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December 12, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Foiled Chemical Weapons Delivery to Hizbullah, Defector Says - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    Israel has foiled attempts to transfer a portion of Syrian President Assad's chemical weapons stockpile - which he had committed to destroying - to Hizbullah, according to a senior Hizbullah defector quoted by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

    See also Do Chemical Weapons in Syria Threaten Israel? - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli intelligence posits that Assad's "really bad" chemical weapons are close to all gone, with an extremely reduced capability to deliver them.
    However, while Assad is not going to use chemical weapons on Israel, Hizbullah might be far more likely to in future military engagements with the IDF.

U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Syria in ISIS Fight - Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    The U.S. is sending 200 additional troops to Syria to help Kurdish and Arab fighters massing for an assault on the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in Bahrain on Saturday.
    The reinforcements would include American commandos and bomb-squad specialists who will join the 300 special operations forces already working in eastern Syria to recruit, train and advise local Syrian militias to combat Islamic State.
    In the last month, the American-led air campaign has carried out nearly 300 airstrikes around Raqqa.

Islamic State Retakes Palmyra in Syria - Kareem Shaheen (Guardian-UK)
    Islamic State fighters have reconquered the city of Palmyra after intense fighting prompted a withdrawal by the Syrian military.
    In May 2015, jihadi militants stormed the city and rampaged through its museums and ruins, blowing up the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the Arch of Victory.
    The Syrian army, backed by Russian fighter jets, reclaimed the city in March 2016.
    The loss of Palmyra a second time raises questions about the ability of the Syrian military to hold territory even with the backing of Russia.

Iran and Boeing Sign $16.6 Billion Deal on Sale of 80 Aircraft - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
    Iran's national airline, Iran Air, said Sunday it had signed an agreement with Boeing to purchase eighty aircraft at a total cost of $16.6 billion.
    The sale includes fifty 737 planes and thirty long-range 777 aircraft, with the entire order being fulfilled over ten years.

Hamas Offers Missiles for Armies Willing to Fight Israel - Zack Pyzer (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas has offered to share its rocket arsenal with any Arab army willing to use them against Israel, Hamas official Fathi Hammad told Gaza's Al-Aqsa TV on Sunday.
    Hamas has been manufacturing rockets on an industrial scale since it took control of Gaza in 2007.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: There's No Peace Because Palestinians Refuse to Recognize a Jewish State in Any Border - Lesley Stahl
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told "60 Minutes" on Sunday his country has never felt as secure or less isolated. Netanyahu also noted, "I know Donald Trump. I know him very well. And I think his attitude, his support for Israel is clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There's no question about that."
        "Israel's position in the Arab world has changed because they no longer see Israel as their enemy, but as their ally, in their indispensable battle against the forces of militant Islam, either those led by Iran, the Shiites, or those led by ISIS, the militant Sunnis." "Palestinians know - they look at Aleppo in Syria, and they look at Yemen, and they look at Libya, and they look at other places, and they know that our intention is coexistence."
        Stahl: They want you to stop expanding settlements.
        Netanyahu: "Well, we did. We stopped. We stopped in Gaza. We tore out the settlements and gave the Palestinians Gaza. And what happened? Did we get peace? We got 20,000 rockets on our heads and terror tunnels....I think the obsession, the focus on settlements as though this were the issue and this is the obstacle to peace, I disagree with that."
        "The real reason we haven't had peace is because of a persistent refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border. 'You ask us to recognize you, I'm willing to do that. I ask you to recognize us. Recognize the Jewish state, for God's sake.' And if they do, this thing will begin to correct itself very quickly."  (CBS News)
  • Twin Blasts Near Istanbul Soccer Stadium Kill 38, Kurdish Militants Claim Responsibility - Dominique Soguel
    Twin car-and-suicide bombings targeted security forces outside Istanbul's Besiktas soccer stadium on Saturday night, killing 38 people, 30 of them police, and wounding 155. The blasts were claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), who said two of its members "were heroically martyred in the attack."  (AP-ABC News)
        See also Israel Condemns Terror Attack in Turkey (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Bomb Near Cairo's Coptic Cathedral Kills 25 - Tarek Ali Ahmad
    A bomb exploded near Cairo's Coptic cathedral on Sunday, killing 25 people and wounding 35, Egyptian state television reported. Most of the victims are thought to be women and children. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, supporters of ISIS celebrated the attack on social media. (Al Arabiya)
        See also Israel Condemns Terrorist Attack at Coptic Cathedral in Cairo (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Want Obama Not to Veto January UN Resolution on Settlements - Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
    The Palestinian Authority is interested in coming to an understanding with President Obama that would avoid a U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem that the Palestinians intend to introduce in January. A Palestinian delegation is to arrive in Washington in the coming week.
        In January, the rotating presidency of the Security Council will be held by Sweden, which is also interested in advancing a Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A senior official in President Abbas' office told Ha'aretz that the PA senses that the Obama administration will not accept the existing draft resolution, portions of which will have to be amended in an effort to avoid an American veto. "If the Palestinians act wisely and rationally, they have a chance," a senior Western diplomat said. (Ha'aretz)
  • New Turkish Ambassador Arrives in Israel - Itamar Eichner
    The new Turkish ambassador to Israel, Kemal Okem, arrived in Israel on Saturday night with his wife and two sons to fill a position that has been vacant for the last six years. (Ynet News)
        See also Turkish Court Dismisses Case over 2010 Israeli Flotilla Raid
    A Turkish court on Friday dismissed a case brought by victims of an Israeli raid on a flotilla in 2010, said a lawyer for the victims' families. The judge accepted the prosecutor's plea that there was no case to examine following a deal in June between Israel and Turkey in which the victims' families received compensation from Israel and the two countries restored relations. (Reuters)
  • Israel Called a "Paradise" for Arabs - Dov Lieber
    At a conference on human rights Sunday, Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, a Druze citizen of Israel, said, "Israel is a paradise....In no other place in the Middle East are minorities growing."
        Father Gabriel Naddaf, who in recent years has campaigned for Christians in Israel to join the Israeli army, read a letter from a Christian girl from the Arab town of Nazareth who wanted to enlist. "If they claim that Israel is an occupier, then its occupation in contrast to other occupations is paradise....I will fight for [Israel's] sake, because I would like that the land of our forefathers will once again be liberated from the real occupiers."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Is the Middle East So Disappointed with the U.S.? - Yaakov Katz
    A former top U.S. official told me a story that is making the rounds in Washington. A few months ago, an Arab state in the Persian Gulf received intelligence about an arms ship that was scheduled to leave Iran on its way to Yemen to arm rebel Houthi forces. The Gulf state decided to pass the intelligence on to the Americans and gave them the ship details, the weapons and the timetable. As the days passed, nothing seemed to be happening.
        So the Gulf state decided to go with an alternative plan and passed the information to the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service. Israel reportedly took the tip seriously and warned Iran that if the ship set sail it would be stopped. As a result, the ship never left Iran.
        I don't know if the story is true, but it accurately reflects the frustration with the U.S. throughout the Middle East, a feeling shared by Israel, Egypt, Jordan and most of the Arab countries in the Gulf. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia Is the New Sheriff in Syria - Eyal Zisser
    Israel (according to foreign reports) is continuing to attack weapons shipments in Syria earmarked for Hizbullah despite the massive Russian presence there. The Arab press has even reported that Moscow has tacitly agreed to these attacks and has also demanded of Hizbullah that it not respond. These reports show that the Russian presence in Syria could also provide certain benefits for Israel.
        The Russian presence has not paralyzed Israel's ability to take action, though it has made this action transparent for Moscow. In Israel this is already being taken into account, as evidenced by reports that Israel used missiles instead of planes in several attacks to avoid unnecessary friction with the new sheriff in town. The writer, Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)

Israel Is a Model of Democracy and Multi-Ethnicity - Bernard-Henri Levy interviewed by Ben Cohen (The Tower)

  • Israel is a model of democracy not only for the Middle East but for the world. Since the very day of its birth, 69 years ago, Israel has had an exemplary attitude, which is to deal with emergencies without giving up on democratic values.
  • I don't see any other example in modern history of a country that has had to face a constant state of war, a constant state of emergency, having in its own space a very strong minority who might be tempted to take the path of the adversary, and yet sticks so firmly to its principles.
  • Never forget that you have in Israel a number of Arab parliamentarians, which we in France don't have. Don't forget that the Arabic language is an official language of Israel. And don't forget that even in the moment when you have some Arab cities inside Israel demonstrating against Israeli policy, as during the Gaza war, there was never any step towards depriving this or that part of society of its democratic and civil rights. It never happened.
  • Israel also can really be considered as a model of dealing with the matter of multi-ethnicity. Because, at the end of the day, what is Israel? Israel is people coming from the west, from the east, from the south. People coming from Europe, people coming from Russia, people coming from the Arab world. People of every different possible ethnicity. And all of them made so quickly, nearly overnight, a nation. I don't see any other examples of that.
  • I completely understand those who go in the streets in Europe demonstrating for the memory of 2,000 or 3,000 Palestinian dead during the war in Gaza. What I don't understand is that I never saw them in the same streets when Bashar al-Assad kills not 2,000 or 3,000 but 300,000 or 400,000 of his own citizens. I never saw them in the streets when a Muslim leader in Sudan killed, in South Sudan, 400,000 or 500,000 people. And the same for the victims of Saddam Hussein. And the same for the Palestinians killed, tortured, by other Palestinians.
  • So it's more than strange that those who cannot accept Israel waging a defensive war don't feel upset or uncomfortable when an Arab leader kills one hundred times more Arab women and men.
  • There are some people in the West, and in America also, who care about lives only when Jews and Israel are involved. If that's not the case, then they don't give a damn, they don't demonstrate, they don't care. What name do you give to that? For me, this way of saying that the victim is interesting only if she had to deal with the Jews, this is anti-Semitism.

    Bernard-Henri Levy is a French philosopher and author of more than 30 books, including The Genius of Judaism (Jan. 2017).

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