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December 26, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Qatar to Temporarily Halt Financial Support to Hamas - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    A high-ranking Egyptian source told the Kuwaiti Al Jarida newspaper that Qatar informed the Hamas leadership that it would temporarily halt its support for the group in order to pressure Hamas to change its policy against Egypt.
    Within this framework, Hamas must end its incitement against Egypt and stop the smuggling of weapons from Gaza to terror groups in Sinai.

Cracks within ISIS? - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Internal disputes and political rivalries within the Islamic State have recently led to a series of executions and armed struggles between commanders in the field.
    A few days ago, the group arrested five British citizens, three Frenchmen, two Germans and two Belgians who sought permission to return to their homelands.
    This week, IS reported the arrest of four of its Turkish-speaking fighters, who were allegedly plotting a coup because they felt the group wasn't radical enough.

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Saudi Woman Awaiting Trial for Joke about Beards - Elham Manea (Middle East Transparent)
    Souad Al-Shammary, a Saudi women's rights activist, is in prison, charged with "publicly calling for the liberation of Saudi women and the separation of religion from the government."
    Wahhabi clergy have a worldview that insists on separating Muslims from non-Muslims. To differentiate a Sunni Muslim male from non-Muslims, they call on him to grow a long beard.
    Al-Shammary called the idea "silly," tweeting to her more than 100,000 followers that "Jews, priests, Communists and Marxists" (like Karl Marx) also wear beards.
    This was not considered a joke by the Saudi establishment, who also charged her with "denial of the holiness of the clergy."
    See also Saudi Women's Rights Activists Sent to "Terrorism" Court (AFP-Times of Israel)

The Startups of Nazareth - Drake Bennett (Business Week)
    An increasing number of Israel's Arabs are finding work in the country's burgeoning tech economy.
    Arabs are represented at Israel's top universities in numbers commensurate with their percentage of the population.
    The 10% of Israel's Arabs who are Christian actually perform better academically than any other Israeli demographic and are comparatively prevalent among the country's Arab software engineers and entrepreneurs.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Rebels Increasingly Joining ISIS - Fahd Al-Zayabi
    Moderate Syrian opposition fighters are increasingly joining the Islamic State for financial reasons, Syrian National Coalition representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Adib Al-Shishakli has warned. International funding cuts to moderate Syrian fighters' wages are prompting rebels to throw in their lot with the jihadist group, which is capable of paying far higher salaries. Syrian moderate fighters earn $140 per month, while some media outlets report that ISIS pays as much as $150 per day. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • The Islamic State Is Failing at Being a State - Liz Sly
    Living conditions are deteriorating across the territories under Islamic State control, exposing the shortcomings of a group that devotes most of its energies to fighting battles and enforcing strict rules. Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in the "caliphate" proclaimed in Iraq and Syria as a model form of governance for Muslims.
        Slick Islamic State videos do not match the reality of growing deprivation and disorganized, erratic leadership, the residents say. Schools barely function, doctors are few, and disease is on the rise. In the Iraqi city of Mosul, the water has become undrinkable and flour is becoming scarce. In the Syrian city of Raqqa, water and electricity are available for no more than four hours a day, while garbage piles up uncollected.
        Meanwhile, crime has plunged, and for many residents the order is a welcome alternative to the lawlessness that prevailed when more moderate Syrian rebels were in charge. One Assad government employee said IS was "not cruel as the regime was." With the Islamic State in charge, "if you don't do anything wrong - according to their standards, not ours - they will not bother you."  (Washington Post)
  • Syrian Peace Talks May Take Place in Moscow Next Month
    Peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition could be held in Moscow after Jan. 20, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday. Russia, which has staunchly backed Syrian President Assad, recently offered to host peace talks between the government and the mainstream opposition without preconditions. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Young Israeli Girl Seriously Burned by Palestinian Firebomb in West Bank - Itay Blumenthal and Yoav Zitun
    A young Israeli girl and her father were wounded Thursday after their car was hit by a firebomb thrown by Palestinians, a month after her mother escaped a similar attack in the same area. Ayala Shapira, 11, from El Matan in the West Bank, suffered massive third degree burns after flames engulfed the car. Doctors are currently fighting to save her life. (Ynet News)
  • Two Border Guards Stabbed in Jerusalem's Old City - Roi Yanovsky
    Two Israeli Border Guard officers were stabbed near the Lions' Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem early Friday. One was stabbed in the neck as Muslim worshippers were exiting after morning prayers on the Temple Mount. Another was wounded in the hand in the attempted arrest of the Arab suspect. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Buying Four New Warships from Germany for Offshore Gas Platform Defense - Ilan Ben Zion
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday confirmed that Israel had acquired four new corvettes from Germany, reportedly to help protect offshore gas facilities. Israel Channel 2 TV reported that the deal was signed in Germany on Monday and that the ships would arrive in Israel in two years.
        "I want to thank German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the constant commitment and help for our security," Netanyahu said Thursday. Germany subsidizes defense projects for Israel as part of its post-Holocaust commitment to help ensure the country's security. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Forces Detonate Car Filled with Explosives in West Bank
    Israeli forces on Thursday evening detonated a car filled with explosives on the main road linking Ramallah and the villages west of it. (Ma'an News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Guest of the Moderate Ayatollah - Editorial
    Last year's election of Hasan Rouhani as president of Iran was supposed to inaugurate an era of moderation for the Islamic Republic. Try telling that to Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Rezaian, the Post's Tehran correspondent and a U.S. citizen, was arrested with his wife Yeganeh Salehi in late July and held in solitary confinement, in a bed-less cell, in Tehran's infamous Evin prison. Iranian authorities have given no reason for his arrest.
        Rezaian's imprisonment is a reminder of how little has changed in Iran under its new leadership. Rouhani appointed as his Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, previously known for being deputy intelligence minister when thousands of political prisoners were killed in the late 1980s. Rezaian's arrest is a reminder that a regime that is so capricious in dealing with foreign reporters cannot be treated as a trustworthy partner in nuclear negotiations. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Slow to Support Iraqi Tribes in Fight Against Islamic State - David Ignatius
    Iraqi tribal leaders have been warning since spring about the rise of the terrorist Islamic State and pleading for American help. But after months of slaughter, the U.S. is only now beginning to build an effective tribal-assistance program.
        The Albu Nimr tribe supported what became the U.S.-led "Awakening" movement in Anbar province. Back in October, I wrote about Islamic State fighters advancing on the tribe's ancestral home near Hit. Pleas to Centcom and the Iraqi military on Oct. 23 brought no aid, and the tribal fighters surrendered; over the next few weeks, several hundred tribesmen were killed.
        A retired U.S. Marine brigadier general who served in Anbar summarized the lesson for rolling back the Islamic State. "It's about trust, and trust can't be surged or instantaneously developed." Sunni tribal leaders say in interviews that they want to roll back the Islamic State, but they don't trust the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and many don't trust the U.S. (Washington Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Most Exciting Israeli Start-Ups - Brian Blum
    Some of the most exciting up-and-coming Israeli start-ups were at a conference in December organized by OurCrowd, the Jerusalem-based crowd-investing platform. VocalZoom has a technology that filters out background noise so that when you talk on your cellphone in a loud public place, the call will sound crystal clear. Cimagine allows shoppers to place a 3D picture of a piece of furniture from any website into an "augmented reality" version of their own living room to show how it would look.
        Beacons are little plastic devices that broadcast where they are so you can track your luggage, phone, keys or kids. Pixie adds "distance" and "direction" to beacons - you won't just know your car is nearby, but by using the accompanying cellphone software, you'll be directed right to it. Up-n-Ride is a wheelchair that rises up into a vertical position so the disabled person can participate more normally in everyday activities.
        Consumer Physics is a molecular scanner that fits in the palm of your hand. Aim it at the pasta on your plate, and it can tell you the ingredients and number of calories. It can be used to sense anything other than metals. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel and Vietnam Cooperate in the Dairy Sector - Sharon Udasin
    There is a state-of-the-art milking parlor, equipped with the latest Israeli dairy technologies and monitoring systems, near Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam. The Dairy Demonstration and Experimental Farm was officially launched in August 2013 to increase local milking efficiency and quality.
        Gonen Harel, the farm's manager, said Tuesday that cows in Vietnam are only producing 3,500 liters of milk per year, as opposed to the Israeli average of 13,000 liters per year. At the demonstration farm, where cows were producing only 10 liters of milk daily two years ago, the animals are now supplying 23 liters per day, Harel said.
        Rather than simply "copying and pasting what we are doing in Israel," it remains important to provide the Vietnamese farmers with the necessary tools to develop their dairy parlors in accordance with local conditions, Harel added. (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: The Fire of Islamic Fanaticism Is Licking at Our Borders (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Netanyahu told an Israel Air Force pilots' course graduation ceremony on Thursday:

  • When one flies over the state, one sees how close to us the various threats are. In our region there are endless disputes and awful, brutal violence. The fire of Islamic fanaticism is licking at our northern and southern borders. Your, and our, supreme mission is to safeguard our home, the State of Israel.
  • Our policy for doing so is twofold, to prevent and foil attacks as much as possible, and to respond in strength to any attack. We will not tolerate attacks against us, neither from Gaza, nor from the Golan Heights, nor from the Lebanese border or from anywhere.
  • Therefore, the IDF responded in strength and immediately to the recent attempt by the terrorist organizations to raise their heads. We hold Hamas responsible for any violation of the quiet emanating from Gaza and will act accordingly.
  • Our counter-terrorist actions are carried out in a wide circle, occasionally far from our borders. The air force has a decisive role in implementing this policy on land, sea and air. Our soldiers attack terrorist organizations and systematically disrupt the supply of war materiel sent to them mainly by Iran and its proxies.
  • We are determined to prevent our enemies from acquiring deadly weapons that could endanger our security, and we are determined to do everything to prevent Iran, which has recently again called for our destruction, from attaining nuclear weapons.
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