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Today’s Top Stories
1. French report leaked dismissing claims Arafat was poisoned.
The new report reportedly contradicts theory proposed by Swiss forensic experts, who concluded that polonium poisoning was likely, though not definitely, the cause of death. The latest findings show he died of natural causes.
2. A high ranking member of Hezbollah was killed outside his home.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah reflexively blames Israel. But the AP suggests there are other suspects to consider:
His shooting death comes as Lebanon faces increasing sectarian violence pouring over from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where Hezbollah forces fight alongside President Bashar Assad’s troops, angering the mainly Sunni rebels seeking to oust him. Hezbollah strongholds have been the target of car bomb attacks and suicide bombers attacked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut last month, killing 23 people.
Sunni militant groups have claimed responsibility for those attacks, calling it retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.
3. Israel acknowledges sending humanitarian supplies to Syria.
“We can’t sit by and watch the humanitarian difficulties on the other side,” Yaalon said. “We’ve transferred water, food, including baby food, taking into consideration that these villages are besieged and they don’t have access to any other place. So therefore yes, we are assisting with humanitarian aid along the fence.”
Israel and Syria are bitter enemies, and Israel has avoided taking sides in the Syrian fighting that pits President Bashar Assad’s government against rebels seeking to oust it. Still, dozens of wounded Syrians have been treated at Israeli hospitals. Last month, a pregnant Syrian woman escaping the bloodshed gave birth in an Israeli hospital.
4. More Pallywood: How Palestinians turn their stone throwers into victims – Palestinian propaganda shows up to deflect from the real victims of Palestinian violence.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Tom Friedman pays Netanyahu a backhanded compliment, giving Bibi credit for getting Iran to the table for talks but in a way that he might like:
While you need some Obama “cool” to finalize a deal with Iran, to see the potential for something new and to seize it, you also need some Bibi crazy — some of his Dr. Strangelove stuff and the occasional missile test. The dark core of this Iranian regime has not gone away. It’s just out of sight, and it does need to believe that all options really are on the table for negotiations to succeed. So let Bibi be Bibi (up to the point where a good deal becomes possible) and Barack be Barack and we have the best chance of getting a decent outcome. Had Bibi not been Bibi, we never would have gotten Iran to the negotiating table, but without Barack being Barack, we’ll never get a deal.
• Jeffrey Goldberg makes a slam-dunk rebuttal to the claim that Israeli settlements are at the root of all the problems in the Middle East, stated most recently by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former security advisor to Jimmy Carter.
• Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz give their prescription for what the final agreement with Iran must look like to achieve the aim of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. (Access Wall Street Journal article via Google News.)
• New York Times tracks the shifting US attitude about the Syrian rebels, noting both its links to al-Qaida and the surprisingly large number of European Muslims who have come to the region to fight against Assad.
“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”
It is not clear whether or when the White House would be willing to make such an abrupt shift in approach after years of supporting the Syrian opposition and calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It would certainly require delicate negotiations with Middle Eastern allies who were early and eager supporters of Syrian rebel groups, notably Saudi Arabia.
One growing source of concern is the number of Muslims from Western countries who have gone to fight in Syria and might eventually return home and pose a terrorist threat. Analysts say at least 1,200 European Muslims have gone to Syria since the start of the war to join the fight, and dozens of Americans.
• The Syrian civil war is giving Hezbollah terrorists valuable fighting experience.
Amid the grinding brutality of Syria’s war, analysts say Hezbollah combatants have learned valuable lessons in mounting offensive and defensive operations in urban and rural environments. They have learned how to coordinate with other forces, such as the Syrian army and loyalist paramilitaries; how to build supply lines to sustain long periods of fighting; and simply experience the rigors and chaos of combat.
• Ron Dermer has started his term as Israel’s ambassador to the US, and Politico looks at how he’ll impact Israel’s approach in Washington.
• Max Fisher looks at how Israel came to win world acceptance of its nuclear weapons.
The single greatest factor explaining how Israel got the world to accept its nuclear program may be timing. The first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1945, by the United States. In 1970, most of the world agreed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which forbids any new countries from developing nuclear weapons. In that 25-year window, every major world power developed a nuclear weapon: the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China. They were joined by exactly one other country: Israel.
• Fallout from the Iranian nuclear agreement has reached the US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. According to Khaled Abu Toameh, the Palestinians believe US influence is waning and they would be better off waiting for other parties, like China or the EU, to step into the breach.
For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.