May 03/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 06/34-40/:"They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’"

It is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil
First Letter of Peter 03/13-22/:"Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 02-03/17
Israeli strikes raise stakes in face-off with Hezbollah/Ynetnews/Reuters/May 02/17
Will Lebanon finally pass a budget after more than a decade/Haytham Mouzahem /TranslatorJoelle El-Khoury/Al Monitor/May 02/17
The Trump-Abbas Meeting: Issues, Constraints, and Ways Forward/Ghaith al-Omari, Ehud Yaari, David Makovsky, and Dennis Ross/The Washington Institute/May 02/2017
Hamas's Moderate Rhetoric Belies Militant Activities/Matthew Levitt and Maxine Rich/The Washington Institute/May 02/2017
Germany: Migrant Crime Spiked in 2016/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 02/17
Germany Hit by Merkel's Imported Crime Wave/Vijeta Uniyal/Gatestone Institute/May 02/17
Republicans Are Now the ‘America First’ Party/Russel Ronald Reno/The New York Times/May 02/17
France and the Benefits of a Little Dictatorship/Andrew Roberts/The New York Times/May 02/17
UNESCO resolution passes calling to reject Israeli sovereignty over all Jerusalem/Ynetnews/Itamar Eichner & Associated Press|/May 02/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 02-03/17

Israeli strikes raise stakes in face-off with Hezbollah
Will Lebanon finally pass a budget after more than a decade
Lebanese diaspora an asset to the country: President Aoun
Fears Rise over Renewal of Clashes in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh
Central Bank Governor Says Lebanese Pound Will Remain Pillar of Economic Stability
Berri Urges Hariri to 'Assume Responsibility' ahead of Cabinet Meeting
Al-Rahi Advises Officials to 'Avoid Extension, Vacuum'
Jumblat Hails Nasrallah's Remarks on 'Importance of Consensus'
Bassil Slams Those who 'Reject Vote on Electoral Law' and 'Accept Vote on Extension'
Qassem Says Palestinians Must Liberate Entire Palestine after Hamas Eases Stance
Army Tightens Security Measures in Arsal
Coffee Vendor Assaulted in Sidon
Future: For electoral law abiding by Taef
ISF Chief discusses current situation with visitors
Kataeb says returning to 1960 law or producing law to fit certain size is mandate extension itself
Two Held as Captagon Manufacturing Machines Seized in Baalbek
AUB Mourns Maroun Semaan: His Legacy will Resonate through Ages

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 02-03/17
Three Policemen Killed in Cairo Attack
Egypt’s FM Holds Talks in Uganda on Water Security
UN Envoy to Syria to Attend Syrian Talks in Astana
IS Attack Kills 32 by Syria Refugee Camp on Iraq Border
Putin Calls for Boosting Syria 'Ceasefire' ahead of Astana Talks
Erdogan Rejoins Turkey Ruling Party after Near 3-Year Absence
Moscow Beats Washington by Suggesting Zones of Tensions’ Reduction in Syria
Human Rights Watchdog Reports Regime Massacre in Syria after Peace Talks Relaunch
Turkey Seizes Russian Anti-Tank Missile Parts Smuggled from Ukraine to Iran
Differences on Supporting Kurds Focus of Wednesday’s Erdogan-Putin Talks
Hamas Seen Facing Long Path to End Isolation despite New Policy
New Hamas Program Softens Language, but Some Goals Remain

Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 02-03/17
Israeli strikes raise stakes in face-off with Hezbollah
Ynetnews/Reuters/May 02/17,7340,L-4956514,00.html
Analysis: Israeli strikes in Syria signal shift; miscalculation could cause escalation; neither Israel nor Hezbollah want new war; Israel also seeks to avoid angering Russia.
Two Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent weeks seem to mark a more openly assertive stance towards the group after years of shadow boxing, requiring careful calibration to avoid escalation into a war that neither wants.
For most of the six-year-long conflict in Syria, Israel has stuck determinedly to the sidelines, not wanting to get sucked into the chaos unfolding to its northeast. While it is suspected of carrying out occasional attacks against minor targets, it has tended not to confirm or deny involvement.
But it is determined to stop Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with which it fought a 2006 war, and which it sees as the top strategic threat on its borders, from using its role in the Syrian war to gain weapons and experience that could ultimately endanger Israel.
Since early in the conflict, the Shiite movement’s energies have been focused on propping up President Bashar Assad in alliance with Iran and Russia, throwing thousands of its fighters into battle against Syrian rebels.
But although this strategy makes the prospect of a new war with Israel unwelcome to Hezbollah, it has not altered its view of the country as its foremost enemy, or stopped it strengthening its position for any new conflict.
In the past six weeks, two Israeli attacks appear to have marked a shift, underscoring Israel’s intent to squeeze Hezbollah and coming as the Trump administration carried out its own missile strikes in Syria.
In both cases, Israeli officials have also been less guarded about acknowledging who was behind the attacks.
On March 17, Israel struck a site near Palmyra, prompting Syria’s army to retaliate with Russian-supplied anti-aircraft missiles and on April 27, it hit an arms depot in Damascus where Hezbollah was suspected of storing weapons supplied by Iran.
“The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah,” Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said of the strike last week, but without explicitly confirming Israel carried it out.
Hezbollah has also bared its teeth, conducting a media tour along the Lebanon-Israel border that was widely interpreted as a message that it was unafraid of a new war, and hinting that any coming conflict might involve attacks on Israeli settlements.
A larger strike by Israel, or one that misses its target with unintended consequences, might provoke an escalation, further destabilizing Syria and sucking Israel into an already complex conflict.
It’s an outcome that neither Israel nor Hezbollah wants, but in a war that has already produced many unpredictable outcomes, it is not out of the question either.
Rules of the game
Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed movement that was formed to combat Israel’s 1982–2000 occupation of Lebanon. Its battlefield prowess, extensive social works among Lebanese Shiites and its alliance with powerful regional states have helped it secure a dominant role in the country’s politics.
Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Israel, which killed more than 1,300 people, displacing a million in Lebanon and up to 500,000 in Israel, both sides have engaged in brinkmanship but avoided renewed conflict.
Both say they do not want another war, but don’t shy away from saying they are ready for one if it does end up happening.
Last month, Hezbollah took Lebanese journalists on a tour of the southern frontier with Israel, allowing pictures to be taken of soldiers posing with weapons and staring across the border.
Israel runs patrols along the same frontier, sends up drones and is constantly bolstering its defenses. In March, Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), Israel’s right-wing education minister, threatened to send Lebanon back to the Middle Ages if Hezbollah provoked another war.
An official in the military alliance that backs Assad said Israel’s recent air strikes had hit Hezbollah targets but played down the damage done. As for retaliation, they drew a distinction between Israel striking Hezbollah units deployed to fight on behalf of Assad in Syria and those at home in Lebanon.
“If Israel hits a Hezbollah convoy in Syria, Hezbollah will decide if it will respond or not according to the circumstances in Syria because, despite everything, Syria is a sovereign state and Hezbollah cannot respond in a way that embarrasses the regime,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“If Israel strikes Hezbollah in Lebanon, definitely it will respond. If Hezbollah responds, what is the size of its response that Israel can accept? This could mean an escalation to war. So Israel avoids hitting Hezbollah convoys or rockets inside Lebanon and prefers to strike it inside Syria.”
That analysis fits with how Israel broadly sees the situation, too. Keeping any fallout from the war in Syria away from its territorial interests is one thing. But going after Hezbollah in Lebanon would be the trigger for renewed conflict.
“A clash with Hezbollah is always an active possibility,” said one Israeli diplomat.
While the enmity is fierce on either side, past experience seems to have made both Hezbollah and Israel sharp analysts of one another’s positions and pressure points.
“Sometimes there is a measured response which maintains the balance of deterrence and the rules of the game and sometimes there is a response which opens the door to escalation,” said the official from the alliance backing Assad.
“Right now, the desire of both sides is to not get dragged into a war or to open a new front, either in Golan or the south. But at any moment events can develop and things can escalate into war without either side wanting it.”
Russia-Israel axis
Russia—an ally of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict but which has also coordinated closely with Israel—has also taken note of Israel’s actions.
For the past two years, Israel and Russia have coordinated closely on Syria, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin and often speaking by phone to ensure there are no misunderstandings and that the risk of aerial confrontations is minimized.
For the most part, the system has worked, even if it requires Israel to be delicate in balancing ties with the United States and Russia at the same time. But the most recent incidents appear to have angered Moscow.
After the March strike, Russia summoned Israel’s ambassador for consultations, and after the Damascus airport attack the foreign ministry issued a statement calling it unacceptable and urging Israel to exercise restraint.
“We consider that all countries should avoid any actions that lead to higher tensions in such a troubled region and call for Syrian sovereignty to be respected,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
A new war between Israel and Hezbollah could distract the Shiite movement from its central role in the Syrian conflict, thereby undermining a military campaign in which Russia has staked great resources and prestige.
Israeli analysts think Netanyahu’s government must exercise caution. “Israel still has to walk on eggshells and attack only if the destruction of the target is vital and pertains directly to Israeli security,” military specialist Alex Fishman wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last week.
Israeli ministers, several of whom have a Russian background, also appear determined to avoid provoking Moscow. “We’ll do nothing fast and loose when it comes to the Russians,” said the Israeli diplomat. “We’ll be super-careful in Syria.”

Will Lebanon finally pass a budget after more than a decade?
Haytham Mouzahem /TranslatorJoelle El-Khoury/Al Monitor/May 02/17
Draft legislation that could become Lebanon's official budget is on its way to parliament. Although such news isn't considered unusual in other countries, it is extraordinary in Lebanon, as the last time the country's lawmakers approved a draft budget was in 2005. Successive governments' attempts to pass budgets have been stymied by differences between two political parties, the March 8 and March 14
Although Lebanon’s Cabinet approved a proposed 2017 state budget, the legislation still has to overcome several obstacles in parliament.
President Michel Aoun on April 12 inked a decree submitting the 2017 draft budget, which the Cabinet had approved March 27.
Government expenditures in the past 12 years were set by applying constitutional provisions that state when a final decision on the budget is delayed until after the end of January, “the budget of the previous year shall be adopted as a basis" until a new budget is approved.
Since 2009, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has been accusing Fouad Siniora, who was prime minister from 2005 to 2009, of spending $11 billion in extra-budgetary funds without consulting parliament or abiding by the state oversight institutions during his term. Also, the March 8 Coalition and the FPM accused Siniora of scuttling all budgets since he left that office, as he has demanded since 2010 that the $11 billion in expenditures be discharged in exchange for the Future Bloc’s approval of the rank and salary scale bill and budgets. Siniora is the current leader of the Future Bloc.
At the April 6 parliament session, Nawaf al-Moussawi, a parliament member for Hezbollah, asked for an accounting of where the $11 billion had been spent. Siniora responded, “The disbursement of every penny of the $11 billion is registered at the Ministry of Finance. I left office at the Ministry of Finance 13 years ago. Why haven't the successive finance ministers completed the year-end closing of accounts?” Siniora had been finance minister from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004.
He called for an end to “the circulation of rumors and many lies."
The $11 billion has been a major contention between the Future Bloc and the FPM, with the latter publishing a book titled “The Impossible Exoneration” in 2013. The book outlines legal and financial accusations against Siniora from his tenure as finance minister under now-deceased Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s governments and while heading the Cabinet. (In response, the book "Slander in the Exoneration Book" was published and Siniora wrote the foreword.)
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil explained at a March 30 press conference that expenditures under the 2017 draft budget are estimated at 23.7 trillion Lebanese pounds ($15.7 billion), and revenues at 16.4 trillion pounds ($10.8 billion). Thus, the deficit amounts to 7.3 trillion pounds ($4.8 billion). This is added to the 7.2 trillion pounds in foreign debt interest, 7.4 trillion pounds in salary expenses and 2.2 trillion pounds in electricity spending, he added.
After the March 16 and 19 mass protests against tax hikes — which are designed to fund the salary scale increase — the Cabinet partially amended the draft budget and referred the value-added tax increase to parliament. It added to the draft budget tax increases on financial institutions, bank deposit interest, real estate sales and other taxes. It also added taxes on $5 billion in windfall profits earned by the banks in 2016.
The first version of the draft budget left out more than 2.28 trillion Lebanese pounds in revenues from the tax on profits made by the banks in swap operations, conducted by the Central Bank, and the windfall profits tax revenues. The amended draft, however, includes those revenues. Economist Ghazi Wazni warned against replacing tax increases on bank deposits, investment companies and real estate registration with revenues originally due to the state. This would mean that the banks would pay a one-time tax of $850 million and avoid paying a tax increase of 5-7% on deposits.
Wazni told Al-Monitor that the amended draft budget does not include taxes that were approved in parliament in March to fund the salary scale increases. He explained that those increases will be included in the budget once it's approved. Yet, he added, the money needed to fund the salary scale increases should be approved by parliament, which requires a consensus among all major blocs. He pointed out that the budget and the year-end closing of accounts from past years should be submitted to parliament simultaneously.
There are several obstacles to approving the state budget, Wazni said. Most prominent among these: Money must be made available to fund the salary scale increases, and issues related to the year-end closing of accounts from the previous years must be settled and approved by the Audit Bureau.
Wazni indicated that to avoid disagreements, especially over the $11 billion, parliament can approve the draft budget while giving the Cabinet a deadline to prepare the account closings and preserve the Audit Bureau’s right to oversight.
A final approval of the draft budget is supposed to be delayed until a new electoral law is enacted. On April 12, Aoun invoked his constitutional powers to adjourn for one month the parliament session that had been scheduled for April 13 to extend parliament's term and avoid a legislative vacuum, as the deadline for registering to vote in the general elections hadn't been met.
Now, the next parliament session is set for May 15 to discuss a new election law. If parliament agrees on the law, a technical extension of parliament's term will be needed for a few months to prepare for the elections. The draft budget is supposed to be discussed in parliament after a new election law is endorsed, amid concerns about a delay in passing the budget until after the elections.
In the meantime, National Social Security Fund employees protested last week against two articles in the budget that they say would exempt businesses and the government from having to pay into the pension and insurance fund and could lead to its eventual privatization.
**Haytham Mouzahem is a Lebanese analyst specializing in Middle Eastern and Islamic affairs.

Lebanese diaspora an asset to the country: President Aoun
The Daily Star/May 02/17 /BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Tuesday said that the Lebanese diaspora is a “great source of political, economic, and cultural assets.”Aoun made these remarks during a meeting at Baabda Palace with Madagascar Minister of Foreign Affairs Beatrice Atallah, who herself is of Lebanese origin.Discussing the upcoming Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference, which will take place from May 4-6 in Lebanon, the president said that the conference aims to “highlight the real image of Lebanon as a land of convergence and dialogue, as well as a model for the world of today and tomorrow.”
He added that this especially applies for those of Lebanese origin abroad who “hold high positions.”Atallah is one of several international political and business leaders of Lebanese origin that will attend and take part at the conference. Madagascar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs told Aoun that her country's President Hery Rajaonarimampianina hopes to continue to strengthen ties between the two countries. In November 2015, Parliament approved a draft law allowing foreigners of Lebanese descent to apply for citizenship. The Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and the Lebanese Forces were major proponents of the law. The two parties arguably represent two of the biggest Christian constituencies. Previous editions of the conference have taken place, most recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, in February. Lebanon’s expat population significantly outnumbers the population residing within its borders. Touring the United States, Latin America and Africa, Bassil spoke to audiences of Lebanese origin, urging them to claim their citizenship, register to vote for the upcoming parliamentary elections and invest in Lebanon. “Lebanon, without its philosophy and culture, will go to the advantage of refugees and terrorists,” the Foreign Minister said, addressing an audience in Johannesburg.

Fears Rise over Renewal of Clashes in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh
Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17/Beirut – Unknown assailants tossed on Sunday night seven grenades in Lebanon’s Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, raising fear of the renewal of bloody clashes in the camp. Tensions had been high in the area after the hardline factions rejected the plan to bolster security forces in the al-Tairy neighborhood. The Fatah movement had also refused to withdraw its members from the nearby al-Sohoun neighborhood. Clashes had erupted in April between Fatah and the hardline Bilal Badr group after the latter refused the deployment of security forces in the camp.Head of Palestinian national security in Lebanon, Sobhi Abu Arab told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Saboteurs and mercenaries of the Bilal Badr group tossed a number of hand grenades on the roofs of buildings after the security forces unit in the Tairy neighborhood was boosted by 50 new members.”Thirty of these members are from Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization factions and the remaining 20 are from the Islamic alliance forces, he explained. “Some sides are insisting on resisting the stability in the camp and the deployment of security forces,” he added. Meanwhile, Fatah sources said the tossing of grenades is evidence that members of the Bilal Badr group are still present in the Tairy neighborhood, “even though we know that Badr himself is present in another neighborhood.” The sources ruled out the possibility of the re-eruption of the clashes, “but we expect them to keep stoking tensions through inciting security unrest, throwing grenades or even assassinations.”The developments of the past two days have proven that the Bilal Badr group is still present in the Tairy neighborhood despite an agreement that was reached last month that calls for a halt in armed clashes in that neighborhood, which was considered as a stronghold of the hardline faction. The deal demanded that members of the group withdraw from the area after Fatah failed to resolve the clashes militarily. Sources at the time predicted that tensions will remain in Ain el-Hilweh as long as Badr remains on the loose. At least seven people were killed in armed fighting in April in the crowded Ain el-Hilweh camp near the southern coastal city of Sidon. A ceasefire was announced after five days of unrest. Lebanon’s Palestinian camps, which date back to the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security services. There are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps in Lebanon.the 2017 Arab Economic Forum's meeting, NNA added. "This forum has accompanied Lebanon's crises for more than two decades. It has also gone along with regional and international crises; however, remains steadfast thanks to the robust monetary policies, such as that of Lebanon," Salameh said.

Central Bank Governor Says Lebanese Pound Will Remain Pillar of Economic Stability
Naharnet/May 02/17/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stressed Tuesday that his party is not seeking to “impose” the proportional representation electoral system on the country, while warning that Lebanon is “on the brink of the abyss” regarding the issue of the electoral law.
“A lot of forces are approaching the electoral law as if it is 'an issue of life or death' and they are right in their approach,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech marking the “Wounded of the Resistance Day.”“Some parties are unfortunately exploiting the electoral law file to sabotage some alliances and settle scores,” he lamented. Nasrallah noted that throughout the past few months and weeks, there has been “an attempt to accuse Hizbullah that it is seeking to prevent Christians from electing their MPs with their own votes.” “The other accusation is that Hizbullah does not want an electoral law that gives the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces a third of parliament and I say that these are baseless accusations,” he said. Nasrallah noted that Hizbullah “had agreed to the Orthodox Gathering law although it would have allowed Christians to elect all their MPs.”“It has been said that Hizbullah wants to impose full proportional representation on the Lebanese through its weapons and military might. But Hizbullah has been calling for proportional representation since it entered parliament in 1992 and its stance is based on the national interest,” Hizbullah's leader added. “It wants the fairest and most just representation and our stance is not partisan or sectarian,” he emphasized. “We have not brandished weapons in anyone's face to demand proportional representation and we have not organized street protests to impose proportional representation on those rejecting it. We do not want to impose proportional representation or any other electoral law on anyone in Lebanon,” Nasrallah reassured. He pointed out that Christians and Druze in Lebanon have more concerns than Sunnis and Shiites “due to their numbers, emigration and other issues.”“It is not possible to impose an electoral law on Christians or on Druze should they reject a certain law,” Nasrallah stressed. He noted that Lebanon's consensual democracy system “must be applied to the electoral law.”“We must convince each other in order to reach a settlement over the electoral law,” Nasrallah urged. “Let us all be modest and offer concessions to rescue our country,” he added.

Berri Urges Hariri to 'Assume Responsibility' ahead of Cabinet Meeting
Naharnet/May 02/17/Speaker Nabih Berri assured that several meetings between various political parties will be held ahead of a cabinet meeting on Thursday to agree on a new electoral law, as he urged Prime Minister Saad Hariri to assume responsibility, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Tuesday. Visitors to Berri quoted the Speaker as saying: “It is certain that many meetings will be held. But more importantly is they be held within the government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri must assume his responsibilities in this regard. In any case there will be no vote (on a new electoral law) in the cabinet. The election law can only be reached in conformity.”Referring to his law proposal, he added: “I presented my idea and assured that I will add nothing. Let them take it or leave it. I am waiting for the cabinet to refer the draft law to parliament, the May 15 session is still as scheduled.”The thorny electoral draft law tops Thursday's cabinet agenda amid fears that a breakthrough might not reached in light of conflicting opinions between political parties. The possibility of cabinet voting on the proposed voting system formats is unlikely in light of rejections voiced by Berri and head of the Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat. Meanwhile Prime Minister Saad Hariri avoids a cabinet vote to avoid engaging the country in additional divisions, said al-Joumhouria daily. Hariri prefers to continue consultations in a bid to reach a compromise format, after reports claiming that any tendency towards voting might overthrow the government and turn things upside down which falls in none of the party's interests, it added. Berri's proposal for the creation of a senate as part of efforts to resolve the electoral law crisis calls for forming a body consisted of 32 Muslim senators and 32 Christian senators and for allocating its presidency to the Druze community. It calls for electing a senate under a sectarian voting electoral system and a parliament under an electoral law fully based on proportional representation. Another law proposal was introduced by Free Patriotic Movement Jebran Bassil and is based on a “sectarian” qualification system. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on the proportional representation system and a single or several large electorates.

Al-Rahi Advises Officials to 'Avoid Extension, Vacuum'
Naharnet/May 02/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi advised political parties on Tuesday to reach a new voting system for the upcoming parliamentary polls and avoid an extension of the parliament’s term or vacuum at the legislative authority. “I don't support the 1960 electoral law. I have always reiterated that I support an agreement on a new voting system,” said Rahi before departing to Rome on a visit that will last for a few days. He clarified saying: “What I said before was that instead of extending the parliament's term or engage into vacuum, the current law (1960) still lingers but I never said I supported it.”
“There are more than 25 draft laws out of which only one is legal which is the one issued during the government of PM (Najib) Miqati and presented by then Minister Marwan Charbel,” Rahi pointed out. Miqati's “law derives its legitimacy from the fact that it was voted and approved by the government and referred to the parliament, but the latter did not vote on,” he added. The Patriarch concluded urging political parties to avoid extension of the parliament and vacuum, “it is better to agree on a new law," he remarked. Al-Rahi has perpetually said he does not tolerate an extension of parliament's term, as he called for an electoral law that does not “eliminate” any Lebanese component.

Jumblat Hails Nasrallah's Remarks on 'Importance of Consensus'

Naharnet/May 02/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat swiftly lauded on Tuesday remarks by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah about the importance of reaching a “consensual” electoral law. “Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's remarks were very accurate and comprehensive about the importance of consensus and the need to exit the current vicious cycle and avoid its alarming aspects,” Jumblat tweeted shortly after a televised speech by Nasrallah. In his address, Nasrallah stressed that his party is not seeking to “impose” the proportional representation electoral system on the country, while warning that Lebanon is “on the brink of the abyss” regarding the issue of the electoral law.“It is not possible to impose an electoral law on Christians or on Druze should they reject a certain law,” Nasrallah stressed. He noted that Lebanon's consensual democracy system “must be applied to the electoral law.” “We must convince each other in order to reach a settlement over the electoral law,” Nasrallah urged. “Let us all be modest and offer concessions to rescue our country,” he added.

Bassil Slams Those who 'Reject Vote on Electoral Law' and 'Accept Vote on Extension'
Naharnet/May 02/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Tuesday criticized political parties who have rejected a cabinet vote on a new electoral law “although they have accepted to vote for illegitimate extension” in parliament. “No to extension, no to vacuum and no to the 1960 law, and yes to a new law conforming to the National Pact,” Bassil said after the weekly meeting of the Change and Reform bloc. “We are not clinging to any law and we are open to several laws, topped by the Orthodox Gathering law,” he added. The FPM chief said the Lebanese are obliged to “reach a new law that conforms to the National Pact and a law that ensures correct representation to all Lebanese people.”He also denied that the FPM has asked for moving parliamentary seats from one district to another. “We have spoken of abolishing six seats that have been added illegitimately in order to give them to the diaspora in order to correct representation,” he said.

Qassem Says Palestinians Must Liberate Entire Palestine after Hamas Eases Stance
Naharnet/May 02/17/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem announced Tuesday that “any resistance not aimed at liberating Palestine from the sea to the river cannot be of use,” a day after the Palestinian movement Hamas unveiled a new policy document easing its stance on Israel after having called for years for its destruction. “We are not with a resistance that paves the way for a settlement and we are not with a resistance that splits Palestine into two states,” Qassem said during a meeting with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, in an apparent jab at Hamas. “We are with a resistance that only accepts a fully liberated land so that Palestinians can return to their land in dignity and pride,” Hizbullah number two added. “We are with the resistance in Palestine and we are with the resistance for the sake of Palestine. Resistance in Palestine does not have one form; resistance in Palestine is taking place through words, prayer, writing, captivity, protests, gunfire, car ramming attacks and stabbings. These are all forms of resistance in Palestine,” Qassem went on to say. Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal said on Monday: "We in Hamas believe that renewal and reinvention is a necessity."While the new document does not amount to recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community, Hamas officials say, it formally softens its stance in a few key areas. Hamas leaders have long spoken of the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without explicitly setting this out in their charter. But after years of internal debate, the new document formally accepts the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. It also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier. However, the original 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners. The new document also continues to speak of liberating historic Palestine, including areas that are today part of Israel. Hamas is considered a “terrorist group” by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and the new document is aimed in part at easing its international isolation. One Hamas leader, Ahmed Youssef, told AFP the updated charter was "more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law." Israel was not convinced, however, with a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying "Hamas is attempting to fool the world, but it will not succeed."

Army Tightens Security Measures in Arsal
Naharnet/May 02/17/The Lebanese army tightened security measures on Tuesday in the northeastern border town of Arsal, media reports said. The troops closed the road at an Intelligence checkpoint in the Ain al-Shaab neighborhood in Arsal, amid tight measures on the main entrances to the town, they added. Tight security measures were taken in the Wadi Hmeid area in the outskirts of Arsal. VDL (93.3) said the army has later reopened the road, but kept measures tight to fend off the infiltration of militants. Arsal lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria and has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict in the neighboring country. The Army exerts incessant efforts to fend off any assault by militants who are entrenched on the mountainous area along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Media reports said over the weekend that due to the army's incessant efforts to fight militants and gunmen, the number of militant groups “has significantly dropped.”

Coffee Vendor Assaulted in Sidon
Naharnet/May 02/17/Unknown assailants attacked and injured a coffee vendor on Tuesday in the southern city of Sidon, the National News agency reported. Three unidentified men assaulted the coffee vendor, who was identified with his initials as M.Aa. NNA said. The agency said the assailants brutally attacked M.Aa, who sells coffee near al-Murjan school in Sidon, using sharp tools which led to severe injuries and broke his machine. Security forces arrived at the scene and opened investigation into the incident. NNA added, the assailants were riding a white Mercedes-Benz 300.

Future: For electoral law abiding by Taef
Tue 02 May 2017/NNA - Future bloc underscored the importance of adhering fully to Taef and Islamic Christian coexistence and respecting the Constitution and law in forming any new electoral law, stressing the necessity for Lebanese to agree on a law prone to provide fair popular representation at the Parliament. The bloc on Tuesday convened under the chairmanship of former PM Fouad Siniora at the Center House in Beirut. The Future congratulated all laborers in Lebanon on Laborers' day which, according to the bloc, came this year with an increasing suffer at the livelihood level due to the bad economic situation.

ISF Chief discusses current situation with visitors
Tue 02 May 2017/NNA - Internal Security Forces chief, General Imad Othman, met on Tuesday with Head of Jamaa Islamiya politburo, former lawmaker Assaad Harmouche. He later welcomed MP Elie Aoun, with whom he discussed the current general situation in the country. Othman also met with former minister Khalil Hrawi.

Kataeb says returning to 1960 law or producing law to fit certain size is mandate extension itself

Tue 02 May 2017/NNA - The political bureau of Kataeb on Tuesday convened under the chairmanship of MP Sami Gemayel to confirm that the return to 1960 law, producing certain law to fit certain political size or going to vacuum, is many facets for the same coin which is parliamentary mandate extension that confiscates the right of all Lebanese. The party warned of "the increase in corruption and deals in the records of the current government."

Two Held as Captagon Manufacturing Machines Seized in Baalbek
Naharnet/May 02/17/State Security agents on Tuesday managed to seize three machines for manufacturing Captagon narcotic pills in the eastern city of Baalbek, state-run National News Agency reported. “The machines were being transported by a crane towards the al-Assireh neighborhood in Baalbek,” the agency said. Two people were arrested during the operation, NNA added.

AUB Mourns Maroun Semaan: His Legacy will Resonate through Ages
Tue 02 May 2017/NNA - The American University of Beirut (AUB) is greatly saddened by the recent loss of trustee and alumnus Maroun Semaan, whose memory will live on at this University for his transformative philanthropy and illustrious service. "Maroun was a genuinely great and humble man, whose work and whose impact will resonate through the ages," said AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri. "We will carry on his wishes through our revised curriculum in the faculty he graduated from and which will now forever hold his name. We will carry on his good work in other important ways as well, along our own determined common path, and seek to be always worthy of his profound trust."In 2017, AUB named one of its largest and most successful faculties after this visionary partner and friend of the University-The Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture-following a transformative gift from the Semaan Foundation which is the largest donation ever received by AUB. An influential entrepreneur and incredibly successful businessman, Maroun Semaan was also a true civic leader and engaged citizen. His inspired philanthropy has touched innumerable lives. Mr. Semaan and the Semaan Foundation, which he founded in 2011, have provided much-needed support in the fields of education, hospitalization, and social welfare, focusing on the Middle East.
In 2013, Maroun Semaan was elected to the AUB Board of Trustees and served his alma mater with distinction and true dedication, bringing his business acumen and great love for AUB to help the University as it pursues its lofty ambitions for an even more impactful and engaged future.
AUB Board Chair Philip Khoury stated: "The university today mourns the loss of its student, alumnus, trustee, role model and philanthropist Maroun Semaan. Maroun believed deeply in the power of education and its role in preparing the citizen leader. His love for and service to AUB knew no bounds. Fittingly, his legacy will endure through the ages, as generations of engineers and architects will graduate from the school that he did, and which now most fittingly bears his name." A true believer in the transformative power of education, Mr. Semaan was himself the recipient of a scholarship allowing him to study at the American University of Beirut. He graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and, with the tools that AUB helped him hone, moved to the Gulf to pursue his career. After graduation, Mr. Semaan held numerous leadership positions in the fields of oil and gas, infrastructure, and civic works. Then, in 1991, he joined Petrofac and helped grow this small company into an international powerhouse in the oil and gas engineering industry. Mr. Semaan was also a founding member of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) and served on the Board of the American University of Sharjah.
After serving in many leadership positions at Petrofac International, including on the Board of Directors and as president, Maroun Semaan retired from the company in 2013 and focused on entrepreneurial endeavors in renewable energy, telecommunications, and real estate.
Mr. Semaan's generosity to AUB has been extraordinary, supporting student scholarships, PhD fellowships, and innovative research over the years. In addition, the Semaan Foundation was one of the Strategic Partners for AUB's 150th Anniversary and made a major gift to the American University of Beirut Medical Center to name the Outpatient Surgery Center after Mr. Semaan's parents, the late Tanios and Souraya Semaan.
On January 16, 2017, at the launch of BOLDLY AUB: The Campaign to Lead, Innovate, and Serve, Maroun Semaan's daughter Nour spoke about his belief in the power and necessity of serving humanity through purposeful philanthropy.
"He always wondered how someone with means could rest his head on his pillow while a neighbor of his, near or far, is unable to make ends meet," said Nour Semaan. "His primary objective is providing a suitable environment for students and seekers of knowledge. His ambition is to ensure the availability of medical care, and to encourage development projects wherever there is need, as his contribution in lighting a candle in the darkness of the Middle East."Upon hearing the news of his passing, faculty and students from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture gathered to pay tribute to this towering figure, who will continue to inspire this and future generations with his legacy of profound and beneficent leadership.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 02-03/17
Three Policemen Killed in Cairo Attack

Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /Cairo – Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that three policemen were killed and five others injured in a shooting in Cairo late Monday. A statement issued on the ministry’s Facebook page said the attack occurred just before midnight, when armed men in two vehicles shot at police officers in the city of Nasr eastern Cairo. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes just weeks after two ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 45 in deadly church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, one of the bloodiest attacks the country has experienced in years. Four years ago, extremists have increased their attacks on security forces in Egypt’s north of Sinai, killing hundreds of security personnel. Other deadly attacks were perpetrated in Cairo and other cities, while the Egyptian Army says that it has killed hundreds of extremists.

Egypt’s FM Holds Talks in Uganda on Water Security
Sawsan Abu-Husain/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /Cairo – Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry will hold discussions in Uganda on Tuesday, during a visit aimed at boosting cooperation with Nile Basin countries, according to a ministry statement. The foreign ministry’s spokesperson, Ahmed Abou Zeid, said that Shoukry would deliver a letter from Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to his counterpart Yoweri Museveni, regarding cooperation in water-security issues and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Abou Zeid added that the visit would also involve discussions on bilateral relations and development cooperation. He also said that Shoukry and his Ugandan counterpart would tackle the progress of the bilateral cooperation program between the two African countries, as well as the projects implemented by the Egyptian Partnership Agency for Development (EAPD) in Uganda. Shoukry’s visit falls within efforts to consolidate ties between the two countries, and to support cooperation on the security and military levels, as well as joint efforts to fight terrorism. The visit also aims to encourage businessmen in both Egypt and Uganda to increase joint investment projects. Shoukry and Museveni are expected to exchange views on regional developments, in particular the situation in South Sudan.

UN Envoy to Syria to Attend Syrian Talks in Astana
Jordan Dakamseh/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /New York – UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will join Syrian high-level talks on enforcing ceasefire in Kazakhstan this week, a UN statement said Monday. The statement added that in view of the urgency and importance of re-establishing a de-escalation of the situation in Syria and moving on confidence-building measures, de Mistura has agreed to attend the meeting as an observer at the invitation of the Kazakh government. The 4th international conference on Syria will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, on May 3 and 4. Experts are due to hold bilateral consultations on Tuesday. While in Astana, de Mistura is planning to conduct political consultations with the ceasefire guarantors and other participants on military situations. “This will be particularly timely as he’s currently putting finishing touches on his deliberations regarding the next round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva,” the statement declared. The previous conference on Syria was held in Astana on March 14-15. Delegations of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which had brokered a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, took part in the negotiations alongside the Syrian government delegation and experts from the UN, United States and Jordan.

IS Attack Kills 32 by Syria Refugee Camp on Iraq Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 02/17/At least 32 people were killed on Tuesday in an Islamic State group attack near a refugee camp on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, a monitor said. "At least five suicide attackers blew themselves up outside and inside a camp for Iraqi refugees and displaced Syrians in Hasakeh province," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Heavy clashes then erupted between the IS fighters and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, some of whose combatants were among the dead, Abdel Rahman told AFP. The camp lies in the Rajm al-Salibeh area just inside Syrian territory, and at least 21 of the dead were displaced Syrians or Iraqi refugees, the Observatory said. "At least 30 people were wounded, and the death toll may rise because some people are in critical condition and others are still unaccounted for," the Britain-based monitor said. The US-backed SDF has captured swathes of northern Syria from IS, and in recent days overran most of the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Tabqa. The battle for Tabqa is an important part of a broader offensive for IS's main Syrian stronghold, Raqa, downstream.

Putin Calls for Boosting Syria 'Ceasefire' ahead of Astana Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 02/17/President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called for shoring up Syria's frail truce as Russian-led peace talks involving Syrian rebels and regime officials are set to begin Wednesday in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. "We consider that this situation -- the ceasefire -- needs to be strengthened, and this is precisely what our representatives will work on tomorrow and the day after in Astana together with the sides in the Syrian conflict," Putin said at a news conference in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Our task is to create conditions for unification, the cessation of hostilities, the cessation of mutual destruction and the creation of conditions for the political cooperation of all opposing sides." The two days of talks -- sponsored by Syrian regime supporters Russia and Iran along with rebel-backer Turkey -- are the first since U.S. President Donald Trump infuriated the Kremlin by launching a missile strike against Assad's forces over an alleged chemical weapons attack last month. A rebel delegation led by Mohammad Alloush, leader of the Jaish al-Islam faction, has arrived in Astana for the talks, Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said Tuesday.
An adviser to the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Yehya Aridi, told AFP that the group would participate in the talks with "approximately" the same delegation as in previous rounds of negotiations. The rebels did not separately confirm Alloush's participation. Regime negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari will lead the Damascus delegation. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura will also take part in the talks which could pave the way for a new round of U.N.-brokered peace negotiations in Geneva this month, the United Nations said Monday. The Astana negotiations are viewed as complementary to the broader Geneva talks on a political settlement, but neither have yielded real progress so far. The last round of talks in March saw a delegation from Damascus meet representatives from the talks' sponsors Russia, Iran and Turkey, but leaders of armed rebel groups stayed away for the first time over alleged violations of a fragile ceasefire deal. Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said a U.S. delegation led by Stuart Jones -- acting assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Bureau -- would observe this week's talks.  Both the White House and the Kremlin have confirmed plans for a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in which Syria is expected to raised. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Erdogan Rejoins Turkey Ruling Party after Near 3-Year Absence
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 02/17/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejoined the ruling party on Tuesday after an absence of almost three years, the first major change to come into effect following a controversial vote to boost his powers. Erdogan last month narrowly won a referendum on sweeping consitutional changes to create a presidential system in Turkey with just over 51 percent of the vote. Under the old system, the head of state had to sever ties with their political party and Erdogan had to leave the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) when he became president in August 2014 after more than a decade as premier. The reforms permit the president to be a member of a political party, allowing Erdogan to return to the AKP which he co-founded in 2001 as a new Islamic-rooted force in Turkish politics and which has dominated the scene ever since.
Supporters of the changes say they will bring Turkey efficient governance but opponents fear they will set the country on the path to authoritarian rule.
- 'Erdogan to take leadership' -Erdogan was welcomed as a new member at a special ceremony at party headquarters in Ankara by hundreds of AKP officials. He signed the paperwork to become a member to thunderous applause before a rendition of the national anthem, an AFP photographer said.
Erdogan had travelled to the ceremony from his palace in a convoy including at least two dozen black vehicles driving on closed roads and carried live by all television channels. AKP spokesman Yasin Aktay said Erdogan will also likely be reinstalled as party chairman on May 21 at an extraordinary AKP congress. "During this congress, there will be an election and we envisage that the president will be elected as party chairman," Aktay told reporters. As AKP head, Erdogan would replace Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who is set to stay on as premier. If confirmed, it would be the first time that the president will be both party chairman and head of state since the end of the presidency of Ismet Inonu, the successor and right-hand-man of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's modern founder.
- Erdogan's 'fifth child' -Erdogan, who has four children, has described the AKP as his "fifth child" and has never made a secret of his desire to return to the fold. He is keen to sharpen the party's performance ahead of polls scheduled for 2019 after the 'No' vote came out on top in key battlegrounds including Ankara and Istanbul in the April 16 referendum. Although the AKP has won every election since 2002, in June 2015 it suffered a setback after losing its absolute majority in parliament before winning it back in November that year. The new constitution envisages major changes including the abolition of the premier's post and giving the head of state power to appoint ministers. But these changes will only come into force after elections scheduled for November 2019 and the party membership shift is one of the few measures to take effect before then.
- 'Huge advantage' -Samim Akgonul, a researcher from the University of Strasbourg, said Erdogan's return to the AKP would give him a "huge advantage". By taking over the party, Erdogan would also be able to exert control over the rival personalities and different factions within the AKP. "Erdogan wants to be master of the party de-jure and not only de-facto so his decisions... on appointments are not questioned," Akgonul added. Erdogan co-founded the AKP along with other conservative heavyweights, including his predecessor Abdullah Gul who has yet to return to the party following his 2007-2014 presidency. There was speculation in the Turkish media about whether Gul would attend the ceremony but Aktay said special invitations had not been made.

Moscow Beats Washington by Suggesting Zones of Tensions’ Reduction in Syria
Thaer Abbas and Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /Beirut – Russia surprised the Syrian opposition and their allies on Monday by suggesting four “zones of reduction of tensions” in the country, and the creation of a joint working group to prepare for a battle to remove ISIS and al-Nusra from those Syrian areas with the help of the opposition, read a paper presented by Moscow to opposition forces, including Ahrar al-Sham, during a preparatory meeting for the Astana summit held in Ankara. The paper, which aims to de-escalate tension between opposition forces and the regime, was leaked on the eve of the fourth round of the Astana talks, to be held on Tuesday in the Kazakh capital. All 15 armed opposition factions expected to participate in the Astana summit gave their “preliminary approval” on the Russian proposal. However, those factions demanded clarifications concerning the possibility of Iran’s participation in the joint forces.“We will never accept the participation of Iran in the joint forces,” a source from the Syrian opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat. Moscow also suggested the creation of “safety lines along all the borders of the de-escalation zones with the possibility of deploying forces from guarantor countries for ceasefire monitoring,” the paper read. Syrian opposition member Abdel Rahman al-Hajj told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that Ankara suggested that the interposition zones proposed in Russia’s paper be of 2 km, adding that Moscow’s paper “is an anticipatory operation to oust the proposal of safe zones, which the US is currently planning to establish.”Meanwhile, after recuperating around 80 percent of Tabqa from ISIS militants, the Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the Washington-led international coalition, edged closer to completely controlling the city, located in the countryside of western Raqqa.
In the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ capital in Syria, residents suffered from a tense security situation and difficult humanitarian conditions, as they wait for the upcoming battle to liberate their city.

Human Rights Watchdog Reports Regime Massacre in Syria after Peace Talks Relaunch
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /The Syrian Network For Human Rights(SNHR) has released a report entitled: “The Syrian Regime Perpetrates a Massacre in Hamouriya Town Two Days After Geneva Talks’ Fifth Round Start”. The report documents a massacre in Hamouriya town, in Damascus suburbs, that took place on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The report relies on accounts from city residents, eyewitnesses, and survivors. Also, the report includes verified footage and videos showing great destruction that resulted from bombardment, and pictures of child victims. SNHR is an independent non-profit non-governmental Syrian human rights organization. It was established in June 2011 in the wake of the systemically increasing human rights violations against the Syrian people and as a response to the need for various human rights groups that can contribute to exposing these practices and bring justice to the victims.
According to the report, targeted areas were civilian, where no military centers or weapon warehouses for armed opposition factions or extremist groups were to be found before or during the attack. Fixed-wing Syrian regime forces warplanes fired four missiles targeting the center of al Rawda Street at the main market in the middle of Hamouriya town, which resulted in the death of 17 civilians including three children and seven women, and injured no less than 30 others, said the report.
Additionally, al Rawda Mosque was heavily damaged, and tens of shops were destroyed as well as a number of cars. The Syrian regime has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both states that indiscriminate attacks must be halted, the report stressed. Also, the regime violates Article 8 of Rome Statute through the crime of willful killing, which constitutes war crimes. Targeting unarmed civilians, Syrian forces have violated the rules of the international human rights law which guarantee the right to life. Additionally, these violations were perpetrated in a non-international armed conflict which amount to a war crime. The report called on the United Nations’ Security Council to take additional measures against the incessant bombardment of civilians, stressing that all warring parties to must respect these steps, and adhere to the rules of the international humanitarian law.
Also, the report gave emphasis to further supporting the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 248/71, adopted on December 21, 2016. The report called for referring the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and holding all those who were involved accountable, and for the implementation of the international commitment known as “Responsibility to Protect” in order to save the lives of Syrians, culture, and arts from being destroyed, looted, and ruined. A request was also made on expanding sanctions so that they include all prominent figures in the Syrian and Iranian regimes who are directly involved in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against Syrians.

Turkey Seizes Russian Anti-Tank Missile Parts Smuggled from Ukraine to Iran
Said Abdul Razzak/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /Ankara – Counter-trafficking forces seized main parts used in making advanced Russian anti-tank missiles in the port of Zonguldak, in northern Turkey. Gunrunners have hidden the shipment inside a truck coming from Ukraine en route to Iran. Turkish security sources said on Monday that the truck driver, a 38-year-old Iranian national had been arrested. When under interrogation, the driver confessed that the shipment on its way to Iran, and that he was receiving financial rewards for every shipment he smuggled. The Customs and Trade Ministry said Sunday that the man, identified only by his initials E.E., was detained at the port in the Black Sea city of Zonguldak, after officials searched his truck that had arrived aboard a vessel from Ukraine. Turkish customs and trade authorities’ statement said that seized objects in the truck were main parts used to make anti-tank missiles. The statement added that the seized pieces are main 9K111 Fagot and 9K113 Konkurs Russian-made anti-tank missile parts. Terrorist groups like ISIS and paramilitary organizations like the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its Syrian military arm (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) have recently registered activities involving the abovementioned missiles. The ministry said authorities believe the missile parts had probably been sent for repairs and were being returned to a terror organization. Security sources pointed out investigations with the driver of the Iranian truck are underway.

Differences on Supporting Kurds Focus of Wednesday’s Erdogan-Putin Talks
Taha Abed alWahed/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 02/17 /Moscow – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in the Russian city of Sochi on Wednesday where he is due to hold talks with President Valdimir Putin on bilateral ties and regional issues, most notably Syria, announced the Kremlin.
Observers believe that support for Kurdish and radical groups will be a point of contention between the two leaders. This is the second visit Erdogan pays to Russia in 2017, with the first being on March 10. An informed source in Moscow noted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Erdogan-Putin meeting coincides with the launch of a new round of negotiations on Syria in Astana. It said that the two leaders could take advantage of the talks in order to reach understandings over issues that will be present on the negotiations table. “Should Putin and Erdogan reach understandings on issues addressed at Astana, then they will be confirming the importance of their bilateral ties, which will create the necessary conditions to overcome pending matters between the two countries,” it added. The source did however rule out the possibility of Ankara and Moscow reaching an understanding over Russia’s support for the Kurds. Putin and Erdogan will simply listen to each other’s concerns on the issue and pledge to gradually overcome differences over it, it explained. Ankara will in turn receive from Moscow a final “warning” on Turkey’s alleged backing of radical Islamist groups in Syria, reported Russia’s TASS news agency according to informed Russian foreign ministry sources. Russia is keen to ask Turkey “whether it was in its interest to keep on backing these groups” and whether Moscow can offer the necessary support for Kurds in their fight against the ISIS terror group. In addition, Russia will also issue a warning, asking Ankara how much it is prepared for real strategic partnership with Moscow. It should however lift sanctions on the import of Russian wheat before any progress can be made in this regard, said the sources. Ties between Turkey and Russia deteriorated after the former shot down a Russian plane in Syria in 2015. Erdogan and Putin sought to ease the tensions and they have held several meetings in 2016 and 2017 to than end.

Hamas Seen Facing Long Path to End Isolation despite New Policy
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 02/17/Hamas has softened its stance on Israel after long calling for its destruction, but the Palestinian movement must do more to convince the world to end its isolation, analysts and diplomats said Tuesday. The Islamist movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, unveiled a new policy document on Monday night ahead of a first face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party remains at loggerheads with Hamas. Some analysts see the move as an attempt by Hamas to ease tension with regional allies and assuage hostilities with global powers. Speculation has also mounted over who will succeed 82-year-old Abbas, whose Fatah movement is based in the occupied West Bank, as Palestinian president. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, while it has strained relations with many Arab states. Some diplomats said while the announcement was potentially positive, they would need more to convince them the party had really changed its approach. "It is a piece of paper. We will see if there is a real shift or if it is window dressing," one Western diplomat said. While still attacking Israel, the document accepts for the first time pre-1967 armistice lines as a matter of "national consensus" -- in what many interpreted as implicitly accepting the existence of Israel. Hamas officials however said that it did not amount to a recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community. The document also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier, with Hamas officials stressing it was a shift. One Hamas leader, Ahmed Yusef, told AFP the updated charter was "more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law." However the Islamist movement will still not negotiate directly with Israel and the original hardline 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners. Israel rejected the document, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman accusing Hamas of "attempting to fool the world." Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008 and maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza. On Tuesday, there were a number of Hamas-organized protests against the decade-long blockade, with a few thousand protesters taking to the streets in different cities.
Muted response
Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political analyst in Gaza, said the document sought to help improve regional and global relations. The document made no reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas was a splinter movement. In 2013, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt, and the movement has since been suppressed in several Middle Eastern countries. "Hamas has been isolated regionally and internationally since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring and the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt," Abu Saada said. "It is about assuring Egypt and the other Arab states there is no relationship between Hamas (and the Brotherhood)." There was little initial public reaction, either positive or negative, on Tuesday. The United States, Russia and other global players remained silent, with Arab states remaining largely quiet. The office of U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov did not comment on the contents of the document. Another Western diplomat said that as the document did not officially recognize Israel or renounce violence, it would be impossible for them to change position publicly. Congressman Ed Royce, chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered a rare reaction, downplaying the document's significance. "Until Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist, its words are meaningless. I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organization as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians."
A third diplomat based in Israel saw some reason to be positive, but stressed it would be unlikely to lead to any shifts in relations in the short term. "Diplomats have been pushing for a change to the charter for a long time," he said. "You need extremists to move towards the center." Yossi Mekelberg from the Chatham House think tank in London said that while Israel was publicly bullish, some would interpret it as a positive sign. But he noted the issue had not received extensive coverage in Western media. "If you look at Europe, it is pretty self-obsessed right now," said Mekelberg, also a professor at Regent's University London. "They are hardly interested in Hamas. "I think the response from the international community will be that it is a good sign, something to be explored, but we won't see major shifts."

New Hamas Program Softens Language, but Some Goals Remain
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 02/17/The Islamic militant Hamas on Monday unveiled what had been billed as a new, seemingly more pragmatic political program aimed at ending the group's international isolation. With the new manifesto, Hamas rebrands itself as an Islamic national liberation movement, rather than a branch of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by Egypt. It also drops explicit language calling for Israel's destruction, though it retains the goal of eventually "liberating" all of historic Palestine, which includes what is now Israel.
It's not clear if the changes will be enough to improve relations with Egypt which, along with Israel, has been enforcing a crippling border blockade against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip since the group seized the territory in 2007. Hamas clung to hard-line positions that led to its isolation in the first place. The group reaffirmed that it will not recognize Israel, renounce violence or recognize previous interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals — the West's long-standing conditions for dealing with Hamas.
The five-page program, a result of four years of internal deliberations, was presented at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, by Khaled Mashaal, the outgoing Hamas leader in exile. The group has said Mashaal's replacement is to be named later this month, after the completion of secret leadership elections. The document reflects a "reasonable Hamas, that is serious about dealing with the reality and the regional and international surroundings, while still representing the cause of its people," said Mashaal. A copy of the program was distributed to journalists in Gaza who followed the news conference by video link.
The new platform seemed to cement the ideological divide between Hamas and its main political rival, the Fatah movement of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas drove out forces loyal to Abbas in its 2007 takeover of Gaza, a year after defeating Fatah in Palestinian parliament elections. Reconciliation efforts have failed. The Hamas manifesto was released at a time of escalating tensions between the two sides. In recent weeks, Abbas has threatened to exert financial pressure, including cutting wage payments and aid to Gaza, as a way of forcing Hamas to cede ground. Leaders of the group have vowed they will not budge. The war of words with Hamas was seen as an attempt by Abbas to position himself as a leader of all Palestinians ahead of his first meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday. The U.S. president has said he would try to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a peace deal, despite repeated failures over the past two decades. In the past, Hamas has sharply criticized Abbas' political program, which rests on setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. In its founding charter, Hamas called for setting up an Islamic state in historic Palestine, or the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, which also includes Israel.
The new program for the first time raises the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines, saying it's a "national consensus formula." However, the wording suggests Hamas considers this to be an interim step, not a way of ending the conflict. The document does not contain an explicit call for Israel's destruction, but says "Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.""There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity," the document says. The Palestine Liberation Organization, now led by Abbas, exchanged letters of mutual recognition with Israel in 1993. The Hamas document said it considers armed resistance against occupation as a strategic choice and that the group "rejects any attempt to undermine the resistance and its arms."Over the years, Hamas has carried out shooting, bombing and rocket attacks in Israel. Since 2008, Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza have fought three cross-border wars. Abbas has been an outspoken opponent of violence, saying it undercuts Palestinian interests. While the founding charter was filled with anti-Jewish references, the new document stresses that Hamas bears no enmity toward Jews. It says its fight is with those who occupy Palestinian lands. Mashaal is to step down as Hamas leader later this month. Two possible contenders for the No. 1 spot are Moussa Abu Marzouk, a former Hamas leader, and Ismail Haniyeh, a former top Hamas official in Gaza. The Mashaal announcement was initially scheduled for 7 p.m. (1600 GMT) Monday, but was delayed after a Doha hotel withdrew consent at the last minute to host the Hamas news conference. Hamas scrambled to find a new venue.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 02-03/17
The Trump-Abbas Meeting: Issues, Constraints, and Ways Forward
Ghaith al-Omari, Ehud Yaari, David Makovsky, and Dennis Ross/The Washington Institute/May 02/2017
Watch leading American, Israeli, and Palestinian experts preview Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' May 3 White House meeting with President Trump.
On May 1, Ghaith al-Omari, Ehud Yaari, David Makovsky, and Dennis Ross addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Omari is a senior fellow at the Institute, former advisor to the Palestinian Authority, and author of the recent report Governance as a Path to Palestinian Political Rejuvenation. Yaari is a Lafer International Fellow with the Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television. Makovsky is the Institute's Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and coauthor (with Ross) of its Transition 2017 paper Toward a New Paradigm for Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Ross is the Institute's William Davidson Distinguished Fellow and former U.S. point man on the peace process. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
Today in the Palestinian territories, the political situation bears similarities to the situation preceding the first two intifadas, creating the possibility of another outbreak. Namely, the Palestinian Authority (PA) lacks legitimacy due to corruption, poor governance, and an inability to register achievements in the peace process. Lacking popular support, the PA has a weakened hold on the mechanisms of government control. A concurrent lack of faith in the peace process makes the situation more volatile still. Indeed, if Palestinians do not see their goals advanced through diplomacy, they may turn to other means to address their grievances.
Another factor suggesting the possibility of a new intifada is generational: today's younger Palestinians simply do not remember the costs of the earlier intifadas. So far, the PA security forces have kept a lid on tensions, but their powers to contain dissent are limited. The best way to truly prevent an intifada is for the PA to gain broad legitimacy among the Palestinian public. This would require a vigorous push to implement governance reforms, eliminate corruption, and open up political space for grassroots dialogue.
In the broader regional context, the Saudis and other Gulf states may be willing to help with the Palestinian situation, but the United States first must show a serious commitment to confronting Iran, these states' regional adversary. Once assured of this U.S. commitment, they may be willing to join an open U.S.-PA dialogue, in which they can support and prod the PA as necessary. If the Arab states demonstrate buy-in to such a process, PA president Mahmoud Abbas himself will be forced to stay involved.
As Mahmoud Abbas makes his way to Washington, U.S. president Donald Trump must be mindful of the local Palestinian context in striving to develop a dialogue that enables concrete improvements in the diplomatic situation.
For his part, Abbas realizes the tenuousness of his position in the PA, and he is taking strong steps to protect himself. He thus privately admonished his security chief, Majid Faraj, after Faraj appeared to be consolidating too much power. Furthermore, he is reluctant to choose a successor, fearing such a figure will be empowered at his own expense. His brittle grasp on power also means he is unlikely to strike a final-status peace deal, even if the Israelis make a relatively generous offer. He does not want to be known as the leader who betrayed the Palestinian commitment to allow millions of refugees to return to their homes. Abbas, moreover, understands that Trump will be a harsher interlocutor than Obama was, and the PA leader will likely seek to minimize potential damage to his name during the Trump meeting.
At home, Abbas has cracked down on Hamas, cutting funding for electricity and reducing officials' salaries. Hamas, meanwhile, has indicated a possible willingness to enter into some kind of power-sharing arrangement with Abbas's Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip. In practice, Hamas's role would resemble Hezbollah's in Lebanon, where the government officially runs state institutions and security forces but the militant group wields greater power de facto.
Altogether, conditions do not appear to be ripe for a major breakthrough on a final-status deal, and a failed attempt could backfire. Instead, the Trump administration should lay the groundwork for a generous interim agreement whereby Israel would cede to the Palestinians control of the majority of the West Bank. If Trump is eager for an immediate victory, he can ask Abbas to recognize the historical Jewish connection to Israel and Jerusalem. But he should acknowledge the high unlikelihood of a final-status agreement -- and act accordingly.
Abbas takes pride in his past defiance of the United States, once declaring that he had said "no" twelve times to former president Barack Obama. President Trump, however, has signaled that he will not go as easy on Abbas as Obama did, and will be less willing to take no for an answer. Likely recognizing this changed dynamic, Abbas will adjust to his new reality. He also is enjoying his turn in the limelight, a result of renewed U.S. interest in the peace process. Therefore, he will want to remain relevant to Trump.
While the Arab states certainly have an interest in renewing the peace process, a large regional conference is unlikely to take place in the near future. To be effective, such a conference would need to mark the first step in a lengthier process, rather than being simply a single event. Indeed, expending significant energy on a one-off conference that produces no substantial change risks squandering the president's credibility.
On the Israeli side, officials increasingly recognize the urgency of the Palestinian issue. One former Mossad head, Tamir Pardo, publicly identified it as Israel's most important existential threat. To address this issue and others important to him, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu must maintain his good relationship with Trump. He demonstrated such a commitment when Israel unilaterally announced its intentions to restrain settlement construction somewhat, a clear response to Trump's request for such a step. For his entire tenure as premier, Netanyahu has longed to work with a Republican president. If he can't partner successfully with this one, he will look like the problem, not the Americans.
Israelis and Palestinians today are as pessimistic about a final-status deal as they have been in the past thirty years. Yet despite the temptation to leave the problem alone, allowing a power vacuum to form does not constitute a feasible option. As experience has shown in Iraq, Syria, as well as in the Palestinian context, the worst actors will fill such a vacuum. Since President Trump has made his interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue clear, he should approach the meeting with Abbas in a way that empowers the PA leader to improve the situation.
In particular, Trump must make a request of Abbas, although, crucially, he should not expect an immediate answer. Rather, he must give Abbas the space to respond in some form over a specified period -- but at the same time insist that Abbas act. And this request does not involve two common suggestions -- a single Netanyahu-Abbas meeting or an end to the PA push to internationalize the conflict -- which will be ineffective since they do not materially change circumstances on the ground.
Instead, Trump can ask Abbas to cease sending money to the Martyrs Fund, an entity that provides cash payments to Palestinians in jail for killing Israelis. For Abbas, this will be a difficult move, given that the idea of struggle against Israel is essential to Palestinian identity. Accordingly, ending these payments would be a strong statement that Abbas is willing to take the necessary steps for compromise. Alternatively, Trump can ask Abbas to acknowledge the two-states-for-two-peoples formulation, a requirement in setting the stage for a final-status agreement. For this to happen, Abbas must acknowledge the existence of two national movements, one Israeli and one Palestinian.
If Abbas proves unwilling to make any concessions, then the United States can publicize his noncompliance. One of the Palestinians' most important achievements has been international legitimacy for their cause. If Washington were to publicly portray Abbas as intransigent, that could undermine their hard-won legitimacy, giving the Americans leverage in talks.
Bringing the Arab states into this conversation is likewise important, but these countries want assurances that the United States takes the Iranian threat as seriously as they do. If the Arab capitals see Washington devising a strategy that counters the Iranians and forces them to pay a price for their regional behavior, then they will be more willing to help provide cover for both the Israelis and Palestinians to make difficult decisions.
**This summary was prepared by Aryeh Mellman.

Hamas's Moderate Rhetoric Belies Militant Activities
Matthew Levitt and Maxine Rich/The Washington Institute/May 02/2017
A softer tone in the Gaza group's new statement will mean nothing without parallel changes in its behavior.
On May 1, Hamas released the first update to its founding 1988 charter at a press conference in Qatar. While the original charter explicitly ties Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood, identifies the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as militant jihad, and calls for the creation of an Islamist state, the new statement -- which does not supersede the previous charter, despite the new language -- was expected to adopt a softer, seemingly more moderate tone. But rhetoric aside, Hamas's recent actions offer a clear indication of the group's continued hardline militancy.
From its inception, Hamas has been explicitly dedicated to Israel's destruction and the establishment of an Islamist Palestinian state in all of historic Palestine. Its core ideology is manifest in its 1988 charter -- first published in Chicago by one of its front organizations, the Islamic Association of Palestine -- which rejects any permanent peace with Israel on religious, nationalist, and ideological grounds. It therefore flows logically, according to the charter, that "there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
The 1988 charter calls for the creation of an Islamist state, rather than a secular one, and includes unmistakably anti-Semitic language targeting Jews, not Israel. Perhaps more problematic for Hamas today, the 1988 charter expressly describes the group as "one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Hamas, however, is trying to transform itself. Its political statement, leaked to the press in April, sparked renewed interest in a Hamas "makeover." The document distances Hamas from the Muslim Brotherhood, and may include some acknowledgment of the 1967 armistice lines for the Six Day War as the basis for a deal with Israel. The Hamas charter, for its part, was a one-man job, written by Sheikh Abdul Fattah Dukhan as the group was just forming itself. Ever since, officials have engaged in periodic discussions about updating the charter and softening its sharper edges.
Hamas's so-called moderation is aimed at widening its international appeal at a time when the group faces multiple challenges, including a dismal economic situation in Gaza -- most recently underscored by the energy crisis in Gaza -- and strained relations with Egypt, which is at war with Hamas's parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. And despite being hailed as a sign of moderation, the document still includes less friendly sections, including a rededication to armed resistance to liberate all of Palestine, "from the Jordan River eastward to the Mediterranean Sea in the west." Even as Hamas is trying to change its tune, its recent militant activity speaks volumes about the group's true intentions.
Since 2014, when dozens of its tunnels, bases, and missiles were destroyed in its most recent clash with Israel, Hamas has worked to rebuild its wartime infrastructure, including drilling tunnels within the Gaza Strip and into both Egypt and Israel. In 2016, Hamas announced the deaths of twenty-two members of its military wing; most died in tunnel collapses. So far this year, several Hamas members have likewise been killed in tunnel collapses or accidents. In March, Hamas unexpectedly called upon two thousand reservists to participate in a drill meant to simulate a major conflict with Israel, including a ground invasion. The exercise, which included artillery, combat intelligence, and combat engineering elements, is the terrorist organization's largest this year. Relatedly, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently defused two bombs buried near the Gaza-Israel border. Hamas's international preparations for war were also brought to light in February when a Hamas operative, who had been living in Turkish Cyprus, was arrested on his return to the West Bank. He admitted to joining Hamas while abroad and training at a military camp in Syria.
Hamas's preparations are not limited to an on-the-ground struggle. In March, it was revealed that Hamas had produced several dozen advanced missiles similar to those maintained by Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party. The Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, warned late last year that Hamas's missile arsenal now equals it strength prior to the 2014 conflict, during which the group shot more than a thousand rockets toward Israel.
In Gaza, Hamas continues to smuggle weapons, money, and equipment in preparation for violent attacks and the next conflict with Israel, which foiled 1,226 smuggling attempts at the Gaza border in 2016. Most recently, two Gazan sisters were caught attempting to enter Israel laden with explosives. One of the sisters had a visa into Israel to receive cancer treatment, and tried to smuggle explosive materials hidden inside medical supply tubes. Shin Bet's initial investigation indicates that the supplies were sent by Hamas for use in terrorist attacks in Israel. Earlier this month, Israeli authorities seized thirty diving suits, allegedly bound for Hamas's burgeoning naval militant branch, hidden within a shipment of imported sports clothes. A Gaza fisherman was also recently arrested for smuggling equipment to Hamas.
In the West Bank, another illicit shipment was intercepted last year, filled with materials for hundreds of mortars and rockets, and electric engines used for digging tunnels. And Hamas continues to take advantage of international humanitarian workers. In March, the coordinator of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency's Gaza branch, Muhammad Murtaja, was arrested on charges of aiding the terrorist organization. To improve the accuracy of Hamas rocket attacks, the man claimed he was supposed to bring a disk-on-key to Hamas, containing "improved and elaborately detailed maps of various sites in Israel." He also helped dig a tunnel, became an expert in explosive devices, and witnessed cash transfers from the Turkish organization to Hamas officials.
Hamas continues to build its infrastructure in the West Bank and Israel. In 2016 alone, 114 local Hamas cells were apprehended in the West Bank, versus 70 in 2015. One cell, broken up near Hebron in February, had been receiving instructions online from Hamas for shooting, kidnapping, and explosives attacks. Several of the targets were within Israel proper, including a bus station, a train station, and a synagogue. Another attempted kidnapping plot was foiled in December, resulting in the seizure of large quantities of ammunition, two AK-47s, three pistols, and a shotgun from the West Bank cell. That same month, a Hamas operative was arrested when authorities uncovered his plans for attacks in and around Jerusalem, including bombing a bus.
Hamas invests heavily in its base outside Gaza. A major money-transfer route was thus detected in February, through which Hamas sent thousands of dollars via debit cards smuggled to its operatives in the West Bank. Hamas is also aggressively developing its West Bank arsenal. In February, the IDF closed a West Bank bookstore used by Hamas to produce incendiary propaganda and manufacture explosives, and a gun manufacturing facility was busted late last year near Hebron, a notorious Hamas stronghold.
Despite its supposed rapprochement with Egypt, Hamas continues to work closely with Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula. In March, Israel issued an explicit warning to Hamas about these activities: "Hamas leaders: Your efforts to hide your cooperation with Islamic State's smuggling from Sinai, through lies and manipulation in attempts to broadcast 'business as usual' with Egypt, are not hidden from our view." Indeed, Hamas benefits financially from its relationship with the Islamic State in Sinai, through which it is able to smuggle weapons into Gaza. In fact, Hamas recently increased its tax on goods smuggled into Gaza by IS Sinai fighters. Hamas, in turn, allows IS Sinai to run a media channel from the Gaza Strip, through which the Sinai jihadist group has claimed responsibility for attacks in Egypt. And Hamas has treated wounded IS fighters in the hospitals it runs in Gaza. According to recent reports, some weapons used by IS in attacks against Egyptian forces came from Gaza into Sinai -- a reverse directional flow and one that has Egyptian authorities particularly concerned.
As Hamas leader Khaled Mashal insisted last month, "We were and we still are in an open war with [the] criminal enemy [Israel]." Hamas may engage in politics, "but it insists on the choice of jihad and resistance...[This choice] is Hamas's greater and first strategy...This is Hamas. Hamas is not changing its skin." Indeed, nowhere are the group's true intentions more clear than in its recent election of Yahya Sinwar, a convicted murderer and militant hardliner, as its new leader in Gaza. Just last month, Sinwar swore that Hamas will continue to fight Israel and would "not surrender even a morsel" of land. A change in Hamas rhetoric will mean nothing without a parallel change in Hamas behavior.
The international community should judge Hamas not by any moderation in the group's rhetoric but by its actions on the ground. So long as the latter remain militant and extreme, the relative moderation of the former means not much at all.
Matthew Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute. Maxine Rich is a research assistant at the Institute.

Germany: Migrant Crime Spiked in 2016
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 02/17
Although non-Germans make up approximately 10% of the overall German population, they accounted for 30.5% of all crime suspects in the country in 2016.
Nearly 250,000 migrants entered the country illegally in 2016, up 61.4% from 154,188 in 2015. More than 225,000 migrants were found living in the country illegally (Unerlaubter Aufenthalt) in 2016.
The Berlin Senate launched an inquiry into why migrants disproportionally appear as criminals in the city-state compared to Germans.
An official annual report about crime in Germany has revealed a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country marked by a dramatic increase in violent crime, including murder, rape and sexual assault.
The report also shows a direct link between the growing lawlessness in Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow in more than one million mostly male migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The report — Police Crime Statistics 2016 (Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik, PKS) — was compiled by the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) and presented by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in Berlin on April 24.
umber of non-German crime suspects (nichtdeutsche Tatverdächtige) legally residing in Germany jumped to 616,230 in 2016, up from 555,820 in 2015 — an increase of 11% — according to the report. Although non-Germans make up approximately 10% of the overall German population, they accounted for 30.5% of all crime suspects in the country in 2016, up from 27.6% in 2015.
In this year's report, the BKA created a separate subcategory called "migrants" (Zuwanderer) which encompasses a combination of refugees, pending asylum seekers, failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.
According to the BKA, the number of migrant crime suspects (tatverdächtiger Zuwanderer) in Germany in 2016 jumped to 174,438 from 114,238 in 2015 — up 52.7%. Although "migrants" made up less than 2% of the German population in 2016, they accounted for 8.6% of all crime suspects in the country — up from 5.7% in 2015.
In terms of non-German crime suspects residing legally in Germany, Turks were the primary offenders in 2016, with 69,918 suspects, followed by Romanians, Poles, Syrians, Serbs, Italians, Afghans, Bulgarians, Iraqis, Albanians, Kosovars, Moroccans, Iranians and Algerians.
In terms of migrant crime suspects, Syrians were the primary offenders, followed by Afghans, Iraqis, Albanians, Algerians, Moroccans, Serbs, Iranians, Kosovars and Somalis.
Police in Bremen, Germany frisk a North African youth who is suspected of theft. (Image source: ZDF video screenshot)
The report's other findings include:
2016. These include a 14.3% increase in murder and manslaughter, a 12.7% increase in rape and sexual assault and a 9.9% increase in aggravated assault. The BKA also recorded a 14.8% increase in weapons offenses and a 7.1% increase in drug offenses.
Non-German crime suspects committed 2,512 rapes and sexual assaults in Germany in 2016 — an average of seven a day. Syrians were the primary offenders, followed by Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Iranians, Algerians, Moroccans, Eritreans, Nigerians and Albanians. German authorities have repeatedly been accused of underreporting the true scale of the migrant rape problem for political reasons. For example, up to 90% of the sex crimes committed in Germany in 2014 do not appear in the official statistics, according to André Schulz, the head of the Association of Criminal Police (Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter, BDK).
Non-German crime suspects committed 11,525 robberies in Germany in 2016 — an average of 32 a day. Moroccans were the primary offenders, followed by Algerians, Syrians, Georgians, Tunisians, Albanians, Afghans, Serbs, Iraqis and Iranians.
Non-German crime suspects committed 56,252 aggravated assaults in 2016 — an average of 154 a day. Syrians were the primary offenders, followed by Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Moroccans, Algerians, Somalis, Albanians, Eritreans and Pakistanis.
Bavaria was the German state most affected by non-German criminality, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Berlin, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saarland, Bremen and Thüringen.
Berlin was the German city most affected by non-German criminality, followed by Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Bremen, Leipzig, Nürnberg, Essen, Duisburg, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Dresden, Freiburg im Breisgau, Chemnitz, Aachen, Bielefeld, Wuppertal, Augsburg, Bonn, Bochum, Gelsenkirchen, Wiesbaden, Münster, Kiel, Halle, Krefeld, Braunschweig, Mainz, Lübeck, Mönchengladbach, Erfurt, Oberhausen, Magdeburg and Rostock.
The BKA also recorded 487,711 violations of German immigration laws (ausländerrechtliche Verstöße), up 21.1% from 402,741 violations in 2015. Nearly 250,000 migrants entered the country illegally in 2016, up 61.4% from 154,188 in 2015. More than 225,000 migrants were found living in the country illegally (Unerlaubter Aufenthalt) in 2016.
The new data contradicts claims made by the BKA in December 2016 — just four months before the current report — that migrant criminality was actually decreasing.
During a press conference in Berlin on April 24, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière admitted:
"The proportion of foreign suspects, and migrants in particular, is higher than the average for the general population. This cannot be sugarcoated. There is an overall rise in disrespect, violence and hate. Those who commit serious offenses here forfeit their right to stay here."
Separately, officials in Bavaria revealed that the number of crimes committed by asylum seekers and refugees there increased by 58% in 2016. They accounted for 9.6% of all crimes committed in the state, up from 3.2% in 2015 and 1.8% in 2012. Syrians were the primary offenders, followed by Afghans, Iraqis and Nigerians.
"The increase in crime in Bavaria in 2016 is mainly due to foreign suspects, especially immigrants," said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.
At the same time, officials in Baden-Württemberg noted a 95.5% increase in the number of physical assaults involving at least one migrant in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Berlin Senate launched an inquiry into why migrants disproportionally appear as criminals in the city-state compared to Germans. In 2016, 40% of all crime suspects in the German capital were non-Germans.
None of this seems to be having an impact on the German elections set for September 24, 2017. Polls show that if the election for German chancellor were held today, Angela Merkel, who is largely responsible for the migration crisis, would be re-elected with 37% of the vote. Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat candidate who has pledged to increase migration to Germany even further, would win 29% of the vote and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany would win 8%. For now, German voters appear to believe that the alternatives to Merkel are all worse.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Germany Hit by Merkel's Imported Crime Wave
Vijeta Uniyal/Gatestone Institute/May 02/17
According to the Germany's annual crime report, compiled by the Federal Crime Bureau (BKA), there has been a more than 50% rise in migrant crime in the country compared to the year before.
They not only indulge in petty crime but have come to dominate serious and violent crime in Germany.
European mainstream media may keep on putting a positive spin on Merkel's "courageous" and "selfless" stance, but her policy continues to incur heavy economic, social and human cost, not only on Germany, but on the cultural future of European civilisation.
At the height of the European migrant crisis in early 2016, when masses of migrants were pouring into Europe, the German Green Party Chairwoman Katrin Göring-Eckardt could not control her joy. "We have just received an unexpected gift in the form of people," she told her fellow Germans, reminding them to be grateful. This gift, she said, was going to make the country "more religious, more colourful, more diverse and younger." It was gift, it turns out, that keeps on giving.
According to the country's annual crime report, compiled by the Federal Crime Bureau (BKA), there has been a more than 50% rise in migrant crime in the country compared to the year before.
The German newspaper Die Welt, which received an advance copy of the annual crime report, wrote:
"The number of immigrants suspected of criminal acts in 2016 has risen by 52.7 percent, to the figure of 174,438, compared to the previous year. To ensure a fair comparison with the rest of the population, crimes that only immigrants can commit, such as illegal entry to the country, have been taken out from the statistics. The annual police report (PKS) shows that there were total of 616,230 crime suspects of foreign origin last year. The migrant share [of total crime figures] was disproportionately large, namely 174,438 -- more than a quarter."
These staggering crime statistics are even more alarming if one looks through the narrow definition German government uses to denote a "criminal migrant". As Die Welt explains, these crime figures do not take into account "foreigners who have been living and working in Germany for some time, but only a specific group of protection-seekers [refugees]."
In a sane world, the government would take steps to protect its own citizens from such "protection-seekers". Not in Merkel's Germany.
What is relevant is not only what these official crime statistics reveal, but what they conceal. The actual crime share of these "protection-seekers" is much higher if one considers the fact that more than 30% of them are serial offenders and 5% of them have been booked on criminal charges at least 6 times -- a mind-boggling number given their relatively recent arrival in the country.
These new entrants make up less than 2% of the German population, but constitute 9% of Germany's criminal population. They not only indulge in petty crime but have come to dominate serious and violent crime in Germany. Nearly 15% of all suspects charged with serious bodily harm, rapes and sexual assaults come from this group, the police crime report reveals.
The German government's denial of surging migrant crime wave has led to the systemic under-reporting and suppression of information about migrant crimes. Take, for example, Berlin, where a left-wing state government keeps police chronically disarmed, even of defensive gear such as bulletproof vests, let alone firearms. The Berlin government prohibits law enforcement agencies from using video surveillance in the German capital, on the grounds of "civil rights".
To highlight the rampant lawlessness in Berlin, a TV crew from the German cable network SAT1 installed its own surveillance cameras around Berlin's well-known Kottbusser Tor no-go zone. Last year, the Berlin police registered 1,600 crimes around Kottbusser Tor. An ordinary television crew, however, managed to record hundreds of crimes in just 48 hours. According to journalist and moderator Claus Strunz:
"Our 9 cameras monitored the area [Kottbusser Tor] for 48 hours. And on the video feed -- we can't say the exact number -- but there are hundreds of crimes that would have otherwise gone undiscovered... And the parents [living in the area] say that in the year and a half since [uncontrolled migration began], they don't let their daughters walk alone on the street... either day or night."
As no act of journalistic insubordination against Merkel's "Refugees Welcome" directive goes unpunished, Claus Strunz was attacked by a journalist colleague for "politicising" his current affairs show. He was called a "populist" -- dog-whistle-talk for a far-right sympathiser -- a potentially suicidal career move for any journalist wishing to work in Germany.
Strunz was also one of the few German journalists who cared to highlight the plight of the families of the victims of the last year's Christmas market attack, in which a Tunisian Islamist migrant drove a truck loaded with 20 tons of steel beams into a busy Christmas market in Berlin. He murdered 12 people and injured 48 others.
The German mainstream media evidently decided not to personalize the stories of the Berlin terror victims. In a telling move, Merkel government categorized the victims of that attack as victims of regular "traffic accident". For Merkel and Germany's ruling establishment, apparently, the victims of migrant crimes and terror are nothing more than unfortunate roadkill on the way towards a multicultural paradise.
Rather than tackling the migrant crime wave, the Merkel government has chosen to spin the facts and bury the truth.
"Refugees aren't more criminal than Germans," a senior official from Germany's Ministry of the Interior claimed last summer. He further maintained that, according to the Ministry's calculations, "migrants hardly committed any sexual assaults and murders." That statement was made barely six months after mass sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne.
When Chancellor Merkel began her re-election bid five months ago, she described migrant crimes as "terrible isolated incidents" for which she wanted to see "tough sentencing."
So how does "tough sentencing" look like under Merkel's watch? For those New Year's Eve assaults in Cologne, where some two thousand Muslim men raped, assaulted and robbed more than 1200 women, almost all of the attackers managed to walk free. They did not even see a judge, let alone face punishment. Despite hundreds of testimonies by victims, countless reliable eyewitnesses and endless surveillance footage, the Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where Cologne is located, admitted that "most of the cases will remain unsolved."
With five months to go until the German elections, Merkel's government has decided to address the problem by instituting an €18 million study to probe the issues of "migration and integration."
That is just peanuts compared to what Merkel is willing to pay for her "refugee" policy. Her decision to offer asylum to more than one million migrants will cost country's taxpayers up to €1.5 trillion, according to the prominent German economist Bernd Raffelhüschen. In the best-case scenario, Raffelhüschen estimates, the cost of Germany's migrant policy will be around €878 billion. "If the second generation [of the migrants] cannot be integrated into the workforce at par with the native population, these costs will go up to €1.5 trillion," Raffelhüschen told Die Welt. Raffelhüschen's calculations, published last year, only take into account the migrant intake of 2015; they do not include any present or future migrant waves.
Germany's Federal Integration Commissioner and Merkel-confidant Aydan Özoguz is pushing for migrants to be granted voting rights similar to German citizens in any national referendum -- regardless of their legal status. According to an advisory report recently co-authored by Özoguz, "people who permanently live in a country should be able to participate in democratic decision making."
Özoguz, who helped shape Merkel's refugee policy of opening up Europe to millions of migrants from Arab and Muslim countries, with her proposal to grant voting rights to migrants, is creating a roadmap for a radical transform of Germany -- and by default that of the continental Europe
To offset the recent rise of right-wing political party, Alterative für Deutschland (AfD), the German political establishment sees the empowerment of such a vast new wave of migrants as a political counterweight.
Ever since Merkel opened Europe's borders in the spring of 2015 by arbitrarily suspending the existing EU-wide border regulations (Dublin II), Europe has been dragging itself ever deeper into a self-inflicted migrant crisis. European mainstream media may keep on putting a positive spin on Merkel's "courageous" and "selfless" stance, but her policy continues to incur heavy economic, social and human cost, not only on Germany, but on the cultural future of European civilization.
*Vijeta Uniyal, a journalist and news analyst, is based in Germany.
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Republicans Are Now the ‘America First’ Party
Russel Ronald Reno/The New York Times/May 02/17
For most of my career, the Republican Party was pretty easy to define. It stood for small government, an internationalist foreign policy, free trade, and moral and religious conservatism. Ronald Reagan was the party’s North Star. Of course, there have always been Republicans who veered from that line — but everyone understood what the party meant.
Of all the people still trying to process Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, perhaps none are more confused than my generation of conservatives, who came of age under Mr. Reagan and drank deeply of that old orthodoxy. We are, by now, the establishment — the senators, governors, think-tank presidents and columnists who, until Mr. Trump came along, got to define what “Republican” and “conservative” meant. My cohort simply cannot accept that Mr. Trump has taken away that coveted role and revolutionized not just our party, but also the very terms of the American political divide.
But we need to. Because as Mr. Trump recognized, the new schism in American life is not about big versus small government, or more or less regulation. It is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he told the Republican National Convention.
It is obvious to all but the most blinkered Republicans that with or without Mr. Trump, the Reagan era is over. The conservative-donor and think-tank consensus has been exploded. The next smart, ambitious young Republican politician with national aspirations will not adopt Ted Cruz’s strategy of trying to revive the rotting flesh of Reaganism. He will read out of Mr. Trump’s playbook, attacking globalism rather than big government. And he’ll win, because he’ll be talking about what worries voters.
When William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955, he argued that individual freedom needed to be protected from liberalism’s drift toward collectivism. Mr. Reagan’s vigorous anti-Communism put this into practice, as did his support of deregulation and tax cuts to promote economic freedom. My generation of conservatives inherited this framework.
Over time, however, that iteration of Republican conservatism became less salient, in large part because it won. In 1989 we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Soon after, Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street, promoted the further extension of free trade and was a cheerleader for Silicon Valley billionaires. By 2016, only a thoroughly catechized conservative believed Democrats were strangling economic freedom. Democrats have also assumed a large piece of the libertarian mantle, especially when it comes to sexuality and drugs.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party stood still. True, the positions Mr. Buckley outlined over the years were supple enough, but their advocates were not: Their unthinking and increasingly ritualized loyalty to that phase of conservatism led the Republican establishment into political irrelevance, as Mr. Trump’s takeover of the party so brutally revealed. Given a clear, brash alternative, the Republican base tossed aside the orthodoxies of Reaganism.
Most commentators struggle to explain Mr. Trump’s electoral success, because they assume he has no coherent political philosophy. This is myopic. As a public figure, Mr. Trump has articulated a consistent message that speaks to a fundamental political challenge facing the 21st-century West: We must affirm nationalism and fight globalism.
This basic political message is dramatized by his populist rhetoric. At his campaign rallies he did not get cheers for denouncing government waste or championing tax cuts. His applause lines spoke of building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants, renegotiating trade deals and bringing back jobs. The America First, antiglobalist themes won him the election, not freedom-oriented, anti-government ones.
I’m not surprised. Both parties — but not the average American voter — have been moving in a globalist direction for years. In his 2013 Inaugural Address, President Obama championed the qualities of innovation and mobility that will allow our nation to thrive in “this world without boundaries.” He was not proposing to eliminate passports, but he was expressing a sentiment that regards borders, limits and boundaries as necessary but regrettable, while openness and diversity are inherent goods.
This way of thinking is everywhere, which makes it seem like common sense, rather than a political choice. Woodrow Wilson formulated Princeton’s informal motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service.” In 1996 it was extended to include “and in the service of all nations,” and then recently revised to read “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” Undoubtedly, administrators thought they were adapting to new global realities, rather than taking a controversial stance.
The same goes for Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, who raised $750 million to fund a new program to gather “the world’s brightest minds” who can work “toward solving global challenges.” Isn’t this an admirable, sensible and responsible adaptation to the direction things are going?
In contrast, Mr. Trump does not presume that the world must become flat. His Inaugural Address contrasted sharply with Mr. Obama’s 2013 speech. He spoke of renewing borders and solidarity, and called for national reconsolidation. This does not mean putting a stop to global trade or shutting down immigration, any more than Mr. Obama meant to bargain away American sovereignty or “destroy America,” as some conservative pundits insisted during his administration. But these two speeches, only four years apart, reflect a stark difference in emphasis. What Mr. Obama presented as a happy evolution Mr. Trump frames as something to be resisted. As he said in his recent address to the joint session of Congress: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”
Mr. Trump’s shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of “America First,” but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize. The once vast and unifying middle class has eroded over the last generation. Today we are increasingly divided into winners and losers. This division involves more than divergent economic prospects and income inequality. Globalism is an ideology of winners who stand astride our society as it is being remade by dramatic economic, demographic and cultural changes.
Mitt Romney wrote off nearly half the American population as “takers.” Hillary Clinton made her notorious remarks about “deplorables.” These sentiments, widely shared by elites on the right and left, have become toxic. Caterpillar recently announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from Peoria, Ill., to Chicago. The unspoken reason? “C-suite level” talent bridles at relocating to flyover country. In today’s America, the rich, well-educated and globalized people on top, whether Republicans or Democrats, do not want to live among those who populate our country. The leaders increasingly hold them in disdain.
After World War II, Mr. Buckley adopted an exaggerated approach to postwar American liberalism (which was hardly inclined toward socialism) because he thought the stakes were high. We face different dangers. In 2017, a growing economic divide and continuing cultural fragmentation, and even animosity, are grave threats that now define our politics. The Cold War is now domestic. Easy talk about the world becoming flat or global trade lifting all boats disguises, explains away and exacerbates the damage being done to the body politic. Mr. Trump’s stark juxtaposition of globalism and Americanism is crude and hyperbolic, but necessarily so.
The generation of conservatives tutored by Mr. Buckley’s polemics against collectivism developed a healthy skepticism of big government. But they did not dismantle the modern welfare state; instead, they sought to limit its excesses and reduce long-term dependency. In the same spirit, rejecting globalism need not entail renouncing America’s role as leader of the international order or attacking global trade.
Rather, we need to become much more skeptical of post-national ways of thinking. For too long a globalist utopianism — Mr. Obama’s happy, peaceful and inclusive world without boundaries — has tempted us to neglect one of the fundamental tasks of political leadership, which is to promote the kind of national solidarity that binds a country’s leaders to its people.
Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite. It’s a telling paradox that the most ardent supporters of a “borderless world” live in gated communities and channel their children toward a narrow set of elite educational institutions with stiff admissions standards that do the work of “border control.” The airport executive lounges are not open and inclusive.
John Q. Public is not stupid. He senses that he no longer counts. And he resents the condescension of globalist elites, which is why Mr. Trump’s regular transgressions against elite-enforced political correctness evoke glee from his supporters.
After Auschwitz, nationalism inevitably frightens many. I prefer to speak of patriotic solidarity, or a renewed national covenant. Whatever we call the antithesis to utopian globalism, it need not mean wholesale endorsement of Mr. Trump’s harshest rhetoric, which is often narrow and inarticulate. There’s a great deal more to our country than he allows, including traditions of secular and religious universalism that make the idealistic internationalism Mr. Obama sometimes articulated paradoxically very American. Nevertheless, we’ve tilted too strongly in the globalist direction. In our divided country, conservatism — and liberalism as well — needs to lean in the direction of nationalism.
For many in the conservative camp, this seems unnecessary, even irresponsible. They think Mr. Trump has betrayed the movement Mr. Buckley shaped. We need to remember, however, that the Cold War gave drama and relevance to Mr. Buckley’s way of framing our fundamental political commitments. But the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago. Our commitments must be made against a different horizon.

France and the Benefits of a Little Dictatorship
Andrew Roberts/The New York Times/May 02/17
He was only in his 30s when he came to power, defeating a sinister ultraright group that threatened to wreck France. Well read and intelligent, he had had the finest education France offered and made the best of it. He had high ambitions for the unity of Continental Europe and France’s foremost place in it, and looked upon a newly isolated Britain with scarcely concealed irritation bordering on contempt. He contemplated military action in Syria. He especially wanted to bring the tens of thousands of French exiles home from London to contribute once again to the life of the country, and promised nothing less than a popular revolution designed to “unblock France.”Both Emmanuel Macron and Napoleon Bonaparte fit this description perfectly, assuming that Mr. Macron beats Marine Le Pen of the National Front in the final round of the French elections on May 7, rather as Napoleon crushed the Bourbon royalists in the decade after their attempted coup in 1795. Even Ms. Le Pen’s attack on her opponent as someone who does not love France echoes the Bourbons’ portrayal of Napoleon as a Corsican outsider. Mr. Macron, whose En Marche! (Onward!) movement adopts a military metaphor so beloved by Napoleon, does not seem to mind the comparisons that are already being made.
Of course the “democratic revolution” that Mr. Macron says he hopes will elect him is far removed from the military coup that propelled Napoleon to power in November 1799 and kept him there until 1815. But like Napoleon, Mr. Macron, who calls himself a pragmatic centrist, says he will transcend the left-right partisanship that has so bedeviled French politics over recent decades.
Napoleon succeeded in “unblocking” France, with educational, legal, financial, religious and commercial reforms, many of which still exist. The Legion of Honor, Bank of France, Council of State, education system and much of Parisian architecture are Napoleonic constructs that testify to his genius 200 years later. Mr. Macron promises a similar boldness: “I do not propose to reform France; I propose to transform it at its deepest level,” he told this paper. But can his “democratic revolution” create any such enduring monuments?
Mr. Macron was born in Amiens, the city where Napoleon sent his brother Joseph to negotiate peace between Britain and France in 1802. The treaty signed there lasted barely a year before hostilities broke out again, partly over the issue of the free-trading relationship with Europe that Napoleon would not allow Britain to enjoy, fearing its effect on French industry. The post-Brexit negotiations in which Mr. Macron will most likely play such an important part have long historical shadows. By the collapse of the Peace of Amiens in 1803, Napoleon had lured back from London almost all the French exiles who had fled during the revolution, in larger numbers than the tax exiles who fled the 75 percent top tax rate of President François Hollande, under whom Mr. Macron served as economics minister from 2014 to 2016.
The panic around the rise of the National Front, which has brought Mr. Macron to the brink of victory, can partly be blamed on Charles de Gaulle. He institutionalized the extensive powers of the French presidency in 1958, with more than a nod to Napoleon’s dictatorship. Strong central government was thought to have worked for France and was visibly lacking in the Second, Third and Fourth Republics thereafter.
De Gaulle also continued Napoleon’s system of voting in successive rounds, winnowing the number of contenders. De Gaulle assumed that this would ensure two centrist candidates of the left and right always got into the final round. But the eruption of Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and now his daughter Marine has exploded that complacent assumption, aided by the exposure of the sheer greed and graft of the center-right candidate François Fillon, who could otherwise have made it to the runoff in Ms. Le Pen’s place. How the shade of the general, the greatest Frenchman since Napoleon, must be regretting his calculations.
The toxicity of modern French politics would hardly have surprised Napoleon, who survived almost as many assassination attempts as de Gaulle. But even today’s viciousness is as nothing if Mr. Macron does not win on May 7. A neo-fascist victory could well lead to an uprising in the suburban banlieues, which would recall the “événements” of 1848, 1871 and 1968, when protests turned to bloodshed.
If he does win, Mr. Macron will inherit a sclerotic, underproducing, overtaxed, absurdly bureaucratic, highly partisan country with a huge security problem. Napoleon was able to cut through all of those same problems by manipulating public opinion through a controlled press, muscling through votes in a largely appointed Parliament and simply imposing diktats once he became emperor of France in 1804. He could do this because he differentiated between a “popular revolution” led dictatorially by him and a “democratic revolution” dependent upon free and fair elections.
As a genuine democrat rather than simply posing as one, Mr. Macron will have no such luxury.

UNESCO resolution passes calling to reject Israeli sovereignty over all Jerusalem
Ynetnews/Itamar Eichner & Associated Press|/May 02/17
Despite the Foreign Ministry's best attempts to thwart a UNESCO proposal to revoke Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, the resolution passed—on Israel's Independence Day—with the support of seven Arab states; PM Netanyahu calls decision 'absurd,' while Pres. Rivlin calls to transfer all embassies to Jerusalem.
On the eve of Israel's Independence Day, UNESCO passed a resolution calling for the revocation of Israeli sovereignity in all of Jerusalem, despite Israeli attempts to convince as many countries as possible to resist.
The UNESCO resolution calls on Israel, as the "occupying Power," to cease "persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects in east Jerusalem," which the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state. Israel views the entire city as its capital.
Israeli archaeological excavations and other infrastructure projects in the Old City have long stoked tensions.
The UNESCO resolution did reaffirm "the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions," though it accused Israel of taking actions that have "altered, or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City."
The countries that voted in support of the resolution were: the seven Arab states Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan; Iran, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Sweden, Russia, China, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Chad.
Ten countries opposed the resolution: the United States, Ukraine, Italy , Germany, Great Britain, Paraguay, Lithuania, Greece, Togo, and the Netherlands.
The countries that voted to abstain were: France, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Spain, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, Albania, Cameroon, Estonia, the Ivory Coast, Slovenia, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Argentina, India, El Salvador, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
The countries whose representatives did not vote on the resolution were Nepal, Serbia, and Turkmenistan.
Netanyahu promises: 'We're not going anywhere'
Earlier Tuesday, at the World Bible Quiz, marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the expected vote. "We deny UNESCO and uphold our truth, which is the truth. Throughout Jewish history, Jerusalem was the heart of the nation. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem and the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, and therefore we present you with eight questions marking Zion and Jerusalem."
After the decision was announced, Netanyahu responded to it again, this time at a reception for foreign diplomats and military attachés in celebration of Israel's 69th Independence Day, hosted by President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nehama. Netanyahu shared that over the last couple of days, he conducted many conversations with world leaders, heads of state and foreign ministers, in regard to the "absurd" vote taking place at the UN. He stressed that the number of countries that support anti-Israeli suggestions in UNESCO is gradually shrinking.
"The absurd decisions in UNESCO have to not merely be reduced in the number of their supporters. That's happening, I'm glad to say, went down from 32 to 26, today to 22. There are more countries today that are abstaining or supporting Israel than there are those opposing Israel. But my goal is to have no votes in UNESCO on Israel.
"Last year UNESCO said that the Jewish people have no connection to the Temple Mount. Can you imagine?" said Netanyahu. "Three thousand years ago Solomon built his temple there. This is the same temple that Herod ... that was rebuilt by the Exiles of Babylon coming back here with the Proclamation of Cyrus the Great; it's the same temple that Jesus visited when he overturned the money tables, the money changers' tables—he didn't do this in a monastery in the Himalayas. He did it in the Jewish Temple here. And UNESCO said a year ago that we have no connection to the Temple Mount. This year they didn't say that. That's an improvement in the march of absurdity. They also said that Judaism too has connection to Jerusalem. We're making progress. But there's still a way to go and the way we have to go is in fact to cut out this nonsense.
"One hundred US senators, one hundred, every single one of them, Democrats and Republicans and I guess there are some independents there too, every single one of them wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations and said, 'Enough!' The theater of the absurd, when it comes to Israel, has to stop.
"So there is a gap still between our expanding, growing bilateral relations and our multilateral diplomacy," added Netanyahu. "It's true the gap is being reduced from year to year, but if I can express a wish to you: I want it eliminated, as I want you to cut your travel time, as the President suggested. Move your embassies to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel for 3,000 years.
Referring to critics of Israeli policy, Netanyahu said, "There is of course the line among a handful of academics and misguided protestors saying that Israel is isolated. No. It's not. Almost daily, I meet with world leaders. Well, to be precise, about 250 leaders from around the world—we have fewer work days so sometimes we have to meet twice a day—who come to Jerusalem and we meet here. And the number's growing, all the time, year to year. And they all tell a different story.
Last week the Chancellor of Austria said Israel is a role model for the entire world. From African leaders I hear profound thanks for Israeli technology that helps save and improve lives throughout Africa. From Asian leaders, such as the leaders of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that I met recently, or the leader of Singapore, I hear an earnest desire to deepen economic cooperation. I heard the same in Australia, as I hear it from the representatives of Latin American countries. From American and Western leaders and others I hear gratitude for our intelligence which has helped stop many, many terror attacks in their countries, in your countries.
"And perhaps most remarkably, from Arab leaders I hear an increasing recognition that Israel is not an enemy but an indispensable ally in the common battle against terror and the common effort to secure a different future, a better future for all the peoples of the Middle East.
"How has this happened? What makes Israel a role model for the world? Well, the first thing—and let me be as clear-cut and candid as I can—Israel is a good society. It's democratic, it's open and welcoming. Minorities thrive. Look around a vast radius and you can see how Israel stands out. Everyone here can succeed. You can be an Arab Supreme Court Justice, or a Christian diplomat, or a female general, or a Druze minister, or a gay Member of Knesset. Our pluralism is our strength.
"We're not perfect," admitted Netanyahu while speaking to those gathered in the crowd. "I don't know what country is, and we always strive to improve. Israel is a moral nation that from its first day has tirelessly pursued peace with all our neighbours. And we can do a great deal of good in moving towards this not only with our neighbors but with every one of you.
"There is a revolution taking place right now in the world. It is challenged by the forces of militant Islam who want to take us back to a dark medievalism, but we will overcome it. Everywhere, we will overcome it. And the other force is propelling us into an amazing technological future. Everything, every single thing is becoming technologized: agriculture, water, health, transportation, cars—everything. And those who innovate will seize the future. Every one of your countries, every one of your societies should partake in this future. Everyone needs it. Israel happens to be now a global hub of technology. There are many reasons why it's happened. It's related to our history and our culture and to other circumstances, but it has happened.
"When I visited China recently, President Xi said to me, you know we're about to cross 1.4 billion people. And I said, well, we just crossed eight million. And he said, but you're a global power in innovation, in inventiveness. And I have to say that we want to share the fruits of our ingenuity in water, in agriculture, in medicine, in every single field that makes life better, longer, safer. And we want to do it, more than anything, with our neighbors, because if their life is good, our life will be good.
"So I, like many Israelis, I know the cost of war and that is why I am dedicated to pursuing this peace. I think this peace can be pursued today in ways that are different and perhaps weren't available before, because I believe that many in the region today understand that there are opportunities and advantages that weren't available before. I think that through the intertwining of regional normalization and Palestinian-Israeli normalization, we can bootstrap our way up to another historic peace. And I hope that the Palestinian leadership will make it possible for us to advance towards that peace.
Despite this comment on his wish for peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu did not hold back criticism against its leadership, which funds terrorists held in Israeli prisons. "The payment of money to terrorists by a sliding scale—the more you kill the more you get—that's the opposite of peace. It sends exactly the wrong message to young Palestinians. We want them to move towards peace. The Palestinian Authority has paid, pays roughly 300 million dollars a year, specific payments, not social security, that doesn't exist regrettably in Palestinian society yet, but it's paid to a few thousand jailed terrorists. And now imagine what happens after a few years—it's a billion dollars, and after several years—it's several billion dollars. Imagine if all that money was put towards coexistence, education for peace, joint projects, for medicine, for agriculture, for sewage treatment, everything. Just imagine what can happen here.
"I think this could change the region, and yet it requires this clear-cut shift of direction. I think it's time to stop financing murder and to start financing peace. We are partners for peace. We seek it for our people. We pray for it, we yearn for it, and we’re ready to act for it. And we need partners for peace. I know that all of you seek it too. We welcome your cooperation in this effort and we want, of course, to cement our mutual relations.
"The Jewish people is powerless no longer, defenseless no longer, homeless no longer," concluded Netanyahu. "We use our power for good, to treat injured Syrian civilians, to prevent terror attacks, to serve as a model of what our troubled region could look like and what it should look like. Just imagine more Tel Avivs and fewer Aleppos.
"And yet, despite the shrill and hateful calls from Iran, and still from Palestinian quarters, to uproot Israel, we're not going anywhere. Israel is here to stay forever, growing stronger, more advanced, more prosperous, seeking peace."
Rivlin urges countries to 'recognize Jerusalem,' move embassies to Jerusalem
President Reuven Rivlin also referred to the UNESCO decision at the reception he hosted. After speaking of Israeli innovation and the relatively short time that has passed since its founding, Rivlin said that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Since the days of King David, there was no other reality. It is time to put an end to the absurd. It is time to recognize Jerusalem, as the official capital of the State of Israel. It is time to move all the official embassies here. To Jerusalem.”
“When I visit other countries, and when we host heads of states from around the world, I am proud to hear that while Israel is just 69 years young, it is already known for its strengths. Israeli innovation is known around the world. Every day we build our cooperation; in agriculture, in science and research, in culture and education, and more.”
Central to the President’s address was the importance of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “The State of Israel is a fact. But it will never be taken for granted. We would not be standing here celebrating together, if not for the support, of the international community, or its recognition for the right of the Jewish People to return to our historical homeland and establish a national home. A home that has Jerusalem at its heart. Jerusalem has always been the center of the Jewish world. The place we have prayed towards for thousands of years. There was never any doubt that Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel. And 50 years ago, we returned to the Old City of Jerusalem, we united the whole city under Israeli sovereignty. We felt then, that the dream of Jerusalem as the physical and spiritual capital of Israel had finally become a reality.”
The President stressed to the diplomats from around the world, “Dear friends, for 70 years you have been coming here to Jerusalem to take part in official events; at the Israeli parliament, with the presidents of Israel, with the prime ministers of Israel, and many with others.” He noted, “Most of you are younger than me. You were born to the fact of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. You know no other reality. Since the days of King David, there was not, there is not, and there never will be any other reality. It is time to put an end to the absurd. It is time to recognize Jerusalem, as the official capital of the State of Israel. De facto, not just de jure. It is time to move all the official embassies here. To Jerusalem.”
The President concluded by once again welcoming his guests, and said, “Dear friends, it is my pleasure to welcome you all. I look forward to seeing you all from time to time. And when we meet for Israel’s 70th birthday, I hope your drive here will be much shorter. Happy Independence Day!”
In addition to the reception attended by ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, the President's Office received many greetings from leaders around the world including, Queen Elizabeth II, King Philip of Spain, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, US President Trump, Russian President Putin, French President Hollande, and many others.
Among the greetings, President Trump noted the US's support for Israel was "Ironclad", and added, "The tremendous strength of the United States-Israel relationship is reflected not only in the close partnership between our governments, but also in the ties that connect our two people."
President Hollande wrote, "In the unstable regional environment of today, Israel can be sure of France's support for the security of Israel," and added, "this is an absolute priority for France.”
Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot were also in attendance.
The President quoted from the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on ‘Semitic Languages’ from 1911, which read “The dream of some Zionists, that Hebrew—a would-be Hebrew, that is to say—will again become a living, popular language in Palestine, has still less prospect of realization than their vision of a restored Jewish empire in the Holy Land.”
The President stated, “I think of all we have achieved in the last 69 years, and now that we are entering the 70th year of the State of Israel, I am excited to think what groundbreaking achievements are still ahead of us.”
Israeli, Palestinian ambassadors to UNESCO decision with approval and indignation
UNESCO caused an uproar last year when member states approved a resolution that diminished Jewish ties to holy sites in Jerusalem. Israel suspended cooperation with the agency in response.
Elias Wadih Sanbar, the Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, said Tuesday's resolution was part of efforts to "stop giving a kind of blank check to an occupier that is acting with total illegality and impunity. The Israeli ambassador to the agency, Carmel Shama Hacohen, said those who supported the motion "have to feel ashamed," adding that "There is no reason to vote against any country, and especially on its Independence Day, and especially on a decision that tries to delete the historical connection of the Jewish people, a 3,000-year connection."
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said he had instructed the country's representative to UNESCO to vote against "the latest politicized resolution on Jerusalem."
"Our opinion is very clear: UNESCO can't become the headquarters of a permanent ideological clash in which questions are faced for which the solutions are supposed to be handled in other headquarters," Alfano was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.
First published: 02.05.17