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December 18, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

VA to Provide Israeli ReWalk Robotic Legs to Paralyzed U.S. Vets - Julie Watson (AP-Military Times)
    The Veterans Affairs Department has agreed to pay for robotic legs that could allow scores of paralyzed veterans with spinal cord injuries to walk again.
    The VA will "provide eligible veterans with paralysis an exoskeleton for home use," said Dr. Ann Spungen, who led VA research on the system.
    She called it "a historic move on the part of the VA because it represents a paradigm shift in the approach to rehabilitation for persons with paralysis."
    Former Army Sgt. Terry Hannigan, 62, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran, was the first to get the robotic legs as part of a system test.
    "To be able to hear the conversation, not miss half of what's being said because it's over your head, that in itself is a big plus," she said. "Now I can walk up, shake someone's hand. I can hug, kiss them."
    VA pilot studies found paraplegics who used the exoskeleton as little as four hours a week for three to five months experienced better bowel and bladder function, reduced back pain, improved sleep and less fatigue.

FBI: Young Pennsylvania Man Planned to Carry Out Terror Attack in U.S. (ABC News)
    On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the arrest of Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz, 19, of Harrisburg, Pa., for preparing to conduct or assist in an attack in the U.S.
    Aziz also attempted to aid ISIS supporters in traveling to Syria to fight.
    On Nov. 27, investigators found five loaded M4-style high-capacity magazines and other items inside a backpack Aziz kept inside a closet.
    Aziz reportedly used at least 57 different Twitter accounts to spread pro-ISIS propaganda and advocate violence against the U.S. and its citizens.
    Investigators determined that Aziz posted a hyperlink containing identification information of 100 reported members of the U.S. military, calling for violence against them.

Sarin Gas Material Brought to ISIS in Syria via Turkey (RT-Russia)
    Islamic State terrorists in Syria received all the necessary materials to produce deadly sarin gas via Turkey, Turkish opposition MP Eren Erdem charged last week.
    Sarin gas was used in Ghouta and several other neighborhoods near Damascus in 2013.
    An investigation involving a number of Turkish citizens was opened by the General Prosecutor's Office in Adana in 2013 and 13 suspects were arrested, but the case was closed and all the suspects immediately crossed into Syria, Erdem said.

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American Football Prepares Israeli Teens for Military Combat - Aron Heller (AP)
    Some 2,000 native-born Israelis have taken to the army-like strategy, camaraderie and collisions of American football, thanks in large part to the support of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
    "Football is a great tool for building a young man," said Kfar Saba Hawks head coach Itay Ashkenazi, 36, a former special forces commando whose father, Gabi Ashkenazi, was an IDF chief of staff.
    "The mentality of football is very similar to what you try to instill in elite combat units."

Israeli Robots Take Fight to Terrorists - Gwen Ackerman (Bloomberg)
    When the Pentagon recently selected a company to supply a portable, stair-climbing robot that can sniff out booby traps, the Israeli firm Roboteam Ltd. got the $25 million contract, its second order for the U.S. military in two years.
    Founded in 2009 by a pair of Israeli special-forces officers, Roboteam is benefiting from accelerating demand for inexpensive military robots that can be deployed by SWAT teams to foil terrorists in major cities as well as protect U.S. soldiers from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and other combat zones.
    Roboteam has managed to undercut rivals with lighter robots that sell for about half the industry average.
    Its smallest robot, IRIS, weighs 3.6 pounds and can be lobbed into a building, providing a video stream to troops or police officers outside. The largest, PROBOT, carries 1,650 pounds of equipment.
    During the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, Roboteam machines helped IDF ground forces fight Palestinian militants firing rockets and infiltrating Israel through tunnels. The robots were also used to detect Hamas booby traps.

Foodtech Nation - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    The first Foodtech Nation Conference was held Wednesday in Tel Aviv, showcasing how made-in-Israel food technology can help manufacturers produce processed food that is easier to store, cheaper to produce, and healthier to eat.
    For example, using a proprietary fiber-based technology, DouxMatok has developed a technology to make sugar and other sweeteners taste sweeter - enabling producers to use less sugar while retaining the sweet taste that consumers crave.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • ISIS Carries Out Offensive in Northern Iraq - Michael R. Gordon
    Islamic State fighters conducted their most significant military operation in northern Iraq since July, mounting a three-pronged attack on Wednesday north and east of Mosul, American officials said Thursday. The assault was beaten back by American and allied airstrikes and fierce fighting by Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Dozens of Kurdish fighters were killed, according to Kurdish officials.
        In each of the assaults at Narwan, Bashiqa and Tal Aswad, 80 to 120 Islamic State fighters maneuvered in small formations and used armored bulldozers, trucks with mounted machine guns and vehicles driven by suicide bombers, said Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, the senior American officer in northern Iraq. "As attacks go, they were pretty significant."  (New York Times)
  • Saudi Satellite Drops Hizbullah Channel - Toby Dershowitz
    Last week, Saudi-owned Arabsat dropped Hizbullah's Al-Manar television channel from its broadcasts. In 2005, Al-Manar was being broadcast by more than a dozen satellite operators around the globe, but 11 satellite operators have since ceased the channel's broadcasts due to its incitement to violence. Last month, Arabsat also suspended Al Mayadeen TV, which is also regarded as a Hizbullah mouthpiece.
        Today, Al-Manar is broadcast by only three satellite operators: Egypt's Nilesat, Russia's Express, and Indonesia's Indosat. The writer is Vice President for Government Relations and Strategy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Long War Journal)
  • Czech Parliament Rejects Labeling Goods from Israeli Settlements
    The Czech Assembly called on the government on Thursday to ignore EU rules on labeling goods from Israeli settlements, joining Hungary in breaking ranks over the divisive regulations. The parliament's lower house said the new EU guidelines were "motivated by a political positioning versus the State of Israel." The parliamentary resolution was supported by all government and opposition parties except for the Communists. Culture Minister Daniel Hermann said, "It is necessary to reject these attempts that try to discriminate against the only democracy in the Middle East."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel and Turkey Nearing Reconciliation - Herb Keinon
    Israel and Turkey are on the verge of a diplomatic reconciliation, Israel's Channel 10 reported and the Prime Minister's Office confirmed on Thursday. Yossi Cohen, the National Security Council head who is to become head of the Mossad, met in Switzerland with a Turkish official on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to re-station ambassadors and Turkey agreed to nullify all legal claims against IDF soldiers involved in the Marmara incident of 2010. Israel has agreed to establish an aid fund for the families of those who died in the raid.
        As part of the deal, Turkey agreed to Israel's demand that it cease permitting Hamas terrorists freedom of operation in Turkey. In addition, Turkey will permit a gas pipeline to run through its territory, and Ankara has agreed in principle to purchase natural gas from Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel to Pay $20 Million to Turkey over Mavi Marmara Incident - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
  • Fifth Israel Navy Submarine Leaves Germany for Haifa - Yaakov Lappin
    The Israel Navy's fifth Dolphin-class submarine is making the journey to its home base in Haifa from its German manufacturing center, a senior naval source said Thursday. The INS Rahav is the navy's second AIP (air independent propulsion) submarine, which can remain submerged for significantly longer periods than conventional submarines. Having two such submarines means that Israel has "doubled its covert capabilities," the source said.
        "Drones that fly in the air can be shot down, but a submarine can stay in enemy territory for weeks, and no one knows it's there," a past commander of the navy's submarine school told the Jerusalem Post in 2014. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Danon: UN Quietly Admires Israel, But Publicly Bashes It - Danielle Ziri
    After two months in office, Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon has learned there is "a public UN and a quiet UN. During the day, I have many meetings with ambassadors and officials and quietly you see that there is a lot of appreciation, I would even say admiration, for Israel."
        However, publicly, the UN exhibits a strong anti-Israel bias. "We are fighting against hundreds of people who wake up in the morning and think: What can we do to bash Israel at the UN?" "The strong democracies are not in charge in the UN and there is a majority of small countries, most of them are not democratic, who have the control," he added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Falls Short, Explodes in Gaza - Gili Cohen
    A Palestinian rocket fired at Israel on Thursday evening exploded inside Gaza near the Israeli border, the IDF said. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Is Not Meeting Its Obligations under the Nuclear Deal - A. Savyon and Y. Carmon
    With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors' closure, on Dec. 15, 2015, of Iran's PMD (Possible Military Dimensions) dossier, it is now Iran's turn to meet its JCPOA obligations, which include removing nine tons of low-level enriched uranium from the country, dismantling centrifuges so that only 6,000 active ones remain, pouring concrete into the core of the nuclear reactor at Arak in a way that will prevent it from being used for producing plutonium, adopting the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and more.
        Once the IAEA confirms that Iran has done this, the lifting of some of the sanctions on Iran and the suspension of others will take place. However, at this point, Iran is providing only a show of making progress in its implementation of its obligations. Inactive centrifuges are being transferred from site to site, and not a single active centrifuge has yet been dismantled. Iran has reached agreements with Russia to store its enriched uranium, and documents have been signed for changing the designation of the Arak reactor. But so far Iran has actually met none of its obligations.
        Holding back Iran's implementation is the October 21, 2015, letter from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani setting nine new conditions that must be met first. On November 29, 2015, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that the U.S. must lift the sanctions even before Iran meets its obligations - expressly contradicting the JCPOA. A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iran Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI. (MEMRI)
  • Israel's Emerging Relations in the Eastern Mediterranean - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
    Despite his roots in the country's traditionally anti-Zionist left, last month Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras paid a warm visit to Israel. So did Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades. Tsipras recognized that Jerusalem is, and will continue to be, "the eternal capital of the Jewish People" (while offering similar recognition to the Palestinian "state").
        Neither Israel nor Greece was necessarily looking at the Turkish challenge alone when they embarked on a trajectory of intense cooperation in recent years. The Israeli government stood by Greece at its hour of need, willing to encourage Israeli investment and tourism, and there is hope for joint energy projects.
        Israel, Cyprus and Greece have all aligned themselves on one side in favor of the al-Sisi government in Egypt, while Turkey is on the other side. The powerful realization that Sisi is the barrier left standing against a descent into Islamist hell remains a driving force in Greek regional policy.
        The new geometry should not be seen as designed to harm Turkey or isolate it. Israel has largely increased commercial relations with Turkey and serves as a conduit for Turkish exports in the region. The Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance does seek to block Erdogan's ambitions of regional hegemony, while at the same time offering Turkey a key place in the new Mediterranean political order, if and when it comes to its senses.
        The writer, who held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence and at the Israel National Security Council, is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The New Palestinians - Ben Caspit
    The Israeli security establishment is seeking to define, characterize and restrain the young Palestinians leading the current terror wave. The new Palestinian defies authority and is not subject to any kind of higher hierarchy. He was around 3 or 5 years old during the second intifada (2000-2005) and doesn't really remember those years when more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed.
        The new Palestinian goes to college. At least 30,000 Palestinians earn undergraduate degrees every year in the West Bank and another 20,000 in Gaza. But there is nothing they can do with their degrees. There are no decent positions, no high-tech jobs and no serious economic infrastructure. The new Palestinian has no tangible hope of accomplishing the things that he sees others achieving on social networks.
        The new Palestinian is convinced that he is in the right, blind to the positions of others, and follows the international community's stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and draws encouragement from it. He is completely open to the various conspiracy theories about Israel that spread through the Arab street.
        According to Israeli security experts, Israel is now "paying" for things that it is not even guilty of. The economies of the Arab states in general have long been weak, and the Palestinian economy in particular cannot give its youths any real hope of improvement.
        The new Palestinian is unaware that compared to the other Arabs in the Middle East today, his situation is better than theirs. The only Arab region in which electricity is available 24/7 is in the West Bank. The same is true regarding infant mortality and the standard of medical care. (Al-Monitor)
  • Canada's Growing Jihadi Cancer - Dana Kennedy
    The attention focused last week on the Ontario branch of al-Huda, the same religious school the San Bernardino killer Tashfeen Malik attended in Pakistan, is just one example of increasing Saudi-funded Islamic fundamentalism all over Canada. Radical mosques with reported ties to terrorist organizations have flourished in and around Toronto as well as in Montreal.
        The Mississauga, Ontario, branch of the al-Huda school closed for at least one day last week after CBC reported that four girls who studied there left Canada to join the Islamic State. "Farhat Hashmi runs al-Huda and denies that jihad is being taught there," said Dr. Farzana Hassan of the moderate Canadian Muslim Congress. "She's not telling the truth. I've listened to her podcasts in the Urdu language. She praises jihad and says women should participate."
        Prime Minister Trudeau's key aide helping him nail the Canadian Muslim vote was Omar Alghabra, 46, a Saudi-born Syrian immigrant. Alghabra was once president of the Canadian Arab Foundation, which lost government funding in 2009 because of its support for groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, which are officially listed as terrorist groups in Canada. Trudeau just named Alghabra as his Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Consular). Alghabra once denounced Toronto's police chief for taking part in a charity walk for Israel. (Daily Beast)
  • What the Palestinians Can Learn from the Kurds - Bob Feferman and Dan Feferman
    Northern Syria's 4.5 million Kurds have banded together in an enclave about the size of Connecticut called Rojava. Northern Iraq's 6 million Kurds have turned an area the size of Switzerland into the safest, most tolerant and stable part of the region. Upscale homes, malls, fancy cars and all manners of normal life cover the now-booming capital in Erbil. The Economist reports that the area has become a proto-democracy where "regular elections, a boisterous parliament, an array of political parties and a raucous media," secular government and even women's rights have become mainstays.
        The key take-away is that the Kurds realized that the trappings of statehood meant little if the basis for a functioning society underneath was absent. Rather than apply for meaningless membership to myriad international organizations, in clear contrast to the Palestinians, the Kurds sought economic prosperity and good governance. If the Palestinians' end-game is an independent state alongside Israel, then the millions of (donor) dollars spent on supporting 106 diplomatic missions would be far better spent building a civil society from the ground up.
        Rather than focusing on building a state in name but not in function to join other failed states, the Palestinians should look to Rojava and Erbil, where the Kurds have created functioning democracies that should serve as a source of inspiration for us all. Dan Feferman is a major (res.) in the IDF. Bob Feferman is community relations director for the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley in South Bend, Indiana. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Feature

  • The HMT Dunera: When Britain Deported German Jewish Refugees to Australia - Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
    In 1940 England, with Nazi Germany just across the English Channel, only 35 km. from Dover, European and German foreigners were all seen by Britain as potential spies and enemy agents. The British government ordered all adult German subjects to be rounded up and interned, even though the majority were German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who were implacable enemies of the Nazis.
        The majority were sent to the Isle of Man, offshore to the west of Liverpool, where they could do little harm, but heavy suspicion fell on men of military age, from 18 to 65, who were seen as highly dangerous. They were sent to Australia. The HMS Dunera had originally been designed for 1,600 troops, but now was to be filled with 2,542 refugees, 70% of them Jewish. On board the ship, the internees were all very badly treated by their British army warders, who considered the internees to be Nazi spies. They searched and looted their personal luggage, and threw much of it overboard.
        When the internees arrived in Australia, the government kept their arrival secret and sent them off to a prison camp at Hay, in New South Wales, 750 km. west of Sydney. The internees gradually made a somewhat civilized life for themselves, organized talks, lectures and seminars; many were scholars and professors, and they applied to emigrate to the U.S. and countries in South America.
        It was later learned that the Dunera had been followed by a Nazi submarine. The U-boat was ready to torpedo what it thought was a British troopship, but then the U-boat crew saw the considerable amount of debris that had been thrown off the boat, and picked up some to inspect it. When they saw it contained much in the way of German letters and literature, they concluded that the military boat was carrying German POWs, and the U-boat commander decided to spare the ship. The author is a senior fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)

Celebrating Israel - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

  • In large part due to slanted media reports, propaganda and downright lies, impressions of Israel worldwide tend to be negative - particularly among those who have never visited the country. But according to the UN Human Development Index released this week, things in the Jewish state are pretty good.
  • The index, which takes into consideration income, life expectancy and education for a combined development score, ranks Israel 18 out of 188 countries. Not only did Israel surpass by far all of its neighbors, but it outscored the EU and OECD averages as well. Countries such as France, Spain, Italy and even Japan scored lower than Israel.
  • Israel has the second lowest rate of maternal mortality in the world with just two deaths for every 100,000 births. And at 2.9 births per woman, the Jewish state has the highest fertility rate among the top 49 developed countries.
  • With regard to overall life satisfaction, only the residents of Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland registered greater satisfaction with their lives than Israelis.
  • What makes Israel's ranking so impressive is that it has managed to build a successful nation within an incredibly short time while waging wars, absorbing millions of immigrants, and incorporating a large Arab minority that is at best indifferent to the Zionist enterprise.
  • Taking the time to appreciate all that has been accomplished provides the strength to face future challenges with courage and optimism.
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