Posted by Albert Gersh - July 14, 2014
Multiple Israeli outlets reported late Monday that the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will support an Egyptian ceasefire proposal - aimed at deescalating the conflict between Jerusalem and Hamas, after weeks of steadily increasing rocket fire by the Palestinian terror group and seven days of Israeli airstrikes designed to halt the attacks - when Israel's cabinet meets on Tuesday to vote on the agreement. The stance is in line with what is known about Israel's diplomacy in the days before and after the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. Egyptian, Palestinian, and Israeli sources have confirmed that Jerusalem conveyed multiple ceasefire proposals in the days and even hours leading up to the operation - including explicit offers on the Thursday and then the Monday before launching airstrikes - and that Hamas consistently and explicitly rejected the suggestion that it should cease launching rockets at Israeli population centers. Joel Gulhane, a writer from Daily News Egypt, revealed today that Hamas had rejected a Turkish-Egyptian proposal. Veteran Arab affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff had over the weekend published a more extensive writeup describing Hamas as having rejected a 40-hour ceasefire proposal by Egypt. Citing conversations with both Israeli and Hamas officials, Issacharoff noted that "Israel has said it is willing to accept the terms of that agreement, but Hamas has refused." He also conveyed Cairo's sense that "the Islamist organization [Hamas] will bear the responsibility for its refusal." Hamas had in the meantime set down a range of conditions that leaders of the group insisted any ceasefire would have to meet. These included demands that the Palestinian Authority must transfer money to pay for Hamas employees, that Egypt open up the Egypt-Gaza border, that Israel fully lift security-based import and export restrictions on the Gaza Strip, that Israel release Hamas operatives captured after the recent murder of three Israeli teens, and that interference with the Palestinian unity government - in general - halt. Many of the demands as stated are more or less non-starters, but Hamas insisted in response to rumors of an Egypt-mediated deal that it would continue to insist on them. Should the group back off some or all of the conditions, the move would likely be read as confirming recent evaluations by Israeli security officials assessing that Hamas was seeking a way out of the conflict after having failed to - among other things - penetrate Israeli's Iron Dome missile shield.
The Daily Beast on Monday assessed that the easing of sanctions on Tehran, as reported in a newly released study by Roubini Global Economics and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), has allowed the Iranian economy to begin to recover, “undercutting Western leverage” ahead of the July 20 deadline to reach an agreement over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program. FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz had already in May expressed concerns that eroding leverage may prevent American diplomats from securing “[a]n agreement that is verifiable, enforceable and that prevents Iran from pursuing both a uranium and a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon would be a tremendous achievement.” Secretary of State John Kerry met over the weekend with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in Vienna, a week ahead of the expiration of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), and was quoted by The New York Times as saying that “significant gaps” remain between Tehran and the P5+1 powers as the parties attempt to carve out an agreement. The Daily Beast attributed “loosening pressure on Iran’s economy” to observer skepticism that a breakthrough will come in Vienna. The Obama administration had at the onset of the JPA claimed that the overall value of the relief offered by the agreement would be modest - roughly $7 billion - and that the rest of the international sanctions regime would hold. Skeptics challenged the claims, among other things predicting that a feeding frenzy would take hold as sanctions were modestly eroded, with nations and companies scrambling to avoid getting left behind in the rush back into Iran's markets. The Daily Beast conveyed details from the Roubini/FDD study indicating that Iran’s GDP is expected to grow while the Rial gains in value. The study also found that actual economic relief for Tehran came to $11 billion for the six-month period. In addition to direct financial relief, the study detailed how an “improvement in international and domestic sentiment towards the Iranian economy” has catalyzed investors and banks to return to Iran to do business.
Clashes along the Syria-Lebanon border on Monday killed more than a dozen people, including at least seven Hezbollah fighters, less than a week after Washington leveled sanctions against a Beirut-based network of companies believed to be supplying resources to the terror group. The region was last month the site of heavy fighting that saw dozens of Hezbollah fighters killed near the Syrian resort city of Rankous. Hezbollah has been widely blamed for providing critical support for the Bashar al-Assad regime and for dragging Lebanon into that country’s war in the process. The terror organization’s willingness to endanger Lebanon’s economic and financial stability in pursuit of its global terror campaigns, often if not exclusively to promote Iranian interests, sits uneasily alongside the notion that it is an indigenous Lebanese organization promoting Lebanese interests. The Iran-backed terror group has in the past been openly ridiculed for the claim, with observers arguing instead that Hezbollah was a key force in destabilizing Lebanese institutions. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council, in what The New York Times assessed as “rare unanimity” among UNSC members, voted to provide humanitarian aid for Syrians in rebel-held areas of the country without the prior approval of Syrian officials. The resolution slammed the Assad regime for among other things ignoring previous international efforts at humanitarian access to Syria’s civilian population.
New technology developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University is being hyped to transform the way in which patients with mental illnesses are monitored and treated by clinicians. The Israeli researchers have developed a new smartphone-based system that detects changes in patients’ behavioral patterns, and then transmits them to professionals in real time. Mental illness accounts for 90 percent of all reported suicides and places the largest burden of any disease on social and economic infrastructures worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There is a great need for support services to assist clinicians in the evaluation and treatment of those suffering from mental illness. Dr. Uri Nevo, research team engineer Keren Sela, and scientists from TAU’s Faculty of Engineering and Sagol School of Neuroscience are behind the new smartphone-based system that has the potential to greatly improve the response time and efficacy of clinical psychiatrists. “The diagnosis of mental health disease is based only on behavioral patterns,” said Nevo. “In some cases, a patient is discharged from the hospital into a vacuum, with no idea how to monitor his or her new state of mind. Because most people own smartphones today, we thought, ‘Why not harness the smartphone, a reservoir of daily activities, to monitor behavioral patterns?’ The technology also affords patients much-needed independence from hospitals, clinicians — and even family members. According to Nevo, a patient using the app has full control over who has access to the behavioral patterns recorded and analyzed by it. “We take great care to protect the patient’s privacy,” said Nevo. “The content of calls and texts is completely ignored and never acquired or recorded, and any identifying parameters of the patient or of his contacts, are irreversibly masked and are obviously not used.” (via Israel21c)
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