LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation For Today/Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.
Luke 24/36-48: "/"While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
Bible Quotation For Today/If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
Letter to the Romans 10/01-13: "Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or "Who will descend into the abyss?" ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.".
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 09-10/15
The Difference Between Islam and Islamism/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 9/15
Camp David: A summit and its discontents/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/May 09/15
Netanyahu Loses Leverage in Forming New Government/David Makovsky/Washington Institute/May 09/15
Bibi is big in America, but less so in Israel/David Ignatius/The Daily Star/May 09/15
Lebanese Related News published on May 09-10/15
United Kingdom's lesson in democracy
Lebanese ambassador to Pakistan was not on doomed helicopter
ISIS threat raises security level at U.S. military bases
Salam Meets Prominent Security Officials, Discuss Developments
FPM on Security Appointments: We Will Go Beyond Cabinet Resignation
Zasypkin Defends Hizbullah, Says Not Similar to ISIL
Report: Al-Rahi Kicks Off Talks with Maronite Rivals to End Presidential Crisis
Report: Security Measures Boosted in Dahiyeh amid Fears of Terror Attacks
Derbas Says Social Affairs Ministry to Survey Number of Refugees
Hizbullah, Syrian Army Take Control of al-Qalamoun's Juba
Lebanon hostage deal 'finalized': Ibrahim
Moscow not member of Hezbollah axis: Russia envoy
Rebels ousted from Qalamoun town outskirts: Al-Manar
19 arrested in Tripoli police sweep
Woman abducted in northeast Lebanon
Aiding both refugees and hosts
Hostage families confident that crisis nearly over
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Says Arsal Hostages Deal in 'Final Phase', Kidnappers Procrastinate over Financial Conditions
Female Dentist Kidnapped in Wadi Hmeid
Officials: Zouk plant contamination down 80 pct
Army defends Lebanon against Israel too: Moqbel
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 09-10/15
Putin takes swipe at U.S. in Victory Day speech
Chemical Inspectors Find Traces of Deadly Precursor in Syria
Thousands evacuated in Philippines as powerful typhoon nears
A bizarre twist in Libya’s militia drama
Truly rigorous standards are a must for Saudi education
Syrian official lashes out over US training of rebels
36 killed as 40 inmates escape in Iraq prison break
Saudi Police Say Officer Shot Dead in Capital
Iraq Launches Sunni Anti-IS Force in Anbar
Turkey Denies New Deal with Saudi on Supporting Syria Rebels
Egypt court sentences Mubarak, sons to three years in jail
Turkey's PM Denies Plan to Intervene in Syria
Militants Kill Three Egyptian Policemen and Retired Officer
Jihad Watch Latest News
Pamela Geller’s critics are proving her point
Victims of aggression are not to blame for their attackers’ aggression”
There’s a war on free speech — and the jihadis are winning
Tucker Carlson: Jihadists have “already won”
Cartoon jihadi’s stepmother: “I’m not saying what he did was right or wrong”
Cartoon jihadis’ mosque previously spawned two other terrorists
Jihadi who attacked AFDI/JW Muhammad cartoon contest had attempted to go to Syria to join the Islamic State
Robert Spencer in FrontPage Mag: Je Suis Pamela Geller
Mother's Day: Love, Sacrifices and
The Spirit Of My mother who like every and each loving departed mother is definitely watching from above and praying for all of us. May Almighty God Bless her spirit and the Spirits of all departed mothers.
In Christianity Virgin Merry is envisaged by many believers and numerous cultures as the number one role model for the righteous, devoted, loving , caring, giving, and humble mothers.
Today while in Canada we are happily and joyfully celebrating the Mothers' Day, let us all pray that Almighty God will keep granting all mothers all over the world the needed graces of wisdom, meekness and faith to highly remain under all circumstances honoring this holy role model and to stay as Virgin Merry fully devoted to their families.
In all religions and cultures all over the world, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is not a favor that people either chose to practice or not. No not at all, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is a holy obligation that each and every faithful individual who believes in God MUST fulfill, no matter what.
Almighty God in His 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 ) made the honoring of both parents (commandment number five) a holy obligation, and not a choice or a favor.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you". (Exodus 20:12)
Reading the Bible, both the Old and New Testament shows with no doubt that honoring parents is a cornerstone and a pillar in faith and righteousness for all believers. All other religions and cultures share with Christians this holy concept and obligation.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
"You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3).
Back home in Lebanon we have two popular proverbs that say: "If you do not have an elderly figure in your family to bless you, go and search for one". "The mother is the who either gathers or divides the family"
How true are these two proverbs, because there will be no value, or meaning for our lives if not blessed and flavored by the wisdom, love and blessings of our parents and of other elder members.
He who does not honor the elderly, sympathize and empathize with them, especially his own parents is a person with a hardened heart, and a numbed conscience, who does not know the meaning of gratitude.
History teaches us that the easiest route for destroying a nation is to destroy, its cornerstone, the family. Once the family code of respect is belittled and not honored, the family is divided and loses all its Godly blessings.
"Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11-17)
One very important concept and an extremely wise approach MUST apply and prevail when reading the Holy Bible in a bid to understand its contents and observe the Godly instructions and life guidelines that are enlisted. The concept needs to be a faith one with an open frame of mind free from doubts, questions and challenges.
Meanwhile the approach and interpretation MUST both be kept within the abstract manner, thinking and mentality frame, and not in the concrete way of interpretation.
We read in (Matthew 15/04: "For God said, Respect your father and your mother, and If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death).
This verse simply dwells on The Fifth Biblical Commandment: "Honor your Father and Mother". To grasp its meaning rightfully and put it in its right faith content one should understand that death in the Bible is not the death of the body as we experience and see on earth. DEATH in the Bible means the SIN that leads to eternal anguish in Hell.
The Bible teaches us that through His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated death in its ancient human, earthly concept. He broke the death thorn and since than, the actual death became the sin. Those who commit the sin die and on the judgment day are outcast to the eternal fire. Death for the believers is a temporary sleep on the hope of resurrection.
Accordingly the verse "If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death", means that those who do not honor their parents, help, support and respect them commit a deadly sin and God on the Judgment Day will make them accountable if they do not repent and honor their parents.
God is a Father, a loving, passionate and caring One, and in this context He made the honoring of parents one of the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion: The abstract and faith interpretation of Matthew 15/04 verse must not be related to children or teenagers who because of an age and maturity factors might temporarily repel against their parents and disobey them.
Hopefully, each and every one of us, no matter what religion or denomination he/she is affiliated to will never ever ignore his parents and commit the deadly SIN of not honoring them through every way and mean especially when they are old and unable to take care of themselves.
For all those of us whose mothers have passed away, let us mention them in our daily prayers and ask Almighty God to endow their souls the eternal rest in His heavenly dwellings.
Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers
It doesn't fit...
Walid Phares DC
25 years later, many regular folks in Lebanon are learning that lots of things they've heard from politicians do not fit with many other things they've also heard. For example they cannot fit a truly multiethnic federal system in the Taef mono-identity agreement, disarming the militias with the a para-state "resistance," Aramaic language with the country's official solo-Arabism, UNSCR 1559 with Syro-Lebanese defense accord, praising the past after abandoning it, 'wa ila ma hunalika min' (and so many) urban legends created by opinion makers for over 40 years. It simply doesn't fit. The public complains to the world, but the country is stuck with an establishment disconnected from reality. Someone has to sort it out first, someone from inside the country. Someone who is not part of the making of its chaos. Then it may be possible to get disentangled. Otherwise, more of the same...
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi
Says Arsal Hostages Deal in 'Final Phase', Kidnappers Procrastinate over
Naharnet/09.05.15/Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi stated on Saturday after meeting families of the Arsal captives that part of the thorny file could be heading towards the final stages of a solution, in light of reports that the kidnappers are trying to benefit financially from a set of new conditions before closing the deal. “The efforts exerted to solve this file are immense, and part of the file could be heading towards the final stages of a solution,” said Rifi. "I discussed in Turkey with head of the Syrian Coalition means to help the servicemen and he expressed utmost readiness to do so," he added. Islamists militants, who abducted several Lebanese servicemen in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August 2014, are reportedly seeking to improve the financial conditions they set to release the hostages in their captivity. An official source told al-Mustaqbal newspaper published that the “kidnappers are trying to surpass the principles that were agreed upon.”The source said that “the deal is only waiting for setting the necessary mechanism to implement it.”
It pointed out that “as the agreement reached its final stages the abductors tried to blackmail the Lebanese state by raising their conditions ahead of the expected prisoners swap deal,” citing the latest video for the servicemen posted by the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front group. “Lebanon has carried out its part to implement the deal and the ball is now in their (militants) field.” The source stressed that the course of negotiations with the abductors wasn't affected by the battles raging in Syria's al-Qalamoun. On Tuesday, the captive soldiers and policemen taken hostage by al-Nusra Front warned via a video footage released by the group that they will be executed if Syria's Qalamoun front was waged. “If the Lebanese army and Hizbullah were dragged into a battle in Qalamoun, we will be the ones to pay the price,” one of the soldiers said, accusing General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim of “lying to the families of the servicemen.” However, Ibrahim stressed on Friday that mediators are “racing time” to secure a swap deal to free the Lebanese servicemen, amid concerns that military developments in Syria's Qalamoun region might affect their fate. “We were in contact with the Qatari mediator last night and he told us positive news about this issue and I can confirm that the servicemen are safe. I don't want to set a date but, God willing, a solution is imminent,” he added. “The video that surfaced days ago will not affect us, our morale or the course of negotiations,” said Ibrahim, noting that he is seeking to finish the deal “in a manner that preserves Lebanese sovereignty and laws.”Addressing the anxious families, Ibrahim called for patience and underlined that their “pressure” will only increase the Lebanese authorities' “determination” to finalize the case. A number of soldiers and policemen were abducted by al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gunmen in the wake of clashes in Arsal. A few of them have since been released, four were executed, and the rest remain held.
Syrian Army Take Control of al-Qalamoun's Juba
Naharnet/Hizbullah fighters backed by the Syrian Army reportedly took control of new militant positions on the outskirts of the Syrian al-Qalamoun town, which borders Lebanon. Al-Manar reported that Hizbullah and the Syrian forces completely seized the outskirts of al-Juba town, which compelled Islamists militants to flee the area towards Ras al-Maarah, Fleita and al-Rahwa, along the Lebanese border. Voice of Lebanon (93.3) also said that Hizbullah and the Syrian troops took control of al-Mohmadat Hill, which oversees Wadi al-Zaaroura that links the outskirts of Brital with Juba. Syrian jets also shelled the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal and flew over Lebanon's Eastern Mountain range. Later, VDL (93.3) reported that the two allies also captured Wadi al-Kneisseh crossing between al-Juba and Assal al-Wared. Fighting has intensified in the past week in the mountainous al-Qalamoun region across the border from Lebanon, where militants from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front are entrenched. Hizbullah and Syrian government troops took control on Thursday of strategic heights in the Syrian region of al-Qalamoun that abuts Lebanon's eastern border. The control of the area on the outskirts of Assal al-Wared came following heavy clashes with al-Nusra Front. Hizbullah stated on Friday that the number of fighters who were killed in Syria's al-Qalamoun front were only three, denying media reports claiming otherwise. Some media outlets said that more than 40 of Hizbullah fighters had died in fighting against Islamic militants near the border with Lebanon this week. However, al-Nusra Front said in statement via Twitter: “A large number of Hizbullah and Syrian army members were killed and others wounded in fighting with al-Fatah al-Qalamoun army in Assal al-Wared.” Hizbullah has been fighting alongside Assad's forces against predominantly Sunni rebels and militants seeking to topple him. On Friday, Hizbullah and the troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad attacked militant posts in al-Qalamoun's Juba area after they compelled them to withdraw from the town of Assal al-Wared, which is near the Lebanese border enclave of Tufail, which is surrounded by Syrian lands to its north, east and south, and by the Lebanese villages of Ham, Maarboun and Brital to its west.
is do-or-die for Bashar Assad, Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s Gen. Soleimani
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis May 9, 2015
Two contenders are locked in a fateful contest to win the strategic Qalamoun Mts. on the Syrian-Lebanese border: The Syrian army and its Hizballah ally are fighting tooth and nail against the opposition Army of Conquest, which is spearheaded by Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch. This battle has all of a sudden attained the proportions of a critical regional contest, which poses dire consequences for the Iran-Syrian-Hizballah alliance at large and its three prime movers, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hizballah leader Hassan Nastrallah, and their overall commander, Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Al Qods Brigades.
With so much hanging in the balance, it is no wonder that Hizballah issued confused communiqués on the battle, until Nasrallah interceded Tuesday, May 5 to say: “We have not issued a statement, and we will not issue a statement. When we launch a (Qalamoun) operation, it will be obvious to everyone.”
The operation is, however, already in full flight. Neither Nasrallah nor anyone else can predict its outcome for sure, because a radical, unforeseen shift has taken place in the balance of strength. For the first time in nearly five years of Syrian civil war, the United States has lined up with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE to give the Syrian opposition heavy weapons. Had they been supplied earlier, the war might have ended sooner and many of the hundreds of thousands of victims might have been saved.
Also, after a long silence, senior Obama administration spokesmen were finally willing to blast the Assad regime for his heinous war crimes.
Friday, May 8, three senior spokesmen confirmed as “strong and credible” the reports that the Syrian army had reverted to the use of chemical weapons. They were Robert Malik, US ambassador to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, US Undersecretary of State Antony Nlnken and US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power.
They were willing to “disclose” a fact - long common knowledge in the region - that the Syrian army had retained a part of its chemical stockpile. This disclosure exposed the much-acclaimed US-Russian accord concluded by Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the end of 2013, forcing Assad to surrender his chemical arsenal, as a more or less dead letter.
On the heels of the US accusation, PCWU international inspectors revealed that traces of sarin and VX nerve agents were found in Syria last December and in January.
The new Obama administration’s diplomatic offensive against Assad came as the Qalamoun showdown attained momentous proportions, after two weeks of heavy Syrian military war reverses in the north. The sharp US edge was also directed at Gen. Soleimani, who is responsible for Iran’s supply of chorine-filled barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian air force on civilians in rebel-held areas.
Washington has refocused its attention on Syrian-Iranian chemical warfare out of two broader considerations:
1. Iran’s cavalier contempt for the international accords and treaties banning chemical weapons raises tough questions about Tehran’s credibility and trustworthiness for upholding the comprehensive nuclear accord currently in negotiation with the Six Powers. Can Iran be trusted to honor any commitment to allow the “intrusive inspections” of its nuclear sites, which President Barack Obama has pledged as the underpinning of any accord?
2. President Obama has just lately adopted a plan some members of his National Security Council put forward: It is to get the Iranians moving on the nuclear deal by applying a painful prod in the form of a wedge in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) leadership. IRGC chief Gen. Ali Jafari is being elevated as a “moderate” and the “good guy” of the regime, while Gen. Soleimani, the Al Qods chief, who orchestrates IRGC’s external subversive operations, is fingered as the “bad guy.’
Jafary is also to receive economic incentives for accepting the nuclear accord, while denouncing Soleimani, leading light of Iran’s military interventions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, may have the added benefit of forcing Tehran to pull in its horns in those conflicts.
Time will tell whether this tactic is effective. As matters stand in May 2015, it is hoped that undercutting Soleimani’s repute will impinge on the level of Iranian military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. A decision by Tehran to downscale its military support for the Syrian and Hizballah armed forces may undo them in the battle of Qalamoun. This defeat will seriously undermine Assad, Nasrallah and Soleimani. And so the Syrian opposition and its backers have all the more reason to push hard to win this fateful encounter.
Defends Hizbullah, Says Not Similar to ISIL
Naharnet/Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin defended on Saturday Hizbullah's intervention in Syria, describing the group as a resistance that participates in political life and aids a legitimate regime in Syria.The ambassador rejected in comments published in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat comparison between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Hizbullah, stressing that the differences are “fundamental.”“ISIL is a terror faction while Hizbullah is a resistance that participates in politics and aids a legitimate regime in Syria,” The diplomat refused a statement by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that Russia, Iran and Hizbullah belong to the same axis, however he noted that Moscow and Tehran agree on supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad. The so-called axis of resistance comprises Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. Hizbullah is a close ally of the Syrian regime and has been fighting alongside government troops against an uprising there. Its involvement has helped the army to recapture key territory, but drawn the ire of many in Lebanon. Zasypkin reiterated his country's support to the Baabda Declaration, which was endorsed by Lebanon's rival political parties on June 11, 2012, following a national dialogue session at the Baabda Palace. It calls for keeping Lebanon away from the policies and conflicts of the region and the world, except when it comes to abiding by the resolutions of the United Nations, the Arab consensus and the Palestinian cause. “It is provides Lebanon with security and stability,” ambassador said, stressing that the implementation of the dissociation is “tough as it is impossible to isolate Lebanon from Syria.” Zasypkin voiced concern over the ongoing presidential stalemate, saying: “I fear that the vacuum would become a normal issue as the rivals are holding onto their stance.”Lebanon has been without a president since May last year when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute.
Report: Al-Rahi Kicks Off Talks with Maronite Rivals to End Presidential Crisis
NaharnetظMaronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi wrapped up the first round of talks with Christian leaders to press them to ease tension and elect a new head of state. According to An Nahar newspaper published on Saturday, al-Rahi dispatched former Minister Roger Deeb to visit the four Maronite leaders separately. Diab's tour included Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea and Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh.
The envoy briefed the four leaders on al-Rahi's recent meeting with French President Francois Hollande, the daily reported. Media reports said on Tuesday that a papal envoy will arrive in Beirut at the end of May to press forward the election of a new president amid the sharp rift among the political arch-foes over a consensual candidate. The Vatican’s move comes in light of al-Rahi's recent visit to Paris, where he met with Hollande and underlined the importance of France's role in pushing forward the election of a president. France is reportedly seeking to end the presidential stalemate in coordination with the Patriarch, who will discuss the possible options to reach a settlement with Christian rivals. Lebanon has been without a president since May last year when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of a successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance and Aoun's Change and Reform blocs have been boycotting the polls over the dispute.
Salam Meets Prominent Security Officials, Discuss Developments
Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired on Saturday a meeting that was attended by high-ranking security officials to discuss the latest security developments in the country.Media reports described the meeting as “positive.” The meeting was attended by deputy PM and Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, General Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud, Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, State Security chief George Qaraa, General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, Higher Defense Council chief Mohammed Khair, Internal Security chief Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, Army Intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel and head of ISF Information Branch Imad Othman. A meeting for the Central Security Council was presided by Mashnouq on Friday night. Sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Saturday that the meeting highlighted the dangers imposed by the developments in the region, stressing the importance of preventing the conflicts from impacting Lebanon. Mashnouq reportedly called on security agencies to boost their measures and cooperate with each other and with the judicial authorities to maintain stability in Lebanon. The Lebanese security forces began implementing strict security measures recently and kicked off security plans across the country to reduce crime rates and clamp down on terrorists. Police and army have been carrying out large-scale raids and managed to arrest scores of offenders. The meetings come as fighting intensified in the past week in the mountainous Qalamoun region across the border from Lebanon, where Hizbullah fighters along side Syrian forces engaged in battles with jihadists from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, who are entrenched on the porous border between Lebanon and Syria. The IS, which controls several areas in Syria and Iraq, aims to spread to Lebanon as its fighters position in the outskirts of Bekaa towns bordering Syria and the Lebanese army is in adamant efforts to stop their efforts to infiltrate the country.
Derbas Says Social Affairs Ministry to Survey Number of Refugees
Naharnet/Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas stressed on Saturday that the number of registered Syrian refugees didn't drop-off so far. He revealed in comments published in An Nahar newspaper that his ministry will “carry out a new survey to count the displaced” to unveil the effectiveness of the new measures taken by the state to limit their numbers. Derbas stressed that the “crossing of Syrians into Lebanon decreased” but the number of those who are registered remained the same. His comments come in light of a statement by General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim, who said that the numbers of Syrians in Lebanon “decreases by 300,000” since the new implemented measures to control the flow of refugees. Although Lebanese border officials began informally restricting the entry of Syrians last October, Beirut officially imposed visa regulations in December on their neighbors. The move was the first such in decades. The UNHCR says there are about 1,150,000 Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon. Derbas and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil were at loggerheads recently over the Syrian refugee crisis after accusations that the authorities were accepting more displaced Syrians despite a decision not to do so. Derbas and Bassil briefly argued over the issue during a cabinet session held at the Grand Serail after the foreign minister told the government that he had information about the entry of more Syrian refugees to Lebanon. Since last September, around 50,000 new refugees have been officially registered, Bassil told the cabinet.
But Derbas denied Bassil's claims.
The Difference Between Islam and
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 9, 2015
Pressures against non-Muslims in Turkey are actually empowered, motivated and even led by state policies.
There also does not seem to be any interest or pluralistic mentality in enforcing non-Islamic laws.
To understand the root cause of social intolerance and institutionalized violence, it is important to look more closely at how Islamic scriptures refer to non-Muslims. These labels and lies, fed to Muslims from earliest childhood, apparently do not go away easily in the minds of indoctrinated Muslims. For those who oppose Islamic rule, there are only three options: They are either to be killed; made to accept their inferior status through conversion to Islam, or keep their heritage but pay the jizya, the Islamic "protection" tax."
Although there is a more or less "secular" constitution in Turkey, the anti-Semitic and anti-non-Muslim culture seems to have more influence over people even than laws. There also does not seem to be any interest or pluralistic mentality in enforcing non-Islamic laws.
A cemetery in Milas, for example, leads one question the thin, fragile line between Islam and Islamism -- or between progressive Islam and radical Islam.
Milas, whose name comes from ancient Greek "Mylasa," is a nice town in Anatolia, where there was once a powerful Jewish community.
After years of neglect and disrepair, the Jewish cemetery in Milas has been turned into a place where sheep graze and garbage is thrown.
Sheep graze in the neglected Jewish cemetery in Milas, Turkey.
The historic gravestones, which should have been protected as a cultural heritage, have long since been broken into pieces.
Not only is the town now free of Jews, but now even the Jewish cemetery has been left to its fate.
"In such an unprotected environment, the cemetery is proceeding step by step to destruction," wrote Rafael Algranati, a columnist for the newspaper Salom,
In 2009, Jews from Milas talked with Muhammed Tokat, the mayor of the town, and asked him to stop the destruction of the cemetery; the mayor agreed, Algranati wrote. The mayor promised that the children's park at the entrance would be removed and the cemetery would be tidied and arranged. In 2014, he repeated the promise.
The Jewish community is still waiting.
What is intriguing about the town of Milas is that its municipality is governed by a mayor from the non-Islamist Republican People's Party (CHP). So in his case, we are not talking about the religious intolerance of Islamists.
To understand the root cause of social intolerance and institutionalized violence in Muslim societies, it is important to look more closely at how Islamic scriptures refer to non-Muslims.
According to the Quran, Jews are "apes and pigs" (5:60). They are also "cursed by Allah" (5:13), they are "wicked" (4:160-162), are "fond of lies" and "devour the forbidden" (5:42). They even have "diseased hearts" (5:52).
While Muslims are continually praised in the Quran ("the best of people," 3:110), non-Muslims are described as less than human and referred to as "the vilest of animals" (8:55), "the worst of creatures" (98:6), "perverted transgressors" (3:110), "panting dogs" (7:176), "cattle" (7:179), "perverse" (2:99), "stupid" (2:171), "deceitful" (3:73) and so on.
This list can go on and on. According to Dr. Bill Warner, the director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, 61% of the Quran is about non-Muslims.
These labels and lies about Jews and other non-Muslims that are fed to Muslims from earliest childhood, apparently do not go away easily in the indoctrinated minds of Muslims.
According to the supremacist Islamic ideology, non-believers of Islam are subordinate to Muslims.
For those who oppose Islamic rule, there are only three options: They are to be either killed; made to accept their inferior status through conversion to Islam, or allowed to keep their heritage and pay the jizya, the Islamic "protection" tax.
There is simply no other religion that condemns and dehumanizes those who merely believe in other faiths, or those who prefer no faith, to this extent.
During the Ottoman Empire, non-Muslims, including Jews, were dhimmis (tolerated, second-class citizens in an Islamic state, and required to pay the jizya "protection" tax.)
The "modern" Turkish Republic, however, established in 1923, did not provide Jews or other non-Muslims with greater rights and liberties, either.
Even though Turkey is one of the few so-called "secular" Muslim countries, its Jewish, Christian, Alevi, Yezidi and other non-Muslim communities have been exposed to persecution and systematic discrimination -- including ethnic cleansings, massacres, pogroms, forced conversions, forced assimilation and forced displacement for decades under non-Islamist governments.
In 1924, for instance, the Turkish Ministry of National Education asked all Jewish schools to choose either Turkish or Hebrew as their language of instruction. This was a smart maneuver, for very few Jews in Turkey had a command of Hebrew, because they spoke Ladino, the language brought with them from their expulsion from Spain in 1492. So the Jewish community had to choose the only suitable alternative, Turkish, as their language of instruction.
Therefore, with the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate, Turkey did not actually turn into a safer and freer country for non-Muslims. Sadly, even more than 90 years after the establishment of "modern" Turkey, the strong influence of the anti-Semitic and anti-non-Muslim teachings of the Islamic ideology lives on. Moreover, pressures against non-Muslims in Turkey are actually empowered and motivated, and even led by state policies.
But no matter what some Islamic teachings contain, everyone, including Muslims, has free will -- and needs to use it justly.
Muslims could greatly benefit by seeing that the rights of human beings are not based on gender or religion; they are simply based on that we are all human beings together. At least progressive Muslims must show respect towards people of all faiths, and their cultural heritage.
If they do not, then I will tend to agree with the illustrator and writer Bosch Fawstin, who wrote that, "the only difference between 'Islamism' and Islam is three letters."
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a journalist based in Ankara.
 Akarca, Turhan, Askidil Akarca, The Geography, History and Archeology of Milas, Istanbul Printing Press, Istanbul, 1954.
 Results of municipal elections in Milas from 1963 to 2014.
 Prof. Aron Rodrique, "The Westernization of Turkish Jews: "Alliance" Schools 1860 – 1925, Ayrac Printing House, 1997, Ankara.
Camp David: A summit and its discontents
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 9 May 2015
The choice of Camp David as the site for the first ever summit meeting between President Obama and the Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was meant to send a symbolic signal to the Arab leaders present – that the American president wants to spend some quality time with them at that bucolic retreat, which he has only used once before for a summit meeting such as this, for the 38th G8 summit in May 2012. But it’s not symbolism that the GCC leaders are concerned with, rather it’s the nightmarish reality of the unraveling of a century-old political order and the fraying of a large swath of Arab lands around them, as well as an ascendant (and in most of their minds belligerent) Iran, trying to ensure its regional hegemony by projecting its power, sometimes directly but mostly by proxy, to build an alternative, if still vague, political scaffolding on the rubble of the dying order.
The purpose of the conclave is to reassure the Gulf allies that the United States will remain committed to the security of the region. Any nuclear deal with Iran will not be at the expense of the safety of the Arab nations present, and the U.S. remains determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Gulf Arabs are seeking a new, more explicit, and institutionalized ‘security architecture’ in the region, to be erected by the U.S., and which helps guard against Iran – containing its regional ambitions, challenging its meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and protecting against violent Islamists like the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda. Because there is no overarching strategy underpinning this security architecture, it remains vague and is given various names; “security guarantees, given the behavior of Iran in the region, given the rise of the extremist threat,” as the UAE envoy to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, said recently, or, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Paris on Friday, “a series of new commitments that will create, between the United States and the GCC, a new security understanding, a new set of security initiatives”.
Conflicting wishes and divergent visions
Publicly, both sides are stressing the need to strengthen the security cooperation, the common struggle against terrorism, and the imperative of containing Iran’s destabilizing policies. Ideally, some GCC states would like to sign binding defense treaties with the United States, but they know that this is beyond the realm of the possible, given the strong reluctance of the administration and opposition from Congress to anything that could conceivably diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). Still, some of them will push for a ‘strong, explicit and a written commitment from the President’, as one official said, that if a member of the GCC states is attacked by a foreign power, the United States will come to its defense. But, there is a strong reluctance within the Obama administration to enter into any long term and legally binding military commitment in the Gulf region, at a time when the administration is trying to ‘rebalance’ or ‘pivot’ to Asia, and after more than six years of setbacks and disillusionments in the region ranging from the collapsed Palestine-Israel peace efforts, the failed Libya intervention, the horrendous blunders in Syria, and the unraveling of the political/security structures that the U.S. had left in Iraq before its withdrawal. Publicly, U.S. officials say that there are no plans to reduce America’s high military profile in the Middle East (more than 35 thousand military personnel), but privately, they say that in 10 to 15 years the U.S. should not have more than few thousand military advisors, trainers and technicians involved in intelligence gathering and operating drones.
One would assume that President Obama will reassure his Arab visitors, that the U.S. will not abandon the region any time soon
The qualitative and breathtaking transformation of the energy landscape in America brought about by new technology (fracking, amongst others) which allowed the U.S. to increase its oil output by four million barrels a day in the last six years, has created the much exaggerated impression in some Arab capitals that the U.S. will no longer be interested in investing in the stability of the Gulf region and patrolling the vital sea lanes. However, this is not necessarily the case – oil is an international commodity and its prices are determined by the laws of supply and demand, meaning that disruption of oil production in the Gulf region will reverberate globally.
In search of the elusive Obama doctrine
One would assume that President Obama will reassure his Arab visitors, that the U.S. will not abandon the region any time soon, and that he will reiterate America’s commitment to maintain stability in the Gulf region and his willingness to sell them more sophisticated weapons system; but it is very unlikely that he would be able to satisfy their core demand of first containing, then rolling back Iran’s strategic and tactical gains in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and recently Yemen, as well as providing them with unequivocal security guarantees including a nuclear umbrella, or providing them with meaningful assurances regarding the so-called ‘sunset clause’, when the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities expire after a decade or fifteen years, bringing it closer than before to developing nuclear weapons if it chooses. Containing Iran’s regional meddling should start in Syria, but as former ambassador and current vice president of Brookings Institution Martin Indyk said at a recent Atlantic Council event, “President Obama is reluctant to engage on Syria”, maybe because he has certain strong views that he is not willing to change. A former senior official who left the Obama administration recently confided to an Arab diplomat America’s abject weakness in dealing with Iran’s destabilizing activities; “we are not convinced that we can make a difference if we push hard against Iran”.
Some Gulf leaders would like to see President Obama issuing a strong declarative statement regarding Iran and security in the Gulf, amounting to something akin to the Carter Doctrine of January 1980. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian revolution – two momentous events that occurred in 1979 – and fearing Soviet encroachment into the waters of the Gulf, president Jimmy Carter, and a Democrat to boot, proclaimed in his State of the Union speech what became known as the Carter Doctrine which was directed against the Soviet Union: ‘An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force’. That doctrine led to the formation of the so-called Rapid Deployment Force for military contingencies in the Gulf region, the military antecedent of Central Command. In those ‘good old days’, most of America’s military profile was somewhere ‘behind the horizon’ because it was felt that large military footprints could backfire politically. That arrangement was succinctly and eloquently summarized by one astute Arab observer who told an American interlocutor “we want you to be like the wind; we want to feel you but we don’t want to see you”. The Times They Are a-Changin' indeed.
Persia’s fascinating pull
A similar Obama doctrine aimed at Iran is hard to see, given the President’s desire for what one of his senior aides said recently of entering into a ‘grand bargain’ with Iran. It may be too late and too difficult to enter into such a grand bargain with Iran, if only because of the opposition of the Iranian leadership, but that does not mean that the Obama administration is averse to entering into ‘pragmatic’ arrangements against common enemies. This explains firstly the tactical and implicit cooperation between the U.S. military and the Iran-led, Iran-trained Iraqi Shiite militias in the confrontation with ISIS, and secondly Washington’s aversion to seriously undermine the Assad regime in Syria, for fear of damaging the prospects of a nuclear deal with Tehran and suffering Iranian retaliations against American personnel in Iraq (a fear that was expressed repeatedly by more than one senior administration official). Obama’s view of Iran – a difficult, meddling, at times intimidating, but essentially rational actor with a degree of predictability and a clear sense of identity and purpose, important characteristics that could only be the product of an ancient civilization – is totally alien to the Gulf Arabs who don’t want to live in the shadows of a belligerent Iran, notwithstanding its civilizational heft. It is fascinating to observe Obama’s fascination with Iran, and with the possibilities of a grand opening, or grand bargain with that ancient land, something that Obama brought with him to the White House from the moment he arrived there. Obama’s fascination with Iran is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s fascination with the historic opening to China. You don’t have to deconstruct Obama’s references to Iran in his speeches and interviews to see and feel the fascination with Persia and its attendant possibilities.
A trust deficit
It is ironic that those Arab officials who are pushing for explicit and written security guarantees from President Obama – for a shift from a memorandum of understanding to a military doctrine – have low expectations of the Camp David summit achieving serious breakthroughs. In blunt, private conversations you hear the bitter disappointments and disillusionments of six and half years. They speak of a ‘trust deficit’ when they address President Obama’s assurances, promises and threats. Two senior Arab officials from two GCC states were discussing why they should insist on written security assurances, when, as one of them mentioned, there was a pattern of presidential dissembling; the President threatened to attack Syria, and then reneged; he repeatedly promised to equip and train the Syrian opposition, but he was not serious and kept dragging his feet and providing limited, tentative support until the beginning of the fifth year of the conflict. The official noted dryly that the Obama administration negotiated secretly with Iran regarding the nuclear program and kept its allies in the dark.
Many in the GCC subscribe to the view that President Obama’s reluctance to push hard for a residual force in Iraq, and his denial that former Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s sectarian policies have accelerated Iraq’s unraveling, are in part responsible for opening the door for Iran to essentially become the dominant foreign power in Iraq. Obama’s dithering on Syria, his inactions, and his disingenuous claims that he was being pushed to ‘invade’ Syria, are also responsible in part for the historic tragedy that Syria is today. Many in the region are convinced that the Obama administration will not pursue any serious initiatives to revive the Palestinian-Israeli talks, or play a leading role in preventing Libya from sliding completely into civil war, even though the U.S. played a leading role in toppling the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
Taming the tiger
The Iranian regime has proven repeatedly its political dexterity, and its diabolical genius in mastering the art of proxy wars, when it showed from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon, and now to Yemen, that it is capable of fighting Sunni Arabs with Shiite Arabs. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been using these Shiite militias – from the Lebanese Hezbollah and various Iraqi Shiite armed groups, to the Houthis in Yemen – as their foot soldiers. Hezbollah have been their most effective Janissaries, dispatching their highly mobile and disciplined units to fight in Syria and Iraq. An Arab diplomat wondered recently: What would happen if an Arab country began arming Sunnis in Iran or members of the Arabic speaking communities in Southern Iran?
All this was taking place during the nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and the P-5 plus one, and at a time when the Iranian economy was supposed to be in free fall. There is concern in the Middle East that sanctions relief in the wake of a final nuclear deal will add more than $120 billion in frozen assets to Iran’s coffers. Surely some of this wealth will be diverted to finance their designs in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Taming the Iranian tiger will not be easy, and there are no signs that the U.S. is planning to ease the region away from the suffocating shadow of the ayatollah. In the meantime, many in the Middle East, including America’s skeptical allies, are watching with trepidation and wondering if in the remaining 18 months of its tenure, the Obama administration will be able to stop the historic fraying of the region. 18 months is too long a time. Sometimes in America a month can stretch into an eternity of anticipation and discontent. Lord have mercy…
Egypt court sentences Mubarak, sons to
three years in jail
CAIRO - An Egyptian court sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to three years in jail without parole on Saturday in the retrial of a corruption case.
Mubarak was sentenced to three years in prison last May for diverting public funds earmarked to renovate presidential palaces and using the money to upgrade family properties. His two sons were given four-year jail terms in the same case.
However, in January, Egypt's high court overturned the convictions.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years, and his sons Gamal and Alaa may not have to serve any jail time for those corruption charges because they already spent that amount of time in prison in other cases.
"The ruling of the court is three years in prison without parole for Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and Gamal Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and Alaa Mohamed Hosni Mubarak," announced judge Hassan Hassanein.
Mubarak was toppled during the Arab Spring uprisings which swept the region in 2011 and raised hopes of democracy.
But a court decision to drop charges against Mubarak of conspiring to kill protesters in the uprising focused in Cairo's Tahrir Square and the release from jail of some of his associates has cast doubt over Egypt's political transformation
Netanyahu Loses Leverage in Forming
David Makovsky/Washington Institute
May 09, 2015
Last-ditch campaign promises and bruising coalition negotiations have led Netanyahu to form a fragile government that may have trouble handling important domestic issues and foreign relationships.
The next Israeli government, the fourth led by Binyamin Netanyahu, is slated to be formally established in the coming week. It will consist of 61 members, the barest majority in Israel's 120-member Knesset. When Netanyahu won the election two months ago, the size of his victory suggested he would dominate a potential coalition, with his Likud Party winning 30 seats and the second-largest coalition partner only 10. Yet the campaign promises that led to his victory also sowed the seeds of his subsequent dissipation in leverage. By boxing himself in during the campaign, he gave smaller parties disproportionate power to enact a policy agenda, while he refrained from associating himself with any particular agenda beyond stopping Iran from going nuclear.
The resultant situation underscores Israel's need for electoral reform, as large parties have consistently found themselves at the mercy of smaller ones. Moreover, given the narrowness of Netanyahu's government, analysts of all stripes are profoundly doubtful about its ability to govern.
HOW HIS LEVERAGE SLIPPED AWAY
In order to win the March 17 election after finding himself suddenly behind in the polls, Netanyahu felt compelled to convince more right-wing voters that he was intent on governing from the right. Toward that end, he declared that he would not reach across the aisle and form a power-sharing arrangement with the Labor Party. To fulfill this promise and preserve his credibility after the election, he was limited to forming a 67-member government with only a select group of parties. Netanyahu felt confident that these parties had nowhere else to go because they were largely right-of-center, but he did not have alternatives either given his campaign promise. The net effect is that Netanyahu had to reach coalition agreements with the two smaller ultraorthodox Jewish parties -- Shas (7 seats) and United Torah Judaism (6), whose terms were steep because they believed Netanyahu had no other option.
In negotiating with these parties, Netanyahu agreed to roll back the signature achievement of his last term: a law that would force ultraorthodox Israelis to join the army like other citizens or perform a similar national service, with jail time as the punishment for noncompliance. The new deals will also reinstate welfare benefits for ultraorthodox Jews who prefer to avoid the workforce by staying in religious study halls. The previous government, spearheaded by then-finance minister Yair Lapid, insisted that such benefits gave the ultraorthodox little incentive to work for a living. Lapid has since asserted that the new concessions will cost over two billion shekels, or more than $500 million. Moreover, the ultraorthodox will retain their influence in ensuring that Jews from the former Soviet Union undergo more restrictive forms of religious conversion.
These concessions were made despite surveys showing that a majority of Israelis want the ultraorthodox to perform national service, join the workforce, and give up their role as the arbiters of conversions. In addition, Netanyahu apparently failed to realize that outgoing foreign minister Avigdor Liberman would view these moves as a bridge too far, especially the one directed against his secular Russian immigrant constituency. Declaring that Netanyahu was taking him for granted because his Yisrael Beitenu Party had only six seats, Liberman surprised him by withdrawing from coalition negotiations. Given his ongoing personal enmity toward Netanyahu, some speculated that the timing of his announcement -- forty-eight hours before the deadline to form a government -- was not coincidental.
Indeed, Liberman left Netanyahu with no time to explore other options, so the prime minister capitulated to the far-right Jewish Home Party and limped to the finish line with the absolute minimum of 61 seats. In doing so, he agreed to appoint thirty-nine-year-old Jewish Home member Ayelet Shaked as justice minister, despite her open questioning of the Supreme Court's activist role in Israeli democracy. Her appointment is deemed ominous, as are other Likud-favored measures that could dilute the power of the Supreme Court and, to a lesser extent, the media. Perhaps as a safety valve, Netanyahu has also given coalition member Moshe Kahlon -- the leader of Kulanu, a moderate party identified with social change -- veto power over certain legislation he does not like (as mandated by the coalition agreement, which states that all members must agree on specified initiatives).
Going forward, the coalition's razor-thin majority will magnify every member's leverage to pull the plug on the new government. Accordingly, Netanyahu wants to amend the law that limits the number of cabinet members to eighteen as soon as possible, fearing that any malcontent Knesset member who does not get his or her preferred cabinet portfolio could bring down the government before it is even formed. He has already given away several key ministries, leaving many Likud members squabbling over the remaining portfolios. This bodes poorly for Netanyahu, who until now has always tried to form a large enough coalition to avoid such situations. His only hope is that each coalition member will view the concessions he has doled out as a better option than risking yet another round of elections.
WILL LABOR JOIN THE GOVERNMENT?
Given the nascent government's precariousness, Likud officials are widely hinting that Netanyahu might reverse his position and ask Labor to join the coalition. With Liberman's resignation, Netanyahu has put aside the Foreign Ministry portfolio for himself -- a move clearly designed to lure Labor leader Isaac Herzog into his government. This raises a paradox: the more stable the coalition, the better Herzog's chances of persuading his party to join, but if the coalition remains shaky, he would likely face accusations of trying to "rescue" Netanyahu. This is no small matter given next year's mandatory Labor primary, a venue in which efforts to partner with Netanyahu would be especially unpopular among the party's rank and file.
In addition, Herzog would likely ask for more than just the Foreign Ministry. If he is in fact invited into the coalition, many expect his demands to include changes in Israeli settlement policy, ouster of the Jewish Home Party (the main advocate of settlements), and rotation with Netanyahu as prime minister so that he is not merely a fifth wheel. Although Netanyahu is no doubt concerned about the negative international perceptions of his narrow, largely right-wing government, meeting Herzog's presumed demands would be a very high price to pay domestically. And despite being in power for nine years, he has never added Labor to a coalition mid-term.
EQUITIES FOR THE UNITED STATES
Washington will be following a variety of developments within the new Israeli government. It will want to know how settler leader and former housing minister Uri Ariel will use his new, lesser post as agriculture minister to influence construction of settlement infrastructure. It will also monitor whether incoming justice minister Shaked or influential Likud members Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin are able to shape legislation that strips away media protections or constrains the power of the courts.
As for the Palestinian issue, with no peace agreement on the horizon, U.S. officials are likely wondering if the new government can at least put together a package of incremental steps that preserves the viability of future two-state negotiations. Such steps could include a limitation on settlement construction, as well as increased Palestinian economic access to more land in the West Bank, even if this land is not formally reclassified. Washington also likely hopes that Netanyahu has a solid plan for ensuring that Gaza does not blow up for the fourth time in seven years.
Finally, the White House will look closely at how Netanyahu plays the endgame on the Iran negotiations. This will largely be a personal decision for Netanyahu -- although the Iran issue has not been a major part of the electoral campaign or its aftermath, he is known to view it in the most visceral manner. At the moment, the administration is fairly confident that it has the votes it needs on Capitol Hill to preserve whatever nuclear deal it may reach with Tehran (i.e., if the president is forced to veto congressional moves that undermine the agreement, he believes his opponents will not have enough support to override him).
For his part, Netanyahu will need to decide whether to withhold his opposition to the deal until the very end or request a U.S. military package to offset the deal's impact, as the Gulf Arab states seem poised to do at Camp David next week. The Obama administration is keen on avoiding defections by key Democrats at this stage, so Israel's leverage appears to be strong. Yet questions remain about what happens if Netanyahu waits to speak out against a deal and Israel finds itself associated with the losing end of a congressional vote to override the president's veto. Whatever the case, he will have many factors to weigh, including questions of security, principles, timing, and maintaining bipartisanship, which has been at the core of U.S.-Israeli relations for decades.
**David Makovsky is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute.
Bibi is big in America, but less so in
David Ignatius/The Daily Star/ May. 09, 2015
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a dominating political figure in the United States this year, seemingly invincible as he hurled thunderbolts at President Barack Obama and other adversaries. But in Israel, not so much.
After winning a narrow election victory in March, Netanyahu formed a fragile government late Wednesday with a bare one-vote margin in parliament. Israeli analysts, left and right, are questioning whether the government can last long. Netanyahu said Thursday he had been leaving the foreign minister position vacant for Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, in hopes of broadening his base, but Herzog quickly rejected the offer.
“Bibi has no agenda, other than challenging President Obama on Iran,” argues Aluf Benn, the editor of the liberal newspaper Haaretz, using the prime minister’s nickname. One sign of Netanyahu’s problems was the last-minute defection by his previous foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu has been such a strong voice in America that it’s easy to overlook his political problems back home. But these difficulties were highlighted by a broad range of analysts during a conference in Tel Aviv this week organized by the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies and Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, where I’m a fellow.
Israeli analysts note that Netanyahu’s congressional speech blasting the Iran deal, which was so prominent and polarizing in America, didn’t matter much in the Israeli election. He benefited from a late surge among conservative voters who were scared by his election-day warning of a massive Arab turnout. But these gains seem to have come partly at the expense of other conservative parties.
Yehuda Ben-Meir, a conservative former politician, argued in an analysis published by INSS that Netanyahu’s core bloc of right-wing and religious parties has actually been shrinking, falling from 65 parliament seats in 2009 to 61 in 2013 and 57 this year.
Benn contends that the real winners in March were two minority groups that stand outside the Zionist mainstream, the ultra-Orthodox and the Israeli Arabs. He worries because these groups don’t generally support the Israeli military.
To bolster his frail government, Netanyahu tried to woo his chief rival Herzog into a broad “national unity government.” The two are said to have discussed such a pact over the last few weeks, but Netanyahu wasn’t willing to offer concessions on the Palestinian issue that Herzog wanted. Netanyahu instead opted to lean further right by allying with Naftali Bennett’s party, which adamantly opposes a Palestinian state. That chilled this week’s negotiations with Herzog, but the idea of a broad coalition may return.
The U.S.-Israeli relationship is likely to be rocky for the remainder of Obama’s presidency, assuming that Netanyahu continues his drive to scuttle the Iran agreement. This tension contrasts sharply with the U.S.-Arab fence-mending that will take place next week at Camp David when Obama discusses with Gulf leaders a common strategy to curb Iranian meddling. It’s a peculiar reversal of roles, in which the Gulf Arabs (who also criticize the Iran nuclear deal) are becoming the responsible and conciliatory opposition, while Netanyahu, who leads a country that is traditionally America’s closest Mideast ally, remains at loggerheads with Obama.
Many Israeli analysts worry that the friction with Obama is eroding bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel. But it’s not a zero-sum game: An obvious potential beneficiary is the Republican Party. With Netanyahu’s help, the Republicans may be attempting a realignment that seeks to convince pro-Israel voters that their natural home is the Republican Party, rather than a Democratic Party that keeps pressuring Israel for concessions. The Republicans pulled off a similar realignment a generation ago in convincing white Southerners to abandon the Democrats.
A sign that conservative Americans and Israelis are seeking such a realignment would be pledges by Republican presidential candidates to work with Netanyahu to overturn the Iran deal. Obama, too, could drive a political wedge if he pushes for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that codifies the “parameters” of the peace deal Secretary of State John Kerry tried unsuccessfully to negotiate last year.Netanyahu’s camp hopes for a new opening with Gulf Arab states that share mistrust of Iran. A top Israeli official argues that the Jewish state is the only reliable partner for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in a region dominated by Iran-backed Shiite radicals, a Turkish-led Muslim Brotherhood bloc, and jihadis of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.An Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran is intriguing. But like much else about Netanyahu’s fledgling government, it’s more an aspiration than a practical agenda. Netanyahu, so potent in America, has a shaky base at home.
*David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
United Kingdom's lesson in democracy
The Daily Star/May. 09, 2015
Thursday’s election in the United Kingdom – held on time and transparently – was a true display of democracy at its finest, the product of a system which allows its citizens to decide who will represent their interests.
Having long prided itself on being the one true democracy in the Middle East, Lebanon might do well to reflect on whether it really can be defined as one.
Putting the obvious differences – political history and regional climate – aside, there are simple steps which Lebanon needs to take to deserve the democratic title. In the British election, winners and losers, in general, were gracious in victory or defeat, and there were no accusations of corruption, no gunfights – whether among candidates or supporters.
But here, bereft of a president, even talk of setting an election date is highly controversial, and not deemed a right for the people, but a gift bestowed upon them. Similarly, while politicians elsewhere realize that they are servants of the people, here they largely act as if Lebanese citizens are their minions, here to serve their interests and help them maintain power, not actually represent their interests in parliament or anything like that. And when elections are held, most of those standing are there by dint of their heritage, being the son or wife or brother of someone else in power.
Students and intellectuals, writers and nurses and firemen and anyone who cares about the future of this country must try to come up with a new word which describes Lebanon’s political system, or lack thereof. Then democracy can become the goal to work toward, not a word to throw around with no regard for its definition.