8.3 Million Israelis at End of 2014 - Yaron Druckman (Ynet News)
At the end of 2014, Israel's population was 8,296,000 residents, including 6,218,000 Jews (75%), 1,719,000 Arabs (21%) and 359,000 "others," the Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday.
Some 23,000 new immigrants arrived in 2014.
Video: The Day Lt. Hadar Goldin Was Kidnapped in the Gaza War - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
Ynet has obtained footage of the events of August 1, 2014, during the Gaza War, involving the capture and death of Lt. Hadar Goldin and the implementation of the IDF's Hannibal Directive to prevent his abduction by Hamas.
The Hannibal Directive allows commanders to take whatever action is necessary to prevent a situation where Israel is forced to negotiate with captors.
Yemen's Houthis Seeking Control of Long-Range Missiles - Arafat Madabish (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Shi'ite Houthi fighters are seeking to take control of long-range missiles capable of striking neighboring Gulf states, the head of Yemen's Aba'd Center for Strategic Studies, Abdulsalam Mohammed, warned.
He said: "By targeting Arhab [in the Sana'a governorate], the Houthis are seeking to gain control of vital strategic military sites, particularly in the mountains overlooking Sana'a, as well as military sites within the capital itself. This includes some of the most important military camps which include strategic long-range missiles that could strike neighboring Gulf states."
Report: Saudi Arabia to Allow Jews to Work in Kingdom (MEMRI)
On Dec. 30, 2014, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that Saudi authorities are now allowing people of all faiths, including Jews, to work in the kingdom.
Saudi Shura Council Foreign Affairs Committee member Sadaqa bin Yahya Fadhel said:
"We are permitted to have a connection with Jews, and importing a Jewish worker is exactly the same as importing [a worker] of another faith....So long as we have no relationship whatsoever with Israelis, then there is no problem with this."
Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state that still bans the establishment of houses of worship for religions other than Islam.
Egypt to Expand Gaza Buffer Zone (AFP-Al-Arabiya)
Egypt said Tuesday work will begin next week to double the width of a buffer zone being built along the border with Gaza to prevent militants infiltrating from the Palestinian enclave.
A 500-meter-wide buffer zone is now being built along 10 km. of the border, and it will be expanded by another 500 meters, North Sinai provincial governor Abdel Fattah Harhur said.
Heavy Air Pollution in Tehran, 400 Hospitalized (AFP-Gulf Times-Qatar)
Almost 400 people have been hospitalized with heart and respiratory problems caused by heavy air pollution in Tehran, with nearly 1,500 others requiring treatment, Hassan Abbas, an emergency services manager, said Monday.
The situation worsens in winter, when cold air leads to a carcinogenic fog that blankets the city.
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- Resolution for Palestinian State Fails in UN Security Council - Michael R. Gordon and Somini Sengupta
A UN Security Council draft resolution that set a deadline to establish a sovereign Palestinian state was defeated Tuesday after it failed to receive the nine votes needed for adoption. The U.S. and Australia voted against the measure. France, China and Russia were among the eight countries that voted for it. Britain and four other nations abstained.
Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the UN, said the resolution was "deeply imbalanced," setting deadlines that did not adequately take account of Israel's security needs. "Today's staged confrontation in the UN Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution," she said. "This resolution sets the stage for more division, not for compromise."
Secretary of State John Kerry worked to line up enough abstentions from American allies like South Korea and Rwanda so that the U.S. would not have to wield its veto. Kerry called more than a dozen senior foreign officials including Goodluck Jonathan, the president of Nigeria, which abstained.
(New York Times)
See also UN Security Council Action on Palestinian Statehood Blocked
Israel's representative said the Palestinians have "every chance to negotiate." Having refused to engage, they had now tabled their "preposterous unilateral proposal," and he warned his Palestinian counterpart that he could not "agitate and provoke" his way to a state.
(UN News Center)
See also Abbas' Plan to Rally UN Support Backfires - Tom Rayner (Sky News-UK)
- Desperate for Soldiers, Assad's Government Imposes Harsh Recruitment Measures - Hugh Naylor
The Syrian regime has intensified efforts to reverse substantial manpower losses to its military with large-scale mobilizations of reservists as well as sweeping arrest campaigns and new regulations to stop desertions and draft-dodging. The measures have been imposed in recent months because of soaring casualties among Assad's forces, as well as apparent increases in desertions and evasions of compulsory military service, analysts say.
"These things...show just how desperate the regime is to come up with warm bodies to fill the ranks of the Syrian Arab Army," said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow and Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Men who are dragooned into the army appear to be deserting in larger numbers, and the government's crackdown is driving many to go into hiding or flee abroad.
A report this month by the Institute for the Study of War says the number of soldiers in the Syrian military has fallen by more than half since the start of the conflict, from 325,000 to 150,000. Combat fatalities have surpassed 44,000. (Washington Post)
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- Israel: Doomed Palestinian UN Gambit a Domestic Propaganda Ploy - Herb Keinon
The Palestinian decision to take an uncompromising resolution to the UN Security Council that had no chance of passing indicates that this is more of a propaganda stunt aimed for the domestic audience than an attempt to move the diplomatic process forward, Israeli diplomatic officials said Tuesday.
The Palestinians would have had a much better chance of gaining the nine votes needed to pass the resolution - barring a U.S. veto - if they had waited until Thursday because then, Venezuela and Malaysia, which can be counted on to vote against Israel on any measure, would join the Security Council.
By forcing a vote before Jan. 1, it is clear that they were interested in a defeat in order to avoid a U.S. veto, one official said. Forcing a U.S. veto, which would put Washington in an uncomfortable situation internationally, would complicate the Palestinians' relationship with the U.S. But bringing the resolution to a vote was seen by PA President Abbas as something that would play well on the Palestinian street in his competition with Hamas, the official said.
See also UN Palestinian Vote Gives Israel Some Breathing Space - Raphael Ahren
After many months and innumerable headlines, the Palestinians' bid to impose terms for statehood upon Israel via the UN ended in embarrassing failure on Tuesday. At the last minute, Nigeria surprisingly abstained, leaving the Palestinians one vote short. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the leaders of Rwanda and Nigeria before the vote; Rwanda also abstained, as did Britain, South Korea and Lithuania.
Mustering the opposition only of the U.S. and Australia, however, hardly suggests widespread international empathy for Israel's concerns. The eight votes for the resolution included Jordan, Chad, Chile, China, Russia, Argentina, Luxembourg, and France.
Israel got some breathing space, nothing more.
(Times of Israel)
See also Netanyahu Lauds U.S., Australia for Rejecting Palestinian UN Bid - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday after the UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood,
"I want to express appreciation and gratitude to the United States and Australia, as well as special appreciation to the President of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and to the President of Nigeria, my friend Goodluck Jonathan." (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran Is Getting Away with Murder - Jeffrey Goldberg
Since becoming president, Obama has made the argument that Iran could be induced, cajoled, and pressured into compromise. Yet so far, the Iranians seem unwilling to make the truly creative concessions necessary to meet the West's minimum requirements.
Iran seems as interested as ever in becoming a regional hegemon, on its own terms. And its supreme leader, and his closest confidants, have made it clear, over and over again, that he is not interested in normalizing relations with the U.S. Iran supports Shiite insurrections in Yemen and Bahrain; it attempts to manipulate Lebanese politics through Hizbullah; it intervenes in Gaza; and unceasingly threatens to eradicate Israel, suggesting that Ayatollah Khamenei has a vision that differs from Obama's.
Gary Samore, a former Obama administration official who was in charge of the National Security Council's Iran nuclear file, told me this month: "Confronting Iran forcefully in Syria and Iraq increases chances for a nuclear deal because Iran will only meet our nuclear demands if it feels weak and vulnerable. Conversely, Iran's sense that it is winning in Syria and that it is indispensable in Iraq decreases chances for a nuclear deal because the Supreme Leader won't make nuclear concessions if he feels strong and ascendant."
Obama seems to believe that Iran is ready to play the part of a rational and constructive actor, rather than an extremist would-be hegemon. I worry that he is empowering an Iranian government that isn't about to change in any constructive way. (Atlantic)
- Can Syria's Moderate, Secular Southern Front Rebels Survive? - Dafna H. Rand and Nicholas Heras
Advances by the Islamic State in eastern and northern Syria are pushing the remnants of the so-called "moderate" armed opposition squarely into the Syrian regime's line of fire. In the south of the country, however, a coalition of 50 armed secular and nationalist rebel groups known as the Southern Front (SF) has been able to hold territory for many months in the governorate of Daraa.
The SF coalition, which has forged tactical alliances with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front,
falls under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, but has generally disassociated itself from the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) on the grounds that the SNC has lost legitimacy because it is primarily composed of exiles.
Since late 2013 some of these factions have reportedly begun to receive more substantial training and weaponry from Western and Arab countries.
The coalition represents the type of partner that the international community seeks in Syria - credible and militarily capable enough to hold contested territory, while willing to countenance a future Syria that is secular, nationalist, inclusive, and respects minority rights. Any freezes in fighting in the north should not allow the regime to use freed-up forces to turn its firepower southward, where rebel rule is providing one of the few blueprints for how Syria could emerge from this crisis.
Dafna H. Rand is deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, where Nicholas Heras is a research associate in the Middle East Security Program.
The Failed Palestinian Effort at the UN - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The Palestinian draft resolution that was voted down by the UN Security Council was unacceptable to Israel for two essential reasons. First, all Israeli governments have insisted that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be reached through direct negotiations between the parties.
- That principle was enshrined in the Oslo Agreements in the 1990s. The 1995 Interim Agreement, signed at the White House by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in fact stated that negotiations were the only way to alter the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Interim Agreement was not only witnessed and signed by the United States, but also by the European Union - a fact that makes the French vote in the Security Council for the draft resolution very puzzling.
- In substance, the draft resolution also sought to prejudge the outcome of any future negotiations. How can you have a Security Council resolution that decides Israel's future borders on the basis of the 1967 lines and in the same breath assert that you are going to have a negotiation over borders? What is there left to negotiate? UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, did not require Israel to fully withdraw from the territories it captured in a war of self-defense.
- It is often forgotten that Resolution 242 was the basis of all Arab-Israeli agreements from the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace to the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles to the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Treaty of Peace. It was also the basis of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference that launched the peace process. True, the latest draft resolution mentions Resolution 242 in its preamble. But, by demanding a nearly full withdrawal by Israel in its operative section, the draft resolution essentially contradicts 242 in substance.
- Finally, the draft resolution that was rejected exposes the strategy adopted by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. He does not want to negotiate with Israel. Instead, he seeks to use international institutions in order to impose a solution on Israel. That is a course of action that no Israeli government can accept and the international community should not give it any support if it wants to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved.
The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center and serves as an external advisor to the office of the Prime Minister of Israel.
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