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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
December 24, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Ya'alon: Israel Looking for New Offensive Tunnels from Gaza - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas has begun work to rebuild its network of defensive underground tunnels, and Israel is watching closely for signs that it is working on new cross-border offensive tunnels as well, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Tuesday.
    Offensive tunnels are designed to allow Hamas to insert murder squads into Israel to carry out terrorist atrocities and attacks on IDF positions.
    Ya'alon also said that the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria is not approaching the Israeli border at this time.
    "Along our border fence, as of now, there are militias that are linked to the Free Syrian Army. They are not extremist Islamists, and they enjoy our humanitarian assistance. They know, it seems, how to make sure that extremist Islamic elements don't get to the fence."

U.S. to Accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees - Barbara Slavin (Al-Monitor)
    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard says the U.S. will dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle permanently in the U.S. from about 350 this year to 10,000 annually.
    During the last fiscal year, the U.S. took in nearly 20,000 Iraqis and more than 7,000 Somalis.

1,600-Year-Old Glass Bracelet with Menorah Discovered in Israel - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
    A fragment from a glass bracelet inscribed with a seven-branched menorah from the Second Temple period was discovered during Hanukkah at an excavation in the Mount Carmel National Park, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.
    The excavation's co-directors, Limor Talmi and Dan Kirzne, said in a statement that on "the bracelet, which is made of turquoise-colored glass...stamped impressions of two menorahs survived on the small fragment that was found - one a plain seven-branched menorah, of which only the surface of the menorah is visible, and the other one consisting of a seven-branched menorah with flames depicted above its branches."

French Town Must Remove Plaque Honoring Palestinian Terrorist (JTA)
    Municipal authorities in Bezons, a Paris suburb, were ordered by a French judge to remove a plaque honoring Palestinian terrorist Ihrima Majdi Al Rimawi, who was convicted in the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in Jerusalem.
    In response to a complaint filed by Sammy Ghozlan of the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, the judge also invalidated the Bezons Council's February 2013 decision to grant Rimawi honorary citizenship.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Will Not Seek to Resume Diplomatic Ties with U.S.
    The Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, was asked about the resumption of Iran-U.S. ties in an interview on Dec. 17: "No. Negotiations are only for the nuclear issue....If a nuclear deal is reached, Iran and the U.S. still cannot co-operate in the region." Regarding the nuclear talks, Shamkhani added, "We shall not die if there is no agreement and we would not go to heaven if we reach an agreement."  (Financial Times-UK)
  • Budget Pressure Unlikely to Deflect Iran from Nuclear Goals - Mehrdad Balali
    A big oil price slide is unlikely to soften Iran's stance in nuclear talks or end aid to allies such as Syria, matters seen by its ruling clerics as strategic priorities. "Our support to our brother Assad will never change," said a senior Iranian official, referring to the Syrian president. "Because of (declining) oil prices we face economic hardship...but we will manage to continue our support to Syria, militarily and financially."
        Ali Vaez, of the International Crisis Group, said the oil price fall would hurt, but was unlikely to make Iran accept a nuclear deal. He added that "Iran's support for its allies in Iraq and Syria is not a questions of means, it's a strategic necessity."  (Reuters)
  • Over 1,000 Islamist Militants Killed in U.S. Strikes in Syria
    Three months of U.S.-led strikes in Syria have so far killed at least 1,171 people, mostly Islamic State militants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday. (Reuters)
        See also IS Downs Coalition Plane over Syria, Claims Capture of Jordanian Pilot
    The Islamic State on Wednesday shot down a plane from the U.S.-led coalition near Raqa in northern Syria, with the jihadists claiming to have captured a Jordanian pilot. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Soldier Injured, Palestinian Militant Killed in Gaza Border Firefight
    An Israeli soldier was injured and a Palestinian militant was killed in a firefight on the Gaza border on Wednesday. Palestinian snipers opened fire on Israeli soldiers patrolling along the Israeli side of the border fence. The Israeli army returned fire. (i24News)
  • Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood Have Their Sights on the West Bank and Jordan - Pinhas Inbari
    Hamas is now directly threatening Fatah that it will take over the West Bank. Senior Gaza-based Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar declared on Dec. 14: "Just as we liberated Gaza, just as we established a real national government in it...we will make the same effort in the West Bank as we prepare to extend our presence to all of Palestine."
        Palestinian security forces are now carrying out a wave of arrests of Hamas operatives in the West Bank at the same time that Jordan is making numerous arrests among cadres of the Muslim Brotherhood, as if it had information on preparations for a takeover of the country corresponding to Hamas' preparations for a takeover of the West Bank. The failure of the reconciliation talks with the PA in Ramallah stems from Hamas' insistence on being a Muslim Brotherhood movement and not a national Palestinian one.
        Hamas is in a tight bind. Egypt is systematically destroying the tunnels from Sinai into Gaza and is planning to build a moat that will flood the tunnels to finally seal off Gaza from Egypt. Economically, Gaza has lost its oxygen supply from Sinai. So Hamas has decided to export its crisis from Gaza to the West Bank. Hamas seeks to replace the window to the Arab world that Sinai provided with another window - in the direction of Jordan.
        PA sources in Ramallah suspect that the Hamas delegation that recently visited Tehran was seeking Iran's help for carrying out a takeover of the West Bank. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hamas Rejects Palestinian UN Resolution
    Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri called on the Palestinian Authority to withdraw the Palestinian draft UN resolution demanding that Israel withdraw from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying it "doesn't represent the consensus of the Palestinian people," the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also urged the PA to "immediately withdraw" the resolution, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Allows 400 Trucks of Goods into Gaza
    Israeli authorities opened the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza on Tuesday to allow in food and fuel supplies. PA official Raed Fattouh said that 400 trucks brought goods for the trade, agriculture, transport, and aid sectors. (Ma'an-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israeli Ambassador: Iran Nuclear Talks Could Leave Its Nuclear Weapons-Making Infrastructure Intact - Jorge Ramos
    "Israel is deeply concerned that a deal would be signed that would leave Iran effectively as a threshold nuclear power, meaning with their entire nuclear weapons-making infrastructure largely intact, and remove the sanctions," Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said in an interview on Monday.
        "I definitely don't trust Iranians, I hope no one trusts the Iranians," he said. "The Iranian regime is the foremost sponsor of terror on the entire planet. They're a terrorist regime that has perpetrated in the last four years terror attacks on five continents and 25 different countries. So the last thing you want to do is to leave this terrorist regime anywhere near to nuclear weapons."
        Questioned about U.S. attempts at encouraging peace talks in the region, Dermer said, "The reason we don't have peace between Israelis and Palestinians is because the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people have never crossed that Rubicon to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own....I'm confident the second Israelis face a Palestinian leadership that is truly committed to peace, that is willing to end the will see Israelis rush to peace."  (Fusion)
  • BBC Chief: Anti-Semitism Makes Me Question Jews' Future in UK
    The director of BBC Television, Danny Cohen, told a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday: "I've never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I've felt in the last 12 months. And it's made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually. Because you feel it. I've felt it in a way I've never felt before." "You've seen murders in France. You've seen murders in Belgium. It's been pretty grim actually. And having lived all my life in the UK, I've never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Navy to Expand Fleet of Unmanned Surface Vessels - Barbara Opall-Rome
    The Israel Navy is integrating a new fleet of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) into its operational force structure. By mid-2015, the Navy hopes to conclude operational certification of three locally-built Protector USVs. Built by Rafael Ltd., the twin-engine Protectors feature a remote weapon station and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities.
        Two Protectors are now operational and the third is undergoing "its last months of sea trials," said Rear Adm. Dror Friedman, vice chief naval officer. "In the end, we'll see them incorporated into our force for coastal defense and also for the subject of offshore energy sites. Their added value is the ability to remain at sea for prolonged periods and to go to places that are particularly dangerous."  (Defense News)

Palestinians Looking to Circumvent Negotiations with Israel - Daniel S. Mariaschin (Algemeiner)

  • Over the past few months, a perfect storm of bias has come about: from the "recognition" of a Palestinian state by a growing number of European parliaments, to the convening of the signatories to the Geneva Convention to condemn Israel's acting in self-defense during this summer's Gaza conflict, to the current attempt to impose a date and time certain for creation of a Palestinian state in the UN Security Council.
  • In some instances, there are winks and nods to the need for negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But these efforts are lame attempts to be politically correct.
  • Mahmoud Abbas has a playbook whose objective is to win not by negotiating in good faith, but by simply running out the clock. Other pages from Abbas' book include frightening the international community into believing that only continued pressure on Israel without PA concessions will deliver an independent Palestinian state for the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinians agreed during the Oslo process to negotiate. What makes it right to negate that obligation now?
  • One would hope that the international diplomats dealing with this situation would understand that imposing a "solution" by excluding Israelis and a real negotiating process will lead absolutely nowhere.
  • If these folks really care about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they'd spend their time pressing the Palestinians to get serious, go to the table and work out a deal.

    The writer is Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International.

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