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Sunday, Mar. 29 '15, Nisan 9, 5775


by Tova Dvorin and Ari Soffer

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said the deal currently under discussion between Iran and world powers over Tehran's nuclear program is even worse than he had feared.

"The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne (Switzerland) confirms our concerns and even worse," Netanyahu said in remarks at a meeting of his cabinet broadcast on public radio.

Netanyahu also highlighted concerns over Iran's wider expansionist ambitions in the region via Shia Islamist proxies and other terrorist groups.

"Even as meetings proceed on this dangerous agreement, Iran's proxies in Yemen are overrunning large sections of that country and are attempting to seize control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb straits which would affect the naval balance and the global oil supply.

"After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincers movement in the south as well in order to take over and conquer the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous for humanity and needs to be stopped." 

The PM's statement comes after a close aid to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defected while in Switzerland for talks - and revealed that the US negotiating team was essentially advocating on behalf of the Iranian regime's position.

"The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal," Amir Hossein Mottaghi said, shortly after defecting.

The statement also comes after senior Israeli sources admitted Israel is preparing for the high likelihood that a "bad deal" will be forged despite its fierce opposition and the reservations of many members of the so-called P5+1 negotiating with Iran.

"The agreement looks like a done deal, and it looks very bad, even though we still hope to see a surprising last-minute development," the source stated to Walla! News Sunday. "If an agreement is signed, the fight [against it] will initially go to the US Congress, but right now we are not certain that Congress could block the agreement."

Republican senators have moved to enact legislation to limit the effect of an Iranian nuclear deal, rendering the agreement void upon US President Barack Obama stepping down from office.

But even this could not be enough to prevent a deal, the official said. 

"The problem with this legislation is that for Obama, at worst, if he sees that he can not stop it - he will conduct negotiations to soften an agreement and empty it of content entirely," the official noted.

He predicted as well that any chance of preventing or changing the terms of a deal will be rendered near-impossible once a document is drawn up. 

The diplomat remained pessimistic about the terms of a final agreement as well, noting that Obama pressed ahead with an interim agreement despite many reservations and even despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) admitting that Iran is lying about its nuclear program and capabilities. 

He added that Jerusalem would push, either directly or indirectly, through international organizations or through the US, to ensure that Iran is punished for any violations it will likely make of a future agreement. 

In the meantime, the diplomat said, the defense establishment is already planning to strengthen military presence along Israel's borders. 

"You see how they operate in Syria, Iraq and now in Yemen," the source said. "It is clear that the day after an agreement [is made], their appetite will only increase."

"We have to be ready for it, and at the same time continue to maintain a viable military force ahead of what's to come," he added.

AFP contributed to this report.

by Ben Ariel

A close media aide to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is seeking political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West, the British Telegraph reports.

Amir Hossein Mottaghi, who managed public relations for Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, was said by Iranian news agencies to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA), according to the report.

He then appeared on an opposition television channel based in London to say he no longer saw any "sense" in his profession as a journalist as he could only write what he was told.

"There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations," he was quoted as having told Irane Farda television. "But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.

"My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner anymore," said Motaghi, a journalist and commentator who went on to use social media successfully to promote Rouhani to a youthful audience that overwhelmingly elected him to power.

He also made comments which will alarm many critics of the looming Iran deal, claiming that US negotiators had simply become advocates for the Iranian regime.

"The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal," he said.

According to the Telegraph, Motaghi was also subject to the bitter internal arguments within the Iranian regime. One news website claimed he had been forced in to report to the ministry of intelligence weekly, and that he had been tipped off that he might be subject to arrest had he returned to Tehran.

He is said to have been a friend of Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American reporter for the Washington Post who has been detained in Tehran, and to have campaigned privately for his release.

ISCA, which has come under fire from regime hardliners critical of Rouhani, issued a statement denying that Motaghi was in Lausanne to report for it.

"Amir Hossein Motaghi had terminated his contribution to ISCA and this news agency has not had any reporter at the nuclear talks, except for a photojournalist", it said, according to the Telegraph.

However, critics said Motaghi was "prey of the exiled counter-revolutionaries" and had gone to Lausanne with the sole purpose of seeking refugee status in Switzerland.

It should be noted that Iran is notorious for its clampdown on media outlets and journalists deemed to be too critical of the regime are nothing out of the ordinary in Iran.

The arrest of the Washington Post reporter is just another example of Iran’s media crackdown. In 2013, a dozen journalists were arrested and jailed in Iran on suspicion of cooperating with Persian-language foreign media outlets.

The arrested reporters were accused of having ties to "anti-revolutionary" media, a term which usually means cooperation with international media outlets.

A month earlier, Iranian authorities hauled in nearly a dozen journalists in a similar crackdown, accusing them of cooperation with foreign news outlets as well.

All publications in Iran must be approved by the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance to ensure they comply with the Islamic republic's strict code of morality.

Tehran also blocks access to numerous websites, including Facebook and Twitter, to stop Iranians from browsing content it considers immoral, or as undermining the regime.

Rouhani, who Iran claims is a "moderate" and more open president, promised during his campaign to allow greater freedom of expression. Opposition activists have warned, however, that not only has Rouhani failed to keep his promise, the situation in Iran now is worse than it was under his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

by Cynthia Blank

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu struggles to put together a coalition, Labor-Hatnua is still mulling over the reasons for their epic loss. 

Speaking to Walla! News, MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) avoided excuses, noting that "the citizens of Israel chose Binyamin Netanyahu to become prime minister."

"If we put aside for a moment the spins, the campaigns, the errors, the benefits - at the end of the day, there are people with desires, with an agenda, and I accept the people's decision."

Yechimovich, however, didn't fail to mention the divisions between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel society, arguing that conversations on this topic must be more honest and bold. 

Addressing allegations of elitism on the Left, the MK agreed that the party has historically and continues to have "feelings of superiority." 

"We need to talk about the things Yair Garbuz said at Rabin Square. I would stress Garbuz is not a Labor voter, but a Meretz voter, and the demonstration was not organized by the Labor party." 

"But his words fell in a way that most people thought he was saying things others in our camp really felt, and they are right," she added. 

Yechimovich, the former Labor head, who lost the chairmanship to Yitzhak Herzog in 2013, dismissed a question inquiring if she was looking to re-take her position at the top of the party. 

When asked if Herzog and Tzipi Livni would continue as co-chairs of Labor-Hatnua (or the Zionist Union) in the next election, Yechimovich stressed that such a move "should not be repeated."

She added that she would most likely continue to throw her support behind Herzog, shying away from a definitive opinion whether or not Livni could someday become chair of the Labor party.  

Finally, Yechimovich conceded she had had thoughts of a unity government between the Zionist Union and Likud on the night of elections, before official results were published. 

"But this scenario does not exist anymore because Netanyahu won a great and overwhelming victory. A unity government is off the table. Netanyahu is establishing a narrow and extreme right-wing government, and unfortunately that is the will of the voters."

by Ben Ariel, Canada

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah blasted Saudi Arabia for launching airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Speaking in a televised speech, Nasrallah said the military campaign should be directed at Israel, not Yemen, adding that if the warplanes were directed towards Israel, Hezbollah would join in.

"If the war was against Israel we would have been partners in the war but not if it’s against an Arab peoples," Nasrallah said, according to the website of the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star.

He denounced Saudi Arabia for leading a campaign against Yemen, but failing to take action against Israel over the decades-long conflict.

"The Palestinian people are still calling on you," he declared , noting that a large portion of the population among the Palestinian Arabs are Sunnis and yet their calls for assistance were not met by unified force likes of the coalition organized against the Houthis.

He dismissed arguments supporting the coalition that it was reclaiming the legitimacy of Yemen's President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, saying that these arguments should be used instead to justify action in "Palestine."

Nasrallah rejected claims that Iran was threatening to intervene and control the region, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Thursday, saying they were "the biggest lie" and demanding "evidence that Yemen is occupied by Iran" to be presented.

On Wednesday night, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies launched a military operation in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels threatening the government there. Iran has threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.

Nasrallah said that there is a problem in Saudi Arabia's mentality in that it doesn't respect the will of free peoples. They regard everyone as followers and they can't have an independent will, he added.

Saudi Arabia’s "faulty policies" are opening up the region to Iranian influence. "You are pushing the people of the region to Iran," he claimed, according to the Daily Star.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

by Dalit Halevy, Ari Yashar

Hamas deputy politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said over the weekend that Israel agreed to providing a gas pipeline to Gaza's power plant - the plant has shut down on numerous occasions given Hamas's reliance on smuggling tunnels to Sinai that Egypt recently began cracking down on.

While speaking at the Al-Shati "refugee camp," Haniyeh, who formerly was the Hamas government's prime minister, promised a prepayment for public workers in Gaza stranded several months without salaries, particularly those who were employed by Hamas after it seized power in 2007.

There has been a wage war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the two signed a reconciliation deal last April and created a unity government, which has claimed bureaucratic issues are fouling up its ability to transfer wages to Hamas employees - although the financial impact of funding a recognized terrorist group is expected to be the real incentive.

Turning his attention to the faulty electricity in the Hamas stronghold of Gaza, Haniyeh said Israel had agreed to an arrangement by which it will provide gas to the local power plant.

According to the Hamas leader there are two possible ways of implementing the suggestion that are currently under discussion.

The first would involve a direct pipeline from the gas company located in Israel opposite the Gaza coast, and the second proposal would have a pipe from Israel passing through Egypt's Sinai, and from there into Gaza.

The cost of the gas pipe is estimated at $25 million he said, adding that Qatar, one of Hamas's key backers, agreed to aid in funding the project.

"Camouflage" policy

Hamas has reportedly been in talks for a three to five year truce with Israel, demanding that Israel ease the transfer of goods to Gaza and likewise calling for a limitation in Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria.

Haniyeh also revealed over the weekend that due to last summer's war against Israel which Hamas started, the terrorist organization has started to adopt a policy of "camouflage" deception.

Explaining the new policy, he said the situation at surface level is being presented outwardly as routine, but covertly the group is ramping up efforts to produce weapons, dig terror tunnels into Israel and prepare for the next assault on the Jewish state.

As Haniyeh revealed, Hamas has been documented rebuilding its terror tunnels with cement transferred into Gaza by Israel since the last war ended.

Nevertheless, a PA official revealed earlier this month that apparently as part of the truce talks, Israel had lifted a longstanding ban on the import of dual-use Portland cement into Gaza.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, Israeli authorities allowed 1,000 tons of cement paid for by Qatar to enter Gaza - last Monday, Gaza Belt region residents revealed they were hearing digging sounds from underground, apparently from Hamas continuing to dig its tunnels meant to attack Israeli civilian centers.

by Ari Yashar

The ex-girlfriend of Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot thought to have intentionally crashed an Airbus into the French Alps killing 150 people last Tuesday, has revealed that he previously made hints he would do something that would make "everyone know my name."

Speaking to the German Bild newspaper as cited by BBC, the woman, named only as Maria W., quoted him as telling her "one day I'm going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember."

According to recordings recovered from the blackbox of Flight 4U 9525, Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit as he set a course directly into the mountains.

Maria, herself a 26-year-old flight attendant who worked with Lubitz for five months last year, said she was "very shocked" by the crash, but had a hunch as to why he might have intentionally crashed the flight.

If he did it, she said, "it is because he understood that because of his health problems, his big dream of a job at Lufthansa, as captain and as a long-haul pilot was practically impossible."

Back in 2009 he stopped his pilot training due to suffering "depressions and anxiety attacks," according to Lufthansa medical files. After 18 months of treatment he returned to training, and qualified as a pilot "with flying colors" in 2013, reports Bild.

But Maria said they broke up "because it became increasingly clear that he had a problem," recalling how he frequently had nightmares and would sometimes wake up screaming "we're going down."

When the topic of his job of flying came up, she recalled "he became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure."

Investigators found evidence that Lubitz suffered a serious "psychosomatic illness," according to the German Die Welt, adding that he had been "treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists."

A number of medicines for mental illnesses were found at his home, but there was no evidence that he had a drug or alcohol addiction, it noted.

Another health issue revealed by officials cited in the New York Times was that Lubitz had been treated for eye problems as well, a serious matter for pilots.
Following the crash, the EU's European Aviation Safety Agency has called on all airlines to adopt new safety guidelines by which two crew members must always be present in the cockpit.

by Ari Soffer

Following the right-wing's victory in Israel's general elections earlier this month, several prominent leftist commentators have reacted ferociously, sometimes even vindictively, in some cases calling on Diaspora Jews to respond by joining the ranks of those opposed to Israel's existence as a way of "correcting" its behavior.

Unsurprisingly, the radical-left J-Street has provided one of the most visible platforms for such voices. At its annual 5th annual conference, for example, Peter Beinart actually urged young American Jews to travel to Israel to take part in Palestinian demonstrations against the IDF.

But Beinart is far from a lone voice.

Another speaker at the conference, Marcia Freedman - a former MK for the now-defunct far-left Ratz party - took aim at Israel's very essence as a Jewish state, suggesting that it would be preferable if the State of Israel no longer had a Jewish majority. Instead, she insisted Israeli Jews should accept a status of "protected minority" in an Arab-majority "bi-national" state.

In her speech, which was roundly applauded by conference-goers, Freedman adopted J-Street's familiar line, ironically claiming her idea was not anti-Zionist but in fact the very embodiment of Zionism - despite the fact that it negates the most fundamental principle of Zionism: Jewish self-determination.



Her position was not challenged by the panel's moderator Daniel Levy, who is also a prominent J-Street board member, nor by her fellow panelists (Beinart, seen sitting to her right, can be seen nodding approvingly throughout). In fact, her comments were tweeted approvingly by one of J-Street's official student chapters:
The sympathetic reception for Freedman's extremist position at an official J-Street event should come as no surprise, given that Freedman is herself a member of J-Street's official Advisory Council, and the organization she founded - Brit Tzedek V'Shalom - in 2010 announced it would be "integrating" itself into J-Street.

by Eliran Aharon, Ari Yashar


Arutz Sheva paid a visit to Gabriel Sassoon, the bereaved father who tragically lost seven of his young children in a fire last Shabbat caused by a hot place malfunction at the family's home in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Sassoon, who is currently sitting the traditional shiva period of seven days of intense mourning for his children in New York, remarked on the great outpouring of support from the Jewish community seen in huge turnouts at the funeral preparations in New York and then the burial in Jerusalem.

Following the tragedy there has been a "great awakening and opening of the hearts, and I don't want this opportunity to go to waste," he said. "I see how great the people really are, and that we are really one deep inside."

"Remember to love and live with love, if everything is lived with love it's a labor of life, it's a pleasure," Sassoon urged.

Speaking about the 3,000-year-old capital of the Jewish people where he buried seven of his children, he remarked "Jerusalem is for me the center of the's the most spiritual place there is, where the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple - ed.) is going to be rebuilt in the future. ...It's the heart of the Jewish people."

"I raised my kids to be pure and holy and that's the place I wanted for my kids to be. My kids grew up there, I bought next to them spots for me and my wife and my living daughter and her future husband," Sassoon said.

Of his seven children who died, Elian (16), David (12), Rivka (11), Yehoshua (10), Moshe (8), Sara (6), and Yaakov (5), the bereaved father said "they're all one."

"Hashem took them all together because they loved each other so much they're really one, Hashem made a whole bouquet of roses because they're really one."

Sassoon noted that he hopes to collect stories about his children from those who knew them and put them together into a book in their memory.

Ahead of World War Two Sassoon's family fled from Syria to Japan, where he grew up. At the tender age of 16 he lost his mother, and later on he left to study Torah in Jerusalem, before marrying and eventually relocating to New York.

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