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January 23, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

New Revelations: How the Obama Administration Treated Israel - Ariel Kahana (Makor Rishon-Hebrew-20Jan2017)
    On Sept. 30, 2016, as world leaders departed from Israel after attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office suddenly received a phone call from Air Force One, which was carrying President Barack Obama and John Kerry back to Washington.
    Netanyahu's chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, took the call. "Tell your boss that if he also wants a funeral like Peres, he should begin to move, to make progress," the American on the phone told him.
    Horowitz immediately passed on the message to Netanyahu, who replied, "Tell him that I will forgo the honor, because I have no intention of participating in the funeral of the State of Israel."
    In violation of all accepted practices, there were direct conversations between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and officers of the IDF Civil Administration in the West Bank.
    The American Secretary of State personally cross-examined IDF officers and reprimanded them over the destruction of Palestinian houses.

Islamic State Militants Blow Up Transmission Towers in Sinai (Ma'an News-PA)
    Islamic State militants blew up two transmission towers in Sinai in the Red Sea coastal area of Oyoun Moussa south of the Suez canal on Saturday evening, Egyptian security sources said.
    The militants had arrived from central Sinai and planted explosive devices under the towers that supply electricity to Jordan.

Jordan Boosts Border Forces amid ISIS Threat from Iraq, Syria (AP-Military Times)
    Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, who commands Jordan's border guard forces, says the kingdom faces a growing threat as Islamic State extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria are being dislodged from their strongholds by military offensives.
    He said that nearly half of Jordan's military personnel and resources have now been deployed along the Iraqi and Syrian borders to safeguard against ISIS.

New Desalination Plant Opens in Gaza (AP)
    Gaza's second and largest desalination plant opened Thursday that will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day.
    The EU invested $10.6 million in the plant with UNICEF. There are plans to double its capacity by 2019.
    Hamas did not participate in the project, and it was not represented at the opening ceremony.

ISIS Destroys Part of Palmyra's Roman Theater in Syria (BBC News)
    Militants from the Islamic State have destroyed part of the Roman Theater in the ancient city of Palmyra. The jihadists recaptured the archaeological site in December.
    ISIS destroyed other monuments after it first seized Palmyra in May 2015.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process - Rory Jones
    President Donald Trump spoke Sunday by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about ways to strengthen relations between their two countries and "threats posed by Iran," according to the White House. Trump invited Netanyahu to meet in Washington in February.
        "The President affirmed his unprecedented commitment to Israel's security and stressed that countering ISIL [ISIS] and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his Administration," the White House said. Trump also emphasized that peace could only be negotiated directly between Israelis and Palestinians.
        With regard to moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Airstrike Kills More than 100 Al-Qaeda Fighters in Syria - Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt
    A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber carried out an airstrike against an al-Qaeda training camp in Idlib, Syria, killing more than 100 fighters on Thursday, the Pentagon said Friday.
        The Syrian opposition group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham complained that the camp for new recruits was one of theirs and that the practical effect would be to eliminate fighters who are confronting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Formerly known as the Nusra Front, the group claims to have broken with al-Qaeda, but American officials say they are still an al-Qaeda affiliate. (New York Times)
  • Russia Signs Deal for Syria Bases - Rod Nordland
    Russia signed a long-term agreement on Friday to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, more than doubling the space for warships in Tartus and securing rights to the Khmeimim air base near Latakia that may already be adding a second runway. Tass said the expansion at Tartus would provide simultaneous berthing for up to 11 warships, including nuclear-powered vessels. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Resume Construction in Jerusalem, Settlement Blocs
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the security cabinet on Sunday he will soon announce expanded construction in the settlement blocs and ease all building restrictions in east Jerusalem, Israel's Channel 2 reported. He told ministers that his "vision" is that all of the settlements in the West Bank will ultimately come under Israeli sovereignty in any accommodation.
        The cabinet discussed the proposed extension of Israeli sovereignty to Ma'ale Adumim, a city of 40,000 next to Jerusalem. According to the Walla news website, Netanyahu told the ministers: "I support Israeli sovereignty over Ma'ale Adumim. There is no question about Ma'ale Adumim, and in any future accord it will be under Israeli sovereignty. But right now, at the request of the U.S. administration, we were asked not to surprise them but to formulate a joint policy."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Defense Minister Sees Regional Agreement as Key to Palestinian Issue
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with former CIA Director David Petraeus in Jerusalem on Sunday. Lieberman called for an anti-terrorism coalition that would include Israel and moderate Arab states to fight against radical Islamic terrorism. He said the success of such a coalition would serve as the basis for reaching a comprehensive regional settlement between Israel and the Arab states, including a solution to the Palestinian issue.
        Lieberman stressed that there is no possibility of a bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that such an arrangement has been attempted many times over the past 24 years. Resolving the conflict, he said, will only come as part of a broader regional arrangement. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Ambassador-Nominee Friedman to Reside in Jerusalem - Itamar Eichner
    The new U.S. Ambassador-nominee to Israel, David Friedman, has decided not to live in the ambassador's residence in Herzliya, and declared his intention to "work and live in Jerusalem," where he owns an apartment. Israel has decided not to take an active role in the campaign to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since it is an internal, American decision and Israel cannot be perceived as pressuring the American government to make the move. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel Eyes Iranian Presence in Syria - Sima Shine
    In addition to Israel's reservations about the Iran nuclear deal, a weighty and more urgent issue is Iran's desire to establish a massive military presence, together with Hizbullah, in Syria. High-ranking Iranian figures, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, present this as a top security interest, in part as a counter to Israel. Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei's top foreign policy adviser, recently confirmed that Iran and Hizbullah will not leave Syria. The chief of staff of Iran's armed offices has said that Tehran may establish a naval base in Syria.
        An Iranian presence in Syria, particularly in the south, near the Golan Heights, has grave significance. It would create an additional front for Israel against Iran and Hizbullah that could lead to a possible future confrontation. An Israeli demand to include the removal of all foreign forces in any future agreement regarding Syria is vital to Israel's security, and should be made of both the Russians and the U.S.
        The writer, a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, was a deputy director general in the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the head of the Mossad's research division. (Ha'aretz)
  • An American-Israeli Partnership to Prevent Iran from Obtaining Nuclear Weapons - Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin
    It would be wrong to give up the Iran nuclear agreement's achievements, particularly in the first years, before the main restrictions on the nuclear program start becoming invalid. At the same time, it would be wrong to allow the radical regime in Iran to reach advanced nuclear capabilities which are made possible in the later years of the agreement.
        With the arrival of the new U.S. administration, Israel has a second chance to influence U.S. policy toward the Iranian nuclear program: an opportunity for joint action against Iran and advancing a parallel agreement, an Israeli-American one, aimed at changing the strategic reality without violating the agreement.
        First of all, the two countries must agree on a new public red line. They should respond undauntedly to Iranian attempts to take advantage of breaches in the agreement. Second, the two leaderships must agree on the intelligence system to be operated to discover Iranian violations, and on a basket of responses to any such violation. It is also necessary that understandings with the U.S. will put Israel's military option back on the table as a last resort in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.
        Finally, Washington and Jerusalem must come up with a plan of action against Iranian support for terror organizations in the region and enforce UN Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from developing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. If deterrence and diplomacy fail, the American-Israeli partnership will be the way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The writer, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, is director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). (Ynet News)

Netanyahu's Message to the Iranian People: "We Are Your Friend, Not Your Enemy" (Prime Minister's Office)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran. In a video uploaded to his Facebook page Saturday, he addresses the people of Iran in English, with Farsi subtitles.

  • I've spoken a lot about the Iranian regime and not enough about the Iranian people, or, for that matter, to the Iranian people. So I hope this message reaches every Iranian.
  • I know you'd prefer to live without fear. I know you'd want to be able to speak freely, to love who you want without the fear of being tortured or hung from a crane. I know you'd like to surf the Web freely and not have to see videos like this one using a virtual private network to circumvent censorship.
  • You have a proud history. You have a rich culture. Tragically, you are shackled by a theocratic tyranny. In a free Iran you will once again be able to flourish without limit. But today, a cruel regime is trying to keep you down.
  • This ruthless regime continues to deny you your freedom. It prevents thousands of candidates from competing in elections. It steals money from your poor to fund a mass murderer like Assad. By calling daily for Israel's destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us.
  • This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy. We've always distinguished between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. The regime is cruel - the people are not; the regime is aggressive - the people are warm.
  • Our two peoples can work together for a more peaceful and hopeful future for both of us. We must defeat terror and tyranny and we must ensure that freedom and friendship win the day.

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