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Big Egyptian-Greek-Israeli Gas Deal Goes Forward

By DEBKAfile

Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh El-Sissi has arrived in Athens for three days of talks with Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras on a plan for establishing the first ever Mediterranean consortium for the joint exploitation of Israeli, Egyptian and Cypriot off-shore gas wells. DEBKAfile's Middle East sources disclosed in an exclusive report.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended his government's handling of Israel's offshore gas bonanza in a briefing to the Knesset Economy Committee, he faced a barrage of opposition criticism, much of which focused on unfounded claims that Egypt had dropped out of a deal for the purchase of Israeli gas.

The consortium, in advanced negotiation between the Egyptian president, Greek Prime Minister Alexs Tsipras and Binyamin Netanyahu, is designed for two goals. which are to satisfy the gas requirements of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, and to export the remainder to Europe. The three parties are studying three alternative plans:

  1. Transfer the Mediterranean gas to Greece and then pipeline it to Europe: Greek Prime Minister Tsipras raised this option with Netanyahu during his unexpected visit to Jerusalem on Nov. 26. He proposed linking the Israeli gas fields, especially the largest Leviathan well, with the Cypriot offshore Aphrodite gas field and Egypt's Zohr Mediterranean field, and so make it possible to transfer the gas to Greece and from there to Europe.

Tsipras maintained that the European Union, of which Greece is a member, would consider taking part in the construction of the new pipeline networks together with the gas terminals necessary for exporting it.

  1. Transfer the gas of all three countries via Turkey.

  2. Build a pipeline from the Israeli oil port city of Ashkelon to Egypt. Western Egypt has two giant gas-processing facilities on its Mediterranean coast, one owned by British Gas and the other by Spain's Union Fenosa Gas. They could transform the gas to LNG for shipping by tanker to Europe.

In his briefing to the Knesset committee, Netanyahu maintained, "The bottom line is that I see the supply of gas as the basis for protecting (Israel's) national security, and we need to be strong in order to gain alliances and make peace."

In Athens, the Egyptian president echoed those sentiments when he said: "More cooperation is needed in these difficult times and in this sensitive area. Such cooperation could be in the exploitation of mineral resources, it could be an economic cooperation and even a military cooperation," he said.

In other words, joint exploitation of the Mediterranean gas fields will enable the countries of the region to confront the security challenges that they face, as well as facilitate economic cooperation and joint military efforts to protect the gas fields and pipelines.

DEBKAfile's sources report that El-Sissi, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the Israeli and Greek prime ministers are planning a summit meeting in the coming days to bring forward and seal a deal for the economic consolidation of the Egyptian, Israeli and Cypriot gas fields and the means for exporting the gas.


White House: Iranian Missile Tests 'a Source of Concern'

By Reuters

Iran's ballistic missile tests are a concern, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters, he added that the United States government is looking into reports that Iran conducted yet another such test last month, in a breach of UN Security Council resolutions.

"The Iran ballistic missile program has been ... a source of concern for years ... and it continues to be," Earnest told reporters, according to Reuters. He added that the United States was deepening its cooperation with partners including Gulf Arab states to counter the program.

On Monday, officials told Fox News that Iran tested a ballistic missile on November 21, the second such test since signing the nuclear agreement with Western powers in July.

The American Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, on Tuesday said Washington was reviewing reports of the Iranian test, and hours later an American official confirmed the test took place and said other undeclared tests occurred earlier than that. Shortly after Iran's October missile test, Earnest said Iran likely violated UN sanctions, but stressed that the test would not affect the implementation of the deal reached with world powers.


Terror Victims Identified as Shaul and Rachel Nir

By IsraelNationalNews.com

The couple injured in the terror shooting in Samaria on Wednesday evening were identified as Shaul and Rachel Nir, residents of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. The attack occurred as they were on making their way home after lighting Chanukah candles with their daughter, Livnat Ozeri, who lives in Avnei Hefetz.

Shaul Nir was a member of the Jewish Underground movement in the 1980s, which carried out a number of violent attacks on Arabs, including attempted bombings and assassinations of Palestinian mayor. He was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, but was later pardoned. Nir was seriously wounded in the attack when terrorists opened fire at his car, while his wife was moderately wounded.

The family has seen its share of terrorism, as the couple's son-in-law, Nati Ozeri, was murdered in a previous attack in Hebron.


Little Girl Encourages Stabbing Jews

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Palestinians' latest source of online incitement is a disturbing video featuring a young girl encouraging the murders of Israelis, Palestinian Media Watch reported Wednesday.

The video, which was posted to `Jerusalem Intifada's Young People's Coalition' Facebook page, depicts a girl from Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, holding a knife and repeatedly chanting "Stab! Stab! Stab!" See https://youtu.be/sBtEDMsl_SM

The video also highlights the term "so what" in reference to a hashtag appearing on Palestinian social media as a slogan used to encourage Palestinians to continue rioting, throwing rocks and using violence against Israelis.

"#so_what" is a Palestinian response that makes light of Israel's ability to swiftly dispatch terrorists, showing that Palestinians don't care. It also implies that no matter what Israel does, the Palestinians will continue not to care, and they will continue to riot, throw rocks, carry out stabbing attacks, etc.


Trump to Visit Israel on Dec. 28, Will Meet Netanyahu

By DEBKAfile, Reuters & World Israel News

The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem confirmed Wednesday that Republican presidential contender Donald Trump was due for a visit on December 28, noting that it was arranged two weeks before the contender called for the shutting out of Muslim migrants to America "until our representatives know what's going on." This remark has raised a storm of controversy far beyond the United States.

The prime minister is willing to meet any candidate from any party, the statement said, adding: "Netanyahu does not have to agree with every statement made by every candidate.

Trump is reportedly weighing a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to the Jerusalem Post, the business mogul has already asked his staff to examine the logistics of a visit to Judaism's holy site when he visits Israel later this month.

Israeli officials have apparently been made aware of his plans to visit the Temple Mount - one of the focal points of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians - and are concerned he may make some sort of statement that will hurt Israel internationally.

Thirty-seven Knesset members signed a letter on Wednesday afternoon demanding that Netanyahu condemn Trump's "racist" remarks and cancel the scheduled meeting, at least until he retracts the comments. MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), who initiated the letter said, "While other world leaders condemn the Republican presidential candidate's racist and outrageous remarks, Netanyahu gives him a hug."

Trump's call to keep Muslims from traveling to the United States is causing dismay among business leaders in the Middle East, where the billionaire presidential candidate has done business for years, a region viewed as well-suited for his brand of over-the-top luxury. His announcement has already generated a stir among Israel's Arabs and left-wing lawmakers.

Emirati business magnate Khalaf al-Habtoor only months ago proclaimed his support for the Republican candidate for president, but that's all changed in the wake of Trump's increasingly incendiary comments about Islam. "If he comes to my office, I will not let him in. I reject him," al-Habtoor told The Associated Press. "Maybe we can meet somewhere where I can debate with him in a very civilized way, not in the way he approaches people."

Trump has for years looked to do business in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf and the emirate of Dubai. Trump has lent his name to two high-profile Dubai golf course projects and an ongoing real estate development, and sought for years to expand his hotel chain into the region.

But some of his rhetoric about Islam on the campaign trail — including his call to monitor mosques and his proposal this week to temporarily bar Muslims from traveling to the US in wake of the San Bernardino Islamic terror attack — has led to increased wariness in the Arab world. Trump's campaign did not respond to questions about his reputation and business dealings in the Middle East.

In a column published August 9 in The National, the state-owned newspaper of Abu Dhabi, al-Habtoor praised Trump for believing "in bringing back his country's superpower status." But late last month, al-Habtoor wrote a follow-up column on Trump that began with: "I was wrong and I do not mind admitting it. When strength is partnered with ignorance and deceit, it produces a toxic mix threatening the United States and our world," he wrote, ending his column by endorsing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump has made other comments at times praising or ridiculing countries in the Middle East. At a recent campaign rally, Trump applauded Qatar's new, at least $15 billion airport, while calling US airports "third-world." He traveled to the Qatari capital, Doha, in April 2008 to see developments there.

Trump also made comments in 2011, as well as this year, falsely saying that Kuwait paid nothing to the US for driving out occupying Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War. US congressional records show Kuwait contributed $16.1 billion for the war. Those Gulf War comments recently drew boos on a comedy talk show in Kuwait, which still holds the US in high regard for coming to its aid in the war.

Hamad al-Ali, the comedian who poked fun at them, was critical of Trump's latest comments on barring Muslims. "He shouldn't promote these types of ideas. These kinds of ideas are from some sort of person who is not educated," he told the AP.

Newspapers in the Emirates also criticized Trump in their Wednesday editions, with the Gulf News saying his "extremism is no different than that of Daesh," referring to the Islamic State (ISIS) group. The paper offered him this advice: "Zip it, Donald. Just zip it."


Chabad's 770 Headquarters Evacuated in Bomb Threat

By Reuters

Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn was evacuated on Tuesday night due to a bomb threat. The threat targeting the iconic Jewish center was made in a phone call to 911, and in response the NYPD together with the Shomrim neighborhood patrol evacuated the building. After it was cleared, a thorough investigation of the site was conducted, and after it was confirmed that no explosives were present people were let back in a few hours later.

"We trace(d) the phone call back to a psych ward but we're still taking all precautions," an NYPD source told COLlive.com, in confirmation of police sources who told CrownHeights.info that the call came from a psych ward in Queens.

However, in consideration of the recent high profile terror attacks - most recently the lethal California shooting claimed by Islamic State (ISIS) last week - the NYPD decided to take no chances.

Ironically just a few hours before the threat, NYPD and counter-terrorism experts sat with directors of Jewish schools and organizations in Crown Heights to hold a security briefing, covering various potential terror attack scenarios and ways of preventing them.

Chabad's 770 has been targeted before. In December 2014, an attacker with mental illness stabbed a man at the center, seriously wounding him, while shouting "I'm stabbing a Jew!" The attacker was shot by police respondents, and the victim later recovered from his wounds.


Israel, Beware of Obama's Ominous Plans

By Gideon Israel (Commentary)

Obama and his clever political team are not finished with Israel, and they have ominous plans for the future. After the last meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, some thought that finally after, seven weary years, they had found common ground. Their meeting focused on working to limit Iranian influence in the region; discussing a new 10-year $50 billion U.S. aid package to Israel, unprecedented in terms of average yearly aid; and Obama conceded that a peace deal with the Palestinians is not on the horizon.

A few days later, Jonathan Pollard, after 30 long years, was released from prison, something Netanyahu attempted unsuccessfully with former U.S. presidents. Thus, despite stark differences on the Iranian deal, the peace process, and overall views on foreign policy, some think that relations between the two leaders will finally improve. Yet, with all these positive developments, the only words that are sufficient to explain this situation is: Israel Beware.

Israel must beware because these gestures and statements by the Obama administration are calculated, hold a high price tag, and their purpose is to numb the prime minister, the Israelis, and their supporters in the U.S. It is to create the impression that everything is fine, the worst is behind us and now we can continue as friends with common goals. But Obama and his clever political team are not finished with Israel, and they have ominous plans for the future.

Israel must understand that, like it or not, barring some major event, a Palestinian state will be declared and accepted by the UN Security Council before Obama finishes his presidency. The Hill reported that according to the administration's rule making schedule for 2016, Obama is not slowing down on any of his goals. Though not included in The Hill's report, a Palestinian state has been an important goal for Obama since the beginning of his presidency, and he has made the case for it numerous times.

For example, last year, the Times of Israel quoted senior White House official, Philip Gordon, saying that Israel "should not take for granted the opportunity to negotiate" with a reliable partner like Abbas, and continued occupation is a recipe for resentment, instability, and extremism. A few months ago, the Washington Post quoted Obama asking his audience to internalize the hopelessness the Palestinians find themselves in; and the LA Times quoted Obama in that interview saying we need actions, not words, to restore a hopeful situation for the Palestinians.

The current rhetoric by the administration – that a peace process "isn't in the cards" — is something that Aaron Miller, a veteran State Department official who worked on the peace process for more than two decades, has called `unprecedented' and wonders if it was an `honest admission' of a failed goal or if there is a `peace process surprise for 2016'.

Obama ran for president, as he said himself, to fundamentally change America, and this goal continues to be central to his presidency. Obama's view of what America should be and its place among the nations is fundamentally different from the average American. His support for a Palestinian state has nothing to do with Netanyahu, occupation or the Palestinian people, rather it is in sync with his anti-colonialist worldview which pervades his policy — from removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, renaming a mountain in Alaska named after President McKinley to Denali, and allowing the mullahs to brutally subdue a legitimate uprising in Iran.

In Obama's worldview, Israel is a colonialist outpost in the Middle East, as delineated in his Cairo speech, and a manifestation of American power and influence which needs to be cut down to size.

Since Obama aspires to fundamentally change America, in the last year of his presidency, his ideology and goals will shift into full gear as much as possible using executive orders, borrowing power, and other actions which allow him to implement policy without permission from Congress. Unfortunately, many commentators criticize Obama's policies as inconsistent, naïve, or ill-fated. However, they fail to realize the deep ideological divide between most Americans and the president; and mistakenly think that they share the same goals and objectives as the president, but disagree on the tactics.

Yet, in America, support for Israel is broad, and the overwhelming majority of Americans believe either that there should not be a Palestinian state, or that it should only be established through a peace agreement with Israel. Obama does not need anyone's consent in order to instruct his UN ambassador to support a Palestinian state proposal at the Security Council, but at the same time he has no reason to anger many Democrats by shoving this decision down their throat when there is another way. Obama, the master of rhetoric and expert in framing the narrative, need not use force; and he will succeed in convincing many that this is not only the correct decision, but the inevitable decision.

First, Obama will frame the concept using rhetoric which places his solution as the only logical alternative, as he has done on other issues. He will say: Some believe that we should force Israel to return to 1967 borders and force Israel to allow all Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, and others believe that we should allow the conflict and cycle of violence to continue while we just stand back and do nothing. I believe we need to find a middle ground and allow the Palestinians to have a state while not compromising on Israel's security or its democratic fabric.

His supporting arguments will claim that just about the whole world agrees that a Palestinian state needs to be established next to Israel, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has repeated this since 2009, and he takes the prime minister at his word. The dispute is only regarding the borders.

A Palestinian state, Obama will continue, is in everyone's best interest. It is in Israel's best interest since the Palestinians, being a stateless people, have been a source of tension between Israel and other Arab nations which will subside after the establishment of a Palestinian state. In supporting a Palestinian state, the U.S. will be eliminating an issue that generates anti-Americanism, extremism, and is a point of tension with its allies in the Middle East, which hinders cooperation on various issues.

Furthermore, he will proclaim that Israel needs to be strong as it faces new security threats across the region and the Palestinian issue cannot be hanging over its head, threatening the democratic fabric of the country and preventing cooperation between Israel and its Middle East neighbors. Obama will restate his commitment to Israel's security more than any other president mentioning the $50 billion aid package, continuing to develop the Iron Dome, continuing joint exercises, and selling advanced weapons that Israel's friend, George W. Bush, refused to sell.

He will credit himself with the Pollard release and remind everyone that the two-state solution was George W. Bush's idea and vision, so he is not creating a new idea here. Having a Palestinian state will also place responsibility on the Palestinians and their leadership. They will no longer have any excuses for terrorist attacks or supporting terror, and we will hold them accountable. He will finish by saying that running away from important decisions is un-American, and that a Palestine state is in line with American values and tradition, especially that set out by President Woodrow Wilson.

This argument sounds forceful, yet is filled with many flaws and half truths. Some of them being that this president has used aid, weapons sales, and other security measures to flaunt his support for Israel while damaging Israel in the diplomatic arena, making sure that they have no legitimacy to use the weapons. He has pledged that America `has Israel's back' on Iran, while simultaneously thwarting any Israeli attack on Iran either through leaks or outright threats, and in general has presented Israel as a liability for the U.S. However, Obama's case for a Palestinian state will be enough to disarm well-intentioned Democrats and citizens alike who are generally supportive of Israel and believe that a Palestinian State should only be established through negotiations.

The last year of Obama's presidency will be an all-out offensive to implement his ideology through his policies and Israel will not be spared. Therefore, Israel must beware, a Palestinian state is on the horizon, and if a counter-plan is not devised, we will all be witness to a terrorist organization receiving a state without even making one concession, being facilitated by the enlightened Western world.

Hebrew Handbags for Sale in Saudi Arabia

By United with Israel, The Jerusalem Post & The Algemeiner

The sight of handbags with Hebrew writing for sale in Saudi Arabia took Palestinians on a visit there by surprise. It is unclear how the bags reached their destination.

Palestinians visiting Saudi Arabia as part of a holy pilgrimage to Mecca were surprised to see handbags with Hebrew lettering for sale in the city of Medina, Islam's second-holiest city, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"Do you know that these cases have Hebrew writings," one traveler asked the Bangladeshi merchant selling the items. "I do not know. We got the goods from the city of Jeddah," he replied. How the handbags made their way to Saudi Arabia remains unclear.

In an unrelated incident, in February 2014, a picnicker near Saudi Arabia's northern town of Rafha noticed several Israeli balloons with Hebrew writings floating nearby, The Algemeiner reported at the time. "The balloons carried writings in Hebrew… they are believed to have been unleashed during a festival in Israel and found their way into Saudi Arabia," he said. The Hebrew message on the balloon was wishing a pleasant release to an IDF soldier completing his military service.

In a historical first, Israel and Saudi Arabia publicly admitted to secret diplomatic relations in June, hoping to cooperate on the Iranian regional threat and on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.


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