March 20/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Demons also came out of many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’
Luke 4,31-44.He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’And a report about him began to reach every place in the region. After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.
As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea."

Bible Quotation For Today/Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent
Letter to the Philippians 02/12-19: "Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 19-20/15
Father Nadaf shows continued support for Netanyahu in 4th term/J.Post/March 19/15
Iran’s seizure of Iraq/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 19/15
Iran's bid for Middle East domination/Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/AlArabiya/March 19/15
Why the Israeli voter reelected Binyamin Netanyahu and strengthened his Likud/DEBKAfile/March 19/15
Arabs should take the lead on Syria/Tawfiq Al-Saif/Asharq Al Awsat/March 19/15
Netanyahu’s Win Is Good for Palestine/Yousef Munayyer/The New York Times/March 19/15

Lebanese Related News published on March 19-20/15
Salameh Downplays Washington's Warning on Financing Terrorism via Lebanese Banks
UN says violence on Lebanon-Israel border risks new conflict
Hezbollah-Future tensions spill into Cabinet session
Salam, Hariri slam Tunis attack, Hezbollah urges global action
Mustaqbal and Hizbullah Say Dialogue an 'Essential Pillar' despite War of Words
Loyalty to Resistance Rejects Sabotaging Dialogue by those 'Adopting Political Spite'
Khalil Intensifies Inspection Methods at Beirut Port: No One Can Defy State Authority
Germany Promises Additional Assistance over Refugee Crisis
Moqbel Inks Decree Extending Tenure of Army Intelligence Chief
Saniora Files Complaint Against Wahhab over Remarks
Derbas: Lebanon to Ask for $2.1 Billion in Aid at Kuwait Conference
Arrest Warrants Issued against 17 Lebanese for Belonging to IS
U.N. Security Council Urges Help for Lebanon's Syrian Refugees
Hezbollah urges global anti-terrorism action 
ISF Corporal arrested for heading theft gang 
ISF foils drug smuggling attempt in Tripoli prison 
Hezbollah MPs denounce UAE deportations 
Narcotics-Filled Lemon Seized at al-Qobbeh Prison

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 19-20/15
Iran limited to 6K centrifuges in draft accord

U.S. says to impose more sanctions if no Iran nuclear deal
In call, Obama tells Netanyahu he will reassess US policy on Mideast peace
White House says reports of draft of Iran nuclear deal not accurate
US may withdraw support for Israel at Security Council
Netanyahu poised for governing coalition after final vote tally
Abbas: Two states impossible with Netanyahu
U.S. rebukes Netanyahu on Mideast policy
Netanyahu: I want a sustainable two state solution
White House says evaluating path forward after Israeli prime minister's comments
Plane attacks Hadi’s Aden base in deepening Yemen turmoil
Yemeni president accuses former regime of attempted coup
Iraqi Shi’ite militias destroyed entire Sunni villages: Human Rights Watch
Libyan army close to capturing Benghazi: spokesman
Tunisia: Gunman known to intelligence ahead of attack
Nine suspects arrested over Tunis attack: presidency
Tunisia troops to shore up security after attack
Saudi, Kuwait defense ministers hold talks in Riyadh
Syrian, Iraqi Christians plead for international assistance
U.S. admits Latakia drone was shot down
Assad sacks head of Military Security 
Egypt court adjourns Al-Jazeera retrial to Wednesday
Boko Haram attacks Nigeria town of Gamboru, kills 11: witnesses
Kerry: US disturbed by reports of chlorine in Syria
Palestinians threaten to end Israel security ties

Jihad Watch Latest News
White House: Netanyahu’s rhetoric “undermines…democratic ideals”
“You will not live in safety as long as Tunisia is not ruled by Islam”
France cut welfare benefits for 290 jihadists last year
Boston Marathon jihad murderer had black flag of jihad on his wall
Second Muslim from Australia killed waging jihad for the Islamic State

Hezbollah-Future tensions spill into Cabinet session
The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015
BEIRUT: Tensions ran high during Thursday's Cabinet session as Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and Minister of State Mohammad Fneish clashed over Rifi's recent accusations that Hezbollah was guilty of tax evasion and money laundering. Walking out of the regular Cabinet session, Rifi, a member of the Future Movement, reiterated to reporters his conviction that “Hezbollah evades taxes on Beirut’s port” and “engages in money laundering.” During the session, Rifi clashed with Hezbollah’s Fneish, who responded to the accusations by saying: “You are the justice minister, if you have evidence disclose it. If not, then you are lying.”Rifi told journalists that Hezbollah was establishing a statelet inside Lebanon, engaging in money-related corruption and protecting the murderers of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is responsible for identifying and sentencing those behind the 2005 assassination of Hariri, has indicted five Hezbollah members. However, the party has refused to acknowledge the authority of the tribunal or to turn over the defendants.
The Future Movement and Hezbollah had agreed Wednesday during their latest dialogue session to bury recent tensions and restore the momentum of previous meeting. During the session, Prime Minister Tammam Salam briefed ministers on his meeting with the vice president of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, where he raised the issue of the Lebanese families who were recently deported from the Gulf country, Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said after the meeting. The premier said the matter will be followed up on the official level and the necessary calls will be made with the Emirati authorities. Cabinet approved budget transactions for a number of ministries, accepted the nominations of new foreign ambassadors and approved the appointment of Lebanese University staff.The council of ministers also extended the contract of the company responsible for examining all motorized vehicles in Lebanon for three additional months. Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk’s request to call May 5 "Sea Turtles Day" in Lebanon was also approved, according to Joreige.

UN says violence on Lebanon-Israel border risks new conflict
Agencies/Mar. 19, 2015
UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. Security Council is warning that recent violence along Lebanon's border with Israel and the presence of unauthorized weapons in a U.N. buffer zone in southern Lebanon risk a new conflict. In January, two Israeli soldiers and a U.N. peacekeeper from Spain were killed in the deadliest escalation on the disputed border since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The council urged all parties to exercise "maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities or destabilize the region."In a presidential statement adopted Thursday, the Security Council also expressed concern at other border violations including the presence of terrorist and violent extremist groups in Lebanese territory, as well as the strain placed on the country from the influx of Syrian refugees.The Security Council called on the international community to help Lebanon in its efforts to host more than a million refugees from neighboring Syria. An estimated 1.18 million Syrians have fled their country's bloody conflict to take refuge in Lebanon, which has struggled to deal with the influx as the war enters its fifth year. The "gravely concerned" 15 council members noted that the sheer number "represents more refugees in proportion to Lebanon's national population than any other country."
In a unanimous declaration just days ahead of a major donor conference in Kuwait, the Security Council worried about the impact on the stability and security of Lebanon and the region as a whole. The council "underscores that support to Lebanon's efforts to manage the impact of the influx of refugees, including on essential services such as education and health, is crucial to preserving Lebanon's stability and security," it said. "The council urges the international community to urgently disburse existing pledges and meaningfully increase assistance to Lebanon."As many as 78 nations and 40 international organizations are expected to attend the third donors conference aimed at raising billions of dollars for war-torn Syria on March 31. The gathering of foreign ministers will be opened by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Nations are expected to announce pledges for U.N. humanitarian operations in Syria, where 12 million people both inside and outside the country need urgent aid. At the first and second conferences, also hosted by Kuwait, pledges of $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion were made, but the United Nations has complained that not all pledges were honored.As a result, U.N. humanitarian agencies had to reduce their assistance to millions of civilians. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates that up to 4.27 million Syrian refugees will have fled to neighboring countries by the end of this year. In its declaration, the Security Council repeated its call for Lebanon to quickly elect a president after a 10-month stalemate and to avoid any involvement in the Syrian crisis.

Hezbollah MPs denounce UAE deportation of Lebanese
The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Thursday denounced the United Arab Emirates' decision to deport Lebanese citizens, and condemned statements harming the ongoing dialogue with the Future Movement. “The Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc is shocked about and condemns the unjustifiable deportation measures that the United Arab Emirates has made against Lebanese families,” MP Hassan Fadlallah said, reading the bloc’s statement after its regular meeting. The bloc called on Prime Minister Tammam Salam to undertake the required efforts to find out the motive behind the deportations. Roughly 70 Lebanese citizens were notified by the Lebanese embassies in UAE last week of the decision to deport them with their families. Most of the Lebanese facing deportations are Shiites.
Hezbollah’s lawmakers also stressed on the necessity to maintain the dialogue with the Future Movement, condemning the recent “voices of incitement.” “Polluting the air of the ongoing dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement does not serve Lebanon’s interest or its stability,” the statement said, calling for a “responsible attitude” toward the dialogue. Tensions had risen earlier this week between the two parties after a speech made by Future Bloc's chief Fouad Siniora on March 14. The speech drew scathing verbal attacks from MP Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah's bloc in Parliament, and other officials, who questioned the benefits of the three-month-old dialogue while Future officials kept up their anti-Hezbollah rhetoric. After the eighth dialogue session held Wednesday, however, the two parties agreed to continue dialogue and defuse tensions. The Hezbollah MPs also highlighted the importance of approving the ranks and salary scale for public sector employees, saying the bill “is not a luxury." They called for holding open sessions of the joint committees until the matter is resolved, stressing that the law should not be merged with the public budget. March 8 and March 14 lawmakers have been divided over the bill and the idea of merging it with the 2015 budget. The Cabinet has yet to approve the budget proposal by Finance Ministry Ali Hasan Khalil, which could be the first adopted since 2005. The Future Movement has supported the approval of the wage hike as part of the budget, while the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah advocate the separation of the two bills. The bloc also expressed compassion and solidarity with Tunisians over the attack on the National Bardo Museum, which left 23 people dead Wednesday.

Salam, Hariri slam Tunis attack, Hezbollah urges global action
The Daily Star/Mar. 19, 2015/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri Thursday offered condolences to the people of Tunisia after 21 people were killed at the country's national museum, while Hezbollah called for global action to fight terrorism. In a cable to Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Hariri expressed sincere solidarity with Tunis over the attack, which “sought for the proud Tunisian people to give up their big achievements and the democratic path they have chosen.”
"We are confident that the Tunisian people, under your leadership [Essebsi], will face this terrorist [threat] with greater unity and cohesion, and will not allow the remnants of extremism to undermine their right to protect their democratic state and system,” Hariri said.
Salam also offered condolences to the Tunisian leader on behalf of himself and the Lebanese people “who have suffered and are still suffering the horrors of terrorism.” “We are confident that Tunisia, with the wisdom of its leadership and political forces ... is able to overcome this ordeal and recover and move firmly on the path sought by its people,” Salam said in a cable to Essebsi. Hezbollah also strongly condemned Wednesday's “heinous terrorist crime" at Bardo Museum that left 18 foreign tourists and three Tunisians killed.
“This crime is a ring in the chain of terrorism that affects humans, sanctuaries and heritages, and hits security and stability and distorts the image of Islam, and tears apart the unity of the nation and threatens the future of its children and their safe living,” Hezbollah said in a statement. This terrorism, the statement added, “does not distinguish one country from another, one sect from another or one political or social group from another, but spreads its terrorism and hatred on everyone to serve the Zionist enemy and those who stand behind them – be they countries, forces or intelligence services.” “We believe it is imperative that everyone – countries, parties and institutions, scholars and intellectuals and the peoples of nations throughout the world, especially in our Arab and Islamic region – stand up together and work on all levels – intellectual, doctrinal, legislative, political and media – in the face of terrorism, takfirism and its serious acts, crimes and its devastating consequences,” Hezbollah urged. Gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed Wednesday Bardo Museum inside the heavily guarded parliament compound in central Tunis, killing 21 people.

Salameh Downplays Washington's Warning on Financing Terrorism via Lebanese Banks
Naharnet/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh downplayed on Thursday Washington's concerns on the possibility of involving Lebanese banks in money laundering operations to finance terrorism, in particular the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Lebanon's banks are fortified due to the strict measures imposed by the Central Bank and the monitoring bodies,” Salameh stressed in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper.The high-ranking official pointed out that he soothed the fears expressed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser during his short visit to Beirut on Tuesday.“Glaser was worried of financial transfers to Daesh... he wanted to make sure that the money that is reaching the organization is not transferred through Lebanon's banking systems and from it to the global financial sector.”Salameh said that he stressed to Glaser “Daesh has no money in Lebanon,” noting that the country “is part of the Arab and international efforts to dry the funding of ISIL.”
Glaser discussed on Tuesday with Lebanese officials the measures that would reduce the flow of illicit money, which could be used to fund terrorist organizations and operations. The U.S. official, according to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Beirut, encouraged Lebanese authorities and financial institutions to continue their work to combat the threat of illicit financing and prevent attempts to evade U.S. and international financial sanctions from Iran and Syria, in particular. He met with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, a delegation from the Lebanese Association of Banks, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jebran Bassil and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq. Glaser reiterated the U.S. commitment to work with Lebanon to continue protecting Lebanon’s financial system from abuse by terrorism threats.

Saniora Files Complaint Against Wahhab over Remarks
Naharnet/Head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora filed a complaint against Arab Tawhid Party leader and former minister Wiam Wahhab over remarks accusing the lawmaker of belonging to the “Israeli project” in the region. The state-run National News Agency reported on Thursday that Saniora briefed General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud on the context of Wahhab's statements during a televised interview, stressing that he reserves the right to file a lawsuit against the former minister. Wahhab later responded to Saniora's move, saying that he accepts the former PM's lawsuit on the condition that Saniora abandons his parliamentary immunity. “If he wants we could face each other through judiciary and in front of the Lebanese.” Wahhab said that he insists on “putting (Saniora) on trial and holding him accountable (for his actions) because he is part of (the Israeli) project.”He considered during a televised interview on Wednesday Saniora to be “part of an Israeli project,” accusing him of exerting efforts to topple al-Mustaqbal Movement chief Saad Hariri's interests. He also accused him of spreading division and sedition among the Lebanese, which only benefits the Jewish state. “Saniora considers that dialogue harms his position... he will never become a prime minister unless the Israeli project triumphs,” Wahhab continued. He slammed Saniora as “a moving incitement, who can't stand the fact that the Lebanese could unite.”“You didn't leave any money for the Lebanese... We are suffering from $70 billion debt because of him.”Saniora lashed out at Hizbullah and Iran during the March 14 coalition's 10th anniversary over the weekend. He noted that “Lebanon is no longer safe due to the party's intervention in the war in Syria.”He was also angered by a statement by an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Ali Younesi, for allegedly declaring earlier this month a new Iranian empire, “whose capital is Baghdad.”Al-Mustaqbal bloc also blasted Hizbullah and its allies on Tuesday for turning a blind eye to the statement, accusing the party of “putting its loyalty to Iran and its Velayat-e faqih (Tehran's form of Islamic rule) above the Lebanese interest and the Arab interest.”Tension soared between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal after lawmakers from both parties exchanged accusations.Despite the tension, the eighth round of dialogue between the two parties was held on Wednesday under Speaker Nabih Berri's auspices in Ain el-Tineh.

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag to Travel to Saudi Arabia, Iran to Discuss Lebanon Crises
Naharnet /The United Nations Security Council is expected to issue a new statement to confirm its unanimity to safeguard Lebanon and its stability in face of the growing terrorist threats as U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag is set to head to Saudi Arabia and Iran to reach a breakthrough on the presidential stalemate. According to An Nahar newspaper published on Thursday, U.N. Assistant-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet and Kaag briefed the Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – during a closed meeting on U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's report on the implementation of resolution 1701. France's Ambassador to the U.N. François Delattre considered the discussions “fruitful and detailed.”Delattre said that the Security Council members expressed readiness to continue their countries' staunch support to Lebanon to combat the increasing challenges, including the spread of terrorism. They also stressed the importance of electing a new head of state as soon as possible to enable the state to deal with the social, economic and security challenges. MPs failed for the 20th time last week to elect a new head of state over lack of quorum. President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May without the election of a successor. Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc have been boycotting electoral sessions due to a disagreement with the March 14 camp over a compromise presidential candidate. Delattre said that his country proposed a presidential statement by the Security Council to underline the situation in Lebanon, voicing the unanimity of the permanent members in order to convince the political rivals in Lebanon to unite. For her part, Kaag described the meeting as “comprehensive and essential,” noting that discussions focused on the importance of electing a new head of state. She expressed solidarity with the Lebanese army, in particular along the country's eastern border where the military is frequently clashing with Islamist militants to prevent them from advancing into the country. Kaag also lauded the efforts exerted by Prime Minister Tammam Salam to safeguard the country. “The unity of the Security Council is of utmost necessity and linked to efforts to isolate Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian turmoil.” The U.N. official said that she discussed with several officials and Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi the possibility of increasing support to Lebanon. “I look forward to visit Saudi Arabia and Iran soon to continue the discussions,” Kaag remarked to An Nahar.

Arrest Warrants Issued against 17 Lebanese for Belonging to IS
Naharnet /The Military Tribunal issued on Thursday arrest warrants against 17 Lebanese on charges of belonging to the Islamic State extremist group. Judge Fadi Sawan issued the warrants against the suspects, six of whom are in custody. The charges include belonging to the IS for the aim of carrying out terrorist activity, fighting the army in the northern city of Tripoli, murdering and the attempted murder of soldiers, and trying to travel to Syria through Tripoli Port to fight alongside the IS in the neighboring country. They are also accused of creating sectarian incitement. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty. Sawan has since referred their case to the permanent military court.

U.N. Security Council Urges Help for Lebanon's Syrian Refugees
Naharnet /The U.N. Security Council called on the international community Thursday to help Lebanon in its efforts to host more than a million refugees from neighboring Syria. An estimated 1.18 million Syrians have fled their country's bloody conflict to take refuge in Lebanon, which has struggled to deal with the influx as the war enters its fifth year. The "gravely concerned" 15 council members noted that the sheer number "represents more refugees in proportion to Lebanon's national population than any other country." In a unanimous declaration just days ahead of a major donor conference in Kuwait, the Security Council worried about the impact on the stability and security of Lebanon and the region as a whole. The council "underscores that support to Lebanon's efforts to manage the impact of the influx of refugees, including on essential services such as education and health, is crucial to preserving Lebanon's stability and security," it said. "The council urges the international community to urgently disburse existing pledges and meaningfully increase assistance to Lebanon."
As many as 78 nations and 40 international organizations are expected to attend the third donors conference aimed at raising billions of dollars for war-torn Syria on March 31. The gathering of foreign ministers will be opened by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Nations are expected to announce pledges for U.N. humanitarian operations in Syria, where 12 million people both inside and outside the country need urgent aid. At the first and second conferences, also hosted by Kuwait, pledges of $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion were made, but the United Nations has complained that not all pledges were honored. As a result, U.N. humanitarian agencies had to reduce their assistance to millions of civilians. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates that up to 4.27 million Syrian refugees will have fled to neighboring countries by the end of this year. In its declaration, the Security Council repeated its call for Lebanon to quickly elect a president after a 10-month stalemate and to avoid any involvement in the Syrian crisis.
SourceAgence France Presse

Why the Israeli voter reelected Binyamin Netanyahu and strengthened his Likud
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis March 18, 2015
Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party owed its March 17 election lead of 30 seats as much to its rivals’ myopia as to the prime minister’s stunning last-ditch campaign blitz. The writing had been on the wall for weeks. On Feb. 13, debkafile reported that Netanyahu had taken to using Facebook to depict a semi-comic character on video clips that were catching on fast. But most pundits and the Tel Aviv-based political and academic establishments insisted that Bibi had had his day and the voter was bound to usher him to the exit.
This assumption, which drew heavily on personal dislike, was reflected in all the opinion polls and the media. With one voice, they hailed the Yitzhak Herzog-Tzipi Livni partnership, whose parties merged to form the left-leaning, dovish Zionist Union (former Labor party), as Israel’s great white hope and the next heads of government after Netanyahu’s long years at the helm.
While they admittedly operated in a widespread climate of popular despondency and hankering for change, Likud’s rivals also missed the strong underlying trends:
1. Negative electioneering rarely works. The opposition kicked off its campaign with the “anyone but Bibi” slogan and smear tactics against the prime minister, his wife Sarah and their personal lifestyle, as justification for Likud’s ouster and the left-wing camp’s installment in government. The tactic’s very intensity boomeranged, when Bibi craftily turned it into an asset. He reached out to the voter as the underdog who had been unjustly vilified by the “haves.”
2. Another opposition tactic which misfired was the campaign to demonstrate Israeli society as exploited and abused by a bad government which, for example, had run the health and education systems into the ground.
The average Israeli has plenty of cause for complaint in terms of the crippling wage gap, lack of affordable housing, and a soulless bureaucracy. Clamors to address these malaises must and will be addressed.
But by and large, many of the public services on offer are of a high standard compared with most Western countries. Unemployment is down to 5 percent, food prices are falling and the currency is strong.
Potable water is in unlimited supply as a result of huge government expenditure on desalination plants; a highway and road network connects all corners of the country and a rail system is finally being built. Communications rates are cheap.
Although the housing shortage for the average home-buyer far pre-dated the Likud-led government, the outgoing administration was on its way to providing solutions in response to popular pressure.
Three of the five parties Netanyahu quickly approached to join his new coalition ran on a social ticket and are deeply committed to making life better for young families and the middle class at large.
3. Opposition parties claimed they lost the election because security issues overshadowed the economy. This too was groundless.
The average voter not only re-elected Likud for another term, but shrank the smaller right-wing parties. This boosted Netanyahu’s support in parliament from a low 18 seats to thirty. With this setup, he need no longer be prey to the harassments of small partners, but will enjoy greater leeway for his government to get important jobs done.
4. A common convention has always been that an Israeli prime minister who falls out with an American president must go and make way for a politician able to heal the rift and restore good relations with Washington.
This presumption has been superseded by four changes:
--- The average Israeli is a lot better informed on events taking place in the Middle East countries around his country’s borders, where he sees hotbeds of instability, civil war bloodbaths and galloping Islamic radicalism. In his six (interrupted) years as prime minister, Netanyahu established sophisticated defense fortifications in the north and the south. Vast national resources were also invested in upgrading the operational capabilities of the army, air force and navy. Therefore, another slogan hurled against him that national security declined on his watch failed to connect.
--- The Israeli voter was not so much worried by the way Netanyahu stood up to President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East as he admired his pluck in defending national interests.
Herzog and Livni’s pledge to improve relations with the Obama administration, instead of being a vote-catcher had the opposite effect. While better relations are desired, the average Israeli is not prepared to pay for them by concessions on security.
--- The two most recent waves of immigrants to Israel from Russia and France have altered Israel’s demographic makeup and colored its perception of national and security issues. Neither group is stranger to brushes with radical Islam, on the one hand, or arguments with the United States, on the other. Both prefer pro-reactive responses to hostile challenges rather than knuckling under. Groups with this attitude tend not to be attracted by dovish, left-leaning politicians.
--- For all these reasons, the conflict with the Palestinians became sidelined in the election campaign as a non-issue.

Netanyahu’s Win Is Good for Palestine
Yousef Munayyer/The New York Times
March 18, 2015
WASHINGTON — IF anyone doubted where Benjamin Netanyahu stood on the question of peace, the Israeli prime minister made himself clear just before Tuesday’s election, proclaiming that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch. Then he decided to engage in a bit of fear-mongering against Palestinian citizens of Israel in hopes of driving his supporters to the polls. “The right-wing government is in danger,” Mr. Netanyahu announced on Election Day. “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”
But Mr. Netanyahu’s victory is actually the best plausible outcome for those seeking to end Israel’s occupation. Indeed, I, as a Palestinian, breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that his Likud Party had won the largest number of seats in the Knesset.
This might seem counterintuitive, but the political dynamics in Israel and internationally mean that another term with Mr. Netanyahu at the helm could actually hasten the end of Israel’s apartheid policies. The biggest losers in this election were those who made the argument that change could come from within Israel. It can’t and it won’t.
Israelis have grown very comfortable with the status quo. In a country that oversees a military occupation that affects millions of people, the biggest scandals aren’t about settlements, civilian deaths or hate crimes but rather mundane things like the price of cottage cheese and whether the prime minister’s wife embezzled bottle refunds.
For Israelis, there’s currently little cost to maintaining the occupation and re-electing leaders like Mr. Netanyahu. Raising the price of occupation is therefore the only hope of changing Israeli decision making. Economic sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s increased its international isolation and put pressure on the apartheid regime to negotiate. Once Israelis are forced to decide between perpetual occupation and being accepted in the international community, they may choose a more moderate leader who dismantles settlements and pursues peace, or they may choose to annex rather than relinquish land — provoking a confrontation with America and Europe. Either way, change will have to come from the outside.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (B.D.S.) has thrived while Mr. Netanyahu has led Israel. He has become the internationally recognized face of Israeli intransigence, settlement building and brazen disregard for Palestinian human rights. But while Mr. Netanyahu has become synonymous with the occupation, he is in many ways a product of it. There are also entrenched political and economic interests that benefit from maintaining the status quo.
By monopolizing West Bank land and natural resources, Israel reaps the benefits of occupation with few costs. Settlements are a major state investment, and add both a geographic and political obstacle to peace since settlers play a key role in shaping Israeli politics and their interests cannot be ignored.
Mr. Netanyahu’s style has certainly heightened tensions and harmed relations with Israel’s allies. He has clashed with President Obama and thumbed his nose at the Democratic Party by helping to make Israel a partisan political issue in America. His most recent speech before a joint session of Congress, which 60 members of Congress boycotted, was merely the latest incident.
Replacing Mr. Netanyahu with his challenger, Isaac Herzog, would have slowed down the B.D.S. movement and halted pressure on Israel by creating the perception of change. A new prime minister would have kick-started a new “peace process” based on previous failed models that would inevitably fail again because of a lack of real pressure on Israel to change its deplorable behavior.
The re-election of Mr. Netanyahu provides clarity. Two years ago Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the maximum time left for a two-state solution was two years. Mr. Netanyahu officially declared it dead this week in order to drive right-wing voters to the polls. The two-state solution, which has seen more funerals than a reverend, exists today only as a talking point for self-interested, craven politicians to hide behind — not as a realistic basis for peace.
The old land-for-peace model must now be replaced with a rights-for-peace model. Palestinians must demand the right to live on their land, but also free movement, equal treatment under the law, due process, voting rights and freedom from discrimination.
Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election has convincingly proved that trusting Israeli voters with the fate of Palestinian rights is disastrous and immoral. His government will oppose any constructive change, placing Israel on a collision course with the rest of the world. And this collision has never been more necessary.
The election results will further galvanize the movement seeking to isolate Israel internationally. B.D.S. campaigns will grow, and more countries will move toward imposing sanctions to change Israeli behavior. In the past few years, a major Dutch pension fund divested large sums from Israeli banks active in the West Bank, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been divested from companies, like G4S and SodaStream, that operate in occupied territory.
There won’t be real change on the ground or at the polls without further pressure on Israel. And now, that pressure will increase. For this, we have Mr. Netanyahu to thank.
**Yousef Munayyer is executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Arabs should take the lead on Syria
Tawfiq Al-Saif/Asharq Al Awsat
Thursday, 19 Mar, 2015
Recent remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry about Washington “having” to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad mark a significant turning point in the course of the Syrian crisis.
Today Kerry is talking about the outcomes of the Geneva I conference as providing a suitable framework for a way out of the Syrian crisis, a position similar to the one adopted by Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer.
The justification for this shift was offered by CIA Director John O. Brennan who said that Washington and its allies are concerned about the disintegration and fall of the Syrian state into the hands of extremist armed groups.
Such a shift would certainly not have been expected before September 23, 2014, the date when the US launched airstrikes over Syria.
But the about-face now seems completely logical as Washington has moved from merely being an ally of the Syrian opposition and a sponsor of the Geneva conference, to a direct partner in the war.
We are then facing a new scene in Syria. The US is calling for negotiations with Damascus while it continues to refuse to recognize the role of groups it considers extremist despite their accounting for most of the opposition’s military efforts. Meanwhile, Iraq is witnessing a form of military understanding between Washington and Tehran which may serve as a model for a political one between Washington and Moscow in Syria. In other words, the Syrian arena is witnessing a radical shift in positions, something that will no doubt lead to a regressive shift in opposition ranks. The most prominent embodiment of this shift may take the form of the emergence of a new opposition lineup mainly consisting of groups that advocate negotiating with the government, such as the internal opposition, the National Coordination Committee, and the political current of Moaz Al-Khatib, the oppositionist who led the Syrian National Coalition in late 2012.
What concerns us in this regard is the role that Arabs may assume in the Syrian crisis. Over the past four years, Arab states have been divided between a minority that either sympathized with or backed the government, and a majority that distanced itself from the conflict. What is certain is that any form of negotiation between the two sides in the conflict will be sponsored by Washington and Moscow, with Tehran and the EU likely playing either a direct or indirect role. As for the role of Arab states, that remains unclear.
By an Arab role I do not mean a kind of celebratory participation, as was the case in the Geneva I and II conferences. Rather, I am calling on Arab states to take the initiative by putting forward a solution that guarantees an exit strategy from the crisis, to be followed by another one aimed at rehabilitating the new state, which is to incorporate all parties in the Syrian conflict.
My justification for this call is that any development in the Syrian crisis would definitely have repercussions on the political situation in the region as a whole and affect the current regional balances. It makes no sense that Arab states continue to wait for what decisions others will make.
It is understandable that Arab support is necessary to any deal between the Syrian opposition and government. In fact, no solution can be reached in Syria without the backing of Arab states. Nevertheless, the lack of effective and early participation may limit our role to merely giving our blessings to what others end up agreeing on. In order for our role to be effective, Arab states must put forward an initiative, perhaps led by key Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria, and adopted by the Arab League on behalf of all Arab states.
In this context, I call on each of the three said countries to appoint a special representative to participate in formulating the future initiative. Why those three countries specifically? Because each of them has links to the main players in the conflict and at the same time enjoys a degree of respect on regional and international levels, characteristics required in any effective partner.
The Arab situation is far from rosy, but we do not lack the necessary competence to work out solutions for our crises. What we need today is to start taking the initiative and abandon our policies of procrastination, which have made us partners in responsibility for what has happened instead of being partners in producing and investing in solutions.

Iran's bid for Middle East domination
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor/AlArabiya
Thursday, 19 March 2015
For many years, I’ve appealed to the Arab World, in particular, Gulf leaderships, to rescue both Iraq and Yemen from falling into Iranian hands.
Today, like Syria and Lebanon, those once proud Arab heartlands are virtually under the control of Iran’s Supreme Leader. That’s no exaggeration. There’s not only a wealth of factual evidence to back up my conclusions, prominent Iranians have actually admitted as much. And their ambitions don’t stop there.
Earlier this month, Iran’s former intelligence minister and current advisor to the President for Ethnic Affairs and Religious Minorities, Ali Younesi, had this to say in a public forum: “All of the Middle East is Iranian…”
Decades ago, I might have dismissed those words as laughable wishful thinking, but there’s little to laugh at now. Iranian-backed Shiite Houthis have succeeded in taking over most of Yemen, and according to reports, Tehran is not only openly flying-in weapons, the government has pledged a year’s oil to its Yemeni proxy as well as a study on the feasibility of constructing power stations. Yemen now constitutes a direct threat to the security and stability on the borders of Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps - that together with Hezbollah fighters are hand-in-hand with Syria’s Assad regime battling opposition groups - has turned its attention to Iraq.
In a nutshell, Tehran has been given free rein to further its ideological and territorial strategy of placing the entire Middle East under the Islamic Republic’s red, white and green flag
Senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in country orchestrating the Iraqi Army that’s partnered-up with Iraqi Shiite militias to liberate the Sunni-majority province of Anbar from ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ terrorists.
“Faith on a mirage”
One of Iraq’s paramilitary leaders, Hadi Al-Amari, among those fighting to take-back Saddam’s hometown Tikrit, told CNN that he’s proud to declare to the world that “we have Iranian advisers”, adding, “Anyone who puts their faith in the international coalition to liberate Iraq is putting their faith on a mirage.”
Moreover, the Governor of Kirkuk, Dr. Najmaldin Karim, told CBS News, “If Iran is helping with whatever way I don’t see how you can say no to them.”
And don’t for a minute imagine those Iranian ‘advisers’ - or Iranian troops - will pack up and go home once the job is done, as the Iraqi Prime Minister would have us believe. He can’t be trusted.
Read what Ali Younesi has to say on the subject: “At the moment Iraq is not only the bastion of our civilization, it is also our identity, culture and capital and this is true now as in the past…The geography of Iran and Iraq cannot be divided.”
Ali Larijani, Iran’s National Security Advisor, tried to sweeten the pill. He told a Kuwaiti television channel that Younesi message had been misinterpreted, contending that “he had only raised the issue of cultural harmony.” Unfortunately for Larijani, that weak re-jigging of meaning won’t wash.
Here I would quote an extract from one of my own columns published in September last year, headed “While the American cat’s distracted, the Iranian mouse plays”: “The writing is on the wall but isn’t visible to those who find comfort in burying their heads in the sand. I can only hope they will hear the words coming right out of the horse’s mouth, spoken by Alireza Zakani, an Iranian lawmaker and confident of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Great Jihad
In short, he exposed the mullah’s box of tricks during a recent parliamentary speech. “Iran is currently going through a stage during its ‘Great Jihad’ that requires a particular strategy and a cautious approach, he said while boasting that ‘Three Arab capitals are now in Iran’s hands and affiliated to the Iranian Revolution, adding that the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, is well on its way to becoming the fourth.”
I must admit to having been mistaken on one point. America is not distracted, it’s complicit. In early March, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey actually said Iranian intervention in Iraq might be a positive thing.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have at last woken-up to the threat. A few weeks ago, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, asked U.S. Secretary-of-State John Kerry for ground forces to take on ISIS in Iraq on the grounds there was a risk that Iran would “take over Iraq.”
Prince Saud’s fears have gone unheeded. President Obama knows there is no appetite among American voters to see their country get involved in any further Middle East wars and he’s in no mood to upset the Iranians, while delicate talks on limiting Iran’s nuclear programs are ongoing.
Basically, the U.S. has reneged on its responsibilities to the country George W. Bush broke in 2003 and has instead farmed-out those responsibilities to its long-time foe, Iran. It’s so outrageous, you couldn’t make it up.
In a nutshell, Tehran has been given free rein to further its ideological and territorial strategy of placing the entire Middle East under the Islamic Republic’s red, white and green flag.
A new Persian Empire is being solidified under our noses. Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon are now little more than Persian vassal states, while Bahrain is still one of Tehran’s prime targets.
Larijani is now in the process of trying to woo Gulf States to accept Iranian Hegemony, beginning with Kuwait. During a recent meeting with the Kuwaiti Emir in Kuwait City, he stressed upon the two nations “enormous cultural and historical ties”. From there, he travelled to Qatar to urge closer parliamentary ties. I can only hope the leaders of these states don’t fall for it. Appeasement is not the right way to go.
Especially vulnerable
Any international legitimacy Iran might receive if the P5+1-Iranian negotiations prove fruitful resulting in the lifting of sanctions and the restoration of full diplomatic relations, will only serve to bolster Iran’s coffers, confidence and geopolitical clout.
And now we learn from John Kerry that the U.S. have given up the ghost when it comes to freeing Syria from the most oppressive and brutal regimes in its history. So much blood spilled; so much suffering, gone to waste. Why? Because, according to Kerry, the Obama administration is ready to reignite peace talks, this time to include Iran’s partner-in-crime, the Syrian president himself.
Sorry, but Arabs shouldn’t be let off the hook in all this. We have the weapons, the air power, the finances, the intelligence apparatus and the men to defend our own lands. We in the Gulf are especially vulnerable. As I’ve warned repeatedly in my columns, the day will surely come when Iraq and Iran will amalgamate into one massive Shiite nation with its eye firmly turned towards GCC States.
Just a few years ago, Iran threatened to close its airspace to any airline using the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ and to close the Straits of Hormuz if it were attacked. If those threats were carried through and also implemented by an Iranian-controlled Syria, Iraq, Yemen, GCC nationals and residents would be held hostage, unable to fly.
What happened to us? We used to have pride; our hearts used to burst with Arab patriotism. Are we waiting for Iranians to occupy our land, too? Will we wait with tied hands until our dignity and the sanctity of our homes are stripped from us?
We cannot go on cowering indefinitely in the face of a burgeoning Greater Iran. We must be honest, instead of being afraid to come out and say who our enemies truly are. We must muster our determination and use all our power to cut the head off the snake.
On March 23, the Arab League Summit is expected to place the idea of a joint Arab military force to conduct missions of emergency intervention, at the top of its agenda. I’ve long been calling for such a force, but there is no time to waste. It will be of little use once the Iranian horse has bolted. This is our opportunity to send a unified message to Qom that the Lion of Arabia has opened its eyes and bares its fangs.

Iran’s seizure of Iraq
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Thursday, 19 March 2015
The battle to rid Tikrit of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has revealed the depth of the Iranian military’s role in Iraq, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard leaders’ authority over what has been dubbed the “popular mobilization” units - militias parallel to the Iraqi army.
Iran has sent forces, consultants and arms to Iraq. And its security leaders have reiterated their view that they are the ones who saved the Iraqi regime and Baghdad.
A New York Times report said Iran deployed rockets and missiles in Iraq, while several Iraqi leaders spoke about a military deal struck with Iran worth $10 billion.
This does not fall into the context of temporary Iranian support for Iraq during its ordeal. It’s more a plan by the Iranians to dominate and seize control of their oil-rich Iraqi neighbor, which has a significant geostrategic location.
The process of Iran’s seizure of Iraq resembles that of the Syrian model in Lebanon
What changed since September is that Iran no longer settles with counting on the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - who was its close ally - now that he’s been constitutionally toppled by the majority of Iraqi forces.
Iran has therefore decided to be present in all Iraqi political, military, partisan and religious posts.
Iran’s worry
The Iranian march towards Iraq and its domination over Baghdad’s decision-making process may express Iran’s desire to finalize regional struggles where it dominates Syria and Iraq, and this automatically means a domination over the Arab Levant, including the Gulf.
Iran’s worry increased when Iraqi forces succeeded in making Maliki exit power at a time when he was holding on to his post and intending to renew his premiership term for four more years to end up governing Iraq for 12 consecutive years by resorting to absolute power that resembles the former regime of Saddam Hussein.
The United States supported the plan to eliminate Maliki by cooperating with Iraq’s political parties including Maliki’s party Dawa which turned against him.
His comrade Haidar al-Abadi was chosen to take over the premiership post.
It seems that eliminating Maliki emboldened the Iranian regime to directly interfere in Iraq and obstruct the political reconciliation which Abadi pledged to achieve with Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
The Iranians have also aborted the project to establish a National Guard force, and instead have established a combination of extremist Shiite militias which they call “the popular mobilization” units and which currently handle the fighting in Sunni areas.
Comprehensive domination formula
The process of Iran’s seizure of Iraq resembles that of the Syrian model in Lebanon - it started under the banner of the Arab Deterrent Force and later, during the 1970's, Syrian troops resorted to confronting Palestinian militias.
Even after the defeat of forces hostile to the Lebanese authority, the Syrian troops stayed in Lebanon within the context of a comprehensive domination formula which cancelled historical political figures either by assassinating or marginalizing them.
The Syrians also controlled all aspects of the economy, established the party of Hezbollah as their military arm and fully controlled Lebanon for a quarter of a century.
Iranian intelligence and Revolutionary Guard forces are currently heavily present inside Iraq and most of them are deployed under the slogan of confronting ISIS.
However the size of Iranian interference - in my view - confirms that Iran is not present in Iraq for a temporary military cooperation plan.
What enhances these fears is comments from Iraqi leaders that it bought weapons worth $10 billion.
Since the latter amount of money is huge, and since Iran does not have weapons that are worth this amount, then this proves several politicians’ statements that in the past few years, Maliki’s government funded Iranian activities in the region under different excuses which were either described as financial compensation or as the cost of military purchases.
Truth be told, the amount of money paid by the Iraqis to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - regardless of how hefty they are - are not the case here.
What’s more important is Iran’s intentions of this presence in Iraq and of managing Iraqi forces and controlling Iraqi political decisions. So are we ahead of an Iranian seizure of Iraq?

Boko Haram attacks Nigeria town of Gamboru, kills 11: witnesses
Agence France Presse/Mar. 19, 2015/KANO, Nigeria: Boko Haram militants killed 11 people in an attack on Gamboru, northeast Nigeria, as hundreds of Islamists flooded the town following the withdrawal of Chadian troops, witnesses said Thursday. Three residents of Fotokol, a town in Cameroon but effectively attached to Gamboru, said the rebel onslaught began Wednesday and there were indications that Boko Haram intended to occupy Gamboru again. "Boko Haram gunmen returned on motorcycles to Gamboru yesterday ... and shot dead eight people," said Mudi Dankaka in an account supported by others, adding that three more people were killed Thursday morning.

Netanyahu says wants sustainable two state solution: MSNBC
Reuters/Mar. 19, 2015/WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied Thursday that he had abandoned his commitment to creating a Palestinian state, but said current political conditions made that possibility more remote.
"I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change," Netanyahu said in an interview on MSNBC, appearing to back away from comments he made during the Israeli election campaign that drew heavy U.S. criticism.

In call, Obama tells Netanyahu he will reassess US policy on Mideast peace
The United States has been forced to reassess its policy regarding the Middle East peace process, US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Thursday, after Netanyahu suggested earlier in the week he had abandoned the cause.
According to a White House official, speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Obama told Netanyahu that the US "will need to reassess our options following the prime minister’s new positions and comments regarding the two-state solution."
"They also discussed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about Israeli Arabs," the official added.
Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Thursday that he never retracted his speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognized the Jewish state.
According to a statement released earlier on Thursday by the White House, during the call Obama congratulated the Israeli premiere on his win in Tuesday's elections. The US president also "emphasized the importance the United States places on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries."
During the call, the two leaders "agreed to continue consultations on a range of regional issues, including the difficult path forward to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Obama "reaffirmed the United States’ long-standing commitment to a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine."On Iran, Obama "reiterated that the United States is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and verifiably assures the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program."On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry briefly called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory, even as the State Department was “evaluating” its approach to the diplomatic process following Netanyahu’s comments that he would not support a two-state solution.

US may withdraw support for Israel at Security Council
The US is reconsidering its staunch support of Israel at the United Nations and has not automatically accepted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement to the American media affirming his support of two states for two peoples after pre-election comments that appeared to reject it.
“I never retracted my speech in Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognized the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I want a sustainable peaceful two-state solution,” he said. “But for that, circumstances have to change.”
Two days earlier, Netanyahu told the Israeli media that a Palestinian state would not be created during his premiership and warned against Arab voters heading to the polls in droves. But on Thursday, with his job safely back in his hands, Netanyahu took to the US airwaves to assuage White House concerns he has reneged on the peace process.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that, despite Netanyahu’s American media interviews, the US will “still evaluate” its policy on the Middle East peace process.
With a sharper tone since first reacting to Israel’s election results on Wednesday, Earnest characterized Netanyahu’s claim that Arabs were voting “in droves” against him as a “cynical Election Day tactic.”
Obama administration officials hinted broadly that the US may – for the first time – back a UN Security Council resolution laying down the principles for a two-state solution, or support a Palestinian bid to join the UN as a full member. The Palestinians have sought a path to statehood outside negotiations with Israel through the UN, but longstanding US policy has been to oppose unilateral actions by either side.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that, while the US remains committed to opposing an unfair or biased resolution on Israel, not all resolutions meet that criteria.
“There are a range of options in the UN Security Council,” she said. “I am not going to prejudge it further. What we will look at is the content of a resolution.”
The prime minister’s pre-election comments, Earnest said, called into question his commitment to the pursuit of peace and have forced the US government to reassess its stance.
“What is clear is that in the context of the campaign and while he was the sitting prime minister of Israel he walked back from commitments that Israel had previously made to a two state solution,” Earnest said.
The Israeli-US Strategic Partnership Act that passed the House of Representatives last December, identified a two-state solution as a US goal to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, Earnest said.
”We believe [Netanyahu] changed his position,” Psaki said. “He was the prime minister three days ago, so certainly we can’t forget about those comments.” She added that “it’s not about showing our displeasure. It’s about finding a way forward.”
The White House said President Barack Obama and his administration would be carefully watching the actions of Netanyahu, his party, and his coalition moving forward.
But the State Department further warned that, despite its reassessment, it still supports Palestinian cooperation with the Israelis on security matters.
Netanyahu told MSNBC that, while he has not backtracked on his Bar-Ilan University speech, the reality has changed. He blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for being responsible for part of that change, saying that he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for Israel’s destruction.
He also said that all territory vacated in the Middle East is taken over by Islamist forces.
“If you want to get peace, you’ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace,” he said. “We have to also make sure that we don’t have ISIS coming in to that territory. It’s only two dozen miles away from our border.”
In the interview Netanyahu spoke of the need for him to work together with Obama, saying there is an “unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States.”
Asked about his comments on Election Day, when he urged his supporters to vote because Arab voters were going to the polls en masse, Netanyahu said the right of all to vote in Israel is “sacrosanct.” He said his words referred to a “massive foreign- funded effort” to try to get out votes for a specific party (the Joint List), which he called “an amalgamation of Islamists and other anti-Israel groups.”
“I said when that happens, make sure we get out our vote,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to suppress a vote, I was trying to get something to counter a foreign- funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party, and I was calling on our voters to come out.”
Netanyahu, in his first interview since the election, said while he and Obama may have their differences, “we have so many things that unite us. We have a situation in the Middle East that is very dangerous and presents a common challenge to us.”
The prime minister said that although he has not yet spoken to Obama, he is sure he will soon.
“We work together. We have to,” he said. “We have our differences.
By coming to the US [to speak to Congress] I did not mean any disrespect or attempt at partisanship, but I was merely speaking of something that I view could endanger the survival of Israel.”
Netanyahu said there are many areas where the US and Israel must work together.
“We are allies. We have to consult each other, not have fiats or unilateral impositions, but negotiated peace with our neighbors and support between allies. America has no greater ally than Israel, and Israel has no greater ally than the United States.”
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said Thursday it was sad that “after another zigzag from Netanyahu on two states, there is no one left in the world who believes the prime minister of Israel.”
No Likud MK was willing to criticize Netanyahu Thursday for his two-state endorsement, despite many being opposed to such a move.
Meanwhile, US administration officials were quoted in The New York Times on Thursday saying that Obama – following Netanyahu’s reelection – will not “waste his time” on the managing Israel-US relations, delegating it instead to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Times quoted a senior White House official as saying that the US position has been to support direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“We are now in a reality where the Israeli government no longer supports direct negotiations,” he said. “Therefore we clearly have to factor that into our decisions going forward.”
While Obama has not yet called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory, the premier did receive calls on Thursday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
He also received congratulatory messages from the leaders of the Netherlands, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
White House officials have been in touch with their Israeli counterparts to discuss a phone call between Obama and Netanyahu, but no date has been set for a future meeting.
The US continues to be committed to the kind of military, intelligence, and security cooperation that has characterized US and Israel for generations, Earnest said.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

Father Nadaf shows continued support for Netanyahu in 4th term
By ARIEL COHEN/03/19/2015
Father Gabriel Nadaf sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulating him on his recent victory in the Israeli elections on Tuesday. According to Nadaf’s Facebook page, the Christian leader wrote to Netanyahu that “he was confident and sure that the new government that is going to be established with [Netanyahu’s] leadership will continue to support the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, lead by Father Gabriel.” Nadaf also expressed hopes that Netanyahu will work to integrate the Christians into Israeli society in all fields, just as he has in his previous terms, stating that “ integration of the Christians has a significant role in the Israeli society for true coexistence and for the representation of the beautiful face of Israel around the world.”Father Nadaf works to promote integration of Christians into Israeli society and has long been an outspoken advocate of national service by Israeli Christians in the IDF. He has often said that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are free from religious persecution. On numerous occasions he and Netanyahu have worked together, using Nadaf's position of prominence in the Israeli Christian community to reach out to the minority religious sect. Prior to the election Netanyahu met with Nadaf in order to confirm his support for the Christian community and ensure Nadaf’s support of Likud.
Over the years Netanyahu has also been a big supporter of Nadaf, especially when under critique for his push to have Arab-Christian Israelis enroll in the IDF. “The Christian youth must be allowed to go into the IDF,” Netanyahu said during a joint conference with Nadaf in 2013. “You are loyal citizens who want to defend the country, and I salute and support you. We will not tolerate threats on you and will work to firmly implement the law against those persecuting you.”

Iran limited to 6K centrifuges in draft accord
Associated Press/Ynetnews
Published: 03.19.15, 17:04 / Israel News
Draft of agreement between US and Iran on nuclear program would force Iran to cut hardware by 40% for 10 years in exchange for removal of sanctions.
A draft nuclear accord now being negotiated between the United States and Iran would force Iran to cut hardware it could use to make an atomic bomb by about 40 percent for at least a decade, while offering the Iranians immediate relief from sanctions that have crippled their economy, officials told the Associated Press on Thursday.
As an added enticement, elements of a UN arms embargo against Iran could be rolled back.
The very existence of a draft in circulation provided perhaps the clearest indication the sides were nearing a written agreement as they raced to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework pact. The deadline for a full agreement is the end of June.
Officials said the tentative deal imposes new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks.
That's also less than the 10,000 such machines Tehran now runs, yet substantially more than the 500 to 1,500 that Washington originally wanted as a ceiling. Only a year ago, US officials floated 4,000 as a possible compromise.
But US officials insist the focus on centrifuge numbers alone misses the point. Combined with other restrictions on enrichment levels and the types of centrifuges Iran can use, Washington believes it can extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon to at least a year for the 10 years it is under the moratorium. Right now, Iran would require only two to three months to amass enough material if it covertly seeks to "break out" toward the bomb.
The one-year breakout time has become a point the Obama administration is reluctant to cross in the set of highly technical talks, and that bare minimum would be maintained for 10 years as part of the draft deal. After that, the restrictions would be slowly eased. The total length of the deal would be at least 15 years, possibly even 20.
Among US allies, France is the most adamant about stretching out the duration of the deal. A European official familiar with the French position said it wants a 25-year time-span.
As part of the agreement, punitive US economic sanctions would be phased out over time. President Barack Obama has the authority to eliminate some measures immediately, and others would be suspended as Iran confirms its compliance over time. Some sanctions would be held to the later years of the deal, while a last set would require a highly skeptical US Congress to change laws.
Although time periods and sanctions schedules have previously been discussed, it is only in recent days that officials confirmed these understandings have been put down in a formal draft. The officials demanded anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the confidential talks.
Meanwhile, a senior European negotiator said on Thursday that the six world powers are unlikely to reach a framework agreement with Iran in the coming days as the sides are still far apart on key issues, blaming Tehran for failing to compromise.
"Contrary to what the Iranians are saying with regard to 90 percent of an accord being done, that's not true," the negotiator told reporters on condition of anonymity. "We are not close to an agreement."
The current round of talks in Switzerland may need to continue beyond Friday, the official said.
"We are pretty far away. There are a lot of issues that still need to be resolved. The Iranians must make substantial concessions," he said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the sides were working on difficult issues.
"We're pushing some tough issues but we made progress," Kerry told reporters, adding that it was unclear when the US delegation would return to Washington.
Also on Thursday, a senior US Treasury official said the Obama administration will work with Congress to impose further sanctions on Iran if a nuclear deal is not reached.
"Our team stands ready to raise the costs on Iran substantially should it make clear that it is unwilling to address the international community's concerns," said Adam Szubin, the acting head of Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Speaking before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Szubin also said the United States will remove sanctions on Iran only in stages as part of a nuclear deal, tied to Tehran's "verifiable" steps in curbing its nuclear activities.
Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful energy, medical and research purposes, though many governments believe it has nuclear weapons ambitions.
It's unclear how complete the draft agreement is. Iran's deeply buried underground enrichment plant remains a problem, officials said, with Washington demanding the facility be repurposed and Tehran insisting it be able to run hundreds of centrifuges there. Iran says it wants to use the machines for scientific research; the Americans fear they could be quickly retooled for enrichment.
A planned heavy water reactor will be re-engineered to produce much less plutonium than originally envisioned, relieving concerns that it could be an alternative pathway to a bomb.
Iran's atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters this week almost all the technical work was done, but other officials said several obstacles still stood in the way of the framework.
Any March framework agreement is unlikely to constrain Iran's missile program, which the United States believes may ultimately be aimed at creating delivery systems for nuclear warheads. Diplomats say that as the talks move to deadline, the Iranians continue to insist that missile curbs are not up for discussion.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for the fourth straight day Thursday. Much of the nitty-gritty negotiating was being handled by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Salehi, both nuclear physicists.
The talks formally remain between the Iran and six powers, but Kerry and Zarif have done most of the heavy lifting in recent months. If they make enough progress over the next days, foreign ministers representing the other nations at the negotiating table will be invited to put the finishing touches on the agreement. That may not happen until next week.
If a deal is reached, officials say various layers of UN sanctions on Iran will be eased. That will include parts of the UN arms embargo, with Russia and China, in particular, more forward-leaning on that front and talking about acting within weeks of a full accord. Some restrictions will stay in place, however, such as on the transfer of missile technology.
Any agreement faces fierce opposition from the US Congress as well as close American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, which believe the Obama administration has conceded too much.
Senate Republicans and even some Democrats are threatening to upend the diplomacy, demanding congressional approval and threatening further sanctions against Iran. If they can't stop an accord, their interference can make it harder for Obama to live up to his side of the bargain.
After the deal expires, Iran could theoretically ramp up enrichment to whatever level or volume it wants.
Iran already can produce the equivalent of one weapon's worth of enriched uranium with the centrifuges it now runs. However, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke of eventually operating enough centrifuges to produce what 190,000 of its current models churn out.
News agencies contributed to this report.