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Options for Mid East Talks: Carrying On, Interim Deal, Or a Turn to the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian Bloc

By DEBKAfile (Analysis)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, nearing 80, has proved time and again in the last two decades that he will never put pen to paper on an accord for ending the dispute with Israel.

If he really wanted an independent Palestinian state, he could at any time have followed the path to self-determination chosen by David Ben Gurion, when he declared Israeli statehood on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv. Had Abbas (known mostly as Abu Mazen) formally convened an assembly of Palestinian community and institutional leaders at the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah and proclaimed statehood, there would have been very little Israel could have done.

But that is not his way and never has been, because for him Palestinian independence is no more than an abstract slogan which must never come to earth. In 1995, Abbas and the dovish Israeli politician Yossie Bailin jointly drafted a document, which later carried their names, offering a formula for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute – except that he never signed it. He couldn't bring himself to this commitment, because it conflicted with his fundamental principles and put his political survival at risk.

Today, too, the rise of a Palestinian state would end Abbas' career as Palestinian leader. He holds sway over the six West Bank towns which passed to Palestinian Authority control without a legal mandate. The last Palestinian elections in 2006 gave his Fatah party only 48 seats compared with 76 netted by the rival Hamas.

Israel, the United States and Europe therefore respect as their legitimate Palestinian partner for peace negotiations a figure who is unelected and whose rule is buttressed by seven Palestinian security battalions, which America and Europe agreed to bankroll to the tune of $2 billion, after the cutoff of Arab aid. Another three battalions are due to be added to the force.

So Abu Mazen keeps up the masquerade of striving for Palestinian independence and staying in the talking shop for two purposes: It keeps him in power by dint of international recognition, and donations continue to roll in to feed his corrupt regime and cover the payroll of his security force.

Not much is left to trickle down to the ordinary Palestinian family. To buy a small measure of street credibility, Abbas must show the people that he is the only leader able to force Israel to release Palestinians from long prison sentences. He achieves this by making this his price for not walking away from the table.

So long as the money flows in and Palestinians are sprung from Israeli jails, no voices are raised in circles that count in Ramallah against the corrupt practices eating away at the regime.

Abbas therefore ranted and raved when Israel's cancelled the fourth batch of 26 Palestinian prisoners due to be released March 30, to punish him for sending applications to 15 UN agencies and conventions for membership to bypass the negotiations. Israel also hit back at Abbas with a threat of sanctions – some directed against his personal business interests.

US Secretary of State John Kerry's hard work as would-be peacemaker was not just thrown back in his face but drew criticism at home from his colleagues in the White House and State Department. He tried Thursday to speak to both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in what was described as a desperate bid to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

The US Secretary rebuked both the two leaders equally for engaging in "tit-for-tat" tactics, but he knew exactly which side had caused the rupture. Kerry must by now realize that Abu Mazen's history of withdrawing from any fruitful dialogue for peace made this outcome inevitable. Had he gone for interim accords, which he never considered, rather than final solutions, he might have bought a few years' lull in the dispute, although this too would have come apart over the same Palestinian dynamic.

In the past, Abu Mazen had to contend with only one effective dissenting voice. It came from his bitter rival, Mohammed Dahlan, who ended up quitting his comfortable berth on Palestinian Authority and Fatah councils in Ramallah and going into exile. There, too, he landed on his feet. Some 30 years younger that Abbas, Dahlan has been a persona non grata for Israel as former Gaza strongman and innovative terrorist.

He is problematic on at least three more counts: Seven years ago, he extracted from the US government a huge sum – estimated at $1 billion – for promising to rid the Gaza Strip of Hamas rule. He never delivered and refused to refund the money. That is one US count against him. In addition, he has thrown in his lot with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and their offensive against Obama administration Middle East policies.

Because of his unbridled criticism of Abbas and calls for his removal, Dahlan is on the run from his enemies who have sworn to destroy him.

Dahlan has managed to win the sympathy and patronage of powerful Gulf rulers. With their help, he established himself three months ago in Cairo within the Egyptian strongman Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi's inner circle of advisers on the Palestinian question. This explains why Abbas gives Cairo a wide berth. The Palestinian renegade gained this position through the influence of UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is one of El-Sisi's most generous bankers and who stands at the forefront of the Saudi-UAE life-and-death campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.

The talk of Ramallah this week was not the breakdown of talks, which surprised no one there, but interest in the way the Palestinian fate could be profitably drawn into the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian war on the Muslim Brotherhood and its offspring Hamas – away from the American ken. Abbas' rival Dahlan is shaping up as facilitator.

This trend appears to have been picked by some Israeli government and intelligence circles, judging by a comment heard from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman April 2 during an office party on Passover Eve. He remarked that the ball is now in the Palestinian court. "Irrespective of the negotiations, Israel has found an attractive political horizon in such places as the Arab oil emirates and Saudi Arabia," he said, adding: "If Abu Mazen is willing to follow us in that direction, fine. If not, we don't need him."

This comment suggested that Israel has thoughts of linking up with the emerging Saudi-Egyptian-UAR bloc and bringing the Palestinian issue on board. Whether or not these thoughts crystallize into hard policy, they hint at an alternative Israeli approach to the Palestinian question.


UK Documentary: Hitler's Wife had Jewish Ancestry

By YnetNews.com

Eva Braun, who married Adolf Hitler hours before their joint suicide in his Berlin bunker, may have had Jewish ancestry, according to ground-breaking DNA testing.

The revelation appears in a British Channel 4 documentary, "Dead Famous DNA," to broadcast April 9, in which leading scientists attempt to extract DNA from relics and analyze their genome to solve mysteries associated with them. http://youtu.be/jY_pub_yf1g

DNA analysis of hair samples from a hairbrush claimed to belong to Braun, found by an American army intelligence officer at the end of the World War II in Braun's apartment at Hitler's Alpine residence, the Berghof in Bavaria, suggests that the Nazi leader may have unknowingly married a woman of Semitic descent.

Experts found a specific sequence within the mitochondrial DNA, a small genome within the mitochondria of the cell that is passed down the maternal line from mother to daughter unchanged over the generations, belonging to haplogroup N1b1, which is associated with Ashkenazi Jews. According to traditional Jewish law, Judaism is passed down through matrilineal descent.

Hitler had ordered his private secretary Martin Bormann to investigate Braun's family to ensure that they were "Aryan" and that she had no Jewish ancestors. After being assured there were none, he pursued the relationship.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "In the 19th Century, many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism, so Eva Braun is highly unlikely to have known her ancestry and -- despite research he instigated into Braun's race -- neither would Hitler."

The results, however, are still not definitive. To prove the hair came from Eva Braun's head, experts attempted to get a DNA swab from one of Braun's two surviving female descendants, but both refused.

The BBC Channel 4 used hair found by Paul Baer, a US intelligence officer sent to the Berghof in summer of 1945. Baer took some personal belongs and sold them off. A few strands of hair eventually found their way to the show's host Mark Evans.

A BBC spokesman quoted by the Independent said: "In the nineteenth century, many Ashkenazi Jews in Germany converted to Catholicism, so Eva Braun is highly unlikely to have known her ancestry and – despite research he instigated into Braun's race – neither would Hitler."

The Independent was quick to note that the results are not definitive and only a comparison to living descendants of Braun could truly prove the claim. Sadly, her two surviving female descendants both refused to give samples.


Deal Reached as Israeli Breakthrough ALS Treatment Goes to Clinical Trial in U.S.

By TheTower.org

Last month, BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, an Israeli bio-technology startup announced two major milestones: the company received a patent from the United States Patent Office its autologous stem cell technology called Nurown and it entered into an agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital to hold a Phase II clinical trial of Nurown.

An autologous transplant is when a patients own cells are harvested and later reinjected back into the patient. In this case, stem cells are taken from a patients bone marrow and treated with Nurown technology to transform or "differentiate" them into "specialized, neuron-supporting cells."

These cells should then be able to help restore neural connections in nerve cells that have been damaged by disease. Nurown is thought to be a future cure for neurodegenerative diseases like Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Pending FDA approval, Brainstorm plans to hold Phase II clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital along with University Massachusetts Memorial hospital and the Mayo Clinic in 2014.

"We are excited to be taking the final steps towards FDA approval and the U.S. trial launch," said Chaim Lebovits, President of BrainStorm. "It is a privilege to be collaborating with Professor Merit Cudkowicz, Chair of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and leading expert in the field."

"It is encouraging that stem cell treatments are now in development for people with ALS, and we are eager to begin this trial with BrainStorm's unique approach," commented Merit Cudkowicz, M.D., Principal Investigator at MGH.

While the Nurown technology appears to be safe with no serious side effects, its efficacy has not yet been proven.

However in one dramatic case the Nurown treatment appears to have temporarily reversed the effects of ALS, in a 75 year old rabbi. Rabbi Refael Shmulevitz of Jerusalem was treated for his diagnosis of ALS and another neurological disease. The effects of the treatment were reported in the journal, Muscle and Nerve.

At one month after transplantation, the patient and his family reported significant improvement in cognition, speech, and muscle power. He was able to walk at least 20 meters without any support. The dysarthria improved to the extent he was able to clearly deliver a speech to an audience.

Eventually, the effects of the first treatment wore off and Rabbi Shmulevitz was given a second treatment, which again alleviated his symptoms. There is still no cure for ALS, however Nurown appears to show some promise at slowing the disease's progress.

There are other impressive Israel innovations in biotechnology. British Prime Minister Cameron announced a major research and development deal with the Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva to fight dementia. Also several Israeli universities have partnered with major American universities to develop and market new bio-technologies.



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