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Saudi Royalty Showers Obama Family with $1.3 Million in Gifts

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The US State Department reported that President Barack Obama and his family were given gifts topping $1.5 million, although as a federal employee Obama is legally barred from accepting them and must reject them, turn them over to the federal government, or pay their market value in order to keep them. Obama has dispensed most of the gifts to the National Archives, reported CNN.

Coming in first place in pampering the Obamas was the Saudi royal family, which gave head and shoulders above the rest by forking out around $1.3 million in various presents - the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz spent over a million dollars in expensive jewelry for Michelle Obama alone.

Obama had a close relationship with Abdullah, who died this January at the age of 90. The president was sharply criticized for bowing to the Saudi king in 2009, not long after taking office. Ironically, given the lavish gifts given to her, Michelle was blurred out by Saudi TV in January during a condolence visit after Abdullah's death.

The most expensive gift was sent by Abdullah to Michelle, and consisted of a "diamond and emerald jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet." Later in 2014 he gave her another "diamond and pearl jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet." The exclusive jewelry reached a whopping combined total of $1.1 million.

Abdullah didn't forget Obama's two daughters Malia and Sasha either - he bought the two dazzling jewelry sets that rang up to $80,000, including diamond and emerald and diamond and ruby earrings, necklaces, rings, brooches and wristwatches.

Just last month the Saudi royal family kept its gift giving going, as Abdullah's son Prince Miteb, who is head of the Saudi National Guard, gave the Obama family a "robe of sheer white fabric with a beaded flower pattern and pink-purple trim." Aside from the robe, Miteb also gave the president an "orange sheer fabric floor-length cape," and a "brown and blue paisley robe with satin purple lining and tassels." The robes and cape cost a pretty penny at $39,915.


Israel Extremely Nervous Over Russian Operations on its Golan Border

By DEBKAfile

On the outside, Israel is all smiles and full of praise for way the coordination with Moscow is working for averting clashes between its air force and Russian warplanes over Syria. This goodwill was conspicuous in the compliments Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin traded when they met on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit Monday, Nov. 30. But the first disquieting sign appeared Tuesday, Dec. 1. Senior Russian and Israeli officers were due to meet in Tel Aviv to discuss strengthening the cooperation between the two army commands. But no word from Moscow or Jerusalem indicated whether the meeting had taken place.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that this week, the show of optimism is giving way to an uneasy sensation in the offices of the prime minister, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott. They suspect an ulterior motive behind Russia's military movements in southern Syria, especially its air strikes against Syrian rebels, just across from Israel's Golan border.

In particular, Moscow may be giving Hizbullah and Iran an umbrella for achieving their longstanding design to displace the Syrian rebels with Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah forces and deploy them along Israel's Golan border.

This suspicion gained ground when the day after the Putin-Netanyahu encounter, the combined Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah units expanded their thrust from the southern Syrian town of Deraa to the Golan town of Quneitra, within sight of Israel's defense positions. All that day, heavy battles raged over the rebel-held line of hills running from a point just south of Quneitra to the Israeli-Syrian-Jordanian border junction.

The combined force was supported by Russian air strikes and heavy tanks and artillery, seen for the first time in this war arena. When the fighting resumed Wednesday, the IDF placed its Golan units on high alert and an extra-vigilant eye was trained on this battle.

The Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah side is gaining a distinct advantage from the deep feud dividing rebel ranks. The Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian Nusra Front forces are tearing into each other with suicide bombers and explosive cars. Tuesday, an ISIS-rigged car bomb blew up at Nusra headquarters near Quneitra. But this also means that an Islamic State force has come dangerously close to the Israeli border.

However, even more perils are in store if Bashar Assad's army backed by Iran, Hizbullah and Russia manages to capture the hills opposite the Golan: Two years of unrelenting Israeli military and intelligence efforts to keep Hizbullah and Iranian forces away from its Golan border will have gone to naught and Hizbullah will open the door for Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to set up a command center right up to the Israeli border.

Israel's steadfast policy and military action to prevent advanced Iranian weapons reaching Hizbullah in Lebanon via Syria will be superseded. On the Golan, Hizbullah will have gained direct access to any weapons it wants directly from Syria and be able to deploy them at far shorter distances from Israeli targets than from their firing positions in Lebanon.

Vladimir Putin attaches extreme importance to recovering southern Syria from the rebel forces backed by the US and Israel, because he regards the threat to the Assad regime as great from the south as it is from the north or the center. Israel faces a grave dilemma between keeping up its "honeymoon" with Moscow by giving way on its essential security interests, or taking the bull by the horns and keeping the enemy at bay, whatever the cost to the understanding reached with Putin.

Officials in Jerusalem point out that the threat advancing on the Golan peaked just hours after the Russian leader met the prime minister in Paris. Putin is conducting a hands-on policy in Syria and keeps close track of the slightest occurrence on the battlefield. He must have been perfectly aware of the state of play with regard to the Golan when he met Netanyahu, but nonetheless kept it out of their conversation.


How the West Can Learn from Israel to Beat ISIS

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Western countries need to learn from Israel's experience in fighting Islamic terrorism to themselves defeat the jihadist threat from ISIS, according to Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett, who is currently in the US, made the comments in an interview with MSNBC. The Jewish Home party leader was asked about a recent OpEd he penned for the Wall Street Journal drawing a parallel between Israel's battle with Islamists during the Second Intifada and the West's current struggle with "Islamic State." He emphasized that the first stage was simply recognizing that Muslim terrorists could indeed be decisively defeated.

"My estimation is that (with) a concerted effort of about 50, 60,000 soldiers on ground, ISIS can be defeated in about 10 weeks," he predicted. But first, world leaders needed to make the political decision and commit to a decisive strategy.

"As I learned with my own soldiers 10 years ago - we were facing a very similar situation, we were seeing dozens of terror bombs blowing up in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - we felt helpless, we felt there was nothing you can do, and then the government made the decision and I entered with my own soldiers, we hunted down the terrorists in their homes, in their bases."

Bennett qualified that the ground forces need not be American specifically, but they must be "committed" - unlike the Iraqi armed forces who, while well-equipped and trained, bolted at the first sign of ISIS advances last year, enabling the jihadists to rapidly capture vast swathes of territory in Iraq. Drone and other airstrikes are "good" and could apply "considerable economic pressure on ISIS," but won't defeat them.

Asked about US President Barack Obama's claims that ISIS is "contained" given that it has not made any major territorial advances since airstrikes began, Bennett noted such thinking ignored the long-term goals and modus-operandi of ISIS.

"Their motto is endure and grow," he stated, and estimated that while they were currently "hunkering down" due to airstrikes, once the campaign loses steam they would simply expand again if given the chance, and would continue to operate as such either until they achieve their goal of a global Islamic empire or caliphate, or until they are defeated. It might take 20 years, it might take 200 years - they've got a lot of patience," he said. "We have to defeat them."


US Soldier Who Told Nazis 'We are All Jews' to be Honored

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on Tuesday announced that the late Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds has been posthumously recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations, marking him the first US soldier to be awarded the honor.

Edmonds, who served in the 422nd Infantry Regiment of the US Armed Forces in World War II, was recognized for his heroism in rescuing Jewish servicemen at the Stalag IXA POW Camp in Germany. The actions of Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis.

Edmonds hailed from Knoxville, Tennessee, and served as a non-commissioned officer in Europe during the war. He participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe, and was taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, after which he was interned at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.

The German Wehrmacht's anti-Semitic policy had it single out Jewish POWs from the rest, and on the Eastern Front many Jewish POWs were sent to death camps or murdered outright. The same policy was used in the West in several cases.

NCO Paul Stern told Yad Vashem about Edmonds' heroic act. In January 1945, the Germans announced that all Jewish POWs in Stalag IXA were to report the following morning. Edmonds, who was the highest ranking solider in the American section of the camp ordered all his men to fallout the following morning – Jews and non-Jews alike.

When the German camp commander, Major Siegmann, saw that all the camp's inmates were standing in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and exclaimed: "They cannot all be Jews!" To this Edmonds heroically replied: "We are all Jews."

Siegmann took out his pistol and threatened Edmonds, but the Master Sergeant did not waver and retorted: "According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes." The commandant turned around and left the scene.

Stern, one of the Jewish POWs rescued by Edmonds, told Yad Vashem that he was taken prisoner on Dec. 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. He stood very close to Edmonds during the exchange with the German camp commander, which he later recalled was conducted in English. "Although 70 years have passed," said Stern, "I can still hear the words he said to the German Camp Commander."

Lester Tanner, another Jewish soldier captured at the Battle of the Bulge, also gave testimony regarding the incident. Tanner had trained in Fort Jackson where Edmonds was stationed. Tanner remembered Edmonds well from his training period. "It was clear that Roddie Edmonds was a man of great courage who led his men with the same capacity we had come to know of him in the States."

Tanner told Yad Vashem that they were well aware that the Germans were murdering the Jews, and that therefore they understood that the order to separate the Jews from the other POWs meant that the Jews were in great danger.

"I would estimate that there were more than 1,000 Americans standing in wide formation in front of the barracks with Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds standing in front with several senior non-coms beside him, of which I was one…there was no question in my mind, or that of Master Sergeant Edmonds, that the Germans were removing the Jewish prisoners from the general prisoner population at great risk to their survival."

"The US Army's standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the greatest extent possible," said Tanner. "Master Sergeant Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans with the unexpected consequences that the Jewish prisoners were saved."

Edmonds passed away in 1985. In 2015, Yad Vashem posthumously recognized him as Righteous Among the Nations. He is the first American soldier, and one of only five Americans, to be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, alongside Varian Fry, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, and Lois Gunden. To date, more than 26,000 individuals have received the honor.

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