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February 1, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Approves Prayer Space at Western Wall for Non-Orthodox Jews - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
    The Israeli government on Sunday approved the creation of an upgraded egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for non-Orthodox Jews.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu described the plan for the new prayer space as "a fair and creative solution" and "a compromise on this delicate issue in a place that is supposed to unite the Jewish people."

Iran's Khamenei Awards Medals for Capture of U.S. Soldiers (Reuters)
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has awarded the Fath (Victory) medal to the head of the navy of the Revolutionary Guards and four commanders involved in the seizure of two U.S. Navy boats, Iran's state media said on Sunday.
    See also Medals for U.S. Humiliation - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

Report: EgyptAir Mechanic with ISIS Ties Planted Bomb in Russian Plane Crash in Sinai (Reuters)
    An EgyptAir mechanic whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria is suspected of planting a bomb on a Russian passenger plane that crashed in Sinai in October.
    Sources said the mechanic had been detained, along with two airport policemen and a baggage handler suspected of helping him put the bomb on board.

No Surprises in Report of U.S., UK Spying on Israel - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Reports that U.S. and British intelligence agencies tapped into Israel Air Force video transmissions provide a strong impetus for Israel to continue to improve the encryption of such transmissions.
    However, this did not jeopardize Israeli military operations and does not constitute a breach of Israel's most classified military secrets.

Hamas Leader Haniyeh: We Are Rebuilding Tunnels, Preparing for Conflict with Israel - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    The head of Hamas' politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, said Friday the group was developing its military capabilities and was rebuilding tunnels in preparation for a future conflict with Israel.
    "In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine."
    During the 2014 Gaza war, Israel unearthed 32 offensive tunnels dug by Palestinians into Israeli territory; roughly a third have since been reconstructed, reaching into Israel.
    See also Hamas in a Rush to Build Terror Tunnels - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Over the past year, at least 12 militants have died in tunnel accidents in Gaza. The large number of accidents and problems Hamas has run into underground could show that someone in Hamas is in a rush to prepare their offensive tools ahead of a possible decision on an attack.
    On the Israeli side, there are intensive efforts to locate such tunnels.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • France Plans Mideast Peace Effort, and Recognition of Palestine If It Fails - Rick Gladstone and Steven Erlanger
    France said Friday that it would organize an international conference aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that France would recognize Palestine as an independent state if that effort failed. (New York Times)
        See also Netanyahu: France Providing Disincentive for Palestinians to Negotiate - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday that he expects there will be some "sobering up" regarding the French intention to recognize a Palestinian state if Paris' efforts to broker a peace conference fail. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday called for an international conference and warned that "if it does not succeed, then France will essentially adopt to a large degree the Palestinian position." Netanyahu said this gives an incentive to the Palestinians not to compromise. He added that Israel was willing to enter into direct negotiations with the Palestinians without pre-conditions. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Ya'alon: "It Seems Like the Palestinians Don't Want to End the Conflict"
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon dismissed a recent French initiative and ultimatum on Monday, telling Israel Radio: "I've had enough of conferences, enough of ceremonies, enough of documents phrased by lawyers. At the end of the day it's between us and them. Our policy is very clear: We don't want to control them. It seems like they don't want to end the conflict. The heart of this conflict is their unwillingness to recognize our existence in any borders."  (Times of Israel)
  • In Response to French Plan, U.S. Continues to Support Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Oren Dorell
    Samantha Sutton, special assistant to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at the U.S. State Department, said the U.S. position on the recognition of a Palestinian state has not changed. "We continue to believe that the preferred path to resolve this conflict is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly."
        If France recognizes a Palestinian state, the move would have no practical effect on Palestinian or Israeli lives, but it would have symbolic impact and increase diplomatic pressure on Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department peace negotiator. Miller called the French proposal "bone headed" on Twitter and said it won't work. (USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Police Officer Wounds Three Israeli Soldiers in West Bank Shooting Attack Sunday - Jack Khoury
    Three Israeli soldiers were wounded in a shooting attack near Beit El in the West Bank on Sunday by Amjad Sukari, a Palestinian police officer, who exited his car at a checkpoint and opened fire. A soldier then shot the assailant and killed him. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Another Member of the PA Security Services Opens Fire - Amos Harel
    Amjad Sukari is the second member of the PA security services to commit an attack since the current wave of violence began in October. Two months ago, a member of the PA's General Intelligence Service - a relative of senior PA official Saeb Erekat - opened fire on soldiers at a checkpoint south of Ramallah. Both assailants had been vetted by the PA intelligence services. There have been other recent cases in which Israel arrested PA employees on suspicion of helping to plan attacks.
        More widespread involvement in acts of terror by members of the PA security services and the Tanzim (Fatah's armed wing) is a nightmare scenario for Israel. Together, the Tanzim and PA security services have tens of thousands of guns, and the PA's "Dayton Brigades," trained by U.S. officers, have at least basic combat training. (Ha'aretz)
        See also PA Police Praises Its Member for Shooting Attack - Maayan Groisman
    The Palestinian police announced that "with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukari, who committed the operation at VIP checkpoint in Beit El."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Teen Stabbed in Jerusalem Saturday - Roi Yanovsky
    Two Palestinian attackers stabbed a 17-year-old Israeli in the back in Jerusalem on Saturday evening. The attackers were later arrested. The wounded Israeli made aliyah from Brooklyn six weeks ago in order to join the army. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Foils Car-Ramming Attack in West Bank Sunday - Judah Ari Gross
    A Palestinian man attempted to run over soldiers manning the Maccabim checkpoint on Route 443 in the West Bank on Sunday. Troops opened fire on the speeding car and wounded the attacker, thwarting the attack. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Armed with Knife Crosses West Bank Security Fence Monday - Elisha Ben Kimon
    A Palestinian was killed by IDF soldiers on Monday after crossing the West Bank separation barrier near Tulkarm. After being alerted that someone had crossed the barrier, they spotted the Palestinian and approached him to arrest him. When he pulled out a knife and attempted to stab the soldiers, they shot and killed him. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Don't Shoot the Messenger, Israel - Ban Ki-Moon
    History proves that people will always resist occupation. Some sought to shoot the messenger - twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence. The stabbings, vehicle rammings and other attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians are reprehensible. So, too, are the incitement of violence and the glorification of killers. Nothing excuses terrorism. I condemn it categorically. It is inconceivable, though, that security measures alone will stop the violence.
        For their part, Palestinians must make political compromises to bring Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratic governing authority. This also means consistently and firmly denouncing terrorism and taking preventive action to end attacks on Israelis, including an immediate stop to Gaza tunnel construction. The writer is the secretary general of the United Nations. (New York Times)
  • Anti-Israel Protest at Chicago LGBTQ Conference Was About Shutting Down Debate and Attacking Jews - Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
    I was in Chicago for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference and attended the Jan. 22 reception for Jerusalem Open House when about 200 protestors appeared, threatening and chanting and acting aggressively and calling for the eradication of Israel. The mob-like feeling of the crowd was frightening and profoundly disturbing. I tried to reason calmly with the protesters, but they only screamed back at me.
        The protesters insisted that only their voices can be heard. I believe in the robust, vigorous world of debate and ideas and support the right of the protesters to protest passionately. But the protest was about shutting down, disrupting, and silencing. While I am not one to lightly use the anti-Semitism charge, I have to say that I personally felt attacked as a Jew. The writer has been spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City since 1992. (Ha'aretz)

Breaking the Silence Is No Human Rights Organization - and I Should Know - Natan Sharansky (Ha'aretz)

  • Supporters of Breaking the Silence - who accuse the IDF of committing immoral and illegal acts in the West Bank - have on several occasions likened their campaign to that of the dissidents who fought for human rights in the Soviet Union.
  • Unfortunately, the comparison completely ignores the distinction between dictatorship and democracy.
  • Soviet dissidents set out to democratize a dictatorial regime, to create the kind of representative institution with which Israel is already blessed. Because such institutions were entirely absent in the USSR, we had no choice but to rely on external forces to induce the regime to respond to our claims.
  • Breaking the Silence, by contrast, sets out to bypass an existing democratic government and resolve a controversial political issue by means of international pressure.
  • It is of course legitimate to believe that Israel's military presence in the West Bank should be ended immediately. But it is equally legitimate to believe that such a withdrawal would be dangerous and even catastrophic for the state.
  • This is a political question that should be decided by Israel's citizens through their elected representatives, not by a small group of self-appointed prophets and their chorus of foreign supporters.

    The writer is Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former refusenik and prisoner of conscience in the ex-USSR.

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