Syria Blames Israel after Explosions at Airport near Damascus - Suleiman Al-Khalidi (Reuters)
The Syrian army command said on Friday that Israel fired rockets at a major military airbase outside Damascus.
Video footage on social media showed flames leaping from parts of Mezzah military airport.
Diplomatic sources say Israel has in the past few years targeted advanced weapons systems in Syria headed for Hizbullah.
U.S. Sanctions 18 Syrians for Chlorine-Gas Attacks - Felicia Schwartz (Wall Street Journal)
The Obama administration sanctioned 18 senior Syrian officials Thursday in response to Syrian President Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians.
This is the first time the U.S. has sanctioned Syrian officials under a 2013 UN resolution meant to eliminate chemical weapons, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.
The individuals sanctioned are officers or agents of Syria's armed forces or its Scientific Studies and Research Center, responsible for developing nonconventional weapons.
Changing Partisan Views of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Pew Research Center)
In a national survey of 1,502 adults conducted on Jan. 4-9, 2017, 51% said they sympathized more with Israel and 19% sympathized more with the Palestinians.
However, for the first time in Pew Research Center surveys, Democrats are about as likely to sympathize with Palestinians (31%) as with Israel (33%).
The share of Democrats who say they sympathize more with Israel is down 10 points from April 2016, though the share who say they sympathize more with the Palestinians is little changed from last April (29%), but is up significantly from July 2014 when 17% said they sympathized more with the Palestinians.
Republicans continue to overwhelmingly say they sympathize more with Israel (74%) than the Palestinians (11%), up from 57% in 2005.
Among liberal Democrats, 38% now say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel (26%).
By contrast, 42% of conservative and moderate Democrats say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians (25%). However, the share of conservative and moderate Democrats who say they sympathize more with Israel is down 11 points since April 2016.
NBA Star Stoudemire Now Living in Jerusalem - Jon Wertheim (Sports Illustrated)
Six-time NBA All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire lives a few blocks from the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.
Stoudemire announced last summer that he would be leaving the NBA to close out his gilded career in Israel, where he'd long felt a spiritual connection, playing for Hapoel Jerusalem.
He made a commitment to stay for at least two years. In Jerusalem, Stoudemire says, "I've never felt more at home, more tied to a place where I'm playing."
He's happy to gently point out that so many myths about Israel are just that. "People say 'Is it a war zone?' and I tell them that couldn't be further from the truth," Stoudemire says.
"On the Sabbath it's so quiet. Everything shuts down for rest, for family time. How nice is that?"
Israel's 500 Million Birds - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
Birds in the Holy Land, by German journalist and photographer Thomas Krumenacker, documents how 500 million birds from more than 500 species pass through Israel during the migration season from Europe to Africa and back.
The migration brings thousands of birdwatchers to Israel from around the world every year. Almost every year a new species not seen before in Israel is observed.
Israel's Biggest Euro-Bond Offering Was Oversubscribed by 400 Percent - Sharon Wrobel (Bloomberg)
In its first foray into the European debt market in three years, Israel sold 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in 10-year debt and 750 million euros in 20-year bonds after receiving total demand from investors for 9.8 billion euros, the Israel Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
"The success of the sale is a vote of confidence in Israel's economy," Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.
Israeli Tap Water Sensor Wins Global Prize - Viva Sarah Press (Israel21c)
BrighTap, an Israeli-made smart water meter sensor that monitors water quality and consumption, recently took first place in the 2016 Startup Open competition, run by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).
BrighTap can be attached to any standard water tap, pipe or hose and provides water quality information. It also tells the user how much water is consumed - powering itself by the water that runs through it.
In the competition, the company topped more than 1,000 startups from 101 countries.
Israeli Gadgets Wowing the World - Viva Sarah Press (Israel21c)
The Israel Export Institute and Israel Ministry of Economy Foreign Trade Office have set up an Israel Pavilion at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 in Las Vegas.
The companies on display are: Cinema2Go (optical solutions for head-mounted displays); meeba (customizable smart doorbells); Radiomize (gesture-controlled steering); 2breathe sleep inducer; CMoo Systems (home control and monitoring); DigiSense (wearable real-time monitoring sensor for diapers); Idomoo (automatically generated, cinematic-quality personalized videos); Imagry (visual recognition engine); Alango Technologies (DSP processing software); TytoCare; Beyond Verbal (emotion-detecting voice analytics); Say Wear (smart necklace); Nano Dimension (3D printing); MySizeID (measurement technology applications); and Kado (ultra-slim chargers).
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- Netanyahu Dismisses "Rigged" Paris Peace Conference - Mike Smith
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday dismissed Sunday's Middle East peace conference in Paris. "It's a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances," Netanyahu said. "This pushes peace backwards. It's not going to obligate us. It's a relic of the past. It's a last gasp of the past before the future sets in." (AFP)
See also In Paris, the World Will Try One More Time to Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - William Booth
With all the challenges facing the world, the international community has accepted the invitation of French President Francois Hollande to come to Paris on Sunday to urge Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hammer out a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry will spend his last hours in office in Paris negotiating a consensus document on how Israelis and Palestinians can live as two peoples, side by side, in peace and security - this, even after Kerry spent nine months of his tenure shuttling between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Arab capitals in a failed attempt to strike a final peace accord.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Wednesday the Paris conference "is like a wedding with neither bride nor groom." She said the Palestinians don't really want peace. They "venerate death and destruction....The conference won't bring peace. On the contrary, it will distance peace. Israel achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan through direct talks."
French President Hollande, who is out of office in May, told his diplomatic corps that the objective of the conference was to reaffirm the support of the international community for a two-state solution. "I am realistic about what this conference can achieve," he said. "Peace will only be done by the Israelis and Palestinians and by nobody else. Only bilateral negotiations can succeed." (Washington Post)
- With Electricity in Short Supply, 10,000 Protest in Gaza, Defying Hamas - Majd al-Waheidi
Popular anger over power cuts in Gaza during the cold winter erupted on Thursday in a large protest. In a rare display of defiance against the Hamas authorities, 10,000 people took to the streets in Jabaliya, chanting slogans against Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, as well as against Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Outside the electricity company, protesters hurled stones and burned tires as the Hamas police fired their weapons into the air to disperse the crowd.
Arguments over taxation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have contributed to the power cuts, with the supply of electricity down to only three or four hours a day. Smaller protests had been building all week. Hamas security forces on Wednesday detained Adel al-Mashoukhi, a comedian, hours after he posted on Facebook a video cursing the lack of electricity and shouting, "Enough, Hamas!" By Thursday night the video had nearly 300,000 views.
(New York Times)
- Iran and Syria Must Pay $178M to Family of Jewish Infant Killed in Hamas Attack, U.S. Court Rules
The Washington, D.C., District Court ruled Tuesday that Iran and Syria must pay a total of $178.5 million in damages to the family of an infant with dual American-Israeli citizenship who was killed in a terrorist attack by a member of Hamas, which is financially backed by the two countries. Chaya Zissel Braun was 3 months old when she was thrown from her stroller and killed in October 2014 in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem.
"The criminal regimes in Tehran and Damascus are the biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the world," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney who heads the Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center and who represented the family. The case was filed in a U.S. court because the baby, her parents and grandparents all hold American citizenship.
- Israel Navy Expanding Cooperation with NATO Countries - Barbara Opall-Rome
Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of a visit to Israel by U.S. Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, who commands the U.S. Sixth Fleet, Lt. Col. Assaf Boneh, head of the Israel Navy's international coordination branch, noted that "cooperation between the Israel and U.S. navies...is already quite good."
The Israeli Navy is working bilaterally with a spectrum of friendly nations. In November, the British HMS Bulwark spent nearly a week in Israel on joint drills and rest and relaxation for its 560-member crew.
The Israel Navy periodically conducts bilateral maneuvers with the French, Italian, Greek and Cypriot navies, and in September sent a submarine and two surface ships to the Italian Navy's Taranto base.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Official Report: 71 Out of 80 Fires in November Were Set by Arsonists - Kalman Liebskind
Out of the 80 fires in Israel in November that were investigated by the Israeli Fire Services Authority, 71 were set on purpose by arsonists for ideological reasons, a report released on Friday officially determined.
- World Won't Boycott Israel's High-Tech for Palestinians - Raphael Ahren
Eli Groner, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, told the Times of Israel this week that he shares Netanyahu's vision that the automatic anti-Israel majority at the UN will disappear in the coming years. He said of the recent UN Security Council vote which criticized Israel's settlement policy, "I believe that when history unfolds you will see that this was a blip on the radar screen."
"You can't fight the laws of economic gravity. We know what these countries want, we know what they need and we know that we can provide them with that. It's becoming very clear to them that Israel is part of the solution and not part of the problem." Foreign dignitaries want to know how Israel can help them fight terror and grow their economies, he said.
(Times of Israel)
- Terror Attacks in Israel Decline, But the Threat Remains Great - Lior Akerman
According to Israel Security Agency data, there were 17 deaths from terror attacks in 2016 in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, compared to 28 in 2015. In the West Bank and Gaza, there were 1,054 attacks in 2016, down from 1,719 in 2015. In Jerusalem there were 327 attacks in 2016, compared to 635 in 2015. This overall downward trend is mainly attributable to the professional intelligence and counter-insurgency activity carried out by Israel.
Another factor is Israeli security forces' coordination with Palestinian security forces. The two work together to thwart Hamas terrorist activity, with a special emphasis on preventing Hamas from becoming too powerful in the West Bank.
An intifada is a widespread popular uprising. This is not the current situation. However, the relative quiet we're experiencing is deceptive. Just behind the curtain are a number of Palestinian groups and individuals - including Hamas - that are busy planning their next terrorist attack. The writer served as a division head in the Israel Security Agency.
- Call Off the Paris Conference - Rafael L. Bardaji and Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp
Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need more plans or conferences such as the one to be held in Paris on Jan. 15. What it does require are two truly committed parties ready to negotiate.
For a few years now, those responsible in the Palestinian Authority have chosen not to sit down and negotiate with the Israeli government. Instead, they have launched a unilateral campaign to have the international community impose recognition as a sovereign state without their having to make the typical concessions that negotiations entail.
The real problem is that the Palestinians don't want to give an inch of what the Israelis want, namely, that they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. To demand that Israel renounce any claim to the Western Wall and other places at the heart of Judaism is not just historical nonsense, it is the wrong move.
It would be good if the participants in Paris would demand that Palestinian leaders end their campaigns and indoctrination against Israel and assume once and for all that Israel was created as the homeland of the Jewish people and that it will continue to be so. The sooner they accept that, the better.
Moreover, to isolate Israel means losing perhaps the best ally the West has to deal with the jihadist threat. Israelis have been enduring the threat firsthand for decades and have developed a system to deal with it. Other countries can learn a lot from that system.
Rafael L. Bardaji, executive director of the Friends of Israel Initiative, is a former national security adviser to the Spanish government. Col. Richard Kemp is the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.
- French Follies - Editorial
With 500,000 Syrians killed in a civil war that rages on, the EU in turmoil after the Brexit vote, and terrorism markedly on the rise in Europe, diplomats from 70 countries are expected in Paris on Sunday to focus their attention on creating a Palestinian state - five days before a new administration takes over in Washington.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered last spring to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Paris or elsewhere, for face-to-face talks on all issues, without preconditions. It was rejected, as usual. As long as the PA believes that it can achieve statehood by avoiding, rather than negotiating, with Israel, no progress will be made. The Paris meeting only delays that possibility. (New York Jewish Week)
- UN Should Tell Palestinians to Give Up Claims to Israeli Territory - Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz
The UN Security Council last month passed Resolution 2334, which contradicts UN Resolution 242 from 1967 and essentially gives all of the West Bank to the Palestinians. If Israelis cannot lay claim to the West Bank, then Palestinians cannot lay claim to Israeli territory. Secretary of State John Kerry and participants of the coming peace conference in Paris must affirm such a resolution as strongly as they did the UN one.
Those who have witnessed the chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" at anti-Israel demonstrations know that the Palestinians have not abandoned their claims to Israel west of the Green Line.
The most flagrant manifestation of these Palestinian claims is the insistence that the Arabs who were displaced during the 1947-49 war, and their millions of descendants, possess a "right of return" to the State of Israel.
Yet to insist on this "right" means to deprive the Jewish people of their state and subject them again to the status of an oppressed minority - their historical position in Arab lands.
Particularly, the resolution should affirm, using the same language as Resolution 2334, that any claims of Palestine and of Palestinians to the territory of Israel within the 1967 lines have "no legal validity" and "constitute a flagrant violation under international law." Any institutions perpetuating such claims, such as UNRWA, should "immediately and completely cease" their illegal activities and be dismantled.
If backers of the original resolution decline to use the same language toward the Palestinians that they used against Israelis, then those who doubt their commitment to peace and justice would, unfortunately, be vindicated.
Ms. Wilf is a former member of the Knesset. Mr. Schwartz is a researcher and writer in Tel Aviv.
(Wall Street Journal)
- End the UNRWA Farce - Sol Stern
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), with its $1.3 billion budget (30% of which comes from U.S. taxpayers), actually perpetuates the refugee problem it was created to solve, while promoting Palestinian rejectionism and Jew hatred.
The original 700,000 Palestinians leaving Israel have now been magically transformed into 5.6 million "refugees" registered with UNRWA, about half of all the Palestinians living in the world today. The "temporary" UN agency has been transformed into a bloated bureaucracy with a staff of 30,000, almost all of whom are Palestinians (many are activists of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group). Less than 5% of UNRWA's clients ever lived in Israel, but the agency's regulations state that all patrilineal descendants of the original displaced persons shall retain their refugee rights in perpetuity.
- The Threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism Is the Same in Europe and Israel - Dan Diker
Radical Islamic terrorism in Europe and Jerusalem are both motivated by extremist ideologies and must be condemned equally.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry branded the ISIS terrorists who massacred 130 people in Paris in 2015 as "psychopathic monsters."
"Psychopathic," ideologically and religiously motivated terrorists also live and work in Jerusalem, like the "truck terrorist" Fadi al-Qanbar. He was not driven by socioeconomic deprivation or nationalist sentiment. He enjoyed complete freedom of movement and received the same social and economic benefits as Jewish residents of Jerusalem.
From a jihadi point of view, there is no difference between terrorism in Berlin, Nice, or Jerusalem. Palestinian jihadis and their fellow travelers in ISIS, al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Syria, Hamas, Iran's IRGC and its Hizbullah proxy have declared that Islamic terrorism against Europe and Israel stems from the same radical roots and aims for the same extremist end: exclusive Islamic sovereignty across the lands of the Near East and ultimately the world.
The West must condemn and battle Islamic terrorism unconditionally and without reservation wherever it strikes.
The writer is director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- Israeli Arabs Seeking Integration into Israel - Amnon Rubinstein
According to the latest annual poll by the Israel Democracy Institute among Israeli Arabs, who constitute a fifth of Israel's citizenry, only 12% said that their identity was Palestinian. For 25% it was Israeli, for 29% it was their religion, and for 24% it was Arab.
Israeli Arabs are seeking integration into the Israeli economy and society, as seen in the dramatic growth in the number of Arab students in universities and of civil servants in government.
In the popular culture, a novel by an Arab author hit the Hebrew best-seller list, while Arab-subject melodramas are popular on the Hebrew TV screen. 10% of Israel's judges are Arab as well as many of its doctors; 20% of pharmacists are Arab. The writer is a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and a former minister of education.
- Israeli Doctors Treat Palestinian Children - Brenda Katten
Dr. Yoram Neumann, a consultant to the outpatient clinic of the pediatric oncology department at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, says that, currently, 40% of his patients come from Gaza and the West Bank. He noted that "we are portrayed as 'child killers,' while here and in hospitals all over the country we are saving Palestinian lives."
I spoke with a Palestinian woman from Hebron whose child is currently hospitalized. I asked how it was for her being in an Israeli hospital. She said she had expected to confront the enemy, but meeting personally with Israelis has given her a totally different perspective. She spoke warmly of the care given to her child and the support she personally receives.
- Israel Treats Wounded Syrians - Ben Lynfield
Ziv Medical Center in Safed has treated 800 Syrians since 2013, making it the largest Israeli treatment center for wounded Syrians.
Social worker Fares Issa, 39, from Gush Halav, has handled all the cases of Syrian patients in the hospital. He says those who arrive at the hospital "are wounded by gunfire, shrapnel, severance of limbs, stepping on mines and car accidents caused by snipers firing at the wheels of cars."
Some of the cases have left a deep impression on Issa.
A year ago a child was admitted to the hospital. "The child who lost his legs, a 12-year-old, was screaming in the trauma room, 'Don't treat me, because we don't have money to pay for the hospital.'...My dream was to see him walk on two legs. Three months later, with the help of the hospital and the director, with the very supportive environment, they had given him a lot of things - games, clothes, a tablet so that he could pass his time and enjoy. In the end, I gave him two prosthetic limbs with the help of which he was able to stand up and walk." (Jerusalem Post)
- Happy Is the Nation with Such Fighters - Aharon Karov
Eight years ago, I left my new wife mere hours after our wedding to go fight alongside my soldiers in the 2008-09 Gaza War. As an officer, I had a personal obligation to my soldiers, who had been with me from the time they entered the induction center until they became fighters. And I had a national obligation, because the people of Israel and the State of Israel are far greater than any personal considerations, as important as those may be.
An explosion in Gaza left me mortally wounded. My parents and wife were brought to the hospital to say goodbye to me. Ten days after being wounded, I opened my eyes. Step by step, I learned how to speak, eat, walk and do simple tasks, until eventually I succeeded in running a marathon, having three children, and finishing a bachelor's degree.
I was forced to give up my combat position following my injuries, but I will not give up my love for the army and its soldiers.
I will not give up my love for this country, which was founded on dust and ashes to be the only safe home for the Jewish people in the world. I see these soldiers and am filled with great pride. Happy is the nation whose sons and daughters are these; happy is the nation whose fighters are these.
2nd Lt. Aharon Karov is the IDF soldier most severely injured in the 2008-09 Gaza War.
- Holocaust Survivors Remember with Resilience - Carolyn Crist
Holocaust survivors in Israel integrate memories of horror and loss in their lives with a sense of resilience, researchers found.
"Even though they're haunted by memories, they've carved out lives with families and careers," said study co-author Norm O'Rourke, a psychologist at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel. They "do not define their lives based on trauma and loss, but on their ability to rise from the ashes and bear witness to the past to help secure the future," O'Rourke's team writes in The Gerontologist.
O'Rourke and colleagues interviewed 269 Holocaust survivors in Israel. "As they talked about what happened, it wasn't something that occurred 70 years ago. It sounds like it happened yesterday, which is part of the nature of trauma," he said. For many, the Holocaust is still a silent presence in daily life. (Reuters)
A Life of Degradation and Bitterness under Fatah Rule - A letter from a West Bank Palestinian attorney (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Jerusalem Center was contacted by a respected Palestinian attorney from a West Bank city. After personally interviewing him, we are publishing a letter he wrote. His identity will not be made public to ensure his safety.
Below are excerpts. Read the full letter here.
- Palestinian Authority/Fatah leaders forget that the people lean toward Hamas not because they love it, but because they hate what the Fatah movement does - which only gets worse by the day.
- The Palestinian citizen suffers from ugly terror if he expresses an opinion that is opposed to that of the PA, or insists on his rights before an official or has refused to pay a bribe to a senior official, his sons, or his bodyguards.
- The citizen wonders - is he supposed to pay the extortion money to the members of the Fatah Executive Committee, or to the members of the Fatah Central Committee, or to their sons, when he does not have the wherewithal to protect himself from their evil and from the evil of their sons, their bodyguards, and Fatah?
- I demand of the international legal organizations that pretend to defend human rights, the states of the European Union, and the United States, the great economic and rhetorical supporter of the PA, and even of the United Nations, which has a commitment to human rights, to set up investigatory committees on the irregularities of the Palestinian Authority.
- The security apparatus of the PA and the Fatah movement has been committing crimes against the Palestinian people, which reach the level of crimes against humanity, for half a century - and the crimes continue.
I still have never heard of any settler, Israeli soldier, or Israeli officer extorting a Palestinian citizen. It is what the PA and Fatah people do.
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