77 Percent of Israeli Jews Believe Abbas Must Recognize Jewish State - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
As part of a framework agreement with the Palestinians, 77% of Israeli Jews believe it is important that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, while 21% disagree, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University.
Israel Targets Hamas Rockets - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Last Thursday, the Israeli Air Force attacked three Hamas targets in Gaza in response to continuing rocket fire on Israel. Some of the targets held large reserves of rockets, which were destroyed in the attack.
In reaction, Hamas' rocket prevention forces withdrew from their positions for a few days until ordered to return by Hamas' political leadership.
Israel Indicts Palestinian for Working with Al-Qaeda, Holding Biological Weapons - Chaim Levinson (Ha'aretz)
A Palestinian has been indicted in an Israeli military court on suspicion of being an al-Qaeda activist who possessed biological weapons and planned to train other Palestinians in their use.
Samar al-Barak, from the West Bank town of Kalkilya, studied microbiology in Pakistan. In 1998 he underwent military training in Afghanistan and was recruited into al-Qaeda in 2001. In August 2010 he was arrested at the Jordanian border.
According to the indictment, he practiced killing dogs with poisons and was tasked with developing biological weapons by the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
He learned to use the botulinum toxin and agreed to train other Palestinians to use it.
Saudi Arabia Cracks Down on Youths Joining Syria Jihadis - Simeon Kerr (Financial Times-UK)
A royal decree aiming to stem the flow of fighters and money to radical Islamist groups in the Syrian civil war gives three to 20-year jail terms for Saudi nationals who fight abroad, or join or endorse domestic and international terrorist groups, as the kingdom seeks to minimize the flow of nationals fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria.
At the same time, Saudi clerics have been encouraging youths to wage jihad in Syria, and constant promotion of the plight of Syrian Sunni Muslims on social media has further fuelled an exodus of young men to fight.
Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry estimates that 1,000 Saudi men are currently fighting in Syria, while Western officials say twice that number have joined the fight.
Israel's Defense Industry Boosts UAV Sales, Eyes Unmanned Subs (UPI)
Elbit Systems says it is delivering its new Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle to three foreign countries, as well as the Israeli military.
Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems will deliver 200 Orbiter mini-drones to the Finnish army this year.
In a recent analysis, the international business consultancy Frost & Sullivan tagged Israel as the world's leading UAV exporter.
India operates 60 Israel Aerospace Industries Herons and wants more of the craft that can stay aloft for 40 hours at 30,000 feet and carry a formidable array of sensors.
The Israeli business daily Globes reports the Defense Ministry has tasked Israel's defense industry to develop unmanned submarines.
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- Congress Eases Standoff with White House over Iran Sanctions - Michael R. Crittenden
Senior aides said pressure on Senate leaders to allow a vote on new sanctions has eased in recent weeks, as lawmakers gauge the effectiveness of an interim deal reached in November between Iran and world powers. But while many lawmakers said they were willing to give diplomacy time to work, Democrats and Republicans alike said the stakes were high if talks fail.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also U.S. Officials: Iran Is Not Open for Business - Yet - Deb Riechmann
U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financing, acknowledged that European businesses are rushing to Iran to prepare for the possibility that all sanctions will be lifted if a comprehensive agreement is reached preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
But they told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that the U.S. will continue to enforce existing sanctions and that those who violate them will be targeted.
"As part of this effort, over the last six weeks I have traveled to the UK, Germany, Italy, Austria, Turkey and the UAE carrying this message: 'Iran is not open for business,'" Cohen told skeptical lawmakers.
- U.S. Spy Chief Says Assad Has Strengthened His Hold on Power - Michael R. Gordon and Mark Mazzetti
James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assadís hold on power in Syria had "strengthened" over the past year, and that he had benefited from a deal to abandon his chemical weapons arsenal.
Not only has the Assad government blocked progress at the Geneva peace talks that started last month, according to American officials, it has also delayed taking its most dangerous chemicals to the port of Latakia to be shipped out of the country. The government has also blocked shipments of medicine and food to besieged areas. (New York Times)
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- Israeli Security Chief: Failed Peace Talks Won't Bring More Terror - Lahav Harkov
Failures in peace talks will not lead to an escalation in terrorism in the West Bank, Israel Security Agency chief Yoram Cohen told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. He reported an uptick in attacks in the West Bank, coming mostly from individuals as opposed to terrorist organizations.
There were 1,700 terrorist attacks in 2013, including shootings, firebombs, stabbings and rock-throwing, as well as several attempts to kidnap civilians and soldiers.
Cohen listed economic problems and lack of trust in PA President Mahmoud Abbas by Palestinians as reasons for the attacks.
- At SodaStream, Palestinians Hope Their Bubble Won't Burst - Elhanan Miller
SodaStream's Mishor Adumim plant employs 1,300 workers; 950 Arabs (450 Israeli and 500 Palestinian) and 350 Israeli Jews. Salaries and work benefits - workers confirm - are equal for all workers in comparable jobs, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship. The factory secures Israeli work permits for its Palestinian employees as well as rides from their home and back, SodaStream's Chief Operating Officer Yossi Azarzar says.
Nahida Fares, 28, from Ramallah, said, "There are no job opportunities in the West Bank. Even the jobs that do exist pay no more than $430-570 a month." Fares now earns triple those sums. Fares' husband, a PA security officer, earns $570 per month. (Times of Israel)
See also Seeing SodaStream for Myself - Simon Plosker
I wandered around the factory listening to Palestinian workers extolling the virtues of working at SodaStream. The overwhelming impression was of a workforce that was truly invested in what they were doing. No senior managers looked over their shoulders or ours while these interviews were taking place.
One Palestinian worker repeatedly told me, "I love SodaStream." He told me how much he appreciated working for a company that treated all of its employees well, paid them a good wage, and created a working environment where everyone was part of a family irrespective of nationality. Many expressed similar sentiments.
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum asked how could a place of employment be an obstacle to peace?
He pointed out that the factory is not a settlement but is in an industrial zone. SodaStream has a factory in China. Does that mean that it is occupying China?
He added that were it not for the boycott, the Mishor Adumim factory would employ more Palestinians.
The writer is the managing editor of HonestReporting.
(Times of Israel)
- Al-Qaeda Aims at Israel - Matthew Levitt
On Jan. 22, Israeli officials announced that they had disrupted an "advanced" al-Qaeda terrorist plot in Israel that was traced back to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ariv al-Sham, a Gaza-based al-Qaeda operative who worked for Zawahiri, recruited three men to take part in attacks.
Iyad Khalil Abu-Sara, from the Ras Hamis neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, volunteered to carry out a "sacrifice attack" on an Israeli bus traveling between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim. The plan was for gunmen to shoot out the bus' wheels and overturn it. After that, they would gun down the passengers at close range.
Sham and Abu-Sara also sketched out simultaneous suicide bombings at the Jerusalem convention center, where a second suicide bomber would target emergency responders, and at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. In preparation, Sham sent Abu-Sara computer files for a virtual bomb-making training course. Abu-Sara was to prepare the suicide vests and truck bombs, and to travel to Syria for training in combat and bomb-making. He had already purchased a ticket on a flight to Turkey by the time he was arrested.
Sham had two other recruits. Rubin Abu-Nagma planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier from Jerusalem's central bus station and bomb a residential building in a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. He, too, learned to manufacture explosives online.
Ala Ghanam, who lived near Jenin in the northern West Bank, was tasked with establishing a Salafi jihadi cell that would carry out future attacks.
Events in Syria are quickly changing the nature of the jihadi enterprise. Its epicenter is no longer Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or Yemen, but in Syria. Today, the jihadi centers that are drawing new recruits, donations, and foreign fighters are not run by al-Qaeda. Knowing that, Zawahiri perhaps felt the need to be able to claim something big that jihadist fighters could rally around. What better than an attack on Israel?
The writer is director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- For Some West Bank CEOs, No Lost Sleep over Boycott Threat - Ben Sales
Of the 200,000 wine bottles Yakov Burg, CEO of Psagot Winery, produced last year, 16,000 went to Europe.
The business is located in the hills of the central West Bank, making it a prime target for boycotts aimed at goods produced in the settlements.
"There are a lot of places that won't buy the wine, so of course there's damage," Burg told JTA. "It doesn't scare me. We need to fight the boycott, not just do what they want."
The supermarket chain Rami Levy Hashikma Market, which operates three locations in the West Bank, employs about 2,000 Palestinians.
Rami Levy, the chain's head, says, "It provides an example of how to live together, how we can do business together."
Levy claims not to be worried. Europeans, he says, talk a good game when it comes to settlements, but ultimately they're focused on the bottom line.
There Is No Way to Defend Israel without Israeli Troops along the Jordan River - David Samuels interviews Yaakov Amidror (Tablet)
Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former head of the Israeli National Security Council, said in an interview:
- "If the Americans succeed in bringing to [an Israeli-Palestinian] agreement all of the elements that are needed - namely, to make sure that there is a secure buffer between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, that there is not going to be a new Gaza in Ramallah, and that Israel will have satisfactory arrangements to deal with emerging terrorist capabilities within the West Bank - ...then I think the agreement will be something that Israel can live with."
- "There is no way to get there [assuring Israeli security interests] without Israeli forces along the Jordan River. There is no question about that. This is the minimum, without which there is no way to have the necessary capabilities in our hands....About security, it's very clear to every professional that without having Israeli troops along the Jordan River, there is no way to defend the State of Israel, and to have the arrangements which are needed in the future, when Israel might face problems from the east, or from within the Palestinian areas."
- "When the time will come that we can say to ourselves, it's not needed anymore, that relations between the Palestinians and Israel are like relations between France and Germany, we can leave....It's not a question of time. It's a question of capabilities, and the determination to use the capabilities. And when the Palestinians will have the capabilities, which they don't have today, and the determination to use those capabilities, which they also don't have today, and when both those criteria are met, then, in the future, we might come to a situation in which Israeli troops will not be needed."
- Q: How about NATO troops on the Jordan River?
Amidror: "One of the principles that Israel has been very clear about since the founding of the state is that we are not outsourcing our security to anyone. We don't expect, and we don't want, others to do the job for us...[and] we don't want American soldiers to sacrifice their lives for the security of Israel."
- "In the Six-Day War, when I was a paratrooper, we entered Gaza; after some hours of fighting, the UN forces were marching out of Gaza. So I learned the principle of international guarantees then, and even more so when I became the intelligence officer for the Northern Command, and I saw how UNIFIL was a problem for us, and provides good cover for Hizbullah. And that's still true today. After the 2006 operation in Lebanon, when the new UNIFIL force was set up, they didn't provide even one report about one case of Hizbullah bringing munitions, shells and rockets into the south."
- "So with all due respect to all those who promise us that international forces will do the job for us, there is absolutely no basis to make those promises, based on our experience in the past."
- "We are very, very determined on this point: Only Israeli forces can make us sure that we will not find ourselves living with another Gaza Strip in Ramallah, which is five miles from the Israeli parliament in the city of Jerusalem. This is so important for us that we are not going to give it away."
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