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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 29, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Fighters Are Moving Closer to Israel - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    Jihadists in Syria are continuing to advance in a southern and westerly direction towards Israel.
    A contest is under way in Deraa province in southern Syria between Islamic State and the rival jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra.
    Nusra's presence in Quneitra Province, immediately adjoining the Golan Heights, is the point at which Syrian jihadists currently come closest to Israel.
    Nusra is no less anti-Western and anti-Jewish than its Islamic State rivals. Yet its attentions are largely concentrated on the fight against the Assad regime.

ISIS Executed Almost 2,000 People in Syria Over the Past Six Months - Elizabeth Barber (TIME)
    ISIS executed 1,878 people in Syria over the past six months, including 120 of its own members, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.
    Most were civilians, including 930 members of a Sunni Muslim tribe from eastern Syria, Reuters reports.
    All but four of those executed within ISIS's own ranks were fighters trying to leave and go back home.

Hamas Turns Back 37 Gaza War Orphans from a Bridge-Building Trip to Israel - Isabel Kershner and Majd Al Waheidi (New York Times)
    37 war orphans from Gaza, ages 13 to 16, set out on Sunday for a rare visit to Israel. Hamas authorities turned them back at the Erez border crossing, barring the visit at the last minute.
    The visit, organized by Yoel Marshak of Israel's Kibbutz Movement, had been fully coordinated with the Israeli liaison authorities and Israeli approval had been given, but Hamas went back on an initial agreement.
    Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and is sworn to its destruction.

    See also Hamas Circulates Instructional Video on Proper Stabbing Techniques - Justin Jalil (Times of Israel)
    Palestinians have uploaded an instructional video titled "How to Stab Correctly," to show would-be attackers the most lethal ways to stab somebody, the Hebrew news site NRG reported Saturday.
    The Hamas-produced video comes in the wake of a number of stabbing attacks by Palestinians throughout Israel and the West Bank. The clip comes with the text: "What are you waiting for / Rise up and stab."

Hamas: Qatar Hasn't Cut Off Our Financial Aid - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas denied on Sunday that Qatar has decided to halt financial aid. A Kuwaiti newspaper claimed that Qatar has temporarily halted financial aid to Hamas in wake of the emirate's rapprochement with Egypt.

Photos: Israel from Space (International Space Station)
    Israel - completely clear - on Christmas morning from the International Space Station, snapped by Astronaut Barry Wilmore.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards at Lebanon-Israel Border
    On Dec. 25, 2015, a Twitter account affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (@IRGCnetwork) tweeted that IRGC soldiers are at the Lebanon-Israel border. Moreover, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah, reported on Oct. 8, 2014, that Hizbullah fighters were again operating in the region south of the Litani River, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. (MEMRI)
  • Iran Has 1,000 Military Advisers in Iraq - Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris
    Iranian military involvement has dramatically increased in Iraq over the past year as Tehran has delivered desperately needed aid to Baghdad in its fight against Islamic State militants, say U.S., Iraqi and Iranian sources. A senior Iranian cleric with close ties to Tehran's leadership said that since June, Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq, as well as elite units, and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid.
        At the same time, Iraq's Shiite-led government is increasingly reliant on the powerful militias and a massive Shiite volunteer force, which together may now equal the size of Iraq's security forces. (Washington Post)
        See also Senior Iranian Military Adviser Killed in Iraq
    "Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi was martyred during a mission to advise the army and Iraqi the city of Samarra," north of Baghdad, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday. (AFP-Al Arabiya)
  • Hamas Leader Mashal Calls to Join with Turkey to "Liberate Palestine and Jerusalem"
    Khaled Mashal, the head of Hamas' political bureau, addressed Turkey's ruling party's annual congress in Konya on Dec. 27, endorsing Turkish President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu, and voicing his hope to "liberate Palestine and Jerusalem" together with them in the future. Mashal's speech was interrupted by cries of "God is great" and "Down with Israel" by AKP supporters who waved Turkish and Palestinian flags. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
        See also Turkish Prime Minister Vows Support for Palestinians (Zaman-Turkey)
        See also Hamas' New Base in Turkey - Yoni Ben Menachem
    According to Hamas sources, Mashal's visit to Turkey is a step on the way to his anticipated visit to Iran to cement the new Iran-Turkey-Qatar-Hizbullah axis. Hamas is gradually building a key operations base in Turkey. Israel has demanded that measures be taken against Turkey as a NATO member for allowing the unhindered activity of Hamas in Istanbul. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: There Is an Iranian Effort to Deepen Terrorism in the West Bank
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "In recent weeks we have seen a stepped-up Iranian effort to intensify terrorist actions in Judea and Samaria. None other than the Palestinian Authority ambassador in Tehran said that he was enthused by Iranian ruler Khamenei's instructions to send weapons to the West Bank and he added, 'The Zionist regime is an aggressive cancerous growth which, sooner or later, must be eliminated.' It was not a Hamas man who said this, it was the Palestinian Authority ambassador."
        "What is the UN doing in response? Instead of dealing with this incitement they are giving it an honored place, the same incitement that has led to the recent terrorist attacks, and they are also moving forward on a unilateral Palestinian proposal to try and pass a decision in the Security Council, the purpose of which is to bring about a forced settlement that would establish here a second Hamastan and would endanger our security."
        "This is the same UN, the Human Rights Council of which passed dozens of decisions this year against Israel, one decision on Iran and one decision on Syria. We will continue to insist on our truth and we will also continue to vigorously rebuff attempts to force terms on us that would endanger our security and our future."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Arrests Palestinians Who Firebombed Israeli Vehicle - Yaakov Lappin
    The IDF arrested two Palestinians who firebombed an Israeli vehicle on Thursday, critically wounding an 11-year-old girl and injuring her father. The two, from the West Bank village of Azun near Nablus, confessed to carrying out the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Burned Israeli Girl Faces "Long, Complicated" Rehabilitation - Yaron Kelner
    Ayala Shapira, 11, who was seriously burned by a firebomb thrown by Palestinians on Thursday, remains sedated and on a respirator. "The first steps will be to clean the deep burns, especially in the neck. She also has swelling in her throat, so in order to prevent choking we will enable her to breathe from a different area," said Professor Eyal Winkler, the Director of the Plastic Surgery Department at Sheba Medical Center. "I told her parents the struggle will be long, and the beginning consists of stabilizing her, reviving her, and getting her to a state where we can begin to reconstruct her face."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The International Criminal Court on Shaky Ground - Editorial
    A dozen years after its creation, the International Criminal Court is foundering. So far it has brought just 21 cases in eight countries, all of them in Africa. The U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel and every Arab nation but Jordan have declined to join. The court's purpose was to prevent the world's worst war and human rights crimes from going unpunished. But the guilty escaped sanction, and the court's deterrence effect is looking weak.
        ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will be put on the spot if the Palestinian Authority elects to accede to the ICC treaty and bring charges against Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza. In that case the court would be theoretically obligated to simultaneously investigate crimes by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, but might find it practically as well as politically easier to zero in on Israel. That would be an error that could destroy the ICC's chances of gaining international credibility. (Washington Post)
  • Corruption Hampers Effort to Rebuild Gaza - Peter Beaumont
    A UN-designed mechanism to control the supply of building materials for the reconstruction of Gaza after this summer's war - and to prevent them falling into the hands of Hamas - has been widely corrupted. During a recent visit to cement warehouses in Gaza, the Guardian saw cement being resold a few feet outside the warehouse at up to four times the cost within minutes of being handed over to householders with UN coupons. Elsewhere, the Guardian heard allegations of officials taking bribes to produce coupons for more concrete than was needed by householders, so the excess could be resold.
        Maher Khalil, a Gaza City warehouse manager, said: "Inside we sell the concrete for 500 shekels a ton. Outside they sell it for 1,600." Economist Omar Shaaban said: "Most of the cement that is coming in is being sold on the black market."  (Guardian-UK)
  • If Joseph and Mary Tried to Reach Bethlehem Today, They Might Get Murdered by Palestinian Terrorists - David Bernstein
    Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post, UK, posted an article entitled, "If Mary and Joseph Tried to Reach Bethlehem Today, They Would Get Stuck at an Israeli Checkpoint." Actually, since Joseph and Mary were Jews from Nazareth, they wouldn't need to be afraid of Israeli roadblocks needed to combat Palestinian terrorism, but of being murdered by terrorists from Hamas or Fatah.
        This sort of historical revisionism would be laughable if it were not so pernicious. It ignores the failure of the Arab side to recognize that the "Zionists" are not "European settler-colonialists," but a people with a three-thousand-year-plus tie to the Land of Israel, whose religion was born there, who ruled two separate kingdoms there, and who have prayed toward Jerusalem for two thousand years in their ancient Hebrew language.
        Such denial, coming frequently from even "moderate" Palestinian Authority officials, means that the Arab side can't see any potential peace agreement as a historic reconciliation between two peoples with strong claims to the land, but as at best a humiliating capitulation to foreign occupation that would have to eventually be reversed. Until that mindset changes, there won't be long-term peace, regardless of paper agreements. Writers like Hasan are quite simply the enemies of peace. The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law. (Washington Post)

Who's to Blame for Middle East Peace Stall? - Michael Rubin (Commentary)

  • Increasingly, Washington and even more so European capitals are signaling that diplomatic agreements are empty promises and that outside guarantees are meaningless. This was shown most recently as Iran's Revolutionary Guards have moved into southern Lebanon alongside Hizbullah, taking photos and tweeting about their presence.
  • The Iranian presence violates the terms of the truce that ended hostilities in 2006 between Lebanon and Israel, as well as UN guarantees. The international community supposedly made the UN mandate in southern Lebanon more robust and guaranteed Israel that Hizbullah would not rearm and militarize the south.
  • Today, despite such guarantees, Hizbullah has rearmed with over 100,000 artillery pieces and missiles. These violations show just how empty Western promises and guarantees have become when it comes to its quest for peace in the Middle East.
  • The 1993 Oslo Accords were a diplomatic triumph. At their heart was a Palestinian commitment to foreswear terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to resolve outstanding conflicts through negotiation rather than unilateral actions. For any portion of the Palestinian Authority to turn its back on the commitment to foreswear terrorism and recognize Israel should void the Oslo Accords.
  • For anyone in Washington or Europe to acquiesce to fundamental changes in Palestinian commitments regarding terrorism and Israel's security sends the signal to both Israel and the Palestinians that Western guarantees are worthless.

    The writer, a former Pentagon official, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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