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Putin to Netanyahu: Hands Off Syria

By DEBKAfile and Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent three hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Tuesday. He came for a last-ditch attempt to head off the supply of advanced Russian anti-air S-300 missile systems to Syria.

Instead, the Russian leader turned the conversation around to focus implicitly on Israel's air strikes against Damascus on May 3 and May 5. After their conversation he issued a warning: "In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid any moves that can shake the situation." This was clearly a hands-off caution to Israel not to repeat its attacks on Damascus. And, furthermore, after "shaking the situation" in Syria by its air attacks, Israel was in no position to demand that Russia avoid selling Syria advanced weapons. The prime minister, for his part, warned that the entire Middle East was in a dangerous state of volatility.

Netanyahu was accompanied by Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. Opposite him sat Mikhail Fradkov, SVR Director. Kochavi laid before the Russian leader the information Israel had gathered on the state of Syria's chemical weapons with relevance to their transfer to the Lebanese Hizbullah.

Before Netanyahu's arrival for the meeting, Moscow took two preparatory steps: 1. Russian diplomats leaked to the London-based Arab press a report that the S-300 missiles had already arrived in Syria. According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Moscow had delivered 200 launchers (probably missiles) and the Syrian missile teams already knew how to use them. By this leak, the Israeli prime minister was being informed that his journey to Sochi was a waste of time and that the use of S-300 missiles for shooting down Israeli Air Force planes was no longer controlled by Moscow but by Damascus.

2. The prominent strategic analyst, Viktor Kremenyuk of The USA and Canada Institute in Moscow, reported Tuesday that Netanyahu arrived in Sochi to indirectly let Putin know that "Israel would destroy the S-300s when they are delivered and start being assembled." The deputy director of an important Russian think tank which advises the Kremlin on North American policy does not tend to make idle comments.

DEBKAfile's Moscow sources interpreted Kremenyuk's remark as a means of informing the Israeli leader that Moscow was not impressed by such threats. Instead of pushing Putin to stop the S-300 missiles, Israel would be more advantageously employed urging the Obama administration to adopt a more realistic stand on Syria and Bashar Assad.

In Moscow's view, Washington must be brought to give up its threat of Western military intervention in Syria, of which the Israeli air strikes appeared to Putin as the harbinger, and come to terms with Assad's presence in any political solution of the Syrian conflict.

These positions the Russian President had conveyed previously to Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He made it clear to Netanyahu that he stood by them as firmly as ever. Therefore, say DEBKAfile's sources, so long as both powers remain entrenched in their positions, there is not much hope of their coming together on an international conference to resolve the Syrian conflict.

DEBKAfile's military sources added that it is also unlikely that the Russian and Israeli leaders had a chance to work out reciprocal ground rules for the Russian officers supervising the S-300 missile operations in Syria to avoiding hitting Israeli Air Force jets or for Israeli bombers to refrain from destroying them. The S-300 is designed to shoot down planes and missiles at 200-km ranges.

Israel is concerned that Moscow may have decided to send the six S-300 batteries carrying 144 missiles due for Syria along with Russian missile and air defense specialists. They will also be available for operating the missiles effectively for downing Israeli Air Force planes striking targets in Syria and Lebanon. Israel will be forced to think twice before attacking the S-300 batteries for fear of hitting the Russian officers. Putin is therefore placing a severe constraint on Israel's operational freedom by spreading an anti-air missile cover over the Syrian, Hizbullah and the Iranian Basij forces fighting for Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile in Syria, rebels fighting against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad's forces have published a shock video showing one of them eating the heart of a dead rival.

Some in Israel saw the video as further proof that the U.S. is pursuing a wrongheaded Middle East policy. David Haivri of the Samaria Regional Council commented on the video, saying that "Syrian rebels are committing war crimes and proud to display this on the internet. If these animals win the war they will be glad to eat our hearts and abuse our women. "The USA's lightheaded actions in the Middle East are a threat to Israel," he added.

In the video, rebel leader Abu Sakkar, addressing the camera as he ripped the flesh, said: "I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers," he warned President Bashar Assad's forces as his men cheered.

Sakkar was a founding member of the Farouq Brigade, one of the main rebel units in Syria, but has since formed his own battalion as the opposition fragments. In the mosaic of hundreds of opposition groups, Sakkar's men are seen as neither secular nor hardline Islamists, but as some of the hardiest fighters.

Reinoud Leenders, an associate professor in the war studies department of King's College London, says that these brutal displays are used as a tool of war by both sides. "It's the ultimate expression of disrespect and dehumanizing your opponent," he said.

Fatah, Hamas Agree to Form Unity Government Within Three Months

By The Times of Israel

Rival Palestinian political factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on Tuesday to form a national unity government within three months, a move that, if seen through, would end a six-year rift between the Islamist and secular parties.

Representatives of the two Palestinian groups met in Cairo on Tuesday for the first time in months in a bid to mend fences and form a single government. Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since the violent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 following Hamas' surprising success in national elections the year before.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said following the talks in Egypt that the two groups have agreed to reconcile and form a unity government in the coming months, according to Israel Radio.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said both sides agreed on a timetable that begins with creating laws to govern elections. Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed was quoted by the Palestine News Network saying earlier on Tuesday that his party would discuss prospective ministerial candidates with Hamas during the meeting. Abu Marzouk was quoted saying that the exact composition of that government was not discussed during the meeting on Tuesday.

Unity talks stalled after the last set of meetings, held in Cairo in February, failed to mend the rift between Fatah and Hamas and send the Palestinians to parliamentary elections. The two parties signed a reconciliation deal in 2011, but it has yet to be implemented and the particulars of the agreement remain undefined. The two parties were split on issues regarding the Palestine National Council, the PLO parliament, and legislative and presidential elections in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced last month that he had started conducting negotiations to form a national unity government with Hamas, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported. Abbas also called on all other Palestinian parties to take part in the political process.

Abbas' party Fatah, which would like to hold general elections as soon as possible, had required in the past that the unity government — the formation of which was decided on last year — serve as an interim government for no more than three months, and be tasked solely with preparing for national elections.

Israel has said it would not deal with a government that includes an unreformed Hamas. The Islamist group remains formally committed to the destruction of Israel.

IRS Reportedly Also Targeted Jewish Groups

By The American Thinker

The Jewish Press is reporting that a strongly pro-Israel group was singled out by the IRS for intrusive and inappropriate questions when it applied for tax exempt status. The organization known as "Z Street" was told that there was a "a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies." . . .

While they are at it, the committee might want to ask the IRS whether their list of targets extended beyond political party discrimination. There is evidence the IRS also targeted pro-Israel groups whose positions were potentially inconsistent with the administration's.

For example, in 2010, the passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was "connected to Israel," its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny. This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy review of Z STREET's tax exempt status application.

In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to "a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies."

Z STREET's lawsuit claims the IRS activity constitutes viewpoint discrimination and a violation of its constitutionally protected right of free speech. The organization is seeking, among other things, complete disclosure to the public regarding the origin, development, approval, substance and application of the IRS policy to treat pro-Israel organizations differently than it does other organizations.

And at least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel. Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state "whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel," and also demanded the organization "[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel."

Jewish Groups Slam Glenn Beck for Bloomberg Nazi Salute


Television personality Glenn Beck, who has been known for his staunchly Israel and conservative views, has aroused Jewish criticism for depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg giving a Nazi salute. Speaking at the National Rifle Association's annual convention recently, Beck likened the mayor to a Nazi for his campaigns to limit the size of sugary drinks, salt intake, curb tobacco displays and gun control.

"Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker at the NRA's annual convention, trivializes the Holocaust when he compares New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Adolf Hitler," the Jewish B'nai B'rith organization told ABC News. "The casual use of Nazi imagery or words serves to undermine the atrocities of the Holocaust. Glenn Beck should apologize," the organization said.

Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, objected to the image and Beck's comments. "While he doesn't say it, it seems Glenn Beck is implying through an image of Mayor Bloomberg in an apparent Hitlerian salute is that the mayor's policies on gun ownership and other issues are turning New York city into a Nazi-like state. That suggestion is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels," Foxman said, according to ABC.

"Glenn Beck should know better. He has drawn similar inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust before. We wish he would stop trivializing the history of the Holocaust to score partisan political points," he added.

Bloomberg, who is Jewish and who has spearheaded a new effort to widen background checks for individuals buying guns, declined to comment on the comparison to a Nazi or to the other criticisms at the NRA convention.

Beck traveled to Israel on a solidarity mission, dubbed "Restoring Courage," in August of last year, where he addressed thousands of supporters in a highly anticipated Jerusalem event.

US Aircraft Carrier Docks in Eilat


The USS Kearsarge, an American Navy aircraft carrier, has docked on Tuesday morning in Eilat's port as part of the Navy's routine operations in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. More than 257 meters long, housing some 1,000 crewmen and can ship another 1,893 marines. The Kearsarge will remain in Israeli dock for several days.

In addition to combat jets, the ship also carries several V-22 Ospreys aircraft, which can take off and land like helicopters and fly at a cargo plane's velocity.

According to the IDF , the ship's docking was prearranged and no joint drills are planned between it and IDF forces.

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