Britain's MI5 Chief Warns Al-Qaeda in Syria Planning Mass Attacks on West - Guy Faulconbridge (Reuters)
"A group of core al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West," possibly against transport systems or "iconic targets," Andrew Parker, the head of Britain's MI5 Security Service, said Thursday, warning that a strike on the United Kingdom was highly likely.
Parker said 600 British extremists had traveled to Syria, many joining the Islamic State.
"We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time," said Parker.
A Slain Policeman Named Ahmed Becomes a Symbol - Aurelien Breeden (New York Times)
In an amateur video that was widely circulated online after the shooting Wednesday at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris, two gunmen could be seen killing a police officer as he lay wounded on the ground. "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!" they shouted.
The officer, Ahmed Merabet, was Muslim.
U.S. Seeks to Halt Saudi Blogger's Lashing (Reuters-New York Times)
The U.S. asked Saudi authorities on Thursday to cancel a sentence of 1,000 lashes given to Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger who was arrested in 2012 and charged with cybercrime and disobeying his faith.
Amnesty International said Badawi, who had run a website that included articles critical of senior Saudi religious figures, was to undergo the first 50 lashes on Friday.
Iran-Backed Militias Are Getting U.S. Weapons - Josh Rogin and Eli Lake (Bloomberg)
U.S. weapons intended for Iraq's military are winding up in the possession of the country's Shiite militias, according to senior U.S. officials.
These sources say that the Baghdad government is turning hardware over to Shiite militias that are heavily influenced by Iran and have been guilty of gross human-rights violations.
Yet if the U.S. stopped sending arms to the Iraqi military, things would get even worse, with IS overrunning more of the country and committing human-rights horrors on a broader scale.
The Arab Oil Era Is Over - Guy Bechor (Ynet News)
At the beginning of 2015, the U.S. lifted restrictions on American oil exports and has begun exporting oil to the world.
Thanks to oil shale technology, within a year, the U.S. is expected to export one million barrels of oil a day and produce 12 million barrels a day. This means that oil prices will continue to drop.
The Arab oil era is over, and so is the destructive power of the Persian Gulf's oil dictatorships.
The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Toronto Native Injured in Jerusalem Attack Remains in Coma - Daniel Otis
Howard Rothman, who was critically injured by a Palestinian armed with a meat cleaver
at a Jerusalem synagogue on Nov. 18, remains in a coma.
Rothman, 54, moved to Israel with his wife, Risa, 30 years ago, where they have ten children, the youngest only four years old.
Snow Leads to Cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
The Palestinian Authority asked the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank Thursday to help clear the main road to Ramallah from snow.
In Tulkarem, Israeli officials from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit helped Palestinians with flooding caused by an overflowing drain pipe.
Palestinian Human Rights Activist Calls for Reform of UNRWA - Michael Kuttner (JK-Wire-Australia)
Bassem Eid, a Palestinian Arab human rights activist, pointed out in an interview that if the Palestinian refugee problem was to be solved in a similar manner to that of all other refugees looked after by the UN, then the PA would be out of business and the hordes of well-paid UNRWA employees would be out of a job.
Instead the refugees are kept in miserable conditions, promised a right of return to places which no longer exist, are indoctrinated with venomous anti-Jewish and anti-Israel poison, and manipulated as political pawns in an ongoing campaign to destroy Israel.
He noted that the Palestinian refugees are treated differently from all other refugees in the world because Israel was involved.
Meet the Arab Christians Who Want to Fight for Israel - Robert Tait (Telegraph-UK)
Amir Shalayan, 26, is one of a small number of Christians to have volunteered to serve in Israel's armed forces.
Having spent three years in the Israeli navy, he now performs regular reserve duty and is a member of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum Association, which attempts to persuade other Christians to join the army.
"Christians have been persecuted all over the world and this is the only country (in the Middle East) that gives me the right to be Christian and practice my rituals," he says.
Shalayan says that Christians should assimilate in Israeli society and serve the country which protects them.
Israel Developing Mortar Warning System - Marissa Newman (Times of Israel)
An alarm system that will detect incoming mortar fire will be installed in Gaza border communities within three to six months, Israel Channel 10 TV reported Sunday.
The system, currently in development, will give residents a five-second warning, but will not be able to intercept the shells.
During the 2014 Gaza war, mortars claimed the lives of 10 IDF soldiers as well as several Israeli civilians.
Israel Bonds Surpass $1 Billion in U.S. Sales (Jerusalem Post)
For the second consecutive year, Israel Bonds sold over $1 billion in the U.S., with a surge in sales during the summer Gaza war.
Israel Bonds President Izzy Tapoohi said, "Israel Bonds serves as a strategic resource for Israel."
"We continue to draw an increasingly diverse array of individual and institutional investors, even in times of conflict, who are eager to become shareholders in one of the most resilient economies in the world."
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- France: Paris Terrorist Trained with Al-Qaeda in Yemen - Barbara Starr
The U.S. was told by the French intelligence agency that Said Kouachi, one of the Paris terrorists, traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received a variety of weapons training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In addition, a French source said one of the brothers traveled to Syria during the past year.
Also, Cherif Kouachi attempted at one point to join jihadists waging war in Iraq against the U.S. and the coalition. (CNN)
See also Jihadist Flags, Firebombs Found in Paris Attack Getaway Car
French investigators found a dozen Molotov cocktails and two jihadist flags in the getaway car used in the massacre at a Paris magazine, a source close to the case said Thursday. "This shows their Islamist radicalization and that they had possibly planned other acts with the petrol bombs," the source said.
See also Paris Terrorists Rob Gas Station in Northern France
The two main suspects in the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris are said to have robbed a service station near Villers-Cotterets in the north of France on Thursday where they stole food and petrol. The manager of the service station said the attackers fit the description of the two men, and were heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
See also Paris Terrorists Were on U.S. "No Fly" List - John-Thor Dahlburg and Ken Dilanian
Both Kouachi brothers - the Paris-born offspring of Algerian parents - were known to American and French counterterrorism authorities. A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said Thursday both brothers had been put on the U.S. no fly list.
- Boko Haram May Have Just Killed 2,000 People - Terrence McCoy
In August, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced the establishment of his "Islamic Caliphate," quickly taking over Borno State in northeast Nigeria except for one town called Baga, which held out on the western shore of Lake Chad, aided by a multinational military base manned by troops from Niger to Chad. Then heavily armed Boko Haram men attacked and the soldiers put up a scant fight before abandoning their base and leaving residents defenseless.
Early reports on Thursday said hundreds were killed in Baga. Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official in Borno, said Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 people. More were said to have drowned in Lake Chad while attempting to swim to a nearby island. One man who escaped with his family told Agence France-Presse he had to navigate through "many dead bodies on the ground" and that the "whole town was on fire." (Washington Post)
- Yeshiva Student, 21, from Brooklyn Stabbed in Jerusalem - Terence Cullen
Joshua Fishman, a yeshiva student from Brooklyn, was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver by an Arab on Thursday outside the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City. A gruesome photo showed the weapon still in Fishman's back, embedded up to its hilt. Fishman was taken to the hospital with a punctured lung, but he's in good shape, said his dad, Mayer Fishman, from his Brooklyn home. (New York Daily News-Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- PA: No Reconstruction Until We Get Control of Gaza - Elhanan Miller
The Palestinian unity government will not be able to oversee Gaza's reconstruction drive without full administrative and security control over the Strip, a demand currently blocked by Hamas, the government declared in a statement this week. The government of Rami Hamdallah said Wednesday that PA civil servants who had left their positions as a result of Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007 must be allowed to resume their posts, a move that would effectively put Hamas appointees out of business.
(Times of Israel)
- Knesset Report: BDS Movement Has No Impact on Economy - Ora Coren and Zvi Zrahiya
The global movement to boycott the Israeli economy is having no discernible impact, a Knesset Research and Information Center report said Wednesday. The report found that Israel's merchandise exports to the European Union had nearly doubled since 2005, when the global BDS movement coalesced.
Foreign direct investment has grown 58% in the last four years.
The report noted that "a major portion of Israeli exports are intermediate products, like electronic components, that sit inside the final products of well-known global companies. So attempts to boycott haven't been successful."
The EU crackdown on exports from West Bank settlements is unlikely to have any pronounced effect, the report said. Only 0.7%, or $100 million, of Israel's non-diamond industrial exports to the EU in 2013 originated in the West Bank, the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem, the three areas covered by an EU directive.
- Most Palestinians Believe Israel Wants to Destroy Al-Aqsa - Elhanan Miller
According to a poll conducted in early December 2014 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 77% of Palestinians believe that Israel intends to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and replace them with a Jewish temple, PSR director Khalil Shikaki said Sunday.
The poll found that if elections were held today, Hamas would win a majority in parliament and its former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, would defeat PA President Mahmoud Abbas by a landslide, Shikaki said.
Asked about support for violent tactics against Israel, "overall, the findings indicate that - in Palestinian eyes - violence works and diplomacy is a failure, and a third intifada is the best way to go," Shikaki said.
(Times of Israel)
See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Terror Attack in Paris
- The Paris Massacre and the West - Melanie Phillips
There has been no free media expression about Islam ever since the 1989 Iranian fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie over his book, The Satanic Verses. As Rushdie's book was burned on British streets, establishment figures turned on the author for having offended Islam.
The fact is that Islamic terrorism and intimidation against the West have been going on for decades, matched by displays of Western weakness. First the West blames poverty and exclusion among Muslims. Then it blamed grievances around the world - Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine. Then it blamed isolated madmen.
Yet Muslim violence in France has clearly been out of control for years. Just look at the repeated Islamic pogroms against French Jews, which have driven thousands of them to emigrate.
- Radical Islam Against Western Culture - Dan Margalit
A lot of French people believed that Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists would only target places like the Jewish school in Toulouse or the Jewish museum in Brussels. But in reality, radical Islam is against Western culture and Christianity. The Jews are just an excuse. The extremist Muslim killers seek to enslave all of humanity and crush human dignity and liberty.
There will always be nations and governments that believe that if they only sacrifice the Jews they can achieve peace for themselves. But they would be deluding themselves.
- Jihad in Paris - Eyal Zisser
Charlie Hebdo recently printed a cartoon featuring a jihadi decapitator cutting off the head of the Prophet Muhammad. When close to a fifth of France's Muslim population sympathizes with ISIS, it is easy to understand the kind of atmosphere that gives rise to radical Islamist terrorism in France. Paris has preached to Israel for many years to try to understand the motives behind Palestinian terror attacks. Now they are learning the hard way that terrorism must be fought unflinchingly.
It is interesting to learn that the biggest advocates of free speech when it comes to criticism of Israel or Jews who support Israel are now calling for censorship out of consideration for the feelings of Muslims who are offended by anti-Prophet cartoons.
The mass migration of millions of Muslims to Europe and the establishment of large Muslim communities on the fringes of European societies have created a new reality: Many young Muslims don't want to wage jihad in Syria or Iraq, but rather in Paris. Anyone who thought that France's pro-Palestinian efforts in the UN would provide them with credit in the Muslim world was surprised to learn that radical Islamists have a much wider agenda. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Palestinians and the International Criminal Court
- Israel Expects the ICC to Reject the PA's Request
Israel expects the International Criminal Court to unequivocally reject the PA's request to the ICC because the Palestinian Authority is not a state. Furthermore, the PA is allied with Hamas, a terrorist organization that commits war crimes. This step proves clearly that the PA is inclined towards continuing the conflict and not negotiating with Israel. An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will be achieved only through bilateral negotiations and not by unilateral dictates.
The ones who should be afraid of legal proceedings are the leaders of the PA who, in the framework of the unity government with Hamas, are collaborating with a professed terrorist organization. Hamas, like the Islamic State, commits war crimes.
The PA appeal to the ICC is a flagrant violation of the agreements that the PA signed with Israel with the backing of the international community.
Israel is a law-abiding state with a moral army that upholds international law and knows how to check itself in accordance with the highest standards. Israel will rebuff any attempt to force dictates upon it.
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- The International Criminal Court Statute Contains a Provision Directly Designed to Target Israel - Eugene Kontorovich
The ICC's foundational statute (the Rome Statute) contains a provision inserted specifically to target Israel. At the 1999 drafting conference, a group of Arab states secured a significant change in the Rome Statute provision corresponding to Art. 49(6) of the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting an occupying power from "deporting or transferring" its civilian population into occupied territory.
The Arab states changed the ICC provision to prohibit "directly or indirectly deporting or transferring" -
language that has no parallel or precedent in international law - designed to encompass the self-motivated migration of Israelis into the West Bank.
While the provision was understood to target Israel, Turkey has engaged in a massive settlement enterprise in the occupied north of the island of Cyprus. If the Court were to investigate Israeli settlements while ignoring Turkish ones, or Morocco's ambitious settler enterprise in Western Sahara, it would deprive the proceedings of any legitimacy. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
- PA's Cynical Bid to Join the International Criminal Court Must Be Stopped - Editorial
Abbas' push to join nearly 20 international treaties, including the one that allows entry to the International Criminal Court, reveals the new PA-Hamas unity government officially has zero interest in negotiating a peace with Israel. Instead, the obvious plan of the PA is to go rogue, pursuing war-crimes charges against Israel each and every time it dares to defend itself from terror attacks.
Fortunately, a State Department spokesman rightly tagged the move as "an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people." (New York Daily News)
- Cracks in the Hizbullah Monopoly over Shiites in Lebanon - Rola el-Husseini
In recent years Shiite organizations in Lebanon that resent the dominance of Hizbullah and its ally Amal have emerged to question the direction of their leadership. This defection began almost immediately after the 2006 war with Israel. While hard-liners hailed Hizbullah's resilience in the face of Israel as a "divine victory," others questioned the human and material cost of the group's intransigent stance.
Skepticism continued to grow after a 2008 invasion of Sunni areas in Beirut intended to consolidate Hizbullah's political power, and most especially after 2011 when Hizbullah intervened in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the repressive Assad regime. By some accounts, more than a thousand Hizbullah members have died defending the regime, with many more wounded.
- Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States United Against Islamic Terror - Zvi Mazel
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are all desperate to ward off the combined threats of a nuclear Iran and Islamic State. Tehran is still set to implement the goal Ayatollah Khomeini set in 1979: Destroy the Saudi regime, and impose Shi'ite Islam on the Gulf states. It is to achieve this aim that Iran is determined to obtain the nuclear weapons which will ensure its domination of the Gulf and the entire Middle East.
In Yemen, Iran is aiding and abetting the Houthis - an extremist Shi'ite tribe - who have taken over the capital of Sanaa and the strategic port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea, and are directly threatening not only the western coast of Saudi Arabia but also the entrance to the Suez Canal - and therefore Egypt. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
- Can Tunisia Navigate the Cross-Currents of the Muslim World? - Freddy Eytan
On Oct. 23, 2011, the Islamist party Ennahda won a majority of seats in Tunisia's parliamentary elections. In January 2014, the serving Islamist prime minister, Rashid Gannouchi, decided of his own free will to resign, and early parliamentary and presidential elections were announced.
On Dec. 14 the secular Nida Tunis won a majority of the parliament.
Tunisia played an important role in the secret talks that led to the Oslo agreements and in 1996 Tunisia and Israel established diplomatic relations and interest offices. Those relations were severed with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in October 2000. The writer, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel Protects Followers of the Cross While Neighboring Nations Eradicate Them - Alberto R. Gonzales
in the past century Christians have gone from comprising 20% of the Middle East population to just 4%. In Israel, however, the Christian population is growing. Israel provides Christians with security, freedom of worship, excellent education, employment, health care and other rights and opportunities beyond what is available in many parts of the Muslim world.
The United States must stand by Israel on the front lines against the terrorism and intolerance of Islamic extremism.
The writer served as U.S. attorney general from 2005 to 2007.
- After Decades of Distance, Japan and Israel Establish Closer Ties - Cnaan Liphshiz
Buoyed by the Japanese population's generally positive bias toward Jews, Japan's government has been actively seeking stronger economic ties with Israel. That's especially true now that the nation's decades-long dependence on Arab oil is waning due to America's increased energy production and Japan's decreased reliance on fossil fuels. In 2014, trade between the two nations rose by 9.3% to $1.75 billion, according to Israel's Ministry of Economy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is heading to Israel later this month for the first state visit in nine years by a Japanese leader.
Historian Ben-Ami Shillony of Hebrew University said Israel is a particularly valuable partner for Abe because its unique expertise in defense and military technologies fits his plan for beefing up Japanese military capabilities against an increasingly defiant North Korea.
The Arab Spring also changed Japan's view of the region in Israel's favor, according to Naoki Maruyama, a professor of history at Japan's Meiji Gakuin University. "With the region falling into chaos and internal strife, Israel stands out as the exception - and the place in which to invest." (JTA)
- From the Shores of Nova Scotia, Israel's First Soldiers - Rob Gordon
The Fort Edward blockhouse in Windsor, Nova Scotia, assisted in the creation of the State of Israel. In the summer of 1917, in the shadow of the blockhouse, hundreds of Jewish boys from New York, Montreal, Russia and Palestine first put on a uniform and learned how to handle a rifle. It was here that the Jewish Legion was formed up - one of the first all-Jewish military forces in modern times. Although the legion, joined by 1,100 Jews, trained in Canada, they were considered British imperial forces and came under British command.
Young recruit David Ben-Gurion, the future first prime minister of Israel, arrived to train with the Jewish Legion on June 1, 1918.
Also in Windsor was Ze'ev Jabotinsky, an ardent Zionist who was one of the co-founders of the Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky, like many of the legion soldiers, saw forming a Jewish military unit as essential to their dream of creating an Israel. After the war, many of the legion's former soldiers formed the backbone of Jewish defense teams protecting villages.
In 1996, a letter was discovered from Ben-Gurion to the mayor of Windsor describing the importance of what happened beneath Fort Edward. "In Windsor one of the great dreams of my life - to serve as a soldier in a Jewish Unit to fight for the liberation of Israel (as we always called Palestine) became a reality, and I will never forget Windsor, where I received my first training as a soldier, and where I became a corporal." (National Post-Canada)
- The "Smart" Shirt that Could Save Lives - Amy Pollock
A team of textile and medical experts at the Israeli company HealthWatch created a shirt which monitors heart activity and sends alerts of abnormalities directly to patients and their doctors on their mobile phones.
HealthWatch Vice President Dov Rubin explains, "It's just a textile t-shirt that is sensing in this case the electrocardiogram's signals of the heart, able to detect any sort of disease states that the heart and the person find themselves in, and transmit that data immediately via bluetooth, via the smartphone and directly to the cardiologist, saving very valuable time to get treatment." The shirts, which incorporate a twelve-lead electrocardiogram, are machine washable and suitable for everyday wear.
Hadassah University Hospital's Professor Chaim Lotan noted that other sensors have only one lead, "so you can miss a lot of problems if you don't get as good coverage as from a twelve-lead ECG." HealthWatch CEO Uri Amir added, "If you are monitored all of the time...this is the revolution because at the same time someone is watching your health." Developers think the design could be adapted for high-risk pregnant women too. Commercial production is due early this year. (Reuters)
- Austrian Engineers Aided Egypt's Nasser in Battling Israel - Benjamin Weinthal
In a journal associated with the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies, historian Thomas Riegler has documented Austria's role in arming former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser during the years 1958-69.
Responding to criticism that 350 Austrians were helping to build Nasser's armaments and develop Egypt's air force, then-Austrian Foreign Minister Bruno Kreisky, who was of Jewish origin but widely considered to be anti-Israel, said that "Austrians have a right to freely choose their jobs."
Samuel Laster, an Israeli living in Vienna and the editor of the news website Die Judische, said Sunday that Austria's business dealings with Israel's enemies has not "essentially changed," citing Austria's relations with Iran.
Tehran Keeps the Upper Hand in Nuclear Talks - Emily B. Landau (Jerusalem Report)
- Nothing has changed with regard to Iran's basic desire to retain and advance
its nuclear breakout option - namely, the ability to move quickly to a military nuclear capability before the international community can stop it.
- Negotiations so far show that Iran's steadfast defiance in resisting any
significant concessions with regard to its nuclear program has been met time and again with concessions by the P5+1.
- The "creative solutions" that the P5+1 have put on the table with regard to the
future of the nuclear facilities at Arak and Fordow and the configuration of centrifuges, as well as their demonstrated unwillingness to press Iran on the
weaponization aspects of its program, are all symptomatic of the P5+1's negotiating weakness.
- In terms of the negotiations dynamic, the decision in November to extend the talks for seven months has implicitly strengthened Iran's hand, in that it has
further entrenched the perception that the P5+1 are committed to diplomacy, no matter what.
When it is understood by Iran that other strategies will not be embraced or even considered, this becomes a liability, weakening international leverage.
- Even the best-case scenario from a P5+1 perspective can no longer be
regarded as a good deal.
Even if an agreement is secured, the provisions are unlikely to afford the international community sufficient time to stop Iran from achieving breakout.
The writer heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
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