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Newsletter : 19fx0101.txt

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Israel Intel Chief Warns Iran may Strike Israel from Iraq

By DEBKAfile & Reuters
Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, Director of Military Intelligence, warned on Monday that Iran had amassed enough influence in Iraq to be able to attack Israel from that country. He reckoned that the danger Tehran could pose to Israel from Iraq was no less potent than it is from Syria or Lebanon. DEBKAfile reported that Iran has begun arming its Iraqi Shiite proxy militias with light assault aircraft, attack helicopters and medium-range surface missiles. Israel sees the spread of Tehran's influence in the region as a growing threat and has carried out scores of air strikes in war-torn civil Syria against suspected military deployments and arms deliveries by Iranian forces supporting Damascus. Iraq, which does not share a border with Israel, is technically its enemy but was last an open threat in the 1991 Gulf War. Since a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, Israel has worried that Iraq's Shi'ite majority could tilt towards Iran. "Iraq is under the growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Qods Force and Iran," Hayman told a conference in Tel Aviv. With President Donald Trump disengaging from the region, Hayman said, the Iranians may "see Iraq as a convenient theater for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel". Iraq's prime minister said on Sunday that security officials from Baghdad had met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, and hinted at a bigger Iraqi role fighting ISIS militants as U.S. troops withdraw. Hayman predicted 2019 would bring "significant change" to Syria, where Assad has beaten back rebels with the help of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hizbullah reinforcements, and where Trump this month ordered a pullout of U.S. troops. "This presence of Iran, with Syria's return to stabilization under a Russian umbrella, is something we are watching closely," he said.

Saudis Quote Israeli `Senior Official': Israel had a Chance to Assassinate Assad.

By World Israel News
An anonymous "senior Israeli official" quoted in the Saudi media said that Israel had a chance to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but chose to forego the opportunity, Israel Hayom reported on Monday. The Saudi daily Elaph reported that the ?Israeli official said the Netanyahu government rejected Israeli military intelligence recommendations to bring down the Assad regime, according to Israel Hayom. One of the ways it suggested doing this was by ?assassinating Assad, the report said. The Israeli official quoted in the Saudi daily said that the reason Israel chose not to take this path was that "it preferred dealing with a known ?adversary – someone it could use back channels to communicate with if need be," the Israeli daily reported. According to the report, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who was then Israel's Director of ?Military Intelligence, favored taking down the Assad regime. Kochavi is slated to become IDF Chief of Staff in mid-January. Kochavi wanted to remove Assad over his ties to the terror group Hizbullah, an Iranian proxy, the report claimed. Iran enjoys close ties to Assad and has helped him win the full-scale civil war that has roiled his country since 2012. Israel views Iranian military activity in Syria as a red flag and has launched hundreds of strikes on Syria since 2017 to beat back the Islamic Republic's incursions into Syrian territory and to foil its attempts to supply Hizbullah with advanced weaponry. The official reportedly told the Saudi daily that, "Assad's regime as we know it will ?come to an end," Israel Hayom reported.

Palestinian Court Jails US-Palestinian for Life for Jerusalem Land Sale

By Reuters
A Palestinian court sentenced an American-Palestinian on Monday to life imprisonment for violating a ban on selling land to Israelis, judiciary officials said. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, called in November for dual-citizen Issam Akel to be released, saying his suspected crime was "selling land to a Jew" and his incarceration violated American values. Akel was accused of attempting to sell a property in East Jerusalem without the permission of his business partners or Palestinian authorities. Palestinian officials have not publicly identified the intended buyer. The Higher Offenses Court in Ramallah, in the Arab West Bank, convicted Akel of "attempting to sever parts of Palestinian land and annex it to a foreign state," the judiciary media office said. "In light of the conviction, the court handed down a life sentence with hard labor," it said. Akel can appeal, a judiciary official said. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem declined to comment. Akel's family, which denied the allegations against him, said it was unaware of the verdict or sentence. Akel was detained on October 10 in Ramallah, an Israeli security official said. Palestinian law bars selling land to "a hostile state or any of its citizens." It requires the permission of the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, for all land sales in East Jerusalem. Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move that has not won international recognition. Land sales in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are fraught for Palestinians, who see Israeli efforts to buy up land as part of a plot to cement control of occupied areas they seek for a state of their own. Around 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which most countries consider a violation of international law against settling occupied land.

Israeli Woman Says Apple Used her Voice without Permission

The woman behind the female Hebrew voice of the Waze navigation app is suing Apple for using her voice as the Hebrew Siri. Israeli radio broadcaster Galit Gura-Eini filed a lawsuit last week for about $66,000 in Tel Aviv District Court, the Israeli business daily Calcalist reported. The lawsuit alleges that Apple has been using her voice recordings without authorization. Apple has responded that her "voice on the Siri app is nothing but syllables joined together by an algorithm." Gura-Eini has been the voice of Siri since it launched in Hebrew in 2016, according to the report. Earlier this year she asked Apple to remove her voice from the Siri app, a request which was denied. The lawsuit also alleges that Apple has turned her voice "into a vehicle for improper and humiliating speech," and that people have been using her voice to produce sexual, racist, and otherwise violent speech through the Siri app, Calcalist reported. Gura-Eini's voice was recorded in 2007 by Nuance Communications Inc. Gura-Eini gave Nuance the rights to use the recordings in speech production software, and for "legitimate" purposes only, according to Calcalist. Her voice was deleted from the Waze app last year.

Netanyahu Meets Brazil's Evangelicals: `No Better Friends in the World'

By World Israel News
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a gathering of Brazilian Evangelical Christians on Sunday that they are the Jewish state's best friends. Netanyahu is midway through a six-day visit to Brazil. "We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community, and the Evangelical community has no better friend in the world than the State of Israel," Netanyahu said at the event in Rio de Janeiro. The large Brazilian Evangelical population country is credited with leading the way to President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's rise to power earlier this year. Israel's relations with Brazil are expected to improve under the new president. Netanyahu told the Evangelical event: "President Bolsonaro says, `We are brothers.' We are brothers, and we are going to seize the future together. You know that President Bolsonaro's first name in Hebrew is Yair, which is also the name of our son. But Yair means something in Hebrew: He who brings light. And I think that we have now an opportunity together to bring a lot of light to the people of Brazil and the people of Israel. This is an alliance of brothers. So I want to invite all of you next year in Jerusalem." Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu told Brazilian Jewish leaders that Bolsonaro had informed him that he wants to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said Bolsonaro had pledged that "it is not a question of if, just a question of when." Another sign of the anticipated warm relations with the new Brazilian government is the fact that the inauguration of the new president is scheduled for Tuesday but the Israeli prime minister arrived several days ahead of time so that he could first meet with Bolsonaro and a number of other top members of the new administration.

Operation Granny Program Brings Grandparents and Grandchildren to Israel

By the Jerusalem Post
The Jewish Agency launched a program that brought Jewish grandchildren in a joint tour with their grandparents to Israel. Aimed at girls and boys from the ages 10 to 12, the visit to Israel was the culmination of a year-long program where the participants visited parts of the country, including a trip to the Negev, climbing Masada, placing notes at the Western Wall, and purchasing their first tallits at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. The 36 participants from the US also had the opportunity to stay at the homes of the Israeli grandmothers that they have met virtually during the program. The visit ended with a meeting with the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog, who talked about the influence of his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog on his life. "This "Operation Granny" creates a unique intergenerational moment where grandchildren born after the establishment of the Jewish state arrive in their historical homeland together with their grandparents who remember the struggle for a sovereign, independent state," said Herzog. "It's really an incomparable initiative by the Jewish Agency which fits in our wider activity to enhance Israel's central place for the younger generation, for those who live overseas and do not naturally feel the immediate connection to their homeland," he said. The program's name 'Operation Granny' was inspired by the classic Israeli comedy about military and kibbutz life by the director Dror Shaul. The program was based on research revealing the impact of grandparents on building the identity of their grandchildren. Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, an expert on grandparenting and intergenerational relations, accompanied the tour in Israel, conducting workshops on the subject.

Israel's Population Nears 9 Million - Including 6.6 Million Jews

Israel's population neared nine million on the eve of the New Year, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday. A total of approximately 8,972,000 people lived in Israel as of December 31st, according to the CBS' estimates. Of those nearly 9 million people, roughly 74.3%, or 6,668,000, are Jews. Approximately 1.88 million, or 20.9% of the population, are Arabs, while 426,000 (4.8% of the total) are neither Jewish nor Arab, and are classified as "Others." A large portion of this third category is non-Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who moved to Israel under the Right of Return after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. According to the CBS report Monday, Israel's population grew by 2% during 2018. Of the total population growth in 2018, 81% was the result of natural growth (the number of live births minus the number of deaths), while 19% was the result of net positive migration to Israel. A total of 28,000 new immigrants moved to Israel during 2018, while 185,000 children were born. Also, 12,000 returning citizens moved back to Israel in 2018. Of the 185,000 live births in 2018, 74.4% were to Jewish mothers, compared to 22.8% to Arab mothers. Only 2.8% of live births were to mothers in the "Others" category. By comparison, 7,000 Israelis emigrated from Israel in 2018, and there were a total of 45,000 deaths recorded. Most immigrants to Israel in 2018 were not Jewish, with net Jewish migration (the total number of Jewish immigrants to Israel minus to the number of Jewish emigrants leaving) at 12,600. The level of net Arab migration – primarily returning citizens – was 2,300, while the net balance of migration for Others was 17,700. In 2018, immigration made up 84% of the total increase in the number of non-Jewish, non-Arab (Others) citizens in Israel.

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