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IDF uncovers Gaza terror tunnel
( Israeli soldiers on the border near the southern Gaza Strip on Monday discovered a tunnel that apparently had been dug for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist attack inside Israel. It is not clear when the tunnel was dug and if it was used. It is believed that the tunnel collapsed due to recent rainy weather. The tunnel, located near Kibbutz Nir Oz, was one of the longest discovered in recent years. An Israel Defense Forces source said the tunnel was similar to the one used in the June 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
“We view this incident gravely,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. “This represents an attempt to conduct terrorist activity against civilians and security forces in Israeli territory.”

Obama: ‘Israel doesn’t know what its best interests are’
( In an article for Bloomberg published Tuesday, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg — who is thought to have good access to the White House — wrote that in the weeks following the United Nations vote to give the Palestinians non-member state status, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” Goldberg wrote that Obama believes Netanyahu, by building construction beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders, is “moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”
Obama-Netanyahu tension before the U.S. election centered on the Iranian threat, with Obama refusing to set the specific “red line” requested by Netanyahu which, if crossed, would prompt American military action against Iran. On the CBS “60 Minutes” program, Obama described Netanyahu’s calls for a red line as “noise.”
Now, amid Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel — who has come under fire for his record and statements on Israel (perhaps most infamously, his
reference to the “Jewish lobby”) — for defense secretary, the “dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is poised to enter a new phase,” according to Goldberg.
“On matters related to the Palestinians, the president seems to view the prime minister as a political coward; an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise,” Goldberg wrote.
Reacting to Goldberg’s column, Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday said Netanyahu, if re-elected, “will know how to work with [U.S. President Barack] Obama very well while at the same time safeguarding Israel’s interests,” Israel Hayom reported.

Iran could produce nuclear bombs by mid-2014
( A new report issued by an American think tank warns that Iran could build one or two nuclear bombs by next year and calls for stricter sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Reuters reported. “Based on the current trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014,” the report said. The report defines “critical capability” as the point when Iran can build a weapons grade bomb without detection.
The 154-page report titled “U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East” produced by five non-proliferation experts for the Institute for Science and International
Security (ISIS) was released on Jan. 14. It recommends that the U.S. and its allies intensify international sanctions against Iran, including imposing an international embargo on all investments and trade, before Iran reaches the critical capability point. The report also advocates for President Obama to make the threat of military action more explicit to Iran. “The president should explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear program if Iran takes additional decisive steps toward producing a bomb,” the report said.

Florida reinstates kosher food program for prisoners
( The Florida Department of Corrections has agreed to reinstate its kosher food program following a five-year struggle by Jewish groups that included a federal lawsuit. The complaint to the Justice Department claimed that Florida was violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which forbids the government from
restricting religious rights of institutionalized individuals, after it suspended its kosher food program in 2007. The government then filed a suit against the Florida Department of
Corrections. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s Aleph Institute, which serves the interests of Jewish inmates and soldiers around the nation, praised Florida Governor Rick Scott for his decision to reinstate the kosher food program. Recently, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that Texas must provide kosher meals to a Jewish prisoner there under the same act.

France keeps EU from declaring Hezbollah a terrorist group
( Attempts by the European Union (EU) to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization have been stalled as a result of the inability of the 27-member community to reach a consensus on the issue. Recent efforts to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization come amid reports confirming the involvement of Hezbollah and Iran (Hezbollah’s funder) in
the terror attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria—an EU member state – last summer.
The U.S., Canada and Israel consider the Lebanon-based group to be a terrorist organization. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution urging the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terror group and to impose sanctions.
But according to the Jerusalem Post, France is blocking the designation in order to preserve its leverage in Lebanon and to prevent retaliation from Hezbollah. The stalled measure comes despite Hezbollah’s past terrorist attacks against the French. In 1983, Hezbollah, with Iran’s support, detonated two separate truck bombs outside the American and French military barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French servicemen.

Netanyahu moves ahead with E1 construction
( Just more than a week ahead of the Israeli general elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to move ahead with construction in the E1 zone between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, following the eviction of Palestinian protestors from the area on Sunday. The E1 zone—short for East 1—is a 4.6 square mile area consisting mainly of rocky desert, located just east of Jerusalem. Netanyahu originally announced plans for construction in the area in late November, after the Palestinians’ status
upgrade at the United Nations. Palestinian activists, with the support of the Palestinian Authority (PA), recently established a tent city in the area to protest the Israeli announcement. Late Saturday, Netanyahu ordered the police to remove the protestors. Israel argues that it hold on to the E1 area in any peace agreement and compensate the Palestinians with land swaps. Israel needs the area in order to maintain a connection with the large Jewish commuter city of Ma’ale Adumim, which is east of the E1 zone.

Steinhardt to auction Jewish art collection
( Sotheby’s auction house in New York City plans to sell an enormous art and culture collection assembled by Jewish philanthropist and former Wall Street money manager Michael Steinhardt. Five hundred pieces, including textiles, manuscripts and paintings, will be put on sale in April and are estimated to bring in about $11 million. Some of the materials are 1,000 years old, with items representing regions all over the world. One of the pieces is a 15th-century Torah book, the Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, which includes text
by Middle Age Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. It is the second of a two-volume manuscript, the first of which is housed in the Vatican. It is estimated to be worth between
$4.5 million and $6 million. Other items in the collection are a 12th-century North German bronze lion-shaped hand-washing jug with Hebrew inscriptions that is now valued at $200,000 to $400,000. “Now, at 72, it is time for the collection to be passed on to a new generation, in the hopes that it will encourage them in turn to discover a rich Jewish heritage and the joy of owning a piece of the past,” said Steinhardt in a press release from the auction house. Steinhardt is co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel.

Two Israeli films vie for single Oscar
( In an unprecedented achievement for the Israeli film industry, two of the five documentary features nominated for the Academy Awards this year are Israeli sub-missions, Israel Hayom reported. But some aren’t celebrating the news because they say the nominated films—“The Gatekeepers,” which features candid interviews with retired Israeli spymasters, and “5 Broken Cameras,” which tells the personal story of amateur Palestinian cameraman Emad Burnat, who documents clashes between his fellow villagers and Israeli soldiers — both cast Israel in a negative light. Lori Lowenthal Marcus of the Jewish Press wrote “calm down before kvelling” about the Oscar nominations.The 85th Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on Feb. 24. This year will be the first time since 1975 that an Israeli documentary is up for the award.
Burnat is from the village of Bil’in, the site of frequent Palestinian protests about Israel’s security fence. Palestinians claimed that protester Jawaher abu Rahma was killed by Israeli tear gas in Bil’in on Dec. 31, 2010, but an IDF investigation later revealed that she was never at the protest in question and died in a Ramallah hospital of an unrelated medical
condition. “No doubt the true story behind the death of Jawaher abu Rahma, on Dec. 31, 2010, was not included in the movie,” Marcus wrote for the Jewish Press. Additionally, Marcus wrote that the way “The Gatekeepers” depicts Israel’s Shin Bet security agency presents the Jewish state “in the caricatured fashion the world has come to expect, as peopled by brutal thugs whose goal in life is to do nothing more than make the lives of the poor, non-violent Arabs as difficult as possible.”

Obama nominates Orthodox Jew for treasury
( President Obama has nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as the next U.S. treasury secretary. Lew is an Orthodox Jew and one of Obama’s closest advisers. “As the son of a Polish immigrant, a man of deep and devout faith, Jack knows that every number on a page, every dollar we budget, every decision we make has to be an expression of who we wish to be as a nation, our values,” Obama said in announcing the nomination. As treasury secretary, Lew will jump straight into the fire of a tough battle against Republicans in Congress over the deficit ceiling and extensive cuts to government spending—and he is already known for intense clashes with Republicans over such matters. According to Bob
Woodward’s book, The Price of Politics, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner went so far as to specifically request that from Obama ban Lew from attending talks with House Republicans at the Capitol.
“Jack Lew said ‘No’ 999,000 times out of a million,” House of Representatives Speaker Boehner told Bob Woodward, regarding Lew’s attitude during 2001 debt ceiling talks. “At one point I told the president, keep him out of here. I don’t need somebody who just knows how to say ‘No.’”
Obama’s choice of Lew is seen as a signal of the president’s determination to control record-breaking budget deficits. The 57-year-old Lew would bring private sector and
international experience to the Treasury Department. He has held top jobs at Citigroup’s wealth management branch and at the State Department, where he oversaw international economic issues in his first job for Obama.
Assuming that Lew is confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the last of Obama’s original economic team of 2008.

B’nai B’rith focusing on persecution of Mid-East Christians
( B’nai B’rith International, the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, is teaming up with experts to promote knowledge about the roughly 200 million Christians who are being persecuted in the Middle East. The Jerusalem-based B’nai B’rith World Center is undertaking this initiative. Around 200 million Christians are persecuted in this region every year. “This is an issue that’s a major human rights issue in the world, that it’s not getting the attention it deserves in the West,” said
Alan Schneider of B’nai B’rith World Center, according to CBN News.
Schneider and his group recently hosted Assyrian Christian Juliana Taimoorazy from the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and Egyptian Coptic Christian Author Raymond Ibrahim for a discussion about persecution of Christians. “Since 2003, there has been a systematic attack launched against the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq,” Taimoorazy said. By the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign, Taimoorazy said Islamic extremists “were to go in and attack families—kill children, kidnap women, impregnating them, torturing men, beheading them. Then they started attacking clergy members.“
As more Christians flee, the looming threat of Christianity’s extinction in its birthplace is becoming more real. Over the past century, Jews have also faced a similar danger. More than 850,000 Jews fled their homes throughout the Middle East due to growing threats related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, more than half of Israel’s population is comprised of these Jewish refugees. Just as persecuted Jews have found a home a safe haven in Israel, the Christian community in Israel is one of the only Middle Eastern communities still growing today.

Vatican condemns bishop’s comment about Jews
( A Vatican spokesman condemned comments by the head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, who called Jews “enemies of the church.” The spokesman,
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said that it is “absolutely unacceptable” to “define the Jews as enemies of the Church” in response to Bishop Bernard Fellay, who made the statement in a two-hour talk Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, which was later posted on YouTube. The Society later published a clarifying press release, stating that “The word ‘enemies’ used here by Bishop Fellay is of course a religious concept and refers to any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls. By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people.”

UN group: Cuba’s detention of Alan Gross is arbitrary
( The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Tuesday made public its opinion in the case of Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross, stating that Cuba’s
detention of Gross is in fact arbitrary and calling for his immediate release. Dec. 3, 2012 marked the three-year anniversary of Gross’s arrest. He was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for helping Cuba’s Jewish community access the Internet while he was a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuba convicted him of “crimes against the state.”
Gross was tried by Cuban courts that “did not exercise their function in an independent or impartial manner,” according to the UN working group. “The tribunal should have granted Mr. Gross the benefit of being released on bail while awaiting trial, instead of keeping him in detention for more than 14 months,” the group said in its opinion.
Comprised of neutral experts from Chile, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal, and Ukraine, the UN working group issues opinions that are not binding or enforceable, but could still be significant, Gross’s attorney Jared Genser told

Palestinian mayor: Israel tempts children with toy-shaped explosives
( A Palestinian Authority (PA) mayor said on television that the Israel Defense Forces tries to bait Palestinian children into picking up explosives “shaped like pens and toys,” according to the latest report from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) uncovering the demonization of the Jewish state. Recently asked by a PA TV interviewer what types of
explosives Israeli soldiers leave behind following training, Mustafa Fuqaha, mayor of the Palestinian village of Ein Al-Bayda in the Jordan Valley, responded: “Some [explosives] are in different shapes. Some are shaped like pens, and some look like toys. Some are in different shapes to tempt children to touch them or pick them up. This is a real danger
and real proof that the Israeli army targets children and young ones.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, told that the PA TV report “deserves exposure as a modern form of blood libel. Unfortunately, ugly stories like this about Jewish people targeting children is not new, and are the cause of hatred and violence against Jews.” PA TV made a similar claim in 2003, according to PMW. Additionally, in 2001, the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said Israeli soldiers “threw large quantities of poisoned candies” in front of Palestinian schools.

Initiative for Israelis with disabilities gets boost
( The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Israeli government will each match a $4 million grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation
to expand work on improving the inclusion of adults with disabilities in Israeli society, JDC announced. Started three years ago with those three parties’ $6 million investment, the Israel Unlimited Partnership will now receive a $12.5 million boost to focus on employing the disabled as well as  “ensuring accessible housing and services that promote independent living; expanding person-centered services and focusing on new groups like Haredim (Ultra Orthodox Jews) with disabilities; and developing projects that help adults with disabilities cope with loneliness,” according to JDC.

Israeli high-tech startups sold for combined $5.5 billion
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to Israeli high-tech startup companies were bought out for a total of $5.5 billion in 2012, according to a report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers Israel. The report showed that the 50 buy-out deals for Israeli high-tech startups in 2012 averaged $111 million in size, an all-time high. In 2006, Israeli high-tech start-ups were acquired for a record $10 billion, but the average total per deal was smaller than in 2012, showing that buy-out deals have become fewer, but larger, in the Israeli high-tech sector in recent years. Rubi Suliman, the head of PwC’s high-tech practice, was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying that the 2012 numbers reflected a maturing Israeli market. “There is a long discussion about whether exits are good for Israel or should we build larger multinational companies,” Suliman was quoted as saying. “Recently, we are seeing Israeli companies grow, and become world leaders in their areas. We are seeing companies with revenues of over $100 million. We did not see these in the past. They were being sold much earlier, often pre-revenue.”

2012 In Memoriam YEAR IN REVIEW
Belfast memorial to Christian Zionist vandalized
Robert De Niro’s Jewish roles

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