Germany Indicts Iranian Spy Accused of Targeting Israel Group - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
The federal prosecutor in Germany announced on Monday the indictment of a Pakistani man, identified only as Syed Mustufa H., 31, who was commissioned by Iran to spy on the head of the German-Israel Friendship Society.
According to German intelligence reports, Iran has a vast espionage infrastructure in the country that coordinates with its embassy in Berlin.
Damascus Facing Water Crisis - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
For nearly two weeks, 5.5 million people in the Syrian capital and its vicinity have been afflicted by a water crisis.
Most of the water for Damascus comes from the Barada Valley north of the city, which is controlled by rebels. On Dec. 22, the water stopped flowing and each side has accused the other of damaging infrastructure.
Antigovernment activists have posted photos showing structures they say were damaged by exploding barrels dropped from government helicopters.
Hanukkah Hikers Find 2nd Temple-Era Etchings of Menorah - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
A group of Israel Caving Club members were exploring hidden caves in the Judean lowlands over the weekend when they discerned a limestone carving of a three-footed menorah with seven branches similar to the one that stood in the Jerusalem temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Tuesday.
Sa'ar Ganor, an archaeologist with the IAA, studied the engravings and determined that the menorah was likely carved during the Second Temple period (530 BCE to 70 CE).
"It's rare to find a wall engraving of a menorah," which is a "distinct Jewish symbol," Ganor said.
Conference in Jordan on Teaching Hebrew in the Arab World - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, and Iraqi students gathered for a workshop in Amman last week, organized by the Center for Israel Studies in Amman and the Israel Institute, to discuss the future of the Hebrew language in the Arab world.
Hebrew studies courses began at Egyptian universities in the 1960s and there are 13 universities with over 2,500 students who learn about Hebrew in Egypt every year.
A similar program began in Iraq in 1969, in Saudi Arabia in 1994, and in Jordan in 2000 at Yarmouk University.
One barrier for Hebrew language studies in the Arab world is the social aspect - how a student's friends and family may view them for studying Hebrew, and may take it as an act of "normalization."
Moreover, people are afraid that they will be seen as pushing Israeli and Jewish points of view in the Arab world.
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- Top Senate Leaders Back Resolution Condemning UN Anti-Israel Vote - Burgess Everett
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday backed a bipartisan move in the U.S. Senate to condemn a recently passed UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements.
The resolution, introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) along with 20 co-sponsors, "urges the current presidential administration and all future presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
It also "demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017." (Politico)
See also Ten Senate Democrats Break with Obama Over UN Censure of Israeli Settlements - Byron Tau
Ten Senate Democrats have signed on to a measure disapproving of a UN resolution that condemned Israel's settlement activities, breaking with the Obama administration over the issue.
(Wall Street Journal)
- State Department: Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Is Not a Good Idea
U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday:
"We continue to believe...that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is not a good idea. It's not constructive to the overall peace process. It could actually put some of our people, some of our troops, those that work at the embassy, in harm's way....If the next administration wants to move forward, that's certainly their prerogative, but under President Obama...we don't support that."
Q: In your conversations with allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Arab countries, have you been warned or counseled against moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
Kirby: "I'm not aware of any specific warning....It could potentially be provocative there and elsewhere in the region." (U.S. State Department)
- In Turkey, U.S. Hand Is Seen in Nearly Every Crisis - Tim Arango
Turkish officials accused the U.S. of abetting a failed coup last summer. When the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated last month, the Turkish press said the U.S. was behind the attack.
And after a gunman walked into an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day and killed dozens, a
headline in a pro-government news outlet blared, "America Chief Suspect," after the attack.
In Turkey, the West, symbolized by the U.S., is the perennial bogeyman.
Turkish officials accuse the Obama administration of supporting the Islamic State, Kurdish militants, and exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Erdogan blamed for directing the coup.
(New York Times)
See also Turkish President Erdogan Claims to Have Proof that the West Is Backing ISIS - James Dunn (Daily Mail-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Ya'alon: Iran, Not ISIS, Is Israel's Central Enemy - Yonah Jeremy Bob
Former defense minister Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon said Monday that the IDF operation against Hamas in 2014 had brought "complete quiet" on the Gaza front, despite small groups of Salafists who occasionally fire rockets. He added that the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian borders are all relatively quiet and that threats from jihadists in Sinai do not rise beyond a certain threshold.
Ya'alon also noted, "Everyone views ISIS as an enemy. For us, Iran is still the central enemy and suddenly it changed to part of the solution for the U.S." He argued that Iran is exploiting the current situation to "acquire hegemonic power in the region." Ya'alon expressed hope that President-elect Trump would take a stronger stance to press Iran to reduce its sponsorship of terror. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinian UN Worker Sentenced to 7 Months for Aiding Hamas
Waheed Borsh, a Palestinian UN worker accused of aiding Hamas, was sentenced to seven months in jail on Wednesday in a plea deal that will see him released on Jan. 12. In August, Borsh was charged with diverting 300 tons of rubble from a UN Development Program project in Gaza to build a jetty for Hamas' naval force.
(AFP-Times of Israel)
- Chinese Construction Workers to Help Israel Solve Housing Crisis - Herb Keinon
Israel and China agreed on Wednesday for 6,000 Chinese construction workers to come to Israel within six months to help solve the country's housing crisis. In June, Israel signed an agreement with Ukraine as well, with 1,000 Ukrainian construction workers expected to arrive this year.
- Obama's Last-Minute Own-Goal - Jonah Goldberg
The decision to clear the path for a UN Security Council resolution holding that the Western Wall in Jerusalem is actually a Palestinian possession is a serious blow to our ally (and our honor) and proof that Obama's rhetorical support of Israel was always more about political necessity than personal conviction.
For almost eight years, Netanyahu has argued domestically that the deteriorating relationship with the U.S. isn't his fault, but Obama's. The president just settled that argument for him.
(Los Angeles Times)
- The Two-State Solution after Kerry's Speech - Aaron David Miller
Whether it was the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the Oslo Accords, or the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the agreements were possible because the parties first came to understandings without U.S. knowledge or help.
Syria, Libya and Yemen are now melting down, and Iraq is severely challenged. Others are now more worried about Iran and the Sunni jihadis than they are about an unresolved Palestinian problem. The odds that Israel would consider returning the West Bank to a divided Palestinian leadership in the face of these uncertainties are slim to none. A weak or failing Palestinian state would carry negative security implications for Egypt and Jordan as well as Israel. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
(Wall Street Journal)
- For Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Start from Scratch - Mario Loyola
A two-state solution may be the right ultimate goal, but given the circumstances of today's Middle East, a negotiated settlement leading to a two-state solution is simply impossible. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the territory immediately became a terrorist safe haven and a platform for missile terrorism. If the same thing happens in the West Bank, which straddles Jerusalem on three sides and abuts most of Israel's population, it will be the end of Israel.
Settlements are not the reason that the two-state solution is "now in jeopardy," as Secretary of State John Kerry put it in his speech last week. There is only one reason the two-state solution is in jeopardy, and that is Muslim terrorism against innocent Jews, which is also the only reason for the harsh security measures imposed in the territories.
A century of terrorism by Muslims against the Jews of Palestine - at first organic, then incited by the Soviets, and now propelled by political Islam - is the essence of this conflict and the only reason that it persists. The writer, a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, is a former adviser in the U.S. Senate and at the Pentagon.
Kerry's Attack on Israel - Prof. Hillel Frisch (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- In U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's recent speech, he sounded like the European leaders who reflexively condemn Israel. Kerry noted that the U.S. had concluded an "historic" $38 billion military aid agreement with Israel, but he neglected to mention that most of those funds will go to meet the dangers of an aggressive Iranian policy.
- Tehran has been emboldened by a $50-100 billion windfall resulting from the unfreezing of its assets in Western capitals. Israel knows that much of that windfall will be used to buy Russian state-of-the-art air defense systems that will make it much more difficult for Israel to attack Iran when it goes nuclear (which it inevitably will).
- In Syria, President Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country with less than half the population of the U.S. and one-tenth its GDP, has led a winning Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition against an ineffectual U.S.
- In shedding tears over the Palestinians' plight, Kerry cannot dispel the truth that life expectancy in Gaza is a respectable 75 years - far higher than that enjoyed by one-third of humanity. Fifteen thousand Gazans have received critical medical care in Israel's hospitals, just as they receive Israeli electricity (for which they rarely pay).
The writer is a senior research associate at the BESA Center and a professor of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University.
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