Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 9, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Bomber in Plot on U.S. Airliner Said to Be Saudi Double Agent - Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    The suicide bomber dispatched by the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda last month to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner was actually an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia who infiltrated the terrorist group and volunteered for the mission, American and foreign officials said Tuesday.
    The agent left Yemen last month and delivered both the innovative bomb designed for his aviation attack and inside information on the group's leaders, locations, methods and plans to the Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi intelligence and allied foreign intelligence agencies.
    See also CIA Unraveled Bomb Plot from Within - Greg Miller (Washington Post)

Iraq Oil Industry Experiences New Boom - Ben Van Heuvelen (Washington Post)
    In April, Iraq exported more crude than it has in any month since it invaded Kuwait in 1990 - 2.5 million barrels of oil per day - a one-fifth increase since the beginning of the year. This could help offset the loss of oil supplies from Iran.
    Analysts at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad say Iraq will add 500,000 barrels per day of production this year, equal to about one-quarter of Iran's current exports.
    "Over the next five to seven years, Iraq could be supplying nearly half of the incremental growth in world oil demand," said Larry Goldstein, director of the nonprofit Energy Policy Research Foundation.
    Security gains have helped the oil sector. A strategic pipeline to Turkey was once unusable because it was bombed so often; for the past few years, it has carried about 20% of the country's exports.

Hizbullah Spotted Building New Bases - Nicholas Blanford (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Recently uploaded satellite images to the online Google Earth portal reveal what appears to be a Hizbullah military training ground constructed since 2006 in remote hills near Janta in the eastern Bekaa Valley along the border with Syria.
    Google Earth images also reveal considerable - and surprisingly overt - construction activity in sealed-off Hizbullah security pockets in southern Lebanon, particularly in the hills south of Jezzine.
    In the Jezzine area, numerous buildings and new roads have appeared in areas sealed off by Hizbullah after the 2006 war. The hills are strategically advantageous with clear overviews of the traditional axes of advance for invading armies from the south.
    The scale of the activity hints at the enormous efforts Hizbullah has undertaken since the 2006 war to prepare for another conflict with Israel.

Iran Seeks to Scuttle U.S. Pact with Afghanistan - Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran is raising pressure on Afghanistan to scuttle a newly signed security accord with the U.S., threatening to deport Afghan refugees and migrant workers if Afghanistan's parliament ratifies the deal.
    Tehran's ambassador to Kabul, Abolfazl Zohrehvand, told Afghan lawmakers last week that they should not ratify the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Suspected of Clean-Up Operation at Nuclear Site - Jon Swaine
    Iran may have carried out a clean-up operation at a building suspected of being used for nuclear weapons experiments within a key military facility, experts warned Monday. New satellite photographs appear to show unusual activity in recent weeks at the Parchin site outside Tehran, according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). A large stream of water pictured flowing from the building, said to feature an "explosive chamber" for testing, "raises concerns that Iran may have been washing inside the building," the group said. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been denied access to the site since 2005.
        "Iran should immediately allow IAEA inspectors into the Parchin site and allow access to this specific building," said ISIS founder David Albright, a former inspector. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Britain Seeks to Delay EU's Iran Ship Insurance Ban - Dmitry Zhdannikov and Justyna Pawlak
    Britain is seeking to persuade fellow EU members to postpone by up to six months a ban on providing insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil, arguing that it could lead to a damaging spike in oil prices, European diplomats said. Iran exports most of its 2.2 million barrels of oil per day to Asia. The four main buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - have yet to find a way to replace the predominantly Western shipping insurance provided by London insurers. (Reuters)
  • Fayyad: Palestinians Isolated and Short of Funds - Michael Stott and Samia Nakhoul
    Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have "lost the argument" on the international stage for an independent state. He said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause. Arab unrest, the U.S. presidential elections and financial crises in Europe had combined to knock the Palestinian issue off the global agenda.
        Fayyad said Palestinians must get their own house in order before they could hope for independence and he called for elections that have long been delayed. "A basic right of our people is being violated. The right of being able to choose our leadership," he said. Fayyad added that he was convinced that independence would be achieved within ten years. (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
        See also A Palestinian Reformer's Downfall - Ben Birnbaum
    In the spring of 2011, Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to seek recognition of a Palestinian state through the UN. When a bipartisan congressional delegation met with Salam Fayyad in Ramallah around that time, he made clear that he opposed the plan.
        If Fatah and Hamas ever reconcile, Fayyad will almost certainly be out of a job. Why Hamas would resent Fayyad is no mystery. He is everything they hate - secular, pro-Western, abhorring of violence, and accepting of Israel. (New Republic)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Calls on Abbas to Return to Negotiations - Tovah Lazaroff and Khaled Abu Toameh
    The new national unity government offers an opportunity to rekindle the stalled peace talks, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday as he called on PA President Abbas to return to the negotiation table. "I hope that President Abbas will use this opportunity to resume the peace talks," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Car Comes Under Fire in West Bank - Michal Shmulovich
    Terrorists opened fire Tuesday evening on an Israeli vehicle near the village of Sinjil, northeast of Ramallah on Route 60, a main north-south highway in the West Bank. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Uncovers Explosive Charges in West Bank Village - Florit Shoihet
    On Tuesday, IDF forces operating in the village of Tamon, near Bekaot, found five hidden explosive charges. Three Palestinians were detained for questioning. The explosive devices were ready for immediate activation and were relatively large and complex. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israeli Archeologists Uncover City from the Time of King David
    Five years of archeological research at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, 30 km. southwest of Jerusalem, were presented Tuesday in a new book, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah, published by Yediot Ahronot. According to Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, "This is the first time that archeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David....Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Shaul Mofaz Agrees to Join Benjamin Netanyahu's Coalition - Jodi Rudoren
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel significantly expanded his power on Tuesday, creating the largest and broadest coalition government in recent memory. "I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has been determined since he got elected to re-establish a very strong political center in Israel," said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and an adviser to Mr. Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister, in the 1990s. "What does it mean to be in the center? It means willing to make compromises to ensure peace, but at the same time insisting that any arrangement you make has a large security component."
        Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, said the new coalition would be able to "contend better with the challenges facing Israel," including "a historic territorial compromise with our Palestinian neighbors." Nabil Abu Rudeineh, chief spokesman for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said the new coalition could present new opportunities - but in the next breath reiterated the positions about settlements, borders and Jerusalem that have been stumbling blocks in the past. (New York Times)
  • Netanyahu Boosts Israel's Deterrence - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The unity deal worked out secretly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz boosts our deterrence power on the Iranian front and Israel's ability to press the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany not to compromise too much. Mofaz has served as defense minister and IDF chief of staff in the past, and will be joining the forum of top government ministers - now nine in number - entrusted with taking decisions on critical security and diplomatic issues, providing another experienced hand.
        In the final analysis, the formation of the new government boosts Israel's deterrent power and upgrades its leadership's decision-making ability on the security and diplomatic front, topped by the Iran issue. (Ynet News)
  • Losing Hope in Syria's Devastated Countryside
    In the village of Bashiriya in Idlib Province, the helicopters appeared over the top of the hill shortly after 9 a.m. on April 9. A volley of rockets incinerated the first houses, while the gunners pursued the fleeing villagers with their machine guns and shot those who didn't manage to take shelter under the trees. They even mowed down a herd of sheep. The tanks arrived minutes later, already firing indiscriminately into the village from hundreds of meters away. Then came the soldiers, who went from house to house, first looting and then burning down more than 100 houses. It's been quiet in Bashiriya since the attack. Half of the 7,000 residents have fled.
        A trip through the villages in northwest Idlib Province leads through a world in which the inhabitants are being kept in check but are no longer under the government's control. The fear of the once omnipresent government informants has disappeared in the villages, where everyone now speaks his mind and the drivers for the FSA write "Free Army" on their dusty rear windows. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Libyan Missiles on the Loose - David Ignatius
    The spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from Libya after the overthrow of Gaddafi's regime poses a growing threat to commercial planes. A State Department official said in February that Gaddafi had acquired 20,000 of these weapons, and that only 5,000 of them had been secured through a $40 million U.S. program to buy up loose missiles.
        Here's the scary part: Two former CIA counterterrorism officers told me last week that technicians recently refurbished 800 of these man-portable air-defense systems (known as MANPADS) - some for an African jihadist group called Boko Haram that is often seen as an ally of al-Qaeda for possible use against commercial jets flying into Niger, Chad and perhaps Nigeria. (Washington Post)

Egypt's Revocation of the Natural Gas Agreement with Israel: Strategic Implications - Shmuel Even (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • On April 22, 2012, the national Egyptian gas companies, EGAS and EGPC, announced the revocation of the agreement to supply natural gas to Israel.
  • In 2010, Egypt supplied the Israel Electric Company (IEC) with 37% of its gas consumption; in 2011, that dropped to 18% because of attacks on the pipeline in northern Sinai.
  • The revocation of the agreement is a decision that was clearly made, or at least approved, at Egypt's highest political levels.
  • Stopping the flow of Egyptian gas puts the last nail in the coffin of one of the only manifestations of normalization between Israel and Egypt. It seems that the peace agreement is still viewed in Egypt as a strategic necessity rather than the basis for peaceful relations.
  • From the perspective of Israel's energy market, the revocation of the agreement is preferable to its continuation under the current circumstances.

    The writer, a senior research fellow at INSS, retired from the IDF in 1999 following a long career in the Intelligence Branch.

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