Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 24, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iran to Offer Missiles to Lebanon Government (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    The pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reported Sunday that Iran will offer heavy weapons, including missiles, to the Lebanese government, whose president, Michel Suleiman, will visit Tehran on Monday.

    See also Israel Concerned U.S. Will Sell Tanks to Lebanon - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    On Friday, An-Nahar reported that the U.S. was planning to deliver dozens of M60 main battle tanks with advanced firepower and mobility to the Lebanese army starting next year.
    "There is a possibility these tanks will fall into Hizbullah's hands," one Israeli official warned.
    "Already a large percentage of the LAF [the Lebanese Armed Forces] is Shi'ite," an official said. "It is definitely possible that in a future Hizbullah-Israeli conflict these tanks will be used against us."

Iran Receives Al-Qaeda Praise for Role in Terrorist Attacks - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    Fresh links between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and al-Qaeda have been uncovered following interception of a letter from the terrorist leadership that hails Tehran's support for a recent attack on the American embassy in Yemen, which killed 16 people.
    Delivery of the letter exposed the rising role of Saad bin Laden, son of Osama, as an intermediary between al-Qaeda and Iran. Saad has been living in Iran since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
    Western security officials said the missive thanked the leadership of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for providing assistance to al-Qaeda to set up its terrorist network in Yemen, which has suffered ten al-Qaeda-related terror attacks in the past year, including two bomb attacks against the American embassy.
    The letter, signed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, pays tribute to Iran's generosity, stating that without its "monetary and infrastructure assistance" it would not have been possible for the group to carry out the terror attacks.

British Terror Mastermind Killed in U.S. Missile Strike in Pakistan - Candace Rondeaux (Washington Post)
    Rashid Rauf, a suspected al-Qaeda operative linked to a 2006 plot to blow up British airliners, was killed Saturday in a U.S. missile strike in northwestern Pakistan.
    Rauf, a former resident of Birmingham, England, was suspected to be the ringleader in an alleged al-Qaeda plot to blow up ten commercial jetliners flying from Britain to the U.S.

London Concert to Feature Anti-Israel Christmas Carols - Jonathan Petre (Daily Mail-UK)
    Anti-Israeli campaigners organizing a Christmas carol concert to be held on Wednesday at St. James Church in London have been condemned for rewriting traditional verses to attack Israel.
    Far from bringing tidings of comfort and joy, the participants will instead sing about "war crimes" and the "oppression" of Palestinians.
    Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has said that the rewriting of much-loved traditional carols for such partisan political purposes was deeply offensive.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel: West Must Unite with Russia, China Against Iran - Gwen Ackerman and Calev Ben-David
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the U.S. and Europe should put aside differences with China and Russia over human-rights and missile-defense issues to focus on working together to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. "The triad of nuclear proliferation, radical Muslim terror, and rogue states, epitomized in the Iran case, can be defeated only through a paradigm shift in international relationships," Barak said in an interview. "The time for sanctions is still there, but it is short,'' he said. "The way I see to make it effective is to cut through the psychological obstacles about cooperating with Russia and China and open a new discourse."
        Barak noted that Israel faces threats not only from Iran, but also from its proxies in south Lebanon and Gaza. More than 140 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel from Gaza over the past two weeks. (Bloomberg)
  • Syria Rejects More IAEA Visits for Nuclear Probe - Mark Heinrich
    Syria said on Friday a UN watchdog report failed to show anything suggesting a Syrian complex bombed by Israel was a covert nuclear reactor and no further inspector visits would be permitted. The IAEA said its findings, based on satellite pictures and soil and water samples, warranted further checks at the site and three others as well as full Syrian transparency. "Collecting three particles from the desert is not enough to say there was a reactor there at all," said Syrian nuclear energy chief Ibrahim Othman. "In our opinion this file should be closed" and "we will not allow another visit." (Reuters)
  • Iran Executes Man Convicted of Spying for Israel - Nazila Fathi
    Ali Ashtari, 45, who was arrested in 2006 on charges of spying for Israel and confessed during his trial in June, was executed by hanging on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Saturday. Ashtari had been the manager of a company selling communication and security equipment to the Iranian government. An Israeli official said that Israel had no knowledge of his case. (New York Times)
  • Hamas Chief Opposes New Arab Peace Initiatives
    Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal, speaking in Damascus Sunday, said, "I call upon the Arabs not to be too hasty in proposing new initiatives" on peace with Israel. "It is up to Obama to present something to the Arabs," he said. Meshaal also said the return of Palestinian refugees was "a natural right guaranteed under international law." "Anyone who compromises on the right of return is party to a great crime," he said. The number of UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees is currently around 4.6 million. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Candidate for U.S. National Security Adviser Wants NATO Force in West Bank - Aluf Benn
    Gen. James Jones, who is expected to become Obama's national security adviser, supports the deployment of an international force in the West Bank instead of the Israel Defense Forces. He also opposes Israel's demand to retain extensive security control over the territories even after a Palestinian state is established. Jones served as Secretary of State Rice's special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian security issues over the past year, tasked with formulating security arrangements between Israel and the future Palestinian state.
        Israel has proposed security arrangements which recognize that its major population centers are vulnerable to rocket and suicide attacks from the West Bank, and that security control of the Jordan Valley is essential to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the West Bank. Israel also demands complete demilitarization of the future Palestinian state, Israeli control of border crossings, and Israeli early warning stations in the mountains. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Report: Gen. Jones Drafted Report Critical of Israel - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Gen. Jones was reported to have drafted a report critical of some aspects of Israel's security stance toward the Palestinians, but the report was never published. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gen. Jones' Main Tasks - Steve Coll
    There are three unglamorous tasks that Obama's national-security team absolutely must deliver on: They must keep al-Qaeda on its heels and off our soil; they must prevent Iraq from blowing up; and they must prevent Afghanistan from blowing up. These are projects Jones understands and for which he has considerable pragmatic experience. (New Yorker)
  • Report: Hizbullah Holds Military Exercises in Southern Lebanon - Roee Nahmias
    Hizbullah troops conducted a series of military maneuvers in southern Lebanon on Saturday, the Al-Arabiya television network reported. The exercises were carried out in defiance of UN Resolution 1701, which determined that the region south of the Litani River would be demilitarized. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Amos Harel
    Palestinians fired three Kassam rockets at Israel on Saturday from the area in Gaza where the Jewish settlement of Dugit was once located. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • So It Really Was a Reactor in Syria - Ephraim Asculai
    The IAEA report on Syria's nuclear program issued on Nov. 19 confirmed that the water pumping capacity at the destroyed installation was sufficient for removing 25 megawatts of energy. An energy source of this magnitude would need to burn either fossil or nuclear fuel, or it would have to consume electrical energy imported to the site. Since the Syrians confirmed "the unreliable and insufficient electricity supplies in the area," the last option is not viable. No one claimed that it was a fossil fuel electricity producing station. Any fossil fuel plant would have been constructed near the Euphrates River for efficiency reasons and not hidden inland, out of sight. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Failure of the Iranian Revolution - Hossein Askari
    Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, average real per capita income has declined and income distribution has deteriorated. There is a new super class of rich mullahs and cronies who have amassed fortunes through corruption and government policies. The regime has not created wealth, but has distributed oil revenues to make the chosen very rich while keeping a lid on domestic dissension. Things did improve slightly over the last four years because of record high oil prices, but the regime squandered that windfall and is now faced with the prospect of lower oil revenues, lower financial reserves, potentially smarter sanctions imposed by a more thoughtful new U.S. administration, and rising domestic dissatisfaction.
        The mullahs in Tehran care little for ideology. They have no commitment to spreading the revolution. Theirs is no religious mission. They barely think about justice for the Palestinians. Their goal is not nuclear enrichment or nuclear weapons. It is survival, pure and simple. The writer is professor of business and international affairs at George Washington University. (International Herald Tribune)
  • Increase Economic Pressure on Iran - Mark D. Wallace
    As Iran edges closer to possessing a nuclear weapon, Iran's economy has suffered from declining oil prices, economic sanctions, waning foreign investment, and the downturn in the global economy. The frailty of Iran's economy and its growing international isolation present a unique opportunity for the diplomatic resolution of Iran's nuclear ambitions. We urge President Bush, and President-elect Obama to work with our allies and others to re-focus diplomatic effort, and to increase economic, political and social pressure on Iran. (American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran)
  • Observations:

    Palestinian Internal Divisions Make Peace Agreement Impossible for Now - Aaron David Miller (Jerusalem Post)

    • A conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians may no longer be possible. Varying kinds of accommodations, cease fires, informal cooperation and temporary arrangements may still be possible. But the current situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible for leaders to reach an agreement.
    • The divisions between Hamas (itself divided) and Fatah (even more divided) are now geographic, political and hard to bridge. Until the Palestinian national movement finds a way to impose a monopoly over the forces of violence in Palestinian society, it cannot move to statehood.
    • The hallmark of any state's credibility is its control over all the guns. What Palestinian leader can claim to speak for all Palestinians or negotiate an agreement against the backdrop of a separate entity (Gaza) which controls 1.3 million Palestinians, possesses a different view of governance and nation-building and often attacks its neighbor? What Israeli prime minister could ever make concessions to a Palestinian leader who doesn't control all of the guns? Only by restoring unity to the Palestinian house will a conflict-ending agreement be possible.
    • I would respectfully suggest to President-elect Obama, in my capacity as an American who doesn't want to see America fail again, that he recognize there's no deal in this negotiation now. Manage it as best you can: help support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, train PA security forces, pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza, even nurture Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the big issues, but don't think you can solve it; you can't.
          The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, worked as an advisor on the Middle East for six secretaries of state.

          See also Palestinian Civil War Casts Shadow Over Peace Talks - Jonathan Schanzer (JTA)
      When President-elect Obama sets out to rekindle Palestinian-Israeli peace, he will be faced with a vexing problem: Which Palestinian faction/non-state represents the Palestinians? With whom should Washington negotiate? If it is Abbas' Fatah West Bank faction, Obama will be working with an unelected government while effectively ignoring the Hamas regime in Gaza. If the president negotiates with Hamas, he would be negotiating with terrorists - something that would fly in the face of U.S. policy dating back to the Nixon administration. If Obama and his advisers fail to confront this critical issue, we risk engaging in yet another failed round of diplomacy.
          The writer, a former terrorism analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, is the director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center.

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