Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 30, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Assad Aide: Syria Won't Sever Iran Ties for Peace with Israel - Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Syria will not sever ties with Iran and Hizbullah even as part of a possible peace agreement with Israel, Dr. Samir Taqi, a senior Syrian analyst, said in an interview with Al-Manar television on Tuesday.

IDF: Terror Groups Planning Major Attacks on Israel - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin warned the government Tuesday that Palestinian terror organizations are interested in executing a large-scale attack ahead of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations.
    He added that Hamas was trying to break the blockade of Gaza by causing another border breach. Due to Egypt's tightened security, however, Yadlin believes that this time Hamas will focus on the Israeli border.
    See also Defense Minister Barak: This Isn't the Time for a Truce (Jerusalem Post)
    "This is not the right time for a cease-fire with Hamas," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday.
    Israel was in "a confrontation with Hamas" and not in a situation in which it could talk about calm, he said.

Wakf Official Banned from Temple Mount for Incitement - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    Nasser Hakim Abu-Kueder, 38, who served as an assistant to the chief Islamic Wakf guard at the Temple Mount, has been barred from entering the compound for the next six months after inciting violence against Jews, police said Monday.
    Abu-Kueder has ties with both Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel, police said.

Holocaust Remembrance Day to Begin Tonight - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel will pause Wednesday night in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, as the country marks the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
    The annual state ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Six torches will be lit by Holocaust survivors in memory of the six million who perished. On Thursday, a two-minute siren will sound at 10 a.m.
    See also Holocaust Exhibit Honors Survivors' Lives in Israel - Brenda Gazzar (Reuters)
    A new exhibit at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial, tells the stories of 90 survivors of the Nazi genocide who have made impressive contributions in fields such as art, literature, science and athletics.
    See also Video: Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors (Yad Vashem/YouTube)

Arab Internet Hackers Attack Bank of Israel Website - Guy Grimland (Ha'aretz)
    Arab computer hackers from a group called MaXi32 attacked the Bank of Israel Web site on Friday and filled it with anti-Israel graffiti.
    Moran Zavdi, chairman of Israeli internet security company Securevision, who is in contact with the hackers, said they are motivated by zealous Islamism.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush Says Syria Nuclear Disclosure Intended to Prod North Korea and Iran - Steven Lee Myers
    President Bush said Tuesday that last week's disclosure of evidence of a nearly completed nuclear reactor in Syria was intended to warn North Korea and Iran about the dangers of spreading nuclear weapons. Making the first remarks in public about the Israeli attack by any American official, Bush said that his administration maintained a cloak of secrecy to avoid the risk of further military conflict in the region, including possible Syrian retaliation against Israel. He said that risk of conflict "was reduced" now.
        Bush said the disclosure of a covert Syrian reactor, which Syria has denied, should persuade other countries to support UN Security Council resolutions intended to keep Iran and other countries from developing nuclear arms. "We have an interest in sending a message to Iran and the world for that matter about just how destabilizing a nuclear proliferation would be in the Middle East," he said. (New York Times)
  • Rice: Hamas Serving as Iran's "Proxy Warriors"
    "The leaders of Hamas are increasingly serving as the proxy warriors of an Iranian regime that is destabilizing the region, seeking a nuclear capability and proclaiming its desire to destroy Israel," Secretary of State Rice said Tuesday. "How can any government negotiate with a group that sees every agreement, every choice not as a compromise to advance peace, but as a tactic to later advance war?" she asked. "The only responsible policy is to isolate Hamas and defend against its threats until Hamas makes the choice that supports peace," Rice said. (AFP)
        See also Rice Sees Little Chance for Syria-Israel Peace Deal - Barry Schweid
    Rice also poured cold water on any prospects that Israel and Syria could negotiate peace terms. Rice said the Bush administration had tried to interest Syria in peacemaking, with such moves as an invitation to a Mideast conference last November in Annapolis, Md. "It is hard to see there is a Syrian regime receptive" to negotiations with Israel at this point, she said. "Syria is like Iran's sidecar," she said, aligning itself tightly with a country that threatens Israel's existence. And "you know about Syria's nuclear program," Rice added. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israeli Leader Warns Against Golan Giveaway - Eli Lake
    Israel's deputy prime minister Shaul Mofaz said in an interview he believes the Golan Heights is a "strategic asset" and should not be relinquished to the Syrians, in part because of that country's close alliance with Iran. "The moment that the Golan Heights gets into the Syrians' hands, it means Iran will be in the Golan Heights. Close your eyes and think about what kind of threat that is for Israel," he said. Mofaz is in the U.S. for meetings with top Bush administration officials at the semi-annual American-Israeli strategic dialogue.
        Mofaz said he did not expect that Syria could be easily pried away from the Iranian orbit. "If the Syrians are serious...let's talk about all the terror activity against us," Mofaz said. "Let's send out of Damascus all of the headquarters of the Palestinian terror groups, stop support for Hizbullah. Then we will understand they mean business. To be in this radical group and to be one of its leaders and then say give us the Golan Heights is ridiculous."  (New York Sun)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Reject Israeli Peace Deal Map - Roni Sofer and Ali Waked
    PA head negotiator Ahmed Qureia has rejected a proposed map of a future agreement presented by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in which Israel would retain control of the larger settlement blocs in the West Bank as well as the Jordan River Valley and Jerusalem. Qureia also rebuffed comments made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday regarding special security arrangements for a mountain ridge in Palestinian territory east of Ben-Gurion Airport. "We reject any demand, any position, or any Israeli statement regarding territory outside the 1967 borders," Qureia said. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Gunmen Steal Fuel Meant for Gaza Power Station
    Hamas gunmen have raided the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, stealing at least 60,000 liters of fuel meant for the Gaza power station, the head of the PA's gas agency, Mojahed Salam, confirmed Tuesday. "They took control of the fuel and fired toward the terminal in order to torpedo the flow of fuel to the Strip and to pressure Egypt into reopening the Rafah border crossing," said Salam.
        Also Tuesday, an Egyptian security official said that Egyptian border guards discovered two tunnels north of the Rafah border crossing that were used to pump fuel into Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Barrage Continues Tuesday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired 15 rockets and 20 mortar shells at Israel on Tuesday. Five people were lightly wounded by rockets in Sderot. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Nuclear Defense of Israel - Gregory Scoblete
    Iran's defiant pursuit of nuclear technology has raised the specter of a nuclear war in the Middle East. It has also led to a debate over what role, if any, the U.S. should play in securing Israel against what appears to be an inevitable nuclear threat from the Islamic Republic. Some argue that because Israel is small, any nuclear attack would incapacitate its ability to launch a counter-attack, thereby diminishing the credibility of Israel's nuclear deterrent. Such statements overlook the considerable investment Israel has made in insuring against precisely just such a scenario.
        Were Iran to precipitate a nuclear exchange with Israel, the results would be calamitous for both sides. In a study for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2007, Anthony Cordesman concluded that Israel could lose between 200,000 and 800,000 people while Iran could suffer as many as 16 to 28 million fatalities. The large disparity in death toll derives in part from Israel's quantitative and qualitative nuclear superiority: they would deliver significantly more weapons at much higher yields (i.e. destructive force) than Iran, and far more accurately to boot. Though Iran is a large country, its vulnerabilities are numerous: Tehran, a city of some 15 million, sits in a "topographic basin with a mountain reflector," Cordesman wrote. "Nearly ideal nuclear killing ground."
        Iran also lacks the kind of medical, civil and missile defenses that the Israelis possess. These weaknesses led Cordesman to conclude that though Israel would suffer grievously, it could emerge from such an exchange. On the other hand, he wrote, "Iranian recovery is not possible in the normal sense of the term." (Yahoo/RealClearPolitics)
  • When Israel Refutes Defamation Quickly, Media Coverage Improves - Andrea Levin
    After a UN World Health Organization report harshly condemned Israel for allegedly preventing Palestinians from gaining admission to Israeli hospitals, media coverage of the report greatly benefitted from the swift and effective response by Israeli officials. The New York Times noted that "Israeli officials rejected the findings....They said that the people who had compiled the report had never asked them about the cases, that Israeli officials had no records of entry permits being sought in some of the cases, and that details of other cases were inaccurate."
        In one case, Col. Nir Press, commander of the Israel Defense Forces' Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, responded specifically to a WHO claim that Israeli delays had caused the death of a critically ill boy. Disputing the charges, Press said Israel approved an application for the patient's transfer to an Israeli hospital the same day it was received, but that delay ensued at the behest of a Palestinian doctor seeking to stabilize the boy's condition before moving him. Press' rejoinders and their reverberation in the media's coverage are a reminder that nothing in the war of ideas and images takes the place of the all-important work of refuting defamation. The writer is Executive Director of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Syria, the NPT, and the IAEA - Ephraim Asculai (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • Given the official U.S. statements, backed by extraordinary visual evidence, there is little doubt that the Israeli Air Force raid on the night of September 6, 2007, destroyed a building housing a nuclear reactor. One of the longer term effects is its impact on the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
    • Syria, despite its NPT obligations, concealed the existence of the installation and repeatedly denied the facts to the world and to the IAEA.
    • Syria has been trying to buy a nuclear reactor from several sources for a long time. It had sought to buy a research reactor from Argentina in the mid-1990s, but this failed when Argentina's foreign minister told Syria that it would not sell it a reactor unless Syria signed a peace treaty with Israel. Syria then tried, unsuccessfully, to buy a reactor from Russia. Apparently, Syria then concluded a secret deal with North Korea.
    • Had the reactor been intended for truly peaceful uses, it would have been declared to the IAEA. Furthermore, Syria acted with astounding speed to raze the stricken installation and put up another military installation on the old foundations, making it almost impossible for any investigators to reveal the original purpose of the site.
    • What would have actually happened if information about the Syrian installation had first been provided to the IAEA? Given the historical precedents, the IAEA director general would likely have deplored the fact that the reactor had not been declared in a timely manner, accepted Syrian assurances that hitherto the reactor would be safeguarded, and stated that Syria had the right to build and operate a nuclear reactor, as long as it was safeguarded.
    • This would have resulted in the potential for the production of plutonium, as was demonstrated by this reactor's sibling - the Yongbyon reactor.

      The author worked in the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission for 40 years.

          See also From the Uranium Mines to Nuclear Weapons - Ephraim Asculai (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies-Tel Aviv University)

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