Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 20, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Russian Anti-Terror Troops Arrive in Syria - Kirit Radia and Rym Momtaz (ABC News)
    The Russian Black Sea fleet's Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard, according to the Interfax news agency.
    Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov denied reports that Russian special forces were operating inside Syria. He did say, however, that there are Russian military and technical advisors in the country.

Syrian Rebellion Is Growing (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The Syrian regime's military machine is taking city after city, but instead of dying down, the rebellion is growing.
    Contrary to assumptions that the pitifully armed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is weakened with each defeat, Assad's troops can barely keep large areas of the country in check.
    There are now daily protests even in Aleppo, the once calm financial and commercial center in the north.
    See also Report: Syrian Troops Threw Civilians from Rooftops - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    Opposition elements in Dir al-Zur posted a video they claim shows Syrian soldiers throwing dead and injured civilians from rooftops.
    See also Syrian General Freed by Rebels in Prisoner Swap (Reuters)
    Syrian rebels have freed Syrian army General Naeem Khalil Odeh, abducted in the Damascus suburb of Douma, in return for prisoners and bodies of rebels and civilians held by police, an opposition source said Tuesday.

Lab Set Up for Protecting Vulnerable Gas Facilities at Sea - Arie Egozi (Israel Defense)
    Elbit Systems has established a special laboratory to develop systems for protecting vulnerable gas facilities off Israel's coast.
    At its laboratory, Elbit Systems presents various "protective circles" for naval facilities that are intended to identify the threat from the largest possible distance and handle it.
    According to senior manager Azarel Ram, the integration of unmanned instruments and sensors allows for a very high level of defense for the sensitive facilities.

Boycott, What Boycott? UK-Israel Trade Booming - Candice Krieger (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Britain's ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, said this week that bilateral UK-Israel trade has reached £3.75 billion, up 34% in a year.
    "There is a lot of noise around boycotts but these figures show that it is just noise, and the trade relationship speaks for itself," Gould said.
    Israel is now the UK's largest individual partner in the Near East and North Africa.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Says Iran's Nuke Program Soon Strike-Proof - Amy Teibel
    Israel views the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran with greater urgency than the rest of the world, Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak said Monday. Iran's nuclear program "is steadily approaching maturation and is verging on a 'zone of immunity' - a position from which the Iranian regime could complete its program without effective disruption, at its convenience."
        In testimony to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said: "The world, including the current U.S. administration, understands and accepts that Israel necessarily views the threat differently than they do, and that ultimately, Israel is responsible for taking the decisions related to its future, its security and its destiny."  (AP)
  • UN Cancels Hamas Appearance at Human Rights Council
    The UN Monday canceled an appearance by Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar at the Human Rights Council in Geneva following an official complaint by Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that al-Ashqar had condemned the U.S. for killing al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, "and he represents an organization that indiscriminately targets children and grownups, and women and men. Innocents is their special favorite target."  (JTA)
  • Obama Calls Abbas to Discuss Middle East Peace
    President Barack Obama spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in six months on Monday to discuss the long-stalled Middle East peace process, the White House said. (Reuters)
        See also Statement Following President Obama's Call with PA President Abbas (White House)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • EU Foreign Minister Denies Linking Toulouse Attack to Gaza - Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis
    EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton denied Tuesday that she intended to parallel Monday's attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse with deaths in Gaza. Ashton's office released a statement Tuesday saying that her words had been grossly distorted, adding that Ashton "referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel: EU Foreign Minister's Comparison of Toulouse Attack to Gaza Deaths "Inappropriate" - Barak Ravid
    EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton must retract an "inappropriate" comparison between an attack on a French Jewish school on Monday and civilian deaths in Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Victims of Toulouse Attack to Be Buried in Israel (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinians Freed in Shalit Deal Looking to Kidnap More Israelis - Amos Harel
    Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the October deal to secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit are plotting to abduct Israeli civilians or soldiers and smuggle them out of the West Bank, the former head of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, told Ha'aretz. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Freezes Terror Group Funding - Yitzhak Benhorin
    According to a recent report submitted to Congress, the U.S. Treasury froze assets and accounts in the U.S. in 2011 belonging to terror organizations worth some $21.1 billion. This included $5 million belonging to Hizbullah, $2.5 million for Hamas, and $63,000 linked to Islamic Jihad, as well as $13 million belonging to al-Qaeda. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Bogus Iran Intelligence Debate - Bret Stephens
    The New York Times reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are sure, or pretty sure, that Iran "still has not decided to pursue a weapon" - a view the paper says is shared by Israel's Mossad. The report echoes the conclusion of a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran put its nuclear-weapons program on the shelf back in 2003.
        All this sounds like it matters a whole lot. It doesn't. You may not be able to divine whether a drinker, holding a bottle of Johnnie Walker in one hand and a glass tinkling with ice in the other, actually intends to pour himself a drink. And perhaps he doesn't. But the important thing, at least when it comes to intervention, is not to present him with the opportunity in the first place.
        The serious question policy makers must answer isn't whether Iran will go for a bomb once it is within a half-step of getting one. It's whether Iran should be allowed to get within that half-step. That is the essence of the debate the Obama administration is now having with Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Need to Buy Time - Richard Cohen
    Both Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have characterized any Israeli attempt to disrupt Iran's nuclear program as a short-term affair. An Israeli raid "wouldn't achieve their long-term objectives," Dempsey said on CNN - and he is surely right. But Israel also has a short-term objective - and that is to play for time. Israel notes that its 1981 bombing of a nuclear reactor in Iraq set back Saddam Hussein's program. Something similar happened with the 2007 bombing of a Syrian installation. Neither operation was conceived as a long-term solution, but both accomplished short-term goals. In a year or two, much could change in the Middle East. (Washington Post)
  • After the Carnage in Toulouse, Together Against Anti-Semitism - Bernard-Henri Levy
    French children, guilty of having been born Jewish, were coldly gunned down, in broad daylight, on the territory of the Republic. We have returned to the dark times when we must "direct the prefects to reinforce surveillance around all confessional sites in France, and particularly around Jewish schools" - according to the French Ministry of the Interior's communique. (Huffington Post)
  • The Rocket Threat from Gaza - Moshe Arens
    With the introduction of the Iron Dome batteries that shield some of the cities in the south, it has become more difficult for the terrorists to cause substantial harm to life and limb in Israel. But in order to decrease the risk of casualties, ordinary life for 1 million Israelis must be suspended when the first rockets hit, and remain suspended until the residents are assured that further rocket attacks are not expected. This uneasy equilibrium cannot last forever.
        The root cause of this situation is the large quantity of rockets that have been amassed in Gaza, a stockpile of weapons that is continually expanding. The number of rockets and their range keeps increasing, and more and more Israeli cities are coming into range. The threat will continue to grow until the weapons held by the terrorists in Gaza are destroyed and the resupply is blocked.
        Israel is the only country in the world that is threatened by terrorists who have established themselves within rocket range of its major population centers, threatening its civilian population. It is an untenable situation that cannot continue indefinitely. The writer is a former Israeli defense and foreign minister. (Ha'aretz)

Manipulation and Deception: The Anti-Israel "BDS" Campaign (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) - Alan Baker and Adam Shay (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The BDS campaign seeks to manipulate people who are generally unfamiliar with the intricate details and history of the issues in the Middle East, by instilling into their minds an inherent bias against, and hostility towards, Israel.
  • The movement is composed of a relatively small number of full-time, well-financed, anti-Israel activists who are inspired and encouraged by senior Palestinian figures.
  • Their mode of operation includes stalking members of the general public on the streets and threats of action against companies, suppliers, stores, academic institutions, as well as performers, unless they disassociate themselves from any Israel-related connection.
  • In many cases this constitutes blatant harassment of the general public, and arbitrary denial of basic rights to freedom of choice, freedom to use public areas in shopping malls and streets, freedom to enter stores, freedom to purchase, freedom to conduct commercial relations, and freedom to choose cultural and artistic events.
  • The BDS campaign thereby abuses democratic rights and freedoms in the social, cultural, commercial, and educational spheres of those countries in which it is conducted.

        Amb. Alan Baker is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.
        Adam Shay, a senior program coordinator and researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is often called upon by producers and concert promoters to help battle BDS activists in their attempts to pressure artists into canceling shows in Israel.

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