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January 5, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Rejects Report on Nuclear Deal (Fars-Iran)
    Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham dismissed as "media hype" on Saturday a report by the Associated Press claiming that Iran and the U.S. had tentatively agreed on a formula to ship Tehran's nuclear materials to Russia.

Canada: Palestinian Move to Join International Criminal Court a "Dangerous Development" - Mark Kennedy (National Post-Canada)
    The Canadian government is condemning a move by the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court in a bid to eventually launch war-crimes prosecutions against Israel.
    Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the action taken by Palestinians last week is a "concerning and dangerous development."

Israeli Forces Nab ISIS-Linked Cell in West Bank - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli security forces arrested in November a number of Palestinians in the West Bank who created a terrorist cell affiliated with the Islamic State, it was revealed on Sunday.
    During interrogation by the Israel Security Agency, one member of the Hebron-based cell confessed to building explosives and hurling one at an IDF patrol.
    Two members of the cell planned to killed an IDF soldier and use his weapon and uniform to carry out a shooting attack.

Scholars' Effort to Condemn Israel Fails - Jennifer Schuessler (New York Times)
    Members of the American Historical Association voted 144-51 not to consider two resolutions condemning Israel on Sunday at the business meeting of the AHA's annual convention in New York.

Six North Caucasus Insurgency Commanders Transfer Allegiance to Islamic State - Liz Fuller (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
    Over the past six weeks, at least three Chechen and three Daghestani commanders have retracted an oath of obedience to Caucasus Emirate leader Sheikh Ali Abu-Muhammad (Aliaskhab Kebekov) and pledged loyalty to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Video: The Rise of ISIS - Martin Smith (PBS)
    "Al Qaeda was an underground organization. It could hurt. It could maim. It could terrorize people, bomb, blow up."
    "But ISIS has a different strategy. They have a plan. They have a strategy to establish a state, an Islamic emirate." - former Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
    Transcript (PBS)

Poll: Jews, Arabs Proud to Be Israeli - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    86% of Israeli Jews and 65% of Israeli Arabs described themselves as either very or quite proud to be Israeli, according to the annual Israel Democracy Institute Democracy Index presented Sunday.
    See also Israeli Democracy Index 2014 (Israel Democracy Institute)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Mulls War Crimes Suits Against Top Palestinians
    Israel is considering filing war crimes suits overseas against Palestinian leaders in response to their application to join the International Criminal Court and press such charges against the Jewish state, an official source said Saturday. A source close to the government said, "Those who should be wary of legal proceedings are the heads of the PA who cooperate within the unity government with Hamas, a declared terrorist organization which, like the Islamic State, carries out war crimes - it fires at [Israeli] civilians from within [Palestinian] population centers." Hamas fired 4,562 rockets at Israel in July and August, according to Israeli government figures. (AFP)
  • U.S. Official: Palestinian ICC Move Will Have Implications for Aid
    Further steps by the Palestinians on Friday to join the International Criminal Court will have implications for U.S. aid, a senior State Department official said. (Reuters)
        See also Israel to Ask U.S. to Enforce Law Halting Aid to Palestinians over ICC Action - Barak Ravid
    A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Jerusalem would ask the U.S. to enforce legislation passed by Congress last month stipulating that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. Earlier Sunday, Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben Sheetrit said that in response to the Palestinian bid at the ICC, "Israel is about to switch from defense to attack mode."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also With Israel "War Crimes" Gambit, PA Risks Loss of U.S. Funding - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    Aaron David Miller, a former presidential advisor and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said: "I think the odds of defunding [the PA] are higher than they ever were before. A whole new reality has now been created and I suspect that they are going to close any loopholes that may exist regarding the funding. The world in Washington is about to change."
        The funding bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last month stipulates that no State Department economic support may be given to the PA if "the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians." The ICC clause, Miller suggested, "is going to present a significant funding problem and the administration will probably not have any alternative but to comply."  (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Freezes Palestinian Tax Revenues in Response to ICC Membership - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israel on Saturday night froze the transfer of NIS 500 million in tax collections to the Palestinian Authority as a protest of the formal application for membership in the International Criminal Court that was filed on Friday on behalf of the "State of Palestine."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Website Posts Photo of Netanyahu Next to Noose with Word "Soon" and ICC Logo (Jerusalem Post)
  • First Palestinian ICC Case to Focus on Gaza War - Attila Somfalvi
    The first case the Palestinians will refer to the International Criminal Court will be the alleged crimes Israel committed in the West Bank and Gaza starting from June 13, 2014, Shawan Jabarin, director of the Ramallah-based rights group Al-Haq, said Sunday. That was the date Israel began a massive crackdown in the West Bank after the kidnapping and murder by Hamas terrorists of three Israeli teenagers. The same date had been selected by a UN commission probing rights violations during the Gaza war and the period leading up to it.
        If the Palestinians' application process goes as planned, they should be able to refer a case in early April, with legal preparations to that end already well under way. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • If the PA Uses the ICC Against Israel, Cut Off the $400 Million in U.S. Aid - Editorial
    On Friday the Palestinian Authority filed papers to join the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, which would allow investigations against Israel for war crimes. By rights, investigating war crimes would mean investigating the Palestinian terror group Hamas for starting the Gaza conflict by firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel. But in the upside-down moral universe, Israel will be put in the dock for defending innocent civilians by destroying the missile launchers and the tunnels where Hamas was hiding them.
        The Palestinian actions won't achieve anything tangible, and the ICC move will also put at risk the $400 million that the U.S. gives the Palestine government each year. Congress has stipulated that the funds be cut off if the PA uses the ICC to make claims against Israel.
        Palestinian leaders are embracing the fantasy that they can use international pressure to coerce from Israel the territory they will never get until they make concessions to Israeli security and right to exist. The U.S. should make clear that if the Palestinians proceed at the ICC, they will have seen their last dollar of American aid. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Fundamental Breach by the Palestinians of the Oslo Accords - Alan Baker
    Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the Oslo Accords not to initiate or take any steps that will change the status of the territories pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. Yasser Arafat, in his September 9, 1993, letter to Yitzhak Rabin, declared that "all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations."
        By petitioning the UN, the International Criminal Court, and international organizations to recognize them and accept them as a full member state, the Palestinians have knowingly and deliberately bypassed their contractual obligations pursuant to the Oslo Accords in an attempt to prejudge the main negotiating issues outside the negotiation.
        This, together with their attempts to delegitimize Israel among the international community, has served to frustrate any possibility of realization of the Oslo Accords, and as such the Palestinians are in material breach of their contractual obligations. By the same token those countries supporting them are in breach of their obligations and guarantees as witnesses.
        In such a situation of fundamental breach and according to all accepted rules of contracts and agreements, Israel has the legitimate right to declare that the Oslo Accords are no longer valid and to act unilaterally in order to protect its essential legal and security interests.
        Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • U.S. Vote Against Palestinian UN Resolution Fulfilled Pledge in Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty - Oded Eran and Robbie Sabel
    The submission of the draft resolution to the UN Security Council on behalf of the Palestinians was clearly a violation of the Palestinian undertaking under the Oslo agreement, in which Israel and the PLO agreed that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations." The Jordanian draft spelled out in full the Palestinian position, leaving nearly nothing to be negotiated.
        The Jordanian draft proposed that the Arab refugee problem be resolved on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 194. When Resolution 194 was passed in December 1948, all the Arab states voted against it.
        In voting against the draft, the U.S. was not only expressing its political displeasure but was also fulfilling its obligation as part of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, where the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to "oppose and, if necessary, vote against any initiative in the Security Council to...change Resolutions 242 and 338 in ways which are incompatible with their original purpose."
        Amb. Oded Eran is a senior research fellow and former director of INSS. Amb. Robbie Sabel is Professor of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass - Dennis Ross (New York Times)

  • The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, insists on using international institutions to pressure Israel, and has announced he will turn to the International Criminal Court - a move that will produce Palestinian charges and Israeli countercharges but not alter the reality on the ground.
  • It's time to stop giving the Palestinians a pass. It is time to make it costly for them to focus on symbols rather than substance.
  • Since 2000, there have been three serious negotiations that culminated in offers to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Bill Clinton's parameters in 2000, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer in 2008, and Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts last year. In each case, the answer by Palestinian leaders was either "no" or no response.
  • Palestinian political culture is rooted in a narrative of injustice; its anticolonialist bent and its deep sense of grievance treats concessions to Israel as illegitimate.
  • Going to the United Nations puts pressure on Israel and requires nothing of the Palestinians. Resolutions are typically about what Israel must do and what Palestinians should get.
  • European leaders who fervently support Palestinian statehood must focus on how to raise the cost of saying no or not acting at all when there is an offer on the table. If the Palestinians' approach is neither about two states nor peace, there ought to be a price for that.

    The writer, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was the U.S. chief negotiator for Arab-Israeli issues from 1993 to 2001.

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