Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Heading Toward Elections - Ronen Medzini (Ynet News)
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni informed President Shimon Peres on Sunday that she has failed in negotiating the formation of a new government, and the president will most likely call for general elections. "The nation will choose its leaders," Livni said.
    See also Israel Heads for an Election (Telegraph-UK)
    Legally, the earliest an election can happen is Jan. 27, 2009, but most Israelis expect elections are more likely in February or even early March.
    In the meantime, the sitting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, will continue in his role, even though he submitted his resignation more than a month ago.

Report: Iran Nukes Too Deep to Hit - Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    Western intelligence experts believe that Iran's nuclear facilities are so deep underground that it would be difficult for Israel to wipe them out, or even significantly damage them, with a quick airstrike.
    In order to deal a serious setback to Iran's nuclear program, at least four key sites inside Iran would have to be hit, said one Western official.
    The facilities are located in tunnels fortified by barriers more than 60 feet thick.
    According to U.S. experts, Israel does not possess conventional weapons capable of knocking out the facilities, which would require, at minimum, several bunker-buster bombs striking precisely the same spot.

PA Forbids Arab Residents of Jerusalem from Voting in Upcoming Municipal Election - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, published a fatwa on Saturday banning Arab residents of Jerusalem from participating in the upcoming municipal election.
    The overwhelming majority of Arabs in the capital have refrained from participating in the local elections since 1967.
    Jihad Abu Znaid, a Fatah legislator from Shuafat, added, "We urge all the Arab Jerusalemites to boycott the election."
    Fatah legislator Hatem Abdel Kader explained, "Participation in the municipal election will be interpreted as recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Arab part of Jerusalem."

Hamas Declares Cyber-War on Israel - Ramin Mostaghim (Los Angeles Times)
    The Tehran office of a Palestinian political group has announced it is offering cash prizes for any computer whiz who hacks into a "Zionist" website, Tabnak, a Farsi-language news website, reported.
    A group of Israeli hackers recently boasted of breaking into a Hamas website and uploading the Israeli national anthem onto it.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Forces Attack Syrian Village Near Iraq Border
    U.S. military helicopters attacked an area along Syria's border with Iraq Sunday, killing eight people, the Syrian government said. Four helicopters struck the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal. A U.S. military official in Washington confirmed the raid, saying the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the U.S. was now "taking matters into our own hands." The official said the special forces raid targeted elements of a network that sends fighters from elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaeda and other fighters.
        The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut to an estimated 20 a month, a senior U.S. military intelligence official said in July, down 50% from six months earlier, with 90% of the foreign fighters entering through Syria. Foreign fighters toting cash have been Al Qaeda in Iraq's chief source of income, according to U.S. intelligence. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
        See also U.S. Takes to Air to Hit Islamic Militants Inside Pakistan - Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt
    The White House is intensifying a campaign of airstrikes by the Central Intelligence Agency against militants in the Pakistani mountains. According to American and Pakistani officials, attacks by remotely piloted Predator aircraft have increased sharply in frequency and scope in the past three months. (New York Times)
  • U.S. to Open Interests Section in Iran - Warren P. Strobel
    The Bush administration will announce in mid-November, after the presidential election, that it intends to establish the first U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, according to senior administration officials. The proposal for an "interests section," which falls short of a full U.S. embassy, has been conveyed in messages to Tehran. Senior administration officials said the plan to open an interests section in Tehran isn't a move to closer government-to-government ties. Rather, they say, it is an effort to reach out to the Iranian people, many of whom are far less anti-American than their leaders. (McClatchy-Minneapolis Star Tribune)
        See also Iranian President Denies Reports of Illness
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday he was healthy, countering reports suggesting he was ill. (Reuters)
  • Iranian Official Recommends that Iran Target London
    In an Oct. 18, 2008, article on the Iranian website Aftab, Wahid Karimi, director of the Europe and U.S. department in Iran's Foreign Ministry, recommends that Iran mark London as a target, since it is the capital of the country that is the U.S.'s closest ally in Europe. "The most appropriate means of deterrence that Iran has, in addition to a retaliatory operation in the [Gulf] region, is to take action against London." (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to UNIFIL: Hizbullah Arms Smuggling Violates UN Resolution 1701 - Barak Ravid
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Sunday with the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to protest Hizbullah's continued arms smuggling from Syria, in violation of Security Council Resolution 1701. Barak said Hizbullah has been gaining strength over the past two years, with close Syrian assistance. "The repeated violation of 1701 could lead us to the upset of the delicate balance that exists in Lebanon, and it poses a substantive danger to the entire region," he said. Resolution 1701 requires Hizbullah to disarm. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Foiled Kidnap Bid by Hamas Infiltrator from Gaza - Yuval Azoulay
    Israeli authorities five weeks ago arrested a Hamas operative who infiltrated Israel from Gaza in a bid to kidnap Israel Defense Forces soldiers, it emerged Sunday. Jemal abu Duabah, a resident of the Gaza town of Rafah, was arrested after he illegally entered Israel from Sinai. An investigation revealed that the would-be kidnapper crossed into Sinai from Gaza via a tunnel. During his stay in Sinai, he made his final arrangements for the abduction of the troops, whom he planned to smuggle back into Gaza to use as bargaining chips for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
        During his interrogation, Abu Duabah stressed that senior officials in Hamas' military wing trained him in Gaza. He said they also funded the training of the cell which was meant to assist him in planning and carrying out the kidnapping. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Foresees Greater Rocket Threat on Home Front - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF Home Front Command head Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan warned Sunday that Israel may face an increasing threat from rockets over the next few years. Golan said that "in the next five years, our enemies may fire 200-300 tons of explosives in rockets on Israel," adding that during the Second Lebanon War the rockets fired by Hizbullah at Israel totaled 30 tons of explosives. "The numbers may seem high but this isn't a catastrophe in waiting. We are more than capable of handling it," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Military Intelligence: Syria-Hizbullah Ties Growing Stronger - Herb Keinon
    If Israel's indirect talks with Syria were aimed at testing whether it might be possible to pull Damascus out of Iran and Hizbullah's orbits, then so far the test has failed, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday. Despite the talks, Damascus has actually stepped up its cooperation with Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
       See also Military Intelligence: Assad Trusts Hizbullah More than His Own Army - Roni Sofer
    Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday that Syria "has become the bargain basement for Hizbullah weaponry." He said Syrian President Bashar Assad "trusts Hizbullah more than he does his own troops" and that the Syrians "have made all of their strategic capabilities available to Hizbullah."
        Syria is still as radical as Iran, Yadlin said. "Syria and Iran have bought the Lebanese regime. They keep pumping in cash to bribe statesmen and push shady deals....Iran's recent offer to help re-outfit the Lebanese army is nothing more than an attempt to take over Lebanon." As for the peace talks between Israel and Syria, Military Intelligence indicates that Assad would like to pursue the option, but only on his own terms. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Warning Syria's President Assad Must Heed - James Hider
    The U.S. airborne raid into Syrian territory marks the culmination of years of frustration with Damascus' reluctance to police its own border with Iraq, the main point of entry for foreign jihadists. The Sukkariyeh Farm, which U.S. forces raided, is just over the border from the Iraqi city of al-Qaim, which, since 2003, has been a key funneling point for jihadists entering Iraq. A raid into sovereign territory would have needed high-level U.S. clearance and may have been intended as a warning to Syria that it is not inviolate and must choose carefully whom it supports. (Times-UK)
  • Energy as an Element of Israel's National Security - Minister of National Infrastructures Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
    Israel is in contact with the government of Turkey regarding the construction of an infrastructure corridor called the Med Stream, which is planned to contain three pipelines. One is for crude oil, meaning that what arrives through the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline or the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline will continue on to Israel. The second pipeline will be for natural gas. The third pipeline could be used for water, electricity, or even fiber optic communications.
        Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in developing technologies to produce electricity through renewable energy, mostly in the solar field. We envision a plan up to the year 2020 that will guarantee energy in the coming decades based on 40 percent natural gas, 40 percent coal, and up to 20 percent renewable energy. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Iran Will Be at the Top of the Next President's In-Tray - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)

    • Iran has been enriching uranium at its facility at Natanz for 18 months, and at the present rate of progress, Iran should be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead by next year.
    • The body of available intelligence now contradicts last year's CIA National Intelligence Estimate, suggesting Iran had halted its military program in 2003.
    • To paraphrase Michael Howard, the former Conservative leader: if the Bush Administration had known in 2003 what it knows now, both about Iran's involvement with nuclear proliferation and its support for Islamist terrorism, it might have preferred to make Iran its principal target in the war on terror, rather than Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
    • Iran now poses a far greater threat than it did in 2003, when its nuclear program was nowhere near as advanced.

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