Group of senior-ranking military officers praises Israeli conduct during Operation Protective Edge

 

The High Level International Military Group, which consists of 14 senior-level military officers from around the world, issued a report on Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces exceeded the Law of Armed Conflict during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. The report reads, “We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries. It is our view that Israel fought an exemplary campaign.” The IDF “often exceeded [the Law of Armed Conflict] on the battlefield at significant tactical cost, as well as in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation.” Hamas, on the other hand, “not only flagrantly disregarded the Law of Armed Conflict as a matter of course as part of its terrorist-army hybrid strategic concept, but rather it abused the very protections afforded by the law for military advantage.” Hamas kept its military equipment in civilian areas and then “indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians throughout the conflict with extensive rocket fire and willfully sought to draw the IDF into battle in a prepared urban stronghold amid the Palestinian population in Gaza, for which it located its operational headquarters in Gaza’s main hospital.”

The group is comprised of high-ranking military officers from several countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Britain, India, France, and Colombia. Its coordinator, Davis Lewin of the Henry Jackson Society, said that many of the group’s members feared that Israel had set too high of a standard for protecting civilians that their countries would be challenged to meet. Israel’s conduct, the report concluded, “carries important strategic, tactical and operational lessons for other democratic nations’ armies battling some of the most brutal and dangerous adversaries since the Second World War.”

 

Arab-Israeli member of Knesset Ayman Odeh refused to meet with an umbrella group of major Jewish-American organizations because it shares office space with the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported on Thursday.Odeh was set to address the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations during his week-long visit to the U.S., which also included sit-downs with congressmen and senior administration officials.

A spokeswoman for Odeh, who reportedly reached his decision while in the lobby of the Manhattan building that hosts both offices, said he objects to the Jewish Agency’s role in promoting Jewish immigration to Israel, which he claims comes at the expense of Israel’s Arab population. The JTA observed that the “controversy dealt a blow to Odeh’s message of outreach to U.S. Jews.”

In a statement, the Conference of Presidents decried Odeh’s position, saying:

We received several suggestions that MK Ayman Odeh be invited and, in keeping with the Conference’s decades long tradition of providing a forum for a wide variety of points of view on issues affecting the American Jewish community’s agenda, we extended the invitation.

 

We have had leaders of virtually every faction and party in the United States, Israel, from friendly and unfriendly countries, and none ever refused to appear. For a member of the Knesset to assert that he will not enter a premises because it has an association with Zionist entities, like the Jewish Agency, is disturbing and dismaying.

The statement concluded, “We hope MK Odeh will reconsider his stance if he, indeed, wants to advance coexistence in Israel and promote understanding abroad.”

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, also rejected Odeh’s characterization of his organization, stressing that it services both Jewish and non-Jewish families in Israel.

Thousands of Arab Israeli families enjoy a range of Jewish Agency programs, including our Youth Futures mentorship program, which has placed a particular emphasis on schoolchildren in Israel’s Arab community; Masa Israel Journey and Project TEN, which run programs focused on Arab-Jewish coexistence and on serving underprivileged Arab citizens of Israel; and an innovative Jewish Agency high school opened just this year for Bedouin youth in the Negev. […] Thousands of Arab Israelis have already found their way to The Jewish Agency’s programs and to the dedicated professionals and volunteers who run them. It is high time MK Odeh and his colleagues did the same.

Odeh heads the Joint List, an alliance of major Arab political parties which, at 13 seats, is the third largest faction in the Knesset. The parties under its ticket include a variety of Islamists, communists, and Arab nationalists.

In an October interview, after he was asked whether the Palestinian terrorists who recently gunned down an Israeli mother and father in front of their four children were engaged in “popular struggle,” Odeh asserted that “the Palestinian people choose how to fight against the occupation.” He then added, “I have no doubt that the popular way is the right way and definitely not armed struggle,” but later emphasized, “I cannot tell the nation how to struggle, where and which target to throw the rock. I do not put red lines on the Arab Palestinian nation.”

While Odeh stressed that he rejected violence in the past, he added that Palestinians have a “right to struggle” for a state based on the 1967 armistice lines. He mentioned that he also supported the first Palestinian intifada, which he called “fully justified” due to the “occupation.” When his interviewer asked him whether rock-throwing was legitimate, Odeh answered, “I always blame the occupation for being guilty.”

Odeh’s stance earned him the wrath of other prominent Arab-Israelis. Ali Salem, the mayor of Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab-majority city, harangued the Joint List chief on live television in mid-October, telling him, “You destroyed the city. Get out of here.” In an interview earlier that day, Salem revealed that he saw and confronted Odeh at a violent riot the previous week, and blasted Arab leaders for their role in stoking tensions. “I blame the leaders; they are destroying our future, they are destroying coexistence,” he said. Salem noted that while he disapproves of Israeli policy towards the Temple Mount, protests must be made in an appropriate manner. “We need to find a way to live together,” he told the popular news website Walla. “We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves.”

Lucy Aharish, a popular Arab-Israeli news anchor, directed similar criticism towards Arab members of Knesset. In The Violence is Endless, the Hope Never Fades, which was published in the November 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Assaf Dudai recounted:

Lucy Aharish, an Israeli-Arab news anchor and journalist, gave the most important criticism of the Arab MKs conduct during the recent wave of terrorism. In an appearance on a current-affairs morning show on Channel 2—Israel’s most-watched television network—Aharish, in an emotional monologue, said, “It’s about time someone from the inside started criticizing and telling [the Arab MKs] the truth to their faces. The leadership is flaccid. No one runs the Arab leadership in Israel.”

 

Sadly, she is right. None of the Arab MKs condemned the violence. None expressed sorrow or sympathy with the families of the victims. They did not call on their fellow Arabs to stop the violence. Their silence on the matter is bewildering. (via TheTower.org)

 

The trending blog Awesome Jelly predicts a new Israeli product “will forever change the way we drink water.” AOL has called it “ingenious,” and Entrepreneur calls it “clever. Six years of research and patented technology went into The Right Cup, a BPA-free recyclable plastic drinking cup infused with FDA-approved aromatic fruit flavors to trick your senses into thinking plain water has a fruity taste. CEO and founder Isaac Lavy was diagnosed with diabetes at age 30 and was advised by his doctor to drink only plain water. But he hated the taste, and thus began a long process of research, trial and error that led to the first prototype of The Right Cup. “Isaac has been lecturing about scent marketing for a long time, so naturally this is what entered his mind after being told he had to drink only water,” cofounder and creative director Erez Rubinstein tells ISRAEL21c. “Over the years, he told many people about his idea and they all said it was impossible,” adds Rubinstein. As we all know, Israelis read “impossible” as “I’m possible.” Skepticism only serves to strengthen their resolve to turn their out-of-the-box idea into reality. The company has already raised 242 percent of its $50,000 goal from about 2,000 backers on crowdfunding site Indiegogo and the campaign is not over yet. Expected to hit the market next April after starting production in Israel, The Right Cup will cost about $35 and will be available in orange, mixed berry, lemon-lime and apple varieties to start. (Those pre-ordering from Indiegogo get free shipping within Israel.) The three-part cup releases aromas for at least six months if it is hand-washed. (via Israel21c)


Democrats urge tougher response to Iran’s illicit ballistic missile test

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Democratic Congressmen Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) have urged the administration to take action in response to Iran’s test of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. This was Iran’s second ballistic missile test since the nuclear deal was signed in July and a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Following Iran’s previous test in October, the US, UK, France, and Germany called on the UNSC Iran Sanctions Committee to take “appropriate action” in response, but no action has yet been taken. In a letter to President Barack Obama, Representatives Kennedy and Deutch wrote, “If the Security Council does not act to sanction such a clear-cut violation of international law, the Administration, or Congress, must act unilaterally to impose U.S. sanctions” against any entity involved in these launches. Similarly, Senator Menendez urged the administration to use its “discretionary authority to tighten the full range of sanctions” to punish Iran.

Like their Republican counterparts Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), the Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that failing to hold Iran accountable for these violations would encourage the Iranian regime to further violate its obligations, including the provisions of the nuclear deal set out in UN Security Council resolution 2231 which states that Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” for 8 years. Deutch asserted, “Failure to hold Iran accountable for these violations sends a dangerous message to the regime that it can abandon its obligations under international law and threaten the security of the United States, Israel, and our allies without consequence.” Menendez pointed out that Iran’s violations were a “test of American commitment and resolve” and expressed outrage that “absolutely nothing” has happened as a consequence of Iran’s violations. Kennedy warned that “ignoring violations of the agreement will send a troubling signal” not only to Iran but also to our allies in the region.

 

Less than a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that Iran covertly operated an illicit nuclear weapons program as late as 2009, a senior Iranian official warned that reopening the investigation into the regime’s past nuclear activities would be equivalent to “welshing” on the nuclear deal, Iran’s Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Velayati, head of the Expediency Council’s Center for Strategic Research, declared that it would be unacceptable for the Western nations involved in the nuclear agreement to bring forth any new concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear research.

While the IAEA’s investigation is not yet closed, the United States is pushing for the agency’s Board of Governors to shut Iran’s nuclear file. However, various non-proliferation experts have stressed that the investigation should remain open due to the troubling findings detailed in the IAEA report.

Emily Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies argued in an analysis for The Tower last week that the P5+1 nations should not let Iran’s nuclear history, which includes extensive illicit activities, be “whitewashed or ignored.” She added that the international community should push back against false Iranian claims of nuclear innocence, as “Iran actually has done wrong in the nuclear realm by working on a military nuclear capability for decades.”

An analysis written by the Institute for Science and International Security pointed out that the IAEA report was unable to address the full scope of the research carried by the regime at the Parchin military complex due to Iran’s stonewalling and “extensivesanitization activities” at the site, and emphasized that there was a need for a full accounting of that work before the investigation could be closed.

Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the IAEA, wrote earlier this week that the agency’s findings on Iran’s past nuclear weapons development necessitated further investigation, as it would be impossible to verify Iran’s future compliance with the nuclear deal without establishing the extent of its covert programs. (via TheTower.org)

 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is reportedly the most common liver condition in the developed world, affecting about 30 percent of that population. The only cure is dietary modifications and exercise, or at least regular resistance training, as a recent Israeli study found. However, because few patients are willing or able to make radical lifestyle changes, several pharmaceutical companies are working to develop medical treatments for this growing problem estimated to carry a $76 billion healthcare price tag in the United States and Europe. One of the most advanced pilot drugs under development is by Galmed Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Tel Aviv and New York. Galmed’s metabolic drug candidate Aramchol is formulated to treat non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis (NASH), a severe form of fatty liver disease associated with increased risk of liver cirrhosis, liver failure, hepatocellular cancer and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. “We are currently advancing toward our Phase IIb study — the most complex and one of the largest studies for this disease – involving 240 NASH patients in nine countries at 75 centers in Europe, the United States and Latin America,” says Galmed president and CEO Allen Baharaff. “This is important because it will be the first study that will have data from many different populations.” Based on its earlier clinical trials, which showed Aramchol to cause a 20% difference in reduction of liver fat content (compared to placebo) after three months of treatment, with no severe adverse effects, Galmed was pre-approved fast-track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and clearance from the British German and French regulatory agencies, which are waiting for results before approving Phase III studies. (via Israel21c)


Palestinian terrorists wound 4 Israelis in attacks as incitement continues

 

Palestinian terrorists wounded four Israelis in two separate attacks in the West Bank on Wednesday. In one incident, two 60-year-old Israelis, a man and a woman, were injured in a drive-by shooting near Avnei Hefetz, the woman seriously. In Hebron, a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis near the Beit Hadassah checkpoint.

The current wave of violence has been triggered by incitement from Palestinian leaders across society who spread lies that Israel seeks to change the status quo at the Temple Mount. The incitement has come from the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, as well as members of Abbas’s Fatah Party. In October, President Abbas declared, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem…With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.” On Wednesday, Israeli authorities seized 4,000 dolls resembling stone-throwers destined for the Palestinian territories from the United Arab Emirates. The doll is holding a stone and wearing a kaffiyeh depicting the Dome of the Rock and reading, in Arabic, “Jerusalem is ours” and “Jerusalem, we are coming.” Doron Samara, the Head of Enforcement for Haifa Customs, was quoted as saying, “[I]n the last few months there is an increase of attempts to smuggle ISIS insignia objects like rings and ISIS publicity material.” Samara also said that during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Israeli customs officials seized Saddam Hussein dolls and, after 9/11, Osama bin Laden dolls. Also on Wednesday, Al-Quds University, located in East Jerusalem, unveiled a “nationalist Christmas tree” that is adorned with the images of Palestinian “martyrs”, including Fadi Aloon, who stabbed an Israeli teenager outside of the Old City of Jerusalem in October.

 

Senators Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) expressed their concern on Tuesday regarding the White House’s lack of response to the two reported ballistic missile tests Iran carried out since the nuclear deal was announced.In a letter sent to President Barack Obama, the senators wrote that “it is not clear” that the administration took any steps to confront Iran following the launch of a ballistic missile in October, and inquired about plans to address Iran’s latest test, reportedly carried out last month.

As we emphasized in our October letter, we have three major concerns about these tests. First, these ballistic missile tests further Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program that-once fielded-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said would serve as Tehran’s “preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons…” The tests also underscore yet again Tehran’s longstanding and continued willingness to ignore its obligations and demonstrate that we should not expect Iran to abide by its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Finally, the ballistic missile tests enhance Tehran’s capability to target our ally Israel and U.S. military personnel in the region. In fact, recent reports suggest that the missile tested by Iran last month has a range of approximately 1,200 miles. In addition to advancing Tehran’s ICBM program, that means Tehran could use this missile to threaten thousands of forward deployed U.S. troops, Israel, and eastern Europe.

 

The December 2, 2015, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report only heightens these concerns. According to the report on Iran’s nuclear program, the IAEA assessed that “Iran conducted computer modelling of a nuclear explosive device prior to 2004 and between 2005 and 2009.” This was more recent than many suspected. The IAEA report makes clear that Iran continues to hide its activities. Most disturbingly, the IAEA concluded that Tehran’s activities at the Parchin military complex “seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”

 

While your administration has attempted to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as separate from Iran’s nuclear program, this approach does not withstand scrutiny-as DNI Clapper’s testimony makes clear. Iran is developing ICBM capabilities and the sole purpose of an Iranian ICBM is to enable delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, testified that “…under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities…” Unfortunately, that is exactly one of the things that the Iran deal will accomplish.

The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) that Kirk noted, “Both nuclear missile tests fly in the face of U.N. Security Council resolutions, yet the administration is not punishing these violations.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said, “The U.S. is conducting a serious review of the reported incident.” At a press briefing, State Department Spokesman John Kirby added that the U.S. would “take the appropriate actions” against Iran if it had violated UN Security Council resolutions with the ballistic missile test. A reporter challenged Kirby, observing, “this is very similar rhetoric from this podium that was said back in October about the last launch. There’s concern that Iran is not getting the message.”

Iran initially announced that it was scheduling ballistic missile tests in August and carried out a first launch in October. Following the test, 11 Democratic senators asked President Obama to “consider unilateral and multilateral responses” to confront Iran’s “clear non-compliance with UNSCR 1929 and to deter future violations.” Ambassador Power also indicated that these tests violated Security Council resolutions, and the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany sent a letter to the UN sanctions committee, urging it to take “appropriate action” against Iran for its “serious violation” of the ban on ballistic missile development. Reuters reported on Tuesday that “So far, no action has been taken by the committee, though Power said council members would be discussing the issue next week.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that “the nuclear deal will be rendered void” if there is any attempt to reimpose sanctions on Iran for any reason.

Senator Ayotte has highlighted concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile development in the past. In the video embedded below, she is seen questioning former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about the decision to allow Iran to have such a program. (via TheTower.org)

 

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Executive Chef Itzik Barak calls his entry in the annual Taste of Waldorf Astoria chef competition “Seven Species” in homage to the signature fruits and grains of Israel. Technically, the dish includes only four of the traditional seven species listed in the Bible (wheat, pomegranates, olives and dates; it is missing figs, grapes and barley). But by utilizing modern Israel’s freshest fish and produce, Seven Species provides a sublime and authentic taste of the Holy Land Is it good enough to win a place on the worldwide Waldorf Astoria menu? That will be up to the judges in New York on February 24, 2016, when they sample the dishes created by Waldorf executive chefs in Israel, New Orleans, Orlando, Beijing and Amsterdam with visiting chefs handpicked by the James Beard Foundation, the United States’ foremost culinary-arts organization. Barak worked with Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson of The Cecil in New York City to create Seven Species — sea bream encrusted with sourdough bread and smoked eggplant, served with a salad of raw bulgur, date, pomegranate, pumpkin, ginger and herbs dressed in extra-virgin olive oil, accompanied by creamy tahini and garnished with micro sprouts and paper-thin twirls of colorful vegetables. This is the second year that the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem was chosen from among the brand’s 25 worldwide properties to participate in the global culinary contest sponsored by Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. he Waldorf New York is responsible for such timeless masterpieces as Eggs Benedict, Red Velvet Cake and the Waldorf Salad, some of which were served as appetizers to the Seven Species at a press tasting on December 3. All the dishes were accompanied by a choice of white or red wines from Flam Winery  in the Judean Hills. Barak and Johnson had spent the previous week getting inspiration from local restaurants and markets, especially Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda where vendors sell some of Israel’s freshest produce. Johnson said he had previously cooked in Ghana and found similarities to Jerusalem’s “bold, authentic” spice market. “It was some of the best produce I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed Johnson, who was featured on Forbes magazine’s list of most promising chefs under the age of 30. “Even San Francisco can’t compare.” (via Israel21c)


Iran tests another ballistic missile, violating UN Security Council resolutions

 

On Tuesday, US officials confirmed that Iran has tested another ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, violating two UN Security Council resolutions. This is the second time Iran has tested a ballistic missile since the nuclear deal was reached in July. The missile fired most recently is known as Ghadr-110. The ballistic missile test will also be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which endorses the Iran deal and replaces the two UNSC resolutions already breached. UNSCR 2231 states that Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” for 8 years.

Iran has insisted that it will not adhere to any restrictions on its ballistic missile program. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has stated that Iran “will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution” regarding the development of weapons. US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power stated in October that Iran’s ballistic missile test violated UN Security Council resolutions and that the US is “deeply concerned” about it. The US, UK, France, and Germany called on the UNSC Iran Sanctions Committee to take “appropriate action” in response, but no action has yet been taken.

Despite predictions that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran, since the agreement was reached, Tehran has increased its aggression and destabilizing activity in the region. In addition to the two ballistic missile tests, the Iranian regime has arrested two US persons, hanged an American citizen, convicted a US citizen under false charges, launched cyberattacks against the US State Department, held anti-American rallies, violated international travel bans, and exported weapons to Syria and Yemen in violation of the arms embargo on Iran. Iran has also escalated its involvement in Syria, sending thousands of Iranian troops to assist the Bashar al-Assad regime, which continues to use chemical weapons and bomb its own people indiscriminately.

 

Bipartisan resolutions supporting state-imposed sanctions against Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal have been introduced in both chambers of Congress, The Examiner reported on Monday.Last week, Sens. Mark Kirk (R – Ill.), Joe Manchin (D – W. Va.), and Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) submitted a resolution “to reaffirm congressional support for continued sanctions by state and local governments in the United States against Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, human rights violations, and other illicit behavior.”

A concurrent resolution was sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R – Ill.), Brad Sherman (D – Calif.), Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.), Ted Deutch (D – Fla.), Lee Zeldin (R – N.Y.), and Dan Lipinski (D – Ill.).  Roskam explained in a statement:

The Iran deal specifically calls for removing nuclear-related sanctions while keeping in place those aimed at Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its egregious human rights record.

 

State-level sanctions, which were authorized under bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Obama in 2010 and target Iran’s illicit non-nuclear activities, in no way contradict the agreement reached by the P5+1 earlier this year. Nevertheless, we must take precautionary action to clarify Congress’s legislative intent to ensure state pension funds and contracts are not used to fund terrorism and atrocities against the Iranian people.

 

“This bipartisan, bicameral measure reaffirms the rights of the states, 30 of which already have sanctions in place, to maintain these punitive measures against the repressive, authoritarian regime in Tehran. We urge our colleagues to join us in this critical, bipartisan initiative.

The nuclear deal with Iran, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (.pdf), calls on the U.S. government to “actively encourage” individual states to lift sanctions, but does not explicitly require states to comply.

Despite the recent release of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency showing that Iran has lied about its nuclear program and was working on nuclear bomb related technology as late as 2009, the U.S. and other members of the P5+1 nations are recommending that the IAEA declare its investigation into Iran’s nuclear activities complete. Closing the file on Iran’s past nuclear program will allow the nuclear deal to proceed to the implementation stage, which includes the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, despite the regime’s past cheating and ongoing stonewalling. This, in turn, will make verification of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal significantly more difficult for a number of reasons.

In order to investigate future nuclear violations by Iran after implementation, the IAEA will have to abide by the terms of the JCPOA. The JCPOA allows Iran to bar international inspectors from entering suspicious sites for 24 days or more, which would give the regime ample time to remove evidence and make it impossible for the IAEA to definitively determine if it carried out any illicit activity. This is the same model that the regime seemed to follow at the Parchin military complex, which American intelligence officials claimed was being sanitized in advance of inspections by the IAEA. According to a report (.pdf) by the Institute for Science and International Security on the military site, “extensive sanitization activities since 2012 have seriously interfered in the IAEA’s ability to draw conclusions, particularly without a more rigorous investigation about what occurred there.”

Furthermore, the IAEA will be greatly weakened if the deal is implemented before Iran fully answers all of the agency’s questions. The New York Times on Friday asked, if Iran could dismiss inquiries into its past activities, will it now “be emboldened to stiff-arm inspectors as they seek to enforce the nuclear deal?” The paper also quoted an unnamed IAEA official who said that the nuclear deal had “created a poor precedent for the future” and that his agency would have “no way to force states to come clean.”

In addition to getting away with defying the IAEA, reports surfaced Monday that Iran again launched a ballistic missile, in violation of multiple United Nations resolutions. (via TheTower.org)

 

Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport won fourth place in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards for best international airports. The influential travel mag had this to say about the airport designed by Israeli native architect Moshe Safdie: “Named after Israel’s first prime minister, this airport’s highest score was for easy access from downtown Tel Aviv, nine miles to the north west. Known primarily for being one of the world’s most secure airports, 15 million passengers passed through here in 2014 and it has consistently won awards for best airport in the Middle East. The country’s national carrier, El Al, is the top dog here.” Changi Airport in Singapore was No. 1 on the list. (via Israel21c)

 


Clinton: Tighten US-Israel bonds, teach next generation about shared past

 

Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton emphasized the strong U.S.-Israel relationship in her speech at The Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum on Sunday, telling the audience that “we stand with our ally and true friend Israel now and forever.” She insisted to the audience that “[w]ith every passing year we must tie the bonds tighter, reach out to the next generation.” Highlighting the historic nature of the relationship, she said, “There is a generation in both countries today that does not remember that shared past.” Clinton also discussed “three trends” in the world that are “converging and making our alliance with Israel more indispensable than ever.” One of those, she said, was “Iran’s continued aggression.” She said that the U.S. and Israel should “address these threats together.” She continued, “We must take an already strong relationship to the next level. We have to develop a common, strategic vision and pursue a coordinated approach, deepen our cooperation and consultation across the board.”

Despite the strained relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama over the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu, in his speech at the UN General Assembly in October, asserted, “President Obama and I have both said that our differences over the nuclear deal are a disagreement within the family. But we have no disagreement about the need to work together to secure our common future.” During the prime minister’s visit to the White House in November, President Obama opened the session by stating, “There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.”

Furthermore, as the wave of violence occurring in Israel continues into its third month, members of Congress have shown unwavering bipartisan support for the Jewish state. On October 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution drafted by Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) that expressed “concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority [PA].” Additionally, Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, imploring him to “refrain from highly-inflammatory language and to redouble your efforts to uphold nonviolence.” As the top members of the Foreign Operations subcommittee, whose charge is to authorize foreign funding, Granger and Lowey wrote, “As you are well aware, any U.S. assistance generously provided by the American people to the Palestinian Authority is predicated on the P.A.’s adherence to the precepts of the Oslo Accords as well as countering terrorism and the incitement of violence.”

 

The recently released International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s illicit nuclear activities raises concerns about the extent of the regime’s covert nuclear research, and suggests that future enforcement of the nuclear deal will be impossible.

The IAEA’s investigative report, which was published last week, determined that Iran was conducting work on nuclear detonators as late as 2009, and revealed that the extent of Iran’s research into nuclear bomb technology exceeded what was already publicly known. The IAEA’s findings, which were constrained by Iran’s failure to provide all of the information that the agency requested, raise questions about how much more research Iran completed without detection. Notably, the report also undercuts U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion in June that the U.S. had “absolute knowledge” of Iran’s past nuclear work.

Understanding the full scope of Iran’s past nuclear research “is seen as not just another issue – say, one that Iran could refuse to trade away by making concessions in other areas – but as a prerequisite to verifying Iranian compliance across all issues,” Omri Ceren, The Israel Project’s managing director for press and strategy, wrote in The Tower last year. The Israel Project publishes The Tower.

Ceren’s concerns were echoed Friday in The New York Times by David Sanger, the paper’s chief Washington correspondent. After noting that the Obama administration was now allowing Iran to dismiss questions that “it once insisted could not remain unaddressed,” Sanger observed that the IAEA’s expected decision to close the file on Iran’s past nuclear research “raises questions over whether the world’s nuclear watchdog has lost its ability to strike fear into nations secretly pursuing the bomb.” If Iran could get away without coming clean about its past, “will it be emboldened to stiff-arm inspectors as they seek to enforce the nuclear deal?” Furthermore, Sanger asked, if Iran can get away with defying the IAEA, would other countries, such as Japan or Saudi Arabia, be able to do so as well?

An anonymous IAEA official told Sanger last week that, in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran, he worries that the agency “created a poor precedent for the future.” The official added, “We have no way to force states to come clean, and never have.”

Aside from emphasizing the gaps in the international community’s understanding of Iran’s past nuclear activities, the IAEA report also suggests a problem with the ability of the P5+1 nations to enforce Iran’s compliance with the deal in the future.

In its analysis (.pdf) of the report, the Institute for Science and International Security observed that the IAEA had “found chemically man-made particles of natural uranium” at the Parchin military site. The institute noted that this finding suggested “that Iran conducted high explosive work on a uranium deuteride neutron initiator at Parchin.” However, the institute wrote that the IAEA could not reach a “definitive conclusion” about what produced the suspicious molecules because Iran sanitized the site over the past decade.

This shows that, in order to cheat without consequences, Iran simply needs to stall future inspections until it can clean a suspicious nuclear site. Under the nuclear deal, Iran has at least 24 days to make suspected nuclear sites available to international inspectors.

After the agreement was announced in July, Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz wrote that this lead time was not a concern because “environmental sampling can detect microscopic traces of nuclear activities even after attempts to remove evidence.” However, as the IAEA report underscores, even if Iran can’t remove all traces of illicit nuclear work, it can prevent inspectors from reaching a “definitive conclusion” about its activities.

The section of the nuclear deal (.pdf) that addresses future Iranian violations, and which authorizes inspectors to access a suspicious but previously undeclared nuclear site only after a delay, is called the “Dispute Resolution Mechanism.” In order for the P5+1 nations to impose any sort of sanctions on Iran for future violations, they would have to submit a complaint about Iran’s violations to a series of panels. Without “definitive” proof, it would be impossible to find Iran in violation of the deal and reimpose sanctions, gutting the administration’s primary means of enforcing the agreement.

Beyond allowing Iran to evade the consequences of its past nuclear cheating and undermining the authority of the IAEA, the nuclear deal thus also makes it difficult, if not impossible, to enforce Iranian compliance in the future. (via TheTower.org)

 

Antibiotics, disinfectants and detergents are proving no match for biofilm, the sticky cluster of microbes that can form on everything from household surfaces to medical implants and devices. A reported 75 percent of healthcare-associated infections – which cause 99,000 deaths every year in the United States alone — can be traced to biofilm on devices such as catheters, ventilators and endotracheal tubes. Within the next 24 months, the Israeli company NanoLock expects to win regulatory clearance for its first two products embedded with a novel antimicrobial nanomaterial developed in the lab of Prof. Ervin Weiss, former head of prosthodontics at the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine in Jerusalem and current dean of the Tel Aviv University dental school. Dental materials are NanoLock’s first priority and from there the sky’s the limit, depending on the needs of strategic partners for the Kfar Saba-based company. The Israeli company has a wide variety of potential partners, considering that the US National Institutes of Health estimates biofilm is responsible for more than 60% of all microbial infections. Dr. Julia Rothman, NanoLock’s cofounder and vice president for clinical and regulatory affairs, tells ISRAEL21c that NanoLock’s nanoparticle is unique on several counts: it kills both bacteria and fungi; it is not a coating but is built into the device; and it contains no metal or toxic ingredients, unlike most antimicrobial materials that rely on silver, an expensive and toxic component. The nano-polymer additive is activated only on contact, doesn’t leak or dissolve into the surrounding environment, and preserves the device’s anti-biofilm properties indefinitely without changing the device’s own proprieties. “The technology is very safe and effective and doesn’t alter the device or its functionality,” Rothman says. “The implications are vast. We’re more interested in the medical field but other potential fields such as air filters and water filters makers also are approaching us. There are diverse realms that deal with biofilm issues.” The material has been tested with plastic and glass, and could also be embedded in textiles. A formulation for metal is still in development. Rothman says the cost of the product is not yet determined but it is expected to be manufactured on a mass scale. “We’ve done first-in-man clinical trials in Israel involving 13 volunteers with wonderful results. We will do more trials depending on the regulatory path and indications needed by our partners,” she says. Meanwhile, NanoLock is completing a feasibility study for a company that requested to test its nanoparticles, and the self-funded company is looking to complete its first investment round by year’s end. (via Israel21c)

 

There are two common explanations for the horrific terrorist attacks which took place in Paris last month.

The first seeks to interpret the Paris shootings as a response to Western foreign policy—or more specifically, to Western imperialism. This can either refer to the supposed imperialism of recent years or go as far back as the Crusades.

The second dwells on the jihadists’ fundamental opposition to liberalism itself. Thus, the West is not on the receiving end of violence for what it does, rather it experiences these sporadic outbursts of brutality based on what it is.

Both arguments are deployed in opposition to one other, yet both contain an element of truth.

First of all, Paris may very well have been “blowback” for France’s role in bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Hitler’s production of the V-3 cannon was “blowback” for the Allied assault on Nazi Germany. Blowback is invariably what happens when a country wages war—what it is not is a moral judgement on the decision to go to war itself (though the argument is often disingenuously deployed as if it were).

At the same time, it is also true that Le Bataclan concert hall in Paris was a place where, in the jihadist vernacular, “hundreds of apostates had gathered in a profligate prostitution party.” This sounds a lot like the misogynist statements put out in the past by jihadists, such as those who unsuccessfully placed a bomb outside London’s popular Ministry of Sound nightclub in 2004, the casus belli in that instance being “those slags dancing around.” It should be clear from reading them that it is the existence of liberal democracy, rather than any particular policy pursued by the liberal democracies, which these budding totalitarians find so repugnant.

Despite these two propositions being in seeming opposition to each other, how Europe’s democracies inoculate themselves against jihadist violence will depend to a certain extent on how successfully Western governments grapple with the central tenets of both arguments. What sort of foreign policy ought the West to pursue in order to minimize the threat from jihadist violence? And how will the West build a confident liberalism at a time of widespread suspicion and distrust?

To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.


ISIS Sinai commander meets with Hamas leaders in Gaza, underlining cooperation between the two organizations

 

The commander of ISIS’ Sinai branch met with Hamas leaders in Gaza on Thursday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. The ISIS leader, Shadi al-Menei, met with Hamas to discuss how to cooperate and widen attacks on Israeli and Egyptian targets. In July, Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff called the relationship between Hamas and ISIS’ Sinai Province as one of “close cooperation.” Earlier this year, Issacharoff reported, Hamas launched drones to spy on Egyptian troop movements in Sinai along the Gaza border, in order to “keep smuggling routes open between Sinai and Gaza. These routes are vital to Hamas on one side of the border, and Islamic State on the other.” Hamas actively trains ISIS’ Sinai militants, some of whom have been treated in Gaza hospitals. Al-Menei himself, at one point, hid out in Gaza under Hamas’ protection. In July 2015, Sinai Province put their training to use and carried out a coordinated attack against Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, killing dozens. That same month, the group also claimed responsibility for launching a missile at an Egyptian naval vessel off the coast of northern Sinai as well as the firing of rockets into Israel’s southern Eshkol region.Some analysts have referred to the terror wave in Israel as the “ISIS uprising” and ISIS has issued videos praising the terror attacks and calling for more violence against Israelis and Jews. ISIS released a video called “Project Behead the Jews”; in another video, the speaker says “we will not enjoy our lives or take pleasure with a lavish abode until we liberate Al-Aqsa from the defilement of the sons of apes and pigs.” A Palestinian who attacked the Beersheba bus station, killing an IDF soldier, in October said that he was inspired by ISIS. In October, a Hebrew-speaking ISIS militant vowed that “soon there will not be one Jew left in Jerusalem” and declared, “We will enter al-Aksa mosque as conquerors, using our cars as bombs to strike the Jewish ramparts.”

 

The female shooter in the Wednesday terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif., posted an oath of allegiance on Facebook to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during the attack, CNN has reported.Tashfeen Malik made the post under a pseudonym. The New York Times reported that the investigation showed that Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, had been erasing the trail of their online activity in the days leading up to the attack. This activity has suggested to authorities that the attack was premeditated.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, gave a possible explanation for Malik’s oath of loyalty to Baghdadi during the attack. Joscelynnoted on Twitter that according to Dabiq, ISIS’ online magazine, “believers shouldn’t die in a state of disobedience & should swear allegiance before death.”

Law enforcement sources told CNN on Thursday that Farook had been in contact with at least one individual who was involved in terror and was being investigated by the FBI.

It has also emerged that Farook had jihadist views regarding Israel. The Times reportedthat in a recent conversation with one of his eventual victims, Nicholas Thalasinos, Farook was heard denying that Israel is the Jewish homeland and saying that Jews didn’t belong in Israel.

The couple opened fire on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where Farook was employed, on Wednesday, killing 14 and wounding at least 17 others. According to subsequent reports, they left an explosive device at the center and had a bomb-making laboratory in their home. (via TheTower.org)

 

Israeli event-management platform Bizzabo recently won “Best Event Management Software” and “Favorite Event Technology Supplier – The People’s Choice Award” at this year’s Event Tech Awards in London. “This year’s event technology awards saw the best of the best recognized for the great achievements, development and work they had delivered for the wider events sector in 2015,” said Adam Parry, commercial director of Event Tech Live. “The competition and caliber of this year’s entries were of the highest standard, being shortlisted is an achievement in itself however those who won on the night should be especially proud. Bizzabo picking up two awards shows how hard the team is working to make a difference within the sector and they are the people’s choice for an all in one event management platform,” said Parry. Bizzabo says it is the first in its space to introduce an integrated event management system for mid-sized events. The Israeli company’s all-in-one “event success” platform offers event planners a website builder, registration management, advanced analytics, networking tools and event app. “Ultimately, we built Bizzabo to empower event organizers to plan better events and we are honored to be recognized for the tangible impact that our product is making,” said CEO and co-founder of Bizzabo, Eran Ben-Shushan. “To be recognized by both industry experts and event organizers from all around the world for the new platform we launched in February 2015 is incredibly exciting for us. This especially proves to us again and again that our industry is evolving, and the innovative approach we took is perfectly aligned with the needs of modern event planners.” “I think Bizzabo is one of the most forward-thinking companies in the events industry,” said Liz King, CEO and Chief Event Specialist at Liz King Events. “They are developing solutions that are much-needed and doing so in a way that is user friendly and approachable to the average planner. They’re taking the biggest wins from the tech world in general and creating products that are game changers for the events industry.” Bizzabo has offices in New York and Israel. It was co-founded by Ben-Shushan, Alon Alroy, and Boaz Katz. (via Israel21c)


Expert: Iran has made “no serious military effort” against ISIS

 

At a hearing on Capitol Hill about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) role in fueling terrorism and instability, Iran expert and Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Ali Alfoneh claimed that the Iranian regime has made “no serious military effort against the Islamic State” in Syria, as evidence builds that Iran and the Assad regime have actually strengthened the terrorist group. Alfoneh emphasized that the US and Iran drastically differ in their goals in the Middle East. While the US aims to defeat ISIS and facilitate a political transition in Syria, Alfoneh notes that for the IRGC, which seeks to preserve Assad’s rule, “it is fine that there is an enemy called the Islamic State that is not really threatening the existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran” because it allows Iran to present the Bashar al-Assad regime as a better alternative to and even a bulwark against ISIS. Meanwhile, Iran and the Assad regime have been targeting the moderate opposition to Assad which the West and its Arab allies hope will replace him.

Alfoneh’s comments correspond with those of Secretary of State John Kerry who has argued that the Assad regime and ISIS have a “symbiotic relationship” in that they have “only rarely targeted one another” and “even do business with each other. A study last year showed that the Assad regime has largely avoided targeting ISIS. The US Department of State has even accused the Syrian regime of conducting air strikes in support of ISIS’s advance on Aleppo in order to weaken moderate Syrian rebels located there. Assad’s regime also helps finance ISIS by buying oil from it. Last week the Treasury Department sanctioned an Assad loyalist who facilitates the Syrian regime’s purchase of oil from the Islamic State.

Iran wields extensive influence in Syria and has increased its involvement in the war, sending thousands of Iranian troops as well as Hezbollah, Afghani, and Pakistani fighters to assist Assad. The Iranian regime has repeatedly issued statements condemning ISIS and considers the group heretical. However, former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent created a map that illustrates that the ISIS center of gravity lies beyond Iran’s priority defensive boundary and therefore, he argues “Iran has no intent of defeating ISIS.”

 

The motives behind a mass-shooting attack that left 14 dead and 17 injured in San Bernardino on Wednesday remain unclear, The New York Times reported. The attackers, identified as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married or engaged couple, were killed during a confrontation with police. A third person was taken into custody, but authorities are uncertain as to whether the individual was involved in the shooting.

According to authorities, Farook and Malik gunned down their victims at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino, a city 60 miles east of Los Angeles, with assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols. The attack was said to have been planned in advance and terrorism has not been ruled out as a motive.

Mr. Farook, an environmental inspector, had been employed with the county health department for five years. On Wednesday morning he attended a holiday party for the department at the Inland Regional Center, a sprawling facility that provides services for thousands of people with disabilities. He left “angry” after a dispute of some sort, the chief said, and returned with Ms. Malik around 11 a.m. — heavily armed.

“There had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” Chief Burguan said. “I don’t think they just ran home and put on these tactical clothes.”

He said the motive had not been determined. “We have not ruled out terrorism,’’ he said.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the suspects left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, claiming that they had a doctor’s appointment.

Farook’s father described his son as “very religious” to the New York Daily News. Co-workers added that Farook had recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. (via TheTower.org)

 

Biblical archaeology buffs are abuzz over the impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727–698 BCE) unearthed at the foot of the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script that translates as “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah” along with a two-winged sun flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life. The find was announced today (December 2) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as the dig was carried out under the direction of Eilat Mazar from the university’s Institute of Archaeology. “Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbol and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation,” Mazar said. This 2,700-year-old artifact first came to light during a 2009 excavation of a refuse dump dated to the time of King Hezekiah or shortly after, and originated in the Royal Building that stood next to it and appears to have been used to store foodstuffs. (via Israel21c)


UN atomic watchdog official report on Iran’s nuke weapons work inconclusive

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its official report on Iran’s nuclear weapons work on Wednesday, providing an assessment that Iran pursued nuclear weapons know-how prior to 2003 and between 2005 and 2009. The IAEA, however, could not definitively resolve all of its concerns. Iran failed to fully cooperate with the atomic watchdog, which is why the report is inconclusive. The New York Times reported that Iran refused to cooperate on three of the 12 unresolved questions over its past work on weaponization. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), in its initial reaction to the report, wrote that “[f]aced with such outright Iranian efforts to deceive the inspectors, the IAEA broke relatively little ground. The truth of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons is probably far more extensive than outlined by the IAEA in this report.”

Since the agency was unable to fully verify Iran’s past work and thus a establish baseline, it will be impossible to design an effective verification program to ensure Iranian compliance under the nuclear deal. Nuclear scientist and head of ISIS David Albright has long emphasized the need for a full accounting of Iran’s past activities. Albright, along with Bruno Tertrais of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, wrote in May 2014, “It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear-weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement.”

Despite Iran’s lack of cooperation and the IAEA’s inability to resolve all of its questions, U.S. officials have indicated that the report “would likely pave the way for the removal of economic sanctions on Tehran as early as January,” according to The Wall Street Journal. In an April interview on PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran would have to disclose its past activities: “They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done…It will be part of a final agreement. It has to be.” A few months later, in June, the administration began to change its tone. Secretary Kerry told reporters that “we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in." After the framework agreement was reached in April, President Barack Obama told reporters, “Since Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.”

 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is perpetuating the presence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq while undermining American national interests in the Middle East, Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Wednesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

In his prepared testimony (.pdf), Alfoneh pointed to recent comments by Anne Patterson, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, which illustrate that Iran’s goals in Syria are diametrically opposed to U.S. objectives.

According to Patterson, the U.S. is seeking to defeat ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, facilitate a political transition to a ruler other than Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, mitigate the suffering of Syrian civilians, and stabilize allies in the region while assisting European partners as they deal with an influx of refugees.

In contrast, Alfoneh wrote, statements by the IRGC’s leaders reveal, “that the Islamic Republic is pursuing the exact opposite goals. For the Guards, the primary objectives are to: (1) keep Assad in power by deploying IRGC forces and non-Iranian Shiite militias in Syria; (2) highlight ISIL as a worse alternative to Assad while making no serious military effort against the Islamic State; and (3) concentrate Iran’s military resources against Syrian rebel forces threatening the Assad regime, including the secular opposition, which might offer an acceptable alternative to Assad.”

In June, the U.S. accused Syria of aiding ISIS by bombing moderate rebel groups, a charge that has been leveled at Assad for over a year. In 2014, reports surfaced that Iran was selling weapons to ISIS, only two years after the U.S. Treasury Departmentexposed Iran’s ties with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the terror group’s predecessor.

In April, noting that Iran didn’t extend its forces or those of its allies to fight ISIS in Iraq, former U.S. military intelligence officer Michael Pregent concluded that “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.” (via TheTower.org)

 

During his first official visit to Australia this week, Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy Avi Hasson signed a research-and-development agreement with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. With branches in New Zealand, Fiji, across Asia, the US and Britain, Commonwealth Bank is the first Australian member of a program in which the Office of the Chief Scientist helps multinational companies find relevant Israeli technologies and provides matching financial support for completing necessary R&D. “This testifies to the program’s global nature and its benefits even for companies from distant countries, especially those that do not yet have a permanent presence in Israel,” said Hasson. “In addition, this is the first bank joining the framework. The Australians were impressed with the program’s value and its potential contribution to banks and the financial industry in general.” Hasson clarified that the private bank – with profits of $7.7 billion last year — is interested mainly in Israeli innovation in cyber-security. In Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, Hasson is meeting with government and corporate officials to bolster bilateral scientific and technological ties between Israel and Australia. Among them are Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne, Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox, Minister of Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, incoming chair of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris, and Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis, Hasson also is re-launching the VISTECH R&D cooperation program with the state of Victoria. “This visit is clearly a testament to the high regard Australia has for the Israeli innovation economy,” said Hasson. “A number of Australian government and trade delegations have visited Israel in recent months, focusing on lessons from the ‘Startup Nation’ in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.” (via Israel21c)


American, European diplomats accuse Syrian regime of continuing chemical weapons use

 

In a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague on Monday, European and American diplomats accused the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria of continuing to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. A week earlier, Rafael Foley, the Deputy U.S. Representative to the United States Mission to the OPCW, said, “[T]he Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons on its own people despite its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The Assad regime has been accused of gassing Syrian civilians in the eastern suburbs of Damascus in August 2013, in which, the U.S. government assessed, 1,429 people were killed, including at least 426 children. In March 2015, six civilians were killed in a chlorine attack in the town of Sarmin; a video showing doctors failing to save the lives of three children under the age of four moved UN Security Council Members to tears. In the aftermath of the attack, Secretary of State John Kerry castigated the Assad regime, which, he declared, “continues to terrorize the people of Syria through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, and starvation.”

On Tuesday, the Syrian regime barrel bombed a hospital in Homs, killing seven people and wounding 47. The hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose director of operations said, “The bombing shows all the signs of a double-tap, where one area is bombed and then a second bombing hits the paramedic response team. This double-tap tactic shows a level of calculated destruction that can scarcely be imagined.”

Iran, alongside Russia, is a staunch supporter of the Assad regime and doubled down on that support last month, when it demanded that Assad be allowed to run in any future presidential election in Syria. Thousands of Iranian troops, as well as Hezbollah, Iraqi, and Afghan fighters, are on the ground in Syria fighting alongside Assad. Furthermore, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps created the National Defense Forces (NDF), an umbrella organization incorporating pro-Assad militias responsible for human rights atrocities, in 2013. The NDF, which consists of some 100,000 fighters, has been instrumental in keeping Assad in power, as the Syrian army has been a spent, demoralized force facing “dissipation and disintegration.” More than 250,000 Syrians have died in the civil war and more than 11 million others have been displaced from their homes.

 

On Monday, Israel commemorated the 20th century expulsion of ancient Jewish communities from across the Arab and Muslim world, Israel’s i24 news channel reported. The annual commemoration was first held last year, following the passage of a law by the Knesset designating November 30 as the day to memorialize the 850,000 Jews who were dispossessed of their homes both before and after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

The date was chosen for its significance to the refugees. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved the partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states. Following the vote, Jews across the Middle East were subjected to increased persecution at the behest of the Arab League.

In the immediate aftermath of the adoption of the partition plan, pogroms were perpetrated against Jews – on direct orders of the Arab League – in Aden, which had 8,700 Jews in 1948 (there were 45,000 in total in Yemen) and Syria’s Aleppo, which boasted a 20,000-strong Jewish community before the creation of Israel. …

 

In Morocco, the number of Jews shrank from 286,000 in 1948 to 50,000 in 1968. In early 2015, there were no more than 2,500. In Algeria, the number went from 130,000 in 1948 to 1,500 in 1968, whereas in Egypt from 75,000 to less than 1,000 in the same period.

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, an advocacy group for the Jewish refugees, has complied the histories of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands on a country by country basis. The group aims to raise awareness of the heritage and trials of these refugees, which have been largely unrecognized internationally. Notably, despite numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the United Nations has never held a single session to discuss their plight.

Former Knesset member Ashley Perry is one of the advocates working to change that. Perry wrote Monday in The Times of Israel:

To spread greater understanding of the issue abroad, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, headed by Akiva Tor, we created a traveling exhibition that would be sent to embassies, consulates, Jewish communities and organizations around the world to print out locally and display at relevant events surrounding the date.

 

Last year, tens of events were held around the world organized with the assistance of Israel’s embassies and consulates and the local Jewish communities. However, now more than ever, it is vitally important that the issue of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa is studied and discussed in Jewish schools and educational and communal institutions across the Diaspora.

Perry, who collaborated with Knesset member Shimon Ohayon to increase the Israeli government’s awareness of the issue, aims to make 2016 the “Jewish year of solidarity with the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.” If the Jews from Arab and Muslim lands are to get justice for their losses, Perry asserted, Jews “should inform ourselves about the history of the communities and their cleansing and extinction during the 20th Century.” (via TheTower.org)

 

It’s not just humans who are benefiting from Israel’s numerous innovative healthcare solutions, pets are part of the picture, too. PetPace, provider of a new IoT pet collar for remote real-time monitoring and analysis of vital signs and activity, says its product can give four-legged friends improved health and quality of life. “Pets don’t tell us when they’re sick or they’re in pain. Their survival instinct is to hide their sickness or pain because in nature an animal that shows weakness becomes prey. So, they maintain that instinct and don’t tell us when they’re in pain,” Dr. Asaf Dagan, chief veterinary scientist at PetPace, tells ISRAEL21c. The PetPace collar uses non-invasive sensors to monitor data including temperature, pulse, respiration, activity levels, positions and calories throughout the day. If the collar detects any abnormalities, an alert is sent in real-time to owners and veterinarians. “Even the most dedicated owners will only realize that something is not right [when] the disease is already in an advanced stage. That’s the crux of the problem and that’s where we want to make a difference. To provide early detection of the diseases is truly revolutionary,” says Dagan. Indeed, the groundbreaking real-time alert aspect of this collar is making waves in the tech community. PetPace was recently named “Israel’s Most Promising Startup” in a competition sponsored by Israeli business daily Calcalist, together with the Israel Export Institute and Israel’s largest commercial bank, Bank HaPoalim. The company beat out 150 other startups in all fields. (via Israel21c)


IAEA investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons work likely to remain unresolved, US expected to turn a blind eye

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons work is likely to remain inconclusive, while the US is expected to refrain from insisting on full disclosure, according to an AP analysis published on Monday. Iran has for years stonewalled the IAEA and refused to provide the agency with access to sites, people, and information related to the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its nuclear program. In a statement last Thursday about the report, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said, “we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has previously stated that if there’s going to be a deal, Iran will have to come clean on its past nuclear work.  However, the administration’s position has since shifted and the AP analysis released on Monday states that the administration “is signaling that it is prepared to shut an eye” regarding Iran’s past military nuclear activities. According to another AP report, two diplomats indicated that although Iran is expected to continue to deny its weaponization activities, the U.S. and the other members of the P5+1 are unlikely to be too critical of Iran, fearing that this would jeopardize the nuclear deal. Top Iranian officials have threatened that Iran will not abide by the agreement unless the IAEA closes its investigation. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi inadvertently revealed his strategy in August, stating that his country’s threats “will cause the Westerners themselves to pressure the IAEA to wrap up the case as soon as possible, so that the deal could be implemented.”

The administration reportedly believes that Iranian disclosure “is unlikely and unnecessary.” However, lack of knowledge regarding Iran’s PMDs will undermine the IAEA’s ability to design an effective verification system, calculate Iran’s breakout time, and ensure that activities related to the development of nuclear weapons have ceased. President of the Institute for Science and International Security David Albright has warned that “ambiguity over Iran’s nuclear weaponization accomplishments and residual capabilities risks rendering an agreement unverifiable by the IAEA.” His institute tweeted: “Iran demands closure of PMD file ==> Iran should fully come clean about what it did.” Furthermore, Emily Landau, the Institute for National Security Studies’ top arms control expert argues that exposing Iran’s past military nuclear activities is essential in order to counter Iran’s false narrative and expose its intent to develop nuclear weapons.

 

Israel is set to open its first diplomatic-level mission in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reported on Friday. Israel’s mission will be officially accredited to the newly formed International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a global organization that encourages governments to adopt various forms of sustainable energy.Israeli officials reportedly met with their counterparts from Gulf states during recent nuclear non-proliferation talks in Switzerland, with a delegation from Israel’s foreign ministry visiting the IRENA headquarters in Abu Dhabi last week. The “headquarters agreement” governing IRENA states that all members “have the right to send permanent missions accredited to the organization.”

Ha’aretz added that secret discussions about opening an Israeli representative office in Abu Dhabi have been ongoing for several years. The UAE does not recognize Israel, and the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. In 2010, the UAE announced that it would forbid any individuals suspected of having an Israeli passport from entering the country. The announcement was made in the wake of the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading financier for Hamas, in Dubai. The UAE attributed the operation to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, which has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement. Notably, last year, Israel’s minister of national infrastructure, energy and water spoke at an IRENA conference in the UAE and met with Arab ministers there.

It is believed that Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 powers and its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist proxies across the Middle East have prompted a thawing of relations between Israel and the Gulf states. In June, Dore Gold, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, met publicly with Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general, to discuss their concerns about Iran’s activities across the region. (via TheTower.org)

 

 

For the first time ever, an Israeli vintner is making wine from a nearly extinct species of indigenous grapes used in biblical winemaking thousands of years ago. Recanati Marawi wines mark a turning point in modern Israeli winemaking – which until now has used varieties of grapes transplanted in Israel from European wine regions such as Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. The new-old Israeli wine was introduced to the world in Italy at the recent international Expo Milano, during a tasting hosted by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. JNF-KKL funded the research and development behind this breakthrough, spearheaded by a team from the Samaria and Jordan Rift R&D Center at Ariel University under Elyashiv Drori, an agricultural and oenological researcher and owner of the Gvaot boutique winery. Drori tells ISRAEL21c that there’s abundant archeological evidence of intensive winemaking in Israel starting from around the 28th century BCE. Yet all the indigenous grapevines in Israel today are table grapes, not considered suitable for fine wine. That’s why Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux, brought in French wine grapes when he reestablished the wine industry here in the late 19th century. (via Israel21c)