Prepared for the
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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 2, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Foils Hamas Bomb Attack on Jerusalem Mall - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Security Agency last month arrested five Hamas operatives from east Jerusalem and Ramallah who were plotting to bomb the Mamilla mall just outside the Old City of Jerusalem during the holiday season beginning this week, the agency said Sunday.
    They were planning to cover the bomb in wrapping paper to make it look like a present, then place it in a restaurant, cafe or store while the mall was filled with shoppers.
    Two members of the cell have Israeli identity cards, which allow them to "enjoy freedom of carry out terror attacks inside Israel." The two east Jerusalem residents were working as maintenance men in the mall.
    Israeli investigators discovered a homemade bomb in the home of Hamdi Romana, 22, a resident of Ramallah in the West Bank.
    The terror cell was planning other attacks, including planting a bomb in Ramallah that would target Israeli soldiers, firing rockets at Israeli settlements near Ramallah, and firing at soldiers at the Hizme checkpoint in northeast Jerusalem.

Bomb Detonates near IDF Force on Gaza Border - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    A powerful bomb exploded near an IDF patrol on the Gaza border fence near Nahal Oz on Monday after a bulldozer exposed the device. No injuries or damage were reported.

U.S. Carrier Group Rerouted toward Syria - Andrea Shalal-Esa (Reuters)
    The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, four destroyers and a cruiser are heading west from the Indian Ocean toward the Red Sea to help support a U.S. strike on Syria, defense officials said on Sunday.

Egypt Arrests Three after Machine Gun Attack on Ship in Suez Canal (Reuters-Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Egypt has arrested three people who opened fire with machine guns on a ship passing through the Suez Canal on Saturday, an army source said Sunday.

Amid Crackdown, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Shifts Tactics (AP-Al Arabiya)
    Reeling from a fierce security crackdown, the Muslim Brotherhood brought out mostly scattered, small crowds Friday in its latest protests of Egypt's military coup.
    The arrests of thousands of its supporters and members - and the fear of more bloodshed - have weakened its ability to mobilize the streets.
    Rather than have protests converge in one square and encounter force from police and angry residents, the group appeared to purposely plan smaller marches as a way of continuing demonstrations and avoiding bloodshed.

Fifth Israeli Communications Satellite Launched into Orbit - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    A fifth satellite from the Israeli firm Spacecom was launched into space on Saturday night from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
    "Amos 4 is the biggest and most advanced satellite ever built in Israel," said Yossi Weiss, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries. The satellite will provide broadband broadcast service to Russia, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

U.S. Jewish Organizations Get $9 Million for "Homeland Security" - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil (Times of Israel)
    American Jewish institutions will receive $9 million in non-profit security grants designed to help protect against and respond to terror threats. This year Jewish organizations are receiving almost 90% of the grants of this type.
    The funds subsidize efforts by schools, synagogues, and community centers to acquire and install physical security enhancements and undertake preparedness training.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama: I Will Ask for Congressional Approval before Syria Strike
    President Obama said Saturday: "The world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century....This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security."
        "I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets...[to] hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out....I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."  (White House)
        See also White House Girds for Battle with Congress over Syria Strike - Jay Solomon and Janet Hook
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday: "If the United States is unwilling to lead a coalition of people who are prepared to stand up for the international norm with respect to chemical weapons...we will be granting a blanket license to Assad to continue to gas....We will send a terrible message to the North Koreans, Iranians and others who might be trying to read how serious is America."
        Leading Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Obama is going to face a major political fight to gain Congress's approval. The Assad regime, meanwhile, claimed the U.S. had lost its nerve and was fading as a global superpower. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Syria Resolution Will Be "a Very Tough Sell" in Congress, Lawmakers Say - Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe
    Lawmakers from both parties said Sunday that the administration has presented convincing evidence that Assad's government carried out a chemical attack. The key stumbling block, they said, was the concern that a limited strike would not be an effective deterrent and would only draw the U.S. military deeper into Syria's civil war. (Washington Post)
  • U.S.: Assad Chemical Weapons Attack Killed 1,429 People Including 426 Children
    On Aug. 30, the White House released an "Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21," which "determined that 1,429 people were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children." "Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours." "We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21."  (White House)
        See also Sarin Gas Used in Syria Attack, Kerry Says - Craig Whitlock and Ed O'Keefe
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that new laboratory tests showed traces of sarin, an extremely toxic nerve agent, in blood and hair samples collected from emergency workers who responded Aug. 21 to the chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs. (Washington Post)
        See also Map of Damascus Areas Affected by the August 21 Chemical Attack (White House)
  • What the U.S. Knows about Syria's Use of Chemical Weapons
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday: We know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year. We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime's chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations.
        We know that Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks. We know where the rockets were launched from, at what time, and where they landed. And we know that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose, with reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs of victims with breathing difficulties, twitching with spasms, foaming at the mouth, unconscious, and dead. (State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Understanding the Place of WMDs in Assad's War Strategy - Jonathan Spyer
    It is a misrepresentation to claim that Assad is "winning" the war against the rebellion. The recent Qusayr and Khaldiyeh battles were about regime consolidation in the 40% of Syrian territory over which it rules.
        The rebels have been engaged in an offensive from the eastern suburbs of Damascus, of which eastern Ghouta forms a part, since July 24. The rebels were making slow headway into regime-controlled areas of the city. It would make perfect sense for Assad to attempt to drive the rebels out of eastern Ghouta and away from Damascus. The chemical attack appears to have formed part of the opening move of this offensive.
        Two Le Monde reporters, who spent two months in eastern Ghouta in April and May, revealed several earlier instances of attacks on the area in which chemical agents were employed. The French government tested materials brought out of the country by the reporters. Following these tests, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius concluded there was "no doubt" that the regime had "used sarin." Items tested by the British government similarly confirmed that sarin had been used. Assad has been using chemical weapons to kill his own civilians for quite a while now. (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Game-Changer for Assad - Zvi Bar'el
    Based on opposition reports, the Syrian army has transferred soldiers to dozens of schools and mosques near the sites expected to be targeted in the U.S. attack, under the assumption that the U.S. will avoid attacking such civilian sites. In addition, hundreds of prisoners have been moved to the expected target sites to serve as human shields. Additional reports tell of the killing, on the order of the army high command, of the head of the chemical weapons department of the Republican Guards who is responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
        Yet the living fence Assad is building at the target sites cannot hide the shock that has hit his closest allies: Russia and Iran. Russia has decided to freeze the shipment of refurbished MiG jets, S300 antiaircraft missiles, and Yak training planes to Syria, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reports. The Kremlin will have to deal with the evidence presented to it - most likely during the G-20 summit this week - that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A U.S. Attack on Syria: Implications for Israel - Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov
    The most important Israeli interest in the context of an American attack is the unequivocal clarification that there is a high price to pay for the use of nonconventional weapons. From a broader perspective, it is important for Israel that the U.S. reestablish its strategic influence in the Middle East and improve its credibility and deterrence in the region, which have eroded over the past three years. Restoring American deterrent power would strengthen the standing of U.S. allies, including Israel, in the struggle between the region's moderates and radicals.
        In the long term, it is very important to Israel that the fighting in Syria not end in a victory for the Tehran-Damascus-Hizbullah alliance. When the civil war in Syria ends, it is important for Israel that a liberal, pro-Western state be established that abandons its Iranian patron and ceases its support for terrorist organizations. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, is director of the INSS, where Avner Golov is a researcher. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Striking Syria: Lessons from the Israeli Experience - Michael Herzog
    Since Bashar Assad assumed power in 2000, Israel has carried out several surgical airstrikes in Syria. To be effective, even a limited strike must destroy some of Assad's significant assets, and Syria has plenty of chemical, military, command-and-control, and regime targets of this nature.
        In Israel's experience, Assad has proven to be a rational (if ruthless) actor. He was deterred from responding to recent and past strikes because he did not want to invite the consequences of Israeli military might. Therefore, the U.S. has a good chance of deterring him as well. To do so, however, Washington should be prepared to revisit Syria militarily if Assad escalates following an initial U.S. strike. Assad must believe that he will pay a more painful price if he does not heed deterrent messages. Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, formerly head of IDF strategic planning, is a fellow of the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Frustration and Disgust: International Inaction over Syria - Amb. Alan Baker
    Over one thousand innocent civilians were cruelly murdered in Syria on August 21, 2013. Thousands more were seriously wounded. Faced with all this, one may ask where are the UN Security Council and General Assembly? Where is the European Union? Where is the UN Human Rights Council? Where are the international bodies that are so quick and eager to condemn any and every action by Israel? Where are the BDS activists who appear blind to situations of genuine cruelty and lawlessness in the world?
        Where are those hypocritical jurists and academics who turn a blind eye to genuine, blatant, and glaring violations of international law that have no connection to Israel? It is evidently much easier to bash Israel for little or no cause, than it is to react to the brutal chemical murder and ruination of the families of thousands of Syrians. The writer is former legal adviser to Israel's foreign ministry and ambassador of Israel to Canada. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Israeli Reactions to U.S. Postponement of Syrian Attack

  • Weak World Response on Syria Boosts Chance of Strong Israeli Action on Iran - Herb Keinon
    Whether or not Israel decides to act against Iran could be determined in large part by how the world acts now against Syria. "Trust us," the world - led by the U.S. - has urged Israel for years on Iran. "We will deal with Iran, we will not allow them to get nuclear weapons." Really? One could not blame the Iranians for calculating what action they could expect if they run at full speed to nuclear capability. The British will vote military action down in Parliament, and Obama will bring the matter to Congress for a vote if Congress is in session.
        Besides, if this is how the world acts when 1,429 people are gassed, how should we expect it to act if Iran just crosses the nuclear threshold but doesn't kill anybody yet? If the response is not harsh enough, or swift enough, or serious enough, the Iranians may very well conclude that they would face a similar situation and proceed with their nuclear program at full speed.
        Israel, too, may conclude that if the world's response is not harsh enough, or swift enough, or serious enough, then they too will feel that they have a green light to take action to stop the Iranians. The lack of a strong international response in Syria might compel Israel to think twice about relying on the world to rid it of the Iranian nuclear menace. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Decision to Delay Strike against Syria Sends Dangerous Message - Ron Ben-Yishai
    President Obama blinked. This sends an encouraging message to cruel, unrestrained regimes that possess or don't possess weapons of mass destruction. The American president's delay is a message. In the case of Iran, which is developing nuclear weapons and is preparing to achieve nuclear "breakout" capability, such a delay could be fatal from Israel's standpoint.
        On the other hand, according to leaks published in the American press, the U.S. will attack the facilities of Syria's military industry, which produces M-600 missiles for Syria and Hizbullah, as well as a host of other weapons. Should Congress approve an attack, President Obama will not be as limited as he is now with regards to the scope of the attack and the damage it will cause. (Ynet News)
  • Obama Unleashes Horror in Jerusalem - David Horovitz
    The Israeli political and security leadership is privately horrified by President Obama's 11th-hour turnaround on striking Syria. It is profoundly concerned that the president has set a precedent that may complicate, delay or even rule out credible action to thwart Iran's drive to nuclear weapons. Obama has given Assad more time to ensure that any eventual strike causes a minimum of damage, and to claim initial victory in facing down the U.S. At the very least, too, Obama has led the Iranians to believe that presidential promises to prevent them attaining nuclear weapons need not necessarily be taken at face value.
        If a formidable U.S. strike does ultimately come, some of that damage can yet be undone, the Israeli leadership believes. If there is no strike, the U.S. - hitherto Israel's only dependable military ally - will be definitively perceived in the region as a paper tiger, with dire implications for its regional interests and for Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Obama's Strategy - Editorial
    The West's reaction on the Syrian front shouldn't be perceived as a litmus test regarding how we can expect the U.S. and other Western countries to react if and when Iran is on the verge of attaining nuclear weapon capability. A nuclear capability would embolden Tehran to seize control of the Straits of Hormuz and unleash a nuclear arms race. Possessing a nuclear bomb would radically augment Iran's political influence - and the influence of its terrorist proxies - as well as making it nearly impervious to international pressure. The West has a clear, vested interest in preventing this from happening. In contrast, the ongoing civil war in Syria is primarily a humanitarian crisis. (Jerusalem Post)

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