Israel Approves New Druze Town - Hila Tsion (Ynet News)
Israel's National Council for Building and Planning on Tuesday approved Prime Minister Netanyahu's initiative to establish a new Druze town near Tiberias in the Lower Galilee, the first new Druze community in the territory of what is now Israel in 130 years.
There are currently 14 Druze towns in the Galilee and four in the Golan.
Amid Tensions with Saudi Arabia, Grim News for Iran's Economy - Mark Dubowitz (Wall Street Journal)
The recent spike in Saudi oil production - from 9.6 million barrels per day in November 2014 to 10.2 million barrels per day one year later - has ensured that Iran will return to a depressed global oil market.
Crude oil prices are around $37 a barrel, roughly a third of the rate when sanctions were imposed in January 2013.
So long as Riyadh is willing to run budget deficits to keep oil prices low, Tehran will get only about half of the oil price to which it pegged its budget last year.
The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Chinese Muslim Militants Join with Indonesian Jihadists - Randy Fabi and Agustinus Beo Da Costa (Reuters)
Chinese Uighur militants are seeking to join Islamist jihadists in Indonesia, that country's counter-terrorism chief, Saud Usman Nasution, said following the arrest of 13 men in Java, including a Muslim Uighur with a suicide-bomb vest.
The appearance among Indonesian militant networks of Uighurs from the Xinjiang region of China is likely to add to Beijing's concerns that exiles will return home as experienced, trained jihadists.
Nasution said Tuesday that several Uighurs had responded to a call last year by Santoso, Indonesia's most high-profile backer of Islamic State, to join his band of fighters in a jungle in eastern Indonesia.
Palestinian Leaders Promise a New Year of Violence and Death - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
In separate messages to the Palestinians on New Year's Eve, both Fatah and Hamas asked their people in Gaza and the West Bank to prepare for increased violence and "resistance" attacks against Israel.
Hamas wants young Palestinians to join its forces and prepare for jihad against Israel.
Similarly, several Fatah officials and groups vowed to step up "resistance" against Israelis and urged Palestinians to join the "struggle" against Israel.
Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades distributed a leaflet in the West Bank saying, "We will continue in the path of the martyrs until the liberation of all of Palestine."
The leaders of Fatah and Hamas have once again shown they have nothing to offer the Palestinians other than violence, destruction and death.
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- Iran State TV Shows Off Nuclear-Capable Missiles in Underground Depot
Iran unveiled a new underground missile depot Tuesday, with state television showing weapons in store that the U.S. says are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The Emad precision-guided missiles shown in the footage also violate a 2010 UN Security Council resolution.
Iran's boasts are a challenge for the Obama administration as the U.S. and EU plan to end nearly all international sanctions against Tehran under the nuclear deal reached in July.
- Palestinian Authority Adrift after Three Months of Unrest - Sarah Benhaida
Three months into a wave of violence some have likened to a new uprising, the Palestinian Authority has found itself adrift and increasingly out of touch, analysts say.
"Young people see no political horizon and suffer from economic crisis and unemployment," said Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University near Ramallah and a former PA cabinet minister. "The leaders are incapable of satisfying their political and economic demands." Khatib said Palestinian politics "is at an impasse and incapable of reinventing itself." (AFP)
- Palestinians Speak Out Against Children Participating in Terrorist Attacks - C. Jacob
While the Palestinian public and leadership widely support the ongoing stabbing and shooting attacks, several Palestinian intellectuals and journalists, including Hafez Al-Barghouti, the former editor of the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and a Fatah Revolutionary Council member, have criticized the attacks, and especially those carried out by children.
They expressed outrage at the participation of teenagers in stabbing attacks against Israelis, claiming that it was not the place of children, and that their childhood and lives must be protected. They accused the leadership of Palestinian organizations of "trading in the blood of children" and sending them to die by encouraging them to carry out such attacks and praising and glorifying those who do.
Some writers also urged Palestinians to avoid harming Israeli civilians. They argued that harming civilians, especially at the present time, harms the Palestinian struggle by causing it to be associated with the global terrorism led by ISIS. (MEMRI)
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- Arab-Israeli Offers Reward for Information on Tel Aviv Shooter - Yael Friedson
The head of the merchants' committee in Jerusalem's Old City, Mazen Qaq,
on Tuesday offered a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to the capture of Nashat Melhem, the suspect in Friday's deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv. "This is someone who acted against Israeli citizens, and I won't allow someone like him to destroy trust and security," Qaq said. A resident of east Jerusalem, Qaq emphasized that he sees himself as Arab-Israeli and not as Palestinian.
Qaq reported a decrease in business as a result of the current intifada. "Revenue is down 70% and we estimate a loss of NIS 15 million among merchants. We want the situation to go back to what it was." "We're cousins. We need to forget this nonsense about Arabs and Jews. We are all human beings, no matter what your religion is, we are one people. We give you a hand, you help us and we help you." (Ynet News)
- IDF to Deploy Neck Armor as Answer to Stabbing Attacks - Judah Ari Gross
The IDF will soon distribute a newly designed neck guard to better protect soldiers serving in the West Bank against the threat of knife attacks, as stabbings have become a method of choice for Palestinians in the latest round of violence. Though IDF soldiers are mostly protected with helmets and bulletproof vests, the neck remains exposed.
Lt. Col. Liron Segel, who runs the IDF Logistics and Technology Directorate's Personal Protection and Equipment Department, said Tuesday that the new neck protector "strikes a balance between the amount of area protected and comfort of the soldier." (Times of Israel)
- Poll: Israeli Jews Say They Have Stronger Bond to the Land than Palestinians
72% of Israeli Jews say they have a stronger historical, religious,
and cultural bond to the land than Palestinians, according to a Peace Index survey conducted on Dec. 29-30 by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. 77% do not believe that negotiations between Israel and the PA will lead to peace in the coming years.
73% of Israeli Jews agree that Jewish groups committing attacks
against Palestinians are marginal groups that represent only a small minority, a view also shared by 60% of Israeli Arabs. (Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute)
- Is the U.S. Tilting toward Iran? - Josh Rogin and Eli Lake
When the White House sold the Iran nuclear deal to Congress, its message was that nothing in the deal would prevent the U.S. from sanctioning Iran for non-nuclear issues. Yet that has not been the case. Last week, the Treasury Department balked at the last moment on sanctioning 11 entities and individuals it deemed responsible for helping the Iranian government develop its ballistic missile program in violation of UN sanctions. The State Department had intervened at the last minute, following objections by the Iranian government.
A week earlier, Secretary of State Kerry wrote personally to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to assure him that the Obama administration could waive new restrictions that would require visas for anyone who had visited Iran to enter the U.S. Iran's sentencing of a U.S. journalist on espionage charges in November, and its detention of a U.S.-Iranian dual national in October, have led to no downgrade in relations.
U.S. officials tell us Iran has extraordinary leverage at this moment, as the world waits for it to implement all of its obligations in the nuclear deal. Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said, "The Iranians hold the Obama legacy in their hands. We are constrained and we are acquiescing to a certain degree to ensure we maintain a functional relationship with the Iranians." (Bloomberg)
- Iran Sacks Another Embassy - Elliott Abrams
On Sunday the Islamic Republic of Iran decided to sack another embassy building in Tehran, that of Saudi Arabia. In November 2011, the target was the British Embassy. And of course the first instance was the 1979 assault on the U.S. embassy compound and the seizure of hostages.
Iran is a police state, with plenty of manpower available to stop "protesters" or "students" from entering embassy grounds that the Islamic Republic government is pledged to protect. So it is another piece of evidence that Iran refuses to live by the rules of civilized diplomatic practice, and that its behavior has gotten worse, not better, since the signing of the nuclear deal. The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.
(Council on Foreign Relations)
- Iranian-Saudi Relations before the Abyss - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Iran and Saudi Arabia are waging a cold war through their proxies along the length and breadth of the Middle East.
This struggle is being fought in Yemen, Saudi Arabia's backyard (recently the Iranian-backed Houthis fired rockets and missiles into Saudi Arabia from Yemen), Syria (where Iran is acting on the ground to keep Assad in power while Saudi Arabia works to remove him), Bahrain (Iran supports the Shiite majority, which opposes the Sunni government, and Saudi Arabia has been forced in the past to protect Bahrain's ruler), and Iraq (where Iran-backed Shiite militias are confronting the Islamic State).
In the short term, Iran will try, through its proxies, to strike Saudi targets within and outside the kingdom as it has done in the past.
The Saudis, more than they fear enriched uranium, fear Shiism enriched to high levels of subversion in the Middle East.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Saudis Are Rightly Concerned about Iran - Dennis B. Ross (New York Times)
- The Saudis see the Iranians and their Shiite militia proxies as their preeminent threat. They are far more ready to challenge them, particularly in the aftermath of America's nuclear deal with Iran.
- The Saudis see the Obama administration as unwilling to challenge the Iranians and worry about how Iran will exploit the sanctions relief it will soon receive.
- In effect, by provocatively executing the nation's leading Shiite cleric, the Saudis are drawing their own red line with Iran because they doubt that the U.S. will.
- Iran - in Iraq, in Syria, in Bahrain and in Yemen - has added much to the worsening of the Sunni-Shiite conflict. Will the Iranians provide additional material support to their proxies once they receive sanctions relief?
Nearly all of America's friends in the region, including both Arabs and Israelis, are convinced they will and are watching to see how the U.S. responds.
The writer, a former State Department and National Security Council official, was a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East.
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