Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
December 27, 2019
Fierce Competition for Supremacy in Northeast Syria - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
Eight separate armed forces may be discerned in northeast Syria.
There is the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the U.S. Army, the Turkish Army, the Turkish-associated Sunni Islamists of the Syrian National Army (SNA), the Syrian government army (SAA), the Russians, the IRGC-supported Shia militias, and the Sunni jihadis of Islamic State.
South of SDF and U.S. forces, the Iranians have carved out an area of de facto control in the area just west of the Euphrates.
At the Albu Kamal border crossing, the Imam Ali base with its tunnel system for storing missiles and heavy weaponry, and in the villages around Mayadin, the Syrian government is nowhere to be found.
The IRGC and its militia allies, including Lebanese Hizbullah, are the de facto ruling force there.
This area has been a particular focus for air activity attributed to Israel, including an air raid on Wednesday.
The good news for Israel is that it is not currently faced with a potent, focused and united enemy camp in Syria or in the region generally.
Iran is a powerful enemy, Turkey a determined adversary, but both are beset by other problems requiring their urgent attention.
The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.
Japan to Send Warship, Aircraft to Middle East to Protect Shipping - Kiyoshi Takenaka (Reuters)
Japan will send a helicopter-equipped destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes to protect Japanese ships in the Middle East, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, said on Friday.
"It is very important to make sure Japan-related ships can sail safely in the Middle East, the world's major source of energy," he said.
In May and June, there were several attacks on international merchant vessels in the region, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which the U.S. blamed on Iran.
If there are any emergencies, a special order would be issued by the Japanese defense minister to allow the forces to use weapons to protect ships in danger.
Japan, which has maintained friendly ties with Iran, opted to launch its own operation rather than join a U.S.-led mission to protect shipping in the region.
A European operation to ensure safe shipping in the Gulf will also get underway next month, when a French warship starts patrolling there.
250,000 Immigrants to Israel in Past Decade (Globes)
More than 250,000 immigrants reached Israel from 150 countries in the past decade, the Jewish Agency reported, with 34,000 coming in 2019.
Over the past decade, 130,000 came from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
55,000 came from other European countries, including 38,000 from France.
32,000 came from the U.S. and 3,800 from Canada.
13,420 came from Latin America, including 4,320 from Brazil and 3,150 from Argentina.
10,500 came from Ethiopia and 2,560 from South Africa.
1,950 came from Australia and New Zealand. 1,180 came from India.
3,040 immigrants came from Middle Eastern countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.
60% of the immigrants were younger than 45.
British Report: Amnesty International Is Institutionally Biased Against Israel - David Collier (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Amnesty International has an institutional hostility towards Israel that borders on obsession, visibly attacking Israel more frequently and with far more energy than it does any other nation. It is as if Amnesty has declared war on Israel.
In research commissioned by Jewish Human Rights Watch, I found that an Amnesty media manager advised Palestinian terror groups like Hamas not to publicly identify their martyrs if they were lost in an action, but rather have the West believe the fallen were innocent civilians.
An Amnesty consultant tweeted an image of two Islamic Jihad terrorists, with a love heart - and she wrote the word "heroes" above the images.
A deputy regional director at Amnesty was once a Palestinian activist who had Leila Khaled, the PFLP hijacker, as his Facebook profile picture.
Amnesty eagerly employs people with a history of anti-Israel activism, then sends them in as "unbiased human rights workers" to report on what is happening.
Their biased accounts then provide the motivations for constructing far larger Amnesty campaigns against Israel.
Amnesty used to have a rule that prevented people from working on issues where a conflict of interest may have occurred, but they dropped this in the early 2000s.
See also Report: Amnesty International - from Bias to Obsession - David Collier (Jewish Human Rights Watch)
Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Fast Train Begins Operations (Globes)
The new high-speed electrified railway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was inaugurated on Saturday night.
Travel time on the new route is 30 minutes, compared with 90 minutes on the old Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway line winding through the Judean hills.
The new 56-km. route includes an 11.6-km. tunnel, the longest in Israel; a 1.25-km. bridge, the longest in Israel; and a 90-meter high bridge, the highest in Israel.
The Yitzhak Navon railway station in Jerusalem is 80 meters underground, the deepest railway station in Israel and one of the deepest in the world.
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