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Israeli Intelligence Played Role in Recent U.S. Warnings Against Iran - Dan Margalit and Yoni Hirsch (Israel Hayom)
Intelligence recently provided to the U.S. by Israel regarding developments in Iran, and threats of the use of force by the Israel Defense Forces against Tehran's nuclear program, played a central role in the uptick of comments by senior U.S. defense officials against Iran this week.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that Iran's drive for nuclear weapons would be a "red line" and that a military option against Iran "is executable."
Furthermore, the assessment in Israel is that several other U.S. allies in the Middle East have made it clear to Washington that if it does not seriously intend to stop Tehran's nuclear march, these countries would have to conduct a reassessment of their strategic positions - messages that apparently impacted on U.S. defense officials.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted, "The change in American statements on Iran is a very important development."
U.S. Seeks to Buy Up Missiles Loose in Libya - C.J. Chivers (New York Times)
The U.S. is discussing with the Libyan interim government the creation of a program to purchase shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from militia members and others who gathered them up during the war, American government officials said.
The talks are the latest step in a multinational effort to contain the risks posed by the thousands of portable antiaircraft weapons that are unaccounted for after rebel fighters overran government weapons depots during the battle against Col. Gaddafi's forces.
Western security officials worry that terrorists could use these missiles to menace civilian passenger planes.
UNESCO Cuts Funding for Palestinian Youth Magazine over Praise for Hitler (AP-Washington Post)
The UN cultural agency UNESCO said Friday itís pulling funding for the Palestinian youth magazine Zayzafouna over an "unacceptable" article suggesting admiration for Hitler.
A translation of the article was publicized by Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization.
Video: The Plight of Palestinian Christians - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
"The plight of Palestinian Christians living under Palestinian rule is a very disturbing and virtually hopeless situation. If current trends continue there won't be a significant Christian population in the West Bank and Gaza."
U.S. Sets $10M Reward for Qaeda Financier in Iran (CNN)
The U.S. is offering a $10 million reward for the capture of al-Qaeda financier Yasin al-Suri, the State Department said Thursday.
The Syrian-born al-Suri is a senior al-Qaeda operative based in Iran, suspected of moving money and terrorist recruits from across the Middle East into Iran, and then to Pakistan to aid the terrorist group's leadership.
IDF Medics Revive Palestinian Heart Attack Victim - Florit Shoihet (Israel Defense Forces)
Medical personnel of the Kfir Brigade's Shimshon Battalion received a call from the main gate of their base where they found an unconscious 50-year-old Palestinian man without a pulse, accompanied by family members.
"The patient suffered cardiac arrest due to heart problems and his pulse returned after about ten minutes of trying to revive him," said Lt. Dr. Kim Ben Tikva.
He was then transported to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
"For us, it is very clear that we need to help everybody, no matter if it is a soldier or a Jewish or Palestinian civilian," Lt. Ben Tikva said.
Israelis Lead World in Social Network Use, U.S. Study Shows - Oded Yaron (Ha'aretz)
Israel is the worldwide leader in monthly social network use, a U.S.-based research firm indicated on Thursday, with Israelis spending twice as much time chatting and posting than the global average.
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- Syrian "Bloodbath" on Eve of Arab League's Mission - Matthew Kalman
A team from the Arab League arrived in Syria Thursday amid an international outcry over a "bloodbath" that saw more than 200 people killed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime in just two days. Activists have accused government forces of a major escalation in violence ahead of arrival of foreign observers. "They are trying to buy time, one hour after another, hoping to gain the upper hand on the ground," said an activist.
See also Arab League Mission to Syria Has Nothing to Do with Saving Lives - Zvi Bar'el
The Arab League monitors in Syria are to act as a barrier that will prevent the Syrian crisis from reaching the UN. Their mission is not to prevent the killing of civilians. They are coming to observe the killing, listen to the claims of civilians and the regime, and report to the league.
They are to stay for one month, with an option to extend, but in the agreement signed with Syria that granted access to the monitors, the Assad regime severely restricts their activities. The agreement allows Assad to continue crushing the ever-growing protest, which has now spread to Syria's two biggest cities, Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus.
See also Syria Security Forces Attacked in Damascus
Syrian state TV said Friday that two vehicles packed with explosives had been detonated in Damascus, targeting the state security building and another security facility. At least 40 people were reported killed and 100 injured.
- Palestinian Authority Gives Mideast Peacemakers an Ultimatum - Maher Abukhater
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday gave the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators an ultimatum: "If nothing happens by Jan. 26, we are going back to our international campaign for recognition," said Nabil Shaath, a senior PA official.
(Los Angeles Times)
See also Palestinian Aid to Continue, with Strings - Paul Richter
Despite Congress' unhappiness with the Palestinian leadership, top appropriators have agreed to continue funding the Palestinian Authority provided that it does not press any further with its campaign to win more diplomatic recognition at the UN.
An appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year would allow a continuation of aid as long as the PA does not join any more UN organizations.
Robert Danin, a former U.S. official in the Middle East now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said Palestinian officials have been deeply concerned about the prospective loss of U.S. aid, which would amount to about $400 million. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Israel Backs Compromise on U.S. Aid to PA - Ben Smith
The Israeli government is backing a strings-attached compromise that would restore American aid to the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said in a statement: "The Israeli government would welcome the decision to lift the congressional hold on U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. We appreciate that the hold was placed to demonstrate to the Palestinians the consequences of their attempts to declare statehood unilaterally at the United Nations, without making lasting peace with Israel."
"The Israeli government's position follows a decision by the Obama administration and Congress to declare specific consequences, including the closure of the PLO office in Washington and the withholding of future funding for the Palestinian Authority, and the fact that the Palestinians have refrained from additional UN initiatives.
We view these measures as essential for returning the Palestinians to direct talks without preconditions, as endorsed by the Quartet." (Politico)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Hamas Entry into PLO Is a Move Away from Peace - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
On Thursday, Israel slammed the announced deal for Hamas to join the PLO, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev saying that if Abbas "embraces Hamas, if he walks toward Hamas, he is walking away from peace." Hamas, Regev said, is totally opposed to peace and reconciliation, believes that the Jewish state should be obliterated, and that terrorism against civilians is justified. "Hamas is not a political organization that uses terrorism, Hamas is to its very core a genocidal terrorist organization," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hamas, Islamic Jihad to Join PLO - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. Earmarks $235 Million for Israel's Anti-Missile Defense Systems - Yitzhak Benhorin
The U.S. has announced the allocation of $235 million for the development of Israel's David's Sling system, designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, and the Arrow 2 and 3 systems against long-range ballistic missiles.
- Israel Nixes Defense Contract with Turkey - Gili Cohen
A defense contract with Turkey for aerial surveillance systems worth an estimated $140 million has been canceled by the Israel Defense Ministry at the last minute, out of concern that the equipment would fall into enemy hands, particularly Iran. The Defense Ministry said, "We do not allow such advanced technology to fall into other hands." Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a leaked speech last year that Ankara's newly appointed intelligence chief was a "friend of Iran" who might betray Israel's secrets. (Ha'aretz)
- Welcome to Cairostan - Guy Bechor
L'Institut d'Egypte, the famous scientific institute in the center of Cairo established by Napoleon, housed some 200,000 original and rare books, exhibits, maps, archeological findings and studies from Egypt and the entire Middle East, based on the work of generations of Western researchers.
Last Saturday, violent groups of Islamic Salafi radicals burned the institute. Most of the artifacts were lost forever. Torching it was a symbolic, intentional act. Anything that dates back to the Pharaohs, that is ancient, or that is Western is destined to be destroyed.
All of this is happening while the confused West is lauding the new democracy established in Egypt, without understanding that this democracy is erasing the historic Egypt that was intimately connected to the West. (Ynet News)
- Fortified ER Installed in Haifa Hospital - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
A new emergency medical department - fortified to protect patients, staffers and visitors from rockets and missiles and even biological weapons - was dedicated on Wednesday at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah missiles struck a few meters from the hospital.
- Get Tougher on Assad - Editorial
Bashar al-Assad of Syria is still standing, still killing his people. The UN says more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the brutal government crackdown in nine months of protests. Assad has left no doubt that he is willing to destroy his country to maintain his hold on power, which would be a disaster for the region.
(New York Times)
See also 400 Children among 6,200 Killed in Syria
The British-based Avaaz human rights group said Thursday it had collected evidence of more than 6,237 deaths of Syrian civilians and security forces, 617 of them under torture. At least 400 of the dead were children, it added. "No one can now turn a blind eye to the horror-show in Syria....One in every 300 Syrians has either been killed or imprisoned," said Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel. Security forces have detained at least 69,000 people since the uprising began in March, Avaaz said. Around 32,000 of them have since been released.
- Do Palestinians Really Support a Two-State Solution? - Clifford D. May
In the wake of the Second World War, when the United Nations recommended partitioning Palestine into two states, it did not use the term "Palestinian" to refer to Arab-speaking residents.
The Jews of Palestine were, at that time, more commonly referred to as Palestinians. Their newspaper was the Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post), their contributions to the performing arts included the Palestine Orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic), and their American-based charitable organization was the United Palestine Appeal.
From 1948 until 1967, Gaza and the West Bank were under Egyptian and Jordanian control respectively. No serious demands for a Palestinian state were heard. Only after Israel took possession of those territories in a defensive war against Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab states did Palestinian nationhood become the central issue in what had been, until then, the Arab-Israeli conflict.
A two-state solution was offered to the Palestinians in 1948 and at Camp David in 2000. In these and other instances, the Palestinians said no. What does that imply? Perhaps that Palestinians - or at least those who lead them - are themselves insufficiently nationalistic. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- A Useful Myth the U.S. Must Support - Lee Smith
The Palestinians are one of many peoples whose nationhood is "invented." In the Middle East alone, invented nations include Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, and even Turkey. Like the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza, these, too, were all once part of the Ottoman Empire. None existed before World War I, after which these jerry-built states united various, and often competing, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal identities.
The problem is that current Palestinian nationalism is not strong enough. If it were, Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas might have been more inclined to accept the peace deals offered by Israeli prime ministers and American presidents. The "Arab people," like the "Muslim world," is an invention - and neither of them should hold much appeal for U.S. policy-makers. Americans should take the lead promoting particular identities, even if some of them are formed more recently than others, like that of the Palestinians. The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Goodbye Iraq. Hello Iran - Dore Gold
The final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq raises the question of Baghdad's future role along Israel's eastern front. Historically, Iraq was a confrontation state. With remarkable consistency, Iraq, under various governments, dispatched one-third of its ground order-of-battle against Israel by moving its forces across Jordan in 1948 and again in 1967, while joining the battles in the Golan Heights in 1973. In 1991, Saddam Hussein launched 39 missiles against Israel as well. How does Israel have to take Iraq into account, now that the U.S. has pulled out?
With the rise of Shiite parties in Iraq after 2003, Iran has had many opportunities for influencing Iraq's political orientation. There are roughly eight Shiite groups in Iraq with ties to Iran, most of which received Iranian funding, including the al-Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who lived in Iran from 1982 through 1990. In short, Iran has strong strategic, economic, and religious interests that it will pursue in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal.
This will result in increasing Iranian pressure on Jordan. The U.S. and its allies must reinforce Jordan's ability to contend with the new challenges it will face from the east, as Iraq enters increasingly into the Iranian orbit. The writer, a former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- Iraqi Kurdistan Is Booming - Larry Diamond
In the foothills of Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan, the new campus of American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) is rising rapidly - a gleaming constellation of glass, steel, and stone over 400 acres. Seeing all the construction cranes in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, the bustling markets and the passionate youth, one gets the sense that Iraqi Kurdistan is living through a moment of economic and political opportunity unprecedented in the modern history of the long-suffering Kurdish people (who, with some 25 to 30 million Kurds spread across four Middle Eastern states, are widely considered to be the largest stateless people in the world).
Kurdistan is booming, with an estimated economic growth rate for next year predicted to be 12%. Investment is pouring in from a vast array of Turkish companies, American oil companies like Exxon, and from construction, hotel, and retail companies throughout the Arab world. If the claims of the Kurdistan Regional Government are correct - that it possesses 45 billion barrels of oil reserves - it would rank sixth in the world in oil wealth.
Kurdistan is doing so much better than the rest of Iraq that it's perfectly logical for its citizens to wonder why they can't simply head out on their own as an independent nation - as they have long aspired to. 95% or more of Iraqi Kurds would vote for independence tomorrow if it were possible. But it's not possible. A declaration of complete independence by Iraq's Kurds would be met with a campaign of military pressure, if not outright attack, and economic strangulation from every one of Kurdistan's neighbors. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. (New Republic)
- The NGOs that Stole Christmas
During the 2011 Christmas season, NGOs such as Sabeel, War on Want (UK), Amos Trust, and Adalah-NY once again are exploiting the holiday to advance immoral anti-Israel campaigns and, in some cases, crude anti-Semitism. As in previous years, these "charities" use offensive, inflammatory rhetoric in Christmas carols; holiday message; and cards, nativity scenes, and other products. For instance, Kairos Palestine, Adalah-NY, and Code Pink repeat the incendiary accusation of "ethnic cleansing" in their campaigns.
"Manipulating religious symbols and images in this manner is deeply offensive, and clearly does not foster an environment of coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians. These NGOs are pursuing hate-filled agendas," says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. "By employing these tactics, and grossly misrepresenting a complicated conflict, these NGOs are making peace more difficult to achieve."
- The "Iranian Schindler" Who Saved Jews from the Nazis - Brian Wheeler
Thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants owe their lives to an Iranian Muslim diplomat in wartime Paris. In The Lion's Shadow tells how Abdol-Hossein Sardari risked everything to help Iranian Jews living in and around Paris escape the Nazis. Stripped of his diplomatic immunity and status, Sardari remained in France and carried on helping the Iranian Jews, at considerable risk to his own safety, using money from his inheritance to keep his office going. He died a lonely death in London in 1981, after losing his ambassador's pension and Tehran properties in the Iranian revolution. (BBC News)
Syrian Regime Living on Borrowed Time - Eyal Zisser (Israel Hayom)
The Arab League's protocol of understanding with the Syrian regime, according to which the government will withdraw its forces from cities and allow hundreds of Arab and international observers into the country to monitor the situation, is not worth the paper it was written on.
- The Syrian regime has no intention of surrendering, moving ahead with reforms, or ending its bloody systematic suppression of the protests until it is satisfied with the results of its crackdown.
- Assad is trying to buy time by acquiescing to Arab League demands, on condition that the League not turn to the Security Council. But Assad's maneuver will only afford him a few extra days.
- The Syrian regime is bleeding and its enemies are getting stronger each day. Assad may survive a little longer, but as soon as Syria reaches a turning point - the disintegration of the army, with mass defections of its commanders, or, alternatively, mass protests in the larger cities - the collapse of the regime will be immediate.
The writer is Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and former Head of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History and of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, both at Tel Aviv University.
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