Palestinian Red Lines Make Chances of U.S.-Mediated Settlement Slim - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
On Friday, Asharq Al-Awsat published an interview with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in which he claimed that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat and could do the same to Abbas. Erekat stressed that the Palestinians will not agree to have talks extended beyond the allotted nine months, set to end in April.
Erekat revealed the contents of a letter Abbas sent to President Obama on Dec. 8: "Firstly, we will not be able to accept Israel as a Jewish state," Abbas wrote. "Secondly, we will not be able to accept a Palestinian state with 1967 borders without Jerusalem."
"Thirdly, we will not be able to accept any Israeli on Palestinian land, sea, air and border crossings following the completion of the gradual withdrawal." A fourth precondition was the instatement of the "right of return" for potentially millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel.
Erekat's preferred strategy for achieving Palestinian statehood is appealing to the EU to recognize a Palestinian state while appealing to international bodies to sign treaties and protocols that would enable the Palestinian Authority to file a suit against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
See also The Palestinian Refugees on the Day After "Independence" - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Why Hizbullah's New Missiles Are a Problem for Israel - J. Dana Stuster (Foreign Policy)
Russia delivered 72 Yakhont missiles to Syria in December 2011, along with 18 mobile launch vehicles.
Moscow then followed up in May 2013 with even more advanced, more accurate, radar-equipped Yakhont missiles. They have a range of about 180 miles, fly close to the sea at Mach 2 to evade radar, and are usually armed with an armor-piercing or high-explosive warhead.
The Yakhont missiles, though more suited to firing on vessels at sea, would be a marked upgrade in the range and accuracy of Hizbullah's arsenal.
Placed near the Israeli northern border with Lebanon, the missiles' range would extend nearly all the way across the country, past Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula.
But it's the radar guidance that has IDF planners worried.
See also IDF Concerned Hizbullah Could Bring Israeli Ports to a Halt - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
See also Ex-Navy Chief: Israel Has Defenses Against Russian Yakhont Anti-Ship Missile - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Israel has defenses in place against the supersonic Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missile, ex-navy chief Vice-Admiral (res.) Eliezer Marom told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Should Hizbullah come to possess an operational arsenal of Yakhont missiles, it would be able to target Israeli gas drilling rigs in the Mediterranean, civilian shipping, and ports.
Palestinians May Have Used Czech Republic for Arms Transit (CTK-Czech Press Agency)
Palestinians may have used the Czech Republic for weapons transit, former Czech chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy told the Aktualne.cz website.
70 firearms were found in the future Palestinian embassy building in Prague.
"This is not only a blatant violation of diplomatic norms and habits but also of security rules related to keeping such an arsenal," said Sedivy.
Similar arms arsenals may also be secretly kept at other Palestinian embassies in Europe and overseas, he added.
See also Czech Officials Request Palestinian Embassy Move after Illegal Weapons Found (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Kerry Frustrated by Palestinians' Refusal to Recognize "Jewish" Israel - Robert Tait
"The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position," a Palestinian official told the Daily Telegraph. "They talk about it in meetings with our side and make an issue out of it. We have made it very clear that we are not going to sign any agreement that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state."
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, told Sunday's cabinet meeting:
"The Palestinians are continuing their campaign of inciting hatred, as we have seen in the last few days with their refusal to recognize Israel as a state for the Jewish people....This is the main issue that we're discussing with [Kerry]. We are not foreigners in Jerusalem, Beit El or Hebron. I reiterate that, in my view, this is the root of both the conflict and the incitement - the non-recognition of this basic fact." (Telegraph-UK)
- Palestinian Official Indicates Ramallah Will Reject Framework Agreement - Mark Weiss
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has indicated Ramallah will reject the framework agreement being drawn up by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying the plan was "biased towards Israel" and restricted Palestinian sovereignty, in a statement published in al-Ayyam.
As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Ramallah with Kerry, several hundred Palestinians marched in the city ahead of the meeting, chanting: "Kerry, you coward, there's no place for you in Palestine!" (Irish Times)
- Kerry: Iran Might Play a Role in Syria Peace Talks - Michael R. Gordon
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that Iran might play a role at the peace talks on Syria in Switzerland scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Foreign Minister: How Will the West Bank Absorb 3 Million Palestinians? - Herb Keinon
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that since the Oslo accords, some 10,000 Palestinians have moved inside Israel, and another 100,000 Palestinians have moved into the West Bank. He said it is important to think about the day after an agreement.
"Imagine an independent Palestinian state that does not need to ask our consent to absorb Palestinian [refugees], and can issue sovereign Palestinian identity cards as it wishes."
There are another 3 million Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon who, immediately with the declaration of a Palestinian state, will either want to move to the new state or be forced by their host countries to do so. "Will the economy in the West Bank...be able to absorb 3 million additional Palestinians? Where will they live? What will they eat? Where will they work? And how will that impact on Israel?"
"Will an agreement with the Palestinians bring an end to pressure on Israel?" he asked.
Or "will they continue to attack us on issues such as the Bedouin in the Negev or strengthening Jewish settlement in the Galilee?" There are those in the international community who "don't intend to let us rest for a minute, and not give us any credit for any agreement with the Palestinians, but rather immediately will go on the attack."
Lieberman praised Secretary of State John Kerry for his tireless efforts to reach an accord and expressed appreciation to Kerry for being extremely clear about the need for Israel to be recognized as a Jewish state and to have its security needs met. (Jerusalem Post)
- Hateful Anti-Israel Education Shows PA's True Colors - Stuart Winer
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, whose ministry publishes an "incitement index" meant to track Palestinian statements against Israel, presented new findings
to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday. They focused on denials of Israel's right to exist; emphasis on Israel's inevitable disappearance; depiction of Jews as subhuman; and statements that all forms of resistance - including terror - are legitimate.
Abbas' Presidential Guards' Facebook page shows maps of Israel labeled as Palestine. The official Fatah Facebook page threatens to kidnap soldiers and fire rockets at Israel. (Times of Israel)
See also Cabinet Discusses Palestinian Authority Incitement (Prime Minister's Office)
- Two Palestinian Terror Attacks Foiled - Lilach Shoval and Efrat Forsher
IDF soldiers thwarted a terror attack near the Gush Etzion community of Migdal Oz on Saturday evening when they arrested four Palestinians driving near the community's fence. A search of the vehicle uncovered three knives and an improvised weapon. "The suspects were on their way to carry out a terror attack in the community," the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said.
On Friday, a border policeman was moderately injured while subduing a female terrorist who attempted to stab him near Damascus Gate on the edge of Jerusalem's Old City.
- IDF: "The Moment 20,000 Global Jihadists in Syria Finish with Assad, Israel Is Next in Line" - Alex Fishman
Gen. Yoav Har-Even, head of the IDF Operations Branch, said in an interview: "Israel's interest is in a political solution in Syria. Instability in Syria increases the potential threat along Israel's border and deepens the consolidation of the global jihadi presence which is close to 20,000. The moment they finish dealing with Assad we're next in line. They are not coming only to fight in Syria. They have a vision - they have a strategy."
"They are starting to establish in Syria a civilian complex that supports them. They have come here to stay. I don't want to create fear, but they are already in the southern Golan Heights, in the area of Dara'a, and this deeply disturbs us, the Americans, and the Jordanians."
"The jihadists in Syria have already taken over weapons depots. If the trend towards instability continues, it is possible that they will take over surface-to-surface missiles. We will have to plan for this possibility." (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 3 Jan 2014)
- Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants - Ben Hubbard, Robert F. Worth and Michael R. Gordon
The bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region's sectarian hatreds.
Foreign powers imposing agendas on the region, and the police-state tactics of Arab despots, had never allowed communities to work out their long-simmering enmities. But these divides, largely benign during times of peace, have grown steadily more toxic since the Iranian revolution of 1979. The events of recent years left the state weak, borders blurred, and people resorting to older loyalties for safety.
The sectarian policies of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and the absence of American ground and air forces gave Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a local Sunni insurgency that had become a spent force, a golden opportunity to rebuild its reputation.
Rebranding itself as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the group seized territory in rebel-held parts of Syria, where it now aspires to erase the border between the two countries and carve out a haven for its transnational, jihadist project. (New York Times)
See also The Continuing Evolution of Al-Qaeda 3.0 - Bruce Riedel
Most dramatic has been the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliates in the Fertile Crescent, from Beirut to Baghdad. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once wrongly proclaimed defeated by the surge, has revived and is more deadly than ever as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Today, it is fighting again to take control of Anbar province. It successfully gave birth to a Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, and now competes and collaborates with its own offspring for power in Syria. Together, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are trying to destroy the century-old borders of the region, erasing the hated Sykes-Picot boundaries.
Its advances in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria have moved al-Qaeda and its affiliates closer than ever to Israel in strength. Israel remains a hard target for al-Qaeda, but its ambitions are abundantly clear. (Al-Monitor)
Israel Needs an Indefinite Security Presence in the Jordan Valley - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni (Ha'aretz)
- The proposed American security arrangements are based on a variety of technological means as well as international peacekeeping forces on the eastern or Jordanian side of the Jordan River, together with the Israel Defense Forces in a narrow strip along the western side for a predetermined period.
- The technological solutions that were formulated so that Israel would have the right to veto from afar the entry and departure of persons through the Rafah border checkpoint between Gaza and Egypt, with the help of European inspectors, collapsed even before they began. In a relatively short while, the European inspectors fled for their lives.
- From the security standpoint, Israel's withdrawal from most of the West Bank would entail its relinquishing of strategic capabilities involving deterrence and detection and would seriously impair its ability to collect military intelligence and to effectively deal with the terrorist infrastructures that would develop in the area under Palestinian control.
- At a time when the Middle East is undergoing enormous changes, it makes abundant sense to exercise the upmost caution regarding security arrangements. The second reason for such caution is the fact that, with regard to thwarting terror attacks, immense importance must be attached to territorial depth.
In order to prevent the deterioration of the security in the West Bank, and to enable the Palestinian government to exercise a reasonable measure of control, weapons and terrorists must be prevented from entering the area.
- The IDF and the Royal Jordanian Army already have a very satisfactory level of cooperation to prevent infiltrations and weapons smuggling from Jordan to the West Bank. Jordan's commitment to its present security arrangement with Israel would diminish if the IDF were not to have a presence in the Jordan Valley.
- The duration of Israeli control of the Jordan Valley cannot be determined in advance. The stability of the Palestinian regime in the West Bank, the effectiveness of Palestinian efforts to fight terrorism and prevent arms smuggling, the level of collaboration with Israel, the stability of the Jordanian regime, the development of threats from the east with particular emphasis on Syria and Iraq, the relations between the PA and Hamas and the connection with Iran are all criteria which must form the basis on which the duration of Israel's control of the Jordan Valley must be determined.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni is a former head of Central Command of the Israel Defense Forces.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert