Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 29, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iran Supplied Hizbullah with Advanced Missiles - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Iran has supplied Hizbullah with missiles equipped with advanced navigation mechanisms which can accurately hit extensive targets inside Israel, the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi reported Friday, quoting Arab sources.
    In addition, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasa reported Tuesday that 300 Iranian experts were working to build an array of antiaircraft missile installations on the mountain range in western Lebanon.

Iran Condemned for Surge of Youth Hangings - Michael Theodoulou (Times-UK)
    Iran, the world's most prolific executioner after China, has hanged a woman and four men for murder in defiance of mounting criticism from human rights groups.
    The latest hangings brought to 232 the number executions in Iran this year, compared to 317 in 2007, according to Amnesty International.
    Of particular concern is the number of youths facing execution for crimes they committed as children. Amnesty International told the Times, there are "at least 132 juvenile offenders known to be on death row."
    Human Rights Watch said Iran "leads the world in executing juvenile offenders."

Ten Roadblocks Removed in the Hebron Area (IDF Spokesperson's Office/IMRA)
    During the past few weeks, ten roadblocks were removed in the Hebron area in order to improve the routine life of the Palestinian population.
    Approximately 100 IDF checkpoints were removed in the past months in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.

PA, Germany Sign Agreement to Establish 55 Police Stations in West Bank (Maan News-PA)
    Palestinian Interior Minister Abd Ar-Razaq al-Yahya and German Representative to the PA Klaus Burkhardt on Thursday signed a joint agreement to establish 55 new police stations in the West Bank.

Brand Israel - Haskell Nussbaum (Jerusalem Post)
    September marks the beginning of an ambitious new pilot program, being run by the consul-general in Toronto, Amir Gissin, to "rebrand" Israel.
    Starting with print ads in bus shelters and billboards, and continuing with radio and editorial content, Israel will be portrayed as an innovative leader in technology that brings real benefits to people.
    "Explaining why we are right is not enough," says Gissin. "Our goal is to make Israel relevant and attractive to Canadians and to refocus attention away from the conflict."
    The writer is the author of 101+ Ways to Help Israel: A Guide to Doing Small Things that Can Make Big Differences.

Israel Leads OECD in R&D - Gali Weinreb (Globes)
    Israel tops the OECD in terms of civilian R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.
    Israel spent 4.7% of GDP on civilian R&D expenditure. The OECD average was 1.7%; Japan and South Korea each spent 3.2%, and the U.S. spent 2.2%.

Israel's Kibbutzim Finding New Life as Hotels - Sarah Wildman (Dallas Morning News-New York Times)
    The newfound capitalist success of the kibbutz hotel movement is an oxymoron. Across the country, kibbutzim, the socialist collective farms created by early Zionist pioneers, increasingly have encouraged visitors to be paying guests rather than volunteers.
    With a couple of years of relative peace and a few capitalist changes, kibbutzim have become a draw again for Israelis who are weary of city life, for global volunteers and for tourists.

Four Questions about American Jewish Demography - Ira M. Sheskin (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    The most probable number of Jews living in the U.S. is between 6.0 and 6.4 million.
    It thus appears that the number of Jews in the U.S. is currently higher than the number in Israel, though this is very likely to change in the future.
    The writer is associate professor of geography and regional studies at the University of Miami and has completed or is currently working on 43 major demographic studies for Jewish federations throughout the U.S.

Useful Reference:

Photos from Hamas Summer Camp: Campers Receiving Paramilitary Training (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Refuses to Follow France's Lead and Talk with Syria
    The U.S. refuses to follow France's lead and will not talk to Syria until it decides to take a "positive role" in international affairs, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Wednesday that he would visit Damascus on September 3-4, after welcoming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Paris last month. Wood restated U.S. policy that precludes any dialogue with Syria unless it decides "to play a positive role, stay out of the internal affairs of Lebanon, stop supporting terrorists and be a productive player on the world scene....Today, it has not been." "Until Syria plays a positive role in the region, it is going to continue to isolate itself," he said. Washington continues to blacklist Damascus as a state sponsor of terrorism. (AFP)
        See also Israel: Assad Not Serious about Peace
    Syria's rush to take advantage of the conflict in Georgia and the Russia-U.S. rift to cozy up to Moscow seems to indicate that it is not interested in serious negotiations with Israel even with U.S. participation, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said on Thursday. "It is not at all clear what the Syrians want," one Israeli diplomatic official said. "They say that above all, they want American involvement in the talks with Israel, but then they side clearly with the Russians during a time of great tension with the U.S. and NATO." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Says 4,000 Atomic Centrifuges Working - Hashem Kalantari
    "There are currently close to 4,000 centrifuges active at the Natanz enrichment facility....Another 3,000 centrifuges are being installed," Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Sheikh Attar told Iranian state television, the official IRNA news agency reported. President Ahmadinejad said last month Iran had more than 5,000 centrifuges running. (Reuters)
  • One Dead in Attack on Lebanese Helicopter - Zeina Karam
    Attackers opened fire on a Lebanese military helicopter Thursday, killing an army officer and forcing the craft to make an emergency landing, a senior security official said. The area where the helicopter came under fire is a predominantly Shiite region southeast of Sidon and a Hizbullah stronghold. (AP)
        See also Hizbullah Downs Lebanese Chopper, Thinking It Israeli - Amos Harel
    Hizbullah downed a Lebanese Army helicopter on Thursday in what Israeli officials believe was a case of mistaken identity. Israeli officials noted that Hizbullah has recently been trying to improve its anti-aircraft capabilities with the goal of downing Israeli planes. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas: No Resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon - Bassem Mroue
    About 400,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in a dozen refugee camps in Lebanon, which were set up in 1948. On a visit to Beirut on Thursday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said, "The refugees should have the right of return to their homeland and we are negotiating this with the Israelis....We are against permanent resettlement" of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Egypt to Open Its Border with Gaza on Weekend
    Egypt will open its border with Gaza for two days on Saturday and Sunday to allow stranded and humanitarian cases to cross, Hamas sources in Gaza said Thursday. Some 1,500 Egyptians stuck in Gaza will go home on Saturday and 400 Palestinian patients will leave for medical treatment in Egypt on Sunday. (Xinhua-China)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Report: Israel Reaches Strategic Decision Not to Let Iran Go Nuclear
    The Israeli government has recently decided in a special discussion that it will not hesitate to use whatever means necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported. Because of Israel's lack of strategic depth, Jerusalem has consistently warned it will not settle for a "wait and see" approach, but rather use preemption to prevent any risk of being hit in the first place.
        Former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh visited Switzerland and Austria last week, after both countries announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade. "Talk of the Jewish Holocaust and Israel's security doesn't impress these guys," Sneh said wryly. Hearing his hosts speak of their future investments, Sneh replied, "It's a shame, because Ido will light all this up." He was referring to Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the recently appointed commander of the Israel Air Force. "Investing in Iran in 2008," Sneh told his Austrian hosts, "is like investing in the Krups Steelworks in 1938, it's a high-risk investment." The Austrians, according to Sneh, turned pale. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Militants Take Control of Hamas Council - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The results of a recent election held for one of Hamas' key decision-making bodies are likely to hinder efforts to free kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt Gilad Shalit, sources in Gaza told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The secret ballot was held for the Shura (Consultative) Council, made up of Hamas' senior political and religious leadership and tasked with discussing all important issues. The names of the Shura Council members are kept secret. Sources said the vote resulted in a major victory for the "young guard" in Hamas, most of whom are affiliated with the movement's armed wing, Izzadin al-Kassam.
        The sources described the victory as a "coup," pointing out that the newly-elected members were far more radical than those ousted from the council. "The Shura Council of Hamas is now dominated by warlords, thugs and militiamen," one source said. "The new members are not as educated as their predecessors." Another source said, "From now on, the armed wing of Hamas is expected to play a bigger role in the decision-making process....The political leadership of Hamas has definitely been weakened." A Palestinian academic closely associated with Hamas said, "The new members are less patient and less experienced....These are the guys who carry the guns and control the situation on the ground." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Israeli Arabs Arrested in Islamic Jihad Plot to Kill Israeli Pilots, Scientists - Jack Khoury and Yuval Azoulay
    Two Israeli Arabs from Shfaram have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to Islamic Jihad and planning attacks that included assassinating Israeli pilots, scientists and university professors. The two are also suspected of planning a shooting attack on an army checkpoint near Ramallah. Anis Sappori, 20, who studies at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, and Hussam Khalil, 19, who studies in Jordan, were arrested together with three Palestinians, all members of Islamic Jihad. Khalil has confessed to his involvement. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Arrests Fatah Man Who Was Pardoned But Returned to Terror - Michael Freund
    Security forces on Thursday arrested a Fatah operative in Nablus who had been given a pardon by Israel as part of agreements between Israel and the PA. The security establishment said Adham Lubada had returned to terror activity and production of explosive belts following his pardon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Allows Protest Boats to Leave Gaza - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Israel allowed two boats carrying international activists and seven Palestinians to leave Gaza on Thursday and sail without interruption back to Cyprus. An official said Israel had been aware of who was on board the ships - including the identity of the Palestinians - and had not interfered since none of the passengers posed a security risk. "None of the passengers was dangerous to Israel, and they were not coming into Israel, so there was no reason to stop them," the official said. "If a boat, however, tried to take wanted Hamas terrorists out of Gaza, that would be a different story." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Israeli Perspectives after the Georgia War

  • Assad Working Post-Georgia World to His Advantage - Aluf Benn
    The old world, where America ruled by dint of its military and economic might, and preached to others in the name of fighting terror and spreading democracy, is yielding to a bipolar system. In the new world, starring leaders like Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is no meaning to noble ideals, only to power. The leader who understood the significance of the change better than others, and is working to leverage it to his advantage, is Syrian President Bashar Assad. Searching for allies, Assad is putting Syria up for sale. Assad was quick to take Russia's part in its war with Georgia, lent it public support, and agreed to heighten Russia's naval presence at its port in the city of Tartus. (Ha'aretz)
  • Russia Is Not the Soviet Union - Guy Bechor
    The Russians have no interest in embarking on a new cold war. During Assad's recent visit to Moscow, Putin and Medvedev refused his requests to sell advanced missiles to the Syrians, and added a few conditions: First, they will sell Syria defensive weapons only. Second, they will not be selling Syria arms that would change the status quo of full Israeli supremacy over Syria. Third, everything they sell will be paid for in cash, in advance. The Russians know very well that Syria's economy is unstable. They know that the Iranians help the Syrians with payments, but they also know that Iran itself is facing great difficulties.
        Russia is not the Soviet Union. By invading Georgia, Russia caused itself economic and political damage that may take years to repair. The investors who lifted the Russian economy are simply running away now: $12 billion was taken out of Russia in the past two weeks. Moreover, at this time Russia is closely associated with Israel no less so and possibly more so than with Syria. A million and a half former Russians reside in Israel, and Israel's high-tech industry is highly important for the Russian economy. The writer is head of Middle Eastern Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. (Ynet News)
  • Welcome to History - Shlomo Avineri
    What happened in the Caucasus is reminding many people that Russia has never been a nation state in the usual sense of the term, but has always been an empire - whether in czarist or Soviet guise. And under Vladimir Putin it is again becoming what it had been in the past. The writer is professor emeritus at Hebrew University and former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Russia Aware of Israel's Low Profile in Georgian Crisis - Herb Keinon
    Anatoly Yurkov, the charge d'affaires at Russia's embassy in Tel Aviv, told the Jerusalem Post in an interview that Moscow appreciated the balanced position Israel had taken throughout the Georgian crisis, as well as its "low profile." After Russia's recognition of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, the dominant position in Jerusalem is that this is not Israel's fight, that it has critical strategic interests in its relationship with Moscow, and that it is not a superpower that needs to sound off on every issue. Jerusalem, which has already sent humanitarian aid to Georgia, has offered to send humanitarian aid to North Ossetia in Russia to help it deal with the influx of refugees there. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • The Gaza Ceasefire
    Since June, when Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, the blockade of Gaza has been relaxed but not lifted. Some items - like frozen meat, soft drinks, shampoo and clothes - have become commoner. But Israel still bans goods which it says may be used for making weapons, including metal pipes, fertilizer, and batteries. Most petrol stations remain closed. Since the truce began, militants have launched some 40 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, but Israel has so far refrained from firing back. Israel says Hamas is using the lull to stock up its arsenal with more sophisticated weapons. It is already thought to have Iran-supplied rockets that could reach Ashdod, Israel's fifth-largest city and main port, some 38 km. (23 miles) north of Gaza. (Economist-UK)
  • Forward to the Past - Jonathan Spyer
    In recent weeks, a number of prominent Fatah figures have suggested that their movement might abandon its commitment to a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and return to the pre-1988 demand for Israel's replacement by a single state in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the "one-state solution" has been the end-goal of modern Palestinian nationalism for the greater part of its history and its reemergence should come as no surprise.
        It is apparently hoped that rebranding Fatah-style Palestinian nationalism using the language of the U.S. civil rights movement of 50 years ago might cause at least some observers not to notice that the one-state solution coincidentally involves the disappearance of a legally constituted Jewish state, and the consequent termination of the right of self-determination of Israeli Jews. In other words, the one-state solution includes the full realization of the program of Palestinian nationalism. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel to Display the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet - Ethan Bronner
    Specialists in Jerusalem have begun digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file available to all on the Internet. Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact. The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century BCE to the first century CE. (New York Times)
  • A Boom in Israel's Exports to India - Neal Sandler
    As India's economy grows, exports from Israel to the world's second-most-populous country are soaring. Netafim, a leading supplier of drip irrigation systems, has expanded its staff in India from fewer than 100 employees just four years ago to more than 700 and on Aug. 23 opened a second factory in Chennai. Makers of everything from chemicals to software are seeing similar surges. Exports of nonmilitary goods and services from Israel to India jumped 40% in the first half of 2008 from the same period the year before, after reaching a record $1.6 billion for 2007 as a whole. Military business also is booming. A senior Israeli defense industry source estimates that Indian purchases now account for about one-third, or $1.67 billion, of Israel's $5 billion in annual defense exports, with India supplanting the U.S. as Israel's largest customer for weapons systems.
        In the past two years Israeli real estate developers have committed billions of dollars to projects in India, constructing everything from housing to hotels and shopping malls. "We were debating between India and China and decided to go with the former because conditions there for foreigners to operate were a lot easier," says Segi Eitan, CEO of Property and Building. Products from Israel accounted for less than 2 percent of India's $230 billion in total imports last year, but in key fields such as defense, agriculture, water, and high tech, Israel has what India is looking for. (Business Week)
  • Observations:

    Listening to Iran - Terry Milewski (CBC News-Canada)

    • Since the time of Darius the Great, there have been ties of blood and history between Persia and Israel that are now, 2,500 years later, on a collision course. Some 60,000 Jews from Iran live in Israel. Menashe Amir is the voice of Israel in Iran. On Israel's state-run radio, he's been broadcasting daily to Iran, in Farsi, for 48 years. For the past 15 years, he's also been hosting a fascinating Sunday call-in show. Iranians can call a number in Germany, so that they're not seen to be calling the "Zionist entity," and they're rerouted to Amir's studio.
    • In an interview with CBC News, Amir said the West has failed to understand the Iranian threat. He believes the regime is opposed by most Iranians but is consumed by an apocalyptic vision: the triumph of Shia Islam over the world. Western governments, he says, don't see that, for the Iranian mullahs, the destruction of the Jewish state is just a step along the way. "On the same day, in the same speech that Ahmadinejad called for wiping off Israel from the map, he added that the destruction of Israel is the first step of our final confrontation with Western civilization."
    • Amir says the regime dreams of a new caliphate - an Islamic empire spanning the globe. "They have the money, the missiles, they are seeking to have the nuclear bomb and the life of humankind is not important for them. I want to mention what Rahim Safavy, who was the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, said a few days ago: 'We shall win and you, the Westerners, shall lose because we gave 200,000 victims, martyrs, in eight years of war with Iraq and we have 300,000 disabled and injured in this war - and we don't care about it. But you, the Westerners, are afraid to give 4,000 or 5,000 victims and casualties, so the final victory will be ours.'"
    • Amir says the Iranian people don't share the regime's messianic vision. "Iranians are totally a different nation - a peaceful, polite, moderate people who want a good life, who adore the United States, who respect Canada, who like Western music....But the regime in Iran doesn't feel like they're Iranians. Mostly, firstly, they think they are Shi'ite Muslims and they have to work for the sake of Islam."

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