Today’s Top Stories
Hezbollah has become increasingly embroiled in the war in Syria in recent months, dispatching hundreds and perhaps thousands of fighters to aid government forces battling the rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Analysts say the Syrian entanglement leaves Hezbollah in no position to risk opening up a second front against Israel.
Meanwhile, a Toronto Star op-ed by the former head of al-Jazeera, ignores the fact that Israel’s attack on Syria focused on weapons earmarked for Hezbollah, and draws an unfair moral equivalence.
It is too early to assess how important Israel’s strikes on Syria will prove to be. With Iran still clearly in its sights, Israel’s government was able to show off its military power in the region. And although the attacks were illegal and unprovoked, and would have been widely condemned if they were inflicted upon Israel by Syria or some other party, the Israeli action was immediately supported by the U.S., Britain and Canada.
2.The Newseum to honor Al Aqsa TV terrorists among journalists who died in the line of duty. The two were killed by an Israeli airstrike during Operation Pillar of Defense. Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out Al Aqsa TV has been designated a terrorist organization. Despite the protests, the Newseum is holding firm by it decision.
3. Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to attempt Russia to halt sales of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems to Syria. The Problem is that it might already be too late.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Israel had provided the United States with intelligence that Syria had already begun making payments on a 2010 contract with Russia to purchase four S-300 batteries, with 144 missiles, and that the first deliveries were expected to be made this summer.
Russian’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, told reporters on Friday that Moscow was fulfilling contracts with Syria, saying, “Russia has sold and signed contracts a long time ago, and is completing supplies of the equipment, which is antiaircraft systems,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Israel and the Palestinians
• The Economist blames Israel for the stalled peace talks, essentially for not being more excited by the Arab League’s agreement to include land swaps in its decade-old peace plan.
• John Kerry preparing to offer peace plan in early June.
• The Scotsman has op-ed blasting Stephen Hawking for violating the principles of academic freedom by participating in the academic boycott of Israel:
Hawkings’ (inconsistent) stand is dangerous because it violates the cardinal virtues of scientific discourse that emerged with the Enlightenment: that the rational pursuit of knowledge, unencumbered by political or religious prejudice, betters all mankind in the end. That the free pursuit of truth is more likely to undermine ignorance and oppression than strengthen it. And that ending national and religious enmities is better achieved by academics meeting and co-operating, than by keeping them apart.
• Noam Chomsky helped lobby Hawking to join the boycott.
• Turkey blames pro-Syrian figures for major terrorist attack. Analysts say the attack was a response to Turkey’s overt support for the Syrian rebels, and it could drag Turkey into the war.
• Washington Post looks at what might happen if the US refuses to join the fighting in Syria.
The most likely scenario is that Syria fractures along sectarian lines. An al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, is already consolidating control over a swath of northeastern Syria; remnants of the regime, backed by Shiite fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, could take over a strip of the western coastline.
Such a splintering would almost certainly spread the sectarian warfare to Iraq and Lebanon, as it has to some extent already. That could cause the collapse of the Iraqi political system that was the legacy of the U.S. mission there. Chemical weapons stocks now controlled by the Assad regime would be up for grabs, probably forcing further interventions by Israel in order to prevent their acquisition by Hezbollah or al-Qaeda. Jordan, the most fragile U.S. ally in the Middle East, could collapse under the weight of Syrian refugees. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which have been imploring the Obama administration to take steps to end the war, could conclude that the United States is no longer a reliable ally.
Of course, some of these consequences may come about whatever the United States does.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• EU is finally moving towards admitting Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
The EU plans to endorse the UK’s model of proscribing Hezbollah’s military wing as a terror entity while permitting the Shi’ite Lebanese group’s political arm to operate as a legal organization, sources well-versed in the inner workings of EU discussions on the matter told The Jerusalem Post last week.
• A Foreign Ministry report reveals that Israel has opened a diplomatic mission in an unnamed Gulf state.
• New trade deal with China brings total financial relationship between China and Israel to $2 billion.
For more, see Thursday’s Israel Daily News Stream.