In part, because he and other liberals think that the Arab and Iranian (and now Turkish?) war on Israel boils down to an Israel-Palestinian conflict and therefore they over-emphasize this dimension; in part, too, because he subscribes to the liberal illusion that Israel-related issues constitute the "epicenter" of the region (as James L. Jones, then Obama's national security adviser, once put it), so their resolution must precede dealing with other Middle Eastern problems.
But there's another possible reason for Kerry's enthusiasm: he took the measure of Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and found him indeed serious about reaching an accord with the Palestinians, and not just pretending enthusiasm to please Washington. more >>
Dani Dayan is an Israeli envoy that visited Washington recently. He came as a representative of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Dani Dayan wants to open up a dialog with Americans, both at the official level and at the grassroots level. He says Israel's settlers are "here to stay." Most Americans have not been to Judea and Samaria and are therefore not familiar with its geography, resources, and topography. The Judean hills are crucial for strategic reasons.
If Judea and Samaria should ever be given up to the Arabs by any imposed Mideast peace settlement, Jerusalem the capital and the Coastal Plain would be in jeopardy. This includes the modern Israeli city of Tel Aviv. more >>
June 20 was World Refugee Day, dedicated to nearly 60 million people worldwide who were forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution. One group of refugees rarely acknowledged is the Jews who were indigenous to Muslim lands but compelled to flee around the time when the State of Israel was established.
A Google search for "1948 refugees" produces about 6 million results. All but a few (at least through page six) are about the Palestinian Arab refugees, as if they were the only refugees of 1948. But it is estimated that from the beginning of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War through the early 1970s, up to 1,000,000 Jews fled or were expelled from their ancestral homes in Muslim countries. 260,000 of those refugees reached Israel between 1948 and 1951 and comprised 56% of all immigration to the fledgling state. By 1972, their numbers had reached 600,000.
In 1948, Middle East and North African countries had considerable Jewish populations: Morocco (250,000), Algeria (140,000), Iraq (140,000), Iran (120,000), Egypt (75,000), Tunisia (50,000), Yemen (50,000), Libya (35,000), and Syria (20,000). Today, the indigenous Jews of those countries are virtually extinct (although Morocco and Iran each still has under 10,000 Jews). In most cases, the Jewish population had lived there for millennia. more >>
Last August, President Obama declared that the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons was a "red line." About four months later, Aljazeera released unconfirmed reports that a gas attack killed seven civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood of Homs. Last April, the UK, France, and Israel each claimed that there was evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Homs, and/or Damascus. By April 25th, the U.S intelligence assessment was that the Assad regime had likely used sarin gas, but President Obama dodged his red line by announcing that a thorough investigation was still needed (as if the Syrian government would ever allow one). Meanwhile, reports from foreign intelligence agencies and journalists continued to corroborate the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. So why did Obama's requirement of a thorough investigation to confirm the crossing of his red line suddenly vanish last Friday?
Viewed through the lens of domestic politics, Obama's Syria epiphany looks conveniently timed to deflect attention from an ever-swelling wave of scandals: Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate, AP/Fox-gate, and now NSA-gate and State Department prostitution-gate. As the film "Wag The Dog" highlights, international crises are great at diverting attention from domestic scandals.
But from the perspective of the Syrian rebels, the timing and nature of U.S. military assistance may be viewed as either too little, too late, or a cynical attempt to ensure a perpetual stalemate. After all, the outgunned rebels have needed lethal weapons from the U.S. for over two years. Chemical weapons use by the Assad regime is old news. So what has changed? The Syrian regime recently defeated rebel forces at the crucial battle in Qusayr, a town providing a strategic supply conduit for rebel forces in Homs. After the military gains enabled by the robust battlefield support of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Syrian regime is now preparing for a major offensive to retake Aleppo. With another crushing blow to a key rebel stronghold, the regime could ultimately prevail in the conflict, unless the U.S. provides just enough rebel support to restore the pre-Qusayr stalemate. more >>
Tel Aviv just hosted its 15th annual Gay Pride Festival, attended by a record-breaking 100,000 spectators and participants, including some of Israel's most powerful politicians. Here is The Times of Israel report on the event:
"Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai kicked off the festivities with a speech that reflected on the journey since the first annual Pride Parade, which he emceed in 1998...[T]he finance minister [said] that every couple, gay or straight, has the right to get married and have children [and mentioned] his…party's 'deep indebtedness' to the LGBT community.
"Also addressing the crowd, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro [said] 'There's no better place to celebrate than in Tel Aviv, the friendliest city in the world to the LGBT community,' he said. 'We learned from Israel to let our troops serve in the military without having to hide who they love,' Shapiro added… more >>
A judge in Israel has resigned and apologized for comments he made suggesting that some girls enjoy being raped, which sparked public outrage.
"A man who says such things is unfit to serve as the head of the Likud's court," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Associated Press reported that Nissim Yeshaya, a Tel Aviv District Court judge, made the controversial comments while presiding over a hearing of the rape of a 13-year-old Israeli girl by four Palestinian youths. The girl was apparently raped six years ago near the West Bank's Hizma roadblock, close to Jerusalem, and the Defense Ministry had been deliberating whether to recognize the case as terror activity. more >>