German Journalist Returns from ISIS with Chilling Stories - Frederik Pleitgen (CNN)
German journalist Juergen Todenhoefer traveled deep into ISIS territory, visiting Raqqa and Deir Ezzor in Syria, as well as Mosul in Iraq.
"In Mosul," Todenhoefer said, "130,000 Christians have been evicted from the city, the Shia have fled, many people have been murdered."
Todenhoefer interviewed a German fighter who spoke on behalf of ISIS' leadership. The man said, "It is not a question of if we will conquer Europe, just a matter of when that will happen. But it is certain."
"Our expansion will be perpetual....And the Europeans need to know that when we come, it will not be in a nice way. It will be with our weapons. And those who do not convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax will be killed."
He added, "We will continue to have slavery and beheadings, it is part of our religion....Many slaves have converted to Islam and have then been freed."
Todenhoefer concluded: "The Islamic State is a lot more dangerous than Western leaders realize. They believe in what they are fighting for and are preparing the largest religious cleansing campaign the world has ever seen."
The New Euro-Muslim States - Guy Bechor (Ynet News)
The distance between Europe and the Muslim world is becoming increasingly shorter. There are already large cities in Europe which will have a Muslim majority within five to seven years.
In Marseilles, the second largest city in France, Muslims already make up 30-40% of the population. In 2016, the city will inaugurate a huge mosque with a 25-meter minaret and a prayer hall for 14,000 worshippers. The percentage of Muslims in France is already 13%.
In Barcelona, Spain, 30% of residents are Muslim. In smaller Spanish towns like Salt, 40% are Muslim.
In Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the EU, 25-30% are Muslim.
In Malmo, Sweden, 25-30% are Muslim, while in the capital of Stockholm, 20% are Muslim.
In Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands, 25% are Muslim.
The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Unmasking BDS: Radical Roots, Extremist Ends - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The global BDS movement is merely a recent variant of centuries of anti-Jewish boycotts.
The BDS campaign's penetration of Western mainstream professional groups, trade unions, leading academic institutions, and even the world of cultural icons represents a dangerous globalization and mainstreaming of the BDS effort.
While it has achieved relatively minor success in its economic and political warfare against Israel, BDS' media prowess has reverberated across Europe and on North American campuses.
The writer is a research fellow of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at IDC
Herzliya and a foreign policy fellow of the Jerusalem Center.
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- Continued Standoff between Hamas and Fatah Delays Gaza Reconstruction - Neri Zilber
More than three months after the guns fell silent in Gaza, its postwar reconstruction has moved forward at a snail's pace.
The deal that ended the fighting in August foresaw reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah as a precondition to reconstruction, but all plans are on hold as Hamas and the PA engage in a game of political chicken, staring each other down. The actual welfare of those Palestinians living in Gaza has apparently been deemed secondary to the considerations of power politics.
All sides, including Hamas, agreed that the PA should return to Gaza - initially to take over the border crossings as well as the government ministries there. To date, the PA has done none of these things as Hamas has resisted surrendering control. The writer is a visiting scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
See also Pledged Gaza Funds Stay Undelivered
Two months after donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza, UN officials say only $100 million has been transferred. (Reuters-Saudi Gazette)
- Delivery of Helicopters Shows Mending of U.S.-Egypt Ties
Egypt received 10 Apache helicopters from the U.S. in the past week, a sign that tensions between the longtime allies are easing as they confront Islamist extremism across the region. (Reuters-New York Times)
- Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, But Split Still Hampers Them - David D. Kirkpatrick
Discord among the Gulf States has undermined efforts to coordinate support for rebels fighting President Assad of Syria and has muted the attempts of the Gulf Cooperation Council to counter expanding Iranian influence.
At the heart of the feud is a dispute over political Islam pitting Qatar, which struck an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in a play for regional influence, against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which consider the Brotherhood a threat to their own stability.
(New York Times)
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- Fleeing Civil War, Ukrainian Jews Take Refuge in Israel - Sam Sokol and Yardena Schwartz
More than 5,000 Ukrainian Jews have immigrated over the past year.
Some 1,310 Jews have come from Donetsk and Luhansk, the central population centers of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
On Monday some 226 immigrants arrived, over 150 from the battle zone. Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, a native of Donetsk, ran into old friends and schoolmates whom he had known as a child. (Jerusalem Post)
- David's Sling Air Defense System Can Intercept Warheads over Enemy Territory - Yaakov Lappin
The David's Sling air defense system being developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is expected to become operational in 2016.
"David's Sling has an interception range which ensures intercept before a threat enters Israeli territory. David's Sling can intercept any rocket or missile inside the atmosphere, and over enemy areas," said Ari Sacher of Rafael's Air Superiority Systems Division. The system can shoot down both conventional and unconventional incoming warheads.
- Israel Provides Aid to Victims of Philippines Typhoon
An emergency response team from IsraAID has been providing medical, psychological, social and material relief in the Can-Avid municipality in the Philippines, which was struck by a typhoon on Dec. 6. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Iran as an Occupying Force in Syria - Fouad Hamdan and Shiar Youssef
The Iranian regime is now effectively the dominant force in regime-held areas of Syria.
Most major battles in Syria along the frontlines of regime-held areas are being directed and fought by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) and Hizbullah, along with other non-Syrian Shi'ite militias, with Assad forces in a supportive or secondary role.
The Iranian regime has spent billions of dollars on weapons and fighters shipped to Syria since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011. It has also financed a large part of the economy in the regime-controlled parts of Syria through loans and credit lines worth billions of dollars. The Assad regime would have collapsed were it not for this Iranian support. If the Assad regime falls, Iranian arms shipments to Hizbullah are likely to cease, and Hizbullah would no longer be the deterrent against possible attacks on its military nuclear program that it is now.
One effective way to end the bloodshed in Syria is to link the Iran nuclear talks and sanctions to the Iranian regime's intervention in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. Agreeing to lift sanctions on Iran without any serious commitment to end its intervention in these countries is effectively giving the Iranian regime a green light to carry on with its policies.
(Middle East Institute)
- The Iranian Saga: a Pause or an Impasse? - Alexei Arbatov
Drastic changes in the political situation in the world have had a decisive impact on the parties' positions at the negotiating table on the Iranian nuclear program.
The Iranian ruling elite probably believes that the situation is far better for Tehran now than it was a year ago, with the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany finding themselves in tough opposition to Russia after the eruption of the Ukrainian conflict.
A deal with Tehran would pave the way for Iranian oil exports that will lead to a further decline in global energy prices that the Russian economy heavily relies on. Besides, Iran is capable of largely substituting for Russia as a source of oil and gas for Europe, which would deprive Moscow of a key instrument for advancing its interests in relations with the EU and Ukraine. Russia is not sabotaging the negotiations, but hardly believes that it should be helping the West to straighten out the differences with Iran.
(Carnegie Moscow Center)
- Israel Faces Conflict on Multiple Fronts - Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz
Israel is facing security challenges on every front as a result of the unstable times we live in. The IDF is confronted with non-state actors - Hizbullah, Hamas, Nusra Front, and Islamic State. We are faced with the extensive threat of "rocket terrorism" in the hands of those organizations, while in the shadow of the nuclear aspirations of Iran.
Our enemies are operating in order to expand their stockpiles, their precision and striking power. There is a greater and more direct threat to the Israeli population. Hizbullah, together with Iran, have amassed thousands of rockets and missiles that are mobile, concealed and precise.
The reality in Syria requires the IDF to stand guard, to be ready for action to defend ourselves. On a lesser level are the threats on our southern border with Sinai, Hamas' Gaza, and terrorism originating from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].
The writer is Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
- Boycotting Israel on U.S. Campuses - Peretz Lavie
According to an Anti-Defamation League report, some 90 anti-Israel incidents have taken place on campuses across the U.S. since the beginning of the academic year - double the number in the same period last year. These incidents include protests, mock "checkpoints" and "apartheid walls," and even "eviction notices" slid under the doors of Jewish and Israeli students.
Some 15 student councils voted on proposals for divestment from Israel and an academic boycott of Israel. Although not all were accepted, the fact that the issue was raised for discussion is unprecedented.
What began as a local initiative on a few campuses has turned into an organized and well-funded campaign with the goal of isolating and boycotting Israel. At the same time, campaigns are being waged to defame and intimidate pro-Israel activists on campuses. The writer is the president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Why Do Palestinians Reject Israeli Offers of a Palestinian State in Return for Peace? - Jeff Robbins (Boston Globe)
- With the Palestinian decision to enlist the UN to impose terms on Israel despite objections by the U.S., the question remains: Why is it that the Palestinians rejected Israel's offer for an independent Palestinian state comprised of virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a capital in east Jerusalem in 2000, 2001, and 2008?
- In his memoir, former President Bill Clinton described Yasser Arafat's rejection of the Palestinian state offered by the Israelis at the end of his second term as tragic. In her memoir, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes the even more favorable offer made by Israel in 2008. "In the end," Rice writes, "the Palestinians walked away from the negotiations."
- The answer is that Israel's proposals for an independent Palestinian state have come with a condition that the Palestinian leadership has regarded as a deal-breaker: a permanent end of the conflict, and a commitment to accept Israel's existence. By contrast, the Security Council end-game sought by the Palestinians is an end-run around any such condition; it would impose on the Palestinians no obligation to end the dispute.
- As Abbas knows, the Palestinian street opposes any end of conflict with Israel that fails to bring about its disappearance.
In May 2009, not long after spurning the "extraordinary terms" described by Rice, Abbas told the Washington Post that he was in no hurry to make peace with the Israelis. Rather, Abbas hoped that international pressure on Israel would force it to capitulate without any corresponding obligation on the Palestinians' part to agree to live in peace.
- The Palestinians' argument that UN intervention is necessary because they cannot otherwise obtain a state represents a narrative that has been adopted wholesale in certain quarters. Sadly, however, it is a narrative that is tough to square with what has actually occurred.
The writer is a former U.S. delegate to the UN Human Rights Council.
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