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,
December 19, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak Dies (Ynet News)
    Former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak died Wednesday at 68.
    He was decorated twice with the Medal of Courage for his conduct in Karameh, Jordan, in 1968 and in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1973.
    See also Lipkin-Shahak Commanded Airlift of Ethiopian Jews - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
    Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, as the IDF's deputy chief of staff, commanded Operation Solomon that brought 14,266 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in a covert 36-hour military operation in 1991.
    "Almost everyone was in white clothes, as if they were going to a wedding," said Lipkin-Shahak at the time.

Palestinians: The Third Intifada Has Begun - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
    In the past few days, the third intifada has already begun, as violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have increased in various parts of the West Bank.
    In recent weeks, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently decided to endorse a new strategy towards Hamas. He now considers Hamas a political ally rather than an enemy.
    Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a "popular intifada" against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian sources in Ramallah revealed.
    The two men believe that such an intifada at this stage would further isolate Israel and earn the Palestinians even more sympathy in the international arena, the sources said.
    Abbas and Mashaal are aware that the Palestinians are now not ready for another military confrontation with Israel. That is why they agreed on a "popular intifada" that would see Palestinian youth engage in daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers and settlers, especially in the West Bank.
    Their goal is to drag Israel into a confrontation with Palestinian civilians to embarrass the Israelis among the international community and force them to capitulate.

IDF, PA Collaboration in West Bank Faltering - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    IDF sources said Tuesday that cracks have been appearing in relations with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
    PA security forces stopped their IDF counterparts from pursuing their activities on at least two occasions in the past few weeks.
    According to a Palestinian source, the UN's upgrade of the PA's status has prompted the change.
    An Israeli security source said that while a change in the two parties' collaboration has been noted, together with a "notably different atmosphere," the channels of communications are still open.
    An Israeli message has been relayed to the Palestinians, warning them against allowing the events in the West Bank to spiral out of control.

Palestinian Plane Terrorist Loses Bid for Release (Press Association-UK)
    Nezar Hindawi, a convicted terrorist who has served 26 years in prison for trying to blow up an Israeli airliner, has lost his latest High Court bid for parole.
    Hindawi hid the bomb in his pregnant fiancee's hand luggage without her knowledge on a flight from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv in 1986.
    It could have killed 375 people but was found by security staff.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • A Defector's Account of Syrian Chemical Weapons on the Move - David Ignatius
    A Syrian defector who worked inside the chemical weapons network has alleged that two senior Syrian officers moved about 100 kg. of chemical weapons materials from a secret military base in Nasiriyah in January 2012. The officers placed the chemicals in a civilian vehicle and were seen driving toward Lebanon. Two days later, two men with Lebanese accents arrived at the base and were given training in how to combine and activate the chemicals, as well as the proper safety precautions in handling them.
        The Syrian source also described construction of special trucks, which could transport and mix the weapons. These mobile mixers were constructed inside Mercedes or Volvo trucks that were similar to refrigerator trucks. Inside were storage tanks, pipes and a motor to drive the mixing machinery, the defector said.
        The Syrian chemical warfare capability may be even more dangerous than people had thought because the weapons can be moved to other locations and mixed en route. There's a significant risk of proliferation to groups such as Hizbullah, which could pose a global terrorist threat. (Washington Post)
        See also Syria Rebels Make Further Gains
    Rebels in Syria are reported to have made fresh gains as the battle for control of the country intensifies. The rebels said they had seized the central town of Halfaya and stormed an army base near the southern city of Deraa, capturing a number of tanks. (BBC News)
  • Tensions Rise in West Bank After Gaza Battle - Joshua Mitnick
    Clashes have mounted in recent weeks between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, spurring concerns about a new uprising and undermining years of stability. The tensions represent the latest fallout from last month's fighting in Gaza, analysts say. November's weeklong conflict raised the stature of Hamas in many Palestinians' eyes.
        The popularity of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has now surpassed that of Mahmoud Abbas. Haniyeh would beat Abbas 48% to 45%, according to a poll published Monday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. In September, Abbas held an 11-point advantage. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Leader Vows More Jerusalem Building - Ian Deitch
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands more Jewish homes in Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel, and we will continue to build there," he said, adding that Israelis overwhelmingly believed in a "united Jerusalem."
        A poll published Tuesday in Ha'aretz said that 67% of center-left voters do not favor dividing Jerusalem - meaning handing over east Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Many other voters oppose giving up any territory at all.
        Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said a Jerusalem planning committee approved 700 homes for Arab residents on Tuesday. (AP)
        See also U.S. Rebukes Israeli Plans for New Homes in East Jerusalem - Anne Gearan (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 57 Senators Urge Obama to Reiterate Willingness to Use Force Against Iran - Haviv Rettig Gur
    A bipartisan group of 57 senators have signed a letter this week urging President Obama "to reiterate your readiness to take military action against Iran if it continues its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon." The Iranian government "has quintupled its stockpile of low enriched uranium since 2009," "taken a significant step closer to possessing weapons-grade uranium by enriching up to 20%," and "raced towards completion of its hardened Fordow enrichment facility."
        Initiated by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the letter also calls for the administration to undermine the current authoritarian Iranian regime and to support more liberal democratic elements. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel: Construction in Jerusalem Is Not Negotiable - Shlomo Cesana
    Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin issued a message to heads of parliaments around the world on Tuesday insisting that Israel's decision to build in Jerusalem was "not negotiable." "Israel refuses to accept the fact that mere weeks after rockets were fired from Gaza into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there are still those who see Israel's decision to hold on to strategic territory surrounding Jerusalem, and to build within its capital, as the biggest obstacle standing in the way of peace."
        "There is a sense that nations in Europe are more interested in establishing a Palestinian state than in ensuring the safety and existence of the Jewish state," he added. "For many Israelis it was unbearable to hear Hamas leaders calling for war and for wiping out the Jewish state on one side, and the world condemning Israel for taking steps to protect its security and existence on the other side."
        "Israel will not relinquish control over strategic territories necessary to maintain its security, including the area known as E1, under any future diplomatic arrangement."  (Israel Hayom)
  • EU Will Soon List Hizbullah as Terrorist Group - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The U.S. State Department indicated Tuesday that it expected the EU to finally designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, following an intensive U.S. lobbying campaign and suspected Hizbullah plots on European soil. "We've been engaging with our partners in Europe and we are cautiously optimistic - at last - about the prospects for an EU designation of the group," Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told the Brookings Institution.
        Benjamin later told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. has been sharing information with European counterparts on Hizbullah's increased activities in their region. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu Notes Passing of U.S. Senator Inouye (D-Hawaii)
    "On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye....Since the establishment of the State of Israel, our country has been blessed to have had the unwavering support of outstanding American leaders who were dedicated to strengthening the security of Israel and to deepening the unique and powerful alliance between Israel and the United States."
        "But even among these leaders, the contributions of Senator Inouye stand out. His friendship to the Jewish people knew no bounds, and he worked tirelessly throughout his public life to safeguard the one and only Jewish state. The people of Israel will forever owe him a profound debt of gratitude."  (Israel Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Chuck Hagel Is Not the Right Choice for Defense Secretary - Editorial
    Former Senator Chuck Hagel's stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Obama during his first term - and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him. He repeatedly voted against sanctions, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which at the time was orchestrating devastating bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
        Obama has said that his policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that containment is not an option. Hagel has taken a different view, writing in a 2008 book that "the genie of nuclear weapons is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does."
        Hagel has expressed strong skepticism about the use of force. We share that skepticism - but we also understand that, during the next year or two, Obama may be forced to contemplate military action if Iran refuses to negotiate or halt its uranium-enrichment program. He will need a defense secretary ready to support and effectively implement such a decision. (Washington Post)
  • Telling the Truth on Facebook - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Israel's embassy in Ireland got itself in hot water for an inflammatory posting on its Facebook page that embarrassed the Jewish state. As much as it might have been wiser for anyone connected to the Israeli government to avoid any mention of the holy family or Christmas, their "offensive" post was primarily guilty of doing what diplomats are generally urged to avoid: telling the truth.
        The post did no more than state the obvious when it noted that Jews without security in Palestinian Authority-ruled Bethlehem are at grave risk. Indeed, Rachel's Tomb, which is located outside the town, is often besieged by violent Palestinians seeking to take over that Jewish shrine. In raising the subject, the embassy did the unthinkable and told the truth about Palestinian violence and prejudice. (Commentary)

The "Day After" Scenario in Syria - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The moment of truth is approaching in Syria. Bashar Assad's regime is fighting a rearguard battle and has already lost control over large parts of the country. Syria's vice president, Farouq al-Shara, admitted in an interview in the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar on December 17 that he did not believe that the Syrian army could win the present confrontation.
  • It is unlikely that Assad's regime believes the use of chemical weapons can restore the previous situation in Syria. It appears probable that the regime will instead seek to transfer most of the surviving loyal forces and strategic (including chemical) weaponry to the Alawite enclave in the west of the country to serve as a deterrent to acts of revenge and a political card for ensuring the Alawite community's status in a future Syrian order.
  • While the U.S. and other Western countries have recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the sole and exclusive representative of the Syrian people, the rebel forces regard the new leadership as having been imposed on them, and are prepared at most to accept it as a temporary actor that can mobilize the international support needed to complete the endeavor of toppling the regime.
  • In actuality, the dominant forces in Syria are the military frameworks that have waged the campaign against the regime since March 2011. The overwhelming majority, if not all, espouse an Islamist, jihadist, Salafist outlook.
  • The full backing of the fighting forces for Jahbat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda, against the U.S. and the West likely indicates the future direction of the Syrian revolution, which appears ready to adopt Islam as the main basis of the government that will replace the Assad regime.
  • After overthrowing the Assad regime, a potential military-terrorist threat to Israel will likely emerge in the transition period, which will be marked by governmental instability and a lack of central control over at least some of the fighting forces.

    The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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