Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 1, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel's New Spy Satellite Transmits Top Quality Images - Yuval Azoulay (Ha'aretz)
    Footage from Israel's TESCAR satellite, launched into space two weeks ago, was transmitted for the first time Wednesday.
    The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) reported that the satellite, which could boost Israel's intelligence gathering capabilities regarding Iran, was working perfectly.

    See also Israel Air Force Chief Warns Israeli Satellites Could Be Targeted in Orbit (Jerusalem Post)
    Parties that are hostile to Israel could attempt to target Israeli satellites orbiting earth, Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedi said Wednesday at a conference dedicated to the memory of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

IDF Has Learned Lessons of Second Lebanon War - Yuval Azoulay (Ha'aretz)
    In the wake of the Winograd war probe report, it can be said that a substantial part of the areas requiring improvement have already been taken care of, and some have already been implemented in the field.
    The IDF did not wait for the report and immediately after the war initiated a thorough investigation of all issues and at all levels, executed by over 70 different teams made up of experts, senior and junior officers, as well as reservists with a wealth of experience.

Saddam Intended to Resume WMD Programs - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    George Piro, one of the few FBI agents who speaks Arabic and who debriefed Saddam Hussein following his capture in December 2003, was interviewed Sunday by Scott Pelley on CBS's "60 Minutes."
    The FBI interrogator said that, while Saddam said he no longer had active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in 2003, the dictator admitted that he intended to resume those programs as soon as he possibly could.
    "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there....He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program," Piro said.
    Saddam told Piro that he maintained a pretense of having those weapons mainly to keep Iran at bay.
    But the key point is Saddam's admission that an Iraqi WMD program remained a threat so long as Saddam remained in power.

China-Iran 2007 Trade Exceeds $20B (China Knowledge)
    According to the latest statistics from Iran, the total trade volume between China and Iran exceeded $20 billion in 2007, soaring more than 38% from the previous year.
    Javad Mansouri, Iran's ambassador, said in Bejing Wednesday that Iran provided 13% of China's oil imports.
    In 2006, China overtook Japan to become Iran's largest trade partner, with bilateral trade amounting to $14.45 billion.

2007 Was Busiest Year Ever for American Tourism to Israel (AP/Miami Herald)
    In 2007, more Americans visited Israel than ever before. 529,000 Americans made the trip, according to Arie Sommer, Israel's tourism commissioner for North and South America.
    The previous record year was 1999, when 515,000 Americans visited the country.
    About 25% of all tourists to Israel come from the U.S.
    While some Americans go to connect with their Jewish heritage, Sommer estimates that as many as a third of U.S. visitors are Christian.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gunmen Attack Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, 3 Hurt - Daniel Flynn
    Gunmen opened fire on the Israeli embassy in Mauritania early on Friday, wounding at least three people, although no embassy staff were hurt in the shooting, said the Israeli ambassador in Nouakchott, Boaz Bismuth. Witnesses said the attackers, who numbered at least three, shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) as they exchanged fire with guards at the fortified embassy. The attack followed recent public calls by political parties in Mauritania, an Islamic republic, for the government to sever diplomatic ties with Israel. (Reuters)
  • CIA Kills Top Al-Qaeda Terrorist in Pakistan
    Abu Laith al-Libi, a wanted al-Qaeda terrorist, was killed in Pakistan by a CIA airstrike, three U.S. officials told CNN Thursday. Al-Libi was a senior al-Qaeda leader believed to have plotted and executed attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, including a February 2007 bombing at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Cheney. He was on a "most wanted" list of 12 accused terrorists which was issued in October. The Pakistani military said an explosion occurred in North Waziristan on Tuesday, and 12 people were killed. (CNN)
  • Gaza's Greenhouses Become Hot Property in Egypt - Will Rasmussen
    Gazans are busy dismantling greenhouses to sell in Egypt. Palestinians with years of experience working in Israeli greenhouses carted metal bars and poles, and translucent plastic sheeting, to sell the Israeli-style greenhouses to Egyptians after the border opened last week. Such equipment was unavailable in Egypt. Egyptian farmers snapped up the greenhouses, eager for sturdier structures and Gazan expertise. Egyptian Mahmoud Dohair, 22, said he had bought 11 greenhouses in the past week in Egyptian Rafah to bring back to his uncle's farm in the Suez Canal town of Ismailia. "We don't have greenhouses like this here....These are cheaper and stronger than ours," he said.
        The influx of tens of thousands of Palestinians has boosted the economies of impoverished towns in Egypt's Sinai peninsula in the past week. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Agrees to Joint Rafah Border Control with Abbas' Forces; Mubarak: Gaza Will Never Be Part of Egypt - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas is not opposed to joint Palestinian management of the Gaza crossings, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday. After talks between Hamas leaders and Egyptian government officials in Cairo, Zahar told Al Jazeera that Hamas would not object to Mahmoud Abbas' Presidential Guard controlling the Rafah crossing on condition that Israel had no say over procedures there. Hamas leaders stressed during the talks in Cairo that they were strongly opposed to the return of PA security forces to the border crossing under the terms of a 2005 U.S.-brokered agreement.
        Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the Italian daily La Republica that Gaza would never be part of Egypt, and that Israel's dream of "throwing the Strip" at the Egyptians was "only a dream." Egyptian police have raided dozens of houses in Al-Arish and other towns in search of Palestinians planning to stay in Egypt. Egypt is reported to have deployed 25,000 policemen and soldiers in Sinai as part of a massive crackdown aimed at forcing all the Palestinians who entered Egypt to return to Gaza. While vehicles are prevented from crossing, pedestrians continued to pour across the border. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: Egypt Arrests 12 Armed Palestinians in Sinai
    Egypt claimed Friday morning that it arrested twelve armed Palestinians on suspicion that they were planning to attack Israeli tourists vacationing in Sinai, Israel Radio reported. An Egyptian security official said the group was arrested near the Rafah crossing and the Ahmad Hamdi tunnel, leading to Sinai coastal resorts. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Thursday
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that struck the Israeli city of Sderot on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli 9/11 Victim Laid to Rest - Shmulik Hadad
    On Thursday, six years after the September 11 attacks, the remains of Ashdod resident Alona Avraham were laid to rest. Avraham, 30, was on United Airlines flight 175 from Boston, which crashed into the southern tower of the World Trade Center. Her mother, Miriam, said she was informed about a month and a half ago that the remains of her daughter had been identified using DNA samples taken from relatives. Hundreds of people took part in the funeral, including the relatives of other Israelis who perished in the attacks. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Israel-Gaza Conflict: No Change - Jonathan Spyer
    Ineffectual Egyptian administration of Gaza's southern border has led to a large-scale influx of weaponry into the Strip. The Hamas-led entity has sought to engage Israel in a roiling, ongoing war of attrition through the use of rocket attacks and support for acts of terror launched from Gaza. For the moment, at least, it appears that the border is now to be administered through a joint effort by Hamas and the Egyptian security forces. Hamas will thus be engaged in partial control of an international frontier.
        But whatever the final arrangement, Israel will continue to demand that Egypt adequately police the crossings, and Egypt will continue to fail to do so. Hamas efforts to bring in weaponry will also continue, and its support for Kassam rocket attacks on western Negev communities will remain. This process makes a major Israeli operation into Gaza, at some point in the future, a near inevitability. (Guardian-UK)
  • Gaza Border Breach: Egypt Gains a Muslim Brotherhood Province - Ruthie Blum
    Hillel Fradkin, director of the Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World at the Hudson Institute in Washington, said in an interview: "The Muslim Brotherhood has in general always looked forward to such a day - to the establishment of an 'Islamic state' as it understands it. The new situation in Gaza represents for the Brotherhood as a whole an inspiring 'achievement.' However, until last week, the 'state of Gaza' was limited in its access to the world, including to Egypt. The breach in the wall changed that. One might say that Gaza now, at least temporarily, has become linked to the Egyptian economy, and in this and other ways has become the responsibility of Egypt. It is almost as if Egypt now has a 'Brotherhood province.'" (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Small Victory for Israel at the UN Security Council - Michal Lando
    The decision by the UN Security Council to abandon attempts to agree on a presidential statement on the situation in Gaza constituted a rare victory for Israel, and the ensuing discussions signified a subtle shift away from the condemnation of Israel typical of the international body. The non-binding presidential statement originally sought to condemn Israel for the humanitarian crises in Gaza, making no mention of rocket attacks on Israel.
        Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman reminded the council that the UN charter instructs them to carefully "screen and consider" who to admit to the 15-member body, suggesting that Libya, the president of the council this month, should never have been included. "This was highlighted today by the litany of bias, distortion, bigotry and hate delivered by the representative of a country [Libya] that was itself under sanctions of this council, the same people who gave the world [the] Lockerbie [bombing]." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Says Libya Unworthy of Seat on UN Security Council - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
  • Israel Is Doing Better Than You've Heard - Peter Berkowitz
    Israelis face a formidable array of national security threats. Weapons continue to flow from Egypt into Gaza, Hamas continues to rain down Kassam rockets on the civilian residents of the Israeli town of Sderot and on surrounding kibbutzim. In the West Bank, Israeli security forces operate around the clock to foil terrorist operations before they cross over into Israel. In the south of Lebanon, Hizbullah has rearmed. And then there is Iran, which would present a grave danger to Israel should it succeed in becoming a nuclear power.
        There is a consensus among Israelis that the conditions for implementing a solution to the conflict do not now exist and are not likely to come into being anytime soon. Despite the intentions of Abbas and Fayyad, Fatah is too corrupt, the Palestinian educational system is too poisonous, Jerusalem too sensitive an issue, and Hamas too appealing to too many Palestinians. Most important, any political agreement would require the Israeli army and internal security forces to leave the West Bank, but few in Israel believe that can be done without paying an intolerable price - exposing Tel Aviv and environs, the center of the country's commercial life and home to half its citizens, to constant rocket attacks.
        Because it faces up to harsh realities without losing sight of the demands of justice, the evolving consensus reflects the strength of the nation. The writer is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a visiting professor at Georgetown University. (Weekly Standard)

    Weekend Feature

  • Survivors of Exodus 1947 Preserve Stories - Karen Goldberg Goff
    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in conjunction with several groups in Israel, is working on a project to find surviving passengers and crew members of the Exodus 1947. There never was an official passenger manifest, and so much time has passed that this is not an easy task, says Genya Markon, the museum's curator of collections. The museum has the names of about 2,300 people who were on the ship and has made contact with 270 passengers and four crew members. Most of the known survivors live in the United States or Israel.
        Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, says lessons of the Exodus 1947 still ring true today. "The important role of American volunteers on the Exodus is a reminder that the struggle to establish Israel was supported by a broad coalition of Americans of all faiths - and that support for Jewish statehood continues among Americans to this day," he says. "It is no surprise that many Americans sympathized with the Jewish immigration struggle, given its strong parallels to American history. Refugees from persecution were trying to build a country based on liberty and equality, only to be blocked." (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    As the Enrichment Machines Spin On in Iran (Economist-UK)

    • If you are locked eyeball to eyeball with an adversary as wily as Iran, it does not make much sense to do something that emboldens your opponent and sows defeatism among your friends. But that, it is now clear, is precisely what America's spies achieved when they said in December that, contrary to their own previous assessments, Iran stopped its secret nuclear-weapons program in 2003.
    • Ahmadinejad immediately called the American National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) a "great victory" for his country. Western diplomats are despondent and international efforts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium and working on plutonium have been thrown into confusion. Already difficult diplomacy has got harder as the NIE produced an abrupt softening in the positions of the Russians and Chinese.
    • If Iran is out of the nuclear-weapons business, why the gloom and doom? Although the NIE talks of a halt to Iran's "weapons program," its conclusions relate only to the design and engineering effort and past hidden uranium experiments. But the weaponization work the NIE thinks was halted is easy to restart and easy to hide. Hence the fury of some of America's closest European allies at the NIE's selective and mangled message.
    • Unchanged is the suspicion hanging over Iran's nuclear intentions. Ahmadinejad has never been able to explain convincingly why Iran is the first country to have built a uranium-enrichment plant without having a single civilian nuclear-power reactor that could burn its output (the ones Russia has all but completed at Bushehr will operate only on Russian-made fuel).
    • Although the 3,000 fast-spinning centrifuge machines it has up and running at Natanz are enriching only to the low levels used in civilian reactors, running the material through a few more times, or reconfiguring the centrifuge cascades, could soon produce uranium of weapons grade.

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