What North Korea's Rocket Launch Tells Us about Iran's Role - Tom Gjelten (NPR)
U.S. analysts say the North Koreans' main goal in launching a satellite into orbit this week is to see all three stages of their rocket work, to show that the rocket could carry its payload a long distance.
We know North Korea and Iran have worked together in missile design, says Charles Vick, a missile expert at GlobalSecurity.org, in comparing the North Korean Nodong missile with Iran's Shahab.
"In every detail, right down to the re-entry vehicles, Nodong A is the Shahab 3," he says. "The technology is being transferred in both directions, and I think that's what's going on in the nuclear technology, too."
Theodore Postol, a missile expert at MIT, says this week's North Korean rocket was actually a joint production between North Korean and Iranian engineers.
The Next Pentagon Chief Nominee's Record - Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
Former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel is reportedly the frontrunner to be the next Pentagon chief.
But a senior pro-Israel advocate in Washington said Thursday:
"The pro-Israel community will view the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel in an extremely negative light. His record is unique in its animus towards Israel."
Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC and the CEO of the Israel Project, noted:
"While in the Senate, Hagel voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, refused to call on the EU to designate Hizbullah a terrorist group, and consistently voted against sanctions on Iran for their illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons capability."
"It is a matter of fact that his record on these issues puts him well outside the mainstream Democratic and Republican consensus."
Jordan's Prince Hassan Accused of Consorting with "Zionist Enemy" - Adam Nicky (Media Line-National Post-Canada)
Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, brother of the late King Hussein, spoke at a Nov. 21 fundraiser for the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Afterwards, Jordan's National Anti-Normalization Committee condemned Prince Hassan's participation "as it represents free service to the Zionist enemy."
Prince Hassan was a key architect of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
Strained Ties between Turkey and Israel Take Toll on Trade - Aydin Albayrak (Zaman-Turkey)
In 2009, the number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey reached 311,000, but following the Mavi Marmara incident, it dropped sharply to 97,000 in the first 10 months of 2010.
The figure, which further dropped to 71,000 in 2011, stood at 73,000 for the same period in 2012.
Jews Warned Not to Wear Religious Symbols in Denmark (AFP)
Israel's ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, said Wednesday:
"We advise Israelis who come to Denmark and want to go to the synagogue to wait to don their skull caps until they enter the building and not to wear them in the street."
Visitors were also advised not to "speak Hebrew loudly" or demonstrably wear Star of David jewelry.
The Jewish Belief Center received 37 reports of anti-Jewish incidents this year, predominantly in the heavily immigrant Noerrebro neighborhood and around the Jewish synagogue in central Copenhagen.
See also Jordan Tells Israeli Tourists Not to Wear Kippas - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
Jordanian tour guides hosting Israeli tourists should advise them not to wear kippas or other clothing that will signal they are Jewish, or take part in Jewish religious rites publicly while in the country, according to a letter sent by the Jordanian Tourism Ministry.
Jerusalem TEDx - Judy Lash Balint (jns.org)
Jerusalem played host to its second TEDx conference on Dec. 10 as 500 people listened to "ideas worth spreading" in well-crafted, 18-minute talks or performances.
Dr. Amir Amedi, a brain researcher, taught the audience how to "see" with their brain, a technique he's developed to benefit the blind.
Itamar Mendes-Flohr, a Jerusalem-born lighting design artist and cinematographer, showed how to paint with light and shadow.
See also Jerusalem Get Mini-TED Conference - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
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- Hamas Subdued Despite Gaza Victory Claim - Dan Williams
Israel's offensive on Gaza has deterred Hamas from new hostilities despite its claims of victory and the front is now at its quietest in 20 years, a senior Israeli military officer said.
"Their jubilation was not from victory, it was from their relief at being able to emerge from shelters," he said. Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions were now "thoroughly daunted" by Israel and trying to shore up the calm or at least avoid breaching it.
Though Israel killed the Hamas military chief, Ahmed al-Jaabari, in a Nov. 14 air strike, the officer said several other commanders had been spared because non-combatants were nearby.
Israeli officials accused militants of sheltering in Gaza's Shifa Hospital.
In the next round, the officer said, "I won't fire on Shifa. But I won't be able to keep to sterile strikes like I did in this round. I intend to kill the brigade commanders and battalion commanders wherever they are." (Reuters)
See also Hamas Gains Allure in Gaza, but Money Is a Problem - Steven Erlanger
Hamas has been riding high of late, after its professed victory in the recent conflict with Israel. Nevertheless, its increasing demands on the impoverished population of Gaza are stirring resentments. Hamas' break with Syria has meant a sharp cut in the financing it received from Iran. In response, Hamas has raised taxes and fees considerably. Construction workers, who 20 years ago earned $65 to $80 a day in Israel, now earn around $13 a day.
Hamas needs money for the Qassam Brigades, which some experts estimate at 20,000 men. The brigade has been active in the building of secret underground fortifications. During the fighting with Israel last month, there were few Hamas fighters or leaders to be seen: they were all somewhere underground or in hiding in what Israel considers to be an intricate system of tunnels and bunkers modeled on those built with Iranian guidance by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. Hamas is also building massive and lavish mosques everywhere (with fortified basements for Hamas members to hide during airstrikes, residents say).
(New York Times)
- Hamas Holds Rally in West Bank - Jodi Rudoren
Hundreds of men and boys sporting the signature green of the militant Hamas faction marched in the old city of Nablus on Thursday, calling for renewed attacks on Israeli cities, in the first public demonstration by the Islamist party allowed in the West Bank in years. "Qassam, repeat it, Tel Aviv, destroy it," they chanted, invoking the name of the armed wing of Hamas. "Qassam, repeat it, hit Haifa this time." Hamas plans more demonstrations throughout the West Bank on Friday.
In the back, some women in white headscarves held cardboard models of the Iranian-made, long-range Fajr 5 rockets. "March, Hamas, march," the crowd chanted. "You are the cannon, we are the bullets." Adeeb Bani Fadel, 43, an English teacher, said the rally was "a message for the international community" that "Hamas is the majority for the Palestinian people here." Hamas won 13 of 15 city council seats here in 2005. (New York Times)
See also Hamas Shows Strength at West Bank Rally - Khaled Abu Toameh
Thousands of Hamas supporters in Nablus celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Islamist movement's founding on Thursday in a celebration authorized
by the Palestinian Authority. Senior PA and Fatah officials participated in the rally, while the PA's Palestine TV carried a live broadcast of the event. Amin Makboul, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, hailed the "two Palestinian victories" in the Gaza fighting with Israel and at the UN General Assembly.
- Intelligence on Syrian Troops Readying Chemical Weapons for Use Prompted Obama's Warning - Joby Warrick
Western intelligence agencies observed Syrian units making advanced preparations for the potential use of chemical weapons, including loading trucks with ready-to-use bombs and shells, prompting President Obama last week to warn Syria against using the banned munitions, according to Western and Middle Eastern officials.
Soldiers at one Syrian base were monitored mixing precursors for chemical weapons and taking other steps to ready the lethal munitions for battlefield use, which include nerve gas and other poisons.
Surveillance photos confirmed that at least one army unit began loading special military vehicles that transport bombs and artillery shells carrying chemical warheads. The moves followed specific orders to elite troops to begin preparations for the use of the weapons against advancing rebel fighters. (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Troops Will Man Patriot Batteries along Turkey's Border with Syria - Ernesto Londono
The U.S. authorized on Friday the deployment of 400 troops to man two long-range Patriot missile defense batteries along Turkey's border with Syria, a move that could put American troops near the front lines of the Arab country's escalating civil war. Germany and the Netherlands have also offered to deploy two Patriot batteries each to Turkey.
- U.S. Slaps Iran with New Sanctions over Nuclear Program
The U.S. slapped new sanctions on Iran on Thursday, targeting a handful of companies and individuals it says are providing materials and technology to Tehran's nuclear program. Among the targets is Prof. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization.
See also White House Working to Shape Iran Sanctions - Emily Cadei and Jonathan Broder
After successfully diluting the Iran sanctions provision that senators attached to the defense policy bill, the Obama administration is now seeking several additional changes to the language. The White House has proposed to extend the deadline for enforcing the new sanctions - which would blacklist Iran's energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as well as its ports - from 90 to 180 days after the bill is signed into law.
The administration is also seeking to limit the targets of some of the new sanctions restrictions to a subset of sanctioned Iranian parties who have been singled out as terrorists, weapons proliferators or human rights abusers under previous sanctions programs. (Roll Call)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Probe: Soldiers Did Not Flee Arab Rioters as Video Purported to Show - Yoav Zitun
An IDF investigation into last Friday's incident in the West Bank village of Qaddum determined that the soldiers at the scene did not flee a stone-throwing Palestinian mob but were actually chasing other rioters, who could not be seen in the video that was posted online.
- Egypt to Allow Iranian Aid Convoy into Gaza
Egypt has approved the entry of an Iranian aid convoy into Gaza in two weeks, a security official said Wednesday.
- Czech Envoy: Israel, 1938 Czechoslovakia Are "Similar" - Herb Keinon
Czech Ambassador Tomas Pojar said in an interview that, with regard to the situations of Israel today and Czechoslovakia in 1938: "There are parallels about how much guarantees you can get from outside, and how much you should rely on them." "We don't believe in political miracles and the solutions of ideologies that [posit that] something can be easily implemented and solved." He added that "we strongly believe that solutions cannot be imposed from the outside, because they do not work." (Jerusalem Post)
- Scud Missile Strikes in Syria: Implications - Andrew J. Tabler and Jeffrey White
The Assad regime's use of Scud missiles over the past several days represents a dramatic escalation in its war against the rebels. Assad's longer-range Scuds, the C and D types, can reach most of Syria from the Damascus area, where the major Scud garrisons are located.
At the same time, Scuds are not particularly effective against the types of targets the rebels represent - dispersed light-infantry forces. The use of Scuds reflects the regime's increasingly dire straits. Using long-range missiles against a widely distributed insurgency, with no critical military targets to strike, represents desperation rather than sound military strategy.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Israel Winning in Europe - Arsen Ostrovsky
After the Palestinian vote at the UN, where the outcome was never seriously in doubt, headlines started flooding on how Israel "lost Europe." The reality however, could not be further from the truth, considering Israel's recent achievements. Diplomatically, the Palestinians failed where it really mattered at the UN - in the Security Council, which knocked back the application for statehood last year.
in May 2010 the OECD unanimously voted to invite Israel to join the organization, despite intensive lobbying by the Palestinians. Even traditionally hostile countries like Norway, Spain and Ireland voted in favor. In September 2011 Israel became the first non-European member of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, while in July 2012 the EU and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen their scientific cooperation in the fields of energy and water desalination.
In October the European Parliament ratified the ACAA agreement (Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products) that recognizes Israel's industrial standards as equivalent to those in Europe, especially in healthcare. This will lead to facilitating imports of high-quality, low-cost Israeli medicines into the EU.
In 2011 the EU was Israel's largest trading partner, with annual trade amounting to 29.4 billion - an increase of 45% from 2009; and this came during the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis in Europe.
- After Abbas - Jonathan Schanzer
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is 77, a heavy smoker, and an incessant traveler. In 2010 he was admitted six times to a Jordanian hospital for unspecified health reasons. This raises the inconvenient question: Who will follow in his footsteps? Right now, the answer is Hamas. According to Palestinian Basic Law, Article 37, if the presidency of the PA becomes vacant, "the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall temporarily assume the powers and duties of the Presidency." The current speaker is Hamas' Aziz Dweik.
Of course, succession does not always proceed according to law, and the PLO could still appoint someone from its own ranks. However, a power struggle is a recipe for another ugly clash between the PLO and Hamas. Abbas refuses to name a successor. He has no vice president and no heir apparent. The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Egypt's Sisyphean Struggle for Democracy - Fouad Ajami
In all likelihood, Egypt's new draft constitution, rushed through an Islamist-dominated assembly last month and facing a national referendum this Saturday and next, will be ratified. The protesters of Tahrir Square never thought their exertions would end in the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
When the Muslim Brotherhood's bullies accuse the demonstrators against Morsi of being agents of foreign embassies, they fall back on a page from the playbook of Hosni Mubarak. Our officials never caught on to the Egyptian dictator's double-game of aiding and abetting a culture of anti-Americanism and anti-modernism (and heavy doses of anti-Semitism) as he feigned to be our man on the banks of the Nile.
The assertion of extraordinary powers by Morsi right after he had brokered a cease-fire between Israel and the warlords of Hamas was vintage Mubarak: moderation in foreign policy as an alibi for domestic repression. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
- Wanted: American Volunteer Emergency Workers for Israel - Suzanne Pollak
Three Israelis from the nonprofit EVP, Emergency Volunteers Project, visited the Washington area Dec. 5 and 6 to shore up volunteers, training facilities and money as part of its goal to have 2,000 American firefighters, rescue workers and other medical personnel trained and ready to deploy to Israel in the event of a crisis. In a country of roughly 7.5 million people, there are only 900 active firefighters. In an emergency, "if we can bring in 400 or 500 extra firefighters, it's a real help," said Gary Schiff, who is helping coordinate the American end of these efforts.
EVP officials are traveling the country, signing up volunteers who are already trained in the needed skills so they must only be trained to adapt to Israeli methods. These people must be able to deploy to Israel at a moment's notice.
So far, close to 500 Americans have been trained in Texas, Florida and New York.
EVP plans to train five types of volunteers separately: firefighters, medical personnel, bomb shelter workers, infrastructure workers who can rescue victims in collapsed buildings, and food distributors.
(Washington Jewish Week)
- Disabled IDF Veterans Race through Jerusalem - Greer Fay Cashman
Some 200 handicapped IDF veterans raced through Jerusalem on Thursday riding two- and three-wheeled bikes, wheelchairs and scooters. President Shimon Peres told them, "I think that all of you deserve a medal because you fought two wars - one, which was brief, and in which you were wounded, and now the second war against your injuries, which you will have to fight for all your lives." (Jerusalem Post)
- Pioneering Israeli Cancer Treatment Freezes Tumors - Shari Miller
Surgery may soon be a thing of the past for breast cancer patients, thanks to a new technique that destroys tumors by freezing them using a supercooled needle tip. Not requiring anesthetic, the technique can be completed in about 15 minutes.
The Israel-based company IceCure Medical, which developed the device, say it could be used on cancerous masses up to the size of a golf ball. Chief executive Hezi Himmelfarb said, "Cold has an anesthetizing effect, so the patients feel very little pain during or after the procedure." The device has already been approved for use in the U.S. Scientists believe cryoablation could also be used to treat kidney, prostate and liver cancer. (Daily Mail-UK)
No Palestinian State Has Been Created - Alan Baker (Ha'aretz)
- No Palestinian state has been created.
The UN does not have the authority to establish states. The Palestinian upgrade resolution is nothing more than another nonbinding General Assembly resolution on the Middle East.
- The Palestinians are not in a position to declare statehood.
Internationally accepted criteria for statehood include unified territory, capability of responsible governance and readiness to abide by international obligations.
With Gaza controlled by Hamas/Iran and the West Bank by Fatah, and with Gaza-based terror groups indiscriminately lobbing rockets into Israel's towns, the Palestinians have a long way to go until they fulfill these requirements.
- The term "Occupied Palestinian Territory" has no basis in fact or law.
Gaza and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) have never, in any legal document or agreement, been determined as sovereign Palestinian territory. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) required that the conflict be settled by negotiation between the parties.
- Both entertain claims regarding the areas. The Palestinians base theirs on the right to self-determination, the 1947 UN partition resolution and long-time residence. The Israelis base theirs on long-held historic, indeed indigenous, rights and a chain of international instruments attesting to their right to a national home.
- The threat to initiate charges in the ICC is legally and politically questionable.
The ICC is not a UN body obliged to follow UN recommendations. Its statute permits "states" to activate the court's jurisdiction. But after the upgrade resolution, the Palestinians are no more a state than they were beforehand.
- As an independent juridical body, the ICC functions in complete objectivity. Palestinian attempts to abuse it by politicization against Israel would prejudice its credibility and stature.
The writer, who has served as the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and as Israel's ambassador to Canada, is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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