Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 19, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Four Killed in Shooting at Jewish School in France - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two sons, Gavriel, 6, and Aryeh, 3, as well as 8-year-old Miriam Monstango, the daughter of the head of the Otzer Hatorah Jewish school, were shot and killed in the French city of Toulouse Monday morning. Several more people were injured.
    The shooter is believed to have ridden on a black motorbike and is reported to have used two weapons.
    The shooting happened in the same area where a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three uniformed paratroopers Thursday, killing two and critically wounding the other.
    Four days earlier, a gunman on a motorbike shot and killed another paratrooper in Toulouse.

The Bin Laden Plot to Kill President Obama - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
    Before his death, Osama bin Laden commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus.
    The scheme is described in one of the documents taken from bin Laden's compound by U.S. forces on May 2, the night he was killed. I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official.
    The man bin Laden hoped would carry out the attacks was the Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. A month after bin Laden's death, Kashmiri was killed in a U.S. drone attack.
    The plot to target Obama was probably bluster, but it's a chilling reminder that even when he was in hiding, bin Laden still dreamed of pulling off another spectacular terror attack against the U.S.

IDF Says Gaza's Islamic Jihad Severely Damaged - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF sources said that Islamic Jihad was severely beaten in the recent round of violence and that it would need time to rebuild its capabilities.
    The air force bombed more than 40 targets throughout Gaza over the past week, including nearly 20 rocket squads, and several weapons storage centers and underground long-range rocket launchers.
    The IDF source said that by last Tuesday, Islamic Jihad was "begging" Egypt to convince Israel to accept a ceasefire.

Syria, Iran Training Hizbullah to Use Antiaircraft Missiles - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    A senior IDF officer in the Northern Command says hundreds of Hizbullah fighters were taught to use surface-to-air missiles in Syria and Iran in recent months.
    The IDF says that since the rebellion against President Bashar Assad's government, transfers of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah have increased, and include drones and shore-to-ship missiles.

Report: Saudi Arabia Sends Military Gear to Syria Rebels (AFP)
    "Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army," a top Arab diplomat told AFP on Saturday.
    Jordan categorically denied the report.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Heavy Fighting in Syrian Capital, Residents Say - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    A heavy firefight broke out on Monday between Free Syrian Army rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Mezze district of Damascus that is home to several security installations, witnesses said. They reported heavy machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. As hundreds gathered on Sunday in Damascus to mourn victims of car bombings the previous day, activists said security forces beat and arrested people when protesters began shouting "the people want to topple the regime." On Saturday twin blasts killed 27 people in Damascus and wounded nearly 100 others. (Reuters)
  • Convicted Nazi Death Camp Guard John Demjanjuk Dies at 91 - Henry Chu
    John Demjanjuk, convicted in Germany in 2011 of serving as a guard at a Nazi extermination camp and being complicit in the deaths of more than 28,000 people, died Saturday. In 1977, information passed to U.S. officials suggested that he was "Ivan the Terrible," a sadistic sentry at the Treblinka extermination camp in German-occupied Poland, where an estimated 800,000 prisoners were put to death. The U.S. stripped Demjanjuk of his citizenship and ordered him extradited to Israel to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Forensic experts confirmed as genuine the ID card, unearthed in Soviet archives, attesting to his service as a Nazi guard.
        Demjanjuk was found guilty and sentenced to death in April 1988. But five years later, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the verdict on appeal. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israeli Judge: Demjanjuk Was "Ivan the Terrible" - Boaz Fyler
    Judge Dalia Dorner, who sat on the panel that convicted John Demjanjuk of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is still convinced the verdict was just. "I believe without a shadow of a doubt that he was 'Ivan the Terrible'," she said Saturday. (Ynet News)
        See also Looking Back on the Demjanjuk Trial in Munich - Johannes Houwink ten Cate
    In Munich, the 17-month trial of Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, which may have been one of the last trials dealing with Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, ended with Demjanjuk's conviction in May 2011. This trial was a novelty, marking one of the first times in German legal history that a non-German national had to stand trial for the murder, during the Third Reich, of non-German nationals that took place outside of Germany proper. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
  • Bedouin in Egypt's Sinai End Siege of Monitor Camp
    Armed Bedouin in Egypt's Sinai peninsula have lifted their 8-day siege of a base used by foreign peacekeepers in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) which monitors the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord. Officials have been given a month to release several jailed tribesmen, some of them convicted of terrorism. The Bedouin had no complaints against the MFO but believed that by targeting their base they would bring a more rapid response from Cairo authorities to their demands. (BBC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Iran Experts Operating in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    Iranian military experts are active in Gaza and in Sinai, according to a high-ranking Israeli official who added that some of the rocket-launching systems in Gaza were manufactured under Iranian supervision. The senior source said that Islamic Jihad continued to fire rockets at Israel even after the recent cease-fire was announced because the Iranians pressured it to continue acting against Israel.
        He said "many Palestinian organizations use the Sinai peninsula as a convenient area for activity," and added that Libya has become a huge arms depot, from which weapons are transferred to Egypt and then to Gaza. He said Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's visit to Tehran did not help resolve the differences between Hamas and Iran, which cut off funding to the Islamic movement. Hamas is now trying to raise money from the Arab Gulf states and Turkey. He further noted that senior PA officials have blamed Iran for sabotaging reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iron Dome Technician Saved by Fellow Soldier - Yoav Zitun
    During the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel last week, an IDF technician successfully fixed a malfunction which enabled the Iron Dome missile defense system to intercept a rocket fired at Ashdod. Moments after he began work, an alert sounded warning of a Grad missile, but instead of running for shelter he remained in place to fix the problem.
        When the Iron Dome fires, troops are not supposed to remain within dozens of meters of the battery due to the incredible heat levels and fire that it emits during a missile launch. Just before the battery fired to intercept the incoming missile, another soldier, who realized that the technician didn't have enough time to escape, got into a jeep and raced towards the battery where he picked up the technician at the last minute. When the technician returned to the battery he noticed that there was nothing left of the equipment he had brought, which had all melted from the heat. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli-PA Cooperation Continues Despite Tensions - Herb Keinon
    Nearly 200,000 West Bank Palestinian patients and those accompanying them were granted entry permits in 2011 for medical treatment in Israel, a 13% increase from 2010, according to a Foreign Ministry report to be submitted Wednesday at a Palestinian donors’ conference meeting in Brussels. Some 21,500 Palestinian children from the West Bank were also treated in Israeli hospitals last year, a 171% increase. In 2011 some 31,414 Palestinians worked in Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: Measures Taken by Israel in Support of Developing the Palestinian Economy and Socio-Economic Structure (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Challenging Myths about Syria - Roger Owen
    International efforts to stop the violence in Syria have focused on forcing Assad to step down. But even if he did, there would be no change in the government's policy of crushing the Free Syrian Army's activities and demonstrations with force. Surrounding the president is a tightly knit group of military and security officials, mostly from the Alawite minority, who have grown enormously wealthy over the past two to three decades. Bashar al-Assad is seen as a figurehead who is easily replaceable by someone much tougher.
        Syria is already in a civil war, with an intensity that often surpasses that in conventional wars between nations. The Syrian regime is much more cohesive than that of Moammar Gaddafi and has much more popular support. With its loyal brigades of largely Alawite troops and its pervasive network of informers, thugs and intelligence operatives, it has been preparing to confront an internal threat for decades. Syria also has the advantage of diplomatic and other support from Russia. The writer is a professor of Middle East history at Harvard University. (Washington Post)
  • Investment in Iron Dome Is Investment in Peace - Michael Oren
    Last week, Palestinian terrorists fired more than 250 rockets, missiles and mortar shells at civilian neighborhoods in Israel. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system succeeded in preventing almost all the terrorist rockets from hitting populated areas. It has become the first anti-ballistic system in history to succeed in real combat conditions. Iron Dome relieved Israel of the need to send troops into Gaza. It not only saved lives, it prevented wars.
        Israel is deeply grateful for the more than two decades of U.S.-Israel cooperation on missile defense. The pioneering and proven systems resulting from this cooperation - Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow - can also help defend U.S. facilities and interests around the world. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Politico)
        See also Iron Dome Proves Its Worth - Yuval Azulai (Globes)
  • A Bad Decision on Renewing Military Aid to Egypt - Editorial
    The administration is considering going forward with military aid to Egypt - even though the criminal case in Cairo proceeds against more than two dozen Egyptians and civil society remains under assault. It's hard to imagine another move that could do more damage to U.S. interests and the cause of democracy. It would tell the military that, provided Americans are not harmed, it is free to persecute peaceful citizen activists and subvert the democratic transition.
        The real threat to U.S. security is that the transition in Egypt will end in a disaster: The military will refuse to yield power, or a democratic government will be forced by a popular backlash to rupture relations with the U.S. By handing the generals money when they have failed to meet basic democratic tests, the administration would make each of those outcomes more likely. (Washington Post)

Washington and Israel on Iran: Unresolved Differences - Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • The March 5 summit between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu helped clarify positions and narrow gaps, yet significant differences remain.
  • Israelis are pleased that the Iranian nuclear file has moved to the top of the U.S. and global agenda, with the international community adopting sharp sanctions for the first time. They also appreciate Obama's strong public statements rejecting containment, depicting a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to U.S. national security, pledging to keep all options on the table - including the military one - and, above all, respecting Israel's sovereign right to protect its vital national security interests.
  • Yet the White House apparently reiterated its negative attitude toward a premature strike during the summit, urging Israel to allow sufficient time for sanctions and diplomacy to work first.
  • Looming over the meeting was a growing sense of urgency in Israel, driven by the fact that Iran has begun to immunize critical components of its advancing nuclear capabilities against military strikes. Israel and Washington part ways when defining triggers for military action and, therefore, when determining the critical timeframe for stopping Iran's drive toward dangerous nuclear capabilities.
  • From Israel's perspective, Iran's nuclear program undoubtedly carries a military dimension, even if Tehran has not yet made a concrete decision to produce a bomb. This fact, along with the regime's nature and ideology, validates a military option once Iran acquires the essential capabilities to overtly or covertly weaponize. Waiting until Iran actually makes that dash is too risky.
  • Notwithstanding their differing perspectives, the less daylight seen between Washington and Israel, the better.

    Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog (ret.) is The Washington Institute's Milton Fine international fellow, based in Israel. Previously, he served as head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division and chief of staff to the minister of defense.

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