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Today’s Top Stories
1. Negotiators in Geneva reached an interim agreement with Iran. Israel denounced it as a bad deal. Meanwhile, AP reports that the groundwork was laid by secret US-Iranian talks. The White House recently denied similar Israeli reports, but “senior administration officials” confirmed as much to AP
The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.
President Obama now has to sell the deal to a skeptical Congress. Reuters looked at the reaction from Capitol Hill. Ayatollah Khamenei gave it a thumbs up. The White House posted a fact sheet of the “First Step Understandings.”
2. Pass the popcorn: Michael Totten and NOW Lebanon look at Hezbollah’s fears of more suicide attacks. And the Times of London piles on with a new irony you gotta love. Issa Tabatabai, a senior Iranian cleric who boasted of being the “godfather of suicide attacks,” was among the injured in the embassy bombing:
In the past he has championed suicide bombing, or “martyrdom operations”. The cleric has bragged that he helped to give birth to the instrument of terror and was linked to a number of lethal attacks during Lebanon’s civil war, including the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy that killed 63 people and marked the beginning of Islamist attacks on American targets . . .
Suicide is haram (sinful) under Islamic law. However, in a 2010 interview, Mr Tabatabai said he had urged the Supreme Leader to bend the rules after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.
“A Lebanese Shia cleric issued a fatwa saying, ‘Under the present conditions, fighting Israel is like committing suicide and suicide is haram in Islam.’ I quickly hurried back to Tehran to see Imam Khomeini and told him about the fatwa,” Mr Tabatabai said.
To fight back against the Israelis, the cleric asked Khomeini if suicide bombing could be justified under Islamic law. “Imam Khomeini said, ‘No, this is not suicide, this is martyrdom, this is jihad [holy war], this is definitely permissible.’ This is how I got the fatwa on suicide bombings from the imam and how everything changed in Lebanon ever since,” Mr Tabatabai said.
4. Israel the Cuddly Lion Cub Killer: Two lion cubs died in Gaza because nobody was capable of raising them, but a sensational headline blames Israel.
5. Participants in the HonestReporting-New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Mission to Israel shared more of their experiences with another post in J-Wire.
Israel and the Palestinians
• Syracuse University confirmed to the Jerusalem Post that it was severing ties with Al-Quds U. This follows on the heels of Brandeis U. cutting ties with after a Nazi-style rally was held at the Palestinian college. See Jeff Jacoby for related commentary.
• The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint filed Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai against Dublin radio station, Near FM. The BAI’s full ruling (pdf format) lays out the ambassador’s detailed complaint and the related issues of editorial balance. The Sunday Times of London made a broader statement about the state of Israeli public diplomacy in Ireland — earlier this year, the BAI also rebuked Vincent Browne for calling Israel the cancer in foreign affairs.”
Rebukes from the authority are comparatively rare, averaging roughly one a month. Given the sheer volume of content being pumped out all day by over 30 radio stations and four TV channels, the number of successful challenges is vanishingly small.
It seems noteworthy, then, that two of the complaints upheld this year related to unbalanced comment about the state of Israel, made by experienced current-affairs presenters. Given how few advocates Israel has in public or political life, it seems reasonable to conclude such comments typify the hostile views towards Israel held by a majority of Irish citizens.
• Eugene Kontorovich: The EU contradicted its West Bank settlement guidelines by agreeing to a fisheries agreement with Morocco that includes exploiting the resources of Western Sahara. The UN refuses to recognize Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara after Spain withdrew in 1975.
Moreover, the European Parliament’s legal advisor issued a formal opinion earlier this month making it clear that it is the EU’s treatment of Morocco, not Israel, that accords with international law.
By inventing rules of international law, the EU actually sends the message that Israel might never “comply” with international law, because where Israel is concerned, this “law” is a moving target, that can be concocted from thin air.
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has occupied it since, claiming it as its own territory. The Security Council has condemned Morocco’s presence and demanded a complete withdrawal.
• In a NY Times op-ed, PA official Ali Jarbawi weighs in on West Bank development.
- Saudi prince sheds light on royal family’s views of Iranian talks.
- Egypt and Turkey downgrade ties.
- “Corruption, fraud and religious bickering keep aid away from Syrian refugees.”