Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Russian Listening Posts in Syria Track IDF Movements - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
- January 25, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Israeli Agricultural Advances
Two Hizbullah Bunkers Built in Israeli Territory Discovered, Destroyed - Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
Tracking Iran's Role in Iraq Attacks - Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
Intensive Course on Escaping Captors - Matthew B. Stannard (San Francisco Chronicle)
Israeli Male Lifespan Among Highest in Developed Countries - Relly Sa'ar (Ha'aretz)
Pilgrims' Road to Temple Unearthed in City of David Dig - Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East, according to government and counterterrorism officials. For more than a year, U.S. forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents. U.S. forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians without their knowledge, subjected others to retina scans, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them before letting them go. Officials said that about 150 Iranian intelligence officers, plus members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Command, are believed to be active inside Iraq at any given time. U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Iraq, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias.
The White House has authorized a widening of the list of approved operations that can be carried out against the Iranian-backed Hizbullah in Lebanon, and U.S. officials plan more aggressive moves to disrupt Tehran's funding of the radical Palestinian group Hamas. Advocates of the new policy said that only direct and aggressive efforts can shatter Iran's growing influence. A less confident Iran, with fewer cards, may be more willing to cut the kind of deal the Bush administration is hoping for on its nuclear program. "The Iranians respond to the international community only when they are under pressure, not when they are feeling strong," one official said. (Washington Post)
See also Tehran's Influence Growing in Iraq - Joshua Partlow
Iran's expanding influence in Iraq is built on deep cultural ties as well as personal and business relationships developed during the years that many leading Iraqi Shiite politicians spent in exile in Iran. (Washington Post)
Iran has converted its most powerful ballistic missile into a satellite launch vehicle that "will lift off soon" with an Iranian satellite, according to Alaoddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. U.S. agencies believe the launcher to be a derivation of the 800-1,000-mile-range Shahab 3 missile. The 30-ton rocket could also be a wolf in sheep's clothing for testing longer-range missile strike technologies.
Orbiting its own satellite would send a powerful message throughout the Muslim world about the Shiite regime in Tehran. There are concerns in the West that space launch upgrades could eventually create an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of nearly 2,500 miles, giving Tehran the ability to strike as far as central Europe, well into Russia and even China and India. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has told Congress that Iran may be capable of developing a 3,000-mile-range ICBM by 2015. (Aviation Week)
See also The Global Range of Iran's Ballistic Missile Program - Uzi Rubin
A space launch vehicle that can orbit a satellite weighing 300 kg. can be altered into an ICBM that could drop 300 kg. on Washington. (ICA/JCPA)
The Lebanese army imposed a curfew in Beirut Thursday after hundreds of government supporters and foes wielded rocks, Molotov cocktails and sometimes guns in street battles. Four people were killed and 150 wounded. (Washington Post)
See also International Aid Conference Raises $7.6 Billion for Lebanon - Helene Cooper
Led by Saudi Arabia and the U.S., international donors from more than 30 countries met in Paris on Thursday and pledged $7.6 billion in aid for Lebanon, in an effort to prop up the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Saudi Arabia promised $1.1 billion in loans and grants. The U.S. pledged $770 million in loans and grants, bringing to $1 billion the amount it has pledged to the Siniora government since September. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: "People today are divided more by their values than by their national or religious identity. The principles of justice, co-existence and tolerance do not belong to any religion or national identity."
"Every time we appease the radical forces, we will not only undermine the prospects for co-existence, we will also betray those moderate forces that are committed to it. But standing firm against the extremists is only one part of the equation. A message must also be conveyed to the moderates, and to the average person on the street, that if they have the courage to stand up to the radicals, they have partners....We must empower the moderates. We must demonstrate that we respect their faith and unique traditions and that we are ready to help them realize their legitimate aspirations, if they are ready to respect ours."
"For the ruling elite in Tehran, for Hizbullah and for Hamas, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not political and resolvable, but religious and irreconcilable. They are opposed to co-existence and to the two-state solution not just as a matter of policy but as a matter of ideology." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Ahmadinejad Must Be Tried in Hague - Hagit Klaiman
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Canadian and British members of parliament in London to harness support for an initiative that calls to put Iranian President Ahmadinejad on trial for inciting genocide. (Ynet News)
An elite police force on Thursday apprehended Omar Damra, 26, a Tanzim terror operative suspected of manufacturing explosives belts and planning suicide attacks inside Israeli cities and against military positions in the West Bank. Officials said that Damra and the Tanzim terror infrastructure in Nablus were directed by Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets at Israel Thursday evening. (Ynet News)
Gunmen killed a Fatah activist in Gaza early on Friday, hours after a Jeep carrying a Hamas security force drove over a roadside bomb, killing one. The bomb blast left a second member of the Hamas force in critical condition and wounded eight others including three bystanders, two of them children. After the event, Hamas gunmen started shooting in the air and calling for revenge. (Ynet News)
One year after their victory in the PA parliamentary election, Hamas leaders on Thursday had every reason to be satisfied. Political and financial sanctions imposed by the international community have failed to bring down the Hamas-led government. Efforts by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party to undermine the government of Ismail Haniyeh have also been unsuccessful. Predictions that Hamas' popularity would drop have proven to be wrong.
Reports that the U.S. and Israel are providing Abbas' security forces with rifles and ammunition to fight against Hamas have only damaged the reputation of Fatah, whose leaders are accused by Hamas of conspiring with foreign powers to topple a democratically elected government.
Abbas' threat to call early elections doesn't appear to bother anyone in Hamas. "Hamas will win another election," said a Palestinian editor in Gaza City. "They will win mainly because most Palestinians still don't regard Fatah as a better alternative." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
What's America's strategy in the Middle East? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week sketched a new framework based on what she calls the "realignment" of states that want to contain Iran and its radical Muslim proxies. Rice sees a new American effort to create a de facto alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states against Iranian extremism. However, "the reception will be very skeptical" among some Arabs, cautioned one prominent official.
The Bush administration's thinking about realignment helps explain why it has resisted engaging Syria and Iran. As Rice put it, "if you concentrate on engaging Syria and Iran, you may lose the chance to do the realignment." (Washington Post)
See also Dubious "Successes" in Iran - Editorial
As Iran tests missiles capable of targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, sends its Hizbullah clients into the streets to bring down the government of Lebanon and kicks out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, a bizarre consensus appears to have formed around the theory that Western "resolve" is actually forcing Tehran to change its behavior. We remain skeptical of the notion that we are on the verge of some kind of New Mideast Order in which "moderates" like the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia join hands with Israel to combat Iran and the Shi'ite radicals. Given reports that the Saudis continue to fund the Wahhabi networks that brought us al-Qaeda and Hamas, the current talk sounds more like spin than substance. (Washington Times)
President Carter's speech at Brandeis University on Tuesday should have been a real debate. Instead, it was a one-way dialogue with pre-screened questions and no rebuttals. Carter defends Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept the generous terms offered by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000-2001 - or to make a counteroffer. In fact, the Palestinians could have had a state in 1938, 1948, 1967 and on several other occasions, but their leaders cared more about destroying Israel than they did about creating Palestine. That is the core of the conflict. It is Palestinian terror, not Israeli policy, which prevents peace. Carter chooses to believe Arafat's story over that of Clinton, Barak and Saudi Prince Bandar, who called Arafat's refusal a "crime."
Even at Brandeis, President Carter continued to make the kinds of inaccurate claims that run throughout his book. He said, for example, that Hamas began a sixteen-month cease-fire in August 2004. He said nothing about Hamas rocket attacks in the weeks and months that followed, which killed innocent Israeli women and children. He claimed that Israel's security barrier was designed to seize land, when in fact it was proposed by left-wing Israelis, and aims only to protect civilians from bombings and sniper fire. I would like to join with President Carter in working for peace in the Middle East. But peace will not come if we insist on blaming one side in the conflict. (Jerusalem Post)
At the Herzliya Conference, members of the country's political, academic and military elite gather in one hall and talk in public for four days about Israel's strategic challenges. Each year the conference concludes with an address by the prime minister. Comparing Ehud Olmert's words this year with his speech from a year ago starkly reveals the extent to which Israel's strategic priorities have shifted. Whereas a year ago the prime minister focused on the need to separate from the Palestinians, this year the Palestinian issue was barely mentioned. Instead his focus was the existential threat posed by Iran, which was the dominant theme of the conference.
In the last 12 months Israel has fought a war with the Iranian-backed Hizbullah on its northern border, seen the election of Iranian-backed Hamas in the Palestinian territories and watched the growing influence of Iran in Iraq. All the while Iran keeps up its threatening rhetoric against Israel and the Jewish people and pursues nuclear weapons capability with contempt for united international opposition. When Iranian President Ahmadinejad states his desire to see Israel wiped off the map, Israelis take him at his word. The writer was head of policy and research for Labour Friends of Israel from 2004 to 2006. (Guardian-UK)
See also Game Theory Expert Views Iranian Nuclear Threat
Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Israel (Robert) Aumann addressed the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday. (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya)
In this 35-page study, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon offers an inside look at Israel's evolving response to Palestinian violence. He discusses Palestinian tactics, analyzes Israel's shift from defensive to offensive measures, and outlines key principles of counterterrorism to help guide policymakers in Israel and elsewhere. As the U.S. and its allies struggle to deal with the "global jihad," sharing the lessons of Israel's war on Palestinian terrorism is more important than ever. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Hizbullah casualties were not less than 500 and may have reached 700 - a figure greater than all the casualties Hizbullah has suffered during the last twenty years. It will take Hizbullah at least two years to rebuild its capabilities and to recruit and train new people. Israel also developed a system which made Hizbullah's long-range rocket launchers good for one use only. Within less than five minutes of launch they were destroyed by Israel's air force, an unprecedented achievement in modern warfare.
The determination of Israel's government to respond and to retaliate is a very important factor in restoring deterrence. Now those around Israel understand that Israel has certain red lines, and that if these lines are crossed, Israel's retaliation will be intentionally disproportionate. As a small country, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of reacting proportionally.
What is the real mood of the Israeli people after the war? It is that we are not suckers and we are not going to make the same mistake again. We are not going to put ourselves in danger if it is not necessary. We unilaterally retreated from Lebanon and didn't retaliate for six years, and in the end we found Hizbullah in a stronger position to fight against us. When Israel retreated from Gaza what was the result? More Kassam rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Iranian president's recent visits to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua all underscore Iran's increasingly close contact with Latin America. Iran's ambitions are, in fact, global, with Ahmadinejad visiting countries where the current leaders were elected on platforms that included heavy doses of anti-Americanism. Ahmadinejad has said, "We should make our presence felt in different parts of the world to promote our values." Exactly which values? Nuclear weapons development? Suppression of human rights? Calls for destruction of another UN-member state? Holocaust denial? Support for terrorism? Iran has gained a foothold in the Western Hemisphere and is seeking to expand its reach. We and our regional friends must seek to ensure that a bad situation does not become worse. The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee. (New York Sun)
A Helpless World - Editorial (Ha'aretz)
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