Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 15, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Plot to Assassinate Putin During Iran Visit Uncovered - Lynn Berry (AP/Washington Post)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has been told about a plot to assassinate him during a visit to Iran this week, a Kremlin spokeswoman said Sunday.
    Interfax news agency, citing a source in Russia's special services, said suicide terrorists had been trained to carry out the assassination.

Israel Campus Beat
- October 14, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    Israel's Requirements for Progress for Peace with the Palestinians

Ahmadinejad Under Fire Over Foreign Policy - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
    Hassan Rohani, a member of the Supreme National Security Council, spoke out Thursday against what many Iranians see as President Ahmadinejad's reckless foreign policy.
    "Unfortunately our enemies are increasing. Until yesterday, Britain stood by America, but today France has joined the United States with more fervor," he told Teheran's reformist daily, Etemad.

An Internet Jihad Sells Extremism to Viewers in the U.S. - Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet (New York Times)
    When bin Laden issued his videotaped message to the American people last month, a young jihad enthusiast in North Carolina went online to help spread the word.
    Samir Khan, 21, who was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Queens, serves as a kind of Western relay station for the multimedia productions of violent Islamic groups.
    "Even if it annoys the disbelievers, the truth must be preached," Khan said in an interview.
    Terrorism experts at West Point say there are as many as 100 English language sites offering militant Islamic views.

Book Faults Israeli Air War in Lebanon - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
    Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hizbullah War by William M. Arkin, to be published this month, concludes that by bombing too many targets of questionable importance for its aims, and not explaining why it bombed what it did, Israel lost the war for public opinion.
    The U.S. Air Force commissioned the study to learn from "the first sustained precision air campaign mounted by a country other than the United States," Arkin said.
    Although Israel was retaliating for a Hizbullah raid that captured two soldiers and killed others, Arkin considers the war pre-emptive.
    He said Israel destroyed most of Hizbullah's longer-range Syrian and Iranian missiles and launchers, which posed the largest threat to Israel.

Terrorists in Training Head to Pakistan - Dirk Laabs and Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    An increasing number of militants from mainland Europe are traveling to Pakistan to train and to plot attacks on the West, European and U.S. anti-terrorism officials say.
    "There have always been people going to Pakistan, but it is more frequent now," said a senior French intelligence official.
    Unlike Iraq, where foreign fighters plunge quickly into combat, recruits in Pakistan are more likely to be groomed for missions in the West.
    Even small countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland have detected non-Pakistani extremists going to Pakistani training outposts.

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  • Analysts Find Israel Struck a Nuclear Project Inside Syria - David E. Sanger and Mark Mazzetti
    Israel's air attack on Syria on Sep. 6 was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel. The New York Times reported earlier that a debate had begun within the Bush administration. Officials did not say that the administration had ultimately opposed the Israeli strike, but that Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates were particularly concerned about the ramifications of a pre-emptive strike in the absence of an urgent threat.
        North Korea has long provided assistance to Syria on a ballistic missile program, but any assistance toward the construction of the reactor would have been the first clear evidence of ties between the two countries on a nuclear program. North Korea has successfully used its five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex to reprocess nuclear fuel into bomb-grade material, a model that some American and Israeli officials believe Syria may have been trying to replicate. (New York Times)
  • No High Hopes on Mideast Trip, Rice Says - Ashraf Khalil
    Secretary of State Rice on Sunday sought to downplay expectations as she began several days of shuttle diplomacy designed to nudge the Palestinians and Israelis closer to the bargaining table in advance of a U.S. peace conference. "I don't expect...that there will be any particular outcome in the sense of breakthroughs," Rice told reporters on the flight to Tel Aviv.
        In the days leading up to Rice's visit, public statements from both the Israelis and Palestinians highlighted a large gap in expectations of what the conference could produce. Abbas is pressing for definitive agreements on deeply divisive issues such as right of return for Palestinian refugees and a timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state. Israeli government officials, however, view the conference as a starting point for a much longer and, at least initially, vaguer process. "There is a chance that before long Rice will be joining other senior American officials who visited our quagmire, tried to swim in it, almost drowned and went home with nothing," said Yaron Dekel, a prominent Israeli journalist. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Arabs Skeptical of U.S. Peace Effort - Jeffrey Fleishman
    Arab nations, including Washington's closest allies, are criticizing the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in November as a miscalculated photo op by a Bush administration desperate to repair its image in the Middle East. "This is not an effort to save the Palestinians, it's an attempt to prop up the administration's very low standing in the Arab world," said Mustafa Alani, an analyst with the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
        Randa Habib, a writer and political analyst in Jordan, said the Arab capitals and Washington appear to be speaking to each other from parallel realities. Rice is shuttling through the region to draw support for a meeting when many of those she is visiting would prefer to be taken off the list. "I think the regimes want to convince Rice, at least as things stand now, that this is not the right time for a peace conference," Habib said. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Iran's Top Cleric Calls for Boycott of Peace Talks - Steven Erlanger
    Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Saturday for all Muslim countries to boycott an American-sponsored meeting for Middle East peace planned for November. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA-Israel Joint Declaration Not a Condition for Holding Conference - Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice arrived in the region in a bid to advance a joint Palestinian-Israeli statement prior to the November meeting. Prime Minister Olmert said Sunday that the process of reaching a joint declaration "will be cautious and well-considered." "This declaration is not a condition, and never was a condition, for holding this conference in November," he said. The prime minister told the cabinet that he expects the conference to be followed by "discussions on the possibility of founding a Palestinian state." But, he said, "setting a timetable for this process in advance would create more problems than it would solve."
        Minister of Defense Barak told Rice that Israel would dismantle a permanent roadblock on the road connecting Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank as a gesture of goodwill toward the Palestinians. Barak added that the PA has yet to complete the daily deployment of 500 Palestinian police officers in the West Bank city of Nablus during daytime hours, a move which Rice approved during her last visit to the region. The defense minister reiterated to Rice that Israel's freedom to implement security measures within the West Bank is a basic principle which must be upheld in the future.
        Concerns have been mounting in Washington that the talks may falter because of the high expectations of the Palestinians as reflected in their public statements. The Americans are worried that the Palestinians are entrenching themselves in positions from which they will have difficulty compromising, and that Israel cannot accept. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Rice Won't Impose Conditions on Israel - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Secretary of State Rice has no intention of imposing on Israel "anything that will not be acceptable to it," during the negotiations with the Palestinians in preparation for the summit at Annapolis, according to sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau. Rice met Sunday with Prime Minister Olmert. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Frees Key Hamas Terrorist - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Egyptian authorities have released a top Hamas operative wanted by the Palestinian Authority and Israel for his involvement in terror attacks over the past few years, PA officials said Sunday. Nahro Massoud, one of the commanders of Hamas' armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, fled to Egypt more than a year ago. At the request of the PA, Massoud and several other Hamas fugitives were arrested by the Egyptian security forces and held without trial. According to the PA officials, the release of Massoud is yet another sign of the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket on Sunday evening that landed near an Israeli town. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Radical Islam Is at War with the West - Robert Baer
    Bali and 9/11 were proof enough to many Americans that radical Islam is at war with the West; that there is nothing to negotiate, such as the withdrawal of our troops from Saudi Arabia or peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis; that the battlefield is everywhere, with everyone a combatant. The writer is a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East. (TIME)
  • Pre-emptive Caution: The Case of Syria - David E. Sanger
    It was President Bush who, a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rewrote America's national security strategy to warn any nation that might be thinking of trying to develop atomic weapons that it could find itself the target of a pre-emptive military strike. This time it was the Israelis who invoked Mr. Bush's doctrine, determining that what they believed was a nascent Syrian effort to build a nuclear reactor could not be tolerated.
        Michael Green, a former director for Asia at the National Security Council and now a professor at Georgetown University, suggested that the Israelis are thinking five or ten years ahead. They saw a chance to thwart the Syrians and to fire a warning shot that the Iranians could not fail to notice. "If you are Israel and you are looking at this, the value of striking Syria is that it sends a signal, including to the Iranians," Green said. (New York Times)
  • Egypt Must Decide - Editorial
    Since Hamas completed its takeover of Gaza in June, weapons smuggling from Sinai has mushroomed. Israel last week asked the American administration to speak urgently to Egypt about this matter, to make it clear that the smuggling has become a strategic problem. Despite Egyptian promises, Cairo has made no significant effort to thwart the smuggling. Every recent month has seen tons of explosives smuggled into Gaza to manufacture bombs and rockets. Would-be terrorists, trained in camps in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, are also slipping across the border.
        Egypt could seal the border to smuggling if it would only decide to do so. This behavior raises the suspicion it does not really want talks between Israel and Abbas to succeed or PA rule strengthened. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Pre-emption, Israeli Style - Joshua Muravchik (Los Angeles Times)

    • There has been a deafening silence from the international community and especially from the other states of the region in response to the reported Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sep. 6. Their reticence suggests that even though most governments believed this was indeed a blow against Syrian nuclear ambitions, none of them, frankly, were displeased to see it happen.
    • The fact is that virtually every government in the world, regardless of its feelings about Israel, recognizes that a Syrian nuclear weapons program would make the Middle East and the world more dangerous.
    • The right of self-defense has always been understood to include the possibility of pre-emptive self-defense. Hugo Grotius, the 17th century Dutch philosopher who laid the foundations for international law, wrote that "it be lawful to kill him who is preparing to kill."
    • The UN's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change acknowledged the argument that "the potential harm from some threats (e.g., terrorists armed with a nuclear weapon) is so great that one simply cannot risk waiting until they become imminent." However, it said that in such cases, the party feeling threatened should bring its concern before the Security Council.
    • But given the UN's bias against Israel, it is hard to counsel Jerusalem to trust the Security Council. Indeed, given the council's historic impotence, few states would be likely to rely on it if they believed their safety was at stake.
    • Israel was condemned by the Security Council in 1981 for bombing Osirik to abort Iraq's nuclear program, but when Saddam Hussein launched wars against Iran and Kuwait, many governments were pleased in retrospect that Israel had pulled some of his fangs.

      The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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