lebanese national Suleiman Ali Saeed, nicknamed al-Abashi, who has several arrest warrants against him. Saeed is the leader of the “al-Masharef” fighting frontier in Jabal Mohsen. The cabinet had approved on Thursday a security plan for Tripoli and areas bordering Syria. The plan took into consideration the recommendations of the Higher Defense Council on a security plan in Tripoli and Bekaa valley's northern areas. The government tasked the army and security forces with seizing arms depots in the northern city, and taking all measures to arrest suspects involved in the fighting, in addition to kidnappers and assailants involved in car theft in the Bekaa. And on Wednesday, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr ordered convicting 21 people in the case of the double blast that targeted two mosques in Tripoli last summer. Among the convicted were Ali Eid and the head of the pro-Syria Islamic Tawhid Movement-Command Council, Sheikh Hashem Minkara.

Drug smuggling foiled at Beirut airport
March 30, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Authorities at Beirut airport foiled an attempt to smuggle 5.72 kilograms of Captagon tablets to an Arab country, a police statement said Sunday. The statement said the operation took place on Saturday. It said narcotic pills, packed in plastic bags, were found hidden in the bottom of the suitcase of a 28-year-old Syrian man, identified only by his initials, S.A. The statement said the man had planned to smuggle the drugs to an Arab country, but did not specify. The Syrian suspect was referred to the Central Anti-Drug office in Beirut for further investigation, the statement added.


Army defuses improvised bomb in Tripoli
March 30, 2014/The Daily Star/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army defused Sunday a gas canister filled with explosives in the northern city of Tripoli, security sources told The Daily Star. The canister, estimated to be rigged with around 15 kilograms of explosives, was found near an Army post in Tripoli’s Mitain Street, the sources said. The canister looked suspicious because it had a timer attached to its top, they added. A military expert was able to defuse the canister after soldieres cordoned off the area. The incident coincides with the implimentation of a security plan aimed at restoring security in the city plagued by recurring clashes linked to the Syrian crisis.


Syrian woman, child killed at Army checkpoint in Arsal
March 30, 2014/ARSAL, Lebanon: A Syrian woman and her child were killed at an Army checkpoint on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal Saturday night after the driver of the pickup truck they were riding in disregarded the soldiers' orders for him to stop, security sources told The Daily Star. Soldiers opened fire on the vehicle, killing the woman and child and wounding the driver in the leg, the sources said, adding he was transferred to a local hospital for treatment. The incident came few hours after three soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a suicide bombing that targeted an Army checkpoint in the Wadi Ata area in Arsal.
The Army has been on high alert at all checkpoints since the bombing, the sources said.


Ibrahim says kidnapped bishops’ case ‘complicated’
March 30, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The case of the bishops kidnapped in Syria for almost a year is complicated, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of Lebanon’s General Security, said in comments published Sunday, adding, however, that efforts to release them are "on the right track." “The case of the two abducted bishops in Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, is more complicated than the case of the Maaloula nuns, but it is on the right track,” Abbas told the Al-Raya Qatari newspaper. “I would rather keep the information out of the public so as not to spoil the efforts being exerted in that regard, but I assure [the public] that all efforts are being exerted to resolve this humanitarian case,” he said. Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Paul Yazigi, and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted on April 23, 2013 by gunmen while returning to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border. Ibrahim also praised the role played by Qatar in the release of the Lebanese pilgrims, who were held in Syria's Aazaz, and a group of nuns abducted from the Syrian town of Maaloula. Ibrahim, who helped secure the release of the Maaloula nuns earlier this month, as well as the Lebanese hostages last year, has also been following up on the case of the bishops.

Sleiman says National Dialogue must go on
March 30, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Sunday the National Dialogue must go on, expressing regret that some parties have decided not to participate following hints from Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah that his party may also boycott the Dialogue. “We must complete the discussion of a defense strategy that can protect us from the Israeli threat ... and from the threat of rampant arms and terrorism, which has claimed the lives of young people who do not appreciate the value of life granted to them by God,” Sleiman said in a speech during the launch of the First Alphabet Poetry Festival in Jbeil.
“We raise this subject on the eve of the National Dialogue that we called for in Baabda Palace to restore the Army's exclusive authority over arms, which can enhance [the military’s] capacity in fighting terrorism,” Sleiman said.
“We regret the decision by some of the [National Dialogue] Committee members not to attend,” the president added. Sleiman’s speech comes one day before the first scheduled Dialogue session since 2012, amidst mounting opposition from some corners. The Lebanese Forces have and the Lebanese Democratic Party have both indicated they will not take part. On Saturday, Nasrallah, whose party has been at odds with the president over its role in Syria, called for an early presidential election “so that we can launch a new phase in Lebanon." "Then we can join [National] Dialogue [sessions] and discuss a national defense strategy and mutual cooperation," Nasrallah said. Sleiman's six-year term ends on May 25, but the constitutional two-month period for Parliament to elect a new head of state started earlier this week. The Hezbollah leader said he would not announce the party’s stance with regard to the National Dialogue sessions, but assured that “this atmosphere [of attacks on the resistance] will certainly affect our decision.” The last Dialogue session was held in September 2012, during which Sleiman proposed a national defense strategy that would allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons but under the command of the Lebanese Army, which would enjoy a monopoly on the use of force. For his part, MP Fadi Karam, from the Lebanese Forces, confirmed Sunday that his party would not attend the Dialogue session, describing it as “a waste of time.” “The stance of the Lebanese Forces not to take part in Dialogue is still the same,” Karam told the voice of Lebanon radio station. “The right conditions for Dialogue are nonexistent and it is a waste of time." Lebanese Democratic Party leader Talal Arslan also announced that his party will boycott Monday's National Dialogue session.

Hezbollah, Salam denounce Arsal car bombing
March 30, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Mininster Tammam Salam and Hezbollah condemned the deadly suicide car bombing that targeted a military post in northeast Lebanon over the weekend, with both labeling the attack a “terrorist act.”Hezbollah condemned the blast in a statement late Saturday, describing it as a “criminal terrorist explosion.”“A new crime has been added to the takfiri terrorist [groups] growing record with the targeting of a military checkpoint in Arsal,” the statement said. “ Hezbollah denounces this crime, which targeted the Army, and considers such crimes an attack on all Lebanese and the nation as a whole,” the statement said. A car exploded as it drove past a recently erected military checkpoint on the outskirts of Arsal, a town on the border with Syria, killing three soldiers and wounding four others. Hezbollah also warned against the spread of takfiri movements and said it imposes a risk to everyone. “The creep of terrorist and takfiri movements has proven to be a [threat] to all without exception because it is a bloody and destructive [ideology] based on bigotry and the mentality of erasure, exclusion, and slaughter,” it added. For his part, Salam described the blast as a “heinous terrorist act,” and stressed that “such acts will not affect the firm political decision to fight terrorism and all security violations.” “Such a clear message will not crack the Army that was and always will remain an icon of sacrifice, and which enjoys full political support to protect the country and the citizens,” he said. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk also condemned the blast and said “such criminal act does not only target the Army, but every Lebanese citizen and the state.”He assured that “the military will keep up its tasks in cooperation with the Internal Security Forces courageously to protect the nation and its citizens.”


Equal opportunity employers in Lebanon? Dream on
By Brooke Anderson/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Thirty years ago, when Hilal Khashan was applying for jobs he found a position that perfectly matched his qualifications. But when he got to the interview, he realized there was an unwritten requirement that he couldn’t fulfill: his religion. “They said they wanted someone from the ‘geographic area of Kesrouan,’” says Khashan, who lives in Sidon. “That’s when I realized they were looking for a Maronite Christian.” Now a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, Kashan says he doesn’t think Lebanon has changed much since 1984 in terms of ensuring equal opportunities for all sects and genders during the employment process. “I later learned to look for certain cues,” he says with a sigh. Although many other countries with a similar level of education have laws in place to protect women and minorities from such discrimination, Lebanon – along with the rest of the Middle East – does not, and continues to allow candidates to be openly hired according to gender, age and, more implicitly, sect.
The closest thing Lebanon has to legislation that prevents job discrimination is a draft law protecting identity privacy that has been awaiting further action for seven years. Meanwhile, in the workplace, the practice is so commonplace that few feel able to question it, with nearly all job search websites carrying some listings that specify “male” and “female” openings. Yet some worry that the practice is putting all qualified Lebanese job seekers – including men – at a disadvantage.
“Based on my experience working with students at LAU [Lebanese American University] applying for internships, it has been really eye-opening,” says Dima Dabbous Sensenig, assistant professor of communication at LAU. “When a business said they wanted to hire a woman, women would come back saying they realized that the employer just wanted to surround himself with young women and that they could face sexual harassment. And men would be angry because they didn’t have a chance at the position.” But for those whose job it is to help graduates get into the world of work, having gender listed in the job description is just a matter of necessity. “Some vacancies need males,” says Layal Nehme Matar, a placement officer at Notre Dame University in Louaize branch. “It’s not a matter of discrimination.”
She points to employers that request men for largely outdoor work such as civil engineering, or others that prefer their companies’ marketing staff to be female, which she suggests may be because of women’s perceived communication and organizational skills. She dismisses the notion that managers prefer to have female secretaries so they can be around young attractive women. “I have an ad in front of me for a position of executive secretary and they need a female,” says Matar, pointing to the NDU’s job site on her computer. “I don’t ask them to go into detail.” But Matar admits that part of the reason people ask for women may be that they are often willing to work at lower salaries than men for the same work. She emphasizes that she does not specify a particular gender when she hires people, and admits that, in general, “it would be better not to ask.”
On the American University of Beirut’s job site for alumni and students, one of their March listings is for a customer service position in Shoueifat that is “female only for logistic reasons.” The advert does not explain why a woman would be needed for such a position. Age can be a requirement too, with a Middle East Airlines listing for an in-flight cabin crew asking for a maximum age of 27. Arguably the most harmful discrimination takes place behind closed doors.
A personal email from a CEO to a job recruitment agency seen by The Daily Star said the company was looking for an employee who “should live in Dahiyeh and be Shiite.”
For Noor, 25, the issue was made clear to her when she applied for an internship at a five-star hotel in Beirut. The second-year food science student from AUB arranged an interview over the phone, but when she turned up she was told, “If I’d known you wore a hijab I would have told you not to bother showing up.” “My position was in the kitchen, I wasn’t going to be dealing with customers,” Noor says. “That was my first job interview experience – I didn’t even get to sit down.” It’s an indication of how deep the problem goes, and how upfront some people will be about it.
“Job discrimination is very prevalent in Lebanon, but it’s not something we can fight as recruiters. If we don’t meet the requirements of the client, then we don’t get paid,” says one exasperated recruiter, asking not to be identified. As a tiny country with a high rate of education, Lebanon has an unusually competitive job market, one that is marked by a postwar legacy of sectarianism and a reliance on wasta (using connections and nepotism to get ahead). All of this leaves many well-qualified applicants frustrated and jobless, but instead of trying to change the system, many simply move abroad for a fairer shot at finding work.
A 2009 study conducted by AUB of recent alumni from four Lebanese universities found that the No. 1 reason they left the country was for “a better job environment.”
“Even if you make it to a company, you can have the son of the owner being parachuted into a position above you,” says Jad Chaaban, an assistant professor of economics at AUB who helped conduct the survey.
He says the public sector is the biggest culprit in terms of employment discrimination, followed by small family businesses. The best equal opportunity employers are multinational companies, non-governmental organizations, he says, and increasingly Lebanon’s nascent IT sector, which is seeing young people of all backgrounds creating startups and working to hire the best talent regardless of background.
For now, even those who would like to see a change know that it will take a long time to alter social norms that go much deeper than job sites.
“We are a product of our culture,” Khashan says. “Change is very slow. In times of war and economic recession, there can be regression. I’m very pessimistic.”


War Across the Borders
by Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media
It has become a commonplace to claim that the unrest in the Arab world is challenging the state borders laid down in the Arab world following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.
This claim, however, is only very partially valid. It holds true in a specific section of the Middle East, namely the contiguous land area stretching from Iran's western borders to the Mediterranean Sea, and taking in the states currently known as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
In this area, a single sectarian war is currently taking place. The nominal governments in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut may claim to rule in the name of the Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese peoples. But the reality of power distribution in each of these areas shows something quite different.
In each of these areas, local, long suppressed differences between communities are combining with the region-wide cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia to produce conflict, discord and latent or open civil war.
In each case, sectarian forces are linking up with their fellow sect members (or co-ethnics, if that's a word, in the case of the Kurds) in the neighboring "country" against local representatives of the rival sect.
Let's take a look at the rival coalitions. These are not simply theoretical constructs. The cooperation between the relevant sides is largely overt, and has been extensively verified.
On one side, there are the Shia (and Alawi) allies of Iran. These are the Maliki government in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hizballah, the Iranian proxy force which dominates Lebanon.
Both Hizballah and the Maliki government, at the behest of Iran, have played a vital role in the survival of Bashar Assad and his current resurgence.
Hizballah's role is well-documented. The movement maintains around 5,000 fighters at any one time in Syria. They have just completed a spearhead role in a nearly year long campaign to drive the rebels from the area adjoining the Lebanese border. They are also deployed in Damascus.
Assad's Achilles heel throughout has been the lack of committed fighters willing to engage on his behalf. Hizballah, working closely with Iran, has played a vital role in filling that gap.
In addition, Hizballah is working hard to suppress any Sunni thoughts of insurrection in Lebanon itself. Its forces cooperated with the Lebanese Army in crushing Sunni Islamists in Sidon in June, 2013. It also offers support to Alawi elements engaged in a long running mini-war with pro-Syrian rebel Sunnis in the city of Tripoli.
Maliki's role on behalf of Assad is less well-reported but no less striking.
It is first of all worth remembering that the Iraqi prime minister spent from 1982-90 in exile in Iran, and his political roots and allegiances are, unambiguously, to Shia Islamism.
Regular overflights and ground convoys have used Iraqi territory since the start of the Syrian civil war to carry vital Iranian arms and supplies from Iran to Assad's forces in Syria.
A western intelligence report obtained by Reuters in late 2012 confirmed this, noting that "planes are flying from Iran to Syria via Iraq on an almost daily basis, carrying IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel and tens of tons of weapons to arm the Syrian security forces and militias fighting against the rebels."
It also asserted that Iran was "continuing to assist the regime in Damascus by sending trucks overland via Iraq" to Syria.
In addition, Iraqi Shia volunteers from the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades and other formations have helped to fill Bashar's gap in available and committed infantry.
The Maliki government has made no effort to stop the flow of such fighters across the border – even as it engages in a U.S.-supported counter insurgency against Sunni jihadis in western Anbar province in Iraq.
So the Iran-led regional bloc is running a well-coordinated, well-documented single war in three countries.
The Sunni Arab side of the line is predictably more chaotic and disunited. On this side, too, there are discernible links, but no single, clear alliance.
Unlike among the pro-Iran bloc, only the most radical fringe of the Sunnis cross the borders to engage in combat. There is no Sunni equivalent to the Qods Force cadres active in Syria and Lebanon.
Among the Sunni radicals, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group now controls a single contiguous area stretching from eastern Syria to western Anbar province in Iraq, and taking in Fallujah city in Iraq.
Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, is now active also in Lebanon. It has on a number of occasions penetrated Hizballah's security sanctum in the Dahiyeh neighborhood of south Beirut.
More broadly, Saudi Arabia is the patron of the Sunni interest in both Lebanon and Syria.
It is currently backing rebel forces in the south of Syria, and pro-Saudis dominate the Syrian National Coalition, which purports to be the political leadership of the rebellion.
It also supports and promotes the March 14th movement in Lebanon, and recently pledged $3 billion for the Lebanese Armed Forces – presumably in a bid to build a force that could balance Hizballah.
But both Qatar and Turkey also play an important role in backing the Syrian rebels, and have their own clients among the fighting groups.
Saudi and Turkish fear and distrust of radical Sunni Islamist fighting groups prevent the emergence of a clear "Sunni Islamist international" to rival the Shia international of Iran.
Still, it is undeniable that cooperation exists among the various Sunni forces in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
It's just that it's a complicated and sometimes chaotic criss-crossing of various rival interests and outlooks on the Sunni side, rather than a coherent single bloc.
And finally, of course, there is a single contiguous area of Kurdish control stretching from the Iraq-Iran border all the way to deep within Syria. This zone of control is divided between the Iraqi Kurds of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Syrian Kurds of the rival, PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Once again, it is a contiguous area of control based on ethnic affiliation.
None of this means that the official borders of these three countries are going to officially disappear in the immediate future. The U.S. administration and others are committed to their survival, so they are likely to survive for now, in the semi-fictional and porous state in which they currently exist.
This, however, should not obscure the more crucial point that the entire area between the Iraq-Iran border and the Mediterranean Sea is currently the site of a single war, following a single dynamic, fought between protagonists defined by ethnic and sectarian loyalty.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Question: "How was the flood in the time of Noah just?" The global flood of Noah’s day was the direct judgment of a just God. The Bible says the flood wiped out “people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds”—everything that breathed air (Genesis 7:23). Some people today are offended by the flood story, saying it is proof of God’s injustice, arbitrariness, or just plain meanness. They accuse the Bible of promoting a temperamental God who judges indiscriminately and say that only a bully would drown everyone, including children and all those innocent animals.
Such attacks on the character of God are nothing new. As long as there have been sinners in the world, there have been charges that God is unjust. Consider Adam’s subtle shifting of blame. When asked about eating the forbidden fruit, Adam said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit” (Genesis 3:12). That is, it was the woman’s fault, and God’s, since He made the woman. But blaming God did not mitigate Adam’s sin. And calling God “unjust” for sending the flood will not lessen ours.
The flood of Noah’s day has many counterparts in history. God judged the people of Canaan with a command to wipe them out (Deuteronomy 20:16–18). He similarly judged Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh (Nahum 1:14), and Tyre (Ezekiel 26:4). And the final judgment before the Great White Throne will result in all the wicked from all time being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15). The plain message of the Bible is that God does judge sin, whether by an invading army, by fire and brimstone, or by a catastrophic global flood.
The flood was just because God commanded it (and God is just). “The LORD is upright . . . and there is no wickedness in him” (Psalm 92:15). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of [God’s] throne” (Psalm 89:14). God always does what is right. His decrees and judgments are always just. If He decreed that the whole world be flooded, then He was just in doing so, no matter what human skeptics say. It is not surprising that we tend to define justice in a way that will benefit ourselves.
The flood was just because mankind was evil. “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). We cannot fully imagine the extent of the wickedness of that day. We have never seen the like. The evil was “great,” and every thought of everyone’s heart was only evil continually. There was no goodness in the world; every person was wholly corrupted. There was nothing within them that was not evil. The people of Noah’s day were not dabblers in sin; they had taken the plunge, and everything they did was an abomination.
The text provides some clues as to the extent of the evil before the flood. One problem was the rampant violence: “The earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11). The descendants of Cain, the first murderer, were abounding in bloodshed. Another evil among the antediluvians was occult sexuality. Genesis 6:1–4 mentions the Nephilim, “heroes of old, men of renown” who were the products of a union between fallen angels and human woman. The demons who participated in this sin are currently in “chains of darkness . . . reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). The people who participated—and the Nephilim themselves—were destroyed in the flood. The biblical description of pre-flood humanity is that they had become totally hardened and beyond repentance. Things were so bad that “the Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6).
But what about the children who drowned? The fact is that sin affects all of society, not just those who intentionally engage in evil. When a society promotes abortion, babies die as a result. When a father or mother begins taking meth, their children will suffer as a result. And, in the case of Noah’s generation, when a culture gives itself over to violence and aberrant sexuality, the children suffered. Humanity brought the flood upon themselves and upon their own children. The flood was just because all sin is a capital offense. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We should not be shocked that God swept away the world’s population with the flood; we should be shocked that He hasn’t done something similar to us! Sinners tend to have a light view of sin, but all sin is worthy of death. We take God’s mercy for granted, as if we deserve it, but we complain about God’s justice as if it’s somehow unfair, as if we don’t deserve it. The flood was just because the Creator has the right to do as He pleases with His creation. As the potter can do whatever he wants with the clay on his wheel, so God has the right to do as He pleases with the work of His own hands. “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6).
Here is the most amazing part of the flood story: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). God’s grace extended into His damaged, sin-stained creation and preserved one man and his family. In so doing, God preserved the whole human race through the godly line of Seth. And, in bringing the animals into the ark, God also preserved the rest of His creation. So, God’s judgment was not a total annihilation; it was a reset.
As always, God’s judgment in Noah’s time was accompanied by grace. The Lord is a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6–7, emphasis added). God would rather the wicked repent and live (Ezekiel 18:23). God delayed judgment on the Amorites for four hundred years (Genesis 15:16). God would have spared Sodom for the sake of even ten righteous people dwelling there (Genesis 18:32). But, eventually, His judgment must fall.
It took Noah up to a hundred years to build the ark. We can assume that, if other people had wanted to board the ark and be saved, they could have done so. But that would have required faith. Once God shut the door, it was too late; they had lost their chance (Genesis 7:16). The point is that God never sends judgment without prior warning. As commentator Matthew Henry said, “None are punished by the justice of God, but those who hate to be reformed by the grace of God.”The global flood of Noah’s day was a just punishment of sin. Those who say the flood was unjust probably don’t like the idea of judgment to begin with. The story of Noah is a vivid reminder that, like it or not, there is another judgment coming: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37). Are you ready, or will you be swept away?
Recommended Resources: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, 50th Anniversary Edition by Morris & Whitcomb and Logos Bible Software.

Syrian rebels allowed to attack Latakia from Turkish soil under Turkish air cover. Iran raises Cain in Ankara
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 29, 2014/Turkey has ratcheted up its intervention in the Syrian war to an unprecedented level, according to exclusive DEBKAfile military and intelligence sources. For the first time in the three-year conflict the Turkish army is allowing Syrian rebel forces, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, passage through Turkish territory for their offensive to capture the northwestern Syrian coastal area where the Assad clan’s lands are situated. Ankara’s support for the rebels is inclusive: Turkish troops are posted at the roadside with supplies of ammo, fuel, food, mechanical repair crews and medical aid for rebel forces as they head north. The Turkish air force gives them air cover and Turkish agents arm them with surveillance data on Syrian military movements ahead. The Syrian fighter jet shot down on March 23 just inside the Turkish border was in fact downed in a dogfight with Turkish warplanes, while trying to bomb the rebel convoy heading for the new combat arena. Both sides preferred to stay quiet about the incident and its causes.
The rebels receiving Turkish military support are disclosed by our sources as belonging to two militias: The Syrian Revolutionaries Front under the command of Jamal Maarouf, which has gathered in remnants of the disbanded Free Syrian Army; and the Islamic Front, sponsored until recently by Saudi intelligence. They number around 4,000 fighting men including elements of the Nusra Front.
With powerful Turkish backing, this force has been able to carve a very narrow corridor into northwest Syria from the tall Jabal al-Zawiya in the Idlib region up to a point near Syria’s northern Mediterranean coast, thereby severing the northwestern link between Syria and Turkey. This was the first time rebel forces had gained full control of a strategic corridor. First, they had to battle through and capture the towns of Kazab, Khirbet and Samra northwest of the coastal town of Latakia. The Syrian army is throwing air, armored and heavy artillery strength against the rebels to stop them firming up their positions in those towns, while also aiming to regain command of the Syrian-Turkish border region. The fighting Saturday, March 29 was most intense around Kasab. This new development in the Syrian war raises two questions:
1. For how long can the Syrian rebels hold out against constant battering by superior military strength?
2. If the rebels are thrown out of their new positions, will the Turkish army come to their aid? If so, it would be Ankara’s first outright military incursion into Syrian territory and the first intrusion by a NATO member in its civil conflict. Our sources in Ankara report that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is in favor of going ahead. He is vehemently opposed by the Turkish chief of staff.
It is this argument which triggered the banning of YouTube by the Turkish government Friday, March 28 - not the important municipal elections taking place Monday. A leaked recording published anonymously purported to reveal a conversation between Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, spy chief Hakan Fidan and a general discussing how to drum up a pretext for a Turkish attack inside Syria. A voice identified as that of Fidan appeared to suggest a missile assault as the pretext for a Turkish invasion. Erdogan and Turkish intelligence chiefs are convinced that the leak was orchestrated by generals who are against deeper Turkish involvement in the Syria war In the meantime, DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report that Tehran was so jittery about this turn of events that a Iranian military delegation was rushed to Ankara, arriving Saturday, to force the Erdogan to take his hands off the Syrian war by any means, including a threat to suspend oil supplies. The two sides are still talking.

UN's human rights monitor is a Mossad spy, Iran alleges
By JPOST.COM STAFF/03/30/2014 /Ahmed Shaheed is the Maldivian diplomat who was elected as the UN’s special rapporteur on the state of human rights in the Islamic Republic. Ahmed Shaheed
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iran Photo: REUTERS The United Nations’ top official responsible for monitoring human rights in Iran is secretly working either for the Mossad or the CIA, the Iranian government is alleging. Ahmed Shaheed, the Maldivian diplomat who was elected as the UN’s special rapporteur on the state of human rights in the Islamic Republic three years ago, came under verbal attack from an Iranian government official on Saturday for making “baseless allegations” against the regime. "All fair and independent human rights bodies are well aware that Shaheed works as an agent for the Zionist regime and also the CIA," Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a member of an Iranian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, told the state-run Fars news agency. "The extension of Shaheedˈs mission by the UN Human Rights Council serves to gain time to level yet more accusations again Iran," he added. Shaheed has submitted reports to the UN Human Rights Council detailing an array of Iranian violations, including disproportionate use of the death penalty, persecution of homosexuals, the arrest of journalists, and abuse of labor unions. Last year, Shaheed told The Jerusalem Post that in Iran “groups who hold dissident views, whether political or other groups, fall into difficulty on national security charges.”Human rights groups have long asserted Iran’s judiciary imprisons religious and political dissidents based on trumped-up national security charges. Shaheed’s most recent report, released in early March, alleges “widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “a situation in which civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are undermined and violated in law and practice.”

Netanyahu: No deal to release prisoners without clear benefit for Israel

03/30/2014/ PM says haggling over final batch of prisoners could go on for days; acknowledges contacts to come to a deal could "blow up." Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem March 23, 2014.  After Israel missed the deadline Saturday to release the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners, seemingly putting peace talks in danger of collapse, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that haggling on the issue could go on for "a number of days." Speaking at a meeting of Likud ministers, Netanyahu said that Israel would not make a deal to free the prisoners "without a clear benefit for Israel in return." He acknowledged that negotiations to come to an agreement could potentially "blow up." Will Israel free 400 more Palestinian prisoners? 'Not going to happen,' Bennett vows
Israel said it is willing to release a fourth batch of convicted Palestinian terrorists, but not if the Palestinians say that they will end the negotiations directly after the release, a highly-placed Israeli official said Saturday night.
The official, familiar with the negotiations, said “Israel wants to see the continuation of the peace talks with the Palestinians, and is willing to implement the fourth release of convicted terrorists. But the Palestinians are making that very difficult when they say that immediately following the release, they will end the talks.” In order to move back to the negotiations table, Israel agreed in July to release 104 terrorists convicted of crimes before the the 1993 Oslo accords in four tranches of 26 prisoners each. In return the Palestinians agreed not to pursue unilateral diplomatic actions in international forums, including taking Israel to the International Criminal Court. Israel has so far released 78 prisoners. An Israeli official said that the Palestinians also did not live up to their commitments under the framework, including to engage in serious and good faith negotiations.
Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, said that both sides are still negotiating the scale and composition of the prisoner release, though he added that the Palestinians did not see any linkage between the release and the continuation of the negotiations. Nonetheless, Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Israel Radio that there would be no discussion of future negotiations without the fourth installment of the prisoner release, which should include Israeli Arabs. The Israeli government has so far refused to consider freeing Israeli citizens convicted of terrorist acts. The Palestinians were demanding that 14 Israeli-Arabs be released in the final batch, something that would be politically difficult for Netanyahu to get passed through the cabinet. The cabinet only has to reconvene to approve the final prisoner release if Israeli Arabs are included on the list. Israel Radio reported Sunday that Israel offered to free 400 prisoners on condition that their presence be limited to designated areas in the West Bank following their release. Ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition vowed on Sunday that they will make every effort to block the reported release of an additional 400 jailed Palestinians.
**Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

Netanyahu: UNHRC continues its 'march of hypocrisy' against Israel
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/J.Post/03/30/2014 /
PM slams UN Human Rights Council for condemning Israel in five resolutions last week; Israeli official: European countries failed to show moral leadership. THE MEETING hall of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
THE MEETING hall of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday slammed the United Nations Human Rights Council for “absurdly” condemning Israel in five resolutions last week while censuring Syria and Iran only once. “This march of hypocrisy is continuing and we will continue to condemn it and expose it,” he told his cabinet at the start of its weekly meeting in Jerusalem. “The UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel five times, this at a time when the slaughter in Syria is continuing, innocent people are being hung in the Middle East and human rights are being eroded. “In many countries free media are being shut down and the UN Human Rights Council decides to condemn Israel for closing off a balcony. This is absurd,” said Netanyahu. On Friday the UNHRC ended its 25th session by almost unanimously, voting 46-1, on four resolutions condemning Israeli treatment of Palestinians. It also condemned Israeli human rights abuses against Syrian citizens of Israel who live on the Golan Heights, voting 33 to 1, with 13 abstentions.
Out of the 42 resolutions adopted by the council on a wide range of human issues only 10 censured the actions of a specific country, out of which five of the condemnations were leveled against Israel.
A resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar was approved by consensus.
But none of the condemnations of other countries, including those of Iran and Syria, on the issue of human rights received the same level of support from member states as the charges against Israel.
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted 21-to-9, with 16 abstentions on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It voted 23-to-12, with 12 abstentions on “reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.”It voted 30-to-6 ,with 11 abstentions on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It voted 32-to-4, with 11 abstentions on the grave deterioration of human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. This resolution strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons. It also condemned the “bombardment of civilian areas, in particular the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs, ballistic missiles and cluster bombs and other actions which may amount to war crimes against humanity.”An Israeli official said the fact that Israeli actions on the Golan Heights garnered slightly more support, with 33 countries approving it, was “almost a bad joke.” It was particularly upsetting, the Israeli official said, that the UNHRC approved such a resolution at a time when hospitals in the north of Israel are treating scores of Syrian victims from the civil war in their country. The Israeli official also took issue with the strong united stance against Israel by nine member states of the European Union including: Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Ireland. All nine EU countries supported the four resolutions which condemned Israeli treatment of Palestinians, supporting the Goldstone Report on Israeli actions in Gaza and encouraged a boycott of West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. They abstained but did not reject the resolution condemning Israeli violations of of human rights against Syrian citizens of Israel on the Golan Heights. “It’s a pity that some western democracies choose to jump on the automatic anti-Israel band wagon at the UNHRC,” an Israeli official said. “It is a pity they did not use that moment to demonstrate moral leadership, instead of that they became part of the travesty. They became partners in a cynical one sided farce,” the official said. But the official lauded the United States, which was the sole country to stand with Israel and reject all five resolutions. “They showed moral leadership,” the official said. The Palestinians, however, welcomed the almost unanimous support at the UNHRC and said such resolutions showed Israel that it could not “flout” international law. “This vote confirms the world’s clear condemnation of the systematic human rights violations committed by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people and their fundamental rights,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki. The Foreign Ministry was not present at the UNHRC's meetings this week, due to its ongoing strike against the government over equitable wages.

Expectations were too high for Obama's Saudi visit

Sunday, 30 March 2014/Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya
While the content of the two-hour meeting between Saudi King Abdullah and U.S. President Obama was in many regards quite ordinary, some critics were disappointed by the outcome of the meeting. Ultimately, there was an expectation that crucial decisions regarding Syria would be determined during Obama’s diplomatic visit to the kingdom. The Saudis and the U.S. have taken different courses when it came to dealing with Syrian revolutionaries, and, according to some analysts, that difference had been one of the reasons of the apparent downfall of their close relationship. The Americans had claimed that the way the Saudis are supporting the Syrians is counterproductive and empowers the more militant and radical forces. The Saudis claim that the Americans had a soft policy on Assad and were not doing enough to support his overthrow. The facts of course are more complicated. But what we do know is that since the visit of Saudi’s minister of interior to the United States last February there has been a growing alignment in positions between the two countries vis-à-vis Syria. The U.S. has shown more willingness to empower the revolutionaries and the Saudis have shown the Americans how to support the anti-Assad campaign without supporting the Islamic radicals. That was a big step and a marked change in policy. Consequently, I do not understand why then, there were expectations for further decisions to be taken during this meeting.
Iran driving a wedge in U.S-Saudi ties
When it comes to Iran, there are those who wanted to hear a stronger U.S. stance against our troublesome neighbor. But we only heard what we’ve already been hearing for a many months now: the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear capabilities. When it comes to Iran, there are those in who wanted to hear a stronger U.S. stance against our troublesome neighbor. But we only heard what we’ve already been hearing for a many months now: the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear capabilities.Here again I am surprised by those taken back by that sentiment – what else would they have expected to hear? It is not in the interests of the United States, nor within its capacity, to take a harsher stance against Iran. And if you ask me, it is not in Saudi Arabia's interests either. The recent Crimean crisis has amplified Russian incentives for supporting any adversary of the United States or its allies. The last thing we need is for the Russians to accelerate Iran’s course towards nuclear weapons.
Human rights
Activists were also hoping that this visit would include a discussion of Saudi Arabia's human rights record. Prior to the visit, President Obama had received a few open letters from academics and also members of Congress, urging him to discuss human rights with the Saudi monarch. But that did not happen either. Maybe there wasn't enough time for that, as one American official put it. But here again I ask: why be surprised? Human rights for the U.S. has never been but a card it plays against other countries for political gains. And this visit was neither the time nor the place to pressure the Saudis. For one, this is a visit to re-assert previously stated assurances. And when you want to assure someone, you don’t bring up human rights violations. Also, there are very few things they disagree on, so why bring up human rights? But most importantly, the U.S. has lost its moral right to speak about human rights. It would have indeed been amusing to listen to President Obama speak of moral principles in light of recent NSA revelations. One of the disappointments echoed by some activists was awarding Maha al-Muneef, the executive director of Saudi Arabia's National Family Safety Program, the U.S. Secretary of State's International Woman of Courage Award. She had been struggling for years to institutionalize the protection of women and children of domestic abuse and she succeeded to a very large extent.
Recognizing women activists

Some activists were hoping that Obama would recognize women outside the formal governmental system, such as those who were campaigning for the right for women to drive. But it seems that the U.S. government had voted for the approach of changing from within the system and not from outside of it. I personally think she deserved the award. Some think that she is not an activist because she is employed by the government. But I think we need to extend the meaning of the word. She definitely accomplished much of the activist goals. And anyone who knows the intricacies and complexities of government bureaucracy may want to think twice before saying that those who achieve mega institutional changes are anything less than an activist. Some sources mentioned that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians was mentioned in passing. I guess that this only speaks of the real weight of that issue. Peace is gradually changing from a security imperative to a humanitarian issue. Ultimately the only purpose of this visit was to assert the kingdom’s role as a leading Gulf State and as an important ally for the United States. It was to personally reiterate what has been said again and again. But this time, by having the leaders of the two nations speak to each other about them. It is not enough to make statements of policy from across thousands of miles. In politics, face to face discussions matter. In that regard, the visit accomplished its purposes.

Halt Arab League summits until we see real change
Sunday, 30 March 2014/Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
The Arab League’s final statement covered everything that could possibly be agreed on in the Arab world. From calling for the liberation of the three Emirati islands occupied by Iran to calling for the liberation of the Comoro Mayotte island which France occupies. The statement, however, did not issue threats to any party or oblige any party to take any measures on implementing certain demands. It's as if the final statement was drafted after touching on each Arab delegation's requests and after excluding anything that might raise disputes among the Arab brothers. What mattered was that the summit succeeds, not that the Arab states achieve anything. Everyone - including those who attended the summit - knows that it's impossible for Arabs to succeed in getting along and the fact that no disputes or arguments erupted is a success on its own.
Arabs divided
Everyone also knows that there are huge differences among Arab countries and leaders. New front lines, which differ from the ones that divided the Arab republics and monarchies, or as revolutionaries call them - "progressive powers and reactionary ones," have been drawn. During the 70s and 80s, they were divided over peace with Israel. They displayed an oppositional front confronting moderate powers. During the first decade of this century, notions of resistance replaced oppositional sentiments. This lasted until the Arab Spring erupted. What matters is that the summit, and not the Arabs, succeeds. Everyone - including those who attended the summit - knows that it's impossible for the Arabs to succeed and that the fact that no disputes or verbal arguments erupted is a success on its own. The annual Arab League summit was initially postponed but then resumed amid some optimism. Terms like reform, popular participation, youth aspirations, human rights and development were introduced to the summit. Some of those backward powers returned and the front lines were mixed once again.
But there are no longer two oppositional camps, there are several. We have seen a surge in careless camps that only care about their own interests as they wait and see how the region's many transitional phases play out.
This time, Kuwait succeeded in safely holding and wrapping up the summit. Will Egypt do so next year? Egypt is on the verge of having a new leader and difficult years ahead, a sentiment that the country’s likely upcoming president has also expressed. Why has the European Union succeeded at moving forward but we can't? The approach is unfair but it can be used to examine the reasons behind the incapability of Arabs to build a continuous and permanent system for Arab mutual work. The latter term has been emptied of its content although it's present in all Arab League summits and official statements.
Lessons from the European Union
European Union countries have established a mutual philosophical and legal base. The standards they've established for the union are not based on geography or on Europe's nationalism but on the similarity or perhaps the correspondence in governance styles of democracy: peaceful transitions of power, human rights and a fair judicial system. EU countries have established a parliament which is considered a legislative authority that everyone abides by and it's tasked with reviewing the legislations of each country. There's also a European court tasked with reviewing legislations and freedoms in all EU countries.
The EU and its standards are to thank for increasing the freedoms and rights in Turkey. After the Justice and Development Party made it to power in 2002, it's believed that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan played the card of joining the EU - which is a popular demand in Turkey - in his confrontation with the army. The army formerly dominated political life in Turkey but Erdogan expanded the scope of freedoms, reformed the judiciary and cancelled many constitutional articles that restricted freedoms until he sent the army back to the barricades under the excuse of meeting the conditions of joining the EU.
This mutual philosophical structure is what enabled the Europeans to fulfill the greatest of their achievements in 1993 as the body’s treaty went into effect. The treaty guaranteed the free circulation of goods, capital, people and services within the EU. Countries within the EU kept their borders, regimes, armies, political parties and taxes. They also maintained their own foreign policies. For example, Germany was not enthusiastic about military intervention in Libya in 2011 but it did not prevent the intervention of other EU members. Despite the differences between the EU's 28 countries, there always remained a minimum amount of mutual commitment to freedoms, democracy, human rights and justice. We haven't yet agreed to these concepts in our Arab world. We want to jump over these concepts to achieve “mutual Arab work” which we cannot implement on the ground and with which we comfort ourselves with loose dreamy terms. But Arab people no longer accept this thanks to awareness and freedom of information and they now aspire for the best and criticize the status quo. The people are no longer willing to clap for leaders as they go hand in hand to Arab League summits. They have become willing to yell at them and ask them: what have you provided us with? Where are our rights? So in order for the Arab League summit to not to be another cause for Arab anger and frustration, postpone them. **This article was first published in al-Hayat on March 29, 2014.

Opinion: Hamas and the Culture of Death
By: Amal Mousa/Asharq Al Awsat
Linguists are well aware that language is far more important and profound than being a mere instrument of expression. It is a complete system for thinking, a complex network of signifiers and signified, a system teeming with meanings and symbols. Therefore, in order to know someone’s educational level, ideology and world view, it will be enough to look carefully at their language, the vocabulary they commonly use and the meanings that occupy a central position in their verbal lexicon. However esoteric, ambiguous or coded someone’s language might be, it still reveals their thinking, intellectual background and worldview. In light of this linguistic approach, how should we read the recent statement by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh? “We are a people that love death for the sake of Allah as much as our enemies love life,” he said. What is the cultural authority that deals with death from the perspective of love? Death is the greatest dilemma in life, and the Qur’an itself describes it as a “calamity.” Mankind has always striven, through art and beauty, to overcome this. So how can death be described as the subject of love? On the one hand, we have love. Indeed, Haniyeh went even beyond this, using the Arabic term ishq, a very passionate or deep form of love.
On the other hand, we have man’s most problematic existential dilemma: Death.
As a result, Haniyeh’s statement implies a shocking paradox involving two contradictory signifiers that do not belong on the same symbolic register.
I think this shocking sentence can only be read in terms of psychology, culture and politics. On the psychological level, there is a kind of an illusion that betrays Haniyeh’s adoption of a false defense strategy. Despite all the arrogance, self-esteem and self-confidence it implies, his statement actually reveals a state of disappointment and despair. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this avowed expression of the “love of death” represents a kind of a symbolic suicide pact. Culturally speaking, we also notice the dominance of patriarchal modes of thinking and public pressure over his discourse. The reality is that this state of love can only be personal and individualistic, in contrast to the love of life, which is a phenomenon enjoying implicit and explicit consensus. That this senior Hamas Movement figure has declared his love of death points to a mistaken understating of Islam and a historical reference that is only weakly and forcibly linked to an out-of-date concept of “jihad.”
Thus, we are facing a dogmatic discourse whose violence-laden ideological background has only helped incite conflict with Israel and enable Tel Aviv to promote damning evidence against the Arab and Islamic culture as a whole before the international community. More importantly, is Mr. Haniyeh—with his over-the-top expression of his love of death—representative of the Palestinian people as a whole? Does his statement mean that all Palestinians love death? I believe that the Palestinian people, like any other people in the world, love life. Otherwise, what is the point of struggle and negotiations or just trying to survive?
The discourse and culture of death have not brought the Palestinians any significant results. In fact, Palestinian and Arab blood has been wasted, and grief has nestled for a long time in our hearts as a result.
The discourse of the love of death is death in itself! Of course, in political terms, those who adopt such a discourse are usually isolated or under siege. This is precisely the situation that Hamas finds itself in today. The Palestinian cause is in a weak strategic position, both regionally and internationally, while Hamas finds itself in an even weaker position following the crises that have struck the Muslim Brotherhood organization.
It is not responsible for a politician to deliver an emotional, defeatist and pointless speech such as this. Politicians are supposed to provide solutions and have the ability to surprise their people with their intellectual and political wisdom, rather than proudly signing their own death certificates. It is even more shocking to know that the rally during which Mr. Haniyeh made this statement was held to mark the anniversary of the assassination of a number of senior Hamas leaders. It is occasions such as this, more than any other, that call for declarations of the love of life and the future, not death.
Mr. Haniyeh could have scored a significant point over his opponents if he had, just as enthusiastically, said: “We love life more than our enemies do.” Only then would he have driven home a positive message to the world, not to mention the life-loving Palestinians who have grown fed up with such defeatist and depression discourse.