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,
October 24, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

20 Killed in Shelling of Bakery in Aleppo, Syria (Los Angeles Times)
    At least 20 people were killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday when a bakery was hit by a shell fired by government forces. More than 50 people were injured in the attack.
    Only half of the victims could be identified. They were among more than 100 killed across Syria on Tuesday, activists said.
    In the Damascus suburb of Moadamyeh al Sham, residents Tuesday held funerals for 42 civilians who were arrested at a military checkpoint Monday and soon found executed. Some reportedly were strangled, others stabbed and still others shot at close range, according to an opposition group.
    The funeral procession turned into an angry protest, which was attacked with an explosive device. Some 16 people were killed at the gathering, including six children.

U.S. May Soon Become World's Top Oil Producer - Jonathan Fahey (AP)
    U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the U.S. could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.
    Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7% this year to 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.
    The Energy Department forecasts that U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons will average 11.4 million barrels next year. That would be a record for the U.S. and just below Saudi Arabia's 11.6 million barrels.
    Citibank forecasts U.S. production could reach 13 million to 15 million barrels per day by 2020, helping to make North America "the new Middle East."

Study: No Anti-Semitism, Anti-Israel Push at Most College Campuses (JTA)
    97% of U.S. and Canadian college campuses report no anti-Israel or anti-Semitic events, according to a new study by Mitchell Bard and Jeff Dawson at the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.
    The study tracked 674 anti-Israel events at 108 U.S. and Canadian universities during the 2011-12 academic year. One-third of the incidents took place on 10 campuses.
    Two groups - the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine - were responsible for most of the episodes.

Jordan's King Steers through Mideast Turbulence, Hoping to Survive (AP-Washington Post)
    The foiling of a planned al-Qaeda terror plot in Jordan underscores how things are heating up for King Abdullah II, a Western-oriented monarch.
    The king, a key U.S. ally, has been working overtime to fend off a host of domestic challenges including a Muslim Brotherhood boycott of parliamentary elections, increasing opposition from his traditional Bedouin allies, and the Syrian civil war spilling over the border.
    So far, Abdullah has largely maintained control, partly by relinquishing some of his powers to parliament and amending the country's constitution.
    His Western-trained security forces have been able to keep protests from getting out of hand.
    And most in the opposition remain loyal to the king, pressing for reforms but not his removal.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Qatar's Gaza Visit Helps Hamas, But Poses Risks - Matt Bradley
    The Emir of Qatar became the first head of state to visit Gaza while under Hamas control. In a jubilant celebration alongside Hamas' leader, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on Tuesday pledged $400 million in infrastructure aid for roads, a new hospital and housing for freed Palestinian prisoners. Qatar's move exploits a patronage vacuum left by Iran, which halted aid to Hamas after it spurned the Assad regime in support of the Syrian rebellion. Syria had hosted Hamas' exiled leadership until earlier this year.
        But some analysts worried that Sheik Hamad's largess threatened to deepen the estrangement between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank by empowering Hamas and frustrating any potential rapprochement with Israel. "It gives a stamp of permanence to Palestinian secession, you have two Palestinian de facto states that refuse to talk to each other,'' said Yigal Palmor, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman. "What does that do to the ability to negotiate peace?"  (Wall Street Journal)
  • EU Votes to Drop Trade Block on Israeli Medicines - Sahar Zivan
    The European Parliament voted on Tuesday by 379-240 to remove controls on the sale of Israeli pharmaceuticals within the EU, part of a wider-ranging initiative to deepen bilateral ties between the EU and Israel. It means that Israeli pharmaceuticals can be exported to any EU nation without delays and without requiring any additional certification. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also EU Needs Israeli Medicines - Marina Yannakoudakis
    The politicization of a technical agreement with Israel that will facilitate the import of high-quality and affordable medicines into Europe has already caused delays in the provision of life-saving drugs to European patients at lower prices. When the "Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products" is voted on by all members of the European Parliament this week, it will have taken over two years of negotiations to finalize an already established joint commitment with Israel.
        Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals makes Copaxone, the world's top selling treatment for multiple sclerosis. The company has also produced a generic version of Lipitor, the popular blood pressure medication and the world's best-selling drug. Teva also produces a generic version of Actos, which is used to improve blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. According to industry estimates, Europeans save nearly 25 billion euros annually by using generics. The writer is Conservative MEP for London in the European Parliament. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Three Hurt in Gaza Rocket Attacks
    Three foreign workers were injured on Wednesday in the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel. Two of the three sustained serious wounds. More than 70 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza hit Israel since Tuesday night. Five houses suffered direct hits. School has been suspended in the area and residents within 10 km. of Gaza were instructed to remain inside fortified spaces. (Ynet News)
        See also Anti-Missile Defense System Intercepts 7 Rockets Fired at Ashkelon - Yoav Zitun
    Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system intercepted seven rockets fired at Ashkelon, the IDF said Wednesday. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian with Explosives Caught Heading for Jerusalem - Yaakov Lappin
    A Palestinian man caught with eight pipe bombs at the Kalandiya checkpoint was trying to get to Jerusalem, the IDF said Tuesday. The man got off a Palestinian bus carrying a large backpack and tried to sneak past security checks for pedestrians at the checkpoint north of Jerusalem.
        Lt.-Col. Yuval Shenkin, commander of the Military Police's Erez Battalion, praised the alertness of soldiers for seizing the bombs. "They begin their shift at four a.m. 15,000 Palestinians and thousands of vehicles pass through Kalandiya to go to Jerusalem. They prevented the bombs from getting through."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Nuclear Iran: Technical Issues Overshadowing Negotiations - Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen
    International diplomacy concerning Iran's nuclear program centers on the regime's lack of compliance with agreements it has signed to ensure that peaceful nuclear work is not used as a cover for weapons development. Iran's current 20%-enrichment level sounds a long way from the 90% needed for a bomb, but this is not the case. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to explain why in the drawing he displayed during his September UN address. In fact, most of the work of producing weapons-grade material has already been done once 20% is reached.
        The problem in allowing Iran to continue any enrichment work without a clear indication that it has given up nuclear military ambitions is twofold. First, its competence with centrifuge technology will likely improve, and second, it will eventually develop improved centrifuges to replace its existing low-efficiency machines, allowing it to rapidly produce larger quantities of weapons-grade material.
        Iran already has 240 kg. of 20%-enriched uranium - an amount that, if further enriched, could produce a simple atomic bomb (in IAEA jargon, a "significant quantity.") Although some of its uranium stock has been made into fuel plates for a research reactor, this material could be converted back to centrifuge feedstock within a few months.
        Accordingly, current estimates indicate that Iran could produce up to four "significant quantities" of weapons-grade uranium in as little as nine months from now. This timetable will shrink as more 20%-enriched uranium is produced. Once Iran reaches 960 kg., potential breakout time will be measured in weeks rather than months. Simon Henderson is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. Olli Heinonen, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center, formerly served as deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Countdown to the Red Line in Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz
    Iran's oil exports have been halved by economic sanctions, but that still leaves the regime with around $50 billion in oil income this year, according to calculations by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Nevertheless, the Iranian economy has taken a substantial hit from sanctions. Tehran's recent currency restrictions were also a warning: In all probability the regime is battening down the hatches, husbanding foreign-exchange reserves, and preparing for a long ordeal.
        Given the progress that Tehran has already made with its nuclear plans - still-hidden centrifuge manufacturing plants, enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow, a likely weaponization facility at Parchin, and an extensive ballistic-missile program - the regime faces a short, relatively inexpensive dash to the nuclear finish line.
        At what point does the stockpiling of 20%-enriched uranium so diminish the time for processing weapons-grade material that Iran could become a threshold nuclear state in less than 30 days? A reasonable guess, based on the increasing number of centrifuges, is that Tehran will be there by the end of 2013. Gerecht, a former CIA case officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Dubowitz is FDD's executive director. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Would Hizbullah and Hamas Join Iran in a War Against Israel? - Ehud Eilam
    There is a prevalent view that in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran, Tehran's proxies in Lebanon and Gaza - Hizbullah and Hamas - would join in retaliation against Israel. A more likely scenario is that those groups' participation will be limited at best. Hizbullah must consider its crumbling support from the weakened Assad regime, as well as popular opposition within Lebanon to its role in a military conflict with Israel. Hamas' recent feud with Iran over the group's lack of support for the Assad regime could render it reluctant to assist in the fight against Israel. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

Hizbullah's Unspoken War in Syria - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The fighting in Syria has already spilled over the border into Lebanon, threatening the fragile sectarian balance holding the country together. Cross-border attacks have become customary, with the Syrian Army shelling and shooting into Lebanese villages that it says are harboring Syrian rebels.
  • Across from El Hermel in northeastern Lebanon and inside Syrian territory, a string of villages inhabited by Shiites has been clashing with majority-Sunni villages that back the Syrian opposition forces in the countryside of Qusayr, on the outskirts of Homs. Hizbullah is interfering directly and militarily in Qusayr under the pretext of protecting the Shiite villages in the area. It currently claims control of 18 villages along the widest part of the Orontes River Basin.
  • The French Mandatory authorities delineated the Lebanon-Syria border in the years following the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920, but the border was never finalized. What is happening on the ground could be called de facto demarcation since Hizbullah has a presence in the Shiite string of villages (annexing them de facto to Lebanon), while the Free Syrian Army is present in most Sunni villages, thus annexing them to Syria.
  • Hizbullah appears to be carving out a 20-kilometer (12-mile) border corridor to the Syrian Alawite enclave on the coast. Hizbullah appears to be seeking to control strategic access to the Orontes River Basin in Syria and Lebanon to form a contiguous Alawite-Shiite mini-state. Yet the Shiite belt would likely face a major challenge from Sunnis on both sides of the border.
  • For the first time, Hizbullah is "exporting" its military know-how and might for use against Arab neighbors, in order to respond to Tehran's strategic scheme to protect the Assad regime from falling. But by doing so, Hizbullah has alienated the Sunni majority in Syria and also in Lebanon. It would be fair to assess that in case Assad's regime falls, Hizbullah will also have to fight for its life in the Lebanese context.
  • Hizbullah has been fighting for years to prove its "Lebanese" credentials. Fighting alongside the Alawite regime has turned Hizbullah back into what it really is: just another Lebanese armed militia, a Shiite army at the service of its patrons, sponsors, and protectors in Tehran.

    Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

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