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Today’s Top Stories
1. Israel is stepping up efforts to protect Eilat aviation from Sinai jihadis. Reuters reporter Dan Williams’ eyes are wide open on Egypt’s cooperation.
High-tech electronics, hundreds of human eyes on the ground, defensive weaponry and tighter coordination with Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula are all part of “Operation Hourglass” – the Israeli response to an influx of weaponry and Islamist guerrillas into the sandy tracts across the border.
2. Is Bashar Assad seeking an Israeli green light for an Alawite rump state? In the middle of an article about Sunnis being ethnically cleansed from Alawite areas, The Guardian drops this humdinger:
A mediator – a well-known diplomatic figure – is understood to have been asked by Assad to approach the former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, late last year with a request that Israel not stand in the way of attempts to form an Alawite state, which could have meant moving some displaced communities into the Golan Heights area.
A source aware of the talks said that Lieberman had not rebuffed the approach but had first sought information on the whereabouts of a missing Israeli airman shot down over Lebanon, Ron Arad, as well as three Israeli soldiers captured in the Lebanese village of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, and the remains of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy intelligence officer who was caught and executed in Damascus.
3. Big Media reacts to Hezbollah’s terror designation. More on that below.
4. I elaborated on the EU/Hezbollah blacklisting, and Syria’s chemical weapons attack on a Palestinian refugee camp. Listen to the Israel Audio News Stream.
Israel and the Palestinians
• Mahmoud Abbas just emboldened every single person who argues that Jordan should be the Palestinian state. This won’t go over well in Amman.
• Israeli media: Prime Minister Netanyahu sought Jonathan Pollard’s release in return for freeing Palestinian prisoners. How’s this for a response to a potential quid pro quo?
The Americans rejected the request but said it will be taken into consideration.
• Regarding the EU’s spurious distinction between Hezbollah’s armed and political “wings,” Soeren Kern hits the nail on the head:
But by prevaricating on the true nature of Hezbollah, the EU has effectively limited the ability of law enforcement agencies to crack down on the group’s shadowy fundraising activities in Europe.
Instead, the onus will be on European counter-terrorism police to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hezbollah monies — which are often raised by entities masquerading as charities — are being expressly destined for terrorist activities rather than for “political” purposes.
Because of this legal uncertainty, it remains unclear if the EU will actually target any of Hezbollah’s assets or individuals in Europe.
And the Christian Science Monitor‘s Nicholas Blanford adds:
The EU will likely compose a list of those Hezbollah members who can be identified as “military” rather than “political” cadres, but any such list is likely to be very short. Hezbollah is a secretive organization and does not reveal the identity of its military and security personnel.
• Arnold Schwarzenegger lobbied Austria to support the EU ban on Hezbollah. Hey Nasrallah, Hasta la vista, baby.
• For more commentary/analysis, see Ambassador Daniel Taub (Daily Telegraph op-ed), the Times of London (staff-ed), and the Irish Independent‘s Eamon Delaney, and Time. Last but not least, Fisk’s being Fisk again.
• Hamas is urging Egypt to end media incitement against the Palestinians. And Hamas knows what media incitement is, poor things. Maan News coverage:
Hamas officials have been contacting their Egyptian counterparts to end media speculation that Hamas has been playing a role in social and political unrest in the country.
• Islamic jihadis from the Russian Caucusus are cutting their teeth in Syria. And that’s bad news for the Russian officials in charge of security for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Most of the Russian jihadis are from Dagestan, which is next door to Sochi. Walter Russell Mead rounds up the latest.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Of all the Helen Thomas obits I’ve seen, James Taranto‘s is the only one worth reading. ‘Nuff said.
For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.