Report: Syria and Hizbullah Won't Join the Fight If Israel Strikes Iran (Times of Israel)
The ability of Tehran's proxies to forcefully respond to an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities has dropped significantly in recent months, according to a Foreign Ministry paper presented to Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem this week.
The deterioration of the regime in Syria and the subsequent weakening of Hizbullah in Lebanon have hurt their ability to join in any conflict, Maariv reported Thursday.
The report said that in the event of a Hizbullah attack, Israel would likely invade Lebanon with massive ground forces, in an attempt to eradicate, once and for all, the threat on its northern frontier.
The Palestinian "Holy Trinity":
Jesus, Arafat and Abbas - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
The Palestinian leadership's falsification of history by presenting Jesus as an ancient Palestinian increased as Christmas approached this year.
The PA official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Dec. 24 reported the governor of the Ramallah district Leila Ghannam saying: "We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian."
Palestinian historian Khalil Shoka told Fatah TV on Dec. 16: "In the final analysis, Jesus the Messiah is a Palestinian."
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, said on Fatah TV on Nov. 30: "Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence."
An editorial in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Nov. 30 referred to Arafat, Jesus and Abbas as the Palestinian "holy Trinity."
Saudi Arabia Detains Dozens for "Plotting to Celebrate Christmas" (Al-Akhbar-Lebanon)
Saudi religious police stormed a house in the province of al-Jouf last week, detaining more than 41 guests for "plotting to celebrate Christmas."
The kingdom, which only recognizes the Islamic faith, has in the past banned public Christmas celebrations.
Leading Chinese Firms Eye Israeli Technology Investments - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
A delegation of senior Chinese business leaders visited Israel last month in search of investment opportunities in technology.
Bilateral trade between China and Israel totaled $8 billion in 2011, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Chinese have invested $3 billion in Israeli companies to date. The biggest investment was the $1.4 billion acquisition of 60% of MA Industries, the world's largest maker of generic crop protection chemicals, by China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) in 2011.
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- UN Says More than 60,000 Dead in Syrian Civil War - Ben Hubbard and Frank Jordans
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday that the death toll in Syria's civil war has exceeded 60,000 in 21 months. The new death toll was compiled by independent experts who compared 147,349 killings reported by seven different sources.
After removing duplicates, they had a list of 59,648 individuals killed, listing the victim's name and the date and location of their death.
The death toll is likely to be even higher because incomplete reports were excluded, and some killing may not have been documented at all. "There are many names not on the list for people who were quietly shot in the woods," said Pillay's spokesman Rupert Colville.
- Israel Completes Most of Egypt Border Fence - Batsheva Sobelman
Two years after construction began, Israel has finished the bulk of the work on a fence along its 140-mile-long
border with Egypt. Closing off the border will prevent the "unfettered flow of illegal infiltrators, the smuggling of drugs and weapons," said a statement from the Defense Ministry, which oversaw the $400-million engineering project. (Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel "Cracking Down" on West Bank Terror Suspects
Israel plans to step up arrests of suspected terrorists in the West Bank to prevent the simmering civil unrest from escalating into a full-blown uprising, security sources say. "As a consequence, a decision was taken within the security establishment to increase intelligence activity and arrests among members of Hamas or operatives against Israel," a source said. "It started in the past few days and will increase."
The defense establishment has noted an upswing in clashes since November's eight-day battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, "there's been an increase in the number of incidents that have taken place, stone-throwing incidents as well as Molotov cocktails on the main highways." (AFP-Ynet News)
- Internal Palestinian Clashes Erupt in Nablus - Nasouh Nazzal
Heavy clashes have erupted between the Palestinian public and their security apparatus in Nablus in the West Bank in protest against the Palestinian government's decision to cancel electricity debts for residents of the refugee camps but not residents of villages and cities.
Hundreds of angry Palestinians flocked to the streets, burning tires, blocking main roads, and clashing with Palestinian security forces.
More than 50 Palestinians were wounded.
The municipalities of the northern cities of the West Bank have announced a three-day general strike in protest of the decision.
See also PA Cancels Electricity Debts for Every West Bank Resident
The Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday that it is cancelling outstanding electricity debts for every West Bank resident. Government spokeswoman Nour Oudeh told Ma'an that all residential bills owed until Dec. 31, 2012, will be canceled.
On Sunday, PA premier Salam Fayyad signed a deal with popular committees in West Bank refugee camps ending refugees' exemption from electricity costs, but also canceling all their outstanding debts.
Palestinians in Nablus gathered on Tuesday to protest the exclusion of non-refugees from the debt amnesty, leading to violent clashes with Palestinian security forces. (Ma'an News-PA)
- IDF Preparing Hospitals for Chemical Attacks - Yaakov Lappin
The IDF Home Front Command is preparing all hospitals in Israel for a range of security threats, including large-scale missile attacks and chemical attacks, a senior military source said Wednesday. Exercises include training hospital staff to deal with "mega-mass casualty incidents."
All 27 hospitals in Israel have undergone intensive chemical weapons drills, including surprise exercises. The hospitals undergo 25 emergency drills per year.
According to Home Front Command evaluations, even in the event of wide-scale rocket attacks, a low casualty rate can be expected.
The source noted that the 11,000 rockets fired from Gaza between 2000 and November 2012 (before the Gaza conflict) resulted in 22 casualties.
- Iranian Nuclear Talks Need to Come to a Close - Editorial
As the year begins, the Obama administration and its diplomatic partners are expecting the renewal of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, after a six-month hiatus. But there is scant indication that a breakthrough is in store. The international coalition intends to offer a slightly modified version of the deal Tehran rejected last June. But Iran has been slow to agree to a new meeting and, according to the New York Times, did not respond to a post-election feeler by the Obama administration on direct, bilateral talks.
The coalition proposal would require a freeze in the enrichment of uranium to a level of 20% and shutting down the Fordow underground facility where that enrichment takes place. Iran would also be required to ship its current stockpile of medium-enriched uranium out of the country. In return, it would receive certain economic concessions and perhaps a partial relaxation of some sanctions.
The U.S. - and more so Israel - cannot easily wait many more months for a deal. If Iran continues to enrich uranium to 20% at its present rate, it may acquire enough to quickly make a bomb by the middle of this year, potentially giving it the "breakout capacity" that both President Obama and the Israeli government have vowed to prevent.
- Jewish Settlements "Same as Falkland Islands" - Robert Tait
Gideon Saar, Israel's education minister, was answering criticism by the British Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt, of official approval for a university in Ariel in the West Bank. "Our connection to Ariel is at least as strong as the UK's connection to the Falkland Islands. I do not accept the British condemnation," he said. "The true impediment to peace is the Palestinians' incitement and pro-terrorism education."
The Falklands are sovereign British territory despite lying 310 miles off the coast of Argentina, which also claims sovereignty. Ariel, home to around 18,000 Jews, is situated 11 miles beyond the pre-1967 Green Line. "How can it be that a university is an impediment to peace, and when it was only a college, peace was attainable?" Saar asked.
- The Palestinian Authority's Inconvenient Truths - Khaled Abu Toameh
Here are examples of some of the inconvenient truths that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank does not want others to know about: Over 100 senior PLO and Fatah officials hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that grant them various privileges denied to most Palestinians. Out of the 600 Christians from Gaza who visited the West Bank to celebrate Christmas, dozens have asked to move to Israel. Dozens of Christian families from east Jerusalem have moved to Jewish neighborhoods because they no longer feel comfortable living among Muslims.
PA security forces in the West Bank continue to arrest journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the Palestinian leadership. Tens of thousands of PA civil servants in Gaza have received salaries to stay at home and not work since 2007. More than 40,000 Palestinians have received permits to work in Israel, while another 15,000 work in Jewish settlements in spite of an official ban.
Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza: Strategic Perspectives - Giora Eiland (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- In Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel defined the enemy as a
terrorist organization, which in fact it is not. Gaza is de facto a state in every sense, and it is therefore proper to deal with it as such. Regarding it as a state offers the option of inflicting
damage to its national infrastructures during a military confrontation. It was possible to expand the operation by massively attacking all targets of infrastructure
and governance in Gaza.
- The Second Lebanon
War included one particularly effective mission - the massive attack on
Hizbullah's high command in Beirut, which created the so-called Dahiya
doctrine. The deterrence vis-a-vis Hizbullah that has prevailed since 2006
is largely attributable to the destruction of the Dahiya suburb in southern
- Some say that Israel paid a steep price
for the ceasefire agreement because it granted Hamas a great deal of international
legitimacy. But one could also argue that Israel paid no price whatsoever
and that this outcome is in Israel's interest, as the world will
now relate to Gaza as a state entity. Moreover, it is in Israel's interest that
foreign parties visit Gaza and infuse it with capital and generate an economic
- The more the Hamas government is required to meet the
standard of state-like responsibility and the more the economic situation
improves and construction of civilian infrastructures increases, the more the
government in Gaza will be restrained in attacking Israel.
- It is impossible to prevent smuggling
from Egypt into Gaza if efforts at prevention begin and end with
the Gaza-Egypt border. Even when the IDF
was in control of the area (until 2005), it was only partly successful.
- There are two actions Egypt can take to prevent smuggling if it wished to do so. One is to take more effective action deep in the Sinai
Peninsula and even within Egypt itself. The second is to build a barrier about four
km. west of Gaza with only a single transit point under
tight security control. No one would dig a four km.-long tunnel.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland is a former Israeli National Security Advisor.
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