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Israel Readying for ISIS Attack in 2016?


The Israeli intelligence community assesses that Israel is likely to be targeted by the Islamic State in 2016, Middle East Newsline reports. This, despite a report last month by Middle East Media Research Institute noting that the Palestinian cause is not a major issue for ISIS.

MENL quotes Israeli sources saying that the successful Russian air offensive against ISIS in Syria has sparked an exodus by the terrorists that could lead to attacks against neighboring Israel. Attacks could also come from Egypt. "We have been very fortunate until now," a source said, "but it looks like ISIS is preparing to find other venues, and the most logical one is here." Recorded ISIS threats against the West have included Israel at times.

Just last week, an Israeli court indicted five Israeli-Arabs, ages 19 to 27, on charges of establishing an ISIS cell. Nearly a year ago, a ring of seven ISIS conspirators from the Galilee was uncovered, led by 40-year-old Nazareth attorney Adnan Ala a-Din, a graduate of Hebrew University Law School. Support for ISIS has also grown among the Bedouin sector.

On the other hand, the MEMRI report, while mentioning ISIS' "Slaughter the Jews" social media and video campaign, stresses that the terror organization "sees conquering Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Mecca as taking precedence over liberating Jerusalem." MEMRI notes that "unlike many Arab and Islamic movements and organizations for [which] the liberation of Palestine [etc.] head their priorities, or who at least claim this to be the case, ISIS perceives them [only] as long-term goals."

Washington-based MEMRI explains that ISIS does recognize the importance of the Palestinian cause for the Arab and Islamic world, and "exploits it, as do other regimes, organizations, and movements, as an element in its arsenal of informational tools and as a means of recruiting supporters." ISIS enjoys the media attention it gains with its threats of attacks against Israel – for the purpose of "strik[ing] at its main rival in the Palestinian arena – that is, Hamas."

"ISIS has no real organized presence among the Palestinians in either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank," MEMRI concludes. Despite this, ISIS does have a significant presence in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula, and several small jihadist factions inside Gaza have pledged allegiance to ISIS. There have also been consistent reports of Hamas and ISIS cooperating against Egypt and Israel, despite the two Islamist groups' ideological differences.

Obama Seeks to Restore Aid to Bodies that Recognize 'Palestine'

By & Reuters

The State Department has asked Congress for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to fund UNESCO – the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization – even though this is currently against the law.

The law states that the U.S. may not pay dues to any UN organization that grants the PLO full membership as a state – unless such a state has resulted from an Israel-PA negotiated settlement. Since 2011, when UNESCO voted to admit the "State of Palestine" as a member despite the fact that the above condition was not met, the U.S. has in fact not paid dues, in keeping with the law.

However, not only is the State Department now asking for $160 million to cover past dues and $76 million for current dues, it is also asking for a new law enabling the president to waive the law specifically for UNESCO.

Elliott Abrams, Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy and former Assistant Secretary of State, strongly objects. "The old adage 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' would seem to apply here." He explains that the current legislation was for the purpose of deterring "UN organizations from giving the Palestinians the diplomatic victory they wanted - being treated as a state - unless and until they negotiated a peace agreement with Israel. And it worked: since the U.S. move in 2011, other key UN organizations have not followed UNESCO down the PLO's preferred path. The U.S. pays about 22% of the budget of UNESCO and most other UN organs, so the threat of a loss of U.S. dues gets serious attention."

Abrams writes that if the law was to be "repealed or waived, it's logical to expect other UN bodies to see that the Americans are bluffing - and to give the Palestinians full membership. Yet that is clearly where the Obama administration is heading, unless Congress blocks them."

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) are also against the move. "The [proposal] would undermine over two decades of U.S. policy against funding UN organizations that admit the PLO or other non-state actors as members," they recently wrote to Senate and House leaders.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has also come out against the move. In a statement, it strongly criticized President Obama for seeking to restore funding to UNESCO, as well as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for supporting the idea.

"UNESCO has a long history of anti-Israel and anti-American activity, even by the depraved standards of the United Nations," the ZOA notes. It reminds that the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO from 1984-2003, "only rejoining when UNESCO accepted the need to make certain reforms. In fact, it has changed little and UNESCO continues to harm American interests."

"U.S. refunding of UNESCO would send the message that, even when the U.S. acts on its law and principles to penalize international actors for their anti-peace actions, we don't really mean it," says the ZOA.

The Obama administration has responded that it will combine its UNESCO waiver with a condition that the waiver would lapse if another UN body jumps on the bandwagon and grants the PLO full membership.

"This is senseless," writes Abrams. "If we collapse on UNESCO, it will be assumed in the UN that we will eventually collapse on any other UN agency that admits 'Palestine.' … UNESCO's member countries decided to [test] American resolve. The Obama administration wants to show that they were right: we fold under criticism and pressure. Congress should 'just say no,'" concludes Abrams, "and send a clear message to every other UN body: there will be no waivers."

US Bows to Russian Demand to Keep Assad in Office. Israel Follows Suit

By DEBKAfile

After two tries, Secretary of State John Kerry finally turned President Barack Obama away from his four-year insistence that Bashar Assad must go, as a precondition for a settlement of the Syrian conflict. Tuesday, night, Dec. 15, the Secretary announced in Moscow: "The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change."

After Kerry's first try, Obama still stuck to his guns. He said in Manilla on Nov.19 that he didn't believe the civil war in Syria "will end while the dictator remains in power."

Almost a month went by and then, Tuesday night, after a day of dickering with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov culminating in a joint conference with Putin at the Kremlin, Kerry confirmed this evolution in US policy. The focus now, he said, is "not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad." Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which "Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria." This statement brought Washington in line with Moscow's demand for the Syrian president's future to be determined by his own people.

On this demand, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is even more obdurate than Putin. DEBKAfile's Middle East sources wonder about the measure of freedom the Syrian people can expect while it is clamped firmly in a military vice by Russia, Iran and Hizbullah. However, this was of no immediate concern to the big power players. Washington's surrender to the Russian and Iranian line on Assad's future was offered in the short-term hope of progress at the major international conference on the Syrian question taking place in New York Friday.

Another major US concession – this one to Tehran - was scarcely noticed. Earlier Tuesday, the UN nuclear watchdog's 35-nation board in Vienna closed its investigation into whether Iran sought atomic weapons, opting to back the international deal with Tehran rather than dwell on Iran's past activities.

This motif of going forward toward the future rather than dwelling on the past was a repeat of the argument for keeping Assad in power. It provided an alibi for letting Tehran get away with the suspicion of testing a nuclear detonation at its Parchin military complex, without forfeiting sanctions relief, by the simple device of denying access to UN nuclear agency monitors to confirm those suspicions.

In a single day, the Obama administration handed out certificates of legitimacy to the Syrian dictator, who is responsible for more than a quarter of a million deaths, and to Iran's advances toward a nuclear weapon.

These epic US policy reversals carried three major messages: 1. The Obama administration has lined up behind Putin's Middle East objectives which hinge on keeping Bashar Assad in power. 2. Washington endorses Russia's massive military intervention in Syria, although as recently as last month Obama condemned it as doomed to failure; and 3. The US now stands behind Iran - not just on the Syrian question - but also on the existence of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah alliance, based on a solid land bridge from Iran and the Gulf up to the Mediterranean coast under Russian military and political protection and influence.

Even more surprising were the sentiments heard this week in Jerusalem. Our military and intelligence sources cite officials urging the government to accept the American policy turnaround. In some military circles, senior voices were heard commenting favorably on Assad's new prospects of survival in power, or advising Israel to jump aboard the evolving setup rather than obstructing it. Those same "experts" long claimed that Assad's days were numbered. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

Israel was forced to yield on the Iranian nuclear program, but its acceptance of the permanence of Assad and the indefinite presence in Syria of his sponsors, Iran and Hizbullah, will come at a high price for Israel in the next conflict.

FBI Head: ISIS Using Crowdsourcing Methods to Incite Terror

By DEBKAfile

The head of the FBI, James Comey, said Wednesday that Islamic State, unlike other terrorist organizations, is using social media to "crowdsource terrorism." "Twitter works as a way to sell books, as a way to promote movies, and it works as a way to crowdsource terrorism - to sell murder," he said at a press conference.

Comey said ISIS has revolutionized terrorism by using its propaganda and social media to encourage individual attacks around the world.

US Reminder of Travel Advisory for Israel, West Bank, Gaza

By DEBKAfile &

The State Department on Wednesday re-issued a travel advisory, urging US citizens and diplomatic personnel to avoid the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and certain areas of Area A in the West Bank.

"The security environment remains complex in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza," the State Department said. "US citizens need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to areas...where there are heightened tensions and security risks." US citizens and official personnel were advised to refrain from riding on public buses and stay within 11 km of the Gaza Strip and two-and-a-half kilometers from the Lebanese border subject to prior approval.

"A rise in political tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank has resulted in injuries to and deaths of U.S. citizens," the updated travel advisory said.

"The Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority both make considerable efforts to police major tourist attractions and ensure security in areas where foreigners frequently travel. Although these efforts to reduce the threat are not 100% effective, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business," the advisory noted, adding the update replaces a previous travel warning issued February 18, 2015.

At the same time the advisory notes that personal safety conditions in major metropolitan areas of Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa and surrounding regions, are "comparable to other major global cities. There is no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality, although perceived religious affiliation may have been a factor in some violent attacks on U.S. citizens."

Hebrew Letters Prove Existence of Ancient Jewish Town


A large marble board containing Hebrew letters found Wednesday during University of Haifa's excavations at the Kursi National Park prove the ancient settlement was either a Jewish or Jewish-Christian town.

Located near the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the national park also holds the ruins of a Byzantine-era Christian monastery. It was named Kursi after a nearby Syrian town. An ancient town of Kursi, however, is also believed to exist. It has been identified in Christian tradition as the site of the so-called "Miracle of the Swine," where Jesus healed one or two men possessed by demons by driving them into a herd of pigs.

"This first evidence points to the existence of a Jewish settlement and strengthens the theory, which until now has been folklore, that the settlement is Kursi - the place Jesus visited and performed the famous 'Miracle of the Swine' according to the New Testament," Prof. Michael Atzi, one of the directors of the excavation site, told Channel 10.

The writing engraved on the board found Wednesday is in Aramaic, albeit with Hebrew characters. It is estimated to be 1,500 years-old. Excavators have already managed to read two words: "Amen" and "Marmariya" - which apparently means "marble," though other researchers believe it is an allusion to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

"The existence of a Jewish settlement on the eastern shores of the Galilee is a very rare thing," Artzi noted. "Until now we had no proof that Jewish settlements, which have disappeared over the years, did actually exist at that time near the Galilee's shores, except for Migdal."

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