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December 23, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Suspect in Berlin Attack Is Shot Dead in Milan - Gaia Pianigiani (New York Times)
    Anis Amri, the chief suspect in the terrorist attack in Berlin this week, was killed by police in a shootout outside Milan early Friday.
    When asked to show identification papers during a routine traffic stop, Amri immediately opened fire and shot a police officer. The second police officer opened fire, killing Amri.
    "The person who attacked our police officers was killed," Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. "There is absolutely no doubt that the person who was killed was Anis Amri, the suspect in the terrorist attack in Berlin."

Islamist Enclaves in Europe Breed Jihadism - Andrew C. McCarthy (National Review)
    German investigators named a Tunisian refugee, Anis Amri, who arrived in Germany in July 2015 as an asylum-seeker, as the jihadist who drove a truck through a Christmas festival in Berlin on Tuesday.
    The main threat posed by the immigrant populations from sharia cultures is not that some percentage will be trained terrorists.
    It is that a much larger percentage is stubbornly resistant to assimilation, thus fortifying sharia enclaves throughout Europe. That is what fuels jihad.
    These neighborhoods turn into safe havens for jihadist recruitment, training, fund-raising, and harboring.
    They enable jihadists to plan attacks against the host country and then elude the authorities after the attacks.

Christmas Day Terror Plot Foiled in Australia (AFP)
    A "significant" Islamic State-inspired Christmas Day terror plot targeting central Melbourne has been foiled after a series of arrests in raids, police said Friday.
    Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton said those detained planned to use explosives, knives and guns to attack busy locations including Melbourne's Flinders Street train station, Federation Square and St. Paul's Cathedral.
    Ashton said four of those in custody were Australian-born, of Lebanese background, with the fifth an Egyptian-born Australian citizen.
    Twelve terror attacks have now been prevented in Australia in the past two years, according to Australian officials, but four have taken place.

Egypt's Cruelty to Christians - Mona Eltahawy (New York Times)
    Whoever planted the bomb that killed 27 people on Dec. 11 at the Cairo cathedral complex - the seat of the Coptic pope - understood well how endemic bigotry in Egypt has left Christian lives at the whim of a regime that pays lip service to protecting them, armed Islamists who actively seek them harm, and a public that largely does not care.
    Coptic Christians number about 10% of Egypt's 90 million people.
    The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has documented at least 77 cases of sectarian attacks on Copts between 2011 and 2016 in the province of Minya alone, where Christians make up about 1/3 of the population.

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Christmas Greetings to Our Christian Friends around the World - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
    I send you these greetings from Jerusalem. It moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this Land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. What a magnificent heritage it is.
    Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions, attack Christians with particular vehemence.
    We stand with you. Israel is the one place in the Middle East where the Christian community not only survives but thrives. It's because of our commitment to religious freedom.
    So please come to Israel. Come and visit. It will be a great experience for you. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Draining the Swamp - Richard Baehr (Israel Hayom)
    The term "drain the swamp" should apply to the stale thinking that has permeated diplomacy in the Middle East for decades, enabling nonsensical beliefs to remain accepted and unchallenged.
    It is worth examining some of the long-running issues that Trump should move on, which really belong in the dustbin of history.
    The U.S. Embassy belongs in Jerusalem. Maintaining an embassy in a city that is not a country's capital is something not done in any other country in the world.
    Refusing to recognize that Jerusalem is Israel's capital until the Palestinians give their approval in essence allows them to define the terms for Israel's capital.
    Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995. Presidents have exercised waivers every year because of fear that all hell would break loose with the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim allies.
    Will the Arab world go ballistic if the U.S. makes this move, or are there bigger problems for them to deal with at the moment for which they may need American assistance?

Greece-Israel-Cyprus Relations: Ripe for Expansion? - Dr. George Voskopoulos (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Relations with Greece and Cyprus provide Israel with allied neighbors and bring Israel closer to Europe in terms of security, trade, and energy.
    Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are the only working democracies in a region of undemocratic, semi-democratic, and failing states. This is a powerful motivation factor for cooperation.
    The writer is Associate Professor of European Studies at the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Modern-Day Israeli Heroes - Dafna Farkas (Jerusalem Post)
    Last month, firefighter Yaakov Guttman faced one of the worst blazes in Israel's history.
    "Seeing five- or seven-meter high flames and knowing that if this gets past you it is going to hit citizens and civilians - I felt a huge sense of honor," said Guttman after fighting fires for 72 hours in Zichron Ya'acov and Sha'ar Hagai, west of Jerusalem.
    Guttman, a New Jersey native who served as a firefighter in the tri-state area as well as becoming an EMT, made aliya in 2006.
    New York native Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel, has spent the past 13 years fighting poverty by feeding the needy.
    Gitler started Leket Israel, Israel's national food bank and the country's leading food rescue network, just three years after making aliya.

Record High-Tech Funds Raised in Israel in 2016 - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Israeli high-tech companies have raised at least $4.6 billion in 2016, up from $4.43 billion in 2015.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Postpones Sensitive Vote on Israel Settlements - Rory Jones and Farnaz Fassihi
    The UN Security Council postponed a vote Thursday on a resolution criticizing Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. After a draft of the resolution was circulated by Egyptian diplomats on Wednesday, Israel and President-elect Trump urged the Obama administration to veto it. The U.S. vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, but in recent months has considered supporting a resolution, according to White House officials.
        "As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations," Trump said in a statement. "This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Israel Lobbied Trump to Help Derail UN Resolution - Rory Jones and Farnaz Fassihi
    Israeli government officials requested that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump intervene in deliberations at the UN focused on passing a new resolution on the Arab-Israel conflict. Top Israeli officials believed the Obama administration wasn't going to block a UN resolution that seeks to define Israeli construction in disputed territories as "illegal." Trump on Thursday also held a phone conversation with Egypt's President al-Sisi, whose government had drafted the UN resolution. Egypt then called for a delay on the vote. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Sisi Has a Set of Considerations Different from Obama - Herb Keinon
    While it was not clear whether Trump's tweet on the pending Egyptian UN resolution would matter at all to Obama, it does matter to President Abdel al-Sisi, who will have to work with Trump for the next four years. In interviews after meeting both Trump and Clinton in September before the election, Sisi made clear he supported Trump. Sisi was the first international leader to call and congratulate the President-elect after his victory, and said he hoped it would breathe new life into the Egyptian-American relationship.
        Sisi sees the possibility of turning a new page with Washington, and it is clear that following Trump's statement he realized that the UN resolution would not be the best way to begin afresh. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Intended to Allow Passage of UN Resolution Critical of Israel - Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton
    The U.S. intended to allow the UN Security Council to approve a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, two Western officials said on Thursday, a major reversal of U.S. practice. They said President Obama had intended to abstain on the vote. Israel believes the Obama administration had long planned the council vote in coordination with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official said. "It was a violation of a core commitment to protect Israel at the UN," the official said. Israel remained concerned the resolution could still go ahead with another sponsoring country. (Reuters)
        See also White House Planned Parting Shot at Israel - Michael Wilner
    Israeli officials believed the Obama administration had planned its abstention for some time. The goal of the White House, according to the Israeli government's assessment, was to let off a parting shot at a prime minister with whom it has fought for years and to bind the incoming administration with new international language. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israelis Called Trump Only After Failing to Persuade Obama on UN Veto - Elise Labott
    A senior Israeli official told CNN that his country approached Trump after it had failed to persuade the Obama administration to veto the planned UN Security Council resolution. The official said that Israel "implored the White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump. We did reach out to the President-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do."
        "It's unprecedented that a President-elect would pronounce on a matter of U.S. policy before he became president," said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center. An Israeli official argued, "What is unprecedented is to undermine an incoming administration in this way." Israeli officials say they believe that Trump will seek to make good on his pledge to negotiate what he has called the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians. "This action at the UN would make it harder for him to do that."
        Secretary of State John Kerry scrapped plans to deliver a speech before the vote laying out the U.S. vision for peace in the region. Kerry spoke with Netanyahu and with Egypt's foreign minister on Thursday, the White House said. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Cell Planning Suicide Bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa Uncovered - Itay Blumenthal
    The Israel Security Agency has uncovered a terror cell of more than 20 Hamas members from the Nablus area in the West Bank who had recruited four suicide bombers to carry out attacks in crowded locations in Haifa, Jerusalem and different bus stops, it was announced Thursday. Most of those arrested have served time in Israeli prison in the past for terror activity against Israel. The cell built bombs for their planned attacks and bought M16 assault rifles. They received support from a wide network of accomplices.
        A senior ISA official said, "This investigation reveals, once again, the efforts that Hamas is investing in creating terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to carry out attacks against Israelis."  (Ynet News)
  • Arab MK Caught on Camera Giving Documents and Cell Phones to Terrorists in Prison - Lahav Harkov
    Joint List MK Basel Ghattas was arrested after he was officially stripped of his parliamentary immunity by the Knesset Thursday, as an investigation continued following video evidence of him smuggling cell phones, SIM cards and documents to two prisoners convicted of terrorism offenses.
        Based on intelligence information, Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit authorized filming Ghattas when he visited Ketziot Prison on Dec. 18. Ghattas met with Walid Daka, who is serving a life sentence for torturing and murdering IDF soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984, and with Bassel Basra, who is serving a 15-year sentence for security offenses, both Fatah members. Ghattas was caught on camera giving documents to Daka, which he put in his pants, and giving Basra four envelopes, in which prison guards found 12 cellphones, 16 SIM cards, two chargers and one headset. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    UN Security Council Resolution on Israel

  • President-Elect Stands Up for Israel - Editorial
    Egypt was all set to put to a UN Security Council vote on Thursday a destructive, one-sided measure slamming Israel - and withdrew only after Donald Trump railed against it on social media. So broad was the language of the resolution that it would have included even the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. All of it would be off limits to Israelis under international law. Left hanging by America, supposedly Israel's closest ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a call for help.
        It never should have come to this. If the resolution had passed without U.S. objection, it would have falsely branded Israel as violating international law. (New York Daily News)
  • Was U.S. Policy on Israel and the UN Changing? - Dore Gold
    Was the U.S. about to sharply break with its past policy on the use of the UN for dealing with Israeli-Palestinian differences on the issue of settlements? Back in 2011, Ambassador Susan Rice provided an "explanation of vote" as to why she vetoed a similar resolution on settlements at the time. She made three points: 1) a resolution would harden the positions of both sides, 2) it would alsoencourage the parties to stay out of negotiations, and 3) it would establish a pattern by which every time the parties reached an impasse, they would return to the UN Security Council. She was right. What she was essentially saying was that the UN and meaningful negotiations are a bad mix - like oil and water.
        Israel has multiple reasons to oppose the latest draft resolution. While Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel, Israelis have not lost hope that someday there will eventually be anegotiated settlement between the two sides that leads to a true compromise. But that requires firm international support for such an outcome.
        President Obama correctly concluded in September 2011 that "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations."If it becomes the conventional wisdom that in 2016 the U.S. gave up on a future negotiation and preferred instead that the UN take the lead on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, then the peoples of the region will pay a price for years to come. The writer, former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Anti-Israel Security Council Resolution Will Not Help Peace - Eugene Kontorovich
    For years, there has been mounting speculation, fueled by the administration itself, that President Obama would use his lame-duck period in office for a major anti-Israel action. Obama's goal with such a resolution would be to create diplomatic facts on the ground to box in President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy. Such a resolution would not cement any positive legacy for Obama. To the contrary, it would vastly magnify the actual obstacles to resolving the Palestinian issue.
        A Security Council resolution will reinforce all the dynamics that have made a solution more remote. The resolution would teach the Palestinians that appealing to the international community will always give them a better offer than negotiations with Israel, since the international community asks nothing of the Palestinians in return. A Security Council resolution would only entrench Palestinian maximalism and refusal to negotiate. This is exactly what the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said when vetoing a similar resolution in 2011. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. (Washington Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel Is Ready for a Reset at the UN - Danny Danon
    In 2015 alone, the UN General Assembly passed 20 resolutions condemning Israel - far more than any other country. Like all truly democratic countries, Israel has always been open to legitimate constructive criticism. Yet our critics in the UN single out my country while giving a pass to some of the world's most brutal and despotic regimes like Syria and North Korea.
        Israel wants equality at the UN - to be treated no different from its 192 other member states. Hatred against the Jewish people should be treated like hatred against all other groups.
        Israel was the first country in the world whose establishment was directly linked to a UN decision. We want nothing more than to play a full part in helping this august body live up to its founding charter. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. (New York Times)
  • The Role of Hizbullah and Iranian Forces in the Syrian Civil War - Yoram Schweitzer
    Hizbullah's manpower in Syria is between 8,000 and 10,000. Hizbullah is doing the hard work for the Iranians in Syria and is responsible for establishing, training, equipping, and leading new military units in Syria composed of local volunteers and foreign fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The total number of these forces is around 50,000, which include perhaps 10,000 of Hizbullah and the same number or a little less of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other Iranian volunteers.
        I wouldn't be that sure that the campaign against the opposition and against the Jihadi-Salafists has ended. I don't think defeating them will go that smoothly. Even if Assad manages to maintain his control of vital Syria - the axis between Damascus and Aleppo - he will still have fighting opposition against his rule, and no one can guess whether and how he can gain control of all of Syria in future. The writer heads the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict. (BICOM)
  • Hatred of Israel Is Racism - Michael Gove
    Anti-Semitism has moved from hatred of Jews on religious or racial grounds to hostility towards the expression of Jewish identity in the Jewish state. No other democracy is on the receiving end of a campaign calling for its people to be shunned and their labor to be blacklisted. Campaigners for the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement argue that we should ignore ideas from Jewish thinkers if those thinkers come from Israel and treat Jewish commerce as a criminal enterprise if that business is carried on in Israel.
        This is anti-Semitism, impure and simple. It is the latest recrudescence of the age-old demand that the Jew can only live on terms set by others. Once Jews had to live in the ghetto, now they cannot live in their historic home.
        It is to Britain's eternal credit that we rejected centuries of prejudice one hundred years ago and pledged in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to extend to the Jewish people the rights enjoyed by Germans and Italians, Japanese and Mexicans - the right to a land they could call their own. The writer, a Member of the British Parliament since 2005, served as Secretary of State for Justice and Education. (The Times-UK)
  • Was U.S. Money Transferred to Iran Used to Expand Iran's Military Budget? - Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli
    The government of Iranian President Rouhani has submitted to the Majlis (parliament) a draft budget for FY March 2017-March 2018. The budget envisages an increase of 39%, $10.3 billion, in funds earmarked for defense, including a big increase in the budget of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). A branch of the IRGC, the Qods Force Brigade, commanded by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, is responsible for spreading Iran's subversive and, often, terrorist activities across the Middle East and beyond. The budget allocation for the IRGC for 2017 translates into 77% of the total defense budget.
        While we cannot establish whether the money transferred from the U.S. went directly into the expanded defense budget, it, at a minimum, enabled the government to release an equal amount of money for defense purposes. Notably, the increase in Iran's defense budget for 2017 is approximately equal to the amount transferred by the U.S. (MEMRI)
  • Submarines in the Middle East - Dr. Shaul Shay
    A new Dolphin-class submarine was presented to Egypt in a festive ceremony last week at the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) shipyard in Germany. Egypt signed a deal to obtain two new submarines from Germany in 2011, and in 2014, another deal was signed for the purchase of two more submarines. Egypt has eight old Romeo-class submarines made in the Soviet Union and in China, four of which were upgraded in the 1990s.
        Egypt has been investing billions of dollars in recent years in acquiring advanced weapons, and, according to German media reports, the first two submarines it purchased cost hundreds of millions of euros. Egypt sees itself as a regional power and is building up its military capabilities in keeping with that view.
        The submarine fleet is perceived as a strategic component in military capability and as a response to the parallel capabilities of other countries, including Israel, Turkey and Iran. Turkey, too, has a significant submarine fleet, much of which was acquired from TKMS.
        Israel's unique geostrategic characteristics - the shipping routes vital to its economic survival, the gas reserves and the lack of strategic depth - demand the investment of resources into the naval arena in order to protect the country's essential interests. In light of the chaotic reality that characterizes the Middle East, and in light of the strategic threat developing in Iran, Israel must build up the necessary capabilities to safeguard its security. Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, was the deputy head of the National Security Council of Israel. (Israel Hayom)

  • Weekend Features

  • 2,000-Year-Old Coin from Maccabean Revolt Found in Jerusalem - Yori Yalon
    Just in time for Hanukkah: A bronze coin that was in circulation in the time of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who decreed that the Jews must be annihilated and during whose reign the Maccabean revolt took place, has been discovered at the Tower of David archaeological site in Jerusalem. During routine cleaning and maintenance work, chief conservator Orna Cohen noticed a metal object among the stones of the Hasmonean Wall inside the citadel. The front of the coin features Antiochus wearing a crown.
        Director and Chief Curator of the Tower of David Museum Eilat Lieber told Israel Hayom: "It's exciting to find, in the winter of 2016, Antiochus himself thrown down here between the stones and tell him: We're still here celebrating Hanukkah....This coin offers additional evidence that backs up historical accounts and upholds what took place here."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Disabled Israeli Youth Enlist in the IDF - Anna Ahronheim
    On Thursday three young Israelis with special needs enlisted in the IDF as part of its "Special in Uniform" program that integrates young people with autism and other disabilities into the army and, later on, into Israeli society. As of September 2016, over 200 male and female soldiers with special needs serve in the IDF.
        Omer Lahat, 21, was born with severe cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. After he approached Lt. Col. (ret.) Ariel Almog, who founded the program, Almog recruited him to do voluntary service at an Air Force base where, every Monday for a year and half, he worked on dismantling old helicopters to send for recycling. On Nov. 2, Deputy Defense Minister MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan informed Omer that he had finally been approved for recruitment.
        "The IDF is the only army in the world which accepts people with these types of disabilities; it opens its doors, and gives them the opportunity to serve, to wear the uniform and really feel part of the army," Ben-Dahan said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Marion Pritchard, Dutch Rescuer of Jewish Children during the Holocaust, Dies at 96 - Emily Langer
    Marion Pritchard, a Dutch social work student who was credited with saving as many as 150 Jews during the Holocaust, spiriting some to safe houses, hiding others under floorboards, and, in one case, executing a Nazi before he could arrest a family of four, died Dec. 11 in Washington. She was 96. Pritchard was recognized in 1981 by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, as one of the "righteous among the nations" - those gentiles who, seeking no reward, risked their lives to rescue Jews from the Nazi dragnet that claimed 6 million lives during World War II.
        She said the "crucial moment" for her came in 1942 when she witnessed the liquidation of a home for Jewish children. "It was a beautiful spring morning, and it was a street I had known since I had been born, and all of a sudden you see little kids picked up by their pigtails or by a leg and thrown over the side of a truck," she said in an interview. She watched two women attempt to stop the soldiers, only to be put in the truck with the children.
        Along with about 10 friends, she helped obtain false identity documents and hiding places to help Jews evade arrest. At times, she falsely declared herself to be the unwed mother of a baby to conceal the child's Jewish identity. (Washington Post)

A New Strategy for Israeli Victory - Daniel Pipes (Commentary)

  • Rejection of Israel drives not just Palestinian politics but much of Palestinian life. Palestinian rejection or acceptance of Israel is binary: yes or no, rendering compromise nearly impossible. Either Palestinians give up their century-long rejection of the Jewish state or Zionists give up their 150-year quest for a sovereign homeland.
  • Deterrence, that is, convincing Palestinians and the Arab nations to accept Israel's existence by threatening painful retaliation, underlay Israel's strategic vision from 1948 to 1993. Before the Oslo Accords of 1993, residents of the West Bank and Gaza could travel locally without checkpoints and access work sites within Israel. They benefited from the rule of law and an economy that more than quadrupled without depending on foreign aid.
  • Oslo led not to the hoped-for end of conflict but to inflamed Palestinian ambitions to eliminate the Jewish state. More Israelis were murdered in the five years after Oslo than in the 15 years preceding it.
  • Yitzhak Rabin expected the conflict to be concluded through goodwill, conciliation, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity, and compromise, topped off with signatures on official documents. In this spirit, his government and all its successors agreed to a wide array of concessions, even to the point of permitting a Palestinian militia, always hoping the Palestinians would reciprocate by accepting the Jewish state. They never did. Israeli efforts to "make peace" were received as signs of demoralization and weakness.
  • The historical pattern suggests that Israel has just one option to win Palestinian acceptance: a return to its old policy of deterrence. Deterrence requires systemic policies that encourage Palestinians to accept Israel and discourage rejectionism. It requires a long-term strategy that promotes a change of heart. When enough Palestinians abandon the dream of eliminating Israel, they will make the concessions needed to end the conflict.
  • Palestinians are mired in misery and constitute the most radicalized population in the world. Which other parents celebrate their children becoming suicide bombers? Which other people gives higher priority to harming its neighbor than improving its own lot? A skilled and ambitious people is locked into political repression, failed institutions, and a culture celebrating delusion, extremism, and self-destruction.
  • Unleashed from a genocidal obsession with Israel, Palestinians can become a normal people and develop their polity, economy, society, and culture. Negotiations could finally begin in earnest. But Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is premature until Palestinians accept the Jewish state.

    The writer is president of the Middle East Forum.
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