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Why aren't Israelis told that Hamas High Command is behind the persistent rocket fire? Dec 19, 2017 @ 11:37 Avigdor Lieberman, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israeli communities, rocket fire

After 20 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip in the three weeks since Dec. 7, limited punitive IDF air strikes, which never stopped them before, are still not working. The identity of the hand orchestrating the rocket campaign depends on whom you ask. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attributes it to "infighting among the Gaza Strip's rival terrorist groups," although he holds Hamas accountable for failing to prevent it. The IDF spokesperson issued a statement on Monday, Dec. 18, listing 40 IDF retaliatory strikes against Hamas terrorist targets: "Hamas is exclusively responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip. The IDF views the firing of rockets at Israeli communities with the utmost gravity and will not allow any harm or attempt to harm the citizens of the State of Israel."

Hollow words indeed so long as no effective action is taken for putting a stop to the bane. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians, including many thousands of children, live in fear of their lives.

Some of Israel's mainstream media join in Lieberman's game of obfuscation for absolving Hamas of keeping its hand on the button for releasing the rocket barrage. One headline proclaimed: "Hamas tortures Salafis to curb Gaza rocket fire," and sends messages to Israel that "it does not seek escalation." Hamas may well be torturing Salafis, but DEBKAfile's military sources assert this has nothing to do with the rockets launched almost daily from the Gaza Strip. It is the supreme command of Hamas' armed wing, the Ezz e-din Qassam Brigades, which is directly responsible – not small factions or other terrorist groups. The commanders of the radical Islamist group are motivated by burning resentment of their political leaders' compliance with Cairo's drive for reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip. Hamas terror chiefs have no intention of handing Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt to the control of PA security forces, or of accepting a permanent mission in Gaza City of generals from the Egyptian intelligence ministry. Hamas is venting its resentment typically by goading Israel with an as-yet measured barrage of rockets, taking advantage of the wave of Islamic protest generated by US President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The order coming down from the Hamas high command is to its allow any group, including its own activists, to shoot rockets into Israel. The level of fire must not be allowed to get out of hand; neither is it stopped or the launchers impounded. This keeps the barrage irregular and spasmodic – yet controlled, a bane for Israelis living within range, who are trying to carry on with their lives. Hamas is fully capable of stopping it, if it so wishes, but Israel is so far avoiding outright action for making this happen.

Trump challenges convention that Israel is cause of region's problems

By DEBKAfile and Israel Hayom

Dec 18, 2017 @ 23:14

US President Donald Trump made this comment in his National Security Strategy speech on Monday: "For generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region," he said, and added, "Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region's problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats," Trump concluded.

Trump: Iran, terrorism destabilize Middle East, not Israel

U.S. President Trump unveils national security strategy seeking to promote peace through strength and advance U.S.'s global influence - Growing threat posed by jihadi terrorism, Iran shows Israel is not the cause of the issues plaguing Middle East, he says. Yoni Hersch, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

U.S. President Donald Trump outlines his national security strategy, Monday | Photo: AP

U.S. President Donald Trump introduced his new national security strategy on Monday, saying that the U.S. will follow his 2016 campaign doctrine of "America First."

"America is in the game, and America is going to win," he said.

Trump's strategy focuses on protecting U.S. interests, including building a wall on the U.S. southern border and taking other steps on immigration. He also called for promoting American prosperity, demonstrating peace through strength and advancing American influence worldwide.

He stressed the U.S. will cooperate with other countries "in a manner that always protects our national interests."

The administration's 70-page national security document, a product of months of deliberations by the president and his top advisers, stressed that the "America First" doctrine does not mean "America Alone." But it made clear that the United States will protect its interests even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues like trade, climate change and immigration.

"We will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before. … To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power," Trump said.

"Our strategy advances vital national interests. We must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.

"In addition, our strategy calls for us to confront, discredit, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism and ideology and to prevent it from spreading into the United States. And we will develop new ways to counter those who use new domains, such as cyber and social media, to attack our nation or threaten our society," he said.

On the Middle East, the strategy noted that "for generations, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region's problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats."

The American president noted that "to counter Iran and block its path to a nuclear weapon, I sanctioned the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support of terrorism, and I declined to certify the Iran deal.

"Following my trip to the Middle East, the Gulf states and other Muslim-majority nations joined together to fight radical Islamist ideology and terrorist financing. We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another. … We're now chasing them wherever they flee, and we will not let them into the United States."

Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East.

"Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence," it said. "Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances."

Criticizing previous administrations, Trump said that "to seize the opportunities of the future, we must first understand the failures of the past.

"For many years, our citizens watched as Washington politicians presided over one disappointment after another. … Our leaders in Washington negotiated disastrous trade deals that brought massive profits to many foreign nations, but sent thousands of American factories, and millions of American jobs, to those other countries.

"Our leaders engaged in nation-building abroad, while they failed to build up and replenish our nation at home. … They failed to insist that our often very wealthy allies pay their fair share for defense, putting a massive and unfair burden on the U.S. taxpayer and our great U.S. military.

"They neglected a nuclear menace in North Korea; made a disastrous, weak, and incomprehensibly bad deal with Iran; and allowed terrorists such as ISIS to gain control of vast parts of territory all across the Middle East," he said.

The new doctrine also seeks to "preserve peace through strength. We recognize that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivaled power is the most certain means of defense. … This strategy includes plans to counter modern threats, such as cyber and electromagnetic attacks. It recognizes space as a competitive domain and calls for multi-layered missile defense. This strategy outlines important steps to address new forms of conflict such as economic and political aggression.

"And our strategy emphasizes strengthening alliances to cope with these threats. It recognizes that our strength is magnified by allies who share principles – and our principles – and shoulder their fair share of responsibility for our common security," he said.

Russia meddles in domestic affairs worldwide

Trump's strategy document also leveled harsh criticism at Russia over interference in domestic political affairs of countries globally but stopped short of accusing Moscow of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The criticism reflects a view long held by U.S. diplomats that Russia actively undermines American interests at home and abroad, despite Trump's own bid for warmer ties with President Vladimir Putin.

"Through modernized forms of subversive tactics, Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world," the policy document said.

"Russia uses information [gathering] operations as part of its offensive cyber efforts to influence public opinion across the globe. Its influence campaigns blend covert intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or 'trolls,'" the document said.

An unclassified State Department cable, seen by Reuters, said: "Russia tries to weaken the credibility of America's commitment to Europe. With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has demonstrated a willingness to use force to challenge the sovereignty of states in the region."

The Trump administration lumps together China and Russia as competitors seeking to challenge U.S. power and erode its security and prosperity. A senior administration official said Russia and China were attempting to revise the global status quo – Russia in Europe with its military incursions into Ukraine and Georgia, and China in Asia by its aggression in the South China Sea.

The strategy document said that "Chinese dominance risks diminishing the sovereignty of many states" in its region and beyond, and called for stronger traditional alliances and new partnerships in Asia amid a "geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order."

"America will lead again," Trump declared Monday. "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but we will champion the values without apology.

"We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause. We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.

"We will pursue the vision we have carried around the world over this past year – a vision of strong, sovereign, and independent nations that respect their citizens and respect their neighbors; nations that thrive in commerce and cooperation, rooted in their histories and branching out toward their destinies. That is the future we wish for this world, and that is the future we seek in America," he said.

Defense minister: Israel willing to pay price for US recognition of Jerusalem

By Israel Hayom
Defense Minister Lieberman says U.S.'s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is "historic and we must cement the issue inside and out" - Israel will not tolerate sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, IDF knows how to deal with the situation, he says. Nikki Guttman

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visiting Gaza-vicinity communities, Tuesday | Photo: Ariel Harmoni / Defense Ministry

"Israel is willing to pay the price for the U.S.'s recognition of Jerusalem," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday during a visit the communities adjacent to the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

U.S. President Donald Trump's Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "puts an end to a virulent argument that has been going on for years," he said.

"The president's decision is historic and we must cement the issue inside and out. It was clear to us that the U.S. president's announcement would come with a price and we are willing to pay that price. This statement is very important," he said.

Speaking with the heads of the border-adjacent communities, Lieberman commented on the sporadic rocket fire that has been growing since Trump's declaration, saying Israel will not tolerate the situation.

"We know how and what to do, and most importantly when to do it. Over the past year and a half, the IDF has been operating with determination and resolve, both in southern and northern Israel. We will not tolerate sporadic rocket fire," he said.

The defense minister said that the defense establishment's operations have had a significant effect on the lives of the residents of the border-adjacent communities.

"I think that our activities with regard to terrorism and the terror tunnels, the blows dealt to Hamas, send a clear and important message to everyone," he said, adding that the situation on the ground is different from "panic and hysteria, especially in the Knesset, in the opposition and in the media."

Commenting on a High Court of Justice ruling of last week saying Israel has no legal authority to hold the remains of terrorists killed by security forces, unless it revises existing legislation, Lieberman stated, "Terrorists' bodies will not be returned."

The court had given the government six months to revise current legislation or return nine bodies the defense establishment currently holds to their families for burial.

Lieberman called the ruling "outrageous" and said he backed the government's decision to appeal it. "We have six months to exhaust all procedures," he said.

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Israel to Tax Airbnb Hosts Directly through Service's Website

Last month, the Israel Tax Authority announced it is working out a taxing scheme for Airbnb rentals in the country, which are currently not formally regulated Omri Milman 15:4219.12.17

The Israeli Tax Authority is negotiating a retention tax agreement with Airbnb that will let it tax hosts automatically through the company's website, people familiar with the matter who spoke on conditions of anonymity told Calcalist.

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The proposed model will see Airbnb collect income tax on any payments made to Israeli hosts through the service. Such an arrangement will negate the possibility of tax evasion and neutralize at least some of the discrimination claims brought forth by traditional paid-lodging businesses like hotels and hostels.

An apartment in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Shai Epstein An apartment in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Shai Epstein

Airbnb currently collects and remits tourists taxes, also referred to as hotel or occupancy tax, in many of its global locations. In some places, like Amsterdam, Paris and major U.S. cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, Airbnb collects the tax automatically and passes it on to the authorities without going through the host.

Not all countries are satisfied with giving Airbnb leeway on how and when it collects taxes. In Europe, for example, Airbnb routes all charges through the company's Irish subsidiary. This allows Airbnb to pay the Irish corporate tax rate of 12.5% on income earned in other European countries that may have higher rates. In August, France and Germany, which have a corporate tax of 33.3% and 15.8%, respectively, announced they would spearhead a proposal within the European Commission to enact an EU-wide law enabling each country to tax Airbnb rentals according to its own tax rates.

Short-term home-renting services like Airbnb, or to a lesser degree, have become an increasingly complex problem for tax authorities, since they essentially turn every person that rents their residence into a potential business owner without requiring them to register for a business license.

In Israel, the Tax Authority has been increasing its regulatory operations for the past two years, as part of a war waged against the local real estate black market. While most of the focus has been on "full-time business operators" that own apartments rented exclusively to tourists, last year the authority ran a sting operation targeting all tax-evading renters through Airbnb's website. Authority officials posed as clients and found renters who made almost $40,000 a year without reporting the income.

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The authority estimates th

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