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>JN Feb, 13, 2017, Vol. 25, No. 31

Analysts Say Trump Administration May Put Pressure on Hizbullah

By VOA News

As the Trump administration promises to take a hard line on Iran, U.S. pressure could rise against Iranian proxy Hizbullah, which has a key fighting role in backing the Syrian regime in its fight against rebels, analysts say.

In their first meeting next week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to use President Donald Trump's frustration with Iran to pursue new sanctions against Tehran and seek pressure on Hizbullah, according to analysts. The two leaders will meet at a critical time with the new U.S. administration cobbling together its Mideast strategies. They will be seeking to reboot a relationship that fractured under icy relations between Netanyahu and former President Barack Obama.

Hizbullah – known as "the Party of God" – is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European allies, and follows a Shi'ite ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel. It has expanded beyond its Lebanese borders in recent years and has been fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and Iran in Syria's civil war.

"Iran seeks to annihilate Israel, it seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the West, it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation," Netanyahu said in Britain last week. "That's why I welcome President Trump's assistance of new sanctions against Iran," he said, adding that he hopes other nations join in.

Netanyahu, whose Israeli forces have struck Hizbullah convoys in Syria, is likely to make the pitch that sidelining Hizbullah is good for the security of the volatile Mideast, analysts say. "It is obvious that not only Israelis but some Gulf rivals of Iran are going to carry their goals on the waves of Trump's anger with Tehran," said Joseph Bahout, a scholar in Carnegie's Middle East Program. "Netanyahu will clearly do his best to convince the U.S. president that … hampering Hizbullah is a big part of the security base strategy he tries to share with Trump."

Sam Bazzi, a Middle East affairs analyst and director of the Islamic Counterterrorism Institute based in Washington, D.C., said Hizbullah is worrisome on a number of levels, particularly if confrontation with Iran is looming. "I'd say in this particular situation one cannot go to the heart of the regime before paralyzing its long arms: Hizbullah, the pro-regime Iraqi Shi'ite militias, and the Houthis [in Yemen]," Bazzi said.

"Organically attached to the Lebanese Shi'ite Diaspora, Hizbullah can inflict terror attacks throughout the world, bringing chaos to the West and many other countries worldwide," Bazzi said. "The Iraqi Shi'ite militias loyal to Tehran can attack U.S. and Western troops in Iraq."

For its part, Hizbullah hopes that Trump is so busy pursuing his "America first" policy that he will leave a lighter U.S. footprint in the Middle East, perhaps even setting the stage for a withdrawal from the region. "The more the U.S. policy turns toward isolationism, the more relieved the world would be from its troubles," Nawwaf Moussawi, a member of Hizbullah in the Lebanese parliament, said last month.

Some analysts believe Hizbullah has reasons for optimism and that Trump's possible policy in the region could, by default, strengthen the terrorist group. "Trump's reluctance toward the fight in Syria will practically provide more room for Hizbullah, a major player in Syria, to grow and flourish," said U.K.-based Middle East scholar Scott Lucas, an editor at the EA Worldview research organization.

Others argue that Hizbullah doesn't have the resources to create further instability in the region. "Hizbullah, now at its weakest situation ever in terms of legitimacy and manpower due to the big losses it suffered in Syria, will unlikely create unrest during the newly formed U.S. administration as it does not want to attract Trump's attention to its existence," said Alex Vatanka, a senior analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Vatanka added that Hizbullah has lost its legitimacy among many Arab nations because of its involvement in Syria, and is transforming itself from a self-defending militant group inside Lebanon to a mercenary force for Iran. However, Hizbullah's supporters believe that the group will pursue its long-held policy of fighting the occupation of what it calls Palestine by Israel, regardless of who is in charge in Washington.

"Hizbullah does not see much difference in power transition at the White House and will pursue its mission, which is to continue fighting against occupation," said Salem Zahran, head of Media Focal Center, a pro-Hizbullah group in Beirut.

Hizbullah has claimed the group has the Kremlin's blessing. "We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now - the Russians are our allies and give us weapons," a Hizbullah commander who called himself Bakr told the Daily Beast last year.


Trump: The Palestinians Must Also Make Concessions for Peace

By Israel Hayom

In exclusive interview with Israel Hayom, President Donald Trump said he would "like to see a world of far greater peace than we have right now. Trump said he hopes both the Israelis and Palestinians "can be open minded and see that we can get something done" with respect to reigniting the stalled peace process.

In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom -- the first interview the 45th president of the United States was asked "How does it feel to be the most important man on earth?"

"Well, I don't think about it that way. I think about it as somebody who has a big job to do. We have a lot of difficulties in the world and hopefully we can help solve these difficulties. We are making a lot of headway, but there are definitely a lot of problems in the world, not just Israel and the Palestinians. There are many conflicts all over."

Q: How different will America be in four or eight years? "Hopefully it will be a much [more] peaceful world; it won't be torn the way it is right now. But I'd like to see a world of far greater peace than we have right now because right now there is a lot anger throughout the world." Q: Greater peace also the Middle East? "Yes, that is one of the places that truly are torn up. It has been devastated by war for many, many years. "

Q: On multiple occasions we spoke of your views on Israel and your determination to be Israel's friend. Can you share your general plan for improving Israeli-American relations after the past eight years?

"Well, I think we are going to have a better relationship. The deal with Iran was a disaster for Israel. Inconceivable that it was made. It was poorly negotiated and executed. Everything about that deal was something. ... You know, as a deal person, I understand all sides of deals. I understand good deals and bad deals, but this deal is not even comprehensible. Beyond comprehension. And you see the way Iran has reacted; unlike reacting as they should, which is being thankful for President [Barack] Obama for making such a deal, which was so much to their advantage. They felt emboldened even before he left office. It is too bad a deal like that was made."

Q: What is your biggest takeaway from your meeting with PM Netanyahu in September? People say you have good chemistry. Is that true? "We do. We've always had good chemistry, and he is a good man. He wants to do the right thing for Israel. He would like peace; I believe that he wants peace and wants to have it badly. I have always liked him."

Q: How soon will you decide on the issue of relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and are you expecting something in return from Israel. Does Israel need to do anything in order for such a move to take place? "Well, I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen. It should happen. After all these years. ... Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians. I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that."

Q: And the embassy? "I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I'm thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens."

Q: We heard from Washington this week that settlements are not an impediment to the peace process. I guess this is an issue you and Prime Minister Netanyahu are going to discuss? "They [settlements] don't help the process. I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left. But we are looking at that, and we are looking at some other options we'll see. But no, I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace."

Q: Will we see America condemn Israel a lot during your presidency? "No, I don't want to condemn Israel. Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don't want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot. I would like to see peace and beyond that. And I think that peace for Israel would be a good thing for the Israeli people, not just a good thing, a great thing. And I think it is time."

Q: You always speak about making good deals. Don't the Palestinians have to make concessions as well? "Yeah. They do. Absolutely. It has to be good for everybody. No deal is good if it is not good for everybody, and we are in that process, and we will see what happens. People have been in that process for many decades, and it has been going a long for a long time. So many people think it cannot be made. I have very smart people that ... say a deal can't be made. I disagree with them. I think a deal should be made, and it can be made."

Q: It has recently been reported that you want to isolate Iran and make sure that it no longer has close ties with Russia. How would you do that and what can Israel do to help? "Well, I don't know where that was reported. I don't believe I have ever said that to anybody. I just think Iran has not appreciated the unbelievably good deal that [President] Barack Obama gave them. I don't think in terms of isolation. I don't think in terms of anything right now with respect to Iran other than that they were extremely ungrateful for a deal that was made -- that should have never been made."

Q: But since it is a multilateral deal it cannot be ripped up? "I don't want to comment on that."

Q: You recently imposed new sanctions on Iran after it held a ballistic missile test, and said that nothing is off the table. Can Iran be pressured successfully? "We will see what happens with Iran. I don't want to comment on Iran. [There are] many different thoughts on Iran, both good and bad. I don't want to comment on Iran. I don't talk about what I'm planning, I'm not one to sit back and tell everybody what I'm going to do. So I'm not going talk about Iran. But again, I think they should have treated the United States with far greater respect than they have for the great deal they were able to negotiate with a group of people that didn't have a clue."

Q: But they are not the good guys in the region. They are the bad guys now. "Well, they are causing a lot of havoc in the Middle East; there is no question about that."

Q: The Pentagon is supposed to draft a new plan to eliminate Islamic State. Do you have a general sense of what this new strategy might be? "I have a feeling, yeah, but I don't talk about it to newspapers. I'm not like other administrations that say, 'This is what we are going to do and this is when we are going to do it.' Sure, we have a plan. ISIS is evil and bad and we have a plan."

Q: Concerning Israel, do you plan on visiting us? "At some point, I will visit Israel, absolutely."

Q: And Mr. [Jared] Kushner is coming? "Sure, I would think so." Q: Finally, Mr. President, do you have anything to say to the Israelis? "I have great respect for the Israelis, great respect for Israel. We'd love to see peace. We think it would be very, very good for the Israeli people, and we want a peace that would be everlasting -- not just a peace that is going to be good for three months and then the fighting starts again. So I just hope that both primary parties to the peace [process], the Palestinians and the Israelis, can be open-minded and see that we can get something done. I think it is absolutely good for both parties."

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. President. "You are doing a good job and we love Israel."


Nazi National Anthem Accidently Used in US-German Tennis Match

By YnetNews.com

A mistake by the United States Tennis Association sparked a diplomatic row with Germany on Saturday, when an archaic version of the German national anthem, one associated with the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s, was performed at the opening of an American-German match. See https://youtu.be/c_1R_gGatFk

The match, hosted by the US Tennis Association on the Hawaiian island of Maui, featured, as is custom, the signing of the national anthems of both countries. But due to a clerical error by the USTA, an extended version of Germany's national anthem was sung – one which includes verses dropped from the form used by the Federal Republic of Germany.

During Saturday's match, the soloist charged with performing Germany's anthem sang the opening lines of the original version, which reads in part: "Germany, Germany, over all others, above all else in the world." While originally written in the 19th century, the first two stanzas of the anthem have been excluded since the end of the Nazi regime in 1945.

Members of the German team say they were appalled by the mistake. "It was the worst experience that has ever happened to me - horrifying and shocking," Andrea Petkovic told Bild. "This is the year 2017," she continued, "that something like this happens in America – it can't happen. It's embarrassing and speaks of ignorance."

A spokesperson for the US Tennis Association said the use of the wrong version of the anthem was a "mistake" and that the correct version was performed later in the match. "We extend our sincerest apologies to the German Fed Cup team and all of its fans for the performance of an outdated National Anthem prior to today's Fed Cup competition. In no way did we mean any disrespect. This mistake will not occur again, and the correct anthem will be performed for the remainder of this first-round tie."


Natalie Portman Teaches You Hebrew Slang

By Israel Faxx News Services

Natalie Portman recently hosted a casual Hebrew Slang class on Vanity Fair–and it's kind of the best thing ever. Portman goes through several Hebrew slang words and tells us their meaning–I can't lie and say I'm not excited to broaden my vocabulary with some new Hebrew words. See https://youtu.be/CeBirl8WxMI

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