Tuesday, December 05, 2017

From Ian:

Trump Delays Jerusalem Embassy Move Announcement
President Donald Trump will not announce Monday evening whether he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The president faced a deadline Monday for deciding whether to move the nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One Monday evening that will announce his formal decision “in the coming days.”

Trump was expected to sign a waiver Monday that would push-off the relocation from Tel Aviv for another six months. The president campaigned for the presidency promising to relocate the embassy, a move many have expected since the first day he took office in January.

Congress passed a law in 1995 that ordered the U.S. embassy to be located in Jerusalem, but every U.S. president since the mandate became law has decided to delay it, arguing that a relocation must come through negotiations, not a decree.

Trump is slated to give a speech Wednesday that reportedly will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that has some fearing violent backlash in the Middle East.

Evelyn Gordon: It’s Time to Prepare a Military Option on Iran
North Korea’s demonstration of a ballistic missile capable of reaching most of the United States prompted gloomy commentary in Israel about the failure to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear program and, by analogy, the seeming impossibility of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. As Haaretz commentator Anshel Pfeffer put it, Kim Jong-un “proved that a dictator who wants a nuclear weapon badly enough,” and is ruthless and determined enough, “will ultimately achieve it.” Yet the North Korean example proves no such thing because it says nothing about the efficacy of the one tactic America never tried: military action, or at least the credible threat thereof.

North Korea has proven, if anyone had still any doubts, that sanctions and negotiations alone can’t stop a determined dictator from acquiring nukes. In contrast, the jury’s still out on military action. It has only been tried twice, both times by Israel, in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. And it’s still too soon to say conclusively that it worked. But at least so far, neither country has nuclear weapons.

Moreover, many of the arguments against military action are fatuous. Take, for instance, the claim that military action is pointless once a country has the know-how to build a bomb, because “You can’t bomb a people’s knowledge out of existence,” as New York Times columnist Roger Cohen said of Iran. That’s true, but it’s completely irrelevant. Knowledge is only one of many components needed to build a bomb. Get rid of the others–like Iran’s heavy-water reactor, its stockpile of enriched uranium, and its centrifuges for enriching more–and no amount of knowledge will suffice to produce nuclear weapons.

Then there’s the argument that military action does nothing but buy time. That’s far from self-evident. Some countries might conclude that the effort of rebuilding their nuclear program only to be bombed again isn’t worth it. But even assuming that’s true, buying time has also been proven to be the most sanctions and negotiations can achieve (except in the rare cases where countries actually agree to give up their nuclear programs.

Thus the relevant question is which course of action buys more time, because the more time you buy, the better the chances of an unexpected development—say, regime change in Iran—that could lead to permanent success. Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, for instance, bought just enough time for Iraq to make a critical mistake nobody could have foreseen: the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to the Gulf War and America’s subsequent imposition of an intrusive and effective nuclear inspection regime.
MEMRI: Amman Friday Sermon by Ahmad Shahrouri: Only the Sword Will Resolve the Struggle with the Zionists
During a Friday sermon at the Al-Zaytoonah University Mosque in Amman, Jordan, Dr. Ahmad Shahrouri berated the "fraudulent politicians" for "wasting a hundred years of the life of the Islamic nation." "Nothing will resolve the struggle but pure swords in humble hands," he said. The November 3 sermon was posted on Dr. Shahrouri's YouTube channel. ...




Caroline Glick: A credible peace plan, at last
Monday, The New York Times published the Palestinian response to an alleged Saudi peace plan. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly presented it to PLO chief and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas last month.

According to the Times’ report, Mohammed told Abbas he has two months to either accept the Saudi proposal or leave office to make way for a new Palestinian leader who will accept it.

The Palestinians and their European supporters are up in arms about the content of Mohammed’s plan. It reportedly proposes the establishment of limited Palestinian sovereignty over small portions of Judea and Samaria. The Gaza Strip, over which the Palestinians have had full sovereignty since Israel pulled its military forces and civilians out in 2005, would be expanded into the northern Sinai, thus providing economic and territorial viability to the envisioned Palestinian state. While the Palestinians would not receive sovereignty over Jerusalem, they would be able to establish their capital in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.

There are several aspects of the alleged Saudi peace plan that are notable. First, the Palestinians and their many allies insist that it is a nonstarter. No Palestinian leader could ever accept the offer and survive in power, they told the Times. The same Palestinian leaders from Hamas and Fatah, and their allies, also noted that the Saudi plan as reported strongly resembles past Israeli proposals.

Another aspect of the report that is notable is that the Saudis did not acknowledge that Mohammed presented the plan to Abbas.

Unlike the situation in 2002 when Times columnist Thomas Friedman presented what he claimed was then Saudi king Abdullah’s peace plan, the Saudi regime has not admitted that the characterization of their peace plan by the Times reflects their thinking.
Report: Palestinians reject Saudi Arabia's peace plan push
Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority are denying a New York Times report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented PA President Mahmoud Abbas with a peace plan more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government.

According to the alleged plan, the Palestinians would get a state of their own but only in noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and with only limited sovereignty over their own territory; the vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank would remain; the Palestinians would not be given east Jerusalem as their capital, and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The New York Times report is based on Palestinian and Arab sources close to Abbas and the Saudi crown prince. It said Abbas traveled to Riyadh in November for consultations with the prince about U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for Middle East peace.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh dismissed the accounts of the Saudi proposals as "fake news" of a plan that "does not exist," and said the Palestinians were still awaiting a formal proposal from the United States.

The White House also denied being on board with the supposed plan, adding that it is still months away from finalizing a blueprint for peace.

"There is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on, and this report is more of the same," White House spokesman Joshua Raffel told The New York Times. "It is not reflective of the current state of the plan we are working on or the conversations we have had with regional players."
Living with the Palestinian ‘No!’
Despite this, the PLO hopes that the international community, led by the EU and UN, will stop Israel from expanding, and that a Palestinian state in some form will emerge. Most experts agree, however, that a Palestinian state is not viable. And political pressure is no substitute for economic development. Economists have concluded that the Palestinian economy is a “basket case,” unsustainable, dependent on foreign aid and Israeli markets, technology and infrastructure. No “peace proposal” can replace that bottom line.

Ironically, the very countries, institutions, organizations and individuals which provide generous funding and are dedicated to Palestinianism have misled and impaired Palestinians. Like it or not, the Palestinian and Israeli economies are bound together. In 2014, officially 12% of employed Palestinians in the West Bank worked in Israel, mostly in construction; many more work illegally and even more work in West Bank settlements. Currently, about 60,000 Palestinians from the West Bank possess Israeli work permits, though estimates are that about twice that number are actually employed and that number is increasing. Two-thirds of all goods imported into the Palestinian Authority come from Israel; sales to Israel account for 80% of PA exports; the PA is Israel’s biggest export market after the US. The Palestinian GDP is only 7.4% of Israel’s. The Palestinian economy relies entirely on the Israeli, Egyptian, Jordanian currencies – and the US dollar; their banks depend on Israel’s banking system. Without monetary independence, political independence is meaningless. The Palestinians simply can’t survive without Israel – and they know it.

This leaves Arab Palestinians only three realistic options: 1) federation with Jordan, 2) peace with Israel, or 3) moving to another country. They can continue building their communities, economy and infrastructure; defeating Israel and/or establishing a separate is not possible.

When these realities are understood, there will be peace – not through interventions by the international community, anti-Israel campaigns, incitement and terrorism. Until then, Palestinian leaders will continue to miss opportunities, to the detriment of their people. That’s why there is no “Palestinian Sadat” and why suggesting further concessions like those made by previous Israeli politicians is not only irrelevant, it is not based on reality. Although unpleasant, we can learn to live with “No!” Meanwhile, we say “Yes!” to life and the Zionist dream.
Elliott Abrams: A change in tone
Last month, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot gave an interview to a Saudi news site, Elaph, in which he said Israel would be ready to share intelligence about Iran with Saudi Arabia.

"We're willing to exchange information with the moderate Arab nations, including intelligence, in order to deal with Iran. We're willing to share information if the need arises. There are many shared interests between us and Saudi Arabia," he said.

Elaph has been open to Israeli officials for several years, including interviews with generals, Foreign Ministry officials and cabinet members. Still, no chief of staff of the army had ever spoken to it, and thus directly addressed Saudi readers.

This event is a step forward in Israeli-Saudi relations, and the public discussion of intelligence sharing (which may be taking place in secret) is also an important step. The tone of Saudi official comments on Israel has certainly changed. Once upon a time, Israel was the "Zionist entity" whose name was not even spoken. Now, the Saudi news station Al Arabiya handles Israel straightforwardly:In one example, on Nov. 15 it carried a Reuters story about Israel's offer of help to earthquake victims in Iran.

But let's not go too far in interpreting what all this means. The Trump administration's efforts to "fast-forward" Israeli-Saudi relations have not succeeded. As part of its efforts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, there are reports that the administration asked the Saudis to do things such as permitting overflights of Saudi Arabia by El Al and having some public meetings with Israeli officials. Israel would make concessions to the Palestinian Authority and freeze some settlement activity in exchange.
Clifford D. May: The man who would be Saudi king
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a young man in a hurry. When I visited Saudi Arabia in February, he was still only the deputy crown prince. Nevertheless, it was he – not his father, 81-year-old King Salman, or his cousin, the then-crown prince, 58-year-old Muhammed bin Nayef – who was the talk of the town.

The 32-year-old Prince Mohammed is regarded as the brains and energy behind Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to construct a dynamic and diverse Saudi economy, one not dependent on extracting and exporting petroleum. He appears to understand that achieving that will require significant economic, social and religious reforms.

Then, in June, King Salman suddenly decided to replace his nephew with his son as crown prince. Perhaps the king prefers to have a direct descendant as his heir apparent. Perhaps he thinks his son is better equipped to navigate the stormy seas of the 21st century Middle East. It is difficult to say; Saudi Arabia is not transparent.

There have been reports – rumors really – that the king plans to step down any day. In the meantime, the young crown prince has not been idle. In October, he announced plans to create a $500 billion independent economic zone on the Red Sea, a cosmopolitan city of the future to be governed by laws "on par with international standards."

Change is coming to other parts of the country as well. The powers of the religious police have been curbed. Concerts are no longer forbidden. Next year, women will be permitted to drive cars. The prohibition on unrelated men and women mixing and mingling has been loosening.

Mohammed is promising that under his rule Saudi Arabia will follow "a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions." As for "extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately."
Trump missing embassy waiver deadline by a few days is no big deal, experts say
In newsrooms, a deadline is a deadline. But in Washington, DC, they aren’t always as strict as one might expect.

Despite the fact that US President Donald Trump has until Monday to sign a waiver delaying a move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for six more months, he apparently can disregard that deadline by a few days — as he seems poised to do — without triggering immediate major consequences.

While the formal deadline was December 1, it fell on a Friday, and so it was extended to Monday, December 4, after the weekend. But on Monday, there was still no sign of Trump taking action on the waiver, appearing set to make his announcement in a Wednesday speech.

And even though he will have by then missed the deadline, his eventual decision will be honored, a former US official and another analyst said. A third expert cautioned, however, that there might be a certain political cost.

“I think it’s an accepted practice in Washington and the US government that an enactment of the waiver that was not exactly timely but still in the ballpark, will still be deemed as fulfilling the requirement,” Dan Shapiro told The Times of Israel, on Monday.
The president’s guide to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
The United States had eight capitals before settling on Washington, DC. So who are the Americans to deny Israelis’ right to determine their own?

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin argued along those lines last week at a conference about Jerusalem’s legal status, urging the US administration to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s eternal capital.

As opposed to other countries, Israel has only ever had one capital city, Elkin noted.

“The United States, for example, had eight temporary capitals before President George Washington signed the Residence Act, on July 16, 1790, stipulating the creation of a permanent capital city along the banks of the Potomac River — what is now known at Washington, DC,” he said.

Elkin was likely referring to the fact that between 1774 and 1790, the US Congress and its predecessor bodies convened in Baltimore, Lancaster, York, Philadelphia, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, and New York, before Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison agreed on the passage of the “Act for Establishing the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States.”

“No one denies that Washington is the capital of the United States,” Elkin said. “No other country would presume to suggest that New York or Los Angeles would be a more fitting capital for the United States, and yet with Israeli this is the case.”
Amb. Alan Baker: Ten Reasons for Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel
Jerusalem has been the official capital of the State of Israel and center of its government since 1950, the seat of Israel's President, Knesset, and Supreme Court.

In 1967, Jordan rejected warnings from Israel and opened an aggressive war by bombarding Jerusalem. In response and in self-defense, Israel captured east Jerusalem. As such, Israel's status in eastern Jerusalem is entirely legitimate and lawful under the international law of armed conflict.

Numerous politically-generated resolutions and declarations by the UN, attempting to revise and distort the long history of Jerusalem and to deny basic religious, legal and historic rights of the Jewish People and the State of Israel in Jerusalem, have no legal standing and are not binding. They represent nothing more than the political viewpoints of those states that voted to adopt them.

Acknowledging the fact that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and locating the embassy in Jerusalem are the sovereign prerogatives of the U.S. They would be an acknowledgment of a long-standing factual situation and rectification of a historic injustice.

Statements by Arab leaders that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital or locating the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem will endanger the peace process and bring a wave of violence are unfortunate attempts to threaten a sovereign government and incite. Â Surrendering to such threats would be a dangerous precedent and a sign of weakness.


Trump tells Abbas, Jordan king of ‘intention’ to move embassy to Jerusalem
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II over the phone, informing them separately of his “intention” to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump “informed the president (Abbas) on his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement from the Palestinian presidency said.

The Royal Hashemite court released a statement with similar language.

It was not clear from either statement if Trump planned to move the embassy immediately or at some point in the future, with no further details provided.

Abbas told the US leader the “firm” Palestinian position is “there is no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital,” the readout said.

The PA president also warned Trump that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be dangerous for the peace process, as well as to peace and security across the region and the world.
PM: Israel bracing for escalation over US Jerusalem announcement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel's defense establishment is bracing for a potential security escalation following the expected U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce American recognition of Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel in a policy speech on Wednesday. At the same time, he is expected to sign the traditional six-month presidential waiver on the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to Channel 10 News, Netanyahu made the comments in response to questions from Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai and Meretz MK Michal Rozin during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting. The two MKs asked whether the Israel Defense Forces and the police were preparing for the potential repercussions such a move might have.

Netanyahu smiled and said he did not yet know what Trump's plans are for the U.S. Embassy.

"We are preparing for every possibility. Security forces know full well what to do if and when that happens," he said. He added that at this time, there is no indication of an escalation.
Former Israel Security Official: Jerusalem Declaration Would Make Peace More Likely
Dismissing threats of violence emanating from the Palestinians and Arab nations, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, Eran Lerman, believes that, were President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week, as expected, it could have a positive effect on the peace proposals the administration is preparing.

In a press briefing held Monday with The Israel Project, the former official and current vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, acknowledged that productive negotiations could result from the declaration even “after a first period of turmoil.”

Lerman dismissed the threats of violence as “attempts to manipulate the American administration,” and the incitement, especially emanating from the Palestinians, as counterproductive.

Overall, he believes that the Arab world would prefer to remain on the Trump administration’s good side.

Regarding charges that Trump would forfeit his ability to be an honest broker by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Lerman said that it was a necessary step to respond to “those who think they can impose a solution on Israel that doesn’t recognize Israel’s position on Jerusalem.”
Envoy: US Jerusalem declaration 'kiss of death' to 2-state solution
A formal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be the "kiss of death" to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington said on Monday.

"Should such a step be taken, it would have catastrophic consequences," Husam Zomlot told Reuters in an interview.

"That would be actually the kiss of death to the two-state solution because Jerusalem is at the very heart of the two-state solution," Zomlot said.

A senior administration official said last week that U.S. President Donald Trump would likely make the announcement on Wednesday, although his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said the president had not yet made a final decision.

Such a declaration would break with decades of U.S. policy and could fuel violence in the Middle East.

Past U.S. presidents have insisted that the status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions – must be decided in negotiations between the two sides.

"Should the two-state solution receive that final lethal blow, then the main reaction from us will be strategic and political because we are not going to be engaged in an empty process," Zomlot said.
Israeli Officials Respond Angrily to Turkish President’s Threat to Cut Ties Over Jerusalem; ‘The Days of the Sultan Are Over’
Israeli officials responded angrily on Tuesday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut his country’s ties with the Jewish state if the US recognizes Jerusalem as its capital.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for 70 years, whether Erdogan recognizes it as such or not,” an unnamed senior Israeli diplomatic figure stated.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said, “We are not accepting instructions or threats from the Turkish president. The days of the sultan and the Ottoman Empire have passed.” And Education Minister Naftali Bennett (HaBayit HaYehudi) tweeted, “Better a united Jerusalem than Erdogan’s sympathy.”

Similar sentiment was expressed by a top Israeli opposition leader, Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid, who tweeted, “The Israeli government must send a clear message to Erdogan: Don’t threaten us. Jerusalem is our capital, and the time has come for the world to recognize this. The US embassy and the embassies of the rest of the world should be housed in Jerusalem.”
'Better to have a united Jerusalem than be loved by Turkey'
Education Minister and Chairman of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett pushed back Tuesday against the statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whereby American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would lead to a severing of diplomatic ties between Turkey and the Jewish State.

Earlier today, Erdogan threatened that any change in the status quo on Jerusalem constituted a “red line for Muslims.”

He warned that if the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem or made any other steps to recognize the city as Israel’s capital, Turkey could “go as far as to” sever all ties to the Jewish state.

“Unfortunately, in recent years Erdogan hasn’t missed an opportunity to attack Israel,” Bennett said in response. “Israel needs to advance its goals, including the recognition of a united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

“There will always be those who criticize, but in the end, a united Jerusalem is preferable to the love of Erdogan.”
Europe rattled Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Europe is rattled by reports that US President Donald Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, possibly as early as Wednesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump he was “concerned” and urged him not to take such a step in a Monday telephone call between the two leaders..

“Mr. Macron reaffirmed that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly those relating to the establishment of two states,” Macron’s office said.

To date, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been held hostage to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The eighty-seven countries with embassies in Israel have placed them in the Tel Aviv area, rather than Jerusalem.

Prior the election US President Donald Trump promised to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, but has yet to make good on that pledge.
Keith Ellison: Trump Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Would be ‘Horrible Tragedy’
Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), the Democratic National Committee's vice chairman, called President Donald Trump's plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel a "horrible tragedy."

Ellison was asked about the news that Trump would declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel on Wednesday by Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now!" He said the announcement would be "Trump stomping all over what we've been trying to do as a nation."

"It's just Trump stomping all over what we've been trying to do as a nation to foster a negotiated two-state solution for many, many years," Ellison said. "So it's really a horrible tragedy."

Ellison argued issues of where Israel's capital will be should be decided during peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"This unilateral departure from that is really upsetting the idea that we're going to have a negotiated settlement," he said. "It is a dramatic departure from diplomacy."

Ellison was opposed by Democrats such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz during his run for party chairman due to his stance on Israel. The Anti-Defamation League said that Ellison's previous statements on Israel, such as his critique that Israel runs U.S. foreign policy, disqualified him as a candidate to run the party.


Politico: Is Trump About to Blow Up Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peacemaking?
Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer says he’s an ‘optimist.’ But the president’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could make his ‘ultimate deal’ a lot harder to cut.
President Donald Trump has talked of “the ultimate deal” he’s going to strike, to finally make peace once and for all between Israel and the Palestinians. His son-in-law Jared Kushner has spent the past few months shuttling to and from the region, and speculation has been running high that the U.S. might soon unveil its own proposal for peace, or at least the basic outlines.

Still, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a close ally of the Trump team who has been working closely with it on the plan, says in a new interview for The Global Politico that while he’s an “optimist,” chances are only “moderate to high” of even restarting the dormant peace process over the next year. As for an actual deal, he wouldn’t even speculate.

And the ambassador, Ron Dermer, one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants, confirmed in a rare on-the-record conversation that Trump this week is likely to take a controversial step by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—a move that Palestinians have threatened will blow up any talks even before they start.

Not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a “farce,” Dermer said, characterizing Trump’s likely decision to change that as sending a message to the Palestinians of: “Hey, wake up. Understand that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. You have to deal with that reality.” But Arab leaders have braced for public protest, and several Middle East officials with whom I have spoken in recent days said they had not been formally consulted by Kushner and Trump on the move and worried it would backfire. “It sure would make things a lot harder,” one key administration supporter from the Arab world told me.
IAF reportedly strikes military research center in Syria
Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a military facility near Damascus on Monday night, Syrian state media reported on Tuesday.

The information was not corroborated by any Israeli source. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the IDF does not comment on foreign media reports.

According to the Syrian Arab News Agency and the Al Mayadeen website, which is affiliated with the Hezbollah terrorist group, Israel fired six missiles at the Jamraya Research and Information Center, some 3 miles northwest of Damascus.

The Jamraya area is home to many Syrian military facilities, including what is believed to be a chemical weapons production and storage site.

"Syrian air defenses confronted an Israeli missile attack on one of our sites in the Damascus suburbs," SANA quoted a military official as saying.

"Our air defenses blocked an Israeli missile attack on one of our positions in Damascus province and downed three of the targets," the official said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "Israeli planes targeted the Jamraya region near Damascus, including a scientific research center and warehouses where weapons and ammunition of the regime and its allies were stocked."
A new western front against Israel will open if Iran comes into Syria
In recent days and weeks, Israeli leaders have warned that they will not accept an Iranian military presence in Syria.

From the perspective of aerial defense, this Israeli red line is crucial, for if Iran is allowed to set up air bases in Syria, the entire strategic picture will change for the worse as it pertains to the Middle East.

Iranian air bases in Syria would mean that instead of having to fly 2000 kilometers to reach Israel, Iranian jets would be stationed 200 kilometers from us.

A 2000 kilometer flight requires mid-air refueling and prior intelligence. It is not an easy operation to undertake. But a 200 kilometer air journey is much simpler.

This proximity would also allow the Iranians to have a better intelligence picture of Israel. It would obligate Israel to intensively collect intelligence on any new Iranian military assets sprouting up in Syria.

From a geographical, military perspective, Iranian airbases in next door Syria would be a game changer. Presently, the Iranian enemy is located mostly to the east, and can, to a limited extent, attempt to attack from Israel's north and south. But it cannot come from the West.

If Syria becomes home to Iranian aerial platforms, Iran could head west to the Mediterranean Sea, and then fly toward any Israeli coastal city; be it Haifa, Tel Aviv, or Ashkelon. The same holds true for Iranian drones.

This would mean opening a new western front against Israel that requires an entirely new line of defense—a front that does not exist today. Such a development would represent significant danger to Israel.
U.S. Nat’l Security Adviser McMaster: 80% of Pro-Assad Forces in Syria are Iranian Proxies
Speaking at the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said that “about 80 percent of Assad fighters are Iranian proxies in Syria to establish a land bridge over into the Mediterranean,” as he warned of the “prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel,” The National reported on Sunday.

The national security adviser was among a group of senior Trump administration officials, including CIA director Mike Pompeo, that spoke at length about the dangers posed by Iran’s “hegemonic aims” in the region at the security forum on Saturday.

McMaster stated, “What the Iranians have done across the Middle East is fuel and accelerate cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of chaos and weak states to make them dependent on Iran for support.”

He assigned blame to the Obama administration for failing to contain the mullah regime in Tehran without mentioning names. “In recent years, what we can say in retrospect, it was unrealistically hopeful [US] strategy that, given the nuclear deal – that this president called worst deal ever – that this deal will result in an Iran that would integrate effectively in region. The exact opposite happened,” he said.

McMaster continued, “The fact that we were trying to accommodate Iran has empowered Iran across the globe, and when president says he inherited a mess that is in greater Middle East, we have to address growing Iranian capability, and their use of militias, proxies and terrorist organization.”
Army says no rockets launched at Israel overnight, sirens were false alarm
After completing a preliminary investigation, the army said Tuesday that multiple rocket alert sirens that sounded in southern Israel in the predawn hours were a false alarm, and that no missiles were fired at Israeli territory.

The alarm system was activated five times between the hours of 1:45 a.m. and just after 5 a.m. in the Kerem Shalom community near the Gazan and Egyptian borders.

The army initially said the sirens were caused by rocket launches from the Sinai Peninsula toward Israel, but later, on Tuesday morning, announced it suspected the sirens were set off by a malfunction in the system.

Hours later, after soldiers searched the area surrounding Kerem Shalom for signs of a rocket or mortar shell impact, the army said it had completed its checks and determined that no projectiles had been launched from the Sinai at Israel.

“The sirens were a false alarm, and no rockets were launched at Israeli territory,” a military spokesperson said.

It was not immediately clear if there had been launches in Sinai that were not directed at Israel, but were instead part of internal Egyptian fighting.
IDF declares the area around Gaza a closed military zone
The army has declared the area surrounding the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” in light of unspecified activities in the area, the military censor cleared for publication on Sunday.

The nature of the military activity in the area and the exact location of the closures were not allowed to be published.

The army said there were no new special instructions for Israeli residents of the Gaza border region, though existing orders keeping farmers away from certain areas along the border remain in place.

The closures come a little over a month after the military destroyed an attack tunnel belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which entered Israeli territory from the Gaza city of Khan Younis.

On Thursday, the Islamic Jihad launched a dozen mortar shells at an army post northeast of the Strip, causing no injuries but did damage army equipment.
After surviving lynch mob, schoolchildren to attempt hike again
After a Bar Mitzvah hike with friends was cut short last week when Arab terrorists nearly lynched the hike’s participants, the family of the Bar Mitzvah boy, along with the Samaria Regional Council, have announced a second attempt at the hike.

On Thursday, a group of children and two adult escorts set out on a hiking trip near the Samaria town of Migdalim to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of 13-year-old Avitzur, when Arab rioters began to attack the hike participants in a planned ambush.

The rioters threw rocks at the group, which was forced to take refuge along the steep cliffs nearby, thus facing danger to their lives both from the rocks thrown at them and the dangerous terrain.

Miraculously, the group found a cave in the area, where it hid until the arrival of the army. During the stay of the young men in the cave, the rioters attempted to enter the cave and lynch the hikers. Two adults accompanying the youngsters were hit by stones, and at least one child was treated after being sprayed with pepper spray by the Arab rioters. The two armed chaperones opened fire on the attackers, killing one and wounding a second.

“On Friday, the children and the family will return to the same place, and mend Avitzur’s Bar Mitzvah experience,” Avitzur’s family and the Samaria Council announced, noting that “the hike is coordinated with security forces.”

This time around, Avitzur has called on the public to join him.
6 Jerusalem Arabs arrested for firebomb attacks in the capital
Six Arab residents of Jerusalem were arrested recently in connection with a pair of firebomb attacks on Jewish vehicles in the capital.

According to a police spokesperson Tuesday, the six suspects were involved in two separate incidents over the course of a week in which private vehicles owned by Jewish residents of the capital were targeted. The suspects reportedly threw petrol bombs at the vehicles. In both cases damage was caused the cars.

The attacks occurred in the A Tur (At-Tur) neighborhood on the Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem. The neighborhood has a large Muslim Arab majority, but is also home to a growing Jewish community, including the Beit Orot Yeshiva and several dozen Jewish families.

The Jewish enclave in the neighborhood has been subjected to periodic attacks by local Arabs.

Authorities say the six suspects range in age from 15 to 17.
Hamas Demands PA Prime Minister Resign, as Palestinian Unity Deal Crumbles
The Gaza-ruling Palestinian terror group Hamas on Sunday called on Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to change his policy toward Hamas or resign.

In a statement, Hamas affirmed that the PA has assumed control over Gaza as part of an Egyptian-brokered Palestinian unity deal, but that punitive measures implemented by the PA in the coastal territory remain and that deep divisions still exist between the rival Palestinian factions.

Hamas also accused the PA of failing to protect Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria, acting against Palestinian “resistance” and failing to protect Jerusalem from Israel’s “Judaization” of the city.

“In light of this, we demand that the Hamdallah government fully fulfill its obligations and responsibilities, first and foremost to lift the unjust punishment against our people in Gaza or alternatively resign and form a national rescue government,” stated Hamas.

The power transfer in Gaza from Hamas to the PA was scheduled to be implemented Dec. 1, but was delayed by 10 days on Nov. 29 after Hamas prevented PA employees from returning to their positions at several government ministries.
Lebanon's Hariri revokes resignation as all parties agree to deal
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri rescinded his resignation on Tuesday and said all members of the government had agreed to stay out of conflicts in Arab countries.

Hariri quit his job in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia a month ago but later said he might withdraw the resignation, providing all parties in Lebanon's government agree to adhere to the state's policy of "dissociation" from regional conflicts.

The Lebanese government said in a statement read by Hariri: "The cabinet thanks its leader (Hariri) for his position and for revoking his resignation."

"All (the government's) political components decide to dissociate themselves from all conflicts, disputes, wars or the internal affairs of brother Arab countries, in order to preserve Lebanon's economic and political relations," Hariri said.

His resignation offer thrust Lebanon back into a regional tussle between Riyadh and its main regional foe, Iran.
European centrists: We must clamp down on all Hezbollah's operations
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which comprises dozens of centrist parties from across the continent that champion liberal democratic values, called for action to be taken against Hezbollah in a statement by the alliance’s president Sunday.

ALDE president Hans Van Baalen, who is a Dutch member of the European parliament, released the statement together with visiting Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who came to the weekend’s ALDE conference in Amsterdam, and foreign affairs spokesman for the Dutch VVD party Han Ten Broeke.

“Hezbollah is today the largest and best equipped terror organization in the world with years of combat experience from its direct involvement in Syria’s brutal war which has left half a million Syrians dead and 12 million displaced,” the statement said. “Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened the complete destruction of Israel and ordered the execution of acts of terrorism in Europe. Europe and Israel must work together to ensure that Hezbollah cannot recruit fighters and raise funds anywhere in the world but especially on European soil.”

The statement praised the Netherlands for leading the way in the European Union by proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and said now was the time to take the next steps.
Iran asks Muslims to disrupt Israeli ties in region
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Muslims on Tuesday to disrupt what he called a plot by unnamed countries in the region to build ties with Israel.

He gave no more details on the states. But an Israeli cabinet minister said last month that his government had had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia linked to their common concerns over Tehran.

"Some regional Islamic countries have shamelessly revealed their closeness to the Zionist regime,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live by state TV.

"I am sure that the Muslims around the world will not let this sinister plot bear fruit."

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel view Iran as the main threat to the Middle East. Increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together.
US justices cast doubt over Hamas bomb victims’ claim to Iran artifacts
The US Supreme Court indicated it could prevent survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack in Israel from seizing Persian artifacts at Chicago museums to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The justices heard arguments Monday in an appeal from US victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to go after artifacts at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

Several justices sounded skeptical that the survivors could invoke a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in their quest.

That federal law generally protects foreign countries’ property in the US but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims say Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran refuses to pay the court judgment.

The case stems from a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall n September 4, 1997 that was carried out by three Hamas suicide bombers, killing five Israelis.




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