Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
March 28, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Terrorists in Gaza Lost the Last Round of Fighting (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    The last round of escalation in Gaza ended with negative results for the Palestinian terrorist organizations.
    Israel prevented a terrorist attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border with the targeted killing of Popular Resistance Committees commanders.
    The rockets fired from Gaza were relatively ineffective and caused relatively few civilian casualties despite their exceptionally large number, especially with the success of the Iron Dome aerial defense system in intercepting and destroying rockets.
    There was a relatively large number of casualties among the terrorist organizations, especially Palestinian Islamic Jihad, compared with the small number of civilian bystander casualties.
    Of the 20 terrorists killed by IDF fire, 14 belonged to the PIJ (the other six belonged mainly to the PRC).
    All of these contributed to the terrorist organizations' sense that they had lost the last round of escalation.

Syria's Suffocating Economic Reality - Sami Moubayed (Gulf News-Dubai)
    A few days back, it was officially announced that unemployment in Syria had reached 36%. The real number is probably much higher. Until recently, Syrian officialdom insisted that the unemployment rate stood at no more than 11%.
    All state-run projects have come to a grinding halt and major businesses in the private sector, like hotels, restaurants, and service-related companies, have closed down.
    Syrians who kept their jobs complain that their income has lost 50% of its value, thanks to the devaluation of the Syrian pound.
    Fearing for their life savings, ordinary Syrians are frantically trying to convert their money into dollars on the black market, which will undoubtedly further devalue the currency.

NYC Food Co-op Rejects Israel Boycott - Rich Calder (New York Post)
    The Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn voted Tuesday by 1,005 to 653 to reject a proposed boycott of Israeli products.

Israeli-Built Robots Shoot for U.S. Competition - Ronen Shnidman (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
    Earlier this month, several thousand spectators watched student-built robots square off for two days on a custom-sized basketball court in Tel Aviv.
    Dozens of high school teams built robots for a chance to represent Israel in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championship, to be held in St. Louis from April 25-28.
    One standout at the competition was a bright pink robot developed by an all-girls team called "Ladies FIRST," from Beersheba's Ulpana Amit religious high school.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pentagon Presses Congress for More Iron Dome Systems - Carlo Munoz
    U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pushing for congressional funding for more Iron Dome missile defense systems for Israel. "The Department of Defense has been in conversations with...Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement released Tuesday.
        DOD had set aside more than $200 million to help Israel purchase and field the Iron Dome system in fiscal 2012. Israel already has three Iron Dome systems deployed in the country. The system "has played a critical role in Israel's security," Little said. (The Hill)
        See also Israel Sees New Advantage in Iron Dome Anti-Missile System - Sheera Frenkel
    Earlier this month, the Iron Dome system intercepted 56 rockets before they could land, a success rate of 75%. Israeli officials argue, however, that the Iron Dome also identified rockets that were headed for open areas, such as fields, and let them land harmlessly. Factoring those in, Israeli military officials argue that only 18 of the 166 landed anywhere on target, giving the system a success rate of nearly 90%.
        Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz said the ability to protect Israeli population centers from rocket attacks removed one of the key factors that the military had always seen as a limitation on its operations: what the likelihood was of reprisals.
        Israel is installing other systems that are intended to stop larger missiles, fired from farther away. David's Sling, built in conjunction with the U.S. military, is designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, such as those possessed by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. The Arrow, also developed with the U.S., would intercept ballistic missiles fired from hundreds of miles away. (McClatchy)
  • Ahmadinejad Praises Syria for Handling of Uprising
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the Syrian leadership's handling of a year-long uprising in which thousands have died, Iranian media reported on Tuesday. "I am very happy that Syrian officials are managing the situation well...I hope the situation in Syria improves day after day," Ahmadinejad told Syrian President Assad's special envoy, Faisal Meqdad. "By chanting false slogans of defending people's freedom, the Americans want to take control of Syria, Lebanon, Iran and other countries and we should be aware and stand firm against their plots," said Ahmadinejad. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Sanctions Target Iranian Arms Exports - Josh Rogin
    The U.S. Treasury Department Tuesday announced sanctions on a major Iranian cargo airline, an Iranian trading company, and a Nigerian shipping agent that facilitates Iranian arms exports. They were involved in shipments of weapons "to the Levant and Africa, further demonstrating Iran's determination to evade international sanctions and export violence and instability throughout the Middle East and beyond." "As the Iranian regime exports its lethal aid and expertise to foment violence in Syria and Africa, Treasury will continue to expose the officials and companies involved and work to hold them accountable for the suffering they cause," said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen. (Foreign Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Sinai Border Fence Half Finished; Barriers Planned for Syrian, Jordanian Borders - Herb Keinon
    Israel will encircle its land borders with physical barriers that give it the ability to control its boundaries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday during a tour of the Egyptian border fence. The work on the Egyptian border is scheduled to be completed by early next year. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Survivors Mark Ten Years since Passover Blast - Matti Friedman
    Precisely ten years ago, during the Second Intifada, Abdel-Basset Odeh, 25, was dispatched by Hamas terrorists to the Park Hotel in Netanya, where he entered the packed dining hall during the Seder meal. The Palestinian then detonated the powerful bomb he carried among the diners, killing 30 and wounding 140 others. On Tuesday, survivors of the bombing and relatives of the dead gathered in the hotel's dining hall for a memorial service.
        From the beginning of the wave of Palestinian attacks in the fall of 2000 and until that night 18 months later, Israel's military had tried to battle terror groups in the West Bank with small-scale operations and arrests, refraining from invading major cities ceded to Palestinian Authority control as part of the Oslo peace process of the 1990s. That changed in the immediate aftermath of the bombing at the Park Hotel, which seemed to bring Israelis a grim clarity of purpose that had not existed before.
        The next day, prime minister Ariel Sharon's government mobilized infantry and tank reserves and launched an invasion of West Bank cities. The Park Hotel bombing brought the war into the Palestinians' own streets and neighborhoods. Despite some skepticism about the army's ability to successfully squash Palestinian terrorism, a year after the Park Hotel bombing the attacks had slowed. A year after that, they had all but ceased. (Times of Israel)
  • Enthusiasm Waning in Lebanon for Anti-Israel Demo - Mohammed Zaatari
    The "Global March to Jerusalem" scheduled for Friday in Lebanon will be limited to 5,000 people who will gather at Beaufort Castle. A member of the organizing committee said that much of the enthusiasm for the event was waning because the authorities refused to give permission for a gathering south of the Litani River closer to the Israeli border. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • March to Jerusalem: A Sizzle or a Fizzle? - Arieh O'Sullivan
    On March 30, scores of convoys and multitudes of people are planning to converge on Jerusalem in protest of what they claim are land confiscations by Israel. Dubbed the "Global March to Jerusalem," organizers are planning rallies worldwide with the bulk of the demonstrators moving on Israel's borders. While Israel is downplaying the event diplomatically, it has nevertheless beefed up its security forces and issued warnings to neighboring Arab states not to allow demonstrators near the borders, lest there be a replay of similar marches last year that saw over a dozen people killed and hundreds wounded while trying to breech minefields and penetrate Israel's frontiers.
        But this year's planned massive demonstration is coming at a time when the Palestinian issue has fallen off the political table and may quite possibly not generate much support from the Palestinians themselves who live in the West Bank and who prefer the current economic prosperity and security calm to renewed violence with Israel. Despite the attention this event has garnered in the media, there is little indication that there would be a large-scale response by the Palestinians in the West Bank. "The Palestinians at the moment are in no mood for this kind of activity," said Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, a former Israeli chief liaison officer with the Palestinians. (Media Line-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • NGOs Lead New Anti-Israel UN Efforts
    On March 22, 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for "an independent international fact-finding investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the...rights of the Palestinian people" - one of five resolutions focused on allegations against Israel. In response to this consistent violation of the universal human rights framework, the Israeli government announced an end to all contacts with the UNHRC.
        As with the 2009 UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (led by Judge Richard Goldstone), the 2002 pseudo-investigation of the "Jenin massacre," and many other examples, this resolution reflects the role of NGOs working with the powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
        Before the latest UNHRC session, the Ramallah-based Al Haq, funded by Norway, Ireland, and the NDC mechanism (joint funding from Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands), submitted a written statement on behalf of 11 Palestinian NGOs, lobbying for "a UN Fact-Finding Mission" to investigate Israel's policies and practices. As a result of this and similar campaigns, these NGOs and their European government sponsors share in the responsibility for the exploitation of the UNHRC as a framework for political warfare against Israel. (NGO Monitor)

Iran Takes Off the Gloves - Michael Segall (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's speech on November 10, 2011, is viewed as a turning point in Iran's strategy for dealing with threats, a transition from defense to offense. In addition, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said: "We will not only continue to counter enemies' threats, but we will also pose a sufficient threat to them." Mohammad Bagheri, head of the Intelligence and Operations Division of the General Staff, said: "The Supreme Leader's recent statement that from now on we reciprocate 'threat for threat' means a revision of the Iranian nation's defense strategy."
  • Khamenei boasted: "We interfered in the events against Israel, which resulted in triumphs in the 33-day war [the Second Lebanon War of July-August 2006] and the 22-day war [Operation Cast Lead in Gaza]...from now on, we will support and help any nation and any group everywhere, standing and fighting against the Zionist regime. And we are not afraid of saying that."
  • Khamenei implied that Iran no longer needs to hide behind proxies, instead acting directly against Israel, while also being prepared to assist (including with weaponry) any group that fights Israel. The immediate significance is that Iran - which accuses Israel of assassinating nuclear scientists on its territory - no longer fears to stand as Iran against Israeli and Jewish targets and even Western targets.
  • The recent attacks on Israeli targets and interests in the world, most of which were foiled, manifest the change in the Iranian response strategy, currently being implemented by the intelligence and security agencies, primarily the Qods Force.
  • Moreover, according to top U.S. intelligence officials and analysts, the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows that the Iranian leadership has "changed their calculus" and are now more willing to conduct an attack on U.S. soil in "response to real or perceived actions that threaten the regime," and that "it is no longer clear that Iran sees carrying out an attack in the United States as crossing some sort of red line."
  • At the same time, Hamas, regarded as one of Iran's main response tools, is in the thick of an internal controversy about reconciling with Fatah, and Iran sees its ability to influence Hamas' external leadership (which has now departed from Syria) slipping out of its hands. The strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent movement, poses another substantial challenge to Iran.

    IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center and a senior political analyst at Terrogence.

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