Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


October 7, 2008

To contact the Presidents Conference:
click here

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Al-Qaeda-Linked Militant Arrested in Syria - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    According to a report Saturday in the Syrian newspaper Al Liwaa, the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Fatah al-Islam, Shaker Abbsi, was captured two months ago in Syria.
    Abbsi, 53, who is of Palestinian descent, piloted MIGs for the Libyan air force in a war against Chad, and Jordanian officials accused him of playing a role in the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan.
    Abbsi popped up in Lebanon as leader of Fatah al-Islam, a group of well-armed Islamic insurgents who fought the Lebanese army for months last year in a battle near Nahr al-Bared that left more than 400 dead.
    Abbsi's loyalists were reportedly planning to carry out a suicide bombing at a Damascus soccer stadium during a game a month ago to avenge his capture, but were thwarted by Syrian security.

Palestinians in Lebanon Wary of Islamists - Mitchell Prothero (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    Last summer's prolonged and bloody siege of Nahr al-Bared by the Lebanese army as it rooted out members of Fatah al-Islam sent more than 20,000 refugees into neighboring Beddawi, where thousands still remain.
    "All Palestinian people remember Nahr al-Bared," said Abu Mohammed, who works for Fatah's intelligence. "If a terrorist was in this camp, not a single person would help them because we cannot afford to come under attack and lose our homes again."
    The absence of armed men in Beddawi was particularly striking considering most of Lebanon's refugee camps tend to be littered with armed militants.

Israel's Booming Hi-Tech Industry - Julie Ball (BBC News)
    Israel's hi-tech industry contributes around 7% to the country's GDP.
    "The two real fathers of Israeli hi-tech are the Arab boycott and Charles de Gaulle, because they forced on us the need to go and develop an industry," says Yossi Vardi, known as the godfather of Israeli hi-tech, recalling the 1967 French arms embargo.

Israelis Enhance Scent of Flowers (AFP)
    Israeli scientists said on Monday they have discovered a way to genetically enhance the scent of flowers, a development that could also be used to breed extra-tasty fruits and vegetables.
    Alexander Vainstein, the head of a team of scientists at Hebrew University, said his team used a patented process to enhance the scents of some flowers by a factor of 10 and caused them to give off their fragrance day and night.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • NATO Chief: Given Iran Nukes, We Can't Ask Israel to Disarm - Crispian Balmer
    NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Monday that as a result of Iran's nuclear activities, he would never expect Israel to abandon its own, "supposed nuclear arsenal." "As we all know, Israel never admits to what it has, but I do not see very many arguments for the Jewish state to abandon its potential," he said.
        Scheffer added that he was equally concerned about Iran's drive to develop its missile capabilities. "What is as dangerous (as the nuclear program) is the missile technology which (Iran) is also developing at a fast pace," he said. "This becomes an element for the security of the United States and of course Europe." (Reuters)
  • Top Al-Qaeda Planner of Baghdad Bombings Slain - Jay Deshmukh
    U.S. forces have killed Mahir Ahmad Mahmud al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Rami, an al-Qaeda militant who planned some of the biggest bombings in Baghdad and who killed a group of Russian diplomats in 2006, the U.S. military said Saturday. "His removal from the AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) network will send shockwaves through Baghdad's terrorist bombing networks," said U.S. spokesman Admiral Patrick Driscoll. Abu Rami was reportedly responsible for multiple car bombings and mortar attacks in Sadr City in 2006 and 2007, including the car bombings on November 23, 2006, that killed more than 200 people. In addition, Driscoll said, "In a video recording from June 2006, Abu Rami is seen shooting one of four Russian diplomats."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Prime Minister in Moscow to Discuss Tehran's Nuclear Ambitions - Roni Sofer
    Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday in Moscow that "Russia is committed to preventing the nuclearization of Iran for military purposes." Iran's nuclear program topped the agenda at the meeting. Olmert also expressed his concerns regarding the supply of Russian arms to hostile groups in the Middle East, including Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. "It's important that Russia do everything within its power to keep weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists in Lebanon," Olmert was quoted as telling his host. (Ynet News)
  • Excavations North of Jerusalem Reveal Fragment Inscribed "Son of the High Priest"
    In excavations north of Jerusalem, a fragment of a sarcophagus cover was found engraved in Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period. The fragment, made of hard limestone, reads: "Ben HaCohen HaGadol" - "Son of the High Priest." It probably refers to one of the priests that officiated in Jerusalem between the years 30 and 70 CE. The Land of Benjamin where the discovery was made is known in scientific literature as the place where the priests resided during the Second Temple period. The site that was exposed is an estate of one of the high priests who served in the Temple in Jerusalem. It seems that the fragment was plundered from its original location and was used in the construction of a later Muslim building erected atop the ruins of the houses from the Second Temple period. (Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Israel Guards Its Shores - Commander John Patch, U.S. Navy (ret.)
    Navigating southeast from the tranquil waters of Cyprus, one finds a sudden change in the security environment. Radio queries from Israeli coastal authorities begin roughly 200 nautical miles out from the Levant, increasing in frequency and assertiveness as one draws closer to their territorial waters. Any vessel able to sample the electronic spectrum would notice focused radar scrutiny while still well out to sea. Unseen passive surveillance nets also provide Tel Aviv clues to vessel identity and destination. At approximately 50 miles out, unmanned aerial systems monitor inbound traffic and provide geo-location to maritime patrol aircraft that overfly those ships reluctant to answer queries. Then the Israelis get serious.
        The Israeli Navy immediately challenges unidentified or uncooperative vessels with well-armed surface patrol craft. Any hint of a threat means armed aircraft accompany the patrol craft. Ships foolish enough to then ignore or evade the Israeli Navy can expect to be fired on and seized if they cross into the 12-nautical-mile limit. Simply put, the Israelis take maritime homeland defense very seriously, they are exceptionally proficient at it, and America can learn much from them.
        Yet, how can the tiny nation be so much better at this than the American superpower? First, Tel Aviv continues to perceive that its national survival is at stake - homeland defense is an ingrained, daily effort of every Israeli citizen. The writer directed the National Maritime Intelligence Watch at the Office of Naval Intelligence and is an associate professor of strategic intelligence at the U.S. Army War College. (Proceedings-U.S. Naval Institute)
  • Deep Disagreement Remains on Final-Status Issues - Yossi Alpher
    Today the Oslo legal framework, embodied in the Palestinian Authority, continues to prevail at least on the West Bank. Yet since 1993, the Palestinians have failed spectacularly at state-building: corruption, cronyism, poor leadership and endemic violence have too often characterized the efforts of the ruling national movement. Nor does that movement, Fatah, still control all the territory designated for its state; it must now search for ways to share power with Hamas, which rejects the very premise of Oslo.
        One misconception that has been nurtured by Oslo is the notion that "the outlines of a two-state solution are clear; all we need are leaders capable of signing." It's not true. Indeed, the depth of disagreement becomes clear every time the two sides tackle the final-status issues. They do not agree on Jerusalem, and they are far apart regarding the right of return of the 1948 refugees. Even the path of the border between Israel and a Palestinian state still defies agreement.
        In addition, every Israeli government for the past 41 years has employed economic carrots and sticks in a vain effort to influence Palestinian political behavior. We see this concept at work today in the sanctions and blockade that are supposed to bring Hamas to its knees in Gaza and the contrasting investment in development in the West Bank that is supposed to constitute a peace-incentive. Neither tactic has had an appreciable effect: this conflict is political, ideological and territorial - not economic. The writer is a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Trying to Be Friends with Iran - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • On Sep. 29, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years." Gates then revealed that Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, met top officials of the new Islamist regime in November 1979 to pledge U.S. friendship to the government controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Brzezinski's position was: "We will accept your revolution....We will recognize your government. We will sell you all the weapons that we had contracted to sell the shah....We can work together in the future." The Iranians demanded the U.S. turn over to them the fugitive shah, whom they would have executed. Brzezinski refused. Three days later Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
    • Washington did everything possible to negotiate, conciliate and build confidence. We'll do almost anything you want, Carter and Brzezinski offered, just be our friend. Far from persuading Khomeini that the U.S. was a real threat, the U.S. government made itself appear a pitiful, helpless giant, convincing Tehran - as Khomeini himself put it - that America couldn't do a damn thing. So why should we expect such a tactic would work today?
    • How long does it take to get the message: This is an ideological revolution with huge ambitions to which America is inevitably a barrier. Appeasement, talks, apologies, confidence-building measures won't convince Tehran that America is its friend, only that it's an enemy so weak as to make aggression seem inevitably successful.
    • Gates noted: "Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed....The reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship."

      The writer is director of Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert