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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
December 24, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Rewriting History: Jesus Was Not a Palestinian - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas published a lengthy Christmas greeting, calling Jesus "a Palestinian" and accusing Israel of being responsible for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.
    Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Abbas' statement an "outrageous rewriting of Christian history."
    An Israeli government official added: "The exodus of Christians from Bethlehem turned into a flood the moment the PA took control."

Christians Abandoning Bethlehem - Anne-Marie O'Connor (Washington Post)
    There's been something missing in the birthplace of Christianity: Christians. For years, Palestinian Christians have been quietly abandoning the place where Jesus is said to have been born, packing their bags for Latin America, Europe and the U.S.
    During the Ottoman era, a century ago, Bethlehem was 90% Christian. Today the city of 22,000 is more than two-thirds Muslim.

Raging Anarchy in the West Bank - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    The embers in the West Bank have been glowing for months now. If until the past month the level of violence in the West Bank was defined as 3 out of 10, the current wave of terror attacks has raised it to level 5.
    It's not an intifada yet, because it's not an overall popular uprising of the Palestinian public.
    On the Palestinian side, gunmen are wandering the streets on a regular basis.
    In Jenin and Nablus, PA security forces are failing to gain control of the Tanzim forces, and opposition elements from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front are making every possible effort to sabotage the peace process.

China More than Doubles Iran Oil Imports (Press TV-Iran)
    China more than doubled its crude oil imports from Iran in November. According to data China's General Administration of Customs released Monday, Iran delivered 538,513 barrels per day in November, versus 249,848 bpd in October.

Report: Islamist Rebels Forcibly Convert Syrian Druze - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, known as ISIL or ISIS, forced residents of 14 Druze villages located in the northern Syrian province of Idlib to convert to Islam, the Times of Israel was told Monday.
    ISIL threatened to massacre the villagers unless they converted to Islam and announced their conversion publicly.
    Druze community leaders in Israel said the villagers had converted against their will and that members of the Druze community in Israel were striving to assist them in every possible way.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Dozens of U.S. Universities Reject Academic Boycott of Israel - Valerie Strauss
    Dozens of American universities are rejecting an academic boycott of Israeli universities recently approved by the American Studies Association, and a few schools said they are withdrawing from the organization. Schools including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton and Boston universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Texas at Austin and others have slammed the boycott, issuing statements similar to one by Harvard President Drew Faust that said that academic boycotts "subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars."  (Washington Post)
        See also List of Universities Rejecting Academic Boycott of Israel - William A. Jacobson (Legal Insurrection)
  • Syria Airstrikes Kill Dozens in Aleppo
    At least 42 people were killed and another 17 wounded critically on Sunday in Syrian government airstrikes in Aleppo, said Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The aerial bombardment of rebel areas in Aleppo began on Dec. 15, killing more than 200 people and destroying many residential buildings. Barrel bombs dropped from helicopters are filled with explosives and fuel that cause widespread damage on impact. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
        See also Syrian Doctor: "I Lost Count of the Amputations" after Assaults on Aleppo - Azadeh Ansari and Samira Said (CNN)
  • 14 Killed in Explosions at Egyptian Government Building - Salma Abdelaziz and Steve Almasy
    At least 14 people were killed Tuesday when two explosions hit an Interior Ministry building in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. 130 people also were wounded. One blast occurred on one of the top floors of the building and was followed by a car bomb. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Plan Said to Include Dismantling All Jordan Valley Settlements
    U.S.-drafted security proposals would require the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, Israel's Army Radio reported Tuesday. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon last week publicly opposed this idea, saying that a civilian presence is critical to the maintenance of effective control of the Jordan Valley. Ya'alon is also reported to want the IDF to retain the right to enter any part of the West Bank if necessary to thwart terrorism.
        The U.S. proposal would utilize drones and other high-tech equipment to provide real-time intelligence on any terrorist threats and other unlawful border activity. Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, stressed on Tuesday that such intelligence would have "no value" whatsoever if Israeli soldiers were not deployed in the area to act upon it. (Times of Israel)
  • Former IDF General: Israel Must Control Jordan Valley - Stuart Winer
    Maj. Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, former commander of the IDF's Central Command, said Sunday that Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley have two missions: to prevent a missile threat from the West Bank akin to the threat from Gaza, and to prevent the transfer across the Jordanian-West Bank border of explosives, people and equipment used in terror attacks. "In order to do that you need to control the border and the border crossing-points. To make that happen, you need to be there."
        "I wouldn't rely on foreign forces," he said. "Our history shows that every time the deployment of international forces was tried in one form or another, their output in the field was not what we wanted. We need to rely on ourselves."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Severely Wounded by Sniper Fire from Gaza
    An Israeli civilian repairing the border fence with Gaza was severely wounded on Tuesday after being shot by a sniper. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zakai, former head of the IDF Gaza Division, told Israel Radio that there was "clearly an escalation of terror incidents" in recent weeks. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Police Officer Stabbed in the Back by Palestinian - Noam Dvir
    An Israeli policeman was stabbed in the back by a Palestinian near the community of Adam in the West Bank on Monday. Dr. Ofer Marin, head of the trauma unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said: "A knife 15 cm (6 inches) in length was embedded entirely in his back."
        After Sunday's terrorist bombing of a bus near Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "In the past few days we have witnessed a growing trend of attempted attacks. Since the beginning of the year there were 150 significant attempts, essentially one every other day."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Don't Get in Bed with Assad - Emile Hokayem
    The rise of extremists in Syria is generating dangerous thinking in Western capitals. High-level advisers and former officials have recently started to talk about Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil than whatever comes next; some even see him as a potential partner in fighting jihadi terrorists.
        Renewed intelligence cooperation is exactly how Assad hopes to lure back Western support. He reportedly offered such assistance to Obama through Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who recently visited Washington. Offering information about Western hostages and Western jihadis, Assad calculates, will bolster him just as the chemical weapons deal did. Engagement will shore up his legitimacy and further demoralize his internal foes.
        Ultimately, Assad expects that the fear of future jihadi terrorism will make the world forget his massacres. That he may succeed after killing tens of thousands of his own people would be a damning indictment of Western policy.
        Beyond being morally bankrupt, restoring counterterrorism cooperation with the Assad regime will only exacerbate the jihadi problem. It will validate Sunni suspicions that the West was always in cahoots with Assad; it will drive more Syrians into jihadi hands; and it will make it more difficult to cultivate local partners to counter extremists. The writer is a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. (New York Times)
  • Israel and Saudi Arabia: Can Interests Trump Differences? - Dore Gold
    Today, from the perspectives of both Saudi Arabia and Israel, the hegemonic power threatening the Middle East is Iran. It has sought to encircle Saudi Arabia, by supporting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, the Shiite insurrection in Bahrain, the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, and in Syria, by its direct intervention in the civil war with its Revolutionary Guard forces.
        Additionally, Iran has penetrated Saudi Arabia's Shiite population in the Saudi Eastern Province, through whom it established Hizbullah al-Hijaz. The Iranians tried employing a similar policy of encirclement against Israel, using arms supplies and training for Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Historically, states facing an immediate mutual threat have surmounted their historical differences and found ways to work together. (Israel Hayom)
        See also The Mideast's Unlikely Allies - Ben Fishman
    In the eyes of both Israel and the Gulf states, the U.S. is thousands of miles away, where the people are weary of war, legislators are cutting defense budgets and leaders regularly expound a shift toward Asia. But Iran and its proxies are on their doorstep. American military deployments, exercises and sales cannot overcome this fundamental imbalance of proximity and vulnerability. The writer served on the U.S. National Security Council from 2009 to 2013. (New York Times)
        See also Israel and Saudi Arabia: Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend? - Udi Dekel and Yoel Guzansky
    It is highly doubtful that Saudi Arabia will grant Israel the elements of normalization straight away, and any attempt to change the relations from covert to overt could damage them. (Institute for National Security Studies)

Iran Plays Games with the Geneva Deal - Olli Heinonen and Orde Kittrie (Belfer Center, Kennedy School, Harvard University)

  • Nearly a month since the six-month Joint Plan of Action with Iran was announced in Geneva on November 24, the two sides have not even agreed on a start date for implementing the deal.
  • Rather than implementing the deal in good faith, Iran is playing games with it, manipulating the Joint Plan of Action to alter to Tehran's advantage both the circumstances on the ground and the terms of the deal itself.
  • As of November 24, Iran was estimated to be less than 6 months away from breakout capability. EU officials say they hope negotiations will be concluded in time for the deal to go into effect in late January.
  • At the rates at which Iran was enriching uranium in September and October 2013, by January 24, Iran will have created at least an aggregate additional 460 kg. of uranium enriched up to 5% and an aggregate additional 30 kg. of uranium enriched to 20%. In addition, Iran is very likely continuing producing more centrifuges, and its uranium mines and milling facilities are almost certainly continuing to produce and process uranium ore.
  • What if the Joint Plan is never implemented? Then Iran will apparently have succeeded in significantly advancing its uranium and plutonium production programs while negotiating with the P5+1, and won't have to roll any of it back.
  • Moreover, a delayed start date for the Joint Plan of Action gives Iran more time to advance other key parts of its nuclear weapons program, including Iran's nuclear warhead and ballistic missile research and development activities.

    Olli Heinonen was the Deputy Director General of the IAEA, and head of its Department of Safeguards. Orde Kittrie is a professor of law at Arizona State University.

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