Israeli Intelligence: Syrian Border Expected to Heat Up - Zach Pontz (Algemeiner)
A senior Israeli intelligence official told Israel's Channel 2 TV that soon the country's border with Syria will be "the hottest border in Israel."
As President Assad's regime comes to an end, Israel expects attacks from extremist groups in Syria.
The main problem is not local rebels but those that come from outside of Syria. Fighters have begun to flow into Syria from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya.
"We are talking about very dangerous people with experience fighting the U.S. Army" in Iraq or against the regime in Libya.
It is estimated that some 3-4,000 rebels are readying a fight with Israel.
Syria's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Defects - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
The former Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, is on his way to the U.S. after apparently defecting, the most senior Christian official yet to abandon the Assad regime.
One Western diplomat noted: "If the man charged with lying to the outside world can't stomach Assad anymore, it is a pretty damning indictment of the regime."
Hizbullah TV Claims Its Rockets Can Reach Eilat (Algemeiner)
Israel's Channel 2 television broadcast a video from Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV claiming that the terror group's rockets could reach as far as Eilat.
The segment, accompanied by many graphic descriptions, claimed: "Hizbullah has the following capabilities: the destruction of buildings in Tel Aviv; damage to ports and ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and capability to hit specific targets with missiles on the residents and resources of Israel."
Last week Hizbullah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah told a crowd: "Israel, which was jolted by Fajr-5 missiles [from Gaza] - how will it be able to endure thousands of missiles falling on Tel Aviv and other cities if it attacks Lebanon? Our campaign against Israel is from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat."
NYC Synagogue Bomb Plotter Pleads Guilty - Tom Hays (AP)
Ahmed Ferhani, 27, an Algerian immigrant, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he plotted to blow up New York city synagogues.
He envisioned posing as a Jew so he could infiltrate a synagogue and leave a bomb inside, prosecutors said in court documents.
Hamas Tells Fatah: Let's Fight Israel Together - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on Monday called on Fatah to join his movement in the fight against Israel and to stop wasting time and effort with the peace process.
"Our hands are extended to Fatah to join the program of [armed] resistance and the liberation of Palestine.... Let's join hands and carry the rifle together."
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- Syrian Army Weakening as Rebels Make Gains - Joby Warrick and Babak Dehghanpisheh
After nearly two years of fighting, Syria's vaunted war machine is showing serious cracks as emboldened rebels snap up more bases and airfields and force army units to retrench behind defensive lines in major cities, Western officials and military analysts say. Opposition forces have scored a series of tactical victories in the Damascus suburbs in recent days and are advancing steadily toward the city's airport.
Army commanders have been unable or unwilling to challenge rebel assaults on large military bases on the capital's outskirts. "The regime isn't intervening to defend its positions," said Jeffrey White, a former Middle East military analyst with the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency. "And when it does try to counterattack, it often fails." The rebels "are getting better, with better equipment and more of it, but it's also true that the government's troops are being worn down." (Washington Post)
- Egypt's President Returns to Cairo Palace after Mass Protest
An Egyptian official says President Mohammed Morsi has returned to his Cairo palace on Wednesday, a day after he left it through a back gate as tens of thousands of angry protesters besieged the complex demanding he rescind decrees giving him sweeping powers. About 300 opposition supporters are camped out in front of the palace's main gate. The president's Nov. 22 decrees and the adoption by his allies of a controversial draft constitution have plunged Egypt into its worst political crisis since president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.
- Palestinians' War Crimes Case Against Israel Would Face Long Road - Josef Federman and Mike Corder
Days after winning upgraded status at the UN, the Palestinians are threatening to join the international war crimes court and pursue charges against the Israelis.
But pressing a case may not be so simple and could potentially leave the Palestinians themselves vulnerable to prosecution.
For starters, it remains unclear whether the Palestinians qualify for membership in the International Criminal Court because it is open only to states.
Goran Sluiter, professor of international law at Amsterdam University, said that with their newfound status, it seems likely the Palestinians could join the ICC. But it is unclear whether the court would agree to investigate their complaints.
He said the court would look at key issues, including the gravity of the alleged crimes and whether Israel's own judicial system is capable of judging the case, before deciding whether to prosecute. If they were to launch a probe, prosecutors also would look at alleged crimes by Palestinians.
Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a law professor at Hebrew University, said Israel could try to hold the PA responsible for rocket attacks out of Gaza aimed at Israeli cities.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel would fight any attempt by the Palestinians to use the ICC as a "politicized instrument" against Israel.
"We are not worried about Israel's case because we have a good solid case and we work strictly according to international law." (AP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Has the Right to Respond to Provocative PA Moves - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Netanyahu departed for Germany on Wednesday, where he was expected to tell the Europeans that if they want to prevent Israel from responding further to the recent Palestinian victory at the UN, they should keep the PA from "further provocative actions," diplomatic officials said on Tuesday.
According to the officials, if the Palestinians continue with provocative steps, Israel reserves the right to respond.
- Jerusalem Mayor: "I Don't Know of Any City in the World Whose Regulator Is the U.S. President" - Yori Yalon and Hezi Sternlicht
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat expressed support on Monday for the government's plan to build 3,000 additional housing units in the E1 section between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim. "We need to connect the E1 area to Jerusalem without any reservations at all, even with the world pressuring us not to do so....I don't know of any city in the world whose regulator is the U.S. president."
"When the world talks about a freeze in Jerusalem, I ask, a freeze on what? On the billions we invest in east Jerusalem? Should we stop construction for Arabs, Christians or Jews? Or does someone mean that when an entrepreneur approaches me, I should, heaven forbid, ask him what religion he subscribes to so he can receive a permit to build in Jerusalem? That would be horrendous and it negates even U.S. law." (Israel Hayom)
- Israel Rejects UN Call to Probe Its Nuclear Program - Herb Keinon
Israel dismissed on Tuesday a resolution passed overwhelmingly in the UN General Assembly calling on it to open its nuclear program to inspection as a "meaningless mechanical vote." The resolution was formulated 10 years ago and is brought to the General Assembly and passed overwhelmingly year after year, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. The Assembly has lost all its credibility regarding Israel with these types of routine votes that are ensured passage by an automatic majority and which single out Israel, he said.
Israel's official policy is that it will "not be the first country to introduce weapons into the Middle East," and that it supports a nuclear-free Middle East following the attainment of peace.
- Much Ado about Little: The E-1 Controversy - Elliott Abrams
The Netanyahu government has been criticized for planning to build housing in the area known as E-1 - the space between Jerusalem and the city of Ma'ale Adumim (pop. 40,000). The Israeli security argument is simple: it is impossible to have Ma'ale Adumim connected to Jerusalem only by one road because that road can all too easily be blocked and communication between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim (and beyond to the Jordan Valley and border) cut off. This argument has persuaded all Israeli prime ministers who have faced the question, starting with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
Construction in the major blocs and in Jerusalem is hardly a surprise, and does not differ from the policy of Israel's previous government under Prime Minister Olmert. The deal reached between the Bush Administration and the government of Prime Minister Sharon in 2004 was to permit construction of additional housing units inside the major blocs. The current decision fits easily within those terms. (Council on Foreign Relations)
- Peace Talks between Israel and the Palestinians? - Wesley Pruden
President Obama knows that talk of a lasting resolution of differences
between Israel and the Palestinians is 100-proof moonshine.
The Palestinians won't settle for anything less than all Israelis dead, or shipped off to somewhere far away. The Israelis, unreasonable as they may seem in the salons of the West, are determined not to settle for anything less than survival.
The dispute is not about land. It's about Israeli survival. The Palestinians and their radical Islamic allies insist they have one goal in mind, the destruction of the lonely outpost of civilization in a region of mindless violence, where trying to keep your head has a very specific meaning.
The writer is editor emeritus of the Washington Times.
- Peace Prospects for Gaza Hinge on Egypt's Sinai - Matt Bradley
While Israel and Gaza's leaders are locked in talks to harden the temporary cease-fire, prospects for a longer peace hinge largely on Egypt, and whether its new Islamist government has the will and strength amid domestic unrest to control weapons flowing through the Sinai Desert.
Egyptian police last week seized a truckload of Grad missiles in the city of Suez that Egypt's interior ministry said was bound for Sinai, according to the official Egyptian state news agency.
But critics of Egypt's government, including officials inside Israel, say Cairo's latest efforts have largely been public-relations moves that haven't effectively cut off flows to Gaza.
Ali, a Palestinian tunnel operator, said Egyptian authorities recently filled the mouths of some tunnels, which he said tunnel operators quickly dug out.
It was Israel, he said, that landed a crippling blow - bombing what he said was about 600 of 1,000 smuggling tunnels. (Wall Street Journal)
The End of the Forty-Year Peace between Israel and Arab States - Robert Satloff (New Republic)
In the forty years since the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israel has fought no wars against an Arab state, and its history has been characterized by frequently successful diplomacy with intermittent bouts of terrorism and asymmetric war against non-state actors.
- With Hamas' strong political backing from regional states, future historians might very well view the recent Gaza conflict as the first episode of a new era of renewed inter-state competition and, potentially, inter-state conflict in the Arab-Israeli arena.
- The "old new Middle East" was a region of peace, trade, and regional cooperation. It reached its heyday in the mid-'90s, when Israelis were welcome everywhere from Rabat to Muscat.
- The "new new Middle East" is the region defined by the twin threats of Iranian hegemonic ambitions and the spread of radical Sunni extremism, where Israelis are not only unwelcome but where they are building fences along their borders to separate themselves from the fight around them.
- There is much the U.S. can do to postpone the return to inter-state Arab-Israeli conflict.
- Such a strategy begins with strengthening American-Israeli cooperation and includes such initiatives as preventing Hamas from winning a political victory over the moribund Palestinian Authority, incentivizing moderate behavior from the calculating Islamist leaders of Egypt, speeding the demise of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and preventing the collapse of a wobbly Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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