Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 31, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia Uses Syrian Port to Demonstrate Power in Mediterranean - Alex Kogan (Jerusalem Post)
    Russia is expanding its military presence in Syria, developing an advanced naval port at Tartus and providing Syria with sophisticated missile technology.
    Tartus, Syria's second most important port after Latakia, is Moscow's only foreign naval outpost situated outside the former Soviet Union.
    Russian media reported last year that Moscow had begun dredging at Tartus with a possible eye to turning what was largely a logistical base into a full-fledged station for its Black Sea Fleet, soon to be redeployed from the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.
    Tartus allows projection of Russian power into the entire eastern Mediterranean, and, by extension, a flexing of military might before Israel and the West.
    Russian sources said the country's military planned to form a squadron to operate in the Mediterranean within three years, built around the Moskva missile cruiser.
    Russian newspapers have reported that Moscow planned to deploy an S-300PMU-2 Favorit air-defense system to protect the base, with the system being operated by Russian servicemen rather than by Syrian forces.
    According to these reports, the system would provide air defense protection for a large part of Syria.

Israeli Ballistic Missile Defense Planning - Martin Sieff (UPI/Space War)
    Israeli ballistic missile defense planning initially focused on preparing to deal with a possible nuclear threat from Iran.
    The excellent Israeli-made Arrow - probably the best ABM interceptor in the world for longer ranges and higher altitudes - was designed and upgraded with precisely this kind of threat in mind.
    A recent series of highly successful tests measured the effectiveness of upgraded versions of the Arrow against target missiles configured to perform like Iranian intermediate-range Shahab-3s.
    However, the Syrian ballistic missile threat to Israel, while non-nuclear, adds an ominous level of complexity to the threat that defense planners in Tel Aviv must deal with.
    Where Iranian missiles would be relatively few in number, Syria already has vastly more much smaller and shorter-range missiles, which pose a very different but also very serous threat.
    Israelis may even face a combination of Iranian and Syrian threats and need to defend themselves simultaneously against intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles with potential nuclear warheads from Iran, while at the same time having to deal with hundreds of shorter-range, lower trajectory weapons fired from Syria.

New Israeli Armor for Combat Vehicles - Leah Krauss (UPI/Space War)
    Rafael Armament Development Authority, one of Israel's largest defense firms, has unveiled its next-generation "add-on armor technology" for combat vehicles.
    The system can deflect rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, explosively formed projectiles, high-speed fragments from artillery bombs, and armor-piercing projectiles from heavy machine guns.
    These "make up the majority of threats to troop vehicles in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other current conflicts," a company statement said.
    It is the only product of its kind currently on the market, a company spokesman said.

Iraqi Sunnis Turn on Al-Qaeda over Marriages - David R. Sands (Washington Times)
    Iraq's Sunni tribes began turning against al-Qaeda when the largely foreign-run terrorist organization tried to arrange forced marriages with local women to secure their foothold in the country, according to Australian Col. David Kilcullen, who just completed a tour as senior counterinsurgency aide to U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus in Baghdad.
    "The uprising represents very significant political progress toward reconciliation at the grass-roots level," Col. Kilcullen wrote Wednesday in the military blog Small Wars Journal.
    An estimated 30,000 Sunni fighters in Iraq are now battling their former al-Qaeda allies.
    The tactic of forced political marriages was standard for al-Qaeda, according to Col. Kilcullen, used successfully in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere to "embed" the international terrorist network in the local kinship and tribal network.
    But in Iraq, he wrote, "the tactic seemed to have backfired." Forced marriages outside the tribe have never been culturally accepted in traditional Iraqi society, and tribal leaders resisted demands for such marriages.

Most Palestinians Don't Trust Either Fatah's Abbas or Hamas' Haniyeh - Khaled Amayreh (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    The showdown between Fatah and Hamas continues to poison the collective psyche of the Palestinian people. According to a recent survey conducted by a credible pollster based in Jerusalem, nearly 80% of respondents said they didn't trust either Abbas or Haniyeh.
    Last week, a close aide to Abbas intimated to Al-Ahram that up to 22,000 young Palestinians have filed immigration applications, with many citing the depressive aftereffects of the enduring crisis between Fatah and Hamas as their reason for seeking futures elsewhere.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA: Iran Expanding Its Nuclear Program - Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad
    Iran is expanding its nuclear program in defiance of UN resolutions, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday. Its assessment states that Iran is now simultaneously operating nearly 2,000 centrifuges, the machines that produce enriched uranium, at its vast underground facility at Natanz, an increase of several hundred machines from three months ago. More than 650 additional centrifuges are being tested or are under construction.
        But the program is running at well below capacity. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said his own calculations, based on the report's data, suggested that Iran was operating its centrifuges at as little as 10% of their potential. (New York Times)
  • Inspectors Find Decade-Old Iraqi Chemical Gas at UN Office in New York - Colum Lynch
    UN weapons inspectors stumbled upon evidence of Saddam Hussein's elusive weapons of mass destruction: a vial of potentially lethal chemical gas that was stored in a UN shipping crate in midtown Manhattan, just a block from UN headquarters, more than 10 years ago and forgotten, UN officials announced Thursday. Experts from the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission - which is set to shut down in the coming months - found a small sample of phosgene, a choking agent.
        The chemical gas was recovered from Hussein's Muthanna chemical weapons facility in 1996, according to Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the UN commission. Svetlana Utkina, a Russian weapons expert who works for the commission, said that the phosgene, if exposed, could have been deadly. "Your lungs would collapse immediately if you inhale this substance," she said. (Washington Post)
  • UN: Re-Route Palestinian Trade through Jordan and Egypt
    A new UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report says that to reduce Palestinian dependence on Israel, "it is critical to establish alternative routes for Palestinian trade through port facilities in Jordan and Egypt. Re-routing of Palestinian trade should be developed within a context of regional transit transport agreements. Needed also is a shift in the debate from security issues to ensuring secure flow of trade." (United Nations)
  • Israel Warned U.S. on Iraq - Gareth Porter
    Israeli officials warned the Bush administration that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilizing to the region and urged the U.S. instead to target Iran as the primary enemy, according to former Bush administration official Lawrence Wilkerson, a member of the State Department's policy planning staff and later chief of staff for secretary of state Colin Powell. After the Israeli government picked up the first signs that the Bush administration was thinking of war against Iraq, said Wilkerson, "The Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy - Iran is the enemy."
        Wilkerson describes the Israeli message to the Bush administration in early 2002 as being, "If you are going to destabilize the balance of power, do it against the main enemy." The warning against an invasion of Iraq was "pervasive" in Israeli communications with the U.S. administration, Wilkerson recalled. It was conveyed to the administration by a wide range of Israeli sources, including political figures, intelligence, and private citizens. Wilkerson noted that the main point of their communications was not that the U.S. should immediately attack Iran, but that "it should not be distracted by Iraq and Saddam Hussein" from a focus on the threat from Iran. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
  • Israeli Arab Dies from 2006 Hizbullah Rocket Attack
    Muhammad Salum, 40, who was severely burned, blinded and lost a leg when a Hizbullah rocket struck his home in the northern Israeli city of Haifa during the 2006 Lebanon war last August, has died from his wounds. He was the 40th civilian fatality of the war on the Israeli side. (BBC News)
  • Defense in Lobbyists Case: Back-Channel Disclosures Are Common Practice - Matt Apuzzo
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior intelligence officials should not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, federal prosecutors argued in a closed-door court hearing Friday. Two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists facing espionage charges have subpoenaed Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and several others to testify at their trial, set for Jan. 14.
        Documents filed by attorneys for lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman argue that the interest group played an unofficial but sanctioned role in crafting foreign policy and that Rice and others can confirm it - that back-channel disclosures are an everyday common practice. That argument is a key to the defense. Defense attorneys suggested that top U.S. officials regularly used the lobbyists as a go-between as they crafted Middle East policy. If so, attorneys say, how are Rosen and Weissman supposed to know the same behavior that's expected of them on one day is criminal the next? (AP/Forbes)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF, PA Meet for Security Talks - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The heads of Palestinian security organizations in the West Bank met Thursday with Israel Defense Forces officers in the highest-level talks held since 1994 in Beit El army headquarters, near Ramallah. IDF Brig.-Gen. Noam Tivon said that as long as there are no terrorist attacks and the security of Israelis is safeguarded, it will be possible to ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. He promised that as Ramadan approaches, he will stress greater sensitivity to the needs of the civilian population. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Peace Summit May Be at Foreign Minister Level - Herb Keinon
    Andrey Demidov, the No. 2 diplomat at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, said he was told recently by U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones that the proposed meeting in Washington called by President Bush would "be at the level of foreign ministers" - and not heads of government. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Archaeologists: Muslim Dig Damaged Temple Wall - Etgar Lefkovits
    A month-old Islamic dig on Jerusalem's Temple Mount to replace faulty electrical cables has damaged an ancient wall that is likely a remnant of the Second Temple, Israeli archaeologists said Thursday. Among the antiquities that have been damaged are a 7-meter-wide wall that apparently dates back to Second-Temple times and was likely part of the Temple courts, according to Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount. Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said that the Temple Mount had become "one big construction site."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Sharansky: Saudi Arabia Is Not Part of the Solution - Gil Hoffman
    Natan Sharansky, who currently chairs the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, said in an interview Thursday that when U.S. Secretary of State Rice included Saudi Arabia in her list of "moderate countries in the Middle East," he asked her what was moderate about the Saudi regime. She admitted that he had touched a weak point and from then on, she referred instead to "responsible Middle Eastern countries." "America has wanted for many years to make Saudi Arabia part of the solution in the Middle East, but if you believe in a link between security and democracy, it's not possible," Sharansky said.
        "It's true that Saudi Arabia is against Iran, but it's ridiculous to say Israel has to make concessions to bring the Saudis on board the Middle East peace process. Bush said only leadership that brings democratic reforms can bring peace to the Middle East. That's the last thing the Saudis want to do. Democratic reforms are almost as big a threat to the Saudis as Iran."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Friday morning that landed near a kibbutz in Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's New Highway - Marty Peretz
    Steven Erlanger of the New York Times filed a report with the headline, "New West Bank Road Sets Arabs Apart" and a second headline, "New Israeli Highway Has Palestinian Lanes." Once again, the specter of apartheid. For years the Palestinians have complained that there was no direct highway from Ramallah and further north (Nablus, Jenin) in the West Bank to Bethlehem, Hebron and further south. Now they will have it, and Israelis will not be able to use their road. It is preposterous to think of this highway as a demonic act against the Palestinians. It may, in fact, hasten an agreement. When and if there will be a negotiated peace there will also be two highways systems, however close. (New Republic)
  • Free the Soldiers - Malcolm Hoenlein
    As we approach the New Year, we must dedicate our efforts to making sure that the missing soldiers Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser and the others from previous years are not forgotten. It is incumbent on us to fulfill our responsibility of Pidyon Shevuim, the redeeming of captives. These men were defending the people of Israel and Jews around the world, and we must continue to mobilize coalitions of support, reach out to public officials, members of the UN, and all those who can possibly help.
        We need to let those who are holding the soldiers captive know that we will not be quiet or get tired, and we will continue to demand their release in every forum as long as they are being held. Every person should find a way to express their concern about the issue, including writing letters to newspapers, the Secretary General and members of the UN, and to our own government. Congress and the Administration have been supportive in working towards securing the release of the soldiers, and we should encourage them to continue with their efforts. We must expand efforts to secure broad participation in public manifestations including ads, rallies, and other events to show this is a cause of the American people. (Conference of Presidents)
  • Saudi Arabia: The Islamist Cage - Youssef Ibrahim
    All of the constituent elements of Saudi society - from business and charity to religious instruction, law enforcement, and foreign relations - rattle inside the cage of the country's fundamentalist obsessions. Saudi foreign aid is based on building fundamentalist madrassas and mosques, supporting such fundamentalist groups as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and spreading Koranic instruction worldwide. Arab and Muslim expatriate workers who have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia - easily numbering 50 million over the last three decades - return imbued with a model of militancy that duplicates a bin Laden-style path toward jihad against their home societies.
        By the late '90s, there were full-size mirror images of Saudi Arabia's stilted brand of Islam in Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as among Muslim communities in Europe, Australia, and America. More mirror images are in the making. (New York Sun)
        See also Saudi Arabia's Religious Police Run Amok - Stephen Schwartz (Weekly Standard)
  • Poisonously Biased - Andrea Levin
    CNN's Christiane Amanpour has set a new standard - and not the kind a news network usually trumpets. "God's Jewish Warriors," her two-hour screed against Israeli settlers and American supporters of Israel, is the most poisonously biased and factually shoddy feature to air on mainstream American television in recent memory. To demonstrate the supposed threat of Jewish fundamentalism, the few cases of Jewish terrorism - a handful spanning decades, with each one overwhelmingly denounced by Israeli society and with those involved arrested, tried and jailed - are elaborated on at length and cast as a profound peril.
        Amanpour is similarly deceptive and manipulative in other depictions of nefarious Jewish power, respectfully interviewing both Jimmy Carter and John Mearsheimer, and giving not the slightest hint of the gross factual errors in the charges leveled by the two controversial figures whose recent, incendiary allegations against Israel have been extensively debunked.
        Amanpour declares bizarrely that "the 40-year tug of war over Jerusalem began when Israel bulldozed the Arab neighborhood next to the Western Wall and built a plaza where Jews now pray." Obviously, the modern battle over Jerusalem "began" 60 years ago, when the Arabs attacked in 1948 to destroy the newborn State of Israel, seizing the eastern side of Jerusalem, including the Jewish quarter of the Old City. Every Jew was expelled or killed and all synagogues were destroyed. Thereafter, for 19 years, no Jew could pray at the Western Wall and Christians had limited access to their holy sites. (Jerusalem Post)
  • No Peace with the Present Regime in Damascus - Guy Bechor
    Syria is an important neighbor of Israel. When there is democracy there, when the Syrians understand the meaning of peace and drop their demands for territory when they have no intentions of establishing peace, then we will have peaceful relations with them. But with the current Alawite minority regime, which is responsible for the cruel death of tens of thousands of Syrians in Hama in 1982, the murder of prisoners in Tadmor jail, the murder of dozens of Lebanese leaders and politicians, the fierce anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement over many years, and which is responsible for the murder of Lebanon's prime minister, with people like this, we are not interested in any form of dialogue.
        Syria does not have peaceful relations with any Arab state. At best, its relations with its neighbors range from hostility to mutual dislike. Syria's relations veer from hostile to cool with Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the PA - so why with Israel? The writer is head of Middle Eastern Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. (Ynet News)
  • Contemporary Legal Lessons from the Holocaust - Michael J. Bazyler
    Sixty years after the Nuremberg Trials, the "Nuremberg legacy" is part of modern international law. An important aim of the Western judges and prosecutors at Nuremberg was to spotlight the wholesale corruption of the German legal system during the Nazi period. The failure of German legal actors to oppose the Nazi transformation of German law into legal barbarism has implications for the current dilemma faced by liberal democracies on how to maintain civil liberties while simultaneously enacting laws to protect against terrorism. Remembering the behavior of German judges and lawyers during the Nazi era can help ensure that today's democracies, faced with the threat of terrorism, do not transform themselves into legal tyrannies. The writer is professor of law at Whittier Law School in California. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

    Weekend Features

  • Hockey Night in Israel - Steve Simmons
    The first World Jewish Ice Hockey Tournament was held in July in Metulla in northern Israel, featuring teams from Canada, Israel, France and the U.S. Israel, coached by Stanley Cup winner Jean Perron, defeated Team Canada 2-1. Perron is not Jewish, but four years ago, a Montreal businessman named Alan Maislin asked him if he would like to donate one day of his life for Israeli hockey. "As someone who grew up learning classical studies in Quebec, the Holy Land for me was a dream." The dream culminated with Perron being named national team coach and taking an Israeli team of unknowns to the gold medal in the 'C' version of the world hockey championships. (Toronto Sun)
  • Israeli Museum Launches Looted Holocaust Art Database - Matti Friedman
    Israel's national museum has launched an Internet catalog of more than 1,000 pieces of art looted by the Nazis to allow Holocaust survivors and their heirs to identify and reclaim property. The pieces include drawings, Judaica items and paintings - several of them worth millions of dollars - that were plundered by German troops, recovered by the Allies in postwar Europe and later transferred to Israel. (AP/Forbes)
  • Observations:

    The Wrong Platform - Signed by seven members of the European Parliament from Britain, France, Poland and Belgium (International Herald Tribune)

    • The UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) has a proven record of anti-Israel bias, spreading propaganda that presents only the Palestinian narrative, including the delegitimization of Israel - a UN member state.
    • The CEIRPP is first and foremost harmful to the UN. Its work only reinforces a long held Israeli suspicion vis-a-vis the UN and contributes nothing to the cause of peace.
    • Its conference this week at the European Parliament will harm the cause of peace and also damage European credibility as an honest broker. As members of the European Parliament, we are shocked that this biased event would take place within our institutional premises.
    • The European Parliament should not give them a platform in the only representative body of the European Union, whose goals are to foster dialogue and understanding, not acrimony, mistrust and despair.

          See also Calls for Israel Boycott at UN Conference at EU Parliament - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)

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