Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 10, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. "Not Setting Deadlines" for Iran, Clinton Says - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan (Bloomberg)
    The U.S. is "not setting deadlines" for Iran and still considers negotiations as "by far the best approach" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview Saturday.
    Asked if the Obama administration will lay out sharper "red lines" for Iran or state explicitly the consequences of failing to negotiate a deal with world powers by a certain date, Clinton said, "We're not setting deadlines."
    While the U.S. and Israel share the goal that Iran not acquire a nuclear weapon, Clinton said there is a difference in perspective over the time horizon for talks. "They're more anxious about a quick response because they feel that they're right in the bull's-eye, so to speak," Clinton said.
    "But we're convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation."
    Asked what Israel was telling the Obama administration, Clinton said: "They feel that it would be an existential threat if Iran were a nuclear-weaponized state, and no nation can abdicate their self-defense if they feel that they're facing such a threat."

Palestinian Rocket from Gaza Damages Two Homes in Netivot - Avi Issacharoff and Yanir Yagna (Ha'aretz)
    Two homes were severely damaged by a Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza at the Israeli town of Netivot. An additional rocket was fired at Beersheba.
    Netivot Mayor Yechiel Zohar said, "The home here is completely destroyed.... Fortunately there were no casualties or injures, but it's still luck - it could have hit a house with a whole family inside." 
    See also Salafist Militants Claim Rockets Fired into Israel (AFP)
    "We claim responsibility for firing two rockets on Friday," the hardline Islamist Mujahedeen Shura Council said in a statement on Saturday.
    The Salafists also demanded that Hamas release one of its members, Mohammed Rashwan, while urging the "Arab nation to exert pressure on Hamas to stop unfairly pursuing Mujahedeen Shura Council members."

Three Hizbullah Members Arrested in Mexico (AFP-Naharnet-Lebanon)
    A Hizbullah member was arrested Saturday in Mexico and handed over to U.S. authorities, Mexican media reported Sunday.
    Reforma newspaper identified the detained man as Rafik Mohammed Labboun Allaboun, a U.S. national, who was wanted by the U.S. government.
    Two other suspected Hizbullah members - George Abdalah Elders and Justin Yasser Safa of Belize - were arrested along with Allaboun.

Iran's Currency Falls to Record Low (AP-Business Week)
    Iran's currency hit a record low against the U.S. dollar in street trading, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Sunday.
    The rial dropped nearly 7% in a single day, to 24,300 rials to the dollar. The official rate is 12,260 rials to the dollar.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Canada Closes Iran Embassy, Expels Remaining Iranian Diplomats - Bruce Campion-Smith
    In a surprise move Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada was closing its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada as it formally declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. Baird branded Iran as the "most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
        He cited a list of long-standing beefs with the regime in Tehran, including Iranian military assistance to Syria and its refusal to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program. "It routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world's worst violators of human rights," Baird said. He said the main motivation was an attack on the British embassy in Tehran nine months ago and worries that Canadian diplomats were in danger. (Toronto Star-Canada)
  • Israeli PM Praises Canada for Cutting Ties with Iran
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he hopes other countries will follow the example set by Canada, which on Friday broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. Netanyahu told CBC in an interview Sunday: "Iran will not stop unless it sees clear determination by the democratic countries of the world and a clear red line. I don't think that they see a clear red line, and I think the sooner we establish one, the greater the chances that we won't need other types of action."
        Netanyahu said Israel did not know Canada was about to break off ties with Iran, nor did the Jewish state share any special intelligence with Ottawa. "I think everyone in Israel appreciates its forthright stand against a regime that brutalizes its own people, that colludes in the murder of tens of thousands in Syria, that denies the Holocaust and calls for the eradication of the State of Israel while pursuing an illicit program for developing nuclear weapons."  (CBC News)
  • EU Threatens New Iran Sanctions - Claire Rosemberg
    With frustration mounting over the lack of progress in talks between global powers and Iran, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Tehran has made no "substantial offer" to reassure the world of its nuclear intentions. "Therefore we must prepare new sanctions....Atomic weapons in Iran are not acceptable," he added.
        French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, "we consider unacceptable, highly dangerous, the prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons." British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was "necessary to increase the pressure on Iran, to intensify sanctions, to add further to the EU sanctions."  (AFP)
  • Pressure Mounts for EU to Put Hizbullah on Terror List - Laurence Norman and Gordon Fairclough
    Europe is embarking on a debate over whether to place the military wing of Lebanon-based Shiite group Hizbullah on its terrorist list, with the UK and Dutch governments urging action Friday. After accusations that Hizbullah was behind a bomb attack in July in Burgas, Bulgaria, that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, UK Foreign Minister William Hague said it was time for Brussels to revisit the issue. "I would like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hizbullah," Hague said.
        Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal added, "We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hizbullah." However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius signaled on Friday that his country wasn't ready. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Discussing Red Lines for Iran with U.S. - Herb Keinon
    Israel is discussing with the U.S. what kind of "red lines" need to be drawn to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBC in an interview on Sunday. Netanyahu said this could be "a clear delineation of a line which Iran cannot cross in its pursuit of the development of nuclear weapons capability. If Iran saw that, there is a chance, I won't say it's guaranteed, but there's a chance they might pause before they cross that line."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: No Review of PA Economic Accords without Political Progress - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Monday said that Israel will reject Palestinian requests to update the 1994 Paris Protocol, the framework that established economic relations between Israel and the PA, Israel Radio reported. "There is no room to fix it when there is no progress in the political channel, and the Palestinians have huge debts to Israel for transferring gas and electricity," he said. The Paris Protocol set Israeli sea and air ports and border crossings with Jordan and Egypt as paths for Palestinian trade with other countries.
        Hassan Khreisheh, a Palestinian legislator, said that changing the Paris Protocol has become a popular demand that the PA leadership can no longer ignore. Palestinians continued to stage protests in various parts of the West Bank against the high cost of living. Demonstrations took place in Nablus and Ramallah Sunday, where Palestinians chanted slogans against Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas and called for their resignation. Until now, protesters had only demanded the resignation of Fayyad. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Gold Medalist Who Came Back from the Dead - Aaron Kalman
    Among the thousands who watched Noam Gershony win Israel's first gold medal of the 2012 Paralympic Games on Saturday were friends from his previous career as an Apache helicopter pilot for the Israeli Air Force. Gershony's helicopter crashed during the Second Lebanon War. His copilot died on the spot and no one thought the then-23-year-old would survive his wounds.
        But he did survive and four years after the crash, Gershony started playing tennis at Tel Aviv's center for disabled veterans. "I never thought I'd represent the state in anything," Gershony said after his win, a blue-and-white flag draped over his shoulders. "You can't explain the feeling that runs through you when the anthem is played in front of so many people." Indeed, the 29-year-old, with the toughest mentality, burst into tears as the anthem was played and the Israeli flag was hoisted high.
        Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, telephoned to congratulate and thank him. IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz told him: "I salute you."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Noam Gershony at the 2012 Paralympic Games Award Ceremony (YouTube)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Canada Severed Relations with Iran - Daniel Schwartz
    Janice Stein, a Middle East expert and director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, told CBC News she sees the move as an "issue of security for diplomatic personnel in Tehran as the sanctions ramp up, and Canada's remaining diplomatic personnel would be a prime target were crowds to turn hostile."
        Ray Boisvert, the assistant director of Canadian Security Intelligence Service until April 2012, told CBC Radio Saturday that Canada does not normally take the lead in this kind of foreign policy action. He also pointed to what he said was the Iranian Embassy "running some kind of threatening operation" aimed at the Iranian community in Canada. According to Boisvert, Iran "absolutely" poses a security threat in Canada. (CBC News)
        See also Cutting Ties with Tehran Portends Tougher Action - Lee Berthiaume
    The Canadian federal government's surprise decision Friday to suspend diplomatic relations with Iran is being seen as a pre-emptive move in anticipation of tougher action against the Islamic Republic. John Mundy, Canada's last ambassador-designate to Iran before being expelled in 2007, said that from his own experience, Iran does not respect diplomatic niceties. The British Embassy in Iran remains closed and the U.S. hasn't had a diplomatic mission there since 1979. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
        See also Canada's Move to Cut Ties with Iran - Irwin Cotler (Jerusalem Post)
  • Bridging the U.S.-Israeli Gap on Iran - Editorial
    The White House has been saying that, despite Tehran's progress in enriching uranium and refusal to bargain seriously with an international coalition, there remains "time and space for diplomacy." Israel, suggesting that Iran is approaching a "zone of immunity" in which its program would be nearly invulnerable to attack, has been signaling that it could act unilaterally in the coming months.
        The disagreement conveys to Iran that there is no need to worry about a war; certainly, the country's leaders have been behaving as if they feel no pressure to compromise. It also creates the bizarre spectacle of senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials focusing their time and attention on trying to prevent an Israeli attack rather than an Iranian bomb.
        If Mr. Obama really is determined to take military action if Iran takes decisive steps toward producing a bomb, such as enriching uranium to bomb-grade levels or expelling inspectors, he would be wise to say so publicly. Doing so would improve relations with Mr. Netanyahu and deter unilateral Israeli action - and it might well convince Iran that the time has come to compromise. (Washington Post)

The Silent Strike: How Israel Bombed a Syrian Nuclear Installation and Kept It Secret - David Makovsky (New Yorker)

  • In March 2007, agents from the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, made a daring raid into the Vienna home of Ibrahim Othman, the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission.
  • The Mossad operatives recovered three dozen color photographs taken from inside a top-secret Syrian plutonium nuclear reactor. The photographs showed North Korean workers and the reactor, from the inside, had many of the same engineering elements as the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon.
  • After the discovery of the Syrian site, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed the White House. The Bush Administration felt that it didn't have enough evidence to justify a pre-emptive strike, and so the Israelis began preparations for an attack on their own.
  • On September 5, 2007, four F-15s and four F-16s took off and used standard electronic scrambling tools to blind Syria's air-defense system before dropping 17 tons of explosives on their target.
  • However, the situation in Iran differs fundamentally from the Syrian case. Experts have pointed to the risk of civilian casualties and prolonged retaliation.

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