Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israel to Build Bomb Shelters Near Gaza (UPI/Washington Times)
- January 18, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Israel Activism on Campus
Hizbullah Inside America - David Asman
Abbas' "Rifles" Statement Questioned (JTA)
Lebanon Villagers, Peacekeepers Clash (AP/Washington Post)
Canada Teachers Union Rejects Boycott of Israel - Omar El Akkad (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Photos: Civil War Ahead in Gaza? - Dominic Waghorn and Richard Mosse (Sky News-UK)
Gaza Violence Scares Away Foreign Aid and Media - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Internet a "Virtual Terrorist Training Camp" (AKI-Italy)
"Temporary Marriage" in Islamic Iran - Lily Mazahery (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Grows Beating Heart Tissue, Blood Vessels - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In the pine-tree-shaded hills outside Jerusalem, the Israeli government is building a massive war bunker where top government officials would take shelter in case of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack. The government ordered the construction of the labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms years ago - long before the current fears of Iran's nuclear ambitions - but its expected completion date in the next year or two could not be more timely.
Speaking this week in Jerusalem, Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, bemoaned the world's reluctance to take stronger action against Iran to stop its nuclear program, which threatens not only Israel, but much of the world, he said. "What I call upon them to do is wake up!" Sneh said. "Imagine that this regime - the powerhouse of terrorism in the region, with its ambitions of expansion and domination of the entire region - would have the power of nuclear blackmail. What would life in this region look like? Not only Israel, but other countries as well. That's why we believe everything should be done in order to avoid it." (Baltimore Sun)
Also listen to Audio: "The Implications of a Nuclear Iran" - Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh (ICA/JCPA)
The U.S. military has launched a special operations task force to break up Iranian influence in Iraq. Task Force 16 was created late last year to target Iranians trafficking arms and training Shiite militia forces. The operation is modeled on Task Force 15, a clandestine cadre of Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force soldiers, and CIA operatives that killed al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, last June. The new force is part of an escalation of military countermeasures against Iran, authorized by President Bush, to strike back at what military officials describe as a widespread web of Iranian influence in Iraq that includes providing weapons, training, and money to Shiite militias.
Iran's efforts to foment chaos in Iraq are primarily carried out by the Iranian intelligence service and the Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds (Jerusalem) Brigade, the foreign operations arm of the Iranian military, which also supports Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, told the Senate last week, "we know that Iranian-supplied and -made weapons are on the streets of Baghdad killing our troops." U.S. officials, including the president, have stopped just short of directly blaming Iranian government leaders for American deaths in Iraq - a claim that, if made, could lead to pressure for U.S. military action against Iran itself.
In Baghdad neighborhoods like Karrada, south of Sadr City, U.S. soldiers have arrested suspects who speak only Iran's Farsi language. A U.S. soldier south of Sadr City adds that he is increasingly told by locals that Iranians are coming to live in certain areas. (U.S. News)
Just one month after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Iran president Ahmadinejad to end his involvement in Iran's nuclear program. In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the supreme leader - who has final say on all matters of state - might no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West. It was unclear, however, whether this was merely an effort to improve Iran's public image by lowering Ahmadinejad's profile or was signaling a change in policy. (New York Times)
In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa on Dec. 14, 2006, former Hizbullah secretary-general Sheikh Subhi al-Tufeili said: "It wasn't like this in the beginning. Hizbullah's activity was limited to resistance [operations]....But, unfortunately, the problem has developed today to the point where they have succeeded in changing Hizbullah from a resistance force into a tool to be used in [whatever] direction they want."
Q: "Does this mean that Hizbullah does not make its own decisions, and that its orders come from outside [Lebanon]?"
Al-Tufeili: "Yes, Hizbullah is a tool, and it is an integral part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus."
Q: "Can you see any justification for the July  war after southern Lebanon was liberated in 2000?"
Al-Tufeili: "If [the war] had gotten worse, it could have led to the loss of the [entire] country....Are we allowed to destroy our country [just] so we can say that we abducted two soldiers - when we all knew what the magnitude of the Israeli response [would be]? What happened was an unsuccessful adventure." (MEMRI)
See also Hizbullah Image Suffers in South Lebanon Village - Tom Perry
"For me, Hizbullah has changed completely," said shopkeeper Ghada Ghadir in the Sunni village of Shebaa in mainly Shi'ite south Lebanon. "It's no longer resistance. It's a big problem." (Reuters/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Jordan aspires to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, King Abdullah II of Jordan said Thursday. "The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region. Where I think Jordan was saying, 'we'd like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area,' after this summer, everybody's going for nuclear programs....The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] are looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We've been discussing it with the West." (Ha'aretz)
$100 million in Palestinian tax funds withheld by Israel since the Hamas government came to power one year ago were transferred Friday to Mahmoud Abbas according to agreements reached by Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert during their meeting a few weeks ago. The prime minister's office clarified that the money would only be transferred after the Palestinians guarantee a system that would prevent the money from reaching the Hamas government. According to the plan, the money is to be used to strengthen Abbas' presidential guard and to fund humanitarian needs. (Ynet News)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday told Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN, that he would do everything in his power to ensure the abducted Israeli soldiers are released. Gillerman reiterated Israel's demand for a sign of life from the soldiers.
Gillerman told Ban, "The UN needs to deal more with the Iranian threat." Ban replied that denying the Holocaust, and the declarations by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about Israel's destruction, are unacceptable. Ban also pledged to act against arms smuggling from Syria and Lebanon, saying he would "spare no effort to implement Resolution 1701." (Ha'aretz)
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's resignation caught the Arab world by surprise. The prevailing view among the Arab public six months after the war in Lebanon is that Hizbullah did not win, and wasn't defeated. This view is largely prevalent among leaders, among the large Sunni institutions, and among the more educated strata of Arab society in general. Deep in their hearts, key Arab leaders, who would have preferred this war had never taken place because it strengthened their sworn enemies - the Shiites and political Islam - had hoped that Israel would strike a heavy blow at these forces, and in so doing cut them down to size.
On the Arab Internet, the lion's share of surfers at key news sites expressed surprising readiness for soul searching. "The Israelis distanced Hizbullah from its borders, killed 1,200 of its combatants, destroyed its infrastructure, and positioned the Israel Defense Force in the north. Is this deemed a victory?" wrote a surfer from Cairo. Another wrote, "Ask the Lebanese people who lost this war. They know the truth all too well." The majority of surfers didn't ridicule Halutz. On the contrary, they expressed understanding and support for his actions. Many wrote that this is a lesson that should be learned by the entire Arab world, that when mistakes are made they should be rectified. "If only the Arab leadership would learn from Israel," wrote someone from Egypt. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Prior to the UN Security Council sanctions resolution, Iranian reformers voiced only sporadic opposition against the country's nuclear policy. They have now stepped up their rhetoric. More significantly, conservatives are also speaking up. Hamshahri - the most widely read newspaper in Iran, whose director, Hossein Entezami, is a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team - recently ran an article complaining, "At the very moment when the nuclear issue was about to move away from the UN Security Council, the fiery speeches of the president have resulted in the adoption of two resolutions [against Iran]." The lead editorial in the January 9 issue of Jomhuri Islami complained about Ahmadinejad's rhetoric: "The manner of publicizing the nuclear issue in your speeches is such which suggests to the audience that, Heaven forbid, you are giving so much prominence to the nuclear issue so that the problems of the government cannot be seen."
Criticism of Ahmadinejad's failure to deliver on exaggerated promises is widely voiced by those who previously supported him, as are complaints about his high-handed manner. The writer is a Next Generation fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
See also Coalition of the Concerned Rallies to Resist Ahmadinejad - Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth
A new political coalition is emerging in Iran in response to growing U.S. pressure, especially over Tehran's nuclear program, and in concern over the radical approach of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in both foreign and domestic policy. It stretches from reformists and even secular intellectuals to fundamentalists. "New informal regroupings are being formed based on concern...over the fate of the country and the regime," said Behzad Nabavi, a leading reformist. "A common sense of danger [is overcoming] differences over democracy and cultural issues."
With the UN resolution and U.S. military build-up feeding fears that Washington's aim is not stopping Iran's uranium enrichment but overthrowing its regime, senior figures argue, the national interest cannot tolerate an inexperienced president whose rhetoric is inflammatory. However, "Ayatollah Khamenei still doesn't believe the president should go," said a former Iranian diplomat. (Financial Times-UK)
Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in London Thursday to brief Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, on her attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. The diplomatic push is seen as a move by the Bush Administration to win acceptance for America's wider policy in the Middle East. There seems little hope of a breakthrough after more than six years of violent confrontation. There are suspicions that America's diplomatic initiative is little more than window dressing to show the world, particularly Arab public opinion, that it is doing something. Washington's main focus remains trying to resolve the disastrous situation in Iraq and to blunt what it regards as the increasing power in the region of Iran. (Times-UK)
The Bush administration took a pass on the Iraq Study Group's controversial recommendation to engage with Syria and Iran, in an effort to convince these state sponsors of terrorism to play a more productive role in Iraq. Instead, the president said that U.S. forces would "interrupt the flow of support" to the insurgency from these states. The White House's own extensive efforts at dialogue failed miserably, leading the Bush administration to the conclusion that engagement was unhelpful at best, and counterproductive at worst.
Some seem to argue that engagement can't hurt. Regrettably, the Bush administration's experience has proven otherwise. Meetings, in which U.S. emissaries delivered blunt messages to Assad, were spun by Damascus as "breakthroughs" in Syrian-U.S. relations, undermining the morale of the region's democrats and alleviating pressure on the regime.
Rep. Tom Lantos, incoming chairman of the House International Relations Committee, met with Assad In 2003. After the meeting, Lantos returned to the Damascus Sheraton hotel and gave an unprecedented press conference, reviewing the full litany of U.S. grievances with Syrian policy, from human-rights abuses, to active undermining of stability in Iraq, to Syrian support for Palestinian terrorists and Hizbullah. His courageous public message countered the potentially negative implications of the visit. Given Syria's continuing problematic behavior, engagement absent this public component risks sending the wrong impression and further emboldening this already dangerous regime. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he was the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the secretary of defense. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Uzi Arad, former director of intelligence of the Mossad and director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, which next week hosts the Herzliya Conference on Israel's Balance of National Security, said in an interview this week:
Q: Isn't the dispute in the region more ideological than territorial?
Arad: "The ideological component - specifically, the visceral hostility toward Israel that varies only in degree among Arabs and Muslims - remains a problem....Therefore, to reduce the issue to its territorial aspects alone would be superficial....When addressing the territorial aspects, I believe that Israel should not be defeatist and accept all territorial demands, but rather should insist on compromises that satisfy its security needs; its own ideological and historical positions or values; and other national interests."
Q: What's your take on the Iranian issue?
Arad: "I personally believe that Iran's nuclear capability is preventable....I, personally, am optimistic, in the sense that if we - meaning the United States and we its allies - do all we are capable of doing, Iran can certainly be prevented from becoming nuclear. One should not consider it an inevitability. But the big 'if' is if there's the leadership, the political will, the savvy, the statecraft, the perseverance, the military creativity and the will to use all legitimate instruments of persuasion." (Jerusalem Post)
What type of political system does the Arab world want to have? Normal statehood, or a belligerent "resistance" in which the state is only a platform to provide infrastructure and services to the "resistance." This is an inter-Arab decision, and neither Israel nor the international community can make this decision for the Arabs. There are currently three active "resistances" in the Arab world: the Iraqi "resistance," Hizbullah, and the Palestinian "resistance." If successful, they may serve as the model all across the Arab world. If they fail, this may help to advance the alternative model of normality and push back the Iranian drive. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Some observers claim that Islamist extremists are impossible to defeat because they desire death and will not stray from their violent path. But there are cases in which terrorism was defeated. The Irish Republican Army was convinced to give up terrorist activity. Before it, violent radicals including the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction, and the Japanese Red Army vanished from the political landscape. Above all, terrorism is always dependent on extensive, external financial support. It is a principle of war enunciated by the great German strategist Clausewitz that "irregular," "insurgent" combat - of which terrorism is a subset - cannot survive without foreign help. Terrorism is not unbeatable. It will be beaten by arms, by psychology, and by cutting off their foreign support. (Family Security Foundation)
Israel-China trade climbed nearly 30% in 2006, to $3.8 billion, and is expected to reach $5 billion this year, catapulting China to the position of Israel's No. 2 trading partner, second only to the U.S. The China trade figures exclude business with Hong Kong, even though much of it is redirected to the mainland. The numbers also would be higher if Israel's lucrative arms sales to China hadn't come to an abrupt end in 2005 under heavy pressure from the Bush administration. Fortunately for Israel, the Chinese are interested in more than just military hardware. Hundreds of Israeli high-tech, chemical, and agricultural technology companies have seen exports to China soar. (Business Week)
An immense bedrock cliff uncovered opposite Jerusalem's Temple Mount may help explain why it took the Romans so long to capture what is now known as the Jewish Quarter almost two millennia ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday. The cliff, uncovered during a year-long excavation at the western edge of the Western Wall Plaza, was one of several important finds that include the remains of a colonnaded street called the Eastern Cardo, paved in the Roman manner with large flagstones set in place diagonally; a section of the Lower Aqueduct that conveyed water from Solomon's Pools to the Temple Mount; and a rock-hewn and plastered Jewish mikve (ritual bath) that dates back to the Second Temple period. (Jerusalem Post)
MK Yuri Shtern, 58, who died on Tuesday, had two great passions in public life - the Land of Israel and aliya. I knew Yuri from the late '70s in Moscow, where we both taught Hebrew. Yuri and I joined forces with Natan Sharansky and other MKs in 1996 to form the Israel B'Aliya party.
The policies Yuri worked on speak for themselves. His issues had more than political significance - they had social and public importance, as well. He really sought to introduce change, and he was effective. Yuri had dazzling knowledge in the fields he worked, and often was sought out for advice from other MKs. Yuri was a humanist; he was adamant about helping victims of terror, Holocaust survivors and veterans. Yuri also headed up the Christian Allies Caucus, which rallies support for Israel. His passing is a loss for all of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Threat Assessment: In the Middle East an Emboldened Iran
Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, January 18, 2007
Subscribe to the Daily Alert
Unsubscribe from the Daily Alert