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Terror: The UK's New Christmas Export - Douglas Murray (Wall Street Journal)
It's that time of the year again: Somewhere in the world a Muslim radicalized in Britain will try to blow up innocent men, women and children in a suicide mission.
That appears to have been the case of Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly. Authorities believe the Iraqi-born Swede gained his extremist views while at university in Luton, England, before he headed to Stockholm and detonated the bombs that killed himself and injured two Christmas shoppers last Saturday.
On Dec. 22, 2001, a British man named Richard Reid tried to bring down a commercial flight from Paris to Miami with bombs placed in his shoes.
Last year, Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, formerly of University College London, tried to blow up a plane over Detroit with an explosive device concealed in his underpants.
It's a story that is becoming familiar: Ordinary young man goes to Britain, most likely to study, and comes out an Islamic extremist.
Raid on Islamic Groups in Germany - Alan Cowell and Michael Slackman (New York Times)
The German Interior Ministry ordered simultaneous raids in the three states of Bremen, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday against what it called Salafist networks suspected of seeking the imposition of an Islamic state. The raids were directed at two groups: Invitation to Paradise and the Islamic Culture Center of Bremen.
A ministry statement said: "For a well-fortified democracy, it is necessary and demanded, without waiting for the jihad to occur in the form of armed struggle, to take action against anti-constitutional organizations."
Germany has become increasingly vigilant in recent months about potential threats amid deepening concerns that a small number of German citizens may be under the influence of terrorist groups determined to stage new attacks, either in Germany or elsewhere in Europe.
Jordan Soccer Brawl Highlights Tensions with Palestinians - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
A skirmish broke out at a soccer match played Friday between the Jordanian league's Al-Faisaly and Al-Wihdat, in which 250 fans and policemen were injured after the wire fence that separates the spectators from the field collapsed.
This was a political battle pitting the Al-Wihdat fans, mostly of Palestinian descent, against the Al-Faisaly fans, mostly of Jordanian origin.
Al-Faisaly, which gets its name from the Hashemite King Faisal, is controlled by the important Adwan tribe, while the Al-Wihdat team, named after the largest Palestinian refugee camp, is controlled by businessman Tareq Khoury, who was elected to the Jordanian parliament in 2007.
Winter Storm Uncovers Roman-Era Statue in Israel (AFP)
A massive storm that caused the collapse of a cliff in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon revealed a rare Roman-era marble statue, Yoli Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Tuesday.
The white marble statue of a woman weighs about 200 kg. and stands 1.2 meters tall. The statue was missing its head and arms, but had "delicately carved sandals."
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- Israel Still Seeking 20 Additional F-35 Fighter Planes - Gopal Ratnam and Viola Gienger
Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said Tuesday his country is still seeking 20 additional U.S.-built F-35 fighter jets in addition to the 20 Israel ordered in October. "It was clear from the beginning that the 20 we were purchasing would not be enough and we'd require more" to help "Israel maintain its qualitative military edge" in the region.
"The 90-day [settlement construction freeze] extension discussion is off the table, but the 20 extra jets are very much on the table," Oren said. "It's not attached to the 90-day freeze."
Discussion on providing Israel with an additional 20 F-35 jets began around mid-year. "It wasn't a bribe, and was not intended to be a bribe, but part of ongoing discussions."
Recent U.S. sales of weapons to the Middle East have eroded Israel's military edge, Oren said.
In October, the Obama administration told Congress of plans to sell Saudi Arabia arms valued at $60 billion, the largest weapons sale in U.S. history.
See also Video: Interview with Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. (Bloomberg-Washington Post)
- Israel Outlines Easing of Economic Measures on Palestinians - Izzy Lemberg
Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, cited major progress Tuesday in the Israeli government's program to ease the economic blockade of Gaza, saying the flow of goods has increased many fold. At a news conference he detailed how presently 180 to 200 double container trucks are entering Gaza daily compared with 80 to 90 such trucks before the June decision to ease the blockade. The increase in materials entering Gaza supports 78 projects by the international community in education, water and sewage works, agriculture, housing, health and electricity.
He also sounded a note of concern regarding the recent upswing of rockets and mortars fired into Israel by Palestinian militants from inside Gaza.
He said this put the lives of those handling the transfer of material into Gaza in danger.
- Hamas Celebrates Anniversary with Mass Rally - Ibrahim Barzak
Huge crowds of flag-waving Hamas supporters clogged the streets of Gaza City Tuesday as tens of thousands turned out to mark the 23rd anniversary of the group's founding. The turnout appeared to be at least on par with previous years for an event billed by Gaza's rulers as a referendum on their popularity. Hamas claimed it was a record crowd. But support for Hamas is difficult to gauge because Gazans fear repercussions if they speak freely. Hamas control remains unchallenged, but some analysts detect growing impatience with Gaza's isolation and Hamas' moves to impose strict Islamic mores and stifle dissent. (AP-Washington Post)
See also Hamas' Intransigent Denial of Israel's Right to Exist is Real Barrier to Peace - Editorial
Those gathered erupted wildly at news that Hamas would continue meeting Israeli overtures with violence and civil incitement. There in a nutshell is why peace talks fail: because the Palestinian crazies want them to fail.
(New York Daily News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- "Include Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands in Talks" - Herb Keinon
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is leading a push to include Jewish refugees in discussions with the U.S. about the refugee issue, saying, "It is vitally important to return this issue to the international agenda. It is a matter of justice, closure and righting a wrong." Ayalon, whose father came to Israel after being forced out of Algeria, said this issue has "a practical as well as a moral aspect. The demands from the two sides are asymmetrical, the Palestinians talk of rights and justice [for Palestinian refugees], yet the rights and justice of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands have been ignored and suppressed for too long."
In an article Ayalon wrote in September entitled "I Am a Refugee," he said that while 750,000 Arabs fled or left Mandatory Palestine, there were 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
- Study: Living Conditions of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon Worse than Believed - Simona Sikimic
The EU-funded "Socio-Economic Survey of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon," released Tuesday, paints a bleak picture for the 260,000-280,000 Palestinian refugees the report found to be living in the country.
This is a significantly smaller figure than the 425,000 UN-registered refugees, many of whom are thought to have emigrated in search of work.
The survey, conducted by researchers at the American University Beirut in coordination with UNRWA, found jobless rates among Palestinians to be 56%. Two-thirds of those employed were engaged in agriculture and construction. Due to low wages in these industries, even those with work find it difficult to lift themselves out of poverty.
A large amount of blame is being placed on the perceived lack of opportunities, limited by state restrictions requiring Palestinians to obtain work permits and which, in spite of recent relaxations, still exclude Palestinians from certain professions, such as medicine. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
- EU Holds Line Against Palestinian Unilateralism - Robin Shepherd
Monday's joint statement on the Middle East peace process from the 27 EU foreign ministers rejects the ever-growing calls from the Palestinian side to support a unilateral declaration of independence on the 1967 lines and then seek recognition through the UN.
Calls "for all parties to refrain from provocative unilateral actions" and affirmations of the EU's "readiness to contribute to a negotiated solution" clearly show that at this stage at least the EU is not yet ready to break with the U.S. on such a sensitive issue in international diplomacy.
The Palestinians are going nowhere with a unilateral declaration without European support. So the fact that it is still being withheld shows that there is everything to fight for and that there is nothing inevitable about the Palestinians ultimately succeeding in their aims.
That said, the EU statement was just the same old dreary white-washing of Palestinian rejectionism that we have become used to over decades, and they need to be called on it. To wit:
The word "Hamas" does not appear once in the statement.
The word "terrorism" does not appear once in the statement.
While referring to the need for a "comprehensive" peace in the Middle East, the word "Iran" does not appear once in the statement. References to Palestinian Authority incitement are also entirely absent.
The writer is Director of International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London.
- Israel Is a Victim of Turkey's Transformation - Michael Herzog
Turkey today is not the same Turkey we once knew. The country has experienced a major internal change, reflected in its foreign policy: From being a state loyal to NATO and a close friend of Israel's, Turkey has transformed into a country that follows an independent policy line - to the point of defying Western interests, flirting with radical forces and displaying hostility toward Israel.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has developed a policy doctrine motivated by economic aspirations and a political desire to make Turkey a dominant force in its historic region of influence (a kind of neo-Ottoman doctrine).
This orientation provided the background by which Turkey took such steps as moving closer to Syria and Iran, voting in the UN Security Council against slapping Iran with sanctions, and opposing charges against the president of Sudan for murders in Darfur.
Israel has been a natural victim of this Turkish transformation.
Turkey now predicates its participation in NATO's missile defense programs upon Israel's not receiving relevant information. IDF Brig.-Gen. Michael Herzog (res.) is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
See also The New Indispensable Nation - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Zaman-Turkey)
See also The Question of an Israeli Apology to Turkey for the Flotilla Episode - Nava Lowenheim
An apology entails responsibility. The ramifications far exceed the flotilla affair and extend to the meaning of an apology and compensation for previous Israeli military operations for which no compensation has been paid as well as for future operations. Should Israel apologize and compensate Turkey, the inevitable question will be: why did Israel not do so in similar cases?
Israel surely questions whether Turkey’s intention is reconciliation or continuation of aggression against Israel. Turkey will surely want a greater admission of responsibility than Israel can or is willing to propose. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Nothing Left to Talk About - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (New York Times)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might not have been wholeheartedly committed to a peace deal with the Palestinians, but upon taking office, several factors tugged him in that direction.
He imagined that with creative ideas he might sway Mahmoud Abbas to move in directions the Palestinian leader had not foreseen. Plus, history beckoned, as Netanyahu caught a glimpse of himself as the man who finally would bring recognition and security to Israel.
- Getting together with Abbas has had the perverse effect of drawing the two men further apart. Netanyahu now senses that novel ideas will have little purchase on a man with secure convictions, and that substantive gaps between the two sides are far larger than he had anticipated or hoped.
- Two years ago, Abbas also harbored a faith of sorts. Abbas faced a heroic task for which he needed help from all. He got it from virtually none. Belief in the U.S. soon started to fade, a victim of Washington's serial tactical misjudgments and inability to live up to its promises.
- Abbas felt betrayed, too, by Arab regimes that had pledged their support only to desert him at the first opportunity. On the domestic front, there is no political weight or momentum behind the negotiations. Instead, there is at best apathy, at worst outright skepticism.
- Netanyahu's and Abbas' disillusionment is not merely a crisis. Short of an unexpected and seismic shift, it will represent, in more ways than one, the end of a road.
Hussein Agha is a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford. Robert Malley is Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group.
See also The Peace Process Is Finished - Martin Peretz (New Republic)
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