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Nasrallah Threatens to Blow Up Israel's Nuclear Center at Dimona

By DEBKAfile & Reuters

In a televised speech commemorating slain Hizbullah leaders, Hassan Nasrallah came up with new threats – all aimed at a single address. Israel should "dismantle the Dimona nuclear reactor," he said, because if hit by Hizbullah's missile, it would post a threat to Israel's existence.

The Hizbullah leader warned that in the next showdown with Israel, his missiles would hit the ammonia plant in Haifa. "Trump's election does not scare us, even if he promises Netanyahu a green light to wage war," he said. The new threats are based on the election of Trump, but the policy of the new American administration in the region is not clear. Nasrallah then boasted, "I tell the enemy's leaders they would be wrong to think they know enough about us, seeing as we always have hidden surprises."

Speaking on Thursday, Nasrallah boasted that his group was capable of hitting any strategic target in the Jewish state. "We invite the Israeli enemy to empty not just the ammonia tanks in Haifa," mocked the Hizbullah leader, "but also to dismantle the nuclear core in Dimona," claiming that "it is in our power to threaten any part of Israel."

The address was made as part of an event marking the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power and enabled the establishment of the Iranian-backed Hizbullah group.

The latest saber-rattling comes after a court ordered an ammonia storage facility to be emptied within 10 days. The ammonia tanks, which hold some 12,000 tons of the chemical, have been targeted both by environmental groups who warn storage of large quantities of the material are harmful to the Haifa bay area, as well as citizens' groups concerned over hazards to public safety.

A year ago, marking the 37th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Nasrallah threatened to strike the ammonia storage facility. "Hizbullah has a 'nuclear bomb' - Haifa has 15 tons of ammonia, and any Hizbullah missile attack will turn them into a nuclear bomb that would cause the deaths of tens of thousands," he declared.

Lieberman Offers Gaza Development if Hamas Returns MIAs

By DEBKAfile &

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposed Israeli economic development for the Gaza Strip if Hamas returns Israelis; three Israeli civilians and two soldiers' bodies, as well as strip demilitarization.

In an interview to the government's Arabic language website Thursday, Lieberman said that if Hamas were to relinquish its aggressive and terror options against Israel, and give up building terror tunnels and missile attacks, Israel would invest in developing the Gaza Strip for the population and building air and sea ports as well as help create 40,000 jobs in the strip.

In exchange for that, the defense minister is demanding the return of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and snatched up by Hamas, as well as three Israeli civilians who entered Gaza of their own volition—Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima. Furthermore, Lieberman is demanding Hamas to demilitarize the Gaza Strip and remove an article in its charter calling for the annihilation of the State of Israel.

Haley: US Supports Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestinians

By VOA News

In a drastic turnabout from Wednesday's statement by President Donald Trump that he could live with either a one-state of two-state solution in the Middle East, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said the Trump administration "absolutely" supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The two-state solution is what we support," Nikki Haley told reporters after attending her first Security Council meeting on the long-running conflict. "Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support a two-state solution, that would be an error."

The council's regular monthly meeting on the situation happened to come a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Donald Trump in Washington. During a joint news conference Wednesday, Trump appeared to make a major departure from nearly two decades of U.S. policy, declaring that he "could live with" either a one or two-state solution to the conflict.

The international community has for years firmly supported two contiguous states – Israel and Palestine – living side-by-side and achieved through direct negotiations as the only viable solution to the 70-year old conflict. "We absolutely support a two-state solution," Haley said repeatedly. "But we are thinking out of the box as well, which is what does it take to bring these two sides to the table? What we do we need to have them agree on?"

She said that ultimately any solution is going to come from the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority and that "the United States is just there to support the process. The two-state solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples," said Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Speaking via a video link from Jerusalem, Mladenov told council members that each side could demonstrate goodwill – the Israelis by stopping settlement expansion and construction, and the Palestinians by tackling violence and incitement. He said such moves would create an environment conducive to bilateral final status negotiations.

On Wednesday, Trump called on Netanyahu to "hold back a bit" on settlement building. Israel has surged ahead approving thousands of new units in recent weeks, despite the adoption of U.N. resolution 2334.

Trump has also nominated as his ambassador to Israel New York lawyer David Friedman, who is a well-known supporter of settlements and opposes a two-state solution. Thursday, Friedman faced senators and protesters who disrupted his hearing on Capitol Hill, where he was grilled on some of his past comments.

Friedman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that language he used "has come in for criticism — and rightfully so." He says his use of incendiary comments is "entirely over." But Friedman doesn't specify in his prepared testimony which remarks he's apologizing for.

Friedman had called J Street, an ultra-liberal Jewish advocacy group, "worse than kapos," a reference to Jews who helped the Nazis imprison fellow Jews during the Holocaust. J Street worked closely with the Obama administration and is critical of Netanyahu. The group says Friedman "lacks the temperament and responsibility required for such a sensitive diplomatic assignment."

Haley also vigorously reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel, accusing the United Nations of an anti-Israel bias that Washington "will not turn a blind eye to" anymore. "I'm here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel," Haley told reporters. "We will never repeat the terrible mistake of resolution 2334," she said of the settlements resolution.

She said "outrageously biased" resolutions from the Security Council and General Assembly have made peace harder to reach, "by discouraging one of the parties from going to the negotiating table." Haley said Washington would not hesitate to speak out against these biases.

Netanyahu Did Not Forget Pollard


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised the issue of Jonathan Pollard during his meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House Thursday. They agreed that the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, would personally handle the issue with the Trump Administration.

Netanyahu and Pence met for breakfast Thursday morning. A source in the Prime Minister's entourage said that the two leaders agreed to work together in a systematic manner to change the UN's attitude towards Israel. They also decided to formulate a mechanism for dialogue with the White House regarding construction in Judea and Samaria with the intention of reaching an understanding between the two governments.

The source close to Netanyahu said that "the Prime Minister spoke with Vice President Pence about ways to promote the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and they discussed the issue of the fallen IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being held in Gaza."

Netanyahu raised the possibility of easing the parole restrictions on Jonathan Pollard, who is unable to find employment or attend Synagogue on Friday nights due to a strict curfew and the access US intelligence has to any computer he uses. Pollard served 30 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel. He was released on parole in 2015, and currently resides in New York with his wife, Esther.

Trump Calls Question by Jewish Reporter About Anti-Semitism 'Insulting'


President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared to have a misunderstanding with a haredi reporter who asked him about the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States. At a press conference in the White House, Ami Magazine's Jake Turx asked Trump about the recent uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take deal with it, while noting the recent bomb threats called into Jewish community centers.

Trump apparently thought Turx was accusing him of anti-Semitism and interrupted him while accusing him of dishonesty. "It's not a simple question, not a fair question. I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life," Trump said, while pointing out that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who met Trump on Wednesday, noted that he had known the President for a long time.

Turx later clarified on Twitter that Trump had misunderstood his question. "President Trump clearly misunderstood my question. This is highly regretful and I'm going to seek clarification. #TrumpNewsConference," he wrote.

Pew: Jews are Best-Liked Religious Group in America


Jews are the most warmly regarded religious group in America, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey, which was released Wednesday, found that Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups than they did three years ago.

As they did the first time the survey was taken in 2014, Jews topped the survey, in which respondents rank various religious groups on a "feeling thermometer." On the scale of 1 to 100, 1 is the coldest and 100 the warmest; 50 means they have neither positive nor negative feelings. Jews were ranked at 67 degrees, up from 63 in the 2014 survey, followed by Catholics at 66, up from 62

Mainline Protestants at 65. Evangelical Christians stayed at 61 degrees. Buddhists rose to 60 from 53, and Hindus increased to 58 from 50. Mormons moved to 54 from 48. Atheists and Muslims again had the lowest ratings, but both still rose on the warmth scale. Atheists ranked at 50 degrees, up from 41, and Muslims were at 48, up from 40.

The authors noted that warm feelings toward religious groups rose despite a contentious election year that deeply divided Americans. "The increase in mean ratings is broad based," according to the authors. "Warmer feelings are expressed by people in all the major religious groups analyzed, as well as by both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults."

The random-digit-dial survey of 4,248 respondents was conducted January 9-23. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Americans tend to rate their own faith groups highest, the survey found. Jews rated themselves at 91 and rated Muslims at 51, up from 35 three years ago. Jews rated themselves the highest compared to other groups; the next highest was Catholics at 83.

The survey showed a divide between older and younger Americans. While Jews received a 74 from respondents aged 65 and up, the age group's second-highest ranking behind Mainline Protestants, respondents aged 18-29 ranked Jews at 62 and gave their highest ranking to Buddhists at 66. Religious groups also were rated higher by respondents who knew someone from that religion. Those who knew Jews gave them a 72, and those who do not know any Jews gave them a 58.

Country of Birth: Judea and Samaria


Parents of kindergartners from all over Israel were surprised to discover that Israel's Education Ministry had reported some of the parents' country of birth as "Judea and Samaria" or the "Palestinian Authority."

"It's unfathomable," S., who is the mother of a kindergartner, told Arutz Sheva. "The Israeli government's official forms turn Judea and Samaria into something completely separate from Israel, and they're doing the same for the Palestinian Authority. What's with them?"

Ro'i, a Samaria resident, called the list "State-funded discrimination." "I was born here, in Samaria, and when I wanted to sign my children up for first grade, I discovered that I'm basically agreeing I wasn't born in Israel," he said. Israel's Education Ministry responded by saying the information was taken directly from the Interior Ministry.

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