Iran's Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy in Persian Gulf
- Gordon Lubold and Nancy A. Youssef (Wall Street Journal
For at least two years, armed Iranian "fast boats" would dart toward U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven't done so since August 2017, U.S. military officials said.
"I hope it's because we have messaged our readiness...and that it isn't tolerable," said Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command.
The Iranian boats are typically crewed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said that in an internal directive last summer, Iran's Supreme National Security Council ordered the IRGC to stand its ground in the region, but not to harass U.S. Navy ships.
New Orleans Rescinds Anti-Israel Resolution
- David Hammer (WWL-TV-New Orleans
The New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to rescind a human rights resolution it passed on a 5-0 vote two weeks ago.
The Jan. 11 resolution had been hailed as a victory for the movement to boycott Israel.
City Council members said they were stunned by the reaction to their neutral, non-binding resolution as aligning New Orleans with a movement aimed at punishing Israel.
Council President Jason Williams told WWL-TV he felt duped by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee that had pushed the original resolution.
Uighur Group in Syria Creates Palestinian Sub-Unit
- Caleb Weiss (Long War Journal
KGT, a Uighur jihadist group in Syria, has announced the creation of the Strangers-Foreigners of Palestine company to accommodate the Palestinians and other Arabs in its ranks.
The announcement included photos showing Palestinian members of KGT battling against regime forces in Aleppo.
With More Islamic Schooling, Erdogan Aims to Reshape Turkey
- Daren Butler (Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said one of his goals is to forge a "pious generation" in predominantly Muslim Turkey "that will work for the construction of a new civilization."
His recent speeches have emphasized Turkey's Ottoman history and domestic achievements over Western ideas and influences.
Erdogan seeks to put religion at the heart of national life after decades of secular dominance, and the government is pumping billions of dollars into religious education.
The expansion of religious education is unsettling some Turks. Critics have accused Erdogan of rolling back the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
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UNIFIL: Same Forces, More Reports
- Brig.-Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University
On Aug. 30, 2017, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2373 extending UNIFIL's mandate in southern Lebanon for another year. The ambassadors of the U.S. and Israel declared improvements to the mandate.
UNIFIL's first report to the Security Council since the resolution reflects a rise in the visibility of UNIFIL activity, with slightly more detailed reporting about incidents with armed individuals and harassment of UNIFIL patrols.
Israel should take an integrated approach: maximize UNIFIL's potential utility to diffuse escalation; challenge the UN more forcefully for credibly reflecting reality in its reporting; push for a reduction in UNIFIL forces on the ground while preserving their quality; and tighten policy coordination with the U.S.
The writer served as head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff (2010-2015), where he was in charge of communication with UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.
Abbas Objects to Israel's Very Existence
- Marc Schulman (Newsweek
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave two speeches last week in which what he said about Israel makes peace practically unattainable.
Abbas said: "Colonialism created Israel to perform a certain function. It is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism."
He asserted: "The Jews of Europe preferred dying in the Holocaust than coming to Israel," conveniently forgetting that it was the Arabs of Palestine who rioted to stop immigration.
What is evident fromAbbas' speeches is that the issue between Israel and the Palestinians is not a matter of the 1967 lines, but, rather, condemnation of the very existence of Israel.
Abbas' latest utterances have clarified that regardless of how much we may want peace, it requires two parties to make peace.
In an Israeli Cave, Scientists Discover Jawbone of Earliest Modern Human Out of Africa
- Nicholas St. Fleur (New York Times
Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of a fossilized human jawbone in a collapsed cave in Israel that they said is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old.
The find may rewrite the early migration story of our species, pushing back by about 50,000 years the time that Homo sapiens first ventured out of Africa.
Photos: Visiting Israel - You Had Me at Shalom!
- Chris Sloan
Israel has always been at the top of my bucket list of places to visit.
I was invited by the Israel Ministry of Tourism to fly El Al's inaugural Miami to Tel Aviv flight.
As a Jew, I felt at home from the second I touched Israeli soil. With 43% of the world's Jewish population living in Israel and 39% residing in the U.S., it's no wonder both our nations enjoy a unique relationship.
For me personally, the most powerful part of this trip is a visit to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount - the most sacred spots in Judaism.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Trump to Netanyahu: "We Took Jerusalem Off the Table"
Prior to a meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, the president said: "We will be moving our embassy, as you know, to Jerusalem. And as we also know, that is way ahead of schedule, by years, and we anticipate having a small version of it opened sometime next year."
Netanyahu said, "This is a historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come. People say that this pushes peace backward. I say it pushes peace forward because it recognizes history, it recognizes the present reality, and peace can only be built on the basis of truth."
President Trump said, "When they [the Palestinians] disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great Vice President to see them - and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support - tremendous numbers; numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace. Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they're going to have to want to make peace too, or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer."
"This was never brought up by other negotiators, but it's brought up by me. So I will say that the hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don't have to talk about it anymore....You won one point, and you'll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place. I don't know that it ever will take place."
"But they have to respect...the fact that the U.S. has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support....Respect has to be shown to the U.S. or we're just not going any further." (White House)
- U.S. Envoy to UN: Abbas Lacks Courage to Seek Peace with Israel - Margaret Besheer
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Thursday,
"Real peace requires leaders who are willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths, and make compromises. It requires leaders who look to the future, rather than dwell on past resentments. Above all, such leaders require courage. I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat? If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite." (VOA News)
See also Haley: U.S. Will Not Chase Palestinians Lacking Will to Seek Peace - Michelle Nichols
The U.S. will not "chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Thursday. Referring to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Jan. 14 speech, she said, "A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace." (Reuters)
- Israel: 82,000 Fighters Are Under Iranian Control in Syria - Nicole Gaouette
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, revealed to the Security Council on Thursday Iran's plans to dominate Syria, destroy Israel and "terrorize the entire free world." "Iran is turning the entire country of Syria into the largest military base in the world." There are 82,000 fighters "directly under Iranian authority in Syria," including 3,000 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and 9,000 members of Hizbullah. "The entire international community should be concerned about Iran." Even though Iran is targeting Israel first, "it is you who are next."
Danon said that Iran has only increased its military spending since the nuclear pact was signed in 2015.
"In 2014, 17% of Iran's government spending went to its military. This past year, in 2017, this number ballooned to 22%. That's $23 billion spent on missiles, arms and other weapons of war." (CNN)
See also below Commentary: The Iranian Military Intervention in Syria: A Look to the Future - Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Netanyahu: "The Palestinians Should Have All the Powers to Govern Themselves but None of the Powers to Harm Us" - Jacob Magid
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Our position is that Jerusalem should remain united under Israel's sovereignty with complete religious rights for those of all faiths....We will always keep the status quo at the Temple Mount and all of the holy sites."
Netanyahu said, "[The Palestinians] want to govern themselves, which I don't have any problem with." He noted that in 2009 he backed the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognized Israel as a Jewish state. "The principles have remained the same. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves but none of the powers to harm us. Israel will retain the overriding security control, but other than that, the Palestinians will be able to govern themselves."
Netanyahu acknowledged that this amounted to less than full sovereignty for the Palestinian state, but noted, "U.S. troops remain in Europe 80 years later....I don't want to annex the Palestinians and I don't want them to live as subjects." (Times of Israel)
- Palestinians: If Jerusalem Is Off the Table, then Peace Is Off the Table
Palestinians denounced on Thursday statements by U.S. President Donald Trump that Jerusalem is off the negotiating table and threats to cut all U.S. aid to the Palestinians if they do not return to the negotiating table with Israel, saying that if Jerusalem is off the negotiating table, then peace and the U.S. are off the table as well. (WAFA-PA)
- Jordan's King Abdullah: U.S. Must Get a Major Israeli Concession after Jerusalem Recognition - Jacob Magid
Jordan's King Abdullah II said Thursday in Davos, Switzerland, "The challenge that the Americans have with the Israelis is that if this [Jerusalem recognition] is to make any sense, it's to give something pretty good to the Palestinians."
The king urged the Palestinians to wait for the Americans to publicize their peace plan, and insisted that "we all know that we cannot have a peace process or peace solution without the role of the United States." (Times of Israel)
- Trump's Mideast Plan - Alex Fishman
A group of experts from the White House's National Security Council - who were described as outstanding professionals by Israelis who have met with them - has been working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan for months. The fruit of their labor is handed over to the political echelon: Jared Kushner, David Friedman, and Jason Greenblatt. External officials serving as advisors to the American political team include the Saudi crown prince, the UAE ambassador to the U.S., and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
When it comes to Jerusalem, the Palestinians are creating an artificial crisis, as the Trump plan doesn't mention Abu Dis as the Palestinian capital but rather "Jerusalem neighborhoods," which could fall into the definition of east Jerusalem as the capital. Vice President Pence reiterated that the administration won't intervene in the Israeli capital's borders.
The current plan includes no demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but they are required to give up the right of return. According to the plan, Israel will receive open relations with Saudi Arabia. The Palestinians will receive funding from the Saudis and the Jordanians will provide mentoring and diplomatic backing in building sovereignty. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- The Iranian Military Intervention in Syria: A Look to the Future - Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam
Presumably, Tehran intends to leave a significant military presence in Syria for a long time to help the Assad regime stabilize its minority rule and ensure its survival. For Iran, it is important to keep forces in Syria to bind Syria to Tehran and wield decisive influence on its decisions and conduct in case Assad's
Because Iran has no assurance that the Assad regime will survive, it has assembled two
new Syrian militias: the National Defense Forces, numbering tens of thousands of soldiers, mostly Alawites, and a Shiite militia called the Rida Force. Iran's Quds Force seeks to turn the Syrian militias into a permanent military/political force it can deploy, much like Hizbullah.
A long-term military presence in Syria is important to Iran in order to embed a source of influence in the heart of the Arab world and ensure a Shiite crescent from Iran to Lebanon. A military presence in Syria allows Iran to expand its influence in Iraq and Lebanon, both of which have a dominant Shiite population; prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state liable to foment unrest within Iran's own Kurdish minority; counterbalance its enemies in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia; and perhaps also enter the Palestinian arena.
It will also help Iran aggravate the threat against Israel posed by Hizbullah, in part by extending the front against Israel from southern Lebanon to the Golan Heights. The writer, who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior research fellow at INSS.
(Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Why Does UNRWA Operate in Areas Governed by the Palestinian Authority? - Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon
Over the past year, multiple UNRWA employees have been caught working for Hamas. Suhail al-Hindi, who served as chairman of the UNRWA staff union in Gaza and principal of an UNRWA boys' elementary school, was forced to resign last April. Numerous UNRWA teachers, counselors and other employees have been caught glorifying terrorism and inciting hatred and violence on social media and in the classroom.
In countries where Palestinians have been granted citizenship, the refugee status should be revoked and aid should instead be provided to the host country to assist in their absorption and acclimation. Moreover, there is absolutely no justification for UNRWA's operation in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority.
- Should the U.S. Cut Aid to the Palestinians? - Peter Wertheim
The UN has one definition for Palestinian refugees, and a completely different definition for all of the world's other refugees, and one agency that deals with Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and a completely different agency to look after all of the other refugees (UNHCR).
Fewer than 1% of the people currently served by UNRWA fled from their homes during the 1948 or 1967 wars against Israel. The rest are descendants of refugees, many of whom are natives of other countries or enjoy full citizenship rights or permanent residency. The notion of refugee status being inherited and passed down in perpetuity to remote descendants who have never fled from their homes is without parallel in international law. It is not applied to, nor is it claimed by, any other refugee group.
Thus, the UN gives favored treatment to descendants of refugees who happen to be Palestinian. There appears to be no good reason why there is one UN agency and one set of rules for Palestinian refugees and another agency and another set of rules for all of the world's other refugees. The criteria for determining who is a refugee should be standardized so that the same rules apply to everybody. The writer is executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. (ABC-Australia)
- How the U.S. Can Help Clean Up the UNRWA Mess - Jonathan Schanzer and Richard Goldberg
The U.S. is the largest single state donor to UNRWA, an organization that provides welfare assistance to the Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and millions of their descendants. Since 1950, Joe Q. taxpayer has contributed $6 billion to UNRWA - more than $1 billion in the past four years alone. What are we getting for our money?
If the U.S. is expected to continue as UNRWA's biggest benefactor, the management of the agency needs to fundamentally change. The U.S. should assume a permanent role in the agency's governance, including the installation of an American diplomat as its chair. With that title ought to come the basic oversight prerogatives reserved for any nonprofit's board of directors and top donors - establishment of performance metrics, evaluation of key staff, freedom to audit any program or expenditure, and the ability to shape the mission, mandate and future of the organization.
There must be a plan to move UNRWA's 5 million dependents from international welfare to self-sufficiency. The culture of hopelessness and permanent dependency breeds terrorism and violence. By contrast, economic self-sufficiency and advancement produce peace and tolerance. Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor.
- The Palestinians Aren't Ready to Make Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin
No rational person could hear Abbas' Jan. 14 diatribe, in which he engaged in a wild anti-Semitic rant, and still believe he has any interest in two states or coexistence. His complaints were not so much about the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as they were about the entire Zionist project. He made it clear his real problem was with Arthur James Balfour and the origins of Jewish statehood as well as in denying the historical ties between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland. He vowed to go on supporting terrorism and his violent words confirmed a commitment to incitement.
Abbas demonstrated why he didn't take advantage of the eight years when Obama was hammering Israel to make concessions: he isn't interested in a deal that will end the conflict on any terms. To understand that peace isn't possible in the foreseeable future doesn't mean it can't happen eventually, when the political culture that makes Abbas' stand popular is rejected in favor of one rooted in an admission that their failed century-old war on Zionism is over. (JNS.org)
- Making Peace between Pakistan and Israel - Hussain Nadim
Pakistan's position on Israel is one of those senseless policies that have been in practice for over seven decades handicapped by inertia, propaganda and misplaced emotions. As a foreign policy realist, I have long been a strong proponent for opening up ties with Israel as a necessary step to win a favorable position in Washington and, most importantly, have one enemy less in a hostile neighborhood.
One could understand Pakistan's position on Israel back in the 1950s and 1960s with the need to be part of the Ummah and reap the benefits of the growing Islamic bloc. But from the 1970s onward, Pakistan's policy not to recognize Israel is plain ridiculous.
For one, the Arab-Israeli issue got reduced down to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, with major stakeholders, including Jordan and Egypt, developing full diplomatic ties with Israel. There are whispers that the Saudis are in the process of officially recognizing Israel. That leaves Pakistan as the only one left playing a game that is not even its own and for no reason. One wonders what national interest the Pakistani leadership is pursuing by creating an additional enemy out of a potential ally.
In all my discussions with the high-ups of the Pakistani security establishment, politicians and diplomats, there is a high acceptance and willingness to engage with Israel. The problem is that nobody wants to take responsibility, fearing a backlash from religious hawks who wrongly put it as a religious issue. The writer is a PhD candidate and director of the South Asia Study Group at the University of Sydney.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day - January 27, 2018
- President Rivlin: Israel "Not Compensation for Holocaust" - Greer Fay Cashman
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke on Thursday at the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day event for the diplomatic corps at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Rivlin noted that his own family came to the Land of Israel well over a century before the Holocaust and that other Jewish families were already living there. "The State of Israel is not a colonial project, and not compensation for the Holocaust. The State of Israel came into being from the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its own homeland." (Jerusalem Post)
- Krakow Orphanage Head Deported to Death Camp "Arm-in-Arm with His Pupils" - Ofer Aderet
While many have heard the heroic story of educator Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in Warsaw and marched together with the children to their deaths during the Holocaust, few have heard of Rabbi Dawid Kurzmann, who directed the Jewish Orphans Institute in Krakow.
On Oct. 28, 1942, at the head of a group of 300 orphans, Kurzmann, 77, walked to the Belzec extermination camp gas chambers. After the war, the Krakow Jewish community wrote, "When the barbarian Nazis came to destroy us, he did not part from his sainted flock but rather arm-in-arm with his pupils he marched proudly towards death."
Meir Bossak, a Holocaust survivor from Krakow, wrote how the Germans ordered the orphans to go from the orphanage to the railroad station, and how they offered Kurzmann the possibility of remaining in the ghetto and saving his life, but he refused and went to his death "at the head of the company of orphans." (Ha'aretz)
- Britain Honors Its Holocaust Heroes
Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 will take place on January 27. An event at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will honor heroic men and women with the British Heroes of the Holocaust medal.
The recipients include: British diplomats John Carvell and Sir Thomas Preston who issued almost 1,500 Jews with certificates to enable them to escape to Palestine. Margaret Reid who worked in the Passport Control Office of the Berlin Embassy and issued visas that allowed thousands of Jews to emigrate. She often bent the rules for issuing visas, a practice that was deliberately overlooked by the British Consul-General Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes, another recipient of the award.
(UK Foreign Secretary)
- During 2017, Israel secured a series of unprecedented diplomatic achievements, reflecting a growing global and regional recognition of a shared threat from totalitarian Islamism, as well as an appreciation of Israel's capacity to contribute in a variety of fields.
- President Trump's declaration on Dec. 6, 2017, that the American administration recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is planning to move the American embassy there constitutes a significant landmark in the struggle, which has been ongoing since 1949, over the formulation of the U.S. position on Jerusalem. For the first time since Israel's founding, the president has recognized that Israel is the sovereign in Jerusalem.
- The willingness to present reality as it is, after two generations of succumbing to Arab and Islamic pressures and threats, constitutes a first-rate Israeli diplomatic achievement. The American move reflects the president's decision to abandon the patterns of appeasing Palestinians and deliberately creating a position gap with Israel.
- In May 2017, an American president chose Israel as one of the destinations for his first trip abroad. In his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, President Trump publicly demanded that the PA should end the extensive financing of families of Palestinian prisoners and "martyrs" (terrorists).
- In June, Prime Minister Netanyahu was the sole non-African speaker at the summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia. Later that month was the tripartite Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit in Thessaloniki to discuss the production of energy in the eastern Mediterranean.
- In July, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi came for a three-day visit to Israel (and to Israel alone). Israel's relationship with India is rooted in both countries' self-image as democracies opposed by ruthless Islamist enemies.
- In September, Netanyahu met Egyptian President el-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, their first public meeting since Sisi came to power in 2013. The mere fact that a public meeting took place - let alone in a relaxed mood and garnering positive coverage - illustrated the vast transformation in Israel's standing in the region.
The writer, former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at Israel's National Security Council, is vice president of the JISS.
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