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Today’s Top Stories
1. Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House to discuss the future of the peace talks. According to Israel HaYom, Abbas sought another settlement freeze in exchange for extending the talks beyond April 29. Otherwise, this NY Times really sums up what you need to know:
With so much in dispute, analysts said, the focus on both sides has shifted from bridging gaps to avoiding blame should the talks fail.
2. Discussion on the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is focusing on a recently unearthed and undated video of Yasser Arafat. Did Arafat’s remarks really make such a recognition? Was he just describing realities on the ground? Does this voice from the grave even matter? See Tablet‘s backstory and judge for yourself.
3. International nuclear talks with Iran are resuming in Vienna. To Israel’s dismay, the Ukrainian crisis is straining the talks (as reported by the Wall St. Journal via Google News). As you might expect, Iran’s exploiting US-Russian tension.
4. Only Israel is “Hard-Line” According to AP: Why does the Associated Press use such lazy and inaccurate terminology?
5. Fighting BDS – Salon Sides With Roger Waters: Magazine’s recent content on Israel is decidedly pro-BDS.
Israel and the Palestinians
• My antennae are twitching over this BBC report questioning Abbas’s mandate to negotiate peace. It’s not just about Hamas griping about the White House visit. I added the link to the Palestinian prisoners’ document:
As on previous occasions, Mr Abbas has said he has a mandate to conduct the negotiations on behalf of all the Palestinian factions, including Hamas.
He traces this back to a national agreement document that was reached by all Palestinian factions, with the exception of Islamic Jihad, signed in June 2006.
This states that “administration of the negotiations falls within the jurisdiction of the PLO and the President of the PNA (Palestinian National Authority)” and sets the condition that any final agreement must be ratified by the Palestine National Council – the highest decision making body in the PLO – or a general referendum.
However, there are questions over whether this document is still relevant. The rift between Hamas and Fatah means general elections have been delayed and Mr Abbas’s presidential term technically ended in 2009 . . .
Analysts point out that other aspects of the 2006 agreement have not been implemented.
• For more commentary/analysis, see David Hazony (Obama misjudged Abbas), Dror Eydar and the Christian Science Monitor (Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state), Jonathan Spyer (shifting sands in the Mideast reveal new alliances), and Jeffrey Goldberg (Obama must be blunt with Abbas).
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon shifts stance, supports military action against Iran. Haaretz writes:
“We had thought the ones who should lead the campaign against Iran is the United States,” said Ya’alon, speaking during an event at Tel Aviv University. “But at some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better.” . . .
His words attest to a sea-change in his attitude regarding how Israel should contend with the Iranian nuclear program. Under the previous government, Ya’alon had led the opposition in the security cabinet to a solo Israeli attack on Iran, even exchanging sharp words on the issue with the defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak.
• Israel’s taking notice as cyber warfare’s heats up in the Ukraine, China, and Iran. The Christian Science Monitor took a closer look at Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities. And The Independent reports that an Iranian hacker uploaded a photo of a dead Palestinian baby onto the computer servers of the University of Bournemouth.
The shocking image was of an unborn baby, allegedly after it had been removed from its mother, who had been shot with “dirty Israeli bullets”, and had come from a file sharing website using Iran’s .ir domain.
• If the US is determined enough to confront Iran, wonders Emily Landau.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Worth reading:
• Heh: Dutch media fell for a Purim hoax, reports the JTA.
• On the third anniversary of the Syrian rebellion, Assad is steadily winning the war. According to the Washington Post, rebels are mostly isolated and in disarray, while Assad’s eyeing an election this summer.
(Image of Obama and Abbas via the White House)
For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.