Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 28, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran, Hizbullah Set Up Force in Latin America to Kidnap Jews - Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    The Bush administration, Israel and other governments worry that Venezuela is emerging as a base for anti-U.S. militant groups and spy services, including Hizbullah and its Iranian allies.
    Agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hizbullah have allegedly set up a special force to attempt to kidnap Jewish businesspeople in Latin America and spirit them away to Lebanon, according to a Western anti-terrorism official.
    Iranian and Hizbullah operatives traveling in and out of Venezuela have recruited Venezuelan informants working at the Caracas airport to gather intelligence on Jewish travelers as potential targets for abduction, he said.

Hamas Purges Gaza Schools of Rival Fatah Teachers (AP/FOX News)
    The ruling Hamas movement on Wednesday replaced hundreds of striking teachers with its own supporters, purging Gaza's education system of its political rivals.
    The local teachers' union, one of the last remaining Fatah strongholds in Gaza, had called a strike this week to protest the transfers of dozens of educators to new schools.
    Hamas Education Minister Mohammed Askoul estimated that 2,000 teachers have been replaced, ensuring that Gaza's education system will now be stacked with Hamas loyalists.

How Effective Were Hizbullah's Anti-Tank Missiles? - William F. Owen (Strategy Page)
    Israel has published the analysis of armored vehicle losses during the 2006 war with Hizbullah in Lebanon.
    Of the 23 members of the armored corps killed in action, 15 were killed by ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) in 6-7 hits. Seven were killed by mines.
    There were 14 APCs (armored personnel carriers) hit by ATGMs. In two of these incidents, seven troops in the vehicles were killed.
    Three APCs hit mines, killing 5 infantrymen in two incidents.
    Despite the many hundreds of engagements, there are only 8-9 recorded incidents where Hizbullah ATGM fire was able to cause deaths inside armored vehicles.

Peace Activist Abie Nathan Dies at 81 (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Abie Nathan, the pilot, entrepreneur, peace activist, and founder of the "Voice of Peace" radio station, died Wednesday in Tel Aviv at age 81.

Useful Reference:

Video: No Hunger in Gaza (YouTube)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • G-7 Nations Condemn - While Hamas Supports - Russian Recognition of Georgian Provinces
    The G7 countries united against Russia and issued a joint statement on Wednesday in which they condemned Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S., and Great Britain said that Russia had violated the territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the resolution of the UN Security Council regulating relations between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For the time being, Russia has only one supporter of its actions in the Caucasus - the Hamas movement, which many countries consider a terrorist organization. (Pravda-Russia)
        See also Hamas Welcomes Russian Recognition for Abkhazia, South Ossetia
    The Palestinian movement Hamas was the first to hail Russia for its recognition for Georgia's breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite international condemnation of the move. An official representative of the movement, Aiman Takh, told journalists that the Russian decision was a precedent which the Palestinians could follow for achieving their goals. ''We Palestinians are fighting for our rights and an independent state. We hope that this step by Russia will be the beginning of recognition of small nations, who fight for their freedom,'' Hamas members said. (Rustavi 2-Georgia)
  • Russia Announces Increased Naval Presence in Syria - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Igor Belyaev, the Russian charge d'affaires in Damascus, told reporters Wednesday: "Our navy presence in the Mediterranean will increase. Russian vessels will be visiting Syria and other friendly ports more frequently." Russia relies on Syria's Tartous port as a main stopping point in the Mediterranean. A Russian naval unit, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, reportedly docked at Tartous earlier this month. (Reuters)
  • Israel Views Jordan's Talks with Hamas as "Unhelpful" - Jamal Halaby
    In an about-face, Jordan is reaching out to Hamas as Jordanian intelligence chief Mohammed al-Dahabi held two covert meetings with top Hamas leaders this month, ending a nearly decade-long banishment of the group. Israeli Embassy spokesman Itai Bardov in Amman called Jordan's contacts with Hamas "unhelpful to the peace process." "We're against any negotiations with Hamas because we regard it as a terrorist movement," he said. "We should find ways to strengthen the Palestinian Authority instead of legitimizing Hamas, which made an illegal military coup in Gaza." The U.S. also considers Hamas a terror organization and has refused contact with it. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Security Council Renews UNIFIL Mandate - Herb Keinon and Allison Hoffman
    The UN Security Council decided Wednesday to renew UNIFIL's mandate in southern Lebanon until August 31, 2009. Jerusalem wanted to see the peacekeepers' rules of engagement strengthened to counteract the buildup of Hizbullah forces. Israeli Deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the council: "In Israel, we expect UNIFIL, under its renewed mandate, to exert its authority to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind and to resist attempts to prevent it from discharging its mandate."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Begins Sending African Border Infiltrators Straight Back to Egypt - Mijal Grinberg and Yuval Azoulay
    African border infiltrators arrested by the Israel Defense Forces while crossing into Israel from Sinai are now being immediately returned to Egyptian territory. Dozens of illegal immigrants were returned to Egypt this past week. Army sources said that the policy of immediate expulsion is being carried out with Egyptian cooperation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Unemployment in Israel Falls to Lowest Rate in Twenty Years
    According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2008 was 5.9%, down from 6.2% in the first quarter. This is the lowest rate in 20 years. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Syria Eyes an Edge amid Russia-U.S. Rift - Nicholas Blanford
    The growing rift between Russia and the U.S. over Georgia promises to be a golden opportunity for Damascus as it seeks a weapons deal with Moscow that would give it greater leverage in tentative peace talks with Israel and bolster its standing in the Middle East. Syria was one of the few countries to voice support for Moscow's actions in the Caucasus as the West was busy condemning the invasion. "Syria saw a lot of opportunity in what happened in Georgia and South Ossetia to advance its own interests in the [region]," says Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst.
        The Soviet Union was once Syria's main weapons supplier, leaving Damascus saddled with a $13.4 billion arms-sales debt at the end of the cold war in 1990. In 2005, Russia wrote off almost three quarters of the debt, launching a new era of improved cooperation and fresh arms deals. The ease with which Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace a year ago to bomb a suspected nuclear facility in northeast Syria underlined to Damascus the need for an improved air defense system. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • An American Base on Israeli Territory? - Aluf Benn
    The agreement last month for the deployment of a U.S. radar system in the Negev, which will bolster Israel's defense against Iranian or Syrian surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, will have historical significance as the first American base on Israeli territory. Israel has always had reservations about such a possibility and preferred to "defend itself by itself" and retain maximum freedom of action. The radar will be operated by civilians employed by the company that builds the system, and by two U.S. soldiers.
        Anyone who tries to attack Israel with missiles will consider the radar a priority target. Anyone attempting such a strike will have to take into account the likelihood of harming the American crew, and the implications of such an action. This will increase Israel's deterrence, to a certain extent. Israel, too, will have to take into account the risk to the lives of the American radar operators. Israel will not be able to take action without early and explicit approval from the White House. The minute the base is set up, it will be like handcuffs on Israel's freedom of action. (Ha'aretz)
  • European Support for Ship of Fools - Dan Kosky
    The "Free Gaza" voyage was an expensive publicity stunt. The activists estimated that the voyage cost in excess of $300,000, yet the only genuine humanitarian cargo consisted of several hundred hearing aids. One wonders how much genuine aid could have been purchased at this cost. The Free Gaza organization is one of the clearest examples of a radical agenda masquerading as human rights. Free Gaza is a coalition of several groups, including the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
        In 2003, terrorists from the UK used ISM as a cover to attack the Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people. The EU, under its Partnership for Peace program, awarded ICAHD a two-year grant of 473,000 euros in 2005, comprising the majority of ICAHD's 2006 annual budget. Recently the Spanish government deemed ICAHD a worthy recipient of its funds. Thus, European governments have placed themselves in the midst of a stunt orchestrated by extreme groups and endorsed by Hamas. The writer is communications director of NGO Monitor. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Showboating over Gaza - Ron Prosor (Guardian-UK)

    • Israel last Saturday permitted two boats of protesters to land in Gaza, disappointing the more aggressive agitators in the party, as they hankered for a confrontation with the Israeli navy that never came. Having thoroughly assessed the security risks, Israel granted the ships safe passage.
    • Ironically, just three weeks earlier, scores of Palestinians were at the Israeli border, fleeing for their lives. Eleven Palestinians died and more than a hundred were injured in fierce fighting between Hamas and its Fatah rivals. Facing slaughter by Hamas forces, nearly 200 Fatah members fled to Israel for refuge.
    • The portrayal of Israel as the villain and as the sole cause of conflict in the Middle East is jeopardizing the search for real solutions to complex problems. In Gaza, Hamas has ruthlessly crushed its rivals, stifling criticism and ransacking its opponents. Human Rights Watch recently reported on Hamas' rule, citing "arbitrary arrests, tortured detainees, clamping down on freedom of expression and assembly."
    • Contrary to popular distortions regarding humanitarian aid, food and fuel supply, millions of liters of fuel are made available every week at the Nahal Oz fuel depot. Thousands of tons of food supplies, medical equipment and building materials are transported through the Sufa and Karni crossings weekly. Where does the aid and the fuel go?
    • It is time to realize that bashing Israel will not build Palestine. Showboating designed to vilify Israel will not steer the Palestinians through the choppy waters to statehood. Instead, the world must encourage the Palestinians to build their infrastructure and develop governing institutions. The extremists who sabotage this must be held to account.

      The writer is the Israeli ambassador in London.

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