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MENA Mashup: AIPAC, Iran, Israel, and House of Saud

To punctuate Phyllis’ point on the Peace Farce between Bibi and Abbas…

Abbas: There’s ‘No Way’ We’ll Recognize Israel

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stood his ground on Friday and reiterated that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Speaking to youth activists of his Fatah party and quoted by The Associated Press (AP), Abbas unequivocally declared that there is “no way” he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.

Abbas further stated that he withstood international pressure in the past, when he sought UN recognition of a state of Palestine despite the United States’ objections.

“They are pressing and saying, ‘No peace without the Jewish state,”‘ he said, though not spelling out who is applying the pressure. “There is no way. We will not accept.”

Now, I do wonder about her basic premise that AIPAC is in fact weakened…! From Alex Kane in Mondoweiss…

House delivers for AIPAC, 410-1, passing Israel as ‘strategic partner’ bill

…Today, the House of Representatives passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act by a 410-1 vote. The lone dissenting voice was Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY), a libertarian aligned with Senator Rand Paul. The Senate has not voted on their version of the bill yet, though it has strong support there, with 55 co-sponsors from both parties.

In addition to the “major strategic partner” designation, the bill allows for Israelis to travel to the U.S. without visas, though the State Department has to certify that Israel meets the requirements for the visa-waiver program. The legislation also calls for giving Israel advanced combat aircraft and military tanker transports. It was authored by the hawkish Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. {…}

The liberal Zionist lobby group J Street applauded the bill’s passage.

The legislation had languished in Congress for a year. While it was a priority for AIPAC at last year’s conference, it was held up because of concerns that it would codify Israel’s discrimination against activists and Arab- and Palestinian-American travelers. Those concerns, pushed to the forefront by a coalition of groups, led to the stripping out of language that gave Israel a right to deny entry to travelers if they threatened the state’s security. The security pretext is a favored tool used by Israeli authorities to deny people entry.

The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act was one of the initiatives AIPAC members pushed for when lobbying Congress on Tuesday. AIPAC activists also asked elected officials to sign onto a pair of letters stressing that Congress should be informed of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency‘s Ron Kampeas reported, the letter for the House of Representatives, which J Street also backed, “does not include AIPAC’s previous calls for new and enhanced sanctions” and “does not include prescriptions for what the outcome of an agreement should look like.” The Senate letter, on the other hand, does include prescriptions for a deal with Iran, like the dismantling of enrichment capacity–a demand Iran has categorically rejected.

Now, Jim Lobe is reporting that AIPAC has been blunted…

AIPAC’s Plan C on Iran Diplomacy Blunted

It’s been a difficult annual policy conference for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its hopes of getting Congress to set the toughest possible conditions on any final nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany). As readers of this blog know, AIPAC entered the conference, which ran from Sunday through Tuesday, in a rather parlous state as a result of its worst foreign policy setback in a generation; specifically, its failure to muster nearly enough Democrats to gain a veto proof-majority in favor of the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill that Obama had threatened to veto. Attacked by hard-line neoconservative groups on the right, notably the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for sacrificing its devotion to Bibi Netanyahu’s jihad against Iran in the interests of bipartisanship — namely, not unduly alienating Democrats in Congress and thus bolstering J Street — the nation’s most powerful foreign policy lobby(AIPAC) found itself in a seemingly dazed and unfamiliar defensive crouch, lacking until the very last moment a coherent lobbying agenda for the 14,000 attendees signed up for the proceedings.

Even the weather refused to cooperate. The snowfall that blanketed the area Sunday night and Monday morning effectively shut down the government and downtown, closing Congressional offices, making it highly inconvenient — and, in many cases, impossible — for the usual overwhelming majority of members of Congress, who customarily make cameo appearances at the conference to ensure their good standing, to get to the convention center, and generally cast a wintry pall over the three-day proceedings.

(And then, as if to add insult to injury, on Tuesday, the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu keynoted the conference, The Hill newspaper, which basically ignored the proceedings throughout, featured a flattering full-page profile of Jeremy Ben-Ami, while the even more influential Politico published an op-ed entitled “Why AIPAC Needs to Get With the Peace Program” by the J Street founder and president. Ouch!)

Writing in Huffington Post, the ADL’s Abe Foxman hyperventilated about recent events…

Iranian Missiles and the Negotiations

News of the Israel Defense Forces’ interception of an Iranian cargo ship loaded with rockets and other unspecified arms destined for the Gaza Strip comes as no surprise. It is a stark reminder to the international community that there is more to dealing with Iran than getting to an acceptable and verifiable agreement on the nuclear weapons issue.

Iran has been a state sponsor of international terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, for decades. It seamlessly coordinates with its great regional ally, the Assad regime of Syria, the transfer of military materiel to terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The Iranian regime unabashedly promotes violence and terrorism against the State of Israel…

About that ‘interception’…

Israeli Navy Intercepts Alleged Iranian Arms Shipment Near Sudanese Port

Mystery surrounds intercepted Iranian missile shipment

Gaza militants deny involvement in arms shipment

Eritrean opposition: Arms ship was heading for Yemen, not Gaza

Speaking of the House of Saud…

Saudi lists ‘terror’ groups, orders Islamist fighters home

Saudi Arabia listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organisations Friday, and ordered citizens fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face imprisonment.

The move represents a major escalation against the Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the potential risks to domestic security of Saudi extremists fighting in Syria.

Riyadh staunchly supports Sunni-led rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but has long feared blowback from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaeda franchise from 2003 to 2006.

Friday’s move comes two days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which supports Islamists groups in the region and was a backer of the Brotherhood.

A list published by the interior ministry designates as terrorist organisations the Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and Iraq.

Also blacklisted are Shiite Muslim rebels known as Huthis in northern Yemen and “Hezbollah inside the kingdom,” a reference to a little-known Shiite group in` overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Speaking of Al-Nusra and ISIL…

ISIL says it faces war with Nusra in Syria

An al-Qaeda breakaway group says it faces a war with rival Islamic factions who want to destroy it, describing Syria’s al-Qaeda-linked branch as the “front of betrayal and treason”.

The statement by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Friday came a week after the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra gave it a five-day ultimatum to accept mediation to end infighting or be “expelled” from the region.

Battles between the rival groups that began in early January have killed more than 3,000 people, activists say. The fighting in northern Syria, in which Nusra is backed by other Islamic groups, has been the deadliest between opposition fighters since the country’s crisis began three years ago.

ISIL’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 22-minute audio clip posted online that his group’s rivals tried to defeat ISIL “when they saw it was getting more powerful”.

“They resorted to force and thought that they would be able to wipe it within a few days or hours. They prepared for a military campaign all over Syria and accompanied it with a propaganda campaign to harm the image of (ISIL) and turn the people against it,” Adnani said.

And what’s up with this…? Kerry makes surprise visit in Jordan

In wrapping up…

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