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January 1, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Spend $3 Billion More to Improve Living Standards of Arab Minority - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
    Israel will spend around 13 billion shekels ($3.3 billion) over the next five years to improve the standard of living of its Arab minority and narrow gaps with its Jewish population. Arabs comprise a fifth of Israel's population.
    In a plan approved by the Israeli cabinet, investment will be boosted in education, infrastructure, culture, sports and transportation in Arab areas.
    "The Israeli government is changing the allocation mechanisms in government ministries so that Israel's Arab citizens will receive their relative share in the state budget," said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.

Hamas Plans to Resume Suicide Attacks in Israel - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Hamas is planning to resume suicide bombing attacks against Israelis, including "political and security figures inside Israel," Lebanon's The News reported. Israeli officials are aware of the directive to resume the bombings, The News reported.
    Israel ten days ago uncovered a Hamas cell operating in east Jerusalem, which had been planning suicide attacks. The cell was controlled by Hamas leadership in Gaza.
    A senior Palestinian Authority source told the Times of Israel last week that Hamas is attempting to launch major terror attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings, from the West Bank.
    Information gleaned from interrogations of Hamas operatives arrested recently by PA security services reveals orders from the group's leaders in Gaza and abroad to escalate their activities, encouraging protests and stabbing attacks as well as more dramatic and deadly assaults on Israeli civilians.

Egypt Court Designates Hamas Military Wing a Terrorist Group - Merrit Kennedy (AP)
    A Cairo court banned Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades on Saturday, designating it a terrorist organization for its role in recent attacks against security forces in Egypt.

Russia to Supply Egypt with 46 Naval Attack Helicopters (Sputnik-Russia)
    Russia has struck a deal with Egypt to deliver 46 Kamov Ka-52K navalized attack helicopters, Alexander Mikheev, director-general of state-run Russian Helicopters, said Wednesday.

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Israel's Population Nearly 8.5M at End of 2015 (Globes)
    At the end of 2015, Israel's Jewish population had reached 6.335 million (74.9%), the Arab population 1.757 million (20.7%), and 370,000 (4.4%) are defined as others.
    Over the past year, 176,700 babies were born and 28,000 new immigrants came to the country. 25% of the new immigrants came from France, 24% from Ukraine, 23% from Russia and 9% from the U.S.

Israel's First Bio-Waste Power Plant - Hedy Cohen (Globes)
    Doral Energy is teaming up with Kibbutz Lahav to build the first facility in Israel to generate energy from organic waste and animal waste.
    Bio-gas facilities are very common in Europe.
    "Given the need to deal with animal and agricultural waste, on one hand, and the creative arrangement by the Electricity Authority, on the other, there was a good opportunity to combine the two and turn the nuisance into a resource," said Doral Environmental Infrastructures CE Yaakov Tzemach.

Israeli Firm Spots Water Leaks by Satellite - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel 21c)
    The Israeli company Utilis uses existing satellite imagery to pinpoint underground leaks.
    The images are processed with a patented set of algorithms that detect the unique "signature" of drinking water (as opposed to rainwater or swimming-pool water).
    The customer gets a detailed graphic leakage report overlaid on a map with streets, pipes and information on the size of the leak.

Video: Israeli Designer Creates One Shirt that Can Be Worn 24 Different Ways (Fashion, Trends & More)
    Israeli designer Tamara Salem has created the Morf multi-shirt that could be worn 24 different ways.
    There are no buttons, no velcro, no zippers - just one shirt that creates 24 various looks by itself.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Rouhani Orders Speed Up of Iran's Missile Program in Response to New U.S. Sanctions
    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday ordered Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehqan to enhance and accelerate development of the country's missile capability in response to new U.S. sanctions. "As the United States seems to plan to include the names of new individuals and firms in its previous list of cruel sanctions in line with its hostile policies and illegitimate and illegal meddling in the Islamic Republic of Iran's right to reinvigorate its defense power, the program for the production of the Armed Forces-needed missiles is required to continue more speedily and seriously," President Rouhani's written order read.
        Rouhani wrote that Tehran has time and again underlined all throughout the nuclear negotiations that it would "never negotiate with anyone about its defense power, including the missile program, and would never accept any restriction in this field."  (Fars-Iran)
        See also White House Delays Imposing New Sanctions on Iran for Missile Program - Jay Solomon
    The White House has delayed its plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, according to U.S. officials. New sanctions on nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the UAE for their role in developing Iran's ballistic missile program were scheduled to be announced Wednesday morning in Washington, according to a notification the White House sent to Congress, but a decision was made later on Wednesday to delay the sanctions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • FBI: New York Man Was Planning ISIS Attack on New Year's Eve - Tom LoBianco
    Justice Department officials announced Thursday they had thwarted a Rochester man's plans to kill New Year's Eve revelers in the name of ISIS at an upstate New York bar and restaurant. According to a criminal complaint, Emanuel Lutchman, 25, had been in contact with a man overseas who claimed to be in ISIS. Lutchman told him he wanted to come to Syria but was informed he couldn't come now and that he should kill Americans to prove himself. Lutchman wanted to sneak a bomb into a restaurant and kidnap some people to kill. (CNN)
        See also Munich Police Warn of "Imminent Threat" of Islamic State Attack
    Police in Munich warned of a "serious, imminent threat" by Islamic State suicide bombers wanting to commit an attack on New Year's Eve and asked people to stay away from the city's main train station. (Chicago Tribune)
        See also Turkey Detains Two ISIS Militants Planning New Year's Eve Attack - Ceylan Yeginsu
    Two Islamic State militants who were plotting a suicide attack on the Turkish capital, Ankara, on New Year's Eve have been detained, Turkish officials said Wednesday. The men were of Turkish origin and had traveled to Syria. They were planning attacks on Kizilay Square in Ankara, where large crowds gather to celebrate the New Year, a senior government official said. A police raid uncovered one suicide vest, bomb-making equipment, ball bearings, and a backpack full of materials to make explosives. (New York Times)
        See also France "Not Finished with Terrorism," Says Hollande
    President Francois Hollande said in his New Year's Eve address to the nation Thursday that France "has not finished with terrorism yet." Hollande said the threat of another attack "remains at its highest level."  (AFP)
        See also Islamic State Has Officials on New Year's Alert Around the World - Editorial
    Counterterrorist officials are on high alert seemingly everywhere. The holiday terror arrests and alerts are a reminder that Islamic State is a global threat that needs to be destroyed in its home territory far more rapidly than the current pace. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Free World Can Stop Threats from Iran and Islamic State - Judah Ari Gross
    "The threat to our civilization from Islam has two branches - the Iran-led Shiite and the Islamic State-led Sunni," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday during a ceremony to mark the graduation of Israeli Air Force pilots. "The earthquake wrought in our region by both of these strains sends shock waves through distant continents and nations."
        "These shock waves will not stop of their own accord. The only thing that can stop them is for the governments of the free world to internalize the severity of the danger, and respond with determination that is commensurate with the severity of the threat. This has perhaps started to happen, but still not fully."  (Times of Israel)
  • Two Jerusalem Arabs Indicted for Planning Eilat Hotel Bombing - Yoav Zitun
    Jerusalem residents Khaleel Nimri and Ashraf Salaymeh were indicted on Thursday for attempting to commit a terror attack at the Be Center hotel in Eilat. The attack was thwarted thanks to the vigilance of hotel employees, who reported the suspicious behavior of Salaymeh, who arrived at the hotel on Nov. 30 in order to gather intelligence ahead of the attack and asked the receptionist and the manager many questions that aroused their suspicion. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Soldier Wounded in West Bank Car-Ramming Attack - Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury
    An Israel Defense Forces soldier was wounded in a car-ramming attack south of Nablus in the West Bank on Thursday. The Palestinian driver, Hassan Ali Bazur, 22, was shot and killed by soldiers at the scene. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egyptian Jets Enter Gaza Airspace in Attacks on Jihadists
    The Egyptian air force began intensive airstrikes on Thursday against the Islamic State group in Egyptian Rafah, near the border with Gaza, entering Gaza's airspace in their attacks. Sky News Arabia reported 15 people killed in the airstrikes. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Living with Near-Daily Attacks in Jerusalem - Shira Rubin
    Three months of near daily attacks by Palestinians haven't stopped Israeli teacher Talia Malek from purposely taking public transportation in Jerusalem and attempting to keep up her daily routine despite deep anxieties. "This is our city, this is our country, and we need to show that we cannot be intimidated," said Malek. "Co-existence in Israel is possible between Jews and other groups, but this current situation reminds us that Palestinians see us as their enemy, reject our existence here. And the moment that they have the chance they will - literally - stab us in the back."
        The attacks began after false word spread among Palestinians that Israel was going to take control of the holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, a claim repeated by Palestinian leaders to spur the violence despite Israeli denials. (USA Today)
        See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Permanency Against Threats of Annihilation - Cal Thomas
    More than a decade after my 19th trip to Israel and the Middle East, on my recent 20th visit what one notices first is the large amount of new construction, which suggests a certain Israeli permanency against threats of annihilation perhaps no other country has had to endure. Second are the many prosperous Arab neighborhoods - defying much of the propaganda about how Israelis mistreat Arabs and Muslims, locking them in poverty. (Chicago Tribune)
  • The Islamic State in Southern Syria - Aaron Y. Zelin and Oula A. Alrifai
    Much attention has been given to the Islamic State's activities in northern and eastern Syria, but there has been less focus on its slow and steady growth in the southern theater. While Damascus, in the southwest, is unlikely to fall in the near term, the continued buildup of the Islamic State's assets and presence in the surrounding area could provide a longer-term threat not only to the regime and the rebels fighting it, but also for Jordan and perhaps Israel. Currently, Islamic State is in a good position to make further advances in the southern Damascus and al-Lajat regions of southern Syria. Compared to where it was in December 2013 or December 2014, the group is far stronger and is gaining more steam.
        Aaron Y. Zelin is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Oula A. Alrifai has been involved in the Syrian protest movement and is currently a Syria analyst at Navanti Group where she focuses on humanitarian and development projects in Syria. (Combating Terrorism Center-West Point)
  • The Islamization of Britain in 2015 - Soeren Kern
    Britain has the third-largest Muslim population in the EU, after France and Germany, with 3.5 million in 2015, about 5.5% of the overall population of 64 million. On Sep. 18, The Times reported that British intelligence is monitoring more than 3,000 homegrown Islamist extremists willing to carry out attacks in Britain. According to the report, British men and women, many in their teens, are being radicalized within weeks to the point of violence.
        The Daily Mail reported on Jan. 26 that hospitals across Britain are dealing with at least 15 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) every day, and that the problem is especially acute in Birmingham. Although FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1984, there has not been a single conviction. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli-Invented Device Is Saving American Lives in Afghanistan - David Shamah
    American troops injured in Afghanistan may come into contact with an Israeli-invented mini-ventilator. The Pocket BVM (bag valve mask device) has been used to treat thousands of people at the scene of numerous natural disasters, like in the huge earthquake that devastated Nepal earlier this year.
        "The U.S. Army decided that our Pocket BVM would fit into combat scenarios much better than traditional BVMs," said Dov Maisel, an American immigrant to Israel who invented the unique manual ventilator with fellow United Hatzalah volunteer Akiva Pollack. "It's really taken off since the Americans adopted it last year, and now we are working with several NATO armies, first-aid groups in Europe and Asia, businesses, hospitals, and airlines among others." Now with patents in 27 countries, Pocket BVM is a big hit with first-responders the world over. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Tech Is in One-Third of the World's Smart TVs - David Shamah
    One-third of the smart TVs sold in the world today contain an essential piece of technology made by Tel Aviv start-up Giraffic. "As of this year, both Samsung and LG are using our Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA) technology to ensure flawless playback of streaming content on their Internet-connected televisions," said Giraffic co-founder and CEO Yoel Zanger. "Right now we are the industry standard....It's pretty cool."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Products at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - Ariel Shapira
    Israeli companies promoting their technologies at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in 2016 include WonderVoice, a voice-interaction interface that works as your personalized voice assistant for social networking and messaging. It offers hands-free interaction with Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Youtube, Glympse and Pocket, as well as services aiming to help drivers, such as detection of vacant parking spaces or sharing of location.
        StoreDot has introduced a battery capable of charging your smartphone in 30 seconds and your electric car in five minutes. Its new MolecuLED battery is based on organic materials. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Town Acquires "Smart" Streetlights - David Shamah
    Urban officials around the world are aiming to swap existing energy-inefficient streetlights with more efficient and smart LED streetlights. Ga'ash Lighting, an Israeli company, is installing smart LED streetlights that include wifi repeaters, security cameras, sensors to measure temperature and air quality, and systems to measure traffic congestion. The Apollo system will not only help cities save money on energy, but will give them data to determine where to deploy police, where to pick up garbage, how to prevent traffic jams, and more.
        Ga'ash's Apollo smart streetlights allow a technician to set lighting at the proper intensity, as needed. The intensity could be set at 20% as the sun goes down, and put onto full capacity when it's dark; at 3 a.m. in areas where there is no traffic, intensity could be dropped to 50%, substantially cutting a town's electricity bill. Last week the company announced that the Israeli city of Bat Yam would replace its 7,000 streetlights with LEDs. (Times of Israel)
  • The Miracle Babies of Mauthausen - Jenni Frazer
    In Born Survivors, British author Wendy Holden tells the harrowing tale of three mothers who gave birth in the Nazi camps, and the children who, against all odds, survived.
        In April 1945, Priska, weighing only 70 pounds, delivered Hana on a table in a factory before she and 1,000 other women were deported to Auschwitz. Rachel gave birth to tiny Mark in an open coal wagon, halfway through a 17-day train journey to the Austrian concentration camp of Mauthausen with hardly any food or water. Anka gave birth to Eva on a cart full of dying women as all three mothers arrived at the camp's gates. Miraculously, the babies, and their mothers, survived.
        Holden discovered that Eva Clarke lived in Cambridge, England. "I contacted her to see if she would be interested in my telling her story. And Eva replied, "I've been waiting for you for 70 years," says Holden. The "babies," Eva, Mark Olsky and Hana Berer Moran, met for the first time at a ceremony in 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen by American forces. All three were eager to have their stories recorded.
        Her research led her to the small town of Horni Briza in the Czech Republic. A "death train" carrying hundreds of Jews, including the three young mothers, stopped there en route to Mauthausen on April 21, 1945. The stationmaster, Antonin Pavlicek, organized an astonishing humanitarian effort by the local townspeople, who brought food, drink, and even baby clothes when they heard the cries of newborns in the train wagons. (Times of Israel)

Iran's Plan for Syria without Assad - Joyce Karam (National Interest)

  • On Feb. 25, 1987, the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad sent his troops to the Fathallah barracks in West Beirut, where they killed 27 members of Hizbullah in a move designed to show Syria's upper hand over Iran in Lebanon. Almost three decades later under Assad the son, Tehran has gained the upper hand in Damascus.
  • For Iran, Bashar al-Assad has been a valuable ally but not an indispensable one. Iran is looking beyond Assad to preserving its core interests:
    1. Ensuring arms shipments continue to Hizbullah
    2. Gaining a strategic foothold in the Levant and against Israel
    3. Preventing a stable government opposed to Iran from fully ruling over Syria.
  • Iran is establishing that if Assad falls, it will have enough proxies and presence in Syria to secure its influence and prevent a hostile regime from effectively taking over.
  • Iran's strategy in Syria looks very similar to its playbook in Iraq and Lebanon, where heavily armed and trained nonstate actors are securing Iran's interests.
  • Both the Iraqi and Lebanese models prove that these new militia structures are there to stay and are not bound to UN resolutions or international agreements.
  • This makes the chatter on withdrawal of all militias from Syria a rhetorical fantasy.

    The writer is the Washington bureau chief for Al-Hayat.
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