Remember Me



Zigging & Zagging


As the first anniversary of Operation Protective Edge draws closer, Yedioth Ahronoth leads its Wednesday edition with the story of an IDF soldier who lost both legs in the campaign and went on to be elected head of the Eshkol Regional Council. Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom all lead with the interview that U.S. President Barack Obama gave to Channel 2, which was aired in full on Tuesday night. Israel Hayom leads with the Iranian angle. Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post highlight Obama's comments about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Haaretz focuses on Obama's assertion that the stalled peace process, along with the conditions Netanyahu has set for establishing a Palestinian state, have made it harder for the United States to continue defending Israel at the United Nations. Obama hinted that the U.S. may withhold its veto on a French initiative to transfer a decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the UN Security Council.

The Jerusalem Post headlines Obama's claim that the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution and his warning that it is unrealistic to think that a Palestinian state could come into existence in the near future. Obama added that it is 'difficult to simply accept at face value' Netanyahu’s comments about accepting a Palestinian state, and that these statements appear to look as if they are 'simply an effort to return to the previous status quo – that we talk about peace in the abstract, but it is always tomorrow.'

Turning to Iran, Obama said that he believes Netanyahu cares deeply about the security of the Israeli people. 'I care very much about the people of Israel as well, and in my mind it is very much in Israel’s interest to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and I think that I can demonstrate, not based on any hope, but on facts, evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement. A military resolution will not fix it, even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but not eliminate it.'

Israel Hayom leads with Netanyahu's response to Obama's interview. Speaking before the interview was aired in its entirety, Netanyahu said that Israel can rely only on itself and that a nuclear deal with Iran will not only pave Tehran's path to obtaining as many nuclear bombs as it wants; it will also enrich the Islamic Republic's coffer with billions of dollars.

In his response to the interview, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Wednesday morning that Netanyahu has 'humiliated' Obama. Herzog said that the tone Obama used in the interview proves that there is a serious crisis in relations between Israel and America. 'This is an important interview of a friend of Israel who is worried about the security of Israel,' Herzog told Army Radio.

In other news, Haaretz reports that Israeli intelligence officials say that the Palestinian Authority leadership does not believe negotiations with Israel will produce any results, and therefore plans to step up its anti-Israel activity in international forums. This assessment, which is shared by most of the intelligence agencies, is based on statements made by both sides since Netanyahu’s new government was formed. The agencies predict that the PA will adopt a confrontational stance and try to undermine Israel’s standing in international agencies – not only the United Nations, but also dozens of other organizations, along the lines of last week’s failed bid to get Israel suspended from FIFA, the international soccer federation. At this stage, they say, the struggle will remain largely nonviolent.

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority will dissolve itself if a peace agreement with Israel resulting in two states is not reached by the end of this year. Erekat said that a committee established by the PLO Central Council in its last meeting in March decided to place an ultimatum before Israel as a last resort. 'Israel will have to make a choice before the end of this year: either we have a contract or partnership that will lead to a two-state solution or Israel will be solely responsible from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean,' he said. 'This cannot be sustained.'

In other news, the Foreign Ministry has dismissed the motion passed by Britain's National Union of Students to join the BDS movement against Israeli companies, saying it is a 'decision without any real implications made by a body that has already expressed anti-Israel opinions in the past. Instead of expressing hatred towards Israel, British students should invest some time in history lessons and realize that the distance between verbal hatred and prejudice to heinous crimes is not that big,' the ministry said in a statement.

Finally, following on from Arab media reports on Tuesday of IAF airstrikes on two targets on the Lebanese-Syrian border, a Lebanese source associated with Hizbollah has offered an explanation for the reports, which it said were mistaken. According to the source, IAF fighter jets were indeed flying over Lebanon during the afternoon hours on Tuesday, but did not launch any strikes. While the IAF jets were in the air, one of the Syrian rebel organizations struck a Hizbollah post, creating the impression that the jets had struck the post, according to the source, as reported by Israel Radio. The claim dovetails with reports in the Lebanese Daily Star, according to which fierce fighting was taking place on the outskirts of the same Arsal region where one of the strikes was reported.



OBAMA'S INTERVIEW: Writing in Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit says that U.S. President Barack Obama's interview with Channel 2 raised more questions than it answered.

"In a fascinating and intelligent interview with Dr. Ilana Dayan, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Binyamin Netanyahu is not the only first-class campaigner on the scene. He's one too. Netanyahu knows how to pluck on the heartstrings of the average Americans. Obama, it seems, knows how to strike a chord with Israelis.

Obama is eloquent and precise. He sought to persuade us that he is concerned for Israel, that our strategic relationship with the United States is solid and that he would never do anything to undermine the security of the State of Israel. The discussion became almost philosophical when Obama touched on relations between nations and peoples: the understandable element of fear when it comes to formulating policy versus the need to leave some room for hope. He understands Israel's concern for its security – the fear about Iran's nuclear program as well as the growing strength of the Arab-Palestinian diplomatic campaign – but can't understand why Israel focuses solely on its security concerns.

From the outset, it was clear that Obama would be all sweetness and light in his conversation with Dayan, but that did not prevent him from bringing up a long list of scores he had to settle. According to the U.S. president, the deal with Iran answers all of Israel's justified concerns. If the deal is violated, he said, sanctions would automatically be imposed again. He answered the question that Netanyahu posed at the United Nations about the deal, but did not address a more important question: What will happen if there's no deal. As Dayan terrifyingly put it: The first bomb will fall on Tel Aviv.

I have a problem, however, with Obama's comments on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. According to the president, Israel is losing the fundamental moral values that defined it. It is moving away from the legacy of defense-minded leaders like David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan. His main complaint, however, was that he simply does not believe Netanyahu's stated intention to implement the two-state solution. This, I believe, is the first time in history that an American president has said that the Israeli prime minister is not only wrong, but that he doesn't believe him.

It was at this point of the interview that Dayan missed an opportunity to ask the obvious question: Why does Obama put more stock by Netanyahu's pre-election comment that there will be no Palestinian state on his watch than on his subsequent return to the path of the two-state solution once the polling stations had closed? After all, isn't it possible that he only said that the two-state solution was dead in order to win the votes of right-wingers, while his post-election comment could be a more accurate reflection of what he really believes? Of course, the opposite might be true. But why believe one version over the other?

Israelis who care will wake up this morning to the ever-increasing dilemma of whether to accept Obama's arguments or not. To put it simply: Do we believe him? It will be fascinating to read public opinion polls that will ask that question. Many people will keep their observations to themselves. For me, the interview raised more questions than it answered."



EJECT RAJOUB: Writing on the NRG website, Ze'ev Kam says that, far from being a figure for peace and coexistence, Jibril Rajoub is a warmonger, an anti-Semite and a racist.

"Writing on his Facebook page this week, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz suggested that Israel should imprison Jibril Rajoub in the make-shift prison that Israel once used to incarcerate Yasser Arafat – the Muqata’a in Ramallah. Katz also suggested that, while he's in prison, Rajoub could spend his time playing soccer with the other inmates. As chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Katz explained, Rajoub knows a thing or two about the sport.

But let's be realistic for a moment: When Rajoub decided to take aim at Israeli soccer by trying to get it kicked out of FIFA, he knowingly and willingly sacrificed the Arab teams which play in Israeli leagues – including in the Premier League. Incidentally, there are also Arab players on Israel's national team, which is a shining example of how sport can encourage coexistence. Rajoub wasn't trying to promote or advance sport in the Palestinian Authority. His sole goal was to destroy.

Like a struggling soccer team that plays an ugly game in order to survive, Rajoub's only strategy is to spoil the other team's game. There's no creativity and no attempt to score. All he (and they) want is to ruin the other side's game in any way possible. If Rajoub's campaign began and ended with unsporting behavior, we could simply shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives. The real problem with Rajoub, however, is that he is an anti-Semite and a racist. For the past few years, he has been involved exclusively in terrorist activity and glorifying terrorists.

For example: Rajoub personally sponsored a sports tournament that was dedicated to the memory of Abu Jihad – an arch-terrorist who was responsible for the murder of no fewer than 125 Israelis. On another occasion, Rajoub said that a soccer match between Israel and Palestine would be a crime against humanity. No less and no more.

This 'humanist' also said that a minute's silence in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics was racist. Never mind: everyone already knows that the perpetrators of that despicable attack were Palestinians. If honoring the memory of victims is racist, according to the head of Palestinian soccer, then it's pretty easy to guess what he thinks about the terrorists themselves.

And while we're on the subject of the Olympic Games, let's not forget that Rajoub has also set his sights on barring Israel from that, too. That is the next goal he has set for himself. Here in Israel, for some reason, people are afraid of calling Rajoub what he is: a racist and an anti-Semite. When Katz proposed incarcerating him in the Muqata’a, some Israelis were up in arms at the suggestion and defended the honor of the terrorist-loving soccer chief. As if Rajoub were some well-intentioned diplomat. As if he is the person who will bring the peace that we all long for. It's high time that we call a spade a spade: Rajoub promotes war and hatred, and he hates the Jews. Instead of allowing him to kick off soccer matches, Israel should kick him in the backside and eject him from our lives."



FIGHT THEM ON THE BEACHES: Writing in Globes, Mati Golan says that Israel needs to work harder to counter the Palestinian campaign to win over global public opinion – since, he says, public opinion shapes the policies of leaders.

"Now that the children who were elected to serve in the Knesset on March 17 have been given their toys to play with, perhaps we can move on to deal with the vital national interests of the State of Israel? Many commentators have pointed out that, during the demonstrations last week outside the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, there was a significant Palestinian presence, while Israel was notable only by its absence. You have to admit that it's a little strange that we acted as if the whole vote had nothing to do with us. How did this happen? What are the root causes?

Obviously, activity of this kind does not happen by itself. Someone needs to initiate it, to organize it, to fund and execute it. Who? I believe that's the government's job. The prime minister, perhaps? Or maybe even Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely? If she's been foisted upon the Foreign Ministry, then why not give her something to do? Why not put her in charge of Israel's response to such demonstrations? Rather than spending all of her time telling diplomats that God gave us this land, she could actually do something useful. We don't need divine intervention; we need earthly action.

The Palestinians are fighting. To paraphrase Churchill, they are fighting us on the beaches; they are fighting us on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets. When it comes to fighting the public relations and propaganda war against Israel, the Palestinians will never surrender. Our weapons, in contrast, are speeches, rhetoric, Knesset panels and ministerial postings.

The issue of boycotts against Israel should be top of the prime minister's agenda. Not before, of course, he has managed to satisfy all of the kiddies in the kindergarten; I mean, 'cabinet.' Now that he's got his cabinet in place, it's time for Netanyahu to practice what he preaches and get to work. Forget about everything else for the time being and start working to halt the tidal wave of diplomatic attacks that is being launched against us. Stop telling us how right we are. That’s irrelevant. History is full of people who were right and were defeated.

Israel must be present everywhere that the Palestinians are. We must show the world their terrorism, their rejectionism, the danger that they pose to Israelis. In order to do this, Israel must mount counter-demonstrations wherever the Palestinians demonstrate. Not only to defend Israel, but also to go on the offensive and to convince the world of our case. That can't be done from the comfort of an office in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It also can't be done by sitting down with U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisers. While Israel is wasting its time with presidents and tycoons, they – the Palestinians – are dealing with global public opinion. And, at the end of the day, it's public opinion that will shape the policies of world leaders. And that might not be to our advantage.

There are some talented and capable people who could spearhead Israel's effort to win over public opinion. Both within the Foreign Ministry and elsewhere. They need to be recruited to lead this campaign. We deserve the kind of Jewish inventiveness that was once commonplace. And we need to stop with our messianic rhetoric."



ZIGGING AND ZAGGING: Writing on News 1 website, Elyakim Haetzni accuses Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of lying to Israelis and Palestinians alike – and bemoans the fact that no one on the Israeli right is up in arms.

"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has done it again. He zigged in one direction and then zagged in the other. During the election campaign, he declared that there would be no Palestinian state. When he met with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini he said that he favors the two-state solution.

In any other country, such capricious and fickle behavior by the prime minister would spark a coalition crisis or, at the very least, a public outcry. Here, no one raised an eyebrow and we all allowed Netanyahu to justify the public perception of him as a political magician. Yitzhak Shamir once famously said that it is permissible to lie for the sake of the Land of Israel, but he only lied in one direction. He was never caught out telling lies to the people of Israel. The secret of Netanyahu's success, since he lies consistently and systematically to everybody, is that his lies cancel each other out: the Arabs don't believe him when he says that he is in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state and the Israeli right doesn’t believe him when he rejects the two-state solution. That might go some way to explaining why no one is surprised by his zigging or his zagging.

But there's a problem. Can you imagine the faces of the people he has deceived when they wake up one morning and find that the prime minister has made his decision – one way or the other? He will turn to them and ask innocently: Didn't I warn you? Yes, he did. The problem is that he also warned the other side of exactly the opposite decision.

If and when that happens, the settlers – who were preordained perhaps to be the victims of this dirty trick – will only have themselves to blame. After all, they and their supporters gave Netanyahu a 'miraculous' 30-seat haul in the election, which allowed him to feel as if he was being swept back into power on a wave of public love – despite his lack of integrity and his fundamental untrustworthiness, which he barely bothers to conceal.  And just as they turned a blind eye to Ariel Sharon's unlawful modus operandi when he advanced projects dear to their hearts, they are now telling themselves that Netanyahu is only lying to the Arabs, not to them. The right encased Sharon in a cloak that protected him from allegations of impropriety (just like the left did during the disengagement) and it will do the same for Netanyahu.

In his last meeting with Mogherini, Netanyahu proposed something that the Palestinians have been demanding all along and that he has always rejected: that the negotiations begin with talks on the borders. Suddenly, without any kind of discussion or decision by any government body, Netanyahu proposed discussing 'the borders of the settlement blocs.' The phrasing of this proposal is deliberately vague and is an insult to our intelligence. After all, this is exactly what the Arabs and the Americans proposed: a return to the 1967 borders. As a down payment to the settlers, Netanyahu added that 'this will make it clear on which parts of the West Bank Israel will be able to continue building.' He also suggested an interim agreement, in exchange for which Israel would be given the 'right' to build in the settlement blocs and the Palestinians would be allowed to build everywhere else. In practice, Netanyahu has agreed to hand over the vast majority of Area C of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority.

Even after these comments were made public, there was no public outcry. This is a major upheaval in Israel's position and is almost the same as adopting the whole of Meretz's platform. As the right celebrates its 'great victory' in the election, it remains silent when the prime minister effectively agrees to uproot 100,000 Israeli from their homes in Judea and Samaria. The Yesha Council, which is supposed to represent these people, was silent. Habayit Hayehudi, too. Even the rightist core of the Likud, which controls the ruling party, didn't say a word. The silence of Netanyahu's 61-member coalition is truly deafening."



IT'S THE OCCUPATION, STUPID: Writing in Haaretz, Ravit Hecht says that, contrary to the campaign launched by Yedioth Ahronoth, the main threat facing Israel is not the BDS movement – it's the occupation itself.

"The daily Yedioth Ahronoth has launched a campaign called 'Fighting the boycott' — the sub headline declares that the paper too 'is mobilizing to join the battle.' Yedioth was never a journal with a particular ideology, so it’s probably trying to position itself as a patriotic, right-wing paper in its war against the leading daily, the free Israel Hayom owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

The campaign's opening salvo was an article by right-wing journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, who accused rock star Roger Waters, gender theorist Judith Butler (a Jew) and physicist Stephen Hawking of harboring dark motives and anti-Semitism in their opposition to the occupation. Yemini lays out the usual right-wing argument against anti-Israel initiatives: The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, despite the way it presents itself, not only opposes the occupation but denies Israel’s very right to exist.

According to this thinking, Nazi-like propaganda methods ensnare naïve young Jews who espouse values of tikkun olam, repairing the world. In addition, the global struggle against the occupation is hypocritical and biased because only Israel is targeted, not those awful countries like Iran, Sudan or North Korea.

This last argument is particularly interesting because it’s popular on the right and implies an unconscious admission of guilt. If Israel is as pure as the driven snow, why should it be mentioned in the same breath as emblems of human rights violations? If Israel is completely blameless, why does it need special treatment or a better spot in the group of problem countries?

The answer is that most Israelis — even if they fear territorial concessions for security reasons and don’t believe that a peace deal with the Arabs is sustainable — know that Israel is committing an injustice against civilians and denying them their freedom. They know that in the frequent rounds of violence, Israel kills thousands of innocent people as well as terrorists. They know that in a certain place under Israeli rule there is one legal regime for one nation (Israeli law for settlers) and a different one for another nation (military law for Palestinians).

How does one deal with such guilt, to which Yemini is also an accomplice? 'Israel, of course, is far from perfect', the writer states before returning to the real enemy, the BDS movement.

Yemini sets BDS in his sights, but Israel faced a suspension from FIFA last week not because of that vilified organization but because of claims by the Palestinian Football Association that others supported. The affair that made the whole country hold its breath proves the opposite of what Yemini is arguing. Israel is a member of FIFA because the world recognizes its sovereignty within the 1967 borders. It risked expulsion because of its policies in territories it captured in 1967.

Stretching the conflict back to 1948, which Yemini attributes to the boycott movement, serves his goal. It removes with a magic wand Israel’s responsibility for the situation that began in 1967.

The hope that the Palestinians will quietly resign themselves to the settlements, happily content with the conditions imposed by the occupation, is unrealistic. What can we do if they impudently insist on resisting and striving for freedom, their natural right? Under those circumstances, what kind of struggle do Yemini and his right-wing readers, or any other reasonable person, prefer? Diplomatic and economic measures or exploding buses? UN votes or suicide bombers?

One can object to boycotts, including cultural or economic boycotts of the settlements. But sanctimonious wailing and the automatic posing as victims coated with the memory of the Holocaust is as mistaken an approach as the one Yemini accuses BDS of. Israel’s problem isn’t BDS or Jibril Rajoub — it’s the occupation."



IT’S TIME FOR SUNNIS TO SHINE ON ISRAEL: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Eric Mandel says that if the Arab world could come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state with a Muslim minority in its midst, then it might offer enough cover for the Palestinian Arabs to move forward.

"I recently had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for the Defense Industry Offset Association, an organization of American defense contractors doing business in the Middle East. The members were well informed and receptive to a presentation of a multifaceted Middle East that does not fit into a 140-character tweet.

I discussed 'Understanding the Complexities of the Middle East: America’s Challenge for the 21st Century.' I shared my view that American foreign policy experts still seem to be out of step with the reality of a Middle East where American compromise and outreach are perceived as weakness, and are unilateral. One needs look no further for evidence of our diplomatic naiveté than Iran’s masterful manipulation of the American negotiators.

My talk was a journey into the ever-changing Middle East, where today’s accurate analysis may become obsolete before the sun sets.

I spoke about:

1. The war between the Sunnis and Shiites, led respectively by the Saudis and Iran.

2. The security implications for America and her allies if a final deal with Iran leaves it as a nuclear threshold state.

3. The root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

4. The war for Sunni supremacy between Turkey and Qatar on one side, and the more American-oriented Saudis, Egyptians and Gulf States on the other.

I tried to disabuse them of the simplistic analysis of many 'mainstream experts' who think Israel is the primary obstacle, and that Israeli acquiescence is all that is needed for regional stability.

Middle East pundit Fareed Zakaria of CNN is a case in point: 'First, there is the disappearance of the Arab threat [to Israel]... it’s gone....Of course, there is Iran’s nuclear program, though it has significantly slowed for now... [Israel] has built a wall that reduced terrorist attacks against Israel to virtually zero... [And] with so many stars aligned in Israel’s favor... it is a golden opportunity...staring Netanyahu in the face.'

Where shall I begin? It is certainly true that some Sunni Arab nations are more preoccupied with killing Shiites rather than Jews for the time being. But the 'golden opportunity' is a two-way street; the Sunni nations must come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state living securely within the greater Arab and Muslim world.

Israel has been willing to meet with the greater Arab world to negotiate a regional agreement, although not the 'take it or leave it' Arab Peace Initiative that would leave Israel with indefensible borders, and would leave unresolved the Palestinian right of return. After years of anti-Jewish incitement, the conservative Gulf States are afraid that a public initiative for normalization of relations with Israel could threaten the stability of their regimes.

Last week, Israel Radio reported that Israeli and Gulf State diplomats met in Jordan to discuss common security interests. This is a golden opportunity for U.S. President Barack Obama to facilitate reconciliation between Israel and the Sunni Arabs, and to encourage them to emerge from the shadows and publicly meet with Israeli officials.

Zakaria ignores the fact that up until now the only thing that has united the Shiites and Sunnis is their hatred of Israel. Sunni governments need to distance themselves from Sunni non-state radical actors, and reconcile with Israel for their own long-term economic prosperity.

In Iran, while the ayatollah pragmatically has decided to pause some of the nuclear activity, this cannot blind Zakaria to the fact that Iran has hoodwinked the Obama administration into accepting its right for nuclear enrichment, accepting the buried nuclear enrichment facility of Fordow, and convincing the American negotiators to ignore the continued transgressions of the 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

When the president signs a final agreement with Iran this summer, Israel and the Gulf States will have to deal with a 'nuclear threshold' Iran that may or may not be rational. Its supreme leader wants to 'raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground' and 'annihilate' Israel. He also wants Mecca and Medina in Shiite hands. (Even President Obama last week told The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg that the supreme leader is an anti-Semite.)

Zakaria also incorrectly believes that Israel’s security fence, which he inaccurately describes as a wall, is the primary reason why Israel has sustained so few terrorist attacks from the West Bank. In fact, it is Israel’s physical presence within the West Bank and the human intelligence it gathers because it controls the disputed territory that, according to many Israeli military officials with whom I have spoken, explains the decline in terrorist activity.

Zakaria seems oblivious to the fact that Israel has tried multiple times to return the vast majority of the territory to the Palestinian Arabs at great risk to its own security. But Zakaria is as silent as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was to an Israeli offer in 2008, or to an American initiative in 2013 to restart talks.

Ironically, the last two people who want Israel to withdraw from the territories are President Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Both know that without Israel in the West Bank, Hamas will take over the West Bank, and Jordan will likely fall to a terrorist entity. That does not mean Israel cannot withdraw from some territory, but it does mean that any immediate withdrawal will depend on a strong Israeli presence – not only for the Israel’s sake, but also for the survival of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

There truly is a window of opportunity, but it is not up to Israel alone. Somehow, Zakaria and his ideological fellow travelers must abandon their belief that the tiny state of Israel is all-powerful against 400 million Muslim Arabs, whose landmass and population dwarf the minuscule Jewish state. If, however, the Sunni Arabs conclude that acceptance of a Jewish state in their midst will not crumble the edifice of the 1,400-year history of the Islamic religion, they will receive overwhelming reciprocity from Israel, while immediately advancing their economic vitality by integrating with the advanced Israeli economy.

If the Arab world could come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state with a Muslim minority in its midst, then it might offer enough cover for the Palestinian Arabs to move forward, ending incitement, and actually responding to realistic conflict resolutions. How’s this for the headline of Zakaria’s next article: Will the Arab World Miss its Golden Opportunity to Make Peace with Israel?"




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