Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 4, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israelis Contributed to Daring Colombian Hostage Rescue - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was released after six years in captivity on Wednesday, compared her "impeccable" rescue operation to Israeli commando operations and Israel indeed contributed to the daring rescue mission.
    The Israelis involved in the operation feel it is important to accord the credit to Colombia. "It's a Colombian Entebbe operation," former IDF General Staff operations chief Brig.-Gen. (res.) Israel Ziv said Thursday.
    A year and a half ago, Colombia asked Israel for help in its struggle against FARC, which had become a militia specializing in kidnapping civilians and military figures for ransom.
    The Israeli activity, involving dozens of security experts, was coordinated by Global CST, owned by Ziv and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yosef Kuperwasser, former head of IDF Military Intelligence's research division.
    A company source said, "We helped them prepare themselves to fight terror. We helped them to plan operations and strategies and develop intelligence sources." Israelis also provided equipment and intelligence technology.

Fortress Gaza - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    In the event of a major IDF incursion into Gaza, Hamas would seek to maintain a steady rain of rockets on Israeli communities around the Strip and would try to inflict losses on IDF ground forces.
    To make this possible, Hamas is feverishly training as well as acquiring relevant weapons systems of a far superior quality.
    These include a wire-guided anti-tank missile, probably the AT-3 Sagger, and additional anti-tank guided missiles: the AT-4 Spigot, the tripod-fired AT-5 Spandrel and the shoulder-fired AT-14 Spriggan - all useful against armor at ranges of several kilometers.
    In addition, Hamas is thought to have large numbers of RPG-29 Vampir handheld anti-tank grenade launchers with a range of 500 meters, which are capable of penetrating reactive armor and are considered far superior to the RPG 7 systems used in the past.
    Hamas is also developing improvised explosive devices, using an Iranian-developed, locally-produced system that it says can penetrate 20 cm. of steel.
    Furthermore, extensive recruitment has been taking place. Hamas claims to have around 20,000 men under arms.

PA Leaders: Quntar a Hero - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
    According to the Palestinian Authority leadership, Samir Quntar epitomizes the ideal. Quntar, who crushed the head of four-year-old Eynat Haran with his rifle, is serving four life sentences for murder in an Israeli prison, but is almost certain to be freed in a prisoner swap with Hizbullah.
    Quntar also killed Eynat's father Danny Haran and two policemen in the 1979 attack in Nahariya.
    PA TV, controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, broadcast a picture honoring Quntar, depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag.
    Recent comments by PA leaders include: "The brave warrior, Samir Quntar." "The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership are standing behind you." "Your patience and strength are a lesson for us."

Is It Over for America in the Middle East? - Martin Kramer (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
    America's era in the Middle East has only just begun. Until 2003, the U.S. was positioned off-shore, attempting to manage the region through diplomacy, aid, arms sales, and the occasional cruise missile.
    Since the Iraq invasion, the U.S. has immersed itself in the nitty-gritty of engineering the reconstruction of a major Arab state.
    The Middle East is full of what America wants and needs: dictatorships to be broken, oil to be explored and exported, a religion in need of reformation.
    The region is sufficiently fragmented that the U.S. will never manage to enrage everyone at once.
    The U.S. is likely to remain on-shore in the Middle East, overtly or behind a veil, for a long time to come.
    When Britain pulled up stakes, it knew the vacuum would be filled by America. If we leave, it will be filled by Iran.

Ethiopian Sigd Made Official Israeli Holiday (Ynet News)
    The Knesset decided to formally add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of state holidays, and will be holding an annual state ceremony for it during the Hebrew month of Heshvan, which usually falls in October or November.
    Sigd is a traditional Ethiopian day of fasting, dedicated to prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and giving thanks for the right to return to the Holy Land.

Cooking with the Enemy - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
    Orna Pitusi, an Israeli, and Clara Khoury, a Palestinian, star as two television chefs in the drama series "Good Intentions" at prime-time on Israel's Channel Two.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • America Softens Stance on Iran's Nuclear Program - David Blair
    America and its allies have quietly watered down their stance on Iran's nuclear program, pledging no more economic sanctions if Tehran keeps its enrichment of uranium at present levels. America's position had been that Iran must completely stop enriching uranium or face steadily increasing pressure. Four UN resolutions, three of which impose economic sanctions on Tehran, make this demand. Yet the latest offer to Iran softens this stance. When a delegation of diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China traveled to Tehran last month, they offered economic and technical help if Iran completely stopped enriching uranium. Crucially, they also said that if Iran merely froze enrichment at present levels, no new sanctions would be imposed.
        The "freeze for freeze" offer - with its acceptance that Iran can operate 3,000 centrifuges without incurring more sanctions - may be interpreted as the first sign that America is becoming reconciled to Iran's nuclear ambitions. At present, Iran's plans provide for the installation of as many as 48,000 centrifuges. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Understands Israel's "Very Real Security Threats" in "Close-Quarters Geography"; Opening Third Front with Iran Would Be Stressful to U.S.
    Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen on Wednesday discussed his recent visit to Israel. "As always, when I visit Israel, I'm reminded of the very real security threats they face and the tyranny of what I call "close-quarters geography" within which they face them. Israel remains a vital and trusted military ally in the Middle East," he said.
        "We certainly talked about Iran and the degree to which the Israeli military views the Iranian regime as a threat to their security and to the security of the broader Middle East." From the U.S. military perspective, "opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us. That doesn't mean we don't have capacity or reserve, but that would really be very challenging. And also the consequences of that sometimes are very difficult to predict. So I think that, you know, just about every move in that part of the world is a high-risk move. And that's why I think it's so important that the international piece, the financial piece, the diplomatic piece, the economic piece be brought to bear with a level of intensity that resolves this." (U.S. Department of Defense)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Breaks Truce, Israel Closes Crossings - Shmulik Hadad
    In yet another violation of the agreed-upon cease-fire between Israel and armed Palestinian organizations, which went into effect two weeks ago, a Palestinian rocket fired from northern Gaza struck Israel Thursday. In light of the attack, Defense Minister Barak ordered the closure of all the crossings along the Gaza-Israel border. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Faces Missile Fire from Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah - Yossi Melman
    Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben Eliahu, commander of the Israel Air Force from 1996 to 2000, this week surveyed the changes in Israel's national security doctrine amid the changing nature of wars at a meeting of the Israel Missile Defense Association. Ben Eliahu estimates that in the next war, Syria and Iran might launch between 250 and 300 long-range missiles at Israel (Shahab and Scud missiles) and another 5,000 short-range missiles (mainly from Hizbullah in Lebanon).
        To intercept a single long-range missile, one needs an average of two intercepting missiles and between 500 and 700 missiles in all. In addition, Israel must keep another 200 intercepting missiles in reserve. To destroy the short-range missiles, Israel will need mainly ground forces. And above all Israel must grant high priority to development methods for confronting the chemical and nuclear threat. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Admiral: Iran Likely to Attack Israel - Amir Oren
    In an article entitled "Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief" in the U.S. Naval Institute's monthly Proceedings, Adm. James Winnefeld, commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, describes the possibility of an offensive barrage of ballistic missiles fired from Iran against Israel as being "by far the most likely employment of ballistic missiles in the world today, and it demands our immediate attention in the event of a need for a U.S. or NATO response." In recent years, the missile boats of the Sixth Fleet practiced intercepting Shahab-3 missiles from Iran aimed at Israel, along with the Arrow batteries of the Israel Air Force and U.S. and Israeli batteries of Patriot missiles. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Threatens to Close Rafah Border - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Egyptians threatened on Wednesday to close the Rafah border crossing until further notice after hundreds of Palestinians stormed the terminal and threw stones at Egyptian soldiers. At least six Egyptian border guards were wounded in the incident. Eyewitnesses said Hamas security forces also intervened and prevented Palestinians from infiltrating the border. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Poll: 45% of Gaza Residents Would Leave If Possible - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    The masses of Palestinians who stormed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt this week angered the Egyptians. Israel is linking the opening of Rafah to the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, but the Egyptian mediators appear to have little interest in opening the crossing. They are quite fearful of a mass Palestinian influx into Sinai - something Hamas' police force is not likely to make a serious effort to prevent. Cairo is also aware of a recent survey of Gaza residents, indicating that 45% would leave if possible. Their preferred destination: Egypt. This is not what President Hosni Mubarak has in mind. (Ha'aretz)
  • President Peres: No Chance of Peace with Palestinians - Yossi Verter
    Last Saturday at a dinner in Defense Minister Ehud Barak's home with the Jordanian and French ambassadors, President Shimon Peres said "it would be very hard to reach an agreement" with the Palestinians, due to the Hamas-Fatah split. He said Abbas had no support among his people, no power to carry out security agreements, and that any agreement Israel and the PA made crumbled a day later due to the PA's weakness. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Jerusalem Terror Attack

  • Mother Crushed to Death in Jerusalem Terror Attack, Baby Girl Saved - Sima Kadmon
    A mother walks out of the house with her baby girl. She carefully places her in the child safety seat and puts a toy and a pacifier next to her. She keeps an eye on her throughout the trip. The mother turns on the radio, or perhaps she plays a CD with children's songs. Perhaps she sings to her child, or just talks to her, or whispers her baby's name. How many times have all of us done this simple act - walking out of the house with our baby? What did the mother think when she felt the huge blow? How many seconds passed before she realized what was going on? Did she scream? Did her arm automatically reach out to protect her baby? Did she realize those were her last moments, and what did she see before her eyes a moment before she died? (Ynet News)
  • Thank You, Hero - Uri Orbach
    On Wednesday we had a chance to see a hero. What is heroism? A pure moment where a person knowingly risks his life without considering personal benefit. Wednesday's hero was educated in a family and in a community that tells its sons when they join the army, "the most important thing is that you protect your people." This soldier, riding his bicycle, on leave from the army, in the face of a rampaging bulldozer, decided that he is going to stop the terrorist. The immediate decision to get on the bulldozer, empty handed, is what distinguishes a hero. This young man got on the bulldozer, pulled out the security guard's gun, and shot the terrorist. We can and should educate young people that when the moment of truth arrives we must defeat the rampaging enemy rather than step back and wait for someone else to do the job. (Ynet News)
  • Baltimore Immigrant Saved from Bulldozer Terrorist - Matthew Wagner
    Rick Eisenstat, a father of three who immigrated with his family from Baltimore, Md., four years ago, said Thursday, "We were on our way to the museum with the kids when we suddenly saw a bunch of construction workers run frantically out of the construction site." "The guy was driving about 30 miles an hour....I tried to back up to get out of the way but cars behind me blocked me. The right wheel of the bulldozer crushed a taxi cab and the left wheel crushed our Mazda." "Then he put the bulldozer in reverse. He wanted to finish off the job. He ran over us again. But nothing happened to us. Then he lowered the shovel on us and began crushing the roof of the car. My daughter Nechama put her arm over her head to protect herself. For reasons unknown to us [he] decided to move on to someone else." (Jerusalem Post)


  • No Proxy War with Iran - Editorial
    The military reality is that Israel cannot effectively attack Iran without Bush's acquiescence because Israeli jets would need to cross Iraqi airspace that is currently controlled by the U.S. And multiple bombing runs would be required (though even strikes by the far superior U.S. Air Force would probably do no more than delay Iran's development of a nuclear weapon by a few months or years). That means Israel would not be able to protect the United States with the political fiction that it had conducted a surprise attack without informing the U.S. beforehand. In any case, Tehran has already announced that it would make no distinction between a U.S. or an Israeli attack. Nor would many other nations.
        There are a dozen reasons why "If you want to whack them, we've got your back" is the wrong message for the U.S. to send Israel, publicly or privately. One is the increase in oil prices as a result of the war talk, which only enriches Iran. But here are two better ones: The consequences of an Israeli war with Iran are unpredictable, and it is nearly impossible to assess Iran's ability to make good on its threats to retaliate against the United States, presumably through its terrorist proxy, Hizbullah. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran's Defense Plan - Y. Mansharof and A. Savyon
    According to former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander and Passive Defense Organization Chairman Gholam Reza Jalali, the 2003 Iraq war changed the Iranian regime's view of the nature of future wars. In an interview with the Mehr news agency, Jalali stated, "Today, the style of warfare has changed. The primary aim of the enemy is no longer to occupy the country but to change its regime." In an interview with Sobh-e Sadeq, Jalali added: "America is focusing on attack from a in the 2006 Lebanon war, for example. According to this tactic, the enemy strikes from far away, so that we cannot confront him directly. The main threat is from the air or sea, and there is no ground warfare."
        The regime's main fear is of an attack on Iran's vital infrastructures. Therefore, alongside a defense doctrine based on preemptive attack, long-range ballistic missiles, and asymmetric guerilla warfare, it has formulated a doctrine of "passive defense" based mainly on the regime's popular militia, the Basij. According to Jalali, "in essence, the Basij is indirectly responsible for running the country in times of war." The Basij comprises some 12.5 million volunteers, about 5.5 million of them women. (MEMRI)

    Other Issues

  • The Unlikely Prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian Agreement in 2008 - Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak
    Since its takeover of Gaza, Hamas has replaced Fatah in terms of corruption. Hamas members and officers are the only people with gas in their vehicles; they have the best jobs, and seem to be doing fine while the rest of the population struggles. Hamas seems to be quite strong in the West Bank - with a great deal of political support and many weapons caches - but the PA and the Israeli army have kept it under control. The larger question is where and when it will come out of the West Bank shadows. Hamas will not accept any agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. If such an agreement were signed, Hamas would oppose it and renew violence.
        In Israel, many do not trust the PA. Even those who have always supported reconciliation with the Palestinians have begun to question whether Abbas and his colleagues can implement an agreement. No agreement can be achieved without the PA implementing law and order in the West Bank and Gaza. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • From "Conflict Resolution" to "Conflict Management" - Shlomo Avineri
    There are good reasons to worry that the current round of peace talks between Israel and the PA will yield no real results, especially because the two sides are so far apart in their basic positions on borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees. In other prominent conflicts in Cyprus, Kosovo, Bosnia and Kashmir, the international community understood, reluctantly but out of a realism based on both theory and practice, that there was no immediate chance of resolving the crisis. And so it turned to other channels - what is known as "conflict management." The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far more complex, but for some reason the international community believes it can offer a swift and immediate solution for it. Those who ask European leaders why they think they can succeed in the Middle East after having so clearly failed in Cyprus and Kosovo will see that they begin to think anew.
        Changing the paradigm from "conflict resolution" to "conflict management" does not mean accepting the status quo. In our context, this means continuing to seek ways of minimizing the friction between the two sides. Historic disputes are not resolved with a wave of the hand, much less by external directives (the U.S. has yet to "resolve" any one of them). It takes lengthy internal processes, which alone can lead to the formation of a joint political desire to reach an agreement. The writer is professor emeritus at Hebrew University and former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Energy Independence - Gal Luft
    At around $145 a barrel, the U.S., by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill.
        Iran is moving quickly toward energy independence. The Islamic republic has lots of crude but little capacity to refine it, leaving Tehran heavily dependent on gasoline imports. Ahmadinejad is fully aware that this is Iran's Achilles' heel and worries that a comprehensive gasoline embargo could cause enough social unrest to undermine his regime. So Ahmadinejad has launched an energy-independence program designed to shift Iran's transportation system from gasoline to natural gas, which Iran has plenty of. "If we can change our automobiles' fuel from gasoline to [natural] gas during the next three-four years," he said last July, "we won't need gasoline anymore." His plan includes a mandate for domestic automakers to make "dual-fuel" cars that can run on both gasoline and natural gas, a crash program to convert used vehicles to run on natural gas and a program to convert Iranian gas stations to serve both kinds of fuel. Ahmadinejad's plan means that within five years, Iran could be virtually immune to international sanctions.
        Last year, Israel launched an electric-car venture designed to turn it into an oil-free economy. Israelis will be able to replace their gasoline-fueled cars with battery-operated ones, which they'll plug into thousands of recharging points to be erected throughout the country. Motorists will be able to swap their batteries in a matter of minutes at dedicated stations or recharge them at home or at work. The writer is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Iran Remains a Threat to Israel's Very Existence - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)

    • Amid the winks and nudges about a reduction of tension between America and Iran, it should not be forgotten that Tehran's policy, enunciated most forcefully by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the destruction of Israel.
    • That is already apparent in Iranian support for Hamas and Hizbullah. Possession of nuclear weapons would give it a further edge.
    • While it is unlikely that Tehran would launch a direct atomic assault on the Jewish state, it would acquire greater leverage over its Arab neighbors as the undisputed hegemon in the Gulf, and could pass on nuclear know-how to its guerrilla proxies.
    • Until Iran accepts the existence of Israel and suspends uranium enrichment, any responsible government in Jerusalem must consider it an existential threat to the Jewish state.
    • A diplomatic solution would obviously be preferable to military action, which could convulse the Middle East and push the cost of oil through the roof - but not at any price. It is essential that the six countries negotiating with Iran are united in insisting that Israel's security must not be jeopardized. A deal over the head of the country most threatened by Iran would be both morally wrong and carry enormous political risks.
    • In its essentials, Tehran remains inimical to Western interests. That should not be forgotten in handling a regime that has persistently lied over its nuclear program and, under Ahmadinejad, has stepped up calls for Israel's destruction.

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