Israel Helped Force Assad to Back Away From Using Chemical Weapons

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Today’s Top Stories

1. A rare combination of Israeli, American, Arab, Chinese and Russian pressure forced Bashar Assad to back down from using chemical weapons. Israel tipped off the White House that Syrian soldiers appeared to be mixing chemicals and filling them into bombs. The NY Times explains what happened next:

The combination of a public warning by Mr. Obama and more sharply worded private messages sent to the Syrian leader and his military commanders through Russia and others, including Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan, stopped the chemical mixing and the bomb preparation. A week later Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the worst fears were over — for the time being.

But concern remains that Mr. Assad could now use the weapons produced that week at any moment.

2. State of Palestine-branded passports and ID docs? I’m not sure whether to believe Maan News or AP.

3. A lot of Israel-related stories had to do with the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. While I’m treating this as a domestic American political issue, a few articles out there whose Israel-angles made my antennae twitch.

So without commenting, I draw your attention to Danny Ayalon, Aaron David Miller (interview with The Guardian and an LA Times op-ed), Eli Lake, Jeffrey Goldberg, Roger Cohen, and AP.

Israel and the Palestinians

 The wife of a Hamas parliamentarian told Gaza TV viewers that a mother’s role is raise her kids for jihad and martyrdom. I can only imagine what Mother’s Day is like in Umm Osama’s happy home. See Memri’s transcript.

Israeli security services reported a sharp increase in Palestinian terror attacks in December, 2012. When you tally up the incidents involving goodies like Molotov cocktails, explosive devices, grenades, small arms fire, stabbings and a hit-and-run, you’re left with a “400 percent spike” compared to August. Details and more numbers to crunch at the Times of Israel.

Palestinian-Australian playwright Samah Sabawi laments the lack of Palestinian unity. Don’t be fooled by the recent Hamas and Fatah rallies on each other’s turf. She writes in The Australian:

On the surface, both leaderships insist these mutual gestures are necessary steps taken towards reconciliation between the two factions. But the reality is that there is more to this story than a sudden awakening of national sentiments aimed at unifying Palestinians and healing past rifts.

Beyond the public political rhetoric it is clear that both factions recognise they have lost much of their support base within the enclaves in which they rule and that a new political approach is required to ensure survival in the next phase . . .

Sadly, the conversation continues to be confined to choosing the least of the two evils rather than how to move forward and to present a better option.

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