Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 8, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

11 Terror Alerts Ahead of Yom Kippur - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Israeli security forces have been placed on high alert ahead of Yom Kippur.
    The defense establishment is currently investigating 11 specific terror alerts - including threats of kidnappings, rocket attacks and bombings. In addition there are dozens of general alerts.

Report: Iranian Intelligence Figure Replaces Mughniyeh in Lebanon (Maariv-Hebrew)
    A senior Iranian intelligence operative named Reza Zahadi, also known as Hasan Mahdawi, has replaced assassinated Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Lebanon, the Italian newspaper Coreirre della Sera reported Tuesday.
    See also Report: Nasrallah's Much-Promised Mughniyeh Retaliation Is Coming (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    The daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, reported on Wednesday that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah told a "semi-internal" meeting not long ago that there would be "no backing off from the decision to avenge the assassination of Hajj Mughniyeh."
    Top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bomb attack in Damascus last February.

NGOs Exploit International Law to Bash Israel - Shelly Paz (Jerusalem Post)
    Non-governmental organizations exploit the international justice system to further their campaign against Israel and officials who operate on the state's behalf, claims a new study: "Lawfare," released Tuesday by NGO Monitor.
    The study examines ten lawsuits against Israeli officials filed at international courts between 2001 and 2008 - nine of which were dismissed.
    The 10th case, filed at the International Court of Law in Spain by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) against National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, is still pending.
    Read the Full "Lawfare" Report (NGO Monitor)

"Americans" Forced to Land in Iran Were Lost Hungarians - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
    On Tuesday, Iran's official news agencies claimed that Iranian jet fighters had forced an American plane to land and officials were interrogating its military crew.
    It turned out that the aircraft and all of its occupants were Hungarians en route from Turkey to Afghanistan.

Bank of Israel Cuts 2009 Growth Forecast - Adrian Filut (Globes)
    The Bank of Israel is cutting its 2009 growth forecast to 2.5-2.9% from 3.2%.

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the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Blames U.S. "Jewish Lobby" for Financial Crisis
    The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza on Tuesday blamed what it called a "Jewish lobby" in the U.S. for the global financial crisis. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said the crisis was due to "bad administrative and financial management and a bad banking system put into place and controlled by the Jewish lobby." He said the lobby "controls the U.S. elections and defines the foreign policy of any new administration in a manner that allows it to retain control of the American government and economy."
        The Anti-Defamation League said last week that the U.S. financial crisis has provoked an outpouring of anti-Semitism. "The age-old canards about Jews and money are always just beneath the surface," said ADL national director Abraham Foxman. (AFP)
  • Bid to Halt Egypt-Israel Gas Deal
    Former director of international treaties in the Egyptian foreign ministry Ibrahim Yossri, 65, went to court on Tuesday to demand that Egypt halt natural gas exports to Israel, Al Jazeera reports. A $2-3 billion agreement to supply natural gas to Israel was signed by Egypt in June 2005. The 15-year agreement, which is renewable, governs the transfer of gas at $2 per cubic foot - a price well below the market benchmark of $14.
        Tharwat Shalabi, an oil reporter in Egypt, said in June: "Egypt is committed to providing Israel with energy under the Camp David accords. It stopped exporting oil, and now it has to replace it with gas." Earlier this year, Yehya al-Gamal, an Egyptian campaigner against the deal, said: "It's not about the price of gas, it's whether we should export it to them [Israel] in the first place." (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Prime Minister Concludes Visit to Russia - Roni Sofer
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concluded an official visit to Moscow after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Olmert said the sides had agreed to set up a forum that would "upgrade their strategic dialogue," and that the discussions would touch on Israel's concerns about potential Russian arms sales to Israel's enemies in Iran and Syria. Medvedev said that "he opposes a nuclear Iran" and expressed "sharp criticism" of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's fiery rhetoric toward Israel, Olmert said. "He said Russian policy will continue to be one that will never, in any circumstances, hurt Israel's security." (Ynet News)
  • PA to Deploy New Forces in Hebron to Push Back Hamas - Ali Waked
    Israel is backing a PA bid to reassert control over Hebron, a senior Palestinian defense official told Ynet on Monday. He said Israel has authorized the deployment of 250 armed members of the Presidential Guard and an identical number of police officers. The PA is hoping to add another 500 troops from the national force. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has pointed to Hebron as the West Bank city most likely to fall into Hamas' grip. (Ynet News)
  • Arab World Marks '73 War Anniversary
    Syrian President Bashar Assad marked the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War with visits to memorials, where he placed flowers on the graves of Syrian soldiers who were killed in the fighting. About 4,000 Syrians lost their lives during the 18 days of battle. In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on Egyptians to use the "spirit of October" in order to bring more economic prosperity to the country. Israel Army Radio quoted an Egyptian media source urging the Egyptian government to release classified documents about the war to help maintain the "heritage of the great Arab victory." The Arab world has traditionally framed the Yom Kippur War as a victory. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Iranian Revolution: It's Not Just Ahmadinejad - Akbar Ganji
    For much of the Western media, Ahmadinejad is the main culprit of Iran's ills today. But this analysis is incorrect, if only because it exaggerates Ahmadinejad's importance and leaves out the country's single most powerful figure: Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. Khamenei, who has held the post since 1989, is the head of state, the commander in chief, and the top ideologue. Blaming Iran's problems on Ahmadinejad inaccurately suggests that Iran's problems will go away when Ahmadinejad does.
        Tehran's policy of meddling in the business of its neighbors has very little to do with Ahmadinejad; this has always been the approach favored by the supreme leader. Iranian officials have said, for example, that the 33-day war between Hizbullah and Israel during the summer of 2006 was conducted under Khamenei's guidance. By calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad has given the world a pretext to mobilize against Iran. Yet Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution's leader, also used to say, "Israel must cease to exist." He did not believe that the creation of two independent states with equal rights, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, could bring peace, and argued, "Israel is a cancerous tumor, and it has to be destroyed." Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's president for much of the 1990s, also made statements opposing Israel's existence.
        Although denying the Holocaust has been an initiative of Ahmadinejad's, it is unlikely that he would make such a claim without the supreme leader's consent. The writer is an Iranian journalist and dissident who was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006 and whose writings are currently banned in Iran. (Foreign Affairs-Council on Foreign Relations)
  • How to Deal with Iran - Shoshana Bryen
    Real power in Iran is in the hands of the clerics who formulated Iran's broad, well-thought-out and very serious religious and political worldview. It is Shi'ite in design, not Persian. Their program is not born of imagined slights or misdeeds by a particular U.S. president, and a new president will not reverse it. They don't want to be our friends; they do want us not to be in their way.
        The nuclear quest began with the shah, was adopted by the Islamic Revolution and has proceeded through "reformist" and "reactionary" Iranian presidents. Ahmadinejad is nastier, but no more important than the others. Nuclear capability is a tactical goal in the strategic quest for regional hegemony and expansion of Shi'ite Islam.
        Inside Iran, the clerical police are the guardians of "public morality." They are the ones who hang homosexuals and stone adulterers. They arrest and "disappear" student leaders, ban books, monitor phone calls, break up demonstrations and persecute the Bahai. The writer is the senior director for security policy at The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington. (JTA)
  • Observations:

    America's Interests in the Middle East - Martin Kramer (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

    • The primary U.S. interest in the Middle East is the free flow of energy from beneath its soil to the U.S. and to our partners elsewhere. The Middle East is home to 60% of the world's oil; the U.S. has less than 2%. And within the Middle East, the epicenter of our interest is the Persian Gulf.
    • What we face now is an Iran that's determined to erode our position in the Gulf, so that we'll disappear, just as Britain did before us. If Iran does acquire nuclear weapons, the Gulf waters will become almost impossible to chart, the oil states (and Israel) will be unnerved, and our primary interest will be at risk.
    • How much attention should be devoted to Israel and the Palestinians? Once upon a time, it was thought that Israel versus Arabs was the source of all instability in the Middle East. For the last 35 years there have been no state-to-state wars involving Israel. Fostering an Israeli-Palestinian deal would be a good deed, but its contribution to our overall interests would be marginal.
    • My advice for the next president: Show interest, but don't waste time.

      The writer, former director of Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, is Olin Institute Senior Fellow at Harvard University, the Wexler-Fromer Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Adelson Institute Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

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