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    Benjamin Netanyahu Tag

    Israelis Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, just held a press conference. Netanyahu, facing increasing criticism at home, laid out the case why the Gaza conflict was a success: Hamas lost 5-7 years of military tunnel and rocket build-up, over 1000 fighters (including from other terrorist groups), and numerous senior leaders, but receive no benefit in the ceasefire agreement. Israel gained diplomatically among more moderate Arab states, and limited losses from rockets and ground combat. I'll have my own take on this (which basically agrees with Netanyahu) later. I'll post the video when available. Here are some live tweets:

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines at a recent press conference by specifically comparing Hamas to ISIS. As if to prove Netanyahu right, Hamas conducted the execution without trial of several alleged collaborators on Thursday, followed up by a reported 18 today. This is on top of dozens previously executed. Many if not all of these were conducted in public. Hamas has been known to drag bodies through the streets, although it's unclear if that happened this time. CNN reports:
    Hamas executed 18 suspected informants for Israel in Gaza on Friday, the Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV reported. This comes one day after an Israeli strike in the Gaza city of Rafah killed three senior leaders of the Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing.
    The Times of Israel adds:
    The witness said masked gunmen lined up the seven men in a side street and opened fire on them. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his own safety. Other witnesses told AFP that six of them were grabbed from among hundreds of worshipers leaving the city’s largest mosque, by men in the uniform of Hamas’s military wing. They were pushed to the ground. One of the masked men shouted: “This is the final moment of the Zionist enemy collaborators,” then the gunmen sprayed them with bullets.

    There are more apparent rifts between Israel and the U.S. administration, this time over an interruption of Hellfire missiles at the request of the White House and State Department. Normal channels apparently were followed, but the administration reportedly has its nose out of joint because the U.S. has been sidelined as Israel and Egypt work together, and Israeli press leaks painted the Obama administration as hopelessly naive and incompetent. The alleged confrontation has become a hot political issue in Israel, where tension with the U.S. always works against a politician. The Wall Street Journal reports:
    White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval. Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.... Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just gave a major speech. It was predicted that he would announce an end to operations, but his actual speech was much less clear on that point. Repeatedly Netanyahu said that the operation would continue as needed.

    Part of the big news today is that multiple airlines have cancelled flights to Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel as a result of a rocket landing in a town nearby. At first it was unclear if this was a unilateral action, or under pressure from governments. It appears that the FAA and European aviation authority issued a temporary order to that effect. El Al continues to fly, as do some other airlines. But one cancellation can have a ripple effect as other airlines are questioned whether they are putting passengers at undo risk in light of other airlines' can The implications are enormous. Whether intended or not, Hamas has made the case as to why it's rocket arsenal and infrastructure must be dismantled no matter the cost. It also has justified why Israel cannot give up security control of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"). Hamas has to fire a long way to scare away air traffic, but from the West Bank it's practically a stone's throw. Alan Dershowitz points out, Has Hamas ended the prospects for a two state solution?(h/t Roger Simon):

    How expansive is electronic espionage? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly does not have a computer in his office, does not use email and does not have a private phone. I read a while ago that he even uses hand signals in some situations, although I can't find the link now. There's every reason to believe many major national intelligence agencies have similar capabilities, they just don't have Edward Snowdens willing or able to walk off with the proof. You know, imprisoned or dead families could be the consequence elsewhere. So frustrated with U.S. snooping is Germany that it is considering going to old school typewriters, via The Guardian, Germany 'may revert to typewriters' to counter hi-tech espionage:
    German politicians are considering a return to using manual typewriters for sensitive documents in the wake of the US surveillance scandal. The head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said in an interview with the Morgenmagazin TV programme that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely. Asked "Are you considering typewriters" by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politican Patrick Sensburg said: "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either". "Really?", the surprised interviewer checked. "Yes, no joke", Sensburg responded.
    While typewriters might be harder to spy on, they hardly are foolproof, as the U.S. Embassy in Moscow discovered back in the day (1986): Soviets Bug Typewriters in U.S. Embassy * * * Soviets Bug Typewriters in U.S. Embassy sounds More on the typewriter espionage here:

    Israel is undergoing intense soul searching, as a nation, for the actions of what are believed to be 6 Israeli Jews in murdering an Israeli Arab teen, Mohammed Abu Khedair, in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel. Much of that criticism is internal. Members of Israel's Knesset unanimously condemned the murder, as has every prominent Israeli leader. The Editor in Chief of The Times of Israel writes that " the killing of Muhammed Abu Khdeir must rid us of the illusion that we enjoy a distinctive moral superiority over our neighbors." An Israeli Jewish group is organizing a visit to the family of the murdered teen. Israeli President Shimon Peres termed the murder a crisis of morality:
    President Shimon Peres says Israel is in a deep crisis of morality following the arrest of six people in the killing of Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week. “We did not believe that such a heinous crime could take place among our people. We mustn’t be such a people,” Peres says. “Today ‘out of Zion shall go forth the shame,’” he says, paraphrasing a famous Bible quote. “There is no justification for death and no crime is more acceptable than another,” the president adds. “My heart aches with the grieving Abu Khdeir family and with the grieving Shaar, Yifrach and Fraenkel families.”

    Excellent analysis in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper by journalist Ari Shavit, Waiting for the Palestinian Godot:
    There are some moments a journalist will never forget. In early 1997, Yossi Beilin decided to trust me, and show me the document that proved that peace was within reach. The then-prominent and creative politician from the Labor movement opened up a safe, took out a stack of printed pages, and laid them down on the table like a player with a winning poker hand. Rumors were rife about the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, but only a few had the opportunity to see the document with their own eyes or hold it in their hands. I was one of those few. With mouth agape I read the comprehensive outline for peace that had been formulated 18 months earlier by two brilliant champions of peace -- one, Israeli, and one, Palestinian. The document left nothing to chance: Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sign a permanent agreement. The refugee from Safed had overcome the ghosts of the past and the ideas of the past, and was willing to build a joint Israeli-Palestinian future, based on coexistence. If we could only get out from under the Likud’s thumb, and get Benjamin Netanyahu out of office, he will join us, hand in hand, walking toward the two-state solution. Abbas is a serious partner for true peace, the one with whom we can make a historic breakthrough toward reconciliation. We understood. We did what was necessary. In 1999, we ousted Likud and Netanyahu. In 2000, we went to the peace summit at Camp David. Whoops, surprise: Abbas didn’t bring the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan to Camp David, or any other draft of a peace proposal. The opposite was true: He was one of the staunchest objectors, and his demand for the right of return prevented any progress.

    Fatah and Hamas have reached an agreement to put their differences behind them and form a unity government. The New York Times reports:
    The two groups — the Palestine Liberation Organization, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip — have reached similar accords before that were never carried out. But the latest deal comes as the fragile American-brokered peace efforts between the Palestinians and Israel are approaching an April 29 deadline without a resolution in sight. People familiar with the discussions have said the Israeli and Palestinian sides were far apart even on how to extend the talks past the deadline.
    The Times article ends in typical understatement.
    Analysts remained skeptical about whether the Palestinian reconciliation efforts would lead to a tangible change on the ground, because neither of the factions has shown interest in genuine power-sharing in the past, and they have deep differences over how to deal with Israel, which Hamas does not recognize. Even so, some experts said that the latest effort at reconciliation appeared more serious than past attempts, because both factions are under growing pressure. Gaza under Hamas has been severely weakened by an Egyptian crackdown on the smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border and an Israeli blockade. And Mr. Abbas, for his part, has faced growing criticism from West Bank residents about the negotiations with Israel and his own legitimacy, with Palestinian elections long overdue. He has threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, if the talks with Israel end in failure.
    No Hamas does not recognize Israel. It is also a genocidal terrorist organization devoted to destroying Israel. Note terror is not mentioned.

    Last month, Jeffrey Goldberg published an interview with President Barack Obama, ahead of Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States to attend the AIPAC conference. The President wasn't at all friendly in the interview, warning (in Goldberg's words) that "time is running out." Roughly four weeks later, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority refused to continue negotiations with Israel. Is there a connection between the two? Put a different way, in the words of Neo-Neocon Did Obama Sabotage Kerry on Peace Talks? The answer is "yes," and here's how. There are two points that Obama made in his interview worth recalling. Answering a question from Goldberg about Abbas, President Obama said:
    We don’t know exactly what would happen. What we know is that it gets harder by the day. What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally. We had to stand up in the Security Council in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position. And that’s a reflection of a genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries out there that this issue continues to fester, is not getting resolved, and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure.

    Or is this story even true? Is it actually one of those "good-cop/bad-cop" tales instead? It's difficult to say, but I vote ever-so-slightly for "true." My opinion of John Kerry is very low, but I think more of him than I do of Obama. The following seems...

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is addressing the AIPAC conference this morning.

    President Obama has been meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. From the Washington Post:
    Seeking to salvage an elusive Middle East peace plan, President Barack Obama pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday to make the “tough decisions” needed to move forward on talks with the Palestinians.But facing a U.S.-imposed April deadline, the Israeli leader declared pessimistically that, “Israel has been doing its part and, I regret to say, the Palestinians have not.” Obama and Netanyahu spoke before an Oval Office meeting on a snowy Monday in Washington. The meeting marked a more direct foray by Obama into the peace negotiations, which he has so far largely ceded to Secretary of State John Kerry.
    Barak Ravid, a correspondent with Haaretz Newspaper, posted tweets from the event - a handful are included below.  (Video added -- Transcript here)
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