Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 14, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Representative in Lebanon Heads Hizbullah's Military Wing (Jerusalem Post)
    The pan-Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat reported Thursday that - by order of Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is no longer in control of the organization's military wing, which is now headed by Nasrallah's deputy Sheikh Na'im Kassem.
    Reportedly, Khamenei appointed a committee of top Revolutionary Guards commanders to restructure Hizbullah's military and intelligence wings. The committee includes Kuds Brigade commander Kassem Suleimani and the former head of Hizbullah intelligence, Imad Mughniya, one of the top names on the U.S. most wanted terrorists list.

Ahmadinejad to Go on Pilgrimage to Mecca (AFP)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to perform the hajj - the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca - after receiving an invitation from Saudi King Abdullah, Ahmadinejad's senior advisor Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said Thursday.

Saudis and Gulf States Welcome Ahmadinejad - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Post)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad addressed the Gulf Cooperation Council's annual summit in Doha, Qatar, last week.
    Didn't the same Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and other Gulf countries send senior officials to Washington's Annapolis conference two weeks ago to show the Iranians that the U.S. could lead a coalition of Arab Sunni states to isolate Teheran?
    See also Egypt and Saudi Arabia Make New Overtures to Iran - Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor)
    Iran is suddenly enjoying a thaw with its Arab neighbors - all close U.S. allies - in the wake of a U.S. intelligence report that judged Iran probably suspended its work on nuclear weapons four years ago.
    Regional actors, in particular, are scrambling to engage Iran diplomatically, and analysts say they have the tacit approval of the Americans.

Reach Out to Israel - Ramesh Thakur (Times of India)
    Judaism and Hinduism are among the world's ancient civilizations and "root faiths" that have sprouted other major religions. India's tradition of hospitality towards the Jewish people is centuries old.
    India and Israel discovered common concerns in the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Central and South West Asia. By the 1990s they were united in the trauma of terrorism as an everyday reality. Security cooperation seems to be deepening and broadening, bilateral trade is thriving.
    The writer is professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Israel Now World's Fourth Largest Weapons Exporter - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Israel has passed Britain to become the world's fourth largest exporter of weapons in 2007, after the U.S., Russia, and France, Defense Ministry Director-General Pinchas Bucharis said Sunday.

Quebec Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitism in Quebec - Morton Weinfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Jewish marginality is an ongoing feature of Quebec Jewish life. The extensive sociocultural segregation of Jews in Quebec is greater than that in English Canada, the U.S., and even France.
    Although this does not constitute anti-Semitism in any direct variant, it plays a role in shaping attitudes about Jews in Quebec.
    Contemporary currents of elite and popular political thought are more likely to be anti-American and anti-Israeli than in English Canada.
    The writer is professor of sociology at McGill University.

Indian State to Import Israeli Livestock to Enhance Milk Production - Kay Benedict (DNA-India)
    Even as the CPI(M)-led Kerala government protests the Indian government's growing defense and strategic ties with Israel, Kerala has decided to import 20 pedigreed Holstein Friesians and Jersey bulls from Israel to crossbreed with Indian cows.
    The state, hit by a huge milk shortfall, seems to have no option, Kerala animal husbandry minister C. Diwakaran said.
    Kerala is also planning to import 2,000 doses of Israeli bull semen and 200 embryos to help boost milk production by 20% in three years.

Pro-Israel Group Puts Emissaries on Campuses - Annie Karni (New York Sun)
    A group working to promote pro-Israel sentiment at American colleges is hiring students to act as campus emissaries of Israel.
    Jewish student leaders will receive up to $1,000 a year from the advocacy group StandWithUs to bring speakers and films to campus that portray Israel in a positive light.
    The group's North American campus director, Daniel Klein, said: "The story of democracy in Israel, of a vibrant diverse country, is not being told on campuses."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Lebanese Bombing Killed General Who Led Offensive Against Islamic Militants, Al-Qaeda Suspected - Bassem Mroue
    Lebanese Army investigators on Thursday looked into the possible involvement of al-Qaeda-inspired extremists in the bombing Wednesday that killed Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, chief of military operations, who led a three-month military campaign which ended in September that crushed Fatah Islam in Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon. Security officials said there was a strong possibility that Islamic extremists or dormant Fatah Islam cells carried out the attack. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Bush Warns Against Syrian Interference in Lebanon - Tabassum Zakaria
    President Bush on Thursday warned Syria against interfering in Lebanon, as investigators tried to determine who was responsible for the assassination of a top Lebanese general. Gen. Hajj was the ninth in a string of assassinations that began with the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafik al-Hariri, and was the first military officer to be killed. The other attacks targeted anti-Syrian figures. (Reuters)
        See also Syria Denies Killing General in Car-Bomb Attack - Robert Fisk
    Interestingly, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has constantly blamed the Syrians for attacks on democratic politicians in Lebanon, did not blame the Syrians for Hajj's assassination. (Independent-UK)
  • Israel Working with U.S., Britain and France to Counter Effect of Iran Report - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel is working together with the U.S., Britain, and France to counter the effect caused by the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report, which stated that Iran had stopped its military nuclear program in 2003. U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Prime Minister Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbovich, were involved in planning subsequent actions. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's statement last week that Iran was still in defiance of the international community, and therefore Britain would seek further sanctions, was also part of these efforts.
        A senior Israeli intelligence source said, "Now everyone has gone into damage-limitation mode. There is still no question among the intelligence agencies, including those of the U.S., that the Iranians are working on a bomb and one out-of-context sentence from one report doesn't change that at all. The U.S., Israel, Britain and France are now working together to change the impression caused by that report." (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Inquiry into UK Terrorist Attacks Points to Iraq's Al-Qaeda - Raymond Bonner, Jane Perlez, and Eric Schmitt
    Investigators examining the bungled terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow six months ago believe the plotters had a link to Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which would make the attacks the first that the group has been involved in outside of the Middle East, according to senior officials who have been briefed on the inquiry. Phone numbers of members of the Iraqi group were found on the plotters' cellphones recovered in Britain. Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a Sunni extremist group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners. Officials stopped short of saying that the plot originated with Al-Qaeda or was directed by the group. (New York Times)
  • Assad Says Alliance with Iran Unshakable - Albert Aji
    President Bashar Assad rejected claims that Syria's alliance with Iran had been weakened by Damascus' participation in the Annapolis peace conference, insisting Thursday that ties between the two countries will never be shaken. Assad made the comments as he inaugurated two joint Syrian-Iranian industrial projects - factories for cars and cement - joined by the Iranian industry and housing ministers. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israeli Home, Woman Wounded - Shmulik Hadad
    An Israeli woman was moderately injured on Thursday after a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza crashed through the roof of her home in Sderot, causing extensive damage. The Mujahideen Brigades, a military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility. (Ynet News)
        See also The Rocket Threat from Gaza, 2001-2007 - Reuven Erlich
    Palestinian rocket fire at Israel from Gaza began in 2001. As of the end of November 2007, there have been a total of 2,383 identified rocket hits in Israel. Rocket fire has been directly responsible for the deaths of ten Israeli civilians , nine of them Sderot residents. In addition, 433 individuals have been wounded. Mortar fire has been responsible for the deaths of ten individuals, eight civilians and two IDF soldiers. Of the 150 wounded, 80 were civilians and 70 soldiers. More than 190,000 Israelis now live under the potential threat of daily rocket and mortar attacks. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
        See also Video: Israelis Under Siege in Sderot
    You try to be never more than 15 seconds away from the nearest shelter. (EuroNews)
  • Israel: Syrian Conduct Makes Peace Talks Impossible - Roni Sofer
    Syria's current conduct prevents Israel from engaging in negotiations with it, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told EU ambassadors in Tel Aviv on Thursday. She said Syria's role in the Mideast was "unconstructive," as it continued to supply weapons to Hizbullah, meddle in Lebanese politics, and support terror organizations, including Hamas. (Ynet News)
  • Fayad Adviser Kidnapped in Gaza
    Armed gunmen in Gaza kidnapped top Fatah official Omar al-Ghoul, an adviser to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, early Friday. Al-Ghoul is considered a harsh critic of Hamas and attacks it frequently in his newspaper column. Al-Ghoul arrived in Gaza from the West Bank on Thursday to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Officials Admit Problems with Reforming Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA officials admitted Thursday that they still have a long way to go in reforming their security forces - a key condition set by the international community for funding the government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. The PA, which is hoping to raise $5.6 billion over the next three years at Monday's donors conference, still hasn't made enough progress in imposing law and order in the West Bank, the PA officials conceded. According to the officials, the PA's U.S.-backed security plan, which was launched in the last few weeks in Nablus and Tulkarm, had failed to achieve most of its goals, largely due to the incompetence of the PA security forces.
        One official cited a lack of discipline among the ranks of the Palestinian policemen. "We still have many officers who are involved in various crimes and corruption," he said. "We are still far from talking about real reforms in the security establishment. In the coming days we will launch a similar security operation in Bethlehem. But the real test will be in Hebron and Jenin, as well as in the refugee camps, where Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah militiamen call the shots."
        Meanwhile, PA Civil Police commander Gen. Kamal al-Sheikh revealed that more than 600 Fatah-affiliated policemen helped Hamas take control of Gaza last June. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Airstrike Kills Islamic Jihad Rocket Crew in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
    An Israel Air Force strike killed three Palestinian militants in Gaza City on Thursday after they were detected firing a Kassam rocket at Israel. Islamic Jihad said one of the dead was Sami Tafesh, a commander of its rocket crews. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Next War with Hizbullah - Amir Kulick
    Hizbullah's main operational goal prior to the July 2006 war was to conduct a war of attrition against the Israeli home front. Hizbullah invested most of its efforts in assembling an extensive missile system, including rockets with ranges of over 100 km, under the assumption that Israel would not conduct significant ground operations south of the Litani River. Most of the organization's operational mass was concentrated in this area.
        From the very beginning of the fighting, Hizbullah maintained a continuous bombardment of Israeli territory in order to wear down the Israeli home front. As Hizbullah had predicted, the IDF countered with massive airpower. Only a few ground-based operations were conducted, and primarily close to the border.
        At the same time, a number of weak points in Hizbullah's operational preparations surfaced. The first was the IDF's success in damaging its medium and long-range rocket systems. The destruction of Hizbullah's Zelzal rockets in Beirut in the first hours of fighting appears to have been especially painful. Hizbullah's second weak point was probably the low fitness of its rearguard units. (Strategic Assessment/Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Syria Prepares Its Grand Comeback in Lebanon - Michael Young
    The Syrians are accelerating their return to Lebanon, and the disastrous French initiative on the presidency only confirmed to them that the international community would readily engage Syria on Lebanon. What remains of the Cedar Revolution is under mortal threat, with March 14 increasingly disoriented and without imagination. Amid such chaos, no wonder the Syrians feel they are but a step away from reversing the losses of 2005. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Key Players in Mideast Talks May Remain Unseen - Joshua Mitnick
    Just as secret back channels laid the groundwork for historic Israel-Arab advances in 1977 and 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas are liable to rely on behind-the-scenes talks far removed from the public. Even though Olmert and Abbas have met regularly in public over recent months, a parallel secret discussion is indispensable, said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
        While the informal atmosphere of a back channel is supposed to produce the key compromise, some caution that it's a recipe for miscommunications. Dore Gold, an ex-Israeli ambassador to the UN, says informal talks are flawed since leaders can deny their credibility and informal envoys can go overboard. "There are serious problems with their effectiveness," he says. "Understandings Israelis and Palestinians might agree to in a five-star hotel in Europe may not stand the test of a real negotiating session." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • UN Still a Dangerous Place for Israel - Richard Schifter
    The real power at the UN has for more than 30 years been exercised by an adroit group of operatives, working out of a few of the diplomatic missions in New York, who have succeeded in imposing on the General Assembly an agenda far removed from the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter and devoted to undermining the international standing of the U.S. and, above all, to the delegitimization of Israel. Those who want to thwart an Israeli-Palestinian agreement will use the various bodies of the UN system, including the UN's unique anti-Israel propaganda apparatus, to put insurmountable obstacles in Abbas' way. For that reason it is best for the Israeli-PA talks to stay as far away from the UN as possible. The writer chairs the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, and served as Deputy U.S. Representative in the UN Security Council and U.S. Representative in the UN Commission on Human Rights. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Miracle in the Holy Land - Matthew Kaminski
    Little noticed amid the grim Middle East headlines, a Jewish state founded by European socialists and long hobbled by stagnant growth and inflation is turning into a mature market economy. This ongoing transformation is no less dramatic than Eastern Europe's since 1989. The third consecutive year of strong growth, up to 5.5% in 2007, is driven by exports of software, pharmaceuticals, consulting and other services. The government in 2005 tapped Stanley Fischer, formerly No. 2 at the IMF, as central bank chief. Inflation is around 2%, down from 400% in the 1980s and the shekel is stable. Strong human capital and an opening market are the best resources any country could ask for - a good lesson for the oil-rich Middle East. And while far from finished, the mini-revolution of recent years ties Israel into the world, and vice-versa. That's good news for its future prosperity and security. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Peace through Trade: U.S.-Egypt-Israel Qualified Industrial Zones - Andrew England
    In a new two-storey building, scores of computerized machines cut reams of denim into different shapes as women in headscarves bend over new sewing machines. The Lotus Garments Company factory is a hive of industry, one of many companies taking advantage of an Egyptian-U.S.-Israeli trade agreement that has thrown a lifeline to the Egyptian textile industry. The qualified industrial zones agreement came into effect in 2005. In 2006, Egyptian garment exports to the U.S. rose 41%, from $444m to $625m, officials say.
        The U.S. initiative allows Egyptians to export to the U.S. tariff-free as long as they use a certain percentage of Israeli goods, and is intended to foster peace through trade. QIZ's impact on thawing political relations is questionable, but for Egyptian garment producers, the trade deal has meant a chance to stand up to the competition posed by Asian producers. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Academic Demonization of the Collective Jew - Ruthie Blum
    To illustrate that academic anti-Semitism is "structural," rather than haphazard or negligible, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs have just published Academics Against Israel and the Jews. As Gerstenfeld explained in an interview: "Israelis are called the Nazis of today, citizens of an apartheid or colonialist state. None of this is true, of course. Colonialists pulled money out of countries they came to; the Jews put money into Israel. The Jews were a nationalist movement, not a colonizing movement. Nor do the Israelis practice apartheid against the Palestinians. Apartheid is a phenomenon specific to South Africa. And the anti-apartheid movement used violence as a last resort, whereas the Palestinian movements use it as a prime one. Furthermore, the Jews offered them a state twice. So, it's all false, but that is why it constitutes demonizing." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Movie Review: The Aging Face of Evil - Miriam A. Shaviv
    Paul Maria Hafner, 84, a former officer in the feared Waffen SS, found asylum in Franco's Spain after the war and is living a peaceful existence in Madrid. In "Hafner's Paradise," directed by Gunter Schwaiger, he boasts about the glory days, referring several times to Hitler as "the greatest figure in history." He can only dream of living to see a Fourth Reich and he fiercely denies the Holocaust, insisting that no Jew was ever killed under Hitler for being a Jew. The climax of the film comes when Schwaiger brings Hafner face-to-face with a survivor from Dauchau, the very camp where Hafner himself acted as an officer. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    American Intelligence Reappraises the Iranian Nuclear Issue - Ephraim Kam and Ephraim Asculai (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • The new U.S. intelligence assessment does not negate the possibility that Iran will continue to seek nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the new assessment clearly states that:
      • Iran retains the option to develop nuclear weapons;
      • Iran is accelerating its civilian uranium enrichment program (which, under certain conditions, can also lead to the production of weapons-grade fissile materials);
      • Iran is liable to return to a secret program, which would be the preferred method to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons;
      • It will be difficult to convince Iran to abjure the development of nuclear weapons;
      • Iran has the technological infrastructure needed to develop nuclear weapons should it choose to do so.
    • Iran has a lot of experience in hiding facilities and operations, so the statement that the nuclear weapons program was frozen has only limited value. It is impossible to state whether the freeze is total or partial, whether it is temporary or permanent, and whether activities were simply transferred to different sites and can be renewed at a later date.

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