Report: Israeli Arab Terrorists Will Not Be Freed in Fourth Prisoner Release (Times of Israel)
Israel Channel 2 TV reported Monday that Prime Minister Netanyahu had sent a message to Secretary of State Kerry in the last few days making crystal clear that Israel will not free any Israeli Arab prisoners in the fourth and final phase of the prisoner releases, set for the coming months.
According to a senior Israeli government source, Netanyahu had agreed with Kerry, when they were finalizing terms for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the summer, that Israel would not include any Israeli Arab convicts among the Palestinian prisoners to be freed.
Yet when Abbas demanded, in his own separate meetings with Kerry, that Israeli Arab terrorists be among those set free, "Kerry did not correct him," the report said.
The prime minister has instructed the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Prison Service to draw up a list of 26 names for the fourth and final scheduled batch of prisoner releases that does not include any Israeli Arabs.
Israel has historically been disinclined to give the Palestinian leadership any say in the fate of Israeli Arab citizens, regarding such citizens as being solely an Israeli responsibility.
Senior Al-Qaeda Operative Responsible for Rocket Attacks on Israel Arrested in Lebanon - Yasser Okbi (Jerusalem Post)
Lebanese Army intelligence units captured Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, the leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a terror organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, this week in Beirut.
The Lebanese news station LBC reported Tuesday that al-Majid, who is wanted in both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, spent the last several years in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility four months ago for rocket attacks on northern Israel.
Report: Hamas Testing New Rockets that Can Reach Tel Aviv (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas tested new rockets that can reach Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, Israel Channel 2 TV reported.
Residents of Israeli towns near the Gaza border reported hearing explosions from the rockets that were fired into the sea.
See also Palestinians Fire on IDF Patrol on Gaza Border (Times of Israel)
An IDF patrol operating along the Gaza border near Kissufim came under fire Tuesday night, Israel Channel 10 TV reported.
UN Seeks Access to Palestinians in Syria after 15 Die of Hunger (Reuters)
The UN appealed on Monday for the Syrian army and rebel fighters to allow urgent aid to reach the Yarmouk district of southern Damascus where 15 Palestinians have died of malnutrition in recent months.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said five Palestinians died in Yarmouk over the weekend.
13 Ways We Were Inspired and Amazed by Israel in 2013 (Israeli Consulate-New York-BuzzFeed)
7 People Who Stood with Israel in 2013 (Times of Israel)
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- U.S. Works on Outline for Israel-Palestinian Peace Deal - Anne Gearan and William Booth
Secretary of State John Kerry will test U.S. proposals for solutions to disagreements between Israel and the Palestinians during meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, set to begin Thursday when he returns to the region, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
The framework agreement at issue now would commit the two sides to the parameters of a final deal. "The framework is a basis from which one could negotiate a final peace treaty because the outline or the guidelines of what the final deal would look like would be agreed upon," the official said.
The official added that Kerry does not expect any "breakthroughs" this week, but does want the two sides to agree to the framework terms fairly soon. (Washington Post)
See also Kerry to Press for "Framework" Accord to Keep Mideast Peace Effort Moving - Michael R. Gordon and Jodi Rudoren (New York Times)
- Movement on Deal to Implement Iran Nuclear Accord
Iran and Western negotiators on Tuesday reported they were nearing an understanding on the details of implementing the interim nuclear accord reached in November. The accord limits Iran's uranium enrichment program in return for an easing of international sanctions on Tehran for six months while a permanent deal is negotiated. Iran and Western countries have held several rounds of talks in Geneva to work out details on carrying out the agreement, including on Monday. A U.S. State Department official said, "The two sides expect to finalize the implementation plan soon." (AP-Washington Post)
- Hopes Fade for Iran's Jailed Reformists
Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, opposition presidential candidates who in 2009 drew hundreds of thousands to the streets in protest against President Ahmadinejad's re-election, have been confined under house arrest for almost three years.
On December 30, high-ranking Iranian officials insisted that Karroubi and Mousavi remain under lock and key.
Muhammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the powerful Basij militia, said, "Sedition leaders...should be punished and should be a lesson for everyone."
Prosecutor-General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said the two had been spared harsher punishment and merely placed under house arrest because of the "kindness" of the system.
Working to release political prisoners, including the two leaders under house arrest, was one of President Hassan Rouhani's key campaign promises. (Economist-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel's Security Services Reject U.S. Proposal on Jordan Valley - Amir Rappaport, Eli Bardenstein and Yair Krouse
Israel's security services totally reject the American proposal for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley, officials in Jerusalem told the U.S. prior to Secretary of State John Kerry's visit this week. The American proposal presented to Israel was based on a limited Israeli presence at the border crossings along the Jordan River for a limited number of years, together with the massive use of technological means such as satellites and drones that would replace the army's presence on the ground.
The position of the security services, as agreed upon recently by the Defense Minister, is that no replacement for the IDF will protect Israel's security interests, and that even the most advanced technological means do not offer a serious alternative.
In any case, the Palestinians also strongly oppose the American proposal because they do not accept any Israeli presence at the border crossings, even for a limited time. The Jordanians also refuse to support the proposal, out of concerns that it would harm the security of the kingdom.
(Ma'ariv-Hebrew, 31 Dec 2013)
See also Ya'alon: Why Israel Rejected U.S. Security Proposals - Yaakov Lappin
On Monday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon referred to proposals by Secretary of State John Kerry to replace Israeli's security presence on the ground in the West Bank with an array of advanced remote surveillance capabilities. "When they talk about satellites, drones and technologies, I say, 'guys, you're wrong.' The principal problem is education. If in Nablus and Jenin they continue to educate the young generation as it is being educated today, to idolize terrorism and jihad, and that the Jewish people have no right to this land, if this is how they're educated, then technology stops nothing." (Jerusalem Post)
- Netanyahu on Palestinian Prisoners: Murderers Are Not Heroes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday for calling Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails "heroes."
"The fundamental difference between us (and the Palestinians) can be seen on Monday: While we are willing to take painful, unparalleled steps to try and reach an agreement that would put an end to the conflict, they, along with their most senior leadership, are celebrating....Murderers are not heroes."
"This is no way to educate toward peace. This is no way to make peace. Peace can be achieved only when the education toward incitement and toward the destruction of Israel is stopped. There will be peace only if our security interests and our communities are ensured. Peace will be established only when we can defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat."
(Ha'aretz-Prime Minister's Office)
See also Release of Palestinian Prisoners Sets Off an Israeli Backlash - Robert Tait
Scenes of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, kissing and hugging each Palestinian prisoner after their release provoked revulsion in Israel, with critics complaining that most of the inmates had been convicted of murdering Israelis.
"Each one of us sees this and we ask ourselves, can we make peace with these people, who welcome murderers with flowers as if they were heroes," Silvan Shalom, the Israeli regional development minister, told Israel Radio. "If this is what they show the young generation, that these loathsome murderers are heroes, can we make peace with them? What kind of education is this for children?" (Telegraph-UK)
- One More Last Chance - Aaron David Miller
The odds that Kerry can succeed in reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement are long; and even if he did manage to reach a Framework Agreement on Permanent Status (FAPS), that doesn't mean the piece of paper can be implemented.
Three of the issues likely to be referred to in a FAPS appear to be breaking Israel's way: security, refugees, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Americans won't support the Palestinian view on the right of return for refugees and have already endorsed the "Israel as a Jewish state" issue. Moreover, if press reports on security issues are accurate, Israel will be able to maintain its own forces in the Jordan Valley. Yet on borders and Jerusalem, Washington is closer to Abbas than to Netanyahu.
But even if an agreement is reached, how do you deal with Hamas in Gaza? In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from there, no Israeli prime minister is likely to withdraw from the West Bank unless all the Palestinian guns, including Hamas' high-trajectory weapons, fall silent permanently.
The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Oren: Iran Doesn't Take Obama's Military Option Seriously - David Horovitz
The rogue Iranian nuclear program represents a "multiple existential threat to Israel," Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview. Were Iran to attain a "military nuclear capability," it would not need to perfect a missile delivery system in order to target Israel, but could do so via a simple container aboard a ship. Moreover, there was "nothing that would indicate" the Iranians believe President Obama would ever resort to force to prevent them from attaining the bomb.
Israel "has the most to gain from a diplomatic solution," he emphasized. "But the meaning of Jewish sovereignty is that you don't outsource your fundamental security."
Regarding Secretary of State Kerry's proposals for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, "no prime minister would enable our eastern border, the eastern border of a Palestinian state, to be guarded by an international force. With our experience going back to 1967 - to UNEF, and then UNIFIL, and now UNDOF - peacekeeping forces are very effective as long as there's no peace to keep."
While there's been talk of an American force, "I don't see the American people sending another major military force to the Middle East....It would not be popular with the American public today to send a sizable force of American troops here." (Times of Israel)
How Will Israel Defend Against Terror Attacks from a Future Palestinian State? - Zalman Shoval (Israel Hayom)
- Terror attacks and attempted terror attacks are proliferating across the West Bank, and inside Israel as well.
Experience has shown that the Palestinians do not view peace talks and terrorism as mutually exclusive.
- Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are accountable for terrorist attacks even in the absence of evidence indicating direct orders by either. The relentless incitement by the Palestinian media and various statements by Palestinian leaders make them accountable.
- But even more important than assigning responsibility for the recent wave of violence is applying its lessons to any future peace and security deal between Israel and the PA, especially the framework agreements being drafted by the U.S.
- Only a gullible person would believe the Palestinians' efforts to curtail violence against Israel would be any more tenacious or effective after the establishment of a Palestinian state. One cannot help but feel the Americans are making light of the issue, and that they believe the Palestinian security forces can be trusted to get the job done.
- We cannot afford to make such a mistake. The recent wave of violence may have come just in time - to dispel illusions and to reinforce Israel's demand, which was approved as part of the outline presented in Camp David in 1978, for a permanent security presence within the future Palestinian entity.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
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