Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
December 25, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Merry Christmas to All Our Christian Friends - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (YouTube)
    We celebrate Christmas with you, we know the importance you attach to our common heritage, to the State of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem, where so much of our common history was forged.
    From the city of peace, Jerusalem, I extend the warmest Christmas greetings to all of you. Merry Christmas!

    See also Israel's Christian Community Continues to Grow - Jeremy Sharon (Jerusalem Post)
    Some 161,000 Christians, or 2% of the population, live in Israel at the end of 2013, an increase of 3,000 over 2012, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday.

Jewish Leaders Call for Jonathan Pollard's Release - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on President Obama Tuesday to commute the sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard during the American holiday season.
    After 28 years, Pollard has served longer than any person convicted of a similar offense, spying for an ally of the U.S.

Hamas Responsible for Recent Escalation - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    It would be a stretch to say that the Hamas government in Gaza isn't the party most responsible for the recent escalation.
    Last Friday, someone on the Gazan side allowed a group of Palestinians to approach the fence and attempt to lay explosives. Someone also looked the other way when a rocket was fired last week at Ashkelon. On Tuesday, someone allowed men from the Popular Resistance Committees (which has been known to cooperate with Hamas) to fire into Israel.
    Hamas wouldn't mind a bit of a scrap with Israel to help it recapture some of its rapidly declining popularity in Gaza. It's a gamble on Hamas' part: clashes have a way of spiraling out of control.

Major Differences Remain in Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Shlomo Cesana (Israel Hayom)
    While Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. agreed to uninterrupted negotiations for nine months, until May, with the goal of reaching a final peace accord and an announced end to the conflict, there are major differences that have yet to be resolved.
    Kerry had arrived with a U.S. proposal during his last visit that details security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians as well as in the Jordan Valley. Netanyahu asked him not to present it officially, just to propose its main points instead.
    Israeli officials say the Palestinians refuse to sign a framework agreement which would at the end of negotiations require them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. As long as the Palestinians refuse, Netanyahu will refuse to draw out a future Palestinian state on a map.

200th Wounded Syrian Brought to Israel for Treatment (Jerusalem Post)
    The 200th wounded Syrian was brought into Israel by the IDF for medical care on Monday, a 21-year-old patient in serious condition with gunshot wounds.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Ambassador: "Everyone Should Calm Down" about Alleged U.S. Spying on Israeli Leaders - Evan S. Benn
    "Everyone should calm down" about alleged U.S. spying on former Israeli leaders, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told the Miami Herald on Monday. "We deeply value the relationship that we have with the United States. You share very sensitive information with us, and we share very sensitive information with you....I'm sure that this latest episode is not going to affect the intelligence-cooperation and intelligence-sharing, because both countries have so much to gain from it. It saves American lives. It saves Israeli lives." "We always take precautions with our communications....We know there are probably many people listening in from around the world. We're very careful," Dermer said.
        A more-pressing matter between the two countries, he said, is trying to negotiate a solution to Iran's nuclear weapons program. "If the P5+1 succeeds at dismantling Iran's nuclear weapons program, no country would be happier than Israel," Dermer said. "Our concern is that this deal will not dismantle the program, and that unwittingly and unintentionally it may make a diplomatic solution, a peaceful resolution to this problem, that much harder."  (Miami Herald)
  • Israel Tracks Syria's Western Jihadis - Ari Rabinovitch
    Israel is working with Western countries to track Westerners fighting in Syria, concerned that such militants could attack Israeli or Jewish targets once back home, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. Of an estimated 10,000 foreign combatants among rebels battling Assad, around 20% are from the West.
        "Think of a scenario, even one of them returning and getting instructions from someone he worked with, someone he fought beside, someone like (the al-Qaeda-linked) Nusra Front, to carry out an attack," said the official. "This has been keeping us very, very busy lately."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Retaliates for Sniper Killing of Israeli Civilian near Gaza Fence - Yoav Zitun
    Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza on Tuesday in retaliation for the shooting of Salah Abu Latif, 22, an Israeli Bedouin, by sniper fire near the Gaza border fence in southern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is an extremely serious incident, and we will not stand idly by. Our policy up until now has been to thwart and retaliate with force." Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "If there is no peace in Israel, there will be no peace in Gaza."
        Referring to a rise in terror attacks in the West Bank, Ya'alon added, "As long as the Palestinian Authority continues to instigate against the State of Israel and its citizens and does not encourage a culture of peace, we will be forced to deal with terror attacks. This is an intolerable state of affairs as we see it."  (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Strikes Six Gaza Targets - Yaakov Lappin
    The IDF employed the air force, armored corps and infantry to strike six targets in Gaza affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Israel's largest military response in Gaza since November 2012. Infantry soldiers struck targets with anti-tank missiles. The targets included training sites, weapons manufacturing facilities and a concealed rocket launcher.
        Referring to the cross-border shooting from Gaza, a senior security source said, "We take a severe view of this, because it occurred on Israeli territory."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Makes a Calculated Response in Gaza to Boost Deterrence - Yaakov Lappin
    When Hamas wants to, it knows how to keep the border quiet. Therefore, when the IDF retaliated on Tuesday, it sent an unmistakable signal to Hamas and its allies that this would only be a taste of things to come if Palestinian aggression continued under Hamas' watch. (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Wave of Palestinian Attacks
    The Israeli civilian contractor killed by a Palestinian sniper was working to repair the border fence damaged by last week's storm. It was the third attack on Israelis in a week. Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, "After the...increase in attempts as well as terrorist attacks that have taken place, we're calling on the public to be more aware of suspicious people and objects and to contact Israeli police if they see anything suspicious."
        According to the Israel Security Agency, the number of attacks is on the rise. In July, there were 82 Palestinian attacks and attempted attacks, in August 99 incidents, in September 133, October 136, and in November a jump to 167. (Media Line-Ynet News)
        See also Shots Fired from Car at IDF Patrol in West Bank - Adiv Sterman
    An IDF patrol vehicle came under fire from a passing car Tuesday near the West Bank community of Tekoa in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem. Also Tuesday, an Israeli man was injured when stones were thrown at a bus near the West Bank community of Alei Zahav. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Abbas Must Realize that "Popular Uprising" He Initiated May Jeopardize PA - Ron Ben-Yishai
    "The Palestinians don't want an intifada," a senior security official in Israel said Sunday, but they may get one, referring to recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Israel and the American mediators are not firm enough in their demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the incitement against Israel in the media, while the PA is knowingly allowing a certain level of violence. It is doing nothing to stop the throwing of stones and firebombs, which are considered a legitimate part of a popular uprising. Abbas and his advisors believe, apparently, that they can control the popular uprising and not jeopardize the negotiations with Israel and the upcoming prisoner release.
        The Palestinian leadership is interested in having the international media cover the unrest in the West Bank, hoping that this will prompt not only the Israelis but also U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to accept their demands. But Abbas, as usual, is not taking into account the fact that the Palestinian street does not always interpret correctly the semi-aggressive signals he and his people convey. So Palestinians easily move from stones and firebombs to shooting and explosives. The Israeli intelligence community observed about six months ago that PA security forces are finding it difficult to enforce their authority in the refugee camps. (Ynet News)
  • Don't Expect Rouhani to Transform Iran - Michael Rubin
    During the Ahmadinejad years, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had gained unprecedented political and economic power. More parliamentarians, governors, and ministers were veterans of the IRGC than at any time in the Islamic Republic's history.
        While expectations are high that Rouhani will transform Iran at home and on the diplomatic stage, it is not clear that he can or even wants to do so. True, Rouhani quietly moved to unravel the IRGC's chokehold on Iranian politics, but he has replaced ministers and governors with veterans of the intelligence service.
        Iranian presidents are most powerful on inauguration day, and quickly lose power with the passage of time. Nor are reformists democrats or liberals as they are so often depicted abroad; they subscribe just as fully to the theocratic system, but simply want to tweak its implementation. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (CNN)
  • Why Is This Occupation Different From All Other Occupations? - Raphael Ahren
    A new fishing deal signed between the European Union and Morocco applies beyond Morocco's internationally recognized borders, taking in the territory of Western Sahara, which Morocco invaded in 1975 and has occupied ever since. Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University and Israeli ex-ambassador to Canada Alan Baker wrote to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last month, challenging her to explain why the agreement, which doesn't exclude Morocco's occupied territory, doesn't show that the body holds Israel to a double standard.
        The EU insists that any agreement with Israel must explicitly exclude settlements in the "occupied" West Bank, so why don't the same constraints apply in the case of Morocco? Last week, the EU responded to the letter, saying, essentially, that Israel's occupation is different, but we're not telling you how and why. The EU maintains that Israel's presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is unique, legally speaking, but refuses to explain exactly how it differs from, say, Turkey's occupation of Northern Cyprus, or the Moroccan presence in Western Sahara where Rabat asserts ownership of the territory but not a single other country recognizes the claim. (Times of Israel)

Sworn to Destruction: 20 Threats Iranian Leaders Made Against Israel in 2013 - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Daniel Rubenstein (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-BuzzFeed)

  • Anti-Israel incitement in Iran was never confined to Ahmadinejad. The entire Iranian leadership - including senior clerics, top Revolutionary Guard commanders, and army officers - yearns for the day when Israel will be destroyed.
  • The new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has referred to "the Zionist regime" as an enemy nation and pledged to find a way to achieve Ayatollah Khomeini's long-term goal of ensuring that Israel ceases to exist.
  • "We will not abandon our [armed] struggle until the annihilation of Israel and until we will be able to pray in al-Aqsa mosque." - Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, Commander of the Basij militia.
  • "The enemies are talking about the options on the table. They should know that the first option on our table is the annihilation of Israel." - Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani, Lecturer at religious seminary in Qom.
  • "The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction." - Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Supreme Leader's representative in the Revolutionary Guards.
  • "The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel!" - Ahmad Alamolhoda, Member of the Assembly of Experts.
  • When the Iranians fasten signs on trucks carrying their Shahab-3 missiles calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, they leave little doubt as to their mission.

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