Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 22, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Provided Information about Syrian Air Defenses Before Israeli Attack - David A. Fulghum and Robert Wall (Aviation Week)
    The U.S. provided Israel with information about Syrian air defenses before Israel attacked a suspected nuclear site in Syria on Sep. 6.
    The main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border. The radar site was struck with a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to allow the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace unobserved.
    Subsequently, all of Syria's air-defense radar went off the air for a period of time that encompassed the raid, U.S. intelligence analysts said.
    The analysts contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links - evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israel Defense Force's arsenal of digital weapons.

    See also Something Far More Vicious than a Syrian Nuclear Reactor Targeted by Israel - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Ten weeks after the Israel Air Force attacked in Syria, the prevailing assumption is that the target was a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor under construction that would have enabled Syria to produce plutonium to manufacture a nuclear bomb.
    But Prof. Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University, who until 1968 worked at Israel's Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, is challenging this conclusion. In the satellite photos of the structure in Syria there is no chimney, which is necessary for the emission of radioactive gases. No less strange is the fact that the "reactor" did not have cooling towers.
    "In my estimation this was something very nasty and vicious, and even more dangerous than a reactor," says Even. "I suspect that it was a plant for processing plutonium, namely a factory for assembling the bomb."
    In other words, Syria already had several kilograms of plutonium.
    Satellite photos taken after the bombing clearly show that the Syrians made an effort to bury the entire site under piles of earth. "They did so because of the lethal nature of the material that was in the structure, and that can be plutonium," he said.

Useful Reference:

List of Palestinians Slated for Release with Description of Crimes Committed (Israel Prison Service/IMRA)
    The government of Israel has confirmed the release of 431 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture before the Annapolis conference.
    They had been jailed for offenses including: shooting at people, throwing Molotov cocktails, manufacture of explosive material, placement of an explosive device with intent to cause death, and throwing pipe bombs.

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  • Bush Calls Key Leaders Before Annapolis Talks - Robin Wright
    In a bit of last-minute diplomacy, President Bush called the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the PA Wednesday to discuss details of the U.S. peace conference set to begin in Annapolis next week. The Bush administration is engaged in intense efforts to ensure that key countries will send top officials to the first Middle East peace conference since the 2000 Camp David talks. Saudi Arabia and Syria are not expected to respond to the U.S. invitation until after the Arab League meeting in Egypt on Thursday and Friday. Secretary of State Rice said Wednesday that the wider Arab world needs to be engaged to give confidence to Israel that when a Palestinian state becomes a reality, the wider Arab-Israeli conflict will end. (Washington Post)
  • Most Foreign Fighters in Iraq Come from U.S. Allies Saudi Arabia and Libya - Richard A. Oppel Jr.
    Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the U.S. in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60% of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials. A trove of documents and computers discovered in September by American forces near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border, listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006. Saudis accounted for 41% of the fighters listed, while Libya accounted for 18%. (New York Times)
  • Hamas Trial Defendant Gets 11 Years - Mike Robinson
    Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 49, a former associate professor of business at Washington's Howard University, accused of taking part in a Palestinian terrorist network, was sentenced to 11 years in prison Wednesday for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve found that Ashqar's refusal to testify was motivated by a desire to "promote terrorism." That toughened the federal sentencing guidelines and guaranteed that he would get a stiff sentence. (AP)
  • Allies of Jordan's King Win Elections - Jamal Halaby
    Supporters of King Abdullah II handily defeated the country's Islamist opposition in parliamentary elections, dropping their number of parliament seats by nearly two-thirds, final results showed Wednesday. The Islamic Action Front fielded 22 candidates and won only six seats, down from 17 in the outgoing parliament. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Rice Tells Syria to Stop Meddling in Lebanon - Sue Pleming
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice told Syria on Wednesday to stop interfering in Lebanon's stalled election process and allow its neighbor to chose a new president without intimidation. Rice said she telephoned France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has been in Beirut since Sunday trying to resolve the presidential crisis, as well as Arab League chief Amr Moussa, on Wednesday to discuss how to break the deadlock. Lebanon's presidential vote in parliament has been postponed four times. (Reuters)
        See also Trying to Save Lebanon, Again - Editorial (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Intelligence Assessment: Hamas Just as Strong in West Bank as in Gaza - Yaakov Katz
    At Wednesday's security cabinet meeting, Israel's defense establishment - including the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet - was extremely pessimistic about what will happen the day after the Annapolis peace meeting. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin warned that Mahmoud Abbas was too weak to implement an agreement after the summit. At the same time, he said, if Israel did not engage Abbas as a partner today, it might find itself without a partner tomorrow.
        According to recent intelligence assessments, and contrary to public thinking, Hamas is just as strong in the West Bank as it is in Gaza. While in Gaza Hamas men walk around in the open with assault rifles and anti-tank missiles, in the West Bank the group's power core can be found in the mosques as well as in welfare and financial institutions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Video: IDF Hits Palestinian Rocket Cell in Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    The IDF Tuesday released a video of a Palestinian terror cell in Gaza preparing to launch Kassam rockets towards Israel last week. After army intelligence makes a positive identification and confirms the men are not civilians, the IDF attacks the cell, killing all four cell members and destroying the rocket launchers.
        Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi said that the air strikes were effective in targeting 1-3% of the cells. "We have to hurt those who manufacture the Kassams, issue the orders, transport the cells, and develop the explosives...everything else related to this industry. We cannot ignore the other 97%." (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket, Mortar Fire Continue - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot Wednesday evening. Several mortar shells were fired at the Erez crossing Wednesday morning. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Day after Annapolis - Moshe Elad
    The day after the Annapolis conference we shall discover what various mediators have been repressing time and again: A peace agreement between Israel and Palestine is not viable. We're late, as the Palestinians have not been one people or one entity for a while now. The PLO is not the Palestinian people's exclusive representative. Mahmoud Abbas represents at most the non-representative population of the "Ramallah enclave." In Gaza we are dealing with a junta of religious clerics that swore to forever live by the sword. (Ynet News)
  • The Amnesty Plan for Fatah Operatives on Israel's Wanted List - Interim Summary
    One of Israel's gestures towards the PA was the amnesty plan for 170 Fatah operatives on Israel's wanted list, whose implementation began on July 12, 2007. Some of the wanted operatives who surrendered their arms and fulfilled all their obligations are now moving on to the second phase, in which they will be granted complete pardon (the case of every wanted operative will be assessed individually, based on the severity of his past actions). A small part of the wanted operatives who continued or resumed terrorist activities have once again become immediate targets for counter-terrorist operations of the Israeli security forces. Other wanted Fatah operatives, who have come to realize the futility of their past terrorist activities, are currently being gradually put into the probation phase.
        The amnesty plan makes it possible to take numerous terrorist operatives out of the circle of terrorism using a precise, monitored apparatus. The dynamic created by the plan has a positive influence on the Palestinian street, and might prompt other wanted operatives to abandon the path of terrorism. The implementation of the plan is not dependent upon the progress of the PA buildup, which is still far from demonstrating any enforcement capabilities. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Treading Lightly upon Muslim Sensibilities Is an Error - Spengler
    The premise of Western policy is to tread lightly upon Muslim sensibilities. That is an error of first magnitude, for Muslim sensibilities are what prevents the Islamic world from creating modern states. Free elections in Muslim lands tend to hand power to fanatical despots. For the Muslim world, what matters is not that Israel is a functioning democracy located in the Middle East, but rather that it is Israel that humbled the House of Islam.
        Because success is central to Islam's promise, and the restoration of the Jewish commonwealth in its historic territory along with its ancient capital seems to validate Jewish scripture rather than the Koran, Israel offers an existential challenge to the Muslim world. Muslims will never accept the permanent presence of Israel unless compelled. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
  • Observations:

    The Consensus Conference - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)

    Why is it worth Olmert's while to go to Annapolis?

    • First, because Bush invited him, and one doesn't say no to Bush.
    • Second, because Israel is interested in talks with its neighbors and in good behavior in the international arena.
    • Third, because the diplomatic step that will begin after the conference can help reduce friction with the Palestinians.
    • Fourth, because it is too early for Israel to abandon Fatah, and it is worthwhile for Israel to resuscitate Abbas' government in a hope for better days.
    • Fifth, and most important, Israel is interested in consolidating an international front against Iran and its supporters in the region, and in diplomacy there is no free lunch.

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