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from The Great Debate:

Here’s why Israel loses no sleep over Islamic State

A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014 is pictured in this still frame from video

At first sight, it seems that Israel is just as preoccupied with the rise of Islamic State as anyone else. Israeli media report diligently on the extremist group’s assault on the Kurdish town of Kobani and run at least a story every few days on its atrocities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu references Islamic State frequently, as do other Israeli ministers. And the stories of two Palestinian citizens of Israel who died fighting for the group have been recently featured in the press.

Still, Israel remains the least concerned and least directly threatened country in a region increasingly rocked by Islamic State’s advance. It certainly does not see the group as an external threat. Shocking though the events in Syria and Iraq are, Israel is far beyond the range of even the most sophisticated of Islamic State’s weapons. The group’s immediate territorial interests do not extend to anywhere near Israeli borders, and its support in areas adjacent to Israel is still negligible.  What’s more, unlike many militant groups and states in the region, Islamic State has declared itself emphatically disinterested in intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, preferring instead to draw its support from Sunni revanchism and introducing a semblance of order into war-torn regions of Iraq.

Islamic State also does not yet pose an internal threat to Israel. Unlike most countries bordering Syria, Israel has not been politically or demographically unsettled by the civil war there. The diversified systems of control employed by Israel – some liberal democracy and some military rule -- have cemented differences among the country’s constituencies disgruntled with the Israeli government. The divisions have precluded the emergence of a broad uprising similar to those that constituted the Arab Spring. The relatively short, highly militarized border between Israel and Syria has prevented the influx of refugees into Israel, as well as any significant spread of the fighting.

In the absence of incentives to change policy, Israel remains determined to display an official disinterest in Iraq and a staunch neutrality toward Syria. Although the government has often expressed sympathy for victims of the Syrian civil war and offered some of them medical treatment, and has on one or two occasions hit targets in Syria, Israel has been careful to signal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it considers him a relatively reliable neighbor and would not work actively to replace him.

from MacroScope:

Davos Day Two — Rouhani, Lew and Lagarde

Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.

Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.

from The Great Debate:

Mideast’s WMD ‘red line’ gauntlet

“Red lines” are all the rage this year. Even as the swirl of Middle East headlines focus on Gaza and Egyptian politics, the region remains under two "red lines." If Iran and Syria, respectively, cross the nuclear and chemical weapons thresholds, it would generate a strong, if undefined, Israeli and American response.

Washington’s red line, however, lays bare another issue: Should the executive branch have carte blanche to commit the country to military action? Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton Monday appeared to suggest so. She declared, in public remarks in Prague, that the Syrian government’s use of its chemical arsenal would be a “red line” for Washington to act.* Or is it time for Congress to make its own evaluation before the country again turns to the gun?

from Mark Leonard:

New world, same old Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to show that nothing has changed. Israel will defend its citizens just as it did before the Arab Spring. The language of Israel’s politicians, the brutal efficiency of its bombing campaign and the asymmetrical death count all echo Israel’s campaigns in the past. But the political dynamics surrounding this assault could not be more different.

The American president – rather than spending his time in the White House Situation Room – is flying around Asia planning his “pivot” from the Middle East. Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, rather than sealing the border, sent his prime minister to Gaza for a display of solidarity. And regional leaders from Qatar to Tunisia and Turkey are putting themselves in the middle of the skirmish. But rather than responding to this changed environment with a creative diplomatic strategy, Israel’s government seems to be doubling down on tried and tested techniques.

from The Great Debate:

Mideast’s dynamic opportunity for peace

The Arab world may be in turmoil, but its leaders actually need an enduring peace—now in Gaza and long-term with Israel—because regimes across the region are vulnerable as never before.

Whether they like it or not, that’s true for newly elected Islamists. And old-order autocrats need resolution to prevent protests at home from turning against them.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Settlement Freeze Still the Hot Topic

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/MITCHELLMonths on, and the buck still stops with the settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is now in Europe to meet in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today and US peace envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday. He will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday.

According to our latest article , the settlement freeze controversy  will dominate discussions, though Netanyahu is also keen to coordinate with Britain and Germany on opposition to Iran's nuclear program.   (For more information on Netanyahu's Europe trip, check out our factbox.)

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

In case you’ve missed it…

If you happened to miss Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu's speech Sunday evening (June 14), or if you would just like to have another listen, we've uploaded it for you. The version below has simultaneous English translation.

Naturally, there was plenty of reaction from all quarters in the region. In the edit below, you can listen to comments from Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas); Judy Kramer, a resident of the Ofra settlement; Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri; and a number of residents of Gaza. Some of the soundbites are in Arabic. If you want to follow along with an English translation, click here.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Obama-Netanyahu meeting – what the public saw…

One of the most closely watched meetings for decades between an Israeli Prime Minister and a US President took place yesterday when Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu sat together at the White House.

The two men met for two hours - during which time Obama pressed the 'two state solution' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a reluctant Netanyahu, while Netanyahu underlined his belief that Iran was a more pressing concern than Palestinian statehood.

from Tales from the Trail:

The First Draft: Obama and Netanyahu

OBAMA/ABORTIONBack from South Bend, Indiana, President Obama meets today at 10:30 with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The new/old Israeli leader wants to talk about Iran's nuclear ambitions -- his government has not ruled out military action, while Obama wants to emphasize diplomacy.

from Global News Journal:

Israel goes to the polls via the internet

Its election time in Israel which, despite the weighty issues at stake, is always something of a let-down for people who like a bit of U.S. style political pageantry.

There are few, if any, stump speeches, rallies, debates. There is, however, blanket campaigning in the traditional media and of course on the internet as well. Here are a few campaign ads from the internet kicking off with Ehud Barak and his Labour Party.

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