Poll: Americans Disapprove of U.S.-Iran Nuclear Deal (Pew Research Center)
43% of Americans disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program, while 32% approve of the deal, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center conducted Dec. 3-8.
By roughly two-to-one (62% to 29%), those who have heard about the agreement say Iran's leaders are not serious about addressing international concerns over the country's nuclear program.
Iranian Executions Soar Under Rouhani - Abbas Rezai
According to figures compiled from Iranian media reports, 190 executions were carried out in Iran during the first half of 2013 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in power.
However, since June when Hassan Rouhani took office, the number of executions has reached more than 370.
Iranian Newspaper Fears "Trap" for Rouhani at Mandela Funeral - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
In an editorial titled "Satan Lays a Trap," Iran's Kayhan daily warned President Hassan Rouhani not to attend the funeral of South African leader Nelson Mandela because it may be a trap to bring him in contact with U.S. President Barack Obama, "head of the Great Satan government."
Who Is Destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque? - Mudar Zahran (Gatestone Institute)
The Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the Temple Mount, where the Jewish Temple stood.
The mosque is badly in need of maintenance, with dirty walls, dust-covered ceilings and worn-out chairs.
During a recent visit to Al-Aqsa, one of the mosque's Muslim security staff pointed to two large donation boxes.
"They collect an average of one million shekels ($284,000) per month. We have no clue where that money goes....The poor and the needy never get any of it."
Is Al-Aqsa an Islamically sacred site, or is it a tool to collect donations by trying to elicit global Islamic sympathy - just a goose that lays golden eggs for its managers?
UN Job Application Has Anti-Israel Slant - Hillel Neuer (Times of Israel)
According to a document obtained by UN Watch, applicants for employment in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are required to complete a test that presumes unquestioned support for Palestinian claims.
One question asks applicants to draft a press release regarding Israeli "demolition of houses, water tanks and agricultural structures in the West Bank."
Another asks applicants to draft a "concept note" for organizing a public event at UN headquarters to promote the topic of Israeli human rights violations.
The writer is executive director of UN Watch.
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- Abbas Aide Lambasts U.S. Push for Framework Peace Deal
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on Monday railed against U.S. attempts to broker a broad outline of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Two Palestinian officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is aiming for a framework agreement by the end of January.
Palestinian officials also said Kerry asked them to accept a change in the timetable of upcoming releases of Palestinian prisoners by Israel. Israel has agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four stages, which are to conclude in April. Israel has so far released two groups of prisoners. Kerry wants the last two releases to be combined and be carried out in late January. (AP-Washington Post)
See also PLO: Palestinians Won't Accept Current Diplomatic Proposals - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinians can't accept the security arrangements with Israel recently proposed by Secretary of State Kerry, the PLO Executive Committee announced Sunday.
The PLO warned that there could be no deal with Israel that excludes the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. The PLO also expressed opposition to the presence of any Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank, or Israeli control of airspace and border crossings.
- Hamas Resumes Ties with Iran
"Relations between Hamas and Iran have resumed" after a temporary falling out over the Syrian conflict, Mahmud al-Zahar, a senior member of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, said Monday in Gaza.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF's Jordan Valley Chief Sees No Possibility of Army's Withdrawal from Area - Shlomo Cesana
Against the backdrop of a U.S. security plan that includes the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Jordan Valley, the head of IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, said Sunday that the army intends to maintain its presence in the Jordan Valley. He also said the Israeli military has been able to convince American envoys of its position.
Alon said: "The recent developments in the Middle East - the regional upheaval, the instability, everything happening in Syria - it only helps our case. We are adamant that the Jordan Valley is a strategic buffer for Israel." (Israel Hayom)
- Ya'alon: Iran Building Terror Infrastructure to Strike U.S. - Mitch Ginsburg
Iran has built an infrastructure of terror in Central and South America in order to target Israelis and Jews there and have a base from which to attack the U.S., Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday.
"The Iranians use diplomatic mail [pouches] in order to transport bombs and weapons, and we know that there are states in South America, like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, where the Iranians have terror bases, both in the embassies and among the local Shiite Muslim populations."
"They built this infrastructure for the eventuality that they will have to act against Jews, Israelis or Israeli interests, but it is important to them as an infrastructure that enables them to act within the United States." (Times of Israel)
- Amidror: No Change in Iran's Hostility to Israel - Raphael Ahren
The destruction of Israel is one of the Iranian regime's key goals, for ideological and religious reasons, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, Israel's former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror told European Jewish leaders in Athens on Monday. "Those people really believe that Israel does not have the right and the legitimacy to be an independent state in the Middle East," he said.
"The elimination of Israel is one of the great, important strategies of the Iranians....It is based on their religious belief and this is something that I don't see changing in the years ahead." (Times of Israel)
- Containment, Not Prevention, Is the Real U.S. Policy on Iranian Nukes - Bret Stephens
The Obama administration's policy on Iran's nuclearization is containment, not prevention.
Last week at the Brookings Institution, President Obama said, "We are stopping the advancement of the Arak facility," referring to Iran's construction of a plutonium reactor. The reality, as Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif pointed out, is that "construction will continue" at Arak. Tehran has merely undertaken not to fuel the reactor for at least six months.
"There's nothing in this agreement or document that grants Iran a right to enrich," Mr. Obama said. The reality is that the Geneva deal allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium, and it specifies that a final accord "would involve a mutually defined enrichment program." So Geneva doesn't "grant" Iran a right to enrich. It merely accepts it de facto and envisions it de jure.
Israel and Saudi Arabia understand the game Iran intends to play: accept modest, time-limited and reversible constraints on their nuclear program. Exchange them for broad concessions by the U.S. Eventually, the West will get used to the idea of Iran with borderline nuclear capability gradually extending its influence in the region as American influence recedes.
The argument is now being made that a containment policy beats the unforeseen risks associated with stopping Iran by force. People who dine in Washington eateries that only recently Tehran made plans to blow up should not concede this point so cavalierly. If Iran was prepared to aggress that way without the benefit of a nuclear umbrella, just imagine how it will behave with one.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Israel and the Syrian War - Interview with Eyal Zisser
The Syrian regime managed to survive the last long three years of the Syrian civil war. It is bleeding, but at the same time the rebels have their own problems and limitations, and they cannot decide the battle. After the Russian-American agreement in September 2013 on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, the regime is in a much better position than before.
It is in the interest of Israel that Assad be strong enough to keep the border quiet but weak enough so he will not present any real threat to Israel.
There are also those in Israel who think that in the long run, it's better to get rid of Assad. They think that what matters is the Iranian-Hizbullah issue and that the collapse of Assad would deal a severe blow to the axis of evil. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
(Carnegie Middle East Center)
- New EU-Morocco Fisheries Deal and Its Implications for Israel - Eugene Kontorovich
The EU has recently approved an agreement with Morocco that extends EU-Moroccan fisheries treaties into the territory of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The deal actually pays Morocco for access to the occupied Western Saharan fishery. At the same time, in its negotiations with Israel over grants and product labeling
with regard to the West Bank, the EU says that its "tax dollars" cannot be spent in occupied territory.
The EU has been under strong pressure to sign the deal with Morocco because of Spanish and French interests in the fish off the occupied Western Sahara. They simply did not want to lose an economic opportunity. The EU has used entirely fabricated international law claims in dealing with Israel, claims contradicted by its own practice in dealings with Morocco.
The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
Deciphering the Direction of Iran's New Foreign Policy - Mardo Soghom (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
- The quintessential question is whether Tehran is ready to make a major change in its foreign policy and put aside its traditional anti-U.S. stance.
Hossein Alizadeh, a former Iranian diplomat who now lives in Europe, believes that with the exception of its willingness to negotiate a deal on its nuclear program, the Islamic republic has not yet shown any readiness to normalize ties with the U.S. or give up its long-held anti-American positions and rhetoric.
- It is an ideological principle for supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to carry on the uncompromising positions set out 35 years ago by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. This ideology has been the basis of recruitment and mobilization of supporters and fighters and also justification for numerous aggressive and violent policies both domestically and internationally. Too much has been invested for Khamenei to give it up.
- Regime survival is an overriding factor. How much can Khamenei give up or change in Iranian policies without endangering the regime's survival?
If Khamenei makes a drastic change in relations with the U.S., other things will follow: Ordinary people will yearn for openness, social freedoms, and a better economy. Reformist activists will feel empowered and emboldened to ask for more.
- Gradually, more openness will bring a larger foreign - Western - footprint into the country. Khamenei, most clerics, and Revolutionary Guards think of this as a nightmare.
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