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,
August 22, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Offers Egyptian Army Intelligence Aid for Sinai - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is offering Egypt a package of classified intelligence-sharing capabilities designed to help it identify military threats in the Sinai Peninsula and reassure Israel that Egypt can deal with rising militancy along Israel's border, according to a senior Pentagon official.
    The U.S. is offering to supply Egypt with truck-mounted sensors that provide an electronic signal identifying which nation is operating a vehicle. This "blue force tracker" technology has been widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify vehicles at great distances.
    The U.S. is also offering Egypt increased intelligence sharing, including satellite imagery, drone flights and intercepts of cell phone and other communications among militants.

Egyptian Defense Minister: "We Will Cut the Hands of Those that Raise Weapons Against the State from Now On" - Ola El-Saket (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
    During a surprise visit by Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Sinai on Monday, he offered the tribal sheikhs LE1 billion from the armed forces budget to develop the peninsula.
    Youm7 and Al-Watan, as well as the state-run papers Rose al-Youssef and Al-Gomhurriya, all highlighted Sisi's statement: "We will cut the hands of those that raise weapons against the state from now on."

Syria War Tipping Mideast Balance toward Sunnis - Hamza Hendawi (AP)
    For the past few years, Shiites were surging in power across the region, based on the alliance between Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and the Shiites who took power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
    But now the region's Sunni-led powers are encouraged by the prospect that the Sunni-led rebellion could bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad.
    "Sunni Arab countries are pushing back to make up for the losses they suffered after 2003," said Iraqi analyst Hadi Jalo. "With the civil war in Syria and the isolation of the government in Iraq, the Shiite tide is retreating."
    Hamas moved its political leadership out of Damascus. Regional news channels like Al-Jazeera no longer carry Hizbullah leader Nasrallah's speeches live and in full as they once did.

Arabic Website Changing Perceptions about Jews and Judaism - Kenneth Bandler (Jerusalem Post)
    Asl al-Yahud (Origins of the Jews) is an Arabic- language website created by New York-based rabbi Ephraim Gabbai under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee four years ago.
    The site is a growing resource for text, photographs, and video about Judaism and the history of Jewish communities in Arab countries.
    Gabbai also runs a related Facebook page in Arabic where much of the conversation occurs. Gabbai's mother's family came from Iraq, and his father was one of the last Jews to leave Egypt.
    Gabbai believes it is important to explain Judaism through the use of Arabic-language sources and the teachings of renowned Jews who lived in Arab lands. "We are explaining Judaism from a Middle East vantage point," he says.
    The writer is the American Jewish Committee's director of media relations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Asks Egypt to Remove Tanks from Sinai - Isabel Kershner
    Israel is "troubled" by the entry of Egyptian tanks into northern Sinai without coordination with Israel, a violation of the 33-year-old peace treaty between the two countries, and has asked Egypt to withdraw them, an Israeli government official said Tuesday. Israel seeks to encourage Egypt's efforts to restore order in the increasingly chaotic Sinai Peninsula but without posing a threat to its own security.
        With Egyptian forces in Sinai strictly limited by the military appendix of the peace treaty, the vast desert area has until now served as a demilitarized buffer zone. But Egypt has long chafed at the restrictions. "It is clear to everyone that the Egyptians - whether they succeed in dealing with the terror in Sinai or not - at some point are going to ask to open the military appendix," Alex Fishman, a military affairs analyst, wrote Tuesday in Yediot Aharonot. "The meaning of this is that the demilitarization of Sinai will be eroded, which is one of the most important anchors of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt."
        "Israel also looks at the glass half-full," the Israeli government official said. "It welcomes the new Egyptian assertiveness."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel: Deployment of Egyptian Tanks in Sinai Is Violation of Peace Pact - Barak Ravid
    Israel must not ignore Egyptian violations of the Israel-Egypt peace accord, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday, referring to the deployment of Egyptian tanks in Sinai without Israeli permission. "We have to be insistent with the Egyptians and be strict about crossing every last 't,' because otherwise we will be on a slippery slope with regards to everything related to the peace agreement," Lieberman said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Washington Calls for Egyptian Transparency amid Military Buildup in Sinai - Stuart Winer and Ilan Ben Zion
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the U.S. fully supports Egypt's military action to battle terrorism and increase security in Sinai, but added that coordination with Israel must continue according to the peace treaty between the two countries. An Egyptian presidential spokesperson on Tuesday said the Sinai operation is essential to national security, and that Egypt received no request to remove its forces.
        On Wednesday, former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said the Egyptian efforts were needed to battle terror that threatened Israel as much as Egypt. "We need to look at this realistically," he told Army Radio. "The Egyptians going in helps Israel in a big way."  (Times of Israel)
  • Egypt: Army Operation in Sinai "Well-Coordinated" with U.S. and Israel - Dina Ezzat
    An Egyptian military source said Sunday that since the attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards three weeks ago, Egyptian security forces have executed an ongoing operation to eliminate militant cells on the borders. According to a military source, "Operation Eagle" is "well coordinated with both the Americans and Israelis." "The fact that contact between both sides has not been made known to the press does not mean it is not happening - actually it goes beyond mere information-sharing and includes efforts to coordinate."
        He added that these meetings are conducted on a daily basis by officers and "at times has included high-ranking personnel, including Minister of Defense [Abdel-Fattah] El-Sisi and his assistant General [Mohamed] El-Assar." El-Sisi, who was appointed defense minister less than a week ago, arrived in Rafah on Monday to personally follow up Operation Eagle.
        Yet eliminating the Islamist militant presence that has mushroomed in Sinai over the last few years is a tough mission that will take time, according to Mohamed Abdel-Salam, strategic analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
        According to the military source, once Operation Eagle is done, Egypt will return its deployment level to that outlined in the peace treaty with Israel. However, Egypt may well upgrade its intelligence functions in the region. Would this involve a renegotiation of the Camp David Accords to allow for a permanent increase of troops in the region? "Possibly," the military source answered. (Ahram Online-Egypt)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Washington Not Considering Pre-emptive Attack Against Iran - Eli Leon
    Israel is mistaken if it thinks the U.S. will attack Iran, says David Wurmser, former adviser on the Middle East to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. "Right now, the cavalry is not going to ride to Israel's side, even at the last moment." "There is nobody of influence within the establishment or bureaucracy in Washington, let alone abroad, seriously arguing for pre-emptive action, nor are there any factors in the next half year - or even longer - which will change that."
        The U.S. will be willing to attack only when it is afflicted by "something much worse and more personally affecting," Wurmser says. "Until then, sadly, our allies are on their own."  (Israel Hayom)
  • 200,000 Palestinians Visit Israel for Ramadan - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke Tuesday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, sending him best wishes for the end-of-Ramadan Id al-Fitr holiday, in an effort to maintain defense-economic cooperation in a period of comatose diplomatic talks. Second-tier Israeli and PA officials in defense and economic posts enjoy excellent relations, featuring almost daily meetings. Israel and the PA share an interest in preserving the unprecedented level of security that continues today in the West Bank.
        On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank enjoyed the final hours of Id al-Fitr on Tel Aviv beaches. The quiet that has taken hold allowed 200,000 Palestinians this month to make their first visit to Israel in years. The West Bank has become an island of stability in the region during a period of political turbulence. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas Again Denies the Jewish Connection to Jerusalem - Herb Keinon
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas denied the Jewish connection to Jerusalem on Tuesday in a statement marking the 43rd anniversary of an attempt by deranged Australian Christian Denis Michael Rohan to set fire to the al-Aksa mosque. Abbas said "the fire, set by a criminal under the eyes of the Israeli Occupation Authorities, was the first [attack] in a series aiming to demolish al-Aksa mosque and build the alleged Temple."
        Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said in response that he was "disappointed" to hear the mainstream Palestinian leadership "echo outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the Temple Mount, conspiracy theories that are the usual domain of extremist elements."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Diplomacy Has Run Its Course - Clifford D. May
    The intentions of Iran's rulers could not be clearer. They have repeatedly threatened and incited genocide. Most recently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel "a cancerous tumor" which will "soon be excised." He added: "The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists." The website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that there is religious "justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm." To achieve these goals, Iran's rulers have been developing nuclear weapons. The Israelis would be very much justified in using military force to prevent the revolutionary Islamist regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
        Winston Churchill called World War II an unnecessary war because it could have been prevented: The Nazis should never have been allowed to obtain the weapons they would use to overrun Europe. Hitler marveled to one of his generals that no one challenged him while he was weak. They waited until he was at his strongest, thus guaranteeing a much bloodier conflict. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (USA Today)
  • EU Still Hairsplitting on Hizbullah - Walter Russell Mead
    Despite repeated American claims that Hizbullah is assisting Butcher Assad in Syria and preparing attacks abroad, the EU continues its refusal to mark the Lebanese group down as a terrorist organization. EU officials claim that because Hizbullah is a political party in addition to a militant group, it should not be classified as a terrorist group.
        It's hard to imagine why the EU should keep ignoring all that fundraising for Hizbullah within its borders - as the Assad regime, the group's sugar daddy, is dragged kicking and screaming off this earth, we might just see its proxy's military wing dust off its armaments (and maybe acquire some new chemical ones.) (American Interest)

Sinai, the New Egypt, and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The peace relationship established in 1978-9 between Israel and Egypt constituted a significant and groundbreaking change in the entire mindset of the international community, in general, and in Middle East relationships, in particular. It was a revolutionary change in the entire concept of Middle East political, military, economic, and social relationships that laid the foundation for the ensuing Middle East peace process between Israel and its other neighbors.
  • In Article III of the peace treaty, Egypt and Israel undertake: "to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not committed from within its territory, or by any forces subject to its control or by any other forces stationed on its territory."
  • Thus, both states are obligated to prevent the use of their territory for acts of terror against the other. In the context of the present situation in Sinai and the enhanced terror activity by such organizations as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda, this means that Egypt has the full sovereign responsibility and obligation to act in order to prevent any such terror activity which could pose a threat to Israel.
  • The semi-demilitarization of Sinai, while considered necessary and agreed-upon in 1979, clearly did not visualize the possibility that thirty years hence the area would become a haven for arms smuggling and terror infrastructure. In order to cope with just such eventualities, the treaty enables various mechanisms to handle situations that crop up on an ad-hoc basis and there is no express need for formal amendment to the peace treaty itself. Conversely, any changes in the level of forces of the Egyptian army in Sinai without Israel's agreement would constitute a violation of the treaty.
  • The present challenge and threat to the integrity of the peace treaty posed by the evolving character of Sinai is a challenge that can and should be handled within the context of the peace treaty. It is perhaps the most serious test of the capability of Egypt to prove to the world that even in an era of extreme political change, its interest is in protecting and maintaining the integrity of the peace relationship with Israel.

    The writer, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center, is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.

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