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Netanyahu to AIPAC conference: Iran ‘running out the clock’
( WASHINGTON, DC—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday previewed President Barack Obama’s visit to the Jewish state later this month.
“[The visit] will give me an opportunity, along with the people of Israel, to express our appreciation for what [Obama] has done for Israel,” Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference through a live satellite message.
In Iran, “diplomacy has not worked,” Netanyahu said, providing a contrast to the earlier remarks of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who stressed that there remains “time and space” for diplomatic efforts.
“Iran has ignored all these offers,” Netanyahu said. “It is running out the clock.”
“Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either,” the prime minister said, explaining that amid a struggling economy, Iranian leaders “just grit their teeth and move forward.”
Netanyahu said that to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, “we cannot allow Iran to cross that red line,” referencing his repeated request for a point which, if crossed by Iran, would prompt U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic.
“We have to stop its nuclear enrichment program before it’s too late,” Netanyahu said.
“Words alone will not stop Iran,” he added. “Sanctions alone will not stop Iran.” Sanctions must be coupled with a clear threat of a military option, according to the prime minister.
Regarding the peace process, Netanyahu said the U.S. and Israel have a “common quest” for  “a peace that will end our conflict once and for all,” but he stressed that peace must be “based in reality.”
“As Israel’s prime minister, I will never compromise on our security,” he said.
Netanyahu said that when the president visits Israel, he intends to show Obama “a different side” of the country, one that has “become a technological marvel” and is teeming with innovation.”

Biden stresses prevention of nuclear Iran, with ‘time and space’ left for diplomacy
( WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday morning told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference that the U.S. is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon—placing emphasis on the word “prevent”—but has not closed the window on diplomatic efforts.
“We have a shared strategic commitment,” Biden said of the U.S. and Israel. “Let me make clear what that commitment is. It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period.”
“Not contain. Prevent,” Biden added for emphasis. He said Obama, who was not at the AIPAC conference due to his visit to Israel later this month, “has flatly stated that.”
Nevertheless, Biden said, “Our strong preference, the world’s preference, is for a diplomatic solution.” The Obama administration has so far refused to set the “red line” requested by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would prompt U.S. military action against Iran based on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear progress.
The window for diplomacy with Iran is closing, but the U.S. believes “there is still time and space to achieve [that] outcome,” Biden said. “If God forbid the need to act [militarily against Iran] occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know, we did everything in our power, we did everything that could have reasonably be expected, to avoid a confrontation,” he said.
Biden said he and Obama “both know that Israel faces new pressures, new threats, and uncertainty.” Those threats “have changed, as the world and the region have changed over the last decade.” The “Arab Spring,” he said, forces the U.S. to “reassess” old relationships in the Middle East.
Amid those regional changes, Biden said one thing has not changed—“our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel.”

Hamas terror cell uncovered in Hebron
( The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), with support from the Israel Defense Forces, recently broke up a Hamas terror cell in Hebron that was planning attacks against Israeli targets, Israel Hayom reported.
In one plot, the cell planned to attack an IDF position in the Hebron area with explosives and gunfire.
The cell was directed by Hamas terrorist operative who was released from an Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Schalit swap deal and deported to the Gaza Strip.
The members of the cell were arrested before they could carry out any of their plans.
The arrested suspects included Manjad Musa Diab Junidi, a 23-year-old resident of Hebron, who admitted to being in touch with Basel Heimuni, a Hamas terrorist operative in Gaza who was released in the Schalit deal.
Another arrested suspect was Muhammad Hassan Rajab Abu Sahidem, a 25-year-old resident of Hebron, who was recruited to the cell by Junidi. Sahidem admitted to building a pipe bomb with other members of the cell.

Latin American priests tour Israel to deepen Jewish-Christian ties
( A delegation of young priests from several Latin American countries are in the midst of a week-long Jewish-Christian educational mission in Israel organized by the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel (CJCUC) and the Latin American Jewish Congress (LAJC). The focus of the mission is to highlight the improvements of Jewish-Christian relations since the Second Vatican Council in 1965, which changed the church’s teaching on Judaism and denounced anti-Semitism, as well as to introduce young Latino priests to Israel and the Jewish people.
Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II took remarkable steps in improving Jewish-Christian relations as well as establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
“As Pope Benedict XVI leaves the papal office today, his legacy of building bridges between Jews and Christians will continue in these young priests,” said CJCUC founder and chancellor Rabbi Shlomo Riskin said in a statement. Another important goal of the mission is to increase understanding between Catholic leaders from developing countries and Judaism. “As the center of gravity of the Catholic Church shifts to South America and Africa, it is vitally important to create new friendships between the future leaders of the Catholic Church in Latin America and the Jewish people,” David Nekrutman, the executive director of CJCUC, said in a statement.

Barak: Israel should take ‘unilateral steps’ in absence of interim peace agreement
( WASHINGTON, DC—Outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that in the absence of “a reasonable and fair interim [peace] agreement,” Israel should consider “unilateral steps” to halt the Palestinians’ “slippery slope” towards a binational state (one-state solution).
Barak, echoing much of the recent pessimistic sentiments about the peace process amid unilateral Palestinian statehood bids in consecutive years at the United Nations, said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference that “a fully fledged [peace] agreement is probably not feasible today.” Yet he maintained that a “daring peace initiative” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed.
“A two-state solution is the only viable solution,” Barak said, because that is how Israel will preserve its identity as a democratic Jewish state.
“It is not a favor for the Palestinians,” Barak said of the two-state solution. The former prime minister praised current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “courageous steps” such as an “unprecedented” freeze of construction in West Bank Jewish communities.
Barak said the belief “that the root cause for all of the problems in the Middle East is our inability to solve the conflict with the Palestinians” is “not true.” Recent developments in the region are “far beyond our control,” he said, explaining that with Israeli-Palestinian peace in place, Egypt would still ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood party, Syria would be still be engulfed in a civil war, and Iran would still be on its quest for regional domination and nuclear weapons.
Although “diplomatic efforts are unprecedented and sanctions are both unprecedented and hurting” Iran, Barak said he does not believe those strategies “will lead to a moment of truth when the ayatollahs will give up their nuclear aspirations.” He said “all options must remain on the table,” adding “We expect all those who say it to mean it.”

Report: Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah meet in Amman
( Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II last week in Amman to discuss the peace process, according to a report in Agence France-Presse.
AFP said the meeting was likely related to President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the Middle East. A senior official in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office told Israel Hayom that efforts have intensified recently to renew negotiations involving both the U.S. and Jordan. New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that Obama was not coming to the Middle East with a newly formulated peace plan, but he emphasized that Obama “plans to listen to both parties.”
Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon told Army Radio on Sunday that Israel and Jordan share mutual strategic interests.
“There is no doubt that Israel and Jordan have strategic ties based on mutual interest—among them Syria, and other far away threats, as well as the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Ethiopian wins Miss Israel, honors MLK
( A 21-year-old woman became the first Ethiopian-Israeli contestant to win the Miss Israel 2013 beauty pageant. Yityish Aynaw is a former IDF officer who had immigrated with her family to Israel 10 years ago. During the competition, she referred to U.S. civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as her hero.
King “fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I want to show that my community has many pretty qualities that aren’t always represented in the media,” she told the judges in response to a question during the competition Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Jews have been present in Ethiopia for more than 2,000 years and were persecuted for centuries there. In 1984 and 1991, the Israeli government conducted two operations, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, to bring thousands of Ethiopian Jews to settle in Israel. According to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, as of 2011, the Ethiopian community in Israel numbered more than 125,000 people.
“It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community wins the competition for the first time… There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world,” Aynaw also said.

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