To Read: Rami Khouri criticizes US policy in Syria, arguing that by trying to avoid anti-American animosity and Islamist dominated disorder, the US is creating anti-American animosity and Islamist dominated disorder-
The U.S. is reluctant to offer direct military aid to the rebels because it fears weapons might fall into the hands of groups the United States does not like, especially Islamist groups such as the Nusra Front or smaller groups with alleged affinities to Al-Qaeda that have grown rapidly in the past year and now spearhead military advances in parts of Syria. Presumably, that is because the U.S. does not want to arm Islamist or other unfriendly groups who might agitate against the U.S. or its allies, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia or Jordan.
That sounds like a reasonable policy, but in reality it is a total failure. In fact it brings about precisely that outcome that Washington says it wishes to avoid – the rise to prominence, or even dominance, of those Islamist groups the U.S. dislikes. So as the U.S. speaks boldly about bringing down the Assad regime, but does little on the critical military front to help bring this about, Islamist and other rebel groups whom the U.S. dislikes have received plenty of arms and made sustained gains militarily. They have therefore won the confidence of ordinary people across the land, enhancing the likelihood that these groups will dominate the post-Assad system of power.
Quote: "No sir", top U.S. commander in the Middle East General James Mattis after being asked whether sanctions on Iran have been working.
Number: -22, last week's Gallup Economic Confidence Index number, a sharp decline from the previous week.
To Read: According to former Mossad chief Efraim Halevi, if we only knew about the secret negotiations and developments between Israel and Hamas we might be more optimistic about the middle east-
The recent news out of the Middle East has been grim. But, if there's an atmosphere of pessimism in the international press, that's because the real story hasn't been earning any attention—intentionally so. We can all read about Hamas's daily maligning of Israel, and its promises to put an end to Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land, just as we can read about Israeli officials continuing to demand that Hamas recognize the right of Israel (including Jerusalem) to exist, knowing full well that no devout Muslim has ever done so, or can ever do so. The past month has also seen hunger strikes by prominent Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which have incited widespread demonstrations in Palestinian territories.
What hasn't earned much attention are the successive rounds of negotiations between Israeli army officers and other security officials and their Egyptian counterparts, mostly in Cairo, parallel to those that the Egyptians have been conducting with Hamas personnel. These “non-negotiations” between Israel and Hamas might be critical in finding a durable solution for their conflict.
Quote: "Secretary Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued US support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints. Secretary Hagel and Minister Barak agreed that the United States-Israeli defense relationship has never been stronger than during the Obama administration and that both nations will continue this unprecedented close cooperation", the pentagon reporting about the Barak Hagel meeting.
Number: more than 2,000, the number of Sudanese refugees and immigrants who 'left Israel voluntarily' according to Eli Yishai.
The Middle East
Read: In a telling (even if somewhat apologetic) piece for Al-Monitor, Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol explains Erdogan's Turkish interpretation of the word 'Zionism'-
In Turkey, however, the term “Zionism” is almost always taken as synonymous with its most radical version, and is perceived as the plan to permanently occupy the whole “the Land of Israel,” while suppressing or destroying the native Arab population. In this sense, Zionism only implies humiliation, death and destruction of the Palestinians, a people for whom the overwhelming majority of the Turks have genuine sympathy.
Moreover, in the common Turkish mind, the term Zionism even evokes extravagant conspiracy theories against Turkey itself…
Quote: "Venezuela lost its brave, strong son and the world lost a wise and revolutionary leader. I have no doubt that he will return, along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human", Ahmadinejad mourns Chavez.
Number: 60, the percentage of young Palestinians who believe that establishing a Palestinian state based on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 is not possible because of complicated internal and foreign politics.
The Jewish World
To Read: Tablet's Yair Rosenberg writes about the increasing Orthodox involvement in AIPAC-
At the sprawling AIPAC Village, a subterranean expo spanning three city blocks beneath the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, attendees are assaulted with options. They can take a virtual tour of Israel, hobnob with congressional leaders, or watch live presentations on Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But they can eat only one kind of food: glatt kosher. That’s because all the fare at the entire Policy Conference—from smoothies to shwarma—is under strict rabbinic supervision.
Quote: “It is incumbent on government and public officials to censure such comments, because they attract such wide attention. There is an obvious connection between the rise of ‘respectable anti-Semitism,’ and the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe which are becoming more regular and habitual”, European Jewish Congress president, Dr. Moshe Kantor, responding to the Vincent Browne controversy.
Number: 11, the number of Belgian families which were honored by President Peres yesterday for saving Jews in the Holocaust.