Secret Palestinian Report Warns of New Intifada - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
A secret report by one of the Palestinian security services warns of a high probability of a third intifada if the U.S.-backed peace talks are unsuccessful.
According to the report, there will be a marked rise in "spontaneous attacks" in 2014, and Hamas will covertly resume its militant activity in the West Bank.
The new Hamas strategy, which will focus on shooting attacks on Israeli targets, is directed from Gaza, primarily by former prisoners released in the deal to free captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
A major objective is to kidnap an Israeli soldier or civilian and hold him hostage in the West Bank, with the hope of exchanging him for Palestinian prisoners.
Moreover, Hamas is expected to transfer technological information on the manufacture of rockets to activists in the West Bank.
92 Universities Reject Academic Boycott of Israel - Michael Wilner and Maya Shwayder (Jerusalem Post)
92 American universities have so far released statements rejecting the American Studies Association decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
Palestinian Ambassador to Czech Republic Killed in Explosion - Robert Tait (Telegraph-UK)
The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was killed in an explosion at his Prague residence on Wednesday after a safe blew up as he was trying to open it.
A Czech news website said police had found "a significant quantity of weapons and explosives" in the building next door to the ambassador's residence, which also belongs to the Palestinian embassy.
Israeli Parliament Aims to Be World's Greenest (AP-Washington Post)
Israel's parliament plans on becoming the "greenest in the world" by generating its own electricity and through other environmentally friendly initiatives.
Plans include building a 4,500-square-meter solar panel field to produce electricity, automatically shutting computers at the end of the day, and measuring the amount of water used for irrigation and consumption.
See also Knesset to Go Green - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
New Israeli App Shatters the Silence of Autism - Gidon Ben Zvi (Algemeiner)
A new Israeli application, the first of its kind in the world, is allowing people who cannot speak to communicate with people everywhere, the Israeli website Walla reported.
Ola Mundo ("Hello World " in Spanish) is an application that transmits instant messages using symbols for people whose speaking or writing ability is severely impaired. It was developed by Ophir Harel, a project manager at an Israeli high-tech firm who has a 10-year-old autistic child.
The application allows children and adults who do not speak and write to communicate with the world around them by way of a new language comprised solely of symbols.
Its use is not dependent on proximity since the user of the application communicates by way of instant messaging.
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- Kerry Seeks Deal to Sustain Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Calev Ben-David and Terry Atlas
Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the Middle East on Thursday, aiming to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree on the contours of a final peace accord. Kerry won't present a U.S. plan that would be imposed on the parties, a senior U.S. State Department official said. Instead, he will offer proposals to bridge gaps that emerged during about 20 Israeli-Palestinian negotiating sessions. Kerry will be shuttling between Abbas and Netanyahu during his visit.
The State Department official suggested the U.S. was open to the Palestinian demand that border negotiations be based on the frontiers Israel held before the 1967 war. Netanyahu has rejected any explicit reference to the 1967 lines, saying it would create indefensible borders. (Bloomberg)
See also Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister: 1967 Lines Are Auschwitz Borders - Barak Ravid
Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said Thursday during a tour of the Jordan Valley: "To all those who are now making proposals for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, there is only one reply, which was already given in 1969 by then-foreign minister Abba Eban: The 1967 lines are Auschwitz borders."
"It's right to talk to our neighbors, but it's illogical for them to ask us to give up the security of Israel's inhabitants and Israel's vital interests. Anyone who gives up the Jordan Valley will turn Kfar Saba [next to Tel Aviv] into Sderot [which has been the target of thousands of rockets from Gaza]." (Ha'aretz)
- Two Conservatives Join Iran Nuclear Panel - Thomas Erdbrink
Two members of Iran's hard-line-dominated Parliament were added to a supervisory council responsible for monitoring the country's nuclear negotiating team, Iranian news media reported Wednesday. Supporters of President Rouhani were displeased with the announcement, saying the nuclear talks are taking place under the authority of Ayatollah Khamenei and do not need monitoring.
(New York Times)
- Egyptian Government Seizes Muslim Brotherhood Assets - Abdelsitar Hetieta
Egyptian authorities ordered the seizure of the assets of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members because it suspected them of "funding terrorism," government sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday. They said the companies seized on Monday "were proven to be owned partially or totally by the Brotherhood leadership, including those in detention in Egyptian prisons."
The Justice Ministry on Monday announced the seizure of the property of 572 leading members of the Brotherhood and the seizure of 87 schools belonging to the movement. Government sources said massive amounts of money were involved in the seizure, which included three car dealerships, seven real estate companies, nine currency exchanges and two pharmaceutical companies. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- PLO Official Calls for Rejection of U.S. Framework Accord - Khaled Abu Toameh
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Israel Thursday to resume his efforts to achieve an agreement between Israel and the PA, a PLO official announced Wednesday that the Palestinians would reject any framework accord presented by the Americans. "Kerry will try to market a mysterious and nonconstructive framework agreement to the Palestinian Authority during his new tour," said PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled. The PLO official called on the PA leadership to inform Kerry of its opposition to any framework or interim agreement with Israel.
- Report: Israel Offers Israeli-Arab Area for Land Swap with Palestinians - Stuart Winer
Israel has raised the idea of transferring parts of its territory in "the Triangle" southeast of Haifa - along with hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs who live there - to a future Palestinian state in return for annexing West Bank settlement blocs, Maariv reported on Wednesday. The idea has been discussed "at the highest levels" between Israel and the U.S., the report said.
(Times of Israel)
- Palestinian Who Killed Israeli Man and Baby with Rock Convicted of Murder - Yonah Jeremy Bob
The Judea Military Court on Tuesday convicted Ali Saada of the murders of Asher Palmer, 25, and his baby son, Yonatan, in 2011. Saada was also convicted of six further attempts to murder. According to the IDF, Saada and Waal al-Arjeh, who was sentenced to two life sentences in prison in July 2013, intentionally threw stones from a moving taxi, at least one of which went through the front windshield of Palmer's vehicle, causing him to lose control of the car that eventually overturned.
Lawyer Adrian Agassi said the object thrown at the vehicle was the size of a block. "It was thrown from an oncoming vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction. At that velocity, it was like shooting a bullet," Agassi said. Palmer's father Michael said that Asher and Yonatan's lives "were taken by people who did not know them...for the simple reason that they were Jews." (Jerusalem Post)
- Beset by Terrorism, Egypt's Military Government Is Blaming Everything on the Muslim Brotherhood - Gregg Carlstrom
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has evolved into a persistent and deadly enemy to the Egyptian government. It has carried out most of the high-profile attacks in Egypt since Morsi's ouster, and recently has spread beyond its traditional base in the Sinai Peninsula. But most Egyptians remain unfamiliar with the group.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian "government is really focused on trying to decapitate the Brotherhood," said David Barnett, a researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The crackdown has grown into a wide-ranging effort to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood from Egyptian public life. Private television channels urged their viewers to call an Interior Ministry hotline and report suspected Brothers.
- Palestinians in Syria Caught between Regime and Rebels - Zvi Bar'el
Before Syria's civil war began, the bustling Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus was home to 150,000 Palestinians who led normal lives, complete with schools, hospitals, and nonstop traffic. Today, it stands mostly in ruin. Only 20,000 Palestinians remain, most of whom are poor, elderly, or children.
The camp was closed off by the Syrian regime six months ago, after it served as a primary base of operations for the Free Syrian Army and other radical Islamist militias.
Roughly half a million Palestinians lived in Syria before the war. Their civil status was better than Palestinians in Lebanon, where until about four years ago they were forbidden from working in 68 different professions, from living outside of refugee camps, owning property, or leaving the country. (Ha'aretz)
- The Test for Diplomacy with Iran - Jay Solomon
The next six months will likely determine whether the crisis over Iran's nuclear program can be resolved peacefully, as global powers conduct intensive talks with Tehran aimed at ensuring it can't produce atomic weapons. The vital issues to be negotiated include Iran's development of a heavy-water nuclear reactor near Arak. The negotiators will also seek to reduce Iran's capacity to produce nuclear fuel through the enrichment of uranium.
"It remains uncertain if Iran recognizes the extent that it will have to roll back its infrastructure to reach a deal," said Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at Washington's Brookings Institution.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also For Iran, 2013 Was a Very Good Year - Jeffrey Goldberg
Remember that interim Iranian nuclear agreement forged in Geneva on Nov. 24, the one accompanied by blaring trumpets and soaring doves? That agreement has not yet been implemented. Moreover, the deal doesn't neutralize the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. It just freezes the program, more or less, in place.
The Jordan Valley: Israel's Eastern Security Border - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan (Israel Hayom)
- Borders are a main component of any framework deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and Secretary of State Kerry knows that Israel has a right to defensible borders. Former U.S. President George W. Bush's letter of recognition in 2004 discussed America's commitment to "secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats."
- Israel is not weak, but it is small and narrow and therefore vulnerable: 70% of its population and 80% of its industrial manufacturing capabilities are concentrated along a narrow coastal plain controlled from the east by the hills of the West Bank.
- In Jordan there are 1.2 million Syrian refugees. There are now also tens of thousands of global jihadist terrorists in the region. So Israel cannot ignore the possibility that an eastern front can emerge.
- Israel must maintain an anti-terrorism buffer. We see what happened in Gaza and Lebanon after Israeli forces withdrew. Only an Israeli presence along the eastern side of the West Bank will facilitate the implementation of a demilitarized Palestinian entity.
- The Jordan Valley provides Israel with the minimum vital strategic depth to allow the fight against terrorism to be effective. There is no technological system that can replace such a defensive buffer.
- Moreover, Israel cannot trust foreign forces to protect Israelis, since they would be the first to retreat during a crisis. The entire Jordan Valley, under complete Israeli control, is Israel's eastern security border.
The writer served as IDF Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chairman of Israel's National Security Council, and National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister.
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