December 25, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Coalition Agrees to Dissolve Knesset, Hold Elections in April - Clyde Hughes (UPI)
    Israeli coalition party leaders agreed Monday to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections on April 9, 2019.
    The current Knesset was elected on March 17, 2015.

Iranian Foreign Minister: No One in Islamic Republic Has Ever Called for Israel's Destruction (Radio Farda)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the French weekly Le Point that nobody in Iran has ever said that the Islamic Republic is seeking to "annihilate" Israel.
    See also Iranian Official and Social Media Call for the Destruction of Israel after the Iran Deal (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-16Feb2017)
    This report includes extensive quotes by Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling for Israel's destruction.

Jewish Families in Eastern Jerusalem Report Repeated Firebomb Attacks - Yishai Porat (Ynet News)
    Jewish families living in Ma'ale Hazeitim in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud say 15 firebombs were thrown at their apartment building in the past month.

Israel's Version of Democracy Is in Good Health - Zev Chafets (Bloomberg)
    Israel now ranks 30th out of 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual survey of national democracies. It is sandwiched between France and Belgium.
    The Economist calls these "flawed democracies," a designation that also include the United States.
    Since 2009, Israel has moved up seven places in the Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking of democracies.
    This is something to be proud of. Israel is not the most purely democratic nation in the world, and it never will be. History, ideology and security challenges preclude that.
    But the hybrid democracy it does practice is very much alive and well.

Group Awarded 140,000 Pounds of EU Funding Described Zionism as a "Criminal Enterprise" - Edward Malnick (Telegraph-UK)
    The Sunday Telegraph revealed last week that the European Commission had given more than 140,000 pounds in funding to the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
    Two weeks ago, the IHRC hosted Prof. Ramon Grosfoguel, a Puerto Rican academic, at a conference in London, who told a panel the State of Israel was an "extremist organization" that has the "audacity" to label militant groups Hamas and Hizbullah as terrorist organizations.
    In a video of the event posted on the IHRC Facebook page, Prof. Grosfoguel is seen describing Zionism as "a criminal enterprise."
    The IHRC published a post on its website in 2013 praising Omar Abdul Rahman, an extremist cleric convicted for conspiracy to wage war against the U.S.
    The group organizes the annual Al Quds rally in London at which demonstrators call for the destruction of Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Archbishop of Canterbury: Christians on Brink of Extinction in Middle East - Camilla Tominey
    Christians in the Middle East are on the brink of "imminent extinction," the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby warned in the Sunday Telegraph this month. "Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty. In the last few years, they have been slaughtered by so-called Islamic State."
        "Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted....The Christian population of Iraq, for instance, is less than half what it was in 2003 and their churches, houses and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. The Syrian Christian population has halved since 2010."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Gaza Terrorists Warn Locals: "Celebrating Christmas Is Evil" - Uri Bollag
    A flyer featuring a burning Christmas tree and threats forbidding the celebration of Christmas was published by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades in Gaza ahead of the holiday. The Brigades is the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, believed to be the third largest faction in Gaza after Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Traders Halt New Iran Food Deals as U.S. Sanctions Bite - Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi
    Global traders have halted food supply deals with Iran because new U.S. sanctions have paralyzed banking systems required to secure payments. Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions. But U.S. measures have deterred many foreign banks from all Iranian business.
        Many smaller banks that had dealt with Iran during previous sanctions have also stopped dealings this time. "There is no real chance of being paid using the existing mechanisms and many international traders are unable to do new business for the moment," said one European source. (Reuters)
        See also Germany to Bar Iran's U.S.-Sanctioned Mahan Air
    Germany is to ban flights in and out of the country by Iran's Mahan Air, which is under U.S. sanctions because it ferries troops and supplies into Syria in support of President Assad, Bild reported on Friday. (Reuters)
  • Jerusalem Criticizes Berlin's Jewish Museum for "Anti-Israel Activity" - Melissa Eddy and Isabel Kershner
    A letter reported by the German daily Die Tageszeitung calls on the German government to halt financial support to organizations or institutions the Israeli government views as undermining the Jewish state. The letter singled out several organizations that it said supported the boycott of Israel. The most prominent was Berlin's Jewish Museum, which "often hosts events and discussions with prominent BDS promoters." It also said the museum's current exhibition, "Welcome to Jerusalem," "reflected mainly the Muslim-Palestinian narrative."
        Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said, "The purpose and the reason of existence of the Jewish Museum is to preserve and show Jewish life in Germany throughout the centuries, and not to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and certainly not to take sides."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Thousands Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem with Dwindling Christian Arabs - Adam Rasgon
    Thousands of Palestinians and international visitors celebrated Christmas Eve in Bethlehem on Monday night in numbers not seen in years. There are 46,850 Palestinian Christians living in all of the West Bank and 1,138 in Gaza, the PA reported in February.
        When Israel handed Bethlehem over to the Palestinian Authority in 1995, it had "a Christian population of roughly 80%. Now it's about 20%," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in October. (Times of Israel)
        See also Christians Comprise 2 Percent of Israel's Population - Abigail Klein Leichman
    Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reports that 175,000 Christians live in Israel, about 2% percent of the population. Arab Christians account for 78% of that number. (Israel21c)
  • Why Did Abbas Proclaim the Dissolution of the PA Parliament? - Pinhas Inbari
    On Dec. 22, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced he will dissolve the Palestinian Parliament that was elected in accordance with the Oslo accords, to be followed by new elections. Abbas is attempting to revive the old PLO, but organizations such as the Popular and Democratic Fronts, and Islamic Jihad, as well as other parties and civil society groups, stand by Hamas. With Hamas, they have established a joint war room to manage the riots at the Gaza border fence.
        Following the move of the other organizations toward Hamas, Abbas was not able to convene the PLO institutions in Ramallah, which very likely led to his resolution to dissolve the Legislative Council. In any case, the Legislative Council has not convened since 2006. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Legislation Introduced in Senate to Impose Sanctions on Palestinian Officials Who Reward Terrorists - Jackson Richman
    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation on Thursday to impose financial penalties on Palestinian officials who financially reward Palestinian terrorists and their families. "The Palestinian government continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year rewarding such terrorists and their families, providing an incentive for ever more violence," said Cruz.
        Daniel Mariaschin, CEO and executive vice president of B'nai B'rith, noted that the End Palestinian Terror Salaries Act "is a companion piece to the Taylor Force Act, which we have supported. If you're going to predicate U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on ending its support for terror, you should sanction officials who incentivize, excuse or reward it."  (JNS)
  • Dore Gold Tells Italian MPs: Hizbullah Invented Suicide Bombings - Eldad Beck
    Israel's former Foreign Ministry Director General, Dr. Dore Gold, speaking to the Italian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last Wednesday, refuted claims that Hizbullah cannot be labeled as terrorists. "Israel has just exposed a fourth tunnel dug from Lebanon into northern Israel. These tunnels were designed to facilitate the occupation of civilian Israeli territory, to kill civilians or to take them hostage. Is that not terrorism? Keep in mind that Hizbullah invented suicide bombings long before the Sunnis."
        Gold emphasized that Hizbullah was the military arm of Iran and was assisting the regime in Tehran in its plan to spread the Islamic revolution. As part of this plan, he noted that Iran was consciously acting to carry out a population exchange in Syria: "They [Iran] are transferring Shiite militias and Pakistani, Afghani and Iraqi fighters to Syria."  (Israel Hayom)

  • Amit Meltzer, former chief technology officer for a key Israeli government agency, discussed the application of artificial intelligence (AI) against Hizbullah rockets at a recent conference in Tel Aviv.
  • Israeli intelligence is constantly surveilling Hizbullah rocket crews and known or suspected locations of rockets. He said AI can collect massive amounts of data about the location of rocket crews before and during their preparations for firing rockets, in order to target those teams before they launch their rockets.
  • In some cases, AI can identify an operational window precisely for deploying paratroopers to deal with a Hizbullah threat for which aerial strikes may be insufficient.
  • Moreover, since Israel wants to be ethical and reduce collateral civilian casualties, AI can help calculate when and where a terrorist will be alone with a rate of precision that past intelligence could almost never approach.
  • Melzer also noted that there is "a big difference between intelligence collection by the Chinese versus the Russians" when they use cyber tools on Israel. Russia could pass on intelligence it obtains to the Assad regime in Syria. But in terms of retaliating, he said, "we also do not want a conflict with Russia."
  • In contrast, "the Chinese have no interest against Israel. They just collect intelligence on the entire world." The "chance they will give this intelligence to adversaries" of Israel is "much lower than with the Russians."