Several Islamic State Leaders Killed in Iraq, U.S. Says - Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal)
U.S. airstrikes have killed three military leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq in recent weeks, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday. "These are high-value targets, senior leadership."
U.S. military strikes killed Abd al Basit, the head of Islamic State's military operations in Iraq; Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group's top leader; and Radwin Talib, Islamic State's "governor" in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, which was captured by Islamic State in June.
Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of the U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria, said that while significant progress has been made in halting Islamic State's offensive, it still will take a minimum of three years for Iraqi security forces to fully establish their capabilities.
See also Backed by U.S. Airstrikes, Kurds Reverse an ISIS Gain - Tim Arango (New York Times)
Kurdish forces, backed by a surge of American airstrikes in recent days, recaptured a large swath of Iraqi territory from Islamic State militants on Thursday, opening a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west, near the Syrian border.
The two-day offensive, backed by 53 coalition airstrikes, involved 8,000 fighters.
At the same time, the Iraqi Army has continued to lose territory in western Anbar Province.
Iran's "Boots on the Ground" in Iraq - Lawrence A. Franklin (Gatestone Institute)
In Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran's military involvement in the Kurdish governorates of northern Iraq is varied and on the increase.
According to former Iraqi General Saad al-Obaidi of Military Intelligence, who visited Kurdistan in mid-November, without the presence of several pro-Iran Shia militias and Iranian artillery support, allied bombing raids against IS targets would have been for naught.
The writer served as a U.S. military attache to Israel.
Is the Arab World Turning Its Back on the Palestinians? - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The unbridgeable rift between Hamas and Fatah has triggered a distancing by many Arabs from the "Palestinian problem." The issue has lost its centrality in Arab public awareness, which has begun to look inward at their own domestic hardships.
In countries now suffering from the consequences of the "Arab Spring," many Arabs and their governments even display outright animosity toward the Palestinians.
Egypt, a traditional standard bearer for the Palestinian cause, today perceives the Palestinians as a security threat because of Hamas' deep involvement in terrorism in Egypt and Sinai.
Syrians who learned of the latest "Gaza reconstruction" conference in Cairo responded: "What about us?" - arguing that no one cares that their country has been totally destroyed.
"What about us?" also came from Palestinian refugees in Syria whose homes were destroyed several years ago.
The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center.
EU Backs Palestinian Dictatorship - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
European parliaments that are rushing to recognize a Palestinian state are ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have been without a functioning parliament for the past seven years.
They are also turning a blind eye to the fact that, under the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, there is no respect for the rule of law, free speech, transparency or accountability.
These Western parliamentarians are in fact acting against the interests of the Palestinians, who are clearly not hoping for another corrupt dictatorship in the Arab world.
By turning a blind eye to human rights violations, as well as assaults on freedom of expression, the judiciary and the parliamentary system in the Palestinian territories, Western parliaments are paving the way for the creation of a rogue state called Palestine.
Impact of Israeli Public Health Practices in the West Bank and Gaza - David Stone (Fathom-BICOM)
The health of the Palestinians has improved steadily since 1967.
Israeli policies have brought about measurable improvements in Palestinian health and welfare, as measured in death rates, life expectancy, infant mortality, as well as maternal, perinatal, under-five mortality, immunization coverage, nutrition and infant growth patterns, and primary and secondary health care.
Dr. David Stone is an Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow.
Video: Save the Palestinians, Stop Hamas (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
The best way to help people in Gaza is to actively condemn Hamas' exploitation of Palestinian civilians.
The Resilience of Tikkun Olam - Repairing the World (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Six distinguished experts look at Tikkun Olam - repairing the world - including Amb. Dore Gold, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Dr. Levi Cooper, Prof. Byron L. Sherwin, Prof. Jonathan Krasner, and Prof. Elliot N. Dorff.
Jerusalem Municipality to Distribute 100 Free Christmas Trees - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
The Jerusalem Municipality's Gardening Department will distribute 100 complimentary Christmas trees to the capital's Christian residents, City Hall announced Thursday.
Israel Inaugurates Farm in Senegal - Anav Silverman (Tazpit-San Diego Jewish World)
A drip-irrigated vegetable farm in the city of Fatick, managed by a group of Senegalese women, was established recently following a request by the First Lady of Senegal, Marieme Faye Sall, to the Israeli Embassy.
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- U.S. Does Not Support Palestinian UN Resolution
Asked about the draft resolution on a Palestinian state submitted to the UN Security Council, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Thursday: "We have seen the draft. It is not something we would support, and we think others feel the same and are calling for further consultations....In terms of the specifics of this in its current form, we couldn't support it. We're not currently engaging on the submitted text. Our focus right now is more on consultations with key stakeholders...to find a way forward."
"We wouldn't support...any action that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations or would set a specific deadline for withdrawal of [Israeli] security forces." (State Department)
- U.S.: EU Should Keep Sanctions Against Hamas
The U.S. on Wednesday urged the EU to keep up its sanctions against Hamas.
"We will continue to work closely with the European Union on Hamas-related issues. We believe that the EU should maintain its terrorism sanctions on Hamas," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity and has demonstrated its intentions during this summer's conflicts with Israel. It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel." (AFP)
See also EU Foreign Policy Chief: Hamas Must Remain on our Terror List - Raphael Ahren
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday she is committed to keeping Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.
She told the director-general of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, that the EU would appeal the Court of Justice's ruling, which had been "procedural," and would make sure that Hamas will again be blacklisted.
(Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Gaza Reconstruction Materials Diverted to Hamas for Tunnel Repairs
Hamas has obtained cement and building materials that recently entered Gaza for the purpose of rebuilding homes, for use in reinforcing its damaged network of underground infiltration tunnels, Israel Radio reported on Friday, citing Palestinian sources.
The UN had vowed to create a mechanism to ensure that incoming construction material was not diverted to Hamas for use in rebuilding the tunnels. (Jerusalem Post)
- ISIS Approaches Israel's Border with Syria - Amos Harel
For the first time since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Islamic State has gained a presence near the border with Israel on the Golan Heights. Rebel groups in Syria today control about 90% of the border region. According to Arab media reports, three small jihadist groups that were fighting against the Assad regime in the southern Golan swore fealty this week to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They include Shuhada al-Yarmouk, the Abu Mohammed al-Tilawi Brigades and Bayt al-Maqdis.
Shuhada al-Yarmouk comprises a few hundred armed men, while the other two contain several dozen each. (Ha'aretz)
- Islamic Militants Claim Responsibility for Bombing French Center in Gaza
The ultra-conservative Islamic militant group Jund Ansar Allah claimed responsibility Thursday for a bomb attack that damaged the French Cultural Center in Gaza City last week. French diplomatic missions have been on high alert since the start of a spate of kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners by Islamic State jihadists and their allies, particularly that of Frenchman Herve Gourdel in Algeria. France has angered Islamists by taking part in air strikes on IS forces in Iraq.
Palestinian UN Bid
- Palestine and the UN: Another Gambit
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has a habit of lurching from one supposedly game-changing initiative to another, then flinching in the face of resistance. Palestinians therefore have good reason to ask themselves whether Abbas' latest gambit - seeking a UN Security Council resolution - will be pursued with real vigor.
Regional and Western powers seem preoccupied by matters other than Palestine, not least the war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, says any pullout would endanger Israel and bring armed Islamists to the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
Criticism of Abbas is growing. For all but two of his ten years in office he has ruled by decree, and repeatedly postponed elections after his term lapsed five years ago. Western diplomats have sought to strengthen Abbas as the best hope for peace. But even they worry that he is becoming part of the problem. (Economist-UK)
- The Palestinians' UN Charade Collapses - Jonathan S. Tobin
After weeks of pointless negotiations over proposed texts, including a compromise endorsed by the French and other European nations, the wording of the proposed UN Security Council resolution endorsing a Palestinian state was so outrageous that President Obama couldn't even think about letting it pass because it would undermine his own policies.
And the rest of the international community is just as unenthusiastic about it.
The world wants to do something for the Palestinians, but their leaders are more interested in pointless shows than in actually negotiating peace or doing something to improve the lives of their people.
The resolution that was presented to the Security Council was so extreme that it will almost certainly languish indefinitely without a vote. The terms it put forward were of Israeli surrender and nothing more. The Jewish state would be given one year to withdraw from all of the territory it won in a defensive war of survival in 1967. The Palestinian state would not be demilitarized, nor would there be any guarantees of security for Israel, which would not be granted mutual recognition as the nation state of the Jewish people.
- Palestine's Bid at the UN: Better Off Postponed? - Raed Omari
Does the Palestinian-led effort at the UN really serve the deadlocked peace process? Is it really the only card in President Mahmoud Abbas' hands? Does the Palestinian president have a Plan B in mind in case of a U.S. veto to his bid? Is the planned bid at the UN really a well-studied political and diplomatic plan or just a means to squeeze Benjamin Netanyahu? The Palestinian UN bid now would add more complications to the already complicated peace process which all stakeholders, including Arabs, still want to be based on bilateral agreements.
No doubt the rising European enthusiasm for the Palestinian file is a driving force for the Palestinians to seek a UN resolution. The existing uneasiness between President Obama and Netanyahu is also an encouraging factor for the Palestinians. Another motivation for the Palestinians is the high level of anti-terror cooperation now between Washington and its Arab allies.
- The Security Council Intifada - David Bosco
For almost 70 years, the UN Security Council, the body charged with maintaining international peace and security, has failed utterly to resolve the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For all the hubbub in New York, there's little reason to believe this encounter will be any more fruitful.
The Council's membership has limited appetite for sustained diplomatic involvement in the conflict.
It's doubtful that the new initiative at the Security Council represents a major change in that dynamic.
The writer is assistant professor at American University's School of International Service.
- Stopping an End Run to Palestinian Statehood - Editorial
As the Palestinians once again seek to make an end run around the negotiating table with a UN Security Council resolution, the Obama administration must make absolutely clear this is an unacceptable path that would lead the region even further from the already dim prospects for peace.
Secretary of State Kerry needs to make clear that the Palestinians can't bypass the negotiating table and the hard decisions they - and all parties - must make to ensure a lasting peace.
Granting the Palestinians statehood - or even the hope that it can be mandated by an international body - sends the wrong message. Such a development would give the Palestinians rights without the responsibilities and accountability that go along with making peace.
(Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)
- Why the EU Vote Was Not Worth the Hysteria - Dermot Kehoe
The Palestinian Authority would like us to believe that their campaign to have Palestine recognized as a state without an agreement with Israel is roaring into life. But a closer look at the motion passed in the EU parliament this week tells a different story. Rather than recognizing Palestine, or calling on EU member states to do so, the resolution "supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced." Similarly, the resolution in Spain last month linked recognition of Palestine to a negotiated solution with Israel.
There are many in Europe who appreciate that an arrangement that turns the West Bank into another Gaza - run by violent Islamist extremists committed to war against Israel - would be a catastrophe not only for Israel but for the Middle East and Europe. British Prime Minister David Cameron restated this week: "We only recognize the state of Palestine when there is a genuine two-state solution - and Israel's future is truly secure." In Brussels there is widespread appreciation that a solution cannot be achieved by international resolutions, whether in European parliaments or in the UN Security Council.
The writer is chief executive of BICOM - Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
- Shedding No Tears for Dead Palestinian Terror Minister - Stephen M. Flatow
A Palestinian terrorist who murdered innocent Israeli children and maimed a Connecticut housewife died last week of a heart attack when he joined an Arab mob surging towards some Israeli soldiers. The fact that he held the position of deputy minister in the Palestinian Authority did not make him any less of a murderer, or any more deserving of anyone's sympathy.
On May 14, 1979, Chaim and Chaya (Irene) Mark, a couple from Connecticut who had immigrated to Israel, were stepping out of a restaurant in Tiberias when a huge bomb exploded. "I was hit in the chest and knocked down," Chaim later recalled. "When I got up, I saw my wife with a leg and arm nearly blown off." Two Israeli children were killed in the bombing, 36 other people were maimed. Mrs. Mark spent a year and a half in the hospital, undergoing countless surgeries, and was left severely handicapped. Ziad Abu Ein was the one who planted the bomb.
Sentenced to life imprisonment, after three years Ein was included in an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange. Two months later, he was arrested for conspiring with other terrorists to hijack an Israeli bus. Those of us who have felt the pain of Palestinian terrorism remember who Ziad Abu Ein really was, and will shed no tears over his passing.
The writer's daughter Alisa was murdered in 1995 by Palestinian terrorists while she was a student in Israel.
(New York Jewish Week)
- Behind the Hamas-Iran Rapprochement - Fatima Ahmad Alsmadi
Can Hamas turn down Iranian calls to renew their ties to their previous level? No. Officials from both sides who have worked together in the past, especially in coordinating Hamas ties with Hizbullah, exchanged letters and held meetings in Tehran in an effort to restore the ties to their previous vigor.
Iran's outright military and financial support for the Syrian regime against its own people caused Iran to lose its moral standing in the region and see much of its public support in the Arab world evaporate.
Rapprochement with Hamas provides Iran with an opportunity to rebuild its standing and restore the leverage it once had. At the same time, Hamas needs relations with Iran in order to offset the pressure it's facing in the region.
- Iranian Support Seen Crucial for Yemen's Houthis - Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari
Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shi'ite Houthi militia that seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in September, as Tehran steps up its regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia.
"Before the entrance into Sanaa, Iran started sending weapons here and gave a lot of support with money via visits abroad," a senior Yemeni security official said. A second official said, "Weapons are still coming in by sea and there's money coming in through transfers."
A Western source familiar with Yemen said, "It's been happening for over a year. We've seen Houthis going out to Iran and Lebanon for military training."
"We think there is cash, some of which is channeled via Hizbullah and sacks of cash arriving at the airport.
A senior Iranian official said the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard had a "few hundred" military personnel in Yemen who train Houthi fighters. "Iran wants a powerful Shi'ite presence in the region; that is why it has got involved in Yemen." (Reuters)
- Europe Needs an Anti-ISIS Playbook - Richard Kemp and Joseph Raskas
Islamic State has declared, and capably demonstrated, its intentions to achieve genocidal goals. If not confronted, however, it's only a matter of time before it turns its attention outward from Syria and Iraq.
European governments should launch devastating and unrelenting ground and air attacks to stamp out Islamic State. Visible and humiliating destruction and defeat of large elements of Islamic State is vital to discouraging more volunteers from joining and to dissuading their funders and supporters from strengthening them.
In addition, large-scale efforts must be made to close the political playing field to racists and radicals in Europe, who seek to undermine Western values. Only when Western leaders can speak freely about the threat posed by Islamism, without having to fear violence and assassination in the street, can counterterror measures across Europe be relaxed.
Last year, after two Muslim converts killed British soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight in London, one of us, Col. Kemp, went on record as saying the fault for the vicious murder lies also with the "cowardly preachers of hate who seek out the gullible, poison their minds...and spur them on to bloody atrocities." The terrorist group al-Shabaab promptly responded by putting a price on Col. Kemp's head.
Col. Kemp was commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and headed the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Cabinet Office from 2002 to 2006. Mr. Raskas is a combat veteran of the Israel Defense Forces.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Ancient Rock Refers to King David - Menachem Wecker
An ancient stone on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as part of its "Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age" exhibit running through Jan. 4, contains an inscription which is the earliest extra-biblical reference to the House of David. "There is no doubt that the inscription is one of the most important artifacts ever found in relation to the Bible," Eran Arie, curator of Israelite and Persian periods at the Israel Museum, wrote in the exhibit catalog.
In the text, the Aram-Damascene king Hazael brags of having killed 70 kings, including of Israel and of the "House of David." The inscription amounts to a "clear indication that the 'House of David' was known throughout the region and that the king's reputation was not a literary invention of a much later period," Arie wrote. This "clearly validates the biblical description of a figure named David becoming the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem." (JTA)
- Royal Entryway Discovered at Herod's Palace
A monumental entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at Herodium National Park has been unearthed by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The entryway features a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels, and a palace vestibule decorated with frescoes. The archaeologists, Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman, and Rachel Chachy, think that the corridor was back-filled when the hilltop palace was converted into a royal burial mound, and a monumental stairway was constructed from the hill's base to its peak, over the corridor.
Coins and temporary structures from the Great Revolt (66-71CE), and tunnels dug by rebels during the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136CE), were found in the corridor. The tunnels had been supported by wooden beams and a roof made of woven cypress branches.
- "Tunnel of Hope": Jews Who Tunneled Their Way to Freedom - Matthew Kalman
In 1942 in the town of Novogrudok near Minsk in Belarus, 500 Jewish slave laborers remained alive at the work camp in the courthouse compound out of 10,000 Jews who had lived in the town and the surrounding countryside. Thousands had been gunned down in huge burial pits at the side of the roads or in the forests. In May 1943, the Germans summoned half of the remaining Jews and machine-gunned them to death.
The remaining Jews decided to escape. Using bits of metal shaped into digging tools, blankets sewn into dirt-removal bags, and wood stolen from workshops, they began digging a tunnel under the barbed wire fence that surrounded the compound into a nearby wheat field. From there, they hoped to reach a huge forest a day's walk away where the Bielski brothers commanded a Jewish partisan group. The tunnel was just 70 cm. square and 206 meters long. All 230 remaining Jews escaped and 170 survived. In a new film, "Tunnel of Hope," survivors and their families return to the town to try and find the tunnel. (Ha'aretz)
12 Months Is Not Enough Time to Stop an Iranian Nuclear Breakout - Emily B. Landau (National Interest)
- The objective of the P5+1 is to keep Iran a year from "breakout" - the ability to quickly assemble one nuclear device. The logic is that with some modifications to Iran's nuclear infrastructure and an "ironclad" verification regime, 12 months will be enough time for an Iranian violation to be detected and for the international community to respond before Iran is able to move to a weapons capability.
- In a perfect world, they might be right. But in the real world, and based on the experience of the past 11 years, this best-case scenario assumption is unwarranted. It is much more likely that 12 months will be insufficient time for detection and response.
- Once an agreement with Iran is achieved, the negotiators will be ecstatic with their success, and eager to proceed with economic and political cooperation and new ties. The last thing they will want is to find evidence that the agreement is not being adhered to.
- In fact, the instinct of the P5+1 will be to look the other way if faced with evidence, and they will certainly have no incentive to actively seek it out. People will challenge the veracity and significance of any evidence. This will be time-consuming, and will come at the expense of the ability to make a quick call that there is clear evidence of a violation.
- The Iranian regime consciously avoids blatant violations that may elicit a harsh international response, preferring to move slowly, bit by bit. That's how Iran got from several hundred centrifuges to 19,000, including advanced models, and from the first kilograms of low-enriched uranium to an amount today, which if enriched to weapons-grade level, would be enough for six to seven nuclear devices.
The writer is head of the Arms Control Program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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