Update on the Middle East-The Latest
The Costs to Israel of the Sinai Pipeline Bombing - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
After a second Sinai pipeline bombing on Wednesday halted the flow of natural gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan, experts say that Israel will be able to fulfill its energy needs, but not without both financial and environmental costs, at least in the short term.
The bombed pipeline also delivers gas to Syria and Lebanon via the Jordan pipeline.
"The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) has the means to guarantee a continuous supply of electricity to meet the country's demands for all of its users, regardless of the cessation in the Egyptian gas supply," said Dr. Amit Mor, CEO at the Eco Energy consulting firm. "IEC will do this by utilizing the Ashkelon and Hade ra coal plants at maximum capacity."
Coal currently fuels the production of 62% of Israel's electricity, while natural gas accounts for 36% - two-fifths of which is supplied by Egypt.
In addition, the IEC will probably convert several of the stations that currently run on natural gas to operate on heavy fuel oil and diesel instead, at a cost of an additional $1.5-2 million per day.
The price of diesel fuel is six times higher than the price of Egyptian gas.
See also Egypt-Israel Gas Pipeline Fire Could Rage for Days - Marwa Awad (Reuters)
Egyptian Protesters Call for Severing Israel Ties (AFP)
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Wednesday demanding Egypt sever ties with and end gas exports to the Jewish state.
They chanted: "The people demand the cancellation of normalization" and "the gas must stop."
One of the protesters, blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, said the demonstration came in response to recent remarks by Israeli President Shimon Peres. "Peres issued a statement recently calling on Egyptian youth to normalize (with Israel), and this is the Egyptian youth's response," he said.
Hamalawy also said the protesters were heartened by the sabotage of the natural gas pipeline.
The Tehran-Damascus Axis - Amir Taheri (Wall Street Journal)
When the Arab uprisings started in Tunisia, there were no more enthusiastic cheerleaders than the Khomeinists in Tehran.
But Tehran's cheering has begun to fade as the revolt has spread to Syria, the mullahs' sole Arab ally.
From the start, Tehran media have labeled the Syrian uprising "a Zionist plot," the term they used to describe the pro-democracy movement in Iran itself.
In 2009, the mullahs claimed that those killed in the streets of Tehran and Tabriz were not peaceful demonstrators but "Zionist and infidel" agents who deserved to die.
The Assad clan is using the same vicious vocabulary against freedom lovers in Syria as snipers kill them in the streets of Damascus, Deraa and Douma
- Fatah and Hamas End Feud, Agree to Interim Government - Marwa Awad
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group has inked a deal with bitter rival Hamas to end their long-running feud and form an interim government ahead of elections this year, officials said on Wednesday. The White House said Hamas was "a terrorist organization" and added that any Palestinian government would have to renounce violence. A U.S. official said it would also have to respect past peace deals and recognize Israel's right to exist. While Fatah has supported the notion of a negotiated peace deal with Israel, Hamas has firmly rejected it and regularly fires missiles and mortars from Gaza into the Jewish state. (Reuters)
See also Fayyad Will Not Be in New PA Government - Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner
Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah negotiator of the agreement with Hamas, said that Salam Fayyad, the prime minister in the West Bank who is despised by Hamas but trusted by Washington, would not be part of the interim government. (New York Times)
- Crackdown in Syria Continues Amid Reports of Resignations - Liz Sly
With Syrian authorities intent on stamping out a rapidly swelling uprising against 40 years of Assad family rule, there was little indication that international pressure was having any effect. Yet small signs of cracks in the regime began to emerge with the reported resignations of numerous low-level Baath Party members. Footage broadcast by Al-Arabiya showed columns of smoke rising from the southern town of Daraa, suggesting that it was still coming under artillery fire from troops attempting to suppress the protests. A resident who managed to escape into Jordan told Al-Jazeera that bodies were lying in the streets. (Washington Post)
See also UN Security Council Fails to Condemn Syria
The UN Security Council failed to agree on a European and U.S.-backed statement condemning Syrian violence against peaceful protesters on Wednesday, with Russia saying Syria's actions don't threaten international peace. China and India called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, while Lebanon's UN ambassador stressed the country's special relationship with Syria. Syria's UN ambassador welcomed the council's inaction, blaming the violence on "extremist groups." (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Hamas: Interim Palestinian Government Not Able to Work on Peace with Israel
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader who participated in the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, said on Wednesday, "Our program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognizing it....It will not be possible for the interim national government to participate or bet on or work on the peace process with Israel." (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
See also Israel Wary of Change in Security Arrangements with PA - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
- "Palestinians Prefer Peace with Hamas over Peace with Israel" - Elior Levy
Senior Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi said Thursday, "If Israel thinks we have to choose between peace with it and peace with Hamas - any Palestinian you ask will tell you we prefer Palestinian unity over peace with Israel." The fact that Hamas is largely considered by the international community as a terror group was never a factor. "No Palestinian group is a terror organization in our eyes," he added. (Ynet News)
- Israeli Officials Skeptical about Hamas-Fatah Agreement
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday the agreement between Hamas and Fatah has "dramatic potential" but it is doubtful that it will mature into a joint government. He noted that Palestinian officials were also skeptical about it. The defense minister also reiterated Israeli's position that it would not hold any discussions with Hamas, "a murderous organization whose aim is to destroy Israel." If a joint Palestinian government were to rise, Israel would hold talks with the new government only if Hamas would dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and recognize Israel and previous agreements made with the PLO. (Jerusalem Post)
- Netanyahu: IDF Must Stay in Jordan Valley - Herb Keinon, Joshua Hamerman and Tovah Lazaroff
Any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include a long-term Israeli presence along the Jordan River, Prime Minister Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of U.S. congressman on Wednesday. That presence would protect Israel from the importation of terrorists from Jordan into a Palestinians state, he said.
Noting Palestinian plans to ask the UN General Assembly in September for recognition of statehood, Netanyahu said that a strong American position against the move was necessary, and that Washington should make it clear to the PA that it would only achieve statehood through negotiations. The prime minister thanked the delegation for the recent approval of another $205 million for the Iron Dome a nti-missile system. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas Has Taken Over the Palestinian Nationalist Movement - Aluf Benn
The Palestinian reconciliation deal, if realized, heralds the takeover of the Palestinian national movement by Hamas. A "unity government" or "technocracy" - as the Palestinians called it - is a nice but empty headline. In real life, there is no a-political rule and there are no egalitarian governments. There is always a ruling side with partners being dragged behind it. The stronger, more organized, better armed side, i.e., Hamas, will rule the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.
The Palestinian reconciliation deal justifies Netanyahu's warnings that any territory vacated by Israel will fall into Hamas hands and become an Iranian terror base. It strikes any proposals for interim agreements and unilateral withdrawals, intended to appease the world, off the agenda. (Ha'aretz)
- The Syria Lobby - Editorial
The argument made by the Syria Lobby runs as follows: The Assad family is occasionally ruthless, especially when its survival is at stake, but it's also secular and pragmatic. Though the regime is Iran's closest ally, hosts terrorists in Damascus, champions Hizbullah in Lebanon, and has funneled al-Qaeda terrorists into Iraq, it will forgo those connections for the right price. Above all, it yearns for better treatment from Washington and the return of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau held by Israel since 1967. The Syria Lobby also claims that whoever succeeds Assad would probably be worse.
But the deeper problem is a flawed analysis of the Syrian regime's beliefs, intentions and capacity for change. Run by an Alawite minority , the regime was never going to break with its Shiite benefactors in Tehran and join the Arab Sunni orbit. A regime that builds its domestic legitimacy on hostility to Israel is also unlikely ever to make peace, even if it recovered the Golan. So it shouldn't surprise that Damascus has only stepped up its anti-American rhetoric since President Obama came to office offering engagement, or that its ties to Tehran have only grown closer, or that it continues to meddle in Lebanon, which it sees as a part of "Greater Syria." (Wall Street Journal)
Palestinians Launch Their Revolution - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)
- It's not yet certain that a political deal announced Wednesday by the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas factions will stick - similar pacts have been proclaimed and then discarded several times in the last four years. But one thing is sure: If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas moves forward with the reconciliation with the Islamic Hamas movement, it will mean he has written off the Obama administration and the peace process it has tried to broker, once and for all.
- The reconciliation could mean the end of the West Bank administration headed by Salam Fayyad, a technocrat highly respected by both Americans and Israelis. If so, Congress will almost certainly suspend $400 million in annual U.S. aid.
- It could also mean the reorganization of Fatah's U.S.-trained security forces, which have worked with Israel to keep the peace in the West Bank for the last several years, and their eventual integration with the cadres of the Iranian-backed Hamas.
See also Hamas-Fatah Pact: Is the Peace Process Over? - Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post)
- Former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dore Gold, noted: "Hamas is an international terrorist organization, period. That is not just an Israeli determination but the opinion of the EU and the U.S. government. There are no diplomatic acrobatics that are possible which could make an organization that has been committed to suicide bombing attacks and rocketing Israeli civilians into a partner for peace."
- "Will the PA now release from prison Hamas terrorists who were engaged in attacks on Israel? The PA security apparatus, which is generally praised by Western observers, will have no value if those engaging in terroristic activities are not indicted, tried and put into prison, because of the new political ties with Hamas."
See also Congress to PA: No U.S. Aid If You Merge with Hamas - Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post)