Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 29, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

ElBaradei: Iran on Way to Atomic Bomb Capability (Reuters)
    Iran is on its way to mastering technology that would enable it to build atomic bombs, International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei said in remarks published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily on Friday.
    "They have the cookbook.... (But) right now they don't yet have the ingredients - enough nuclear material to make a bomb overnight," ElBaradei said.

Israel to UN: Settlements Not the Principal Issue (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    During a Friday UN Security Council meeting called at the request of Arab states to discuss Israeli settlement-building, Israeli UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev noted that a stranger visiting the UN might suppose from the debate that Hamas violence, missile attacks fired over Israel's border, the buildup of Hizbullah forces in Lebanon, and Iran's nuclear ambitions posed no problem to the Mideast peace process.
    "While settlements remain a delicate issue, they are not the principal one," she said.

Hizbullah: Palestine Is Arab "From the Sea to the River" (Jerusalem Post)
    "Palestine, from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan) river, is the property of Arabs and Palestinians and no one has the right to give up even a single grain of earth or one stone, because every grain of the land is holy. The entire land must be returned to its rightful owners," Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday in honor of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day.
    He said Israel and the "Jewish lobby" ruled the world and influenced the U.S. and its allies, and that jihad was the only way for Muslims to achieve results.
    "Our lands will be liberated, not by begging the U.S. or the West, but with will, determination, resistance and sacrifices," Nasrallah said.

Iran Launches Book Mocking Holocaust Victims - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    Iranian students released a book containing cartoons of the Holocaust on Friday in the presence of Education Minister Ali Reza Ali-Ahmadi, during annual demonstrations calling for the retreat of "Zionists" from "occupied Palestine."
    The cartoons show caricatured Jews with large, hooked noses trying to fabricate evidence for the Holocaust, while the text states that the Nazi massacre has been highly exaggerated, makes fun of testimonials from survivors and accuses present-day Jews of trying to make money from the Holocaust.
    See also Hamas Urges Suicide Attacks as Thousands March in Gaza (AFP)
    Hamas parliamentarian Ahmed Abu Helbiya called on Friday for more suicide attacks against Israel as thousands of Palestinians marched through Gaza in honor of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, an Iranian-declared observance.

U.S. Says Five Iranian Proxy Insurgents Held in Iraq (AFP)
    American troops in Baghdad on Saturday arrested five insurgents from Kata'ib Hizbullah, a group acting as proxies of Iran, the U.S. military said in a statement.
    "Kata'ib Hizbullah funnels weapons and material into Iraq from Iran, which is then used to conduct attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces," the U.S. said.
    At least 30 Hizbullah members have been arrested in Iraq in the past two months.

Iran Food Prices Surge Nearly 50 Percent in September (AFP)
    Food prices in Iran were up 48% in September over the previous year, Kargozaran newspaper reported Sunday, citing central bank figures.
    Analysts say the government has injected so much oil money into the economy for local infrastructure projects that inflation will remain high for months and years to come.

Egyptian Journalist Gets Jail for Reports on Mubarak's Health - Sarah El Deeb (AP)
    An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday upheld a guilty verdict against Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent daily al-Dustor who wrote stories questioning President Mubarak's health, and sentenced him to two months imprisonment.
    "Jail sentences for journalists have now become normal," Eissa said. "The verdict... says it is prohibited to speak about the president. It says political reform is an illusion."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • No New Sanctions in Next UN Iran Resolution - Claudia Parsons and Sue Pleming
    Six world powers have agreed on a draft resolution on Iran's nuclear program but it included no new sanctions, in line with Russia's insistence, senior U.S. and European officials said on Friday. The resolution would call on Iran to "fully comply, without delay" with previous council resolutions, which demand that it halt enriching uranium. (Reuters)
        See also House Approves Tougher Sanctions on Iran - Jim Abrams
    Asserting the need to force Iran's hand on its nuclear weapons program and its support of international terrorism, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday moved to reinforce sanctions against the Tehran government. The House legislation, approved on a voice vote, would also authorize state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and investments in companies that have invested more than $20 million in Iran's oil industry. (AP)
  • Rice Urges UN to Condemn Ahmadinejad's Anti-Israel Rhetoric
    Secretary of State Rice on Friday pilloried Iranian President Ahmadinejad during a UN Security Council debate for his "unacceptable" verbal attacks on Israel. She said Washington would "be asking that the Council convene again to take up the matter of one member of the United Nations calling for the destruction of another a way that simply should not be allowed."  (AFP)
        See also Germany: Iran's UN Speech "Blatant Anti-Semitism"
    Germany's foreign minister on Friday blasted the Iranian president's speech at the UN General Assembly as "blatant anti-Semitism" and urged member states to join in condemning it. "The statements of the Iranian president about Israel are irresponsible and unacceptable," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the General Assembly. "The blatant anti-Semitism of his speech this year was intolerable and demands our mutual condemnation." (Reuters)
  • Car Bomb Kills 17 in Damascus - Albert Aji and Bassem Mroue
    A brazen car bombing near Syrian security offices killed 17 people Saturday, in the deadliest attack in Damascus in decades. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Report: Top Syrian Officer Killed in Damascus Explosion - Roee Nahmias
    A high-ranking Syrian military officer was killed in the car bomb explosion which struck Damascus on Saturday, the London-based newspaper Asharq Alawsat reported Sunday. (Ynet News)
        See also Bombing Targets Troops in Lebanon
    A suspected car bomb blast ripped through a bus carrying soldiers near Tripoli in northern Lebanon on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 17. (Reuters/New York Times)
  • Somali Pirates Capture Russian Tanks - Nick Wadhams
    Pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter on Friday off the Somali coastline that was carrying 33 Russian T-72 battle tanks to Kenya. At least 14 ships and 300 crew members are currently held by pirates in lawless Somalia, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau. (TIME)
        See also Islamists Plunder Weapons from Hijacked Ship in Somalia - Rob Crilly
    Islamist extremists unloaded rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns from a Ukrainian freighter seized by Somali pirates even as foreign warships surrounded the vessel. "The Islamists have sent pick-ups from Mogadishu to go and collect the gear," said an analyst with a network of Somali informers. "There's not much they can do with the tanks - they can't get them off - but the rest of the weapons they are trying to move ashore."
        Bruno Schiemsky, a Somali analyst based in Kenya, said that Somalia's al-Shabaab militia - the youth wing of the Islamist movement - had joined forces with the pirates, offering weapons training in return for lessons in plundering at sea. "This has now gone beyond money. The Shabaab are now at sea looking for Israelis, Americans and other Westerners," he said. "This is getting very nasty now." (Times-UK)
  • Arab Foreign Minister Calls for Regional Middle East Framework to Include Israel - Edith M. Lederer
    In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said it was time for the Mideast to develop "new regional frameworks to overcome our long-standing challenges." He said it was time to consider creating an organization that would include "all states in the Middle East, without exception, to discuss long-standing issues openly and frankly." UN diplomats pointed to the words "without exception" as significant because that would mean Israel's inclusion. (AP)
  • Muslim Gang Firebombs UK Publisher of Allah Novel - David Leppard
    Scotland Yard's counter-terrorist command arrested three men Saturday after a petrol bomb was pushed through the door of the north London home of Dutch publisher Martin Rynja, whose firm, Gibson Square, is publishing a forthcoming novel by American author Sherry Jones, The Jewel of Medina, featuring the Prophet Muhammad and his child bride, Aisha. The terror gang was being followed by undercover police and the fire was quickly put out. The book was withdrawn from publication in America last month after its publisher there, Random House, said it feared a violent reaction by "a small radical segment" of Muslims. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Deploys Radar System in Israel to Detect Iranian Missiles - Aluf Benn and Amos Harel
    The U.S. Army's European Command deployed an early-warning radar system in Israel last week along with a 120-member support team, Defense News reported. Assisted by data sent from American satellites, the system can detect Iranian missiles shortly after they are launched. The same system has been deployed for the past two years in Japan against possible missile launches from North Korea. (Ha'aretz)
        See also First Permanent Post for American G.I.s in Israel - Matthew Kalman
    The U.S. has stationed 120 American troops and an early-warning radar system in Israel - marking the first permanent U.S. military presence there. (New York Daily News)
        See also U.S.: IDF Can't Man New Radar System - Yaakov Katz
    An Israel Defense Forces request to permit Israeli soldiers to control the new high-powered radar that the U.S. has deployed in the Negev has been declined, senior defense officials told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday. The radar, known as FBX-T, will be hooked up to the U.S. military's Joint Tactical Ground Station and will cut the response time of Israel's Arrow anti-missile system. The Arrow's current radar can pick up incoming missiles at a range of 800 to 960 km. The new system has a range of around 1,900 km., giving Israel vital minutes to respond by launching interceptors.
        The IDF asked to be allowed to station soldiers in the radar station to be able to process the information received. "The Americans have so far said no, but this could change over time," one official explained. "We would prefer to have complete independence when it comes to our warning systems."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Olmert: We Must Leave Most of West Bank
    In an interview published Monday in Yediot Ahronot, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel will have to leave much of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and give the Palestinians a state in an area equal to the size of the entire West Bank and Gaza. Olmert also said peace with Syria required a pullout from the Golan Heights. Regarding the threat from Tehran, Olmert said that "the assumption that we in Israel know exactly how to deal with Iran is an example of a loss of proportion and megalomania." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Police: Palestinian Shepherd Killed in Explosion, Not Shot by Israelis - Jonathan Lis, Avi Issacharoff, Nadav Shragai, and Amos Harel
    Israel Police on Monday said Yihya Atta Bani Minya, 18, a Palestinian shepherd found dead near Gitit in the Jordan Valley on Saturday, was killed in an accidental explosion, not by settlers as neighbors and relatives had claimed. Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said forensics experts determined the shepherd was killed after he picked up an unexploded shell that detonated in his hands. Rosenfeld said the shepherd's body suffered shrapnel wounds, and there were no signs he was shot. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Injured by Palestinian Gunfire near Kalkilya in West Bank - Efrat Weiss
    Palestinians fired at two Israeli vehicles near the West Bank city of Kalkilya early Saturday. One of the drivers was lightly injured when a bullet grazed his ear. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Infiltrates Israel by Swimming from Gaza
    A Palestinian man infiltrated Israel by swimming from Gaza two weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces revealed Sunday. He broke into several homes in the Israeli town of Netiv Ha'asara before being caught by security personnel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Pardons 24 Fatah Terrorists in Nablus
    Palestinian security services have informed 24 "wanted" Al-Aqsa Brigades members from Nablus, currently detained at Juneid prison, that they have been pardoned by the Israeli government. Of the group, 14 are under "probation," 8 are "partially pardoned," and 2 "fully pardoned." While on probation, the activists will not be pursued or arrested by Israeli forces. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Damascus Bombing a Blow Against Syrian Intelligence - Zvi Barel
    After the latest bombing in Damascus, Syrian officials refrained from pointing a finger at Israel and Interior Minister Bassam Abdul-Majid called it a terror attack, not an enemy attack, implying that suspicion falls on Islamist extremists. Saturday's bomb looked like either a "work accident" or a targeting error, but it still undermines Syria's contention that the country is immune to terrorist attacks. "Such an attack, unless it's the work of one of Syria's intelligence branches, encourages other terrorists to try their hand, and that's the main danger," a Lebanese commentator told Ha'aretz. (Ha'aretz)
  • Lessons from Recent Russian Moves in the Caucasus - Ehud Ya'ari
    Beyond the Caucasus, Russia will try to conduct itself as a global power, even if it does not possess the requisite force. The return of the Black Sea fleet to the Mediterranean Sea and the supply of advanced military hardware to Iran and Syria reflect the Kremlin's desire to project influence beyond the "near abroad." It announces, to those Arab players that show an interest, that Russia is willing to assist them in repelling American pressure. No wonder, then, that Hamas and Syria cheered the invasion of Georgia.
        According to the doctrine articulated by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in March 2007, if the Muslim countries of the Middle East don't meddle in the Caucasus, then (but only then) Russia will be willing to forge a partnership with those countries, at the expense of their relations with the West. As for Israel, the message from Moscow is that it must treat Russia and its intentions with due consideration. Israel would do well to show caution in its dealings with Russia's near neighbors, especially when it comes to military ties. The writer is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center)
  • Muslims Reject al-Qaeda and Bin Laden - Simon Scott Plummer
    In a paper for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin encourages Western nations to focus on the "plentiful weaknesses" of al-Qaeda, which she defines as "indiscriminate killing in the service of a largely fictitious narrative without a shred of hopeful vision." Bin Laden has been weakened by allied military action in Afghanistan and tighter surveillance of international money transfers. More significant in the longer term is the criticism voiced within radical Islamic circles about the morality of what he is doing.
        Cronin argues that the best counter-terrorist policies are "those consciously synergistic with a group's natural tendency to implode." A government's top priority should be "not to win people's hearts and minds, but rather to amplify the natural tendency of violent groups to lose them." The eclipse of al-Qaeda does not mean that it is no longer a threat. Nevertheless, opinion polls show that the Islamic world is turning against it. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Gaza's Smuggling Tunnels: The Underground Route to Riches - or Death - Colin Freeman
    Welcome to Gaza's "Tunnel Town." Deep beneath the watchtowers and fences of Gaza's 10-mile-long border with Egypt, a sprawling warren of hand-dug burrows now supplies everything from food, petrol and designer jeans to guns, drugs and black market cigarettes. Tunnel gangs rake in tens of thousands of dollars a week, making the excavation business one of Gaza's few growth industries. Some estimate there are now up to 500 passageways across to Egypt.
        Tunnel collapses have led to dozens of fatalities - so many that some local shops honor tunnellers in the same fashion as "martyred" local militants, displaying pictures of them clutching spades. Hamas used to impose strict controls on the tunnels' numbers, but has allowed them to proliferate in recent months. Tunnel entrepreneurs are now enjoying such good business that they now have a vested interest in the status quo. In recent months a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has raised hopes that the economic blockade might be eased, but some in Gaza fear that should that ever look to be happening, local tunnel owners will sabotage it by paying militants to fire rockets into Israel again. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    Iran Is a Bigger Threat than Wall Street - Greg Sheridan (The Australian)

    • At some stage during the next presidency, Iran will blow up into a full-scale crisis that will dominate global politics and that may be more important than the Wall Street financial crisis, the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan's internal crisis, and the relentless military build-up of China.
    • A bipartisan report commissioned by two former U.S. senators and written primarily by Middle East expert Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute begins: "A nuclear weapons capable Islamic Republic of Iran is strategically untenable."
    • "A nuclear ready or nuclear-armed Islamic Republic ruled by the clerical regime could threaten the Persian Gulf region and its vast energy resources, spark nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, inject additional volatility into global energy markets, embolden extremists in the region and destabilize states such as Saudi Arabia and others in the region, provide nuclear technology to other radical regimes and terrorists (although Iran might hesitate to share traceable nuclear technology), and seek to make good on its threats to eradicate Israel."
    • "The threat posed by the Islamic Republic is not only direct Iranian action but also aggression committed by proxy. Iran remains the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, proving its reach from Buenos Aires to Baghdad."

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