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,
June 13, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Wins World Food Prize - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
    Prof. Daniel Hillel, 81, is this year's winner of the World Food Prize, recognizing "individuals who have contributed landmark achievements in increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world."
    Hillel is receiving the prize for his groundbreaking work in micro-irrigation and his success in bridging cultural gaps to solve a global issue.
    "I helped to develop the principle of shifting from low-frequency, high-volume irrigation to high-frequency, low-volume irrigation," he said.
    The common practice had been to saturate the soil with large volumes of water through periodic flooding. But the invention of plastic tubing in the 1960s made it possible to "deliver small volumes of water by perforating the tubes or attaching little emitters into them," he said.
    While others were also involved in conceptualizing this method, Hillel was instrumental in disseminating these techniques all over the world.

PA Reaches Borrowing Limit from Palestinian Banks (WAFA-PA)
    Government borrowing from the Palestinian banking system has reached the maximum tolerable risk limit, governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority Jihad Al-Wazir said Monday.
    He noted that Palestinian banks lent the government over $300 million in the last two months.

Iran Steps Up Crackdown on Christians - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has stepped up its crackdown on the country's struggling Christian community by closing a church in Tehran, Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said last week.
    He said the regime assigned the Revolutionary Guard Corps to handle the "oversight of Christian churches in Iran, which were previously overseen by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance."
    Dr. Richard Landes, an associate professor of history at Boston University, noted, "On one level, the closure reveals the insecurity of the Muslims who carry it out, re-emphasizing the profound lack of confidence that Islamists in power have in a free market of ideas."

Syria's Assads Turned to West for Glossy P.R. - Bill Carter and Amy Chozick (New York Times)
    With the help of high-priced public relations advisers who had worked in the Clinton, Bush and Thatcher administrations, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his family have sought over the past five years to portray themselves in the Western media as accessible, progressive and even glamorous.

Tourism to Israel at Record High - Lydia Weitzman (Israel Ministry of Tourism-IMRA)
    1.4 million visitors arrived in Israel in January-May 2012, 6% more than the same period in 2011, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Clinton: Iran Has "Hegemonic Ambitions"
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Washington on Tuesday, said: "There is a unified position being presented by the P5+1 that gives Iran, if it is interested in taking a diplomatic way out, a very clear path that would be verifiable and would be linked to action for action." "The Russians have made it very clear that they expect the Iranians to advance the [upcoming] discussion in Moscow, not to just come, listen, and leave."
        "The continuing effort by the Iranians to extend their influence and to use terror as a tool to do so extends to our hemisphere and all the way to East Asia. So the threat is real. We're dealing with a regime that has hegemonic ambitions. Those who live in the near neighborhood are well aware of that."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Clinton: Russia Sending Attack Helicopters to Syria - Paul Richter and Patrick J. McDonnell
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charged Tuesday that Russia is sending helicopter gunships to prop up the Syrian government. "We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically," she said. (Los Angeles Times)
  • New Weapons Push Syrian Crisis Toward Civil War - Mark Landler and Neil MacFarquhar
    With evidence that powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters, the bloody uprising in Syria shows signs of mutating into a full-fledged civil war. The fierce government assaults using helicopters to fire on rebel-held enclaves are partly a response to improved tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, which have recently received more powerful anti-tank missiles from Turkey, with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The U.S. was consulted about these weapons transfers, activists said.
        Herve Ladsous, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, explained, "The government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory and several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas."  (New York Times)
        See also Iranian Opposition: Iran's Quds Force Active in Syria - Amr Ahmed (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also Arab States Arm Syrian Rebels - Justin Vela
    Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have received weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar which were transported into Syria via Turkey with the implicit support of Turkey's intelligence agency, MIT, according to a Western diplomat in Ankara. FSA members said that three weeks ago they received multiple shipments of arms including Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry. One FSA member claimed the weapons had arrived at a Turkish port via ship and were then driven to the Syrian border without interference from Turkish authorities. (Independent-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Concerned Hizbullah May Move Syrian Arms to Lebanon - Yaakov Katz
    Concern is mounting in Israel that Hizbullah will move sophisticated weaponry, including Scud missiles, from Syria to Lebanon to protect them from being captured by rebels or other rogue elements in the event of Assad's downfall. Syria is believed to have allocated a number of Scud D missiles - the most advanced missile in its arsenal - to Hizbullah in 2010 but they have been stored in bases in Syria. Syrian Scud Ds have a range of about 700 km. and can carry non-conventional warheads. Israel's concern also focuses on the possibility that Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons will fall into rogue hands. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Kindergartners Want to "Blow Up Zionists" - Elior Levy
    Children attending a kindergarten in Gaza run by Islamic Jihad celebrated their graduation by dressing up in army attire, waving toy rifles and chanting anti-Israel slogans. During the ceremony the children stood next to mock coffins draped with flags of the various armed factions. The flags bore the images of "shahids" (martyrs).
        One child, Hamza, said, "When I grow up I'll join Islamic Jihad and the al-Quds Brigades. I'll fight the Zionist enemy and fire missiles at it until I die as a shahid and join my father in heaven....I want to blow myself up on Zionists and kill them on a bus in a suicide bombing."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • U.S. Mulls Seeking Broader Deal in Nuclear Talks with Iran - Laura Rozen
    The Obama administration is considering putting forward a broader proposal to Iran. Those arguing in favor of the "go big" approach say their thinking has been influenced by two recent diplomatic encounters with Iran that cast doubt on the viability of an incremental deal. Senior policy officials at the Defense Department are said to have favored offering a bigger deal to Iran, accompanied by a military threat were it not accepted.
        International negotiators have, to date, proposed a step-by-step incremental process for resolving international concerns about Iran's nuclear program. They laid out a detailed proposal for an interim confidence-building measure at their last meeting with Iran in Baghdad in May. That proposal asked Iran to stop its 20%-enrichment activities, ship out its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium, and halt operations at the fortified Fordo uranium-enrichment site. "The Iranians made clear at Baghdad they were not interested," a Western official said.
        He said the administration sought to trade irreversible concessions for irreversible concessions. "We would view an irreversible concession as the lifting of sanctions. And in return they would have to take an irreversible step." The Iranians seem to be under the mistaken impression that we don't want sanctions to go into effect at the end of June, he said. (Al-Monitor)
  • In Negotiating over Nukes, Iran Holds the Upper Hand - Ilan Berman
    Iranian officials have defiantly rejected the idea that they might stop enriching uranium to 20%, as per U.S. and European demands. Instead, all the parties at the Baghdad talks managed to do was agree to meet again for more talks later this month in Moscow. That outcome isn't cost-free. It provides Iran with diplomatic breathing room, and delays - at least temporarily - the application of significant additional economic pressure on Iran by the U.S. and its allies.
        With the U.S. presidential election looming this fall, Washington sees negotiations as a net benefit, at least for the moment. So, too, does Iran. A protracted negotiating track confers tremendous benefit to the Iranian regime, providing it precious time to continue work on its nuclear program and adapt its economy to better weather international sanctions.
        That's why Iran - for all of its bluster to the contrary - is likely to remain engaged in the current round of talks with the West. From Iran's perspective, diplomacy is indeed succeeding. Having agreed to reopen talks with Tehran, the U.S. and its allies now find themselves locked in protracted negotiations that play to Iran's timetable. The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. (Forbes)
  • Will Russia Cooperate on Syria? - Aaron David Miller
    A year plus into the Syrian situation, Assad's military and security services continue to see their interests best served by killing the opposition rather than acquiescing to its rise. No regional actor has yet had the influence to persuade Assad to relinquish power and military action has been deemed (rightly) to be much harder and more risky than in Libya.
        Russia may have lost much of its status as a great power, but Putin isn't going to acquiesce in a game of dominoes in which the Americans knock over all of Moscow's former friends - Gaddafi, Assad and even Iran. Indeed, Russia's insistence that Iran be brought in as part of a new contact group suggests that Putin is in no hurry to solve the Syria problem. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. (Al-Monitor)

A Good Deal for Tehran - Daniel Schwammenthal (Wall Street Journal Europe)

  • In exchange for technical support and a few eased trade restrictions, the P5+1 demand that Iran, as a first step, stop enriching uranium to 20%; ship abroad its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium; and close the underground Fordo enrichment facility. Faithfully implemented, such a deal would certainly delay parts of Iran's enrichment program. But it would not stop Iran's march toward nuclear-weapons capabilities, and might even offer certain advantages for its atomic plans.
  • Particularly troubling is that Iran would be allowed to keep and even grow its stockpile of 3.5%-enriched uranium, only this time with de-facto international approval. That would be a significant political and military victory for the regime, since it would permit Iran to stay much closer to a bomb.
  • As Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has repeatedly pointed out, mastering low enrichment of 3.5% is 70% of the enrichment effort required for an atomic weapon. With 20%-enriched uranium, you are 90% there.
  • By mid-May, Iran had accumulated enough 3.5% to fuel - if further enriched - at least four nuclear weapons.
  • Critically, partly controlling Tehran's enrichment activities would do nothing to disrupt the other elements of the regime's nuclear-weapons development program, including triggers, computer simulations of nuclear explosions, ballistic missiles and fitting them with nuclear warheads.

    The writer is director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

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