Israelis Born in Arab States Excluded from U.S. Travel Ban (Times of Israel)
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has clarified that the new U.S. travel ban on seven Arab countries will not affect tens of thousands of Israeli Jews born in those countries.
Israel is home to 140,000 people born in those countries, including 45,000 born in Iran and 53,000 born in Iraq.
The majority are over the age of 65, many fled persecution, and most do not retain citizenship in their birth country. Israel has no diplomatic relations with these countries.
Pentagon Believes Attack on Saudi Frigate Meant for U.S. Warship - Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin (Fox News)
The Iranian-backed Houthi attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials said.
Based on new analysis of a video showing the attack, American intelligence officials now believe this was a suicide bomber whose small boat rammed the side of the Saudi vessel.
In the audio heard on the video, a voice narrating the attack shouts in Arabic, "Allahu akbar [God is great], death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory for Islam."
See also The Saudi-Houthi War at Sea - Simon Henderson and Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughan, USN (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
ISIS Activates Terror Cells in Nile Valley - Waleed Abdul Rahman (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Egyptian experts said that ISIS has activated its cells in the Nile Valley, away from the Sinai Peninsula where it has targeted security forces over the past three years.
A new study highlights the flow of huge financial sums to fund terrorist operations in Egypt.
Surge in Chinese Tourists Taking in Israel's Rich History and Culture (China Daily)
Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics shows 76,400 Chinese tourists went to Israel between January and November last year, a 60% increase from 2015.
The surge is helped by new direct flights by Hainan Airlines from Beijing to Tel Aviv. Cathay Pacific is expected to start flying from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv this year.
Travel pundits say uniqueness and authenticity are key selling points. Israel is culturally very interesting, offering a rich and very developed tourism infrastructure to Chinese travelers seeking to explore new and exotic destinations.
Li Jiayang, who spent two weeks in Israel recently, said the journey was a highlight of her life as it shocked her emotionally.
"I was able to learn and feel the thousands of years of history just passing through me when I was standing in front of the Western Wall, and I could not stop myself from crying out of no reason."
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- U.S. Raises Alarm at UN over Iran Missile Test - Carole Landry and Ali Noorani
"We have confirmed that Iran did have a medium-size missile launch testing on January 29, on Sunday. This is absolutely unacceptable," new U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday. "I will tell the people across the world that is something we should be alarmed about."
"The United States is not naive. We are not going to stand by. You will see us call them out," warned Haley.
"We are committed to making them understand that this is not anything that we will ever accept." The missile launched Sunday was capable of carrying a 500-kg. payload. "That is more than enough to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon." (AFP)
See also New U.S. UN Ambassador Pledges to Block Anti-Israel Actions - Natalie Johnson
Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the UN, phoned her Israeli counterpart on Monday to reinforce America's "ironclad support" for the Jewish state. Haley pledged to Ambassador Danny Danon that she would block anti-Israel actions taken by the UN, citing the Security Council's decision last month to condemn Israel.
(Washington Free Beacon)
- Jewish Community Centers in U.S. Face Third Wave of Bomb Threats - Nikita Biryukov
At least 13 Jewish community centers were evacuated Tuesday after the third wave of bomb threats in a month. The latest spate of threats targeted JCCs in at least 11 states and is being investigated by the FBI. "We see this as a serious concern to the Jewish community and are working with law enforcement to try to address this problem, which has now become a pattern," said Elise Jarvis, associate director of law enforcement outreach and communal security at the Anti-Defamation League.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Defense Minister: Gaza Border Quiet Is Deceptive, Hamas Seeks Israel's Destruction
The relative quiet enjoyed by Israelis living near Gaza is deceptive, and another armed conflict with Hamas could break out at any minute, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned on Tuesday as he toured the area. "Hamas and the rest of the groups in Gaza have not abandoned their desire to destroy Israel." He said the only thing keeping Hamas from instigating a war is the fact that "they know that the balance of power is not in their favor and if they act against us, they will pay a very heavy price." (Jerusalem Post)
See also IDF: Hamas Has Replenished Its Missiles to 2014 War Level
A senior IDF official told Israel's Channel 2 on Wednesday that Hamas has fully replenished the military capability and missile stockpile it had prior to the 2014 Gaza war. He said the material for making weapons came through the Egyptian-controlled Rafiah border crossing. (Jerusalem Post)
- Can the Palestinians Mobilize the Arab World on the U.S. Embassy Issue? - Pinhas Inbari
The intention of the new U.S. administration to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem evoked angry reactions in the Palestinian Authority.
Saeb Erekat, General Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, told Palestinian Television that the Palestinians reject not only relocating the embassy to west Jerusalem, under Israeli control since 1949, but to any part of Jerusalem at all.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, east and west Jerusalem are all the same; all of it is Palestinian, and Jerusalem cannot be recognized as Jewish in any part.
Jerusalem is very important to the Palestinian Authority and is less important to other Arab countries and Saudi Arabia in particular, since the Saudis are anxious to preserve the supreme holy status of Mecca.
Palestinian sources describe the meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Saudi King Salman on Dec. 21, 2016, during which President Sisi of Egypt phoned to update the King that he had decided to withdraw the Egyptian Security Council resolution against Israel (that was submitted later by other Security Council members). The King told Sisi, "Go ahead." Abbas said, "At least resist Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem," but Sisi said, according to the sources, "I am with Trump," while the King of Saudi Arabia kept silent.
Jordan, if left alone, has no interest to act against moving the U.S. embassy, as long as it is located in west Jerusalem. Jordan will try and convince the Trump administration to avoid moving the embassy, but this is due less to its own interests than because of competition forced on them by the Palestinians. King Abdullah promised Abbas that he would bring up the issue of the Jerusalem embassy with Trump, but that Jordan has many issues that are more pressing to raise. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Jordan's King Abdullah Meets with U.S. Lawmakers (Jordan Times)
- Tehran Tests the U.S. with Another Ballistic Missile Launch - Editorial
Iran's test last weekend of another ballistic missile is its twelfth since it signed the nuclear deal with the U.S. in 2015. John Kerry, then Secretary of State, insisted that the deal barred Iran from developing or testing ballistic missiles. But the UN Security Council resolution merely "called upon" Iran not to conduct such missile tests, rather than barring them.
The U.S. needs to provide allies with military reassurance against the Iranian threat. Supplying Israel with additional funds to develop its sophisticated Arrow III anti-ballistic missile system would send the right message.
What the Administration can't afford is to allow the latest test to pass without a response. That would tell Iranians they can develop missiles and threaten neighbors with impunity.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Silence over Middle Eastern "Ban on Jews" - Gaurav Sharma
Several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, including the seven expressing outrage at a U.S.-entry ban for their nationals, have had a ban on Israeli nationals for over five decades. These include Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE and Yemen. Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia and Pakistan also have similar bans on Israeli passport holders. Is this not a de facto ban on people from another faith?
Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen do not even allow entry to people of any nationality with evidence of travel to Israel. This means that business travelers such as myself needed a second passport to travel within the Middle East if the first passport happened to have an Israeli stamp. But European governments didn't protest about the stance of Middle Eastern governments, and willingly issued second passports to their nationals requiring frequent travel to Israel and its Arab neighbors. (International Business Times-UK)
A How-to Guide for Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem - Einat Wilf (Fikra Forum-Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Here are four steps for moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Israel's political capital.
- Choose a location in Jerusalem that is clearly west of the 1949 armistice line. This part of Jerusalem has been under undisputed Israeli sovereignty since there was a modern State of Israel.
- Make it clear that the move merely acknowledges that these parts of Jerusalem undisputedly belong to Israel, and Israel has the sovereign right of every nation to place its capital in its undisputed territory.
Clarify that after 70 years, the U.S. is finally ending an illogical policy that holds the undisputed status of Jerusalem west of the 1949 armistice line hostage to the ongoing dispute over Jerusalem east of that line.
- Call out those Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims who are threatening violence over the U.S. move. Are they laying claim to Jerusalem west of the 1949 line and demanding it for themselves as well?
If they react with violence, it is violence that is based on opposition to the very existence of the State of Israel.
- Call upon all other countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel to follow suit.
Dr. Einat Wilf is an Adjunct Fellow at The Washington Institute and a former member of the Israeli Knesset.
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