Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 5, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Did Israel and the U.S. Just Cooperate on a Dry-Run for an Iran Intervention? - Jonathan Schanzer (New Republic)
    Thousands of U.S. troops, including senior military officials, were in Israel last month on the day a bombing raid attacked a weapons factory in Sudan.
    According to Michael Ross, a former Mossad officer, there is "no doubt at all" that the Yarmouk complex in Sudan was being used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
    Ha'aretz noted that the Sudanese opposition has fingered Yarmouk as an IRGC facility. Ross says that Sudan "has been a hub for IRGC activities since 1989."
    In all likelihood, according to Jacob Abel, a former Iran analyst at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the attack was precipitated by a "game changing" rocket - one with a longer range or bigger payload than had previously been smuggled to Gaza - that was either being constructed or stored at Yarmouk.
    There is also ample reason to believe the attack was intended as a message to the Iranians. It demonstrated that Israel's jets can strike targets at great distances - specifically, a distance that's roughly equal to or longer than the distance between Israel and Iran's nuclear sites.
    In addition, immediately before the jets hit the plant, telecommunications in the surrounding area reportedly went dark, much as they did before Israel's strike on Syria's nuclear reactor in 2007.
    The writer, a former terrorism intelligence analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Iran Sets Up New Naval Base in Strait of Hormuz Near Disputed Islands (AP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards inaugurated a new naval base Sunday to reinforce Tehran's authority over three Persian Gulf islands also claimed by the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Iranian state TV reported.
    The base near Bandar-e Lengeh is the Guards' fifth in the Gulf. It lies north of three Iranian-controlled islands that dominate the approach to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which about one-fifth of the world's oil supply passes.

Islamist Gunmen Kill Three Egyptian Policemen in Sinai - Ashraf Sweilam (AP)
    The head of Egyptian security in northern Sinai, Ahmed Bakr, confirmed that Islamic militants ambushed police in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing three.
    The gunmen pulled in front of a police vehicle in an unmarked truck in El-Arish, before standing up on the truck bed and opening fire.
    They then raised a black flag associated with jihadis and shouted "God is great," before speeding off.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Hard-Liners Reject Any Talks with U.S. - Thomas Erdbrink
    As Iranians celebrated the annual "Day of Fighting the Global Arrogance," Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij paramilitary group, told the crowd in front of the former American Embassy in Tehran on Friday: "Hear me now, we condemn all sorts of secret talks!"
        "The Iranian nation will not resume ties with America. There are conditions for America to re-establish ties with Iran. First, it should behave. It should close its military bases in 50 countries....It should remove its naval ships from the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea and Pacific Ocean and take them to its own coasts," he added. (New York Times)
        See also Iranians Burn U.S. Flags to Mark Embassy Seizure - Farhad Pouladi
    Thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America" burned U.S. flags on Friday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. "The U.S. is the most hated among all nations," said the commander of Iran's Basij militia, Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi. The demonstrators also chanted anti-British and anti-Israeli slogans, and burned Israeli flags. (AFP)
  • Palestinian Leader Violates Taboo on Refugees - Amy Teibel
    The Palestinian president has set off a strident debate by shattering a once-inviolable taboo, publicly suggesting his people would have to relinquish claims to ancestral homes in Israel. In an interview on Israeli TV, Mahmoud Abbas said that while he would like to visit his birthplace of Safed - now a town in northern Israel - he doesn't claim the right to live there. His adviser, Nimr Hammad, said Abbas was being "realistic." "He knows he can't bring back 5.5 million Palestinian refugees to Israel," Hammad said. (AP)
        See also below Observations: No Change in the Palestinian Position on the Right of Return - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Syrian Rebels Attack Airbase, Cut Off Aleppo from Damascus
    In the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, rebels said they had launched a major assault on the Taftanaz airbase, from where helicopter gunships raid opposition positions and rebel-held areas. Analysts said the assault came as rebel forces clearly have the momentum in the battle for Syria's northwest. "The rebels' gains in the north seem irreversible," said Thomas Pierret, a Syria expert at the University of Edinburgh.
        He said regime forces appeared to be concentrating their efforts on defending Aleppo, which rebel advances have cut off from Damascus and the Mediterranean coast. "The problem with this strategy is that the Aleppo garrisons are now largely isolated. It is likely they will fall in the months to come," he said. (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Rebels Capture Oilfield in Eastern Syria (BBC News)
        See also Fighting Rages at Damascus Palestinian Refugee Camp, 20 Killed (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Official: "Successful UN Bid Will Allow Lawsuits Against Israel" - Yoel Goldman
    Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said Saturday that the Palestinian Authority's bid for upgraded status at the UN would allow for suing Israel for "its crimes." "We will become full members of international organizations, mainly the International Criminal Court," he said, indicating the Palestinians' intentions to pursue perceived Israeli transgressions at The Hague. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Upgrades Rocket Defense System - Yoav Zitun
    Israel's fifth Iron Dome rocket defense battery, which will become operational within several weeks, features upgraded response time and interception range, Ynet learned Sunday. Another battery will be become operational by the summer of 2013. Since Iron Dome first became operational in April 2011, the system has intercepted over 100 Grad and Kassam rockets fired by Gaza terrorists at Israel.
        Iron Dome's seventh and eights batteries will be funded mostly by U.S. aid funds in 2013. Air Force officials have said in the past that about 13 Iron Dome batteries could offer Israel optimal coverage against short-range rocket fire. (Ynet News)
        See also Readying the Quiver - Arrow 3 Set to Fly - Gabriel Scheinmann
    The U.S. and Israel are jointly developing missile defense systems capable of protecting Israel, U.S. forces and friendly countries from potential medium- and long-range Iranian missile attacks. Once operational, the Arrow 3 will be the most advanced missile defense system in the world, a testament to the depth and ingenuity of the U.S.-Israel military alliance. Arrow 3 is "more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the U.S. with our programs," Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said earlier this year.
        The Arrow 3 interceptor boasts twice the range of the Arrow 2, despite being significantly smaller and weighing only half as much. Costs have dropped as well. In anticipation of a high volume of incoming missiles, the Super Green Pine radar can track 30 targets moving at speeds of more than 3,000 meters per second at a greater than 400 km. range, and the Arrow 3 should be capable of intercepting salvos of more than five enemy missiles within 30 seconds. The U.S. receives all data from Israeli field tests, reaping the benefits of a program it has helped fund. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinians at the UN, Again - Editorial
    Last year, the Palestinian Authority toyed with submitting an application for full UN membership, but backed off in the face of overwhelming opposition from the U.S. and Israel. Now the Palestinians plan to seek admission as a "nonmember" observer state in the General Assembly. It is not a move that will do anyone any good. It will not change facts on the ground, and it will come at a cost.
        Israel and the U.S. say unilateral moves like these by the Palestinians violate the 1993 Oslo accords. And it is clear that a negotiated deal is the only way to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state and guarantee Israel's security. (New York Times)
  • Israel Under Fire - Editorial
    Last week, Palestinian terrorists operating from the Gaza Strip fired 21 rockets and mortars into Israel. That followed a three-day, 77-shell barrage, in which two civilians were seriously injured and thousands of people were forced into bomb shelters. More than 800 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from the Strip in 2012.
        If this incoming fire were landing in Texas from Mexico - or in southern Spain from North Africa - it would be a major story. Instead, the world has largely ignored the attacks while obsessing over a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran is a principal arms supplier to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which operates out of Gaza and is responsible for many of the recent attacks. Iran's war against Israel, in other words, has long been underway.
        Israel has been fortunate to suffer few fatalities so far from the Gaza attacks, but at some point a Palestinian barrage may take a large toll in lives, forcing Israel to respond in a major way. When that happens, Israel will be urged to show "restraint" by the usual diplomatic suspects. We're writing this as a reminder of how much restraint Israel has already shown. (Wall Street Journal)

No Change in the Palestinian Position on the Right of Return - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Claims that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas - in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV on Nov. 2, 2012 - had apparently relinquished the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees are baseless in light of the clarifications provided by Abbas himself, in which he called the return a "sacred right" and affirmed his full commitment to the basic Palestinian positions.
  • The gap between Israel and the Palestinians on the refugee question is unbridgeable. For the Palestinians, the right of return is a taboo matter that cannot be questioned. The formulation "a just and agreed solution based on Resolution 194" does not imply a readiness for a possible Palestinian compromise. "Agreed" means compelling Israel to agree to implement the Palestinian demands for "justice."
  • The PLO and the Palestinian Authority (as well as the Hamas government in Gaza) continue to cultivate in Palestinian society the idea of the refugees' return, to prevent any possibility of resettling the refugees outside of the camps, and to maintain the role of UNRWA as a symbolic and practical manifestation of the demand for return.
  • According to the Palestinian consensus, the nonimplementation of the right of return will leave the doors of the conflict with Israel open, implying a justification to continue the armed struggle even after a Palestinian state is created. For the Palestinians, the refugee problem is a trump card with which they can keep confronting Israel.
  • The Palestinian arena's harsh reactions to Abbas' remarks indicate the inability of the Palestinian leadership, even if it so desired, to present a compromise position on the refugee issue.

    The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    See also Abbas' Pandora Box - Khaled Abu Toameh
PA President Mahmoud Abbas' remarks that he does not want to return to his home town of Safed led to strong condemnations not only from Hamas and radical Palestinian groups, but also from some of his political allies in the PLO. The widespread denunciations show that the Palestinians remain strongly opposed to any concessions to Israel with regard to the "right of return" for refugees to their former homes inside Israel.
    But Abbas himself is partially responsible for the fact that Palestinians have been radicalized to a point where they see any talk of compromise with Israel as an act of "high treason." Over the years, Abbas has repeatedly declared that the "right of return" is a sacred issue and a "red line."  (Jerusalem Post)

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