NEWS: The State Department accuses Israel of "a pattern of provocative action" regarding planned settlement expansions. EU UN Security Council members also issue an unusually harsh statement. Israel says it's pressing forward with one of its most controversial settlement projects, Givat Hamatos. Some extreme Zionists believe settlements is ushering in a messianic era. Some American evangelical Christians also see a somewhat different messianic context. The Israeli Embassy in Ireland temporarily takes down its Facebook page after a "Christmas message" suggesting Palestinians would have lynched Jesus. Israel's former military chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak passes away. Pres. Abbas says Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria are welcome in the West Bank, as conditions for them worsen. Further evidence emerges of how unenthusiastic Israel's Palestinian citizens are about the upcoming election. Israel formally charges suspects in a recent Tel Aviv bus bombing. Palestinians call for an Arab summit on aid to the cash-strapped PA as public sector employees strike due to nonpayment of salaries. The PLO's Washington mission strongly criticizes congressional efforts to close it down. Israel agrees not to interfere with a planned visit by the Emir of Qatar to the West Bank. Israel says it will allow Palestinian Christians in Gaza to visit the West Bank for Christmas. Some Jewish Americans are expressing fears that the upcoming Israeli election will push the country even further to the right. COMMENTARY: Crispian Balmer says Israeli policies hold the key to whether or not there will be another Palestinian uprising in the near future. The LA Times harshly criticizes Hamas leader Meshaal's Gaza speech as "outrageous, irresponsible and depressing." Gideon Levy and Alex Levac look at the killing of a Palestinian youth with a toy gun by Israeli occupation forces near Hebron. Carlo Strenger says PM Netanyahu can emulate his predecessors Menachem Begin, which could set the stage for positive developments, or Yitzhak Shamir, which would be a disaster. Avi Shilon argues Netanyahu is already acting like Shamir. Ron Kampeas asks if Pres. Obama is really planning to put the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the back burner in his second term. Abdulrahman Al-Saeed argues that the recent conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza could set the stage for a lasting peace. Azzaman interviews Hamas leader Zahar, who claims Iranian weapons only come to Hamas with no strings attached. Alan Elsner says almost all of Israel's diplomatic problems can be summed up in a single word: settlements. Shlomi Eldar says a third Palestinian intifada has already begun, but so far only on paper.

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