Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 22, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF Warns of Increased Alerts of Plans to Abduct Soldiers (Jerusalem Post)
    Security forces are warning of increased alerts on terrorist groups' plans to kidnap soldiers, Channel 2 reported Thursday.
    IDF military police have established a special team that carries out mock abductions, and in the past week alone arrested 25 soldiers caught hitchhiking, in violation of military orders.
    Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has said in internal meetings that he would rather explain to the soldiers' parents why their children were in jail than explain why they had fallen captive.

Israel, the Georgia War, and Iran - Tony Karon (TIME)
    According to Israeli assessments, Russia applied overwhelming force against the tiny Georgian military, which still managed to punch above its weight.
    Israel's strategic priority now is countering the threat it sees in Iran's nuclear program, and on that front, Russian cooperation is essential. Yet Israel is not a major factor in Russia's strategic outlook.
    Moscow's actions on Iran are less likely to be determined by Israel supplying a few drones to Georgia than they are to be shaped, for example, by the deployment, over extreme Russian objections, of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil.

Syria Trains Its Missile Crews (Strategy Page)
    Syria has been testing its ballistic missile inventory lately, with over a dozen missiles fired in the last few months.
    Syria has underground storage and launch facilities for its arsenal of over a thousand SCUD missiles. Armed with half ton high explosive and cluster bomb warheads, the missiles have ranges of 500-700 kilometers.
    Syria also has some 90 older Russian Frog-7 missiles (70 kilometer range, half ton warhead) and 210 more modern Russian SS-21 missiles (120 kilometer range, half ton warhead) operating with mobile launchers.
    There are also 60 mobile SCUD launchers. The Syrians have a large network of camouflaged launching sites for the mobile launchers.
    Iran and North Korea have helped Syria build underground SCUD manufacturing and maintenance facilities.

U.S. Man Arrested for Hamas Fundraising (AFP)
    The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday the arrest of Akram Musa Abdallah, also called Abu Saiaf, 54, of Mesa, Arizona, on charges of lying to authorities over his involvement in fund-raising for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which U.S. officials say funnels money to Hamas, the Palestinian organization Washington has designated a terrorist group.
    "Abdallah knowingly and willfully made a false material statement when he represented to FBI agents that he was not involved in fund-raising activities for the Holy Land Foundation," the U.S. attorney for the Arizona district said in a statement.

Jewish Weddings Up in Israel (JTA)
    The number of Jewish weddings in Israel rose by 8.3 percent between 2005 and 2006, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.
    The median age for Jewish men at the time of marriage was 28.2 compared to 25.7 for Jewish women.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Fears a Hostile Russia Could Destabilize Middle East with Weapons Sales - Peter Baker
    If Russia's invasion of Georgia ushers in a sustained period of renewed animosity with the West, Washington fears that a newly emboldened but estranged Moscow could use its influence, money, energy resources, UN Security Council veto, and its arms industry to undermine American interests around the world. Israeli and Western governments have already been alarmed about reports that the first elements of the Russian-built S-300 antiaircraft missile system are now being delivered to Iran, while the president of Syria spent two days this week in Russia with a shopping list of sophisticated weapons he wanted to buy.
        "It's Iran, it's the UN, it's all the counterterrorism and counternarcotics programs, Syria, Venezuela, Hamas - there are any number of issues over which they can be less cooperative than they've been," said Angela E. Stent, who served as the top Russia officer at the U.S. government's National Intelligence Council until 2006. "Ironically, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there's always been the concern about Russia becoming a spoiler," said Stent, "and now we could see the realization of that." (New York Times)
  • Israeli Terror Victims Sue Bank of China for Aiding Hamas
    More than 100 victims of terrorism in Israel filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Bank of China Ltd. for transferring millions of dollars to Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and ignoring demands by Israeli counterterrorism officials to halt the practice. The bank "knowingly assisted Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks" and did so through the bank's U.S. branches, even though such transfers are against American law, said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
        The lawsuit claims that beginning in July 2003, the Bank of China executed dozens of wire transfers for the terrorist groups totaling several million dollars. Many of the transfers were initiated in the Middle East, sent to branches in the U.S., then to an account at a bank branch in Guanzhou, China, the suit said. The money was then wired to terrorist leadership in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza "for the purpose of planning, preparing for and executing terrorist attacks," the suit said.
        In April 2005, Israeli officials met with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and China's Central Bank seeking action to prevent the Bank of China from making more transfers, but the practice continued, the suit claims. (AP)
  • Israel Removes West Bank Roadblock
    Israel removed a checkpoint at Bir Nabala near Ramallah in the West Bank on Thursday ahead of a planned visit by Secretary of State Rice next week, the third such checkpoint Israel has removed this month. (Reuters)
  • Australia Moves to Block Hizbullah's "Terror TV" - Barney Zwartz
    Australian authorities are trying to stop an anti-Semitic satellite TV station broadcasting into the country from Indonesia - which has already rejected U.S. efforts to take the channel off the air. Al-Manar, a channel owned by Hizbullah, the militant Shiite Muslim Lebanese political party, is listed by the U.S. as a banned terrorist organization. Australia lists only its armed wing. Al-Manar promotes and raises money for terrorism, particularly against Israel. It has just started broadcasting again into Asia and the Pacific from Indonesia, using a company part-owned by the Indonesian government. The station is viciously anti-Semitic, as well as anti-Israel and anti-U.S. Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour said the channel was very popular and widely watched by Arabic speakers in Australia. (The Age-Australia)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Syria Offers to Host Russian Missiles in Response to Poland Deployment
    Russian media on Thursday quoted Syrian President Assad as saying ahead of a visit to Moscow that Syria was ready to negotiate hosting Russian surface-to-surface Iskander missiles on its soil, which Moscow says are capable of penetrating any missile defense. Assad offered to host the Russian missiles as a response to a deal signed by Washington and Warsaw this week to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense system in Poland.
        Syria is interested in purchasing Russia's Pantsyr-S1 air defense missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft and other hardware, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted a diplomatic source as saying. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We are ready to consider requests from the Syrian side on buying more arms." Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: "It is a mutual interest of Russia, of Israel and of the pragmatic leaders and states in the region not to send long-range missiles to Syria." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Russia Says It Won't Place Advanced Missiles in Syria - Tovah Lazaroff
    Russia has no intention of placing the advanced Iskander missile system in Syria, acting Russian Ambassador Anatoly Yurkov told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Why would we do that?" Yurkov asked of such a deployment, adding that Russia had no interest in upsetting the strategic balance in the region. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: Content More Important than Timetable of Israel-PA Talks - Roni Sofer
    "I am well aware of the expectations the international community has of these [Israel-PA] negotiations, but we have to create a responsible agreement," Israeli Foreign Minister Livni told the Israel Foreign Press Association Thursday. When asked about U.S. Secretary of State Rice's upcoming visit, Livni said that while the talks' timetable was important, "the content is more important. If we try to bridge this gap in any way other than through a detailed agreement, we could end up with violent clashes."
        Livni reiterated her call to the international community to unite in the fight against the Iranian nuclear program: "Stopping Iran must be perceived as an international interest...the current sanctions are just not enough." She also commented on Syrian President Assad's visit to Russia, saying that "Syria keeps violating the weapons embargo, but is able to get (the international community's) validation by holding indirect peace talks with Israel. It's trying to regain its legitimacy despite its support of terror organizations." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Cotler: "Peace Partners" Promote Hate - Joel Goldenberg
    The Palestinian Authority, usually referred to as Israel's "peace partner," is engaged in the promotion of hate and incitement against Israel and Jews in general, says MP Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister. "I'm not talking about Hamas - their charter with its genocidal objective, anti-Semitic ideology and terrorist instrumentality, is known. I'm talking about the Palestinian Authority. I regret to say, as a result of my own work this summer, there are many items that constitute a culture of incitement, not a culture of peace." "If you have a culture of incitement and hate, you're going to create a culture of hate that is pervasive in Palestinian society itself." He said those guilty of this include academics and the government-controlled broadcasting system.
        "When I was there, I was shocked to see on their own television references to Israel's conducting of Nazi-like experiments on Palestinian prisoners." Cotler said the most disturbing and ignored incitement comes from the Palestinian leadership itself, including Mahmoud Abbas. "People don't realize that Abbas signed a law, on the very day there was a suicide terrorist attack in December 2005 against Israel, providing monthly stipends for the families of suicide bombers. In January 2007, Abbas addressed a large crowd that was estimated as being over 100,000, in which he said 'the sons of Israel are mentioned in the Koran as those who are corrupting humanity on Earth.' Abbas has never recognized Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state." (The Suburban-Canada)
  • The Future of U.S. Assistance to Egypt - J. Scott Carpenter
    The Mubarak regime's resolute failure to live up to its human rights obligations will give ammunition to members of the next Congress eager to send a strong message to Cairo. As a result, future U.S. administrations will find it difficult to justify economic assistance to Egypt, let alone to increase it. The White House, instead, will have to fight off multiple efforts to condition Egypt's military assistance. Egypt could change all this. If a new leadership were to present a clear vision for the country's future - one that Americans could understand and support - Egypt would find willing supporters in both branches of the U.S. government. Unfortunately for Egyptians and bilateral relations, such leadership is not on the horizon. Conditioning military aid may, therefore, be the only avenue open to vent U.S. displeasure. The writer is Keston Family fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Venezuelan Ties to Hizbullah
    According to a 2002 report released by the Library of Congress, radical Islam has become prominent throughout the Latin American region, and Venezuela, specifically Margarita Island, has become a focal point for the Arab population. However, under the government of President Hugo Chavez, Hizbullah has begun to pose an even larger threat to the Western world. Hizbullah is prominent in the small village of Maicao on the Columbia-Venezuela border in the Guajira peninsula. There, Islamics control 70 percent of commerce. Venezuela's Margarita Island is another popular tourist spot for orthodox Islamics. Eighty percent of businesses on Margarita Island are owned by the Arab population and the island is reported to be the center of a "terrorist financial network." In 2003, an analyst visiting the island described it as a "'fortress' with armed guards outside." (International Institute for Counter-Terrorism-IDC Herzliya)
  • Book Review: Chasing a Mirage - David Solway
    The real strength of Tarek Fatah's Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State resides in its stout opposition to the wholesale takeover of Islam by feuding warlords, the devastation it has wreaked among its own peoples, the intrinsic conviction of the supremacy of Arab over non-Arab Muslims, and the duplicity of current Muslim leaders. Fatah takes the measure of the Muslim Brotherhood and its covert operation to infiltrate the Western public space. All this, in his estimation, is a betrayal of the true spirit of Islam - as is the "Islamist dream" that repudiates "this world for either a fictitious past or the promissory notes of paradise in the hereafter." (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Our Man in Beijing - Yossi Melman
    JP International is a large Chinese company named after its owner, Dr. Jiang Ping ("JP") Huang, the businessman primarily responsible for opening China's door to Israeli companies in the 1990s. In an interview last week in Beijing, JP said his connection with Israel came about quite coincidentally. He was just starting out in business and living in New York in January 1992 when an Israeli friend asked him if he was interested in doing business with Israel. The friend suggested he travel to Israel to meet businessmen, and JP agreed.
        Since then he has served as distributor and consultant for a growing number of Israeli companies including Tadiran, Netafim irrigation systems, and Israel Aerospace Industries. He recently joined up with an Israeli firm to lease more than 100 square kilometers of land in western China to grow trees to produce ethanol and wood chips. According to JP, "The entire world is competing for the Chinese market. Nevertheless, Israel has a huge advantage. The Chinese greatly admire the Jewish people. The average Chinese person does not distinguish between a Jew and an Israeli, and thinks that a Jew is a smart person." (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Israel Paying the Price for U.S.-Russia Rivalry - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • The Russians are trying to signal to the West: You're undermining our interests through our rivals in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus? We'll get back at you, and not only in the Caucasus, but also in your soft underbelly - by boosting your rivals in the Middle East. Syria was selected as the first to be wooed because recently it appeared that it has been trying to move closer to the West and restore its ties with the U.S.
    • However, Israel may end up paying the direct and heaviest price as a result of these warmer ties. The Syrian procurement list is topped by an advanced anti-aircraft system that provides aerial defense and can intercept missiles. In addition, Syria has been trying to purchase medium-range ground-to-ground missiles that are more accurate than anything it possesses today. Such missiles would enable Damascus to accurately target military installations in northern and central Israel. Syria is also seeking to purchase other anti-aircraft systems as well as optical warning systems; the combination of all of the above could significantly erode Israel's ability to protect itself against the thousands of ballistic missiles and rockets accumulated by Syria and used to threaten the Israeli home front.
    • The deployment of Russian experts in Syria, in addition to the hundreds who are there already, would also greatly undermine Israel's ability to "punish" Syria should it attack us, while upgrading the Syrian military's intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities.
    • By threatening to upgrade Syria's military capabilities vis-a-vis Israel, Russia is trying to threaten the U.S. Israel has become the target through which the Russians are trying to hurt America.
    • By threatening to upgrade military ties with Syria, Moscow is hinting that should the West not step back and rescind the countermeasures adopted in relation to the Georgia war, the next in line for wooing would be Iran. Russia is already selling advanced arms to Iran while preventing harsher sanctions on Tehran in relation to its nuclear plan. Should Russia decide to act unrestrainedly, the damage to the West and Israel could be much graver.
    • For the time being it appears that Russia is merely threatening, in a bid to deter the West. Officials in Moscow don't want to embark on a genuine cold war. This is why President Medvedev spoke with Prime Minister Olmert and attempted to allay his fears.

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