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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
January 4, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Will Keep Supporting Anti-Israel Terrorism Front (Tasnim-Iran)
    The head of the Strategic Research Center of Iran's Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Velayati, said Tuesday that Tehran will never withdraw support for the anti-Israel Resistance Front nations.
    "The Islamic Republic of Iran's stance is unchanging and that is providing full and continued support for the Resistance line, which begins from Iran and passes through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and reaches Palestine."
    Velyati is a top adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran's Maritime Mirage - Behnam Ben Taleblu and Patrick Megahan (Cipher Brief)
    Iran is doing enough damage in the Middle East through unconventional methods without requiring a robust navy.
    That is why an idea floated by a key Iranian military leader to build naval bases in Yemen and Syria makes absolutely no sense.
    Such a move seems unnecessary given Iran's relative success at power projection in the region using unconventional means, such as arms proliferation and funding proxies.
    Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Patrick Megahan is a research associate for military affairs.

PLO Official: Russia to Host Hamas-Fatah Meeting - Adam Rasgon (Jerusalem Post)
    "The Russians will host a meeting of Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian officials in Moscow in the middle of January to discuss reconciliation," Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO Executive Committee member, told the Jerusalem Post.
    Fatah officials hold that Hamas needs to relinquish its security and administrative control over Gaza, while Hamas officials argue that Fatah must end its dominance over the West Bank and permit it to operate freely.
    Hisham Sharabati, a Palestinian analyst from Hebron, said Monday: "I do not believe reconciliation will happen any time soon."

Ethiopia Jails 20 Muslims Accused of Pursuing Sharia State - Elias Meseret (AP-Washington Post)
    An Ethiopian court has sentenced 20 Muslims to prison after they were found guilty of trying to establish a state ruled by Sharia law and inciting violence.

Free Speech and Anti-Semitism - Ruth R. Wisse (Wall Street Journal)
    In December the Senate passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act in response to the escalation of anti-Jewish hostility in America, especially on the fringes of politics and in institutions of higher learning.
    The Senate bill itself understates the problem by treating anti-Semitism under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.
    Were anti-Semitism historically a matter of discrimination alone, it could not have generated the extermination of the Jews of Europe or the perpetual Arab war against Israel. Discrimination is merely one byproduct of anti-Semitism.
    The writer is a former professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Cease-Fire Crumbles as Government Forces Advance - Louisa Loveluck and Heba Habib
    A Syrian cease-fire backed by Russia and Turkey is crumbling five days after it began, with government forces pushing offensives around Damascus. While Russia has burnished its reputation as a mediator, it now appears unable to bring the Syrian government in line with the cease-fire. (Washington Post)
  • BP Opts Out of Iran Deals - Andrew Ward
    British Petroleum (BP) has opted out of the first wave of agreements to develop oil and gas reserves in Iran after the lifting of international sanctions. Iran has struck a series of deals with foreign energy groups in recent weeks, including Total of France and Royal Dutch Shell.
        However, people briefed on the matter said that the continued existence of some U.S. sanctions against Iran - and the prospects of a hardline stance against Tehran by the Trump administration - were particular deterrents for BP. Although based in the UK, about 40% of BP shareholders and 30% of its employees are American. U.S. citizens are barred from commercial activities in Iran under Washington's bilateral sanctions against Tehran. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Iran Approves 29 European, Asian Companies for Oil, Gas Projects (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
  • Palestinians Face Sharp Fall in Foreign Funding
    Foreign financial support for the Palestinian Authority is running at about half the forecast level, Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah told Al-Quds newspaper on Tuesday. "We had expected to get $1.2 billion in (external) support and offers, but we have only received $640 million so far."
        Normally, Saudi Arabia provides $20 million a month, but it stopped making regular contributions last April. The EU and U.S. have also reduced direct budget support, preferring instead to fund development programs that target specific areas. 55% of the budget goes to salaries for the PA's 156,000 employees. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Senior MK Tells EU Officials: To Extremists, We're All Enemies
    Avi Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and former director of the Israel Security Agency, told a delegation of visiting EU officials Tuesday that the Jewish state and Europe are in the same boat when confronting radical Islamist terrorism.
        Elmar Brok, Chairman of the EU's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Israel and Europe could both benefit from cooperation and discussion on counterterrorism, and Europe could learn from Israel's experience. The face of terrorism has changed, Broke said, and the threat had morphed into a global one. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Soldier Who Killed Wounded Palestinian Stabber Convicted of Manslaughter - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was caught on video shooting Palestinian stabbing assailant Abdel Fatah Sharif in Hebron on March 24, was convicted of manslaughter by a three-judge military court in Tel Aviv on Wednesday for unnecessarily killing a Palestinian terrorist who was already wounded and subdued. The incident occurred after two Palestinians attacked two Israeli soldiers at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Restoring U.S.-Israel Meetings of the Mind - Robert Satloff
    The Obama administration's record toward Israel underscores a counterintuitive reality: it is possible for the two countries to have close military and intelligence ties as well as tense strategic and political relations at the same time. From the opening days of the Obama White House, gone was the Washington-Jerusalem intimacy that characterized both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations - four-eyes meetings between leaders that were true meetings-of-the-mind, the sharing of speeches before delivery, and the informal and discreet exchange of ideas.
        It was the Obama team that came to power intent on changing the human dynamics of U.S.-Israel ties, making it a more "normal," less "special" relationship. This "normalization" extended to such truly strategic decisions as Washington's refusal to share with Israel information about the secret Iran nuclear negotiations.
        U.S.-Israel relations can be righted by a new administration determined to restore intimacy and common purpose to the partnership. Washington can even advance Israeli-Palestinian peace if the White House is willing to think beyond the failed, top-down principles enunciated by Secretary of State Kerry.
        Instead, there is real potential for progress if the new administration pursues creative ideas of bottom-up diplomacy, persistent state-building efforts, Palestinian institutional reform, and realistic understandings with Israel on settlement construction in areas almost universally understood to remain inside Israel under any future agreement. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (National Interest)
  • Ways for the New Administration to Put Tehran on Notice - Michael Makovsky
    There is an urgent need to restore U.S. credibility and resolve in opposing Iranian aggression. The U.S. will need years to rebuild a robust international sanctions regime, and sanctions without military credibility cannot stop Iran from flouting the nuclear deal or inflaming the region.
        A proven necessary ingredient in dealing with Iran is a credible military threat. Two examples: Tehran suspended elements of its nuclear program in 2003-04 following the U.S. overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and it never crossed Israel's 2012 red line over its nuclear stockpile.
        The new administration should instruct the Pentagon to update contingency plans for the use of force against Iran, including its nuclear facilities, especially in the event of a significant violation of, or withdrawal from, the nuclear agreement. This will communicate a new robust posture and prepare for what might be necessary.
        It should boost the anti-Iran regional coalition instead of alienating traditional regional allies. This includes supporting the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency in Yemen, increasing aid for Jordan, supporting Egyptian President Sisi, and improving relations with Azerbaijan.
        It also includes bolstering support for Israel, backing it strongly against Iran-supported Hamas and Hizbullah, and mitigating negative consequences of the recent UN Security Council resolution, including by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The writer, a Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). (Wall Street Journal)
  • Kerry Reached Back to the Carter Administration to Find a Precedent for the Administration's UN Abstention - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State John Kerry on Dec. 28 once again focused on Israeli settlements in a speech given just days after the U.S. abstained on a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements.
        The last time a resolution was approved by the Security Council with phrasing concerning Jerusalem and occupied territories in a key operative paragraph was in 1980 - during the Jimmy Carter administration - so Kerry is reaching back decades to find a precedent for the administration's abstention.
        Kerry is right that every administration "opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace." But he's wrong to paint all administrations with the same brush, as sometimes the language (such as in the Ronald Reagan years) was as mild as saying settlements were "not helpful" - not that they were illegal. (Washington Post)

Israeli Settlements Are Not the Real Barrier to Peace - Tim Montgomerie (The Times-UK)

  • Whenever the world's only Jewish-majority state affronts their sense of morality, tens of thousands of Britons march through London. But, revealingly, they've turned a blind eye to Syria's barrel-bombing of civilians and its illegal use of chemical weapons.
  • The moral failure of many Britons is multiplied at the United Nations, supposedly the world's home of human rights. Over the past decade the UN has condemned Syria eight times but has 223 times attacked the nation in which, if you are Christian, homosexual or other minority, you are probably safer than anywhere in the Middle East.
  • The UN's one-sided approach was on display again with a motion demanding an end to settlement-building by Israelis. Thanks to the UK and, more surprisingly, the U.S., it was allowed to pass. While construction in disputed territories does undermine peace prospects, the focus on the issue has been engineered by Palestinians and diverts attention from their failings.
  • Bigger barriers to peace include polling that finds at least one million Palestinians view Islamic State positively. Then there's Hamas, the proscribed group that runs Gaza, and its charter's genocidal call to kill Jews. Or, if the UN is really looking for root causes, how about the anti-Semitic "educational" materials circulating in schools in Gaza and the West Bank?
  • When you are surrounded by people who want you dead, Israelis can't be blamed for not rushing to repeat what happened after their 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Vacated settlements became launchpads for missile attacks. I've visited the bomb shelters that Israeli schoolchildren scurry to when alarms sound.
  • What those who deserted Israel at the UN miss is that today's Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be understood within the context of the radicalization of the region. Israel is in the front line against radical Islam and, in the words of the author Sam Harris: "We are all living in Israel, it's just some of us haven't realized it yet." And the "we" includes the majority of peace-loving Muslims and other victims of Islamist terror.

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