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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 8, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Satellite Image Shows Syria Building Unscathed by Israel Strike (Reuters)
    A research center that Syria said had been hit by an Israeli air strike last week appears to have remained unscathed in the attack, according to satellite images broadcast by Israeli television on Wednesday.
    Syria had claimed the target was the Jamraya military research complex 8 miles from the border.
    View Satellite Images (Jerusalem Post)
    See also below Commentary: Confronting Enemy Force Buildup - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Iran Talks Planned, But Diplomatic Window May Be Closing (AP-Washington Post)
    Harsh sanctions against Iran and diplomacy have failed to slow the Islamic Republic's atomic progress, and neither side is known to be bringing new proposals to the planned Feb. 25 talks in Kazakhstan.
    "The situation has changed for the worse for both sides since last summer," says Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation expert and former senior official at the U.S. State Department.
    Since the Moscow talks in June, Iran has produced enough additional low-enriched uranium to produce an additional weapon with further enrichment.

Blaming Terrorists for Terrorism - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
    It would be hard to overstate the resolve the Bulgarian government showed in naming Hizbullah as responsible for the Burgas terror attack.
    "That Bulgarian officials were willing to let the evidence guide them and expose who was behind the attack...took genuine political courage," said Omri Ceren, a senior advisor at The Israel Project.

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Jews and Arabs Clean Up Hebron - Amihai Etali (Ma'ariv-Hebrew, 6Feb13)
    The graffiti painted on the stores of the Casbah in Hebron over the years has been cleaned up in recent weeks in a joint operation by Palestinians, Israeli police, and local Jewish residents.
    Twelve years ago, at the beginning of the Second Intifada, the IDF closed all the Palestinian stores near the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Jewish community in Hebron after a series of fatal terrorist attacks that culminated in the murder by a Palestinian sniper of a Jewish baby girl, Shalhevet Pas.
    The new police commander at the Cave of the Patriarchs, Barak Arusi, convinced both Jews and Arabs to join in the clean-up.
    While a number of European activists proceeded to paint new slogans, these were cleaned up immediately.

Israel Upgrades Electricity Lines to Gaza (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    The underground electrical lines that supply electricity from Israel to Gaza's northern region have been refurbished and upgraded in recent weeks. This process has significantly increased the capacity of the electricity lines, thereby providing a more stable source of electricity to local residents.
    The work was conducted by a team from the Israel Electric Corporation, in coordination with IDF personnel to ensure their safety.
    The Israeli government has maintained and even expanded its policy of assisting the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza.
    See also Israel Re-opens West Bank Roads Closed Since Second Intifada (Ma'an News-PA)
    Israeli forces on Sunday reopened several roads connecting Nablus with surrounding villages which had been closed for 13 years, the governor of the northern West Bank district said.

EU and Israel Research Crime-Stopping Drones - Nikolaj Nielsen (EU Observer)
    The EU and Israel Aerospace Industries are co-funding research to build drones that can stop moving boats and cars.
    Launched in January, the three-year-long Aeroceptor project aims to help law enforcement authorities to stop "non-cooperative vehicles in both land and sea scenarios by means of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles."

Brazil Building Drones with Israel's Help (Brazzilmag)
    Brazilian defense contractor Avibras will join plane maker Embraer SA and the local unit of Israeli defense company Elbit Systems in developing unmanned aircraft in Brazil.
    Brazil will be hosting next year the World Cup and in 2016 the Olympic Games and needs to keep tight control of its 16,000 km. of frontiers with ten Latin American countries.

Israelite Temple Discovery Shows Ancient Border - Gwen Ackerman (Bloomberg)
    Tel Beit Shemesh was the ancient meeting point of the Canaanites, Philistines and Israelites. The Bible describes it as the northern border of the Tribe of Judah.
    The area also features in the story of the return of the Ark of the Covenant, earlier captured by the Philistines.
    King Solomon ruled the district and it was the site of the battle between Joash and Amaziah, the respective kings of Israel and Judah.
    Archaeologist Shlomo Bunimovitz from Tel Aviv University and his team have uncovered the outer wall of what they say is an ancient temple, with a row of three flat stones.
    Beit Shemesh later became part of the Israelite monarchy, although the Bible never calls the people there Israelites, only the people of Beit Shemesh.
    Neil Silberman, a historian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, notes: "What is interesting about Beit Shemesh is the concept of it not only being a border town between the Philistines and the kingdom of Judah, but also of the inevitable tension between the two."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Barack Obama's Visit to Israel "Will Focus on Iran, Not Peace Talks"
    President Obama will arrive in Israel with a public agenda of restarting the Middle East peace talks, but his private discussions will be dominated by the issue of preventing a nuclear Iran, Israeli officials have told the Daily Telegraph. "The peace process may be the subject that is initially emphasized in public but there are other issues on the table that must be addressed before the summer," one diplomat said, alluding to Israel's spring deadline for Iran to stop enriching uranium. "The deal they will have done may be on the subject of war, not of peace."
        Israeli officials also said Prime Minister Netanyahu would look for reassurances that the U.S. would prevent Syria's extensive stocks of chemical weapons - nicknamed "Arms R' Us" by Israeli intelligence - from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda or Hizbullah. "There are currently bigger and much more urgent issues to address than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," one Israeli official said. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also below Commentary: Obama to Visit Israel
  • Israel: "We're Delighted that Obama's Coming" - Chuck Todd
    When asked about President Obama's announced trip to Israel, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said Wednesday: "We're delighted that he's coming. President Obama was always welcome in Israel. He'll be received enthusiastically by the government of Israel, by the prime minister of Israel, by the people of Israel. The White House has made very clear that the purpose of the trip is to strengthen an already historic bond between Israel and the United States. I think it will send a powerful message to the Middle East at a time of great uncertainty and upheaval throughout the region, and I think that is the purpose of the trip."
        "At the end of the day, peace has to be made between Israelis and Palestinians. That's the way we made peace with Egypt back in the '70s, the way we made peace with Jordan in the '90s....We've been waiting for the Palestinians to sit with us for the last four years."  (MSNBC)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • EU Unlikely to Blacklist Hizbullah Despite Bulgaria Bombing - Mirella Hodeib
    Chances are slim that the EU will blacklist Hizbullah as a terror organization, European diplomatic sources and analysts said Wednesday. "Placing Hizbullah on the EU's terror list will eventually be explored," said a European diplomatic source. "However, several EU member states view such a measure as imprudent as it cuts off all future routes of dialogue."  (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Ahmadinejad in Egypt: Not the Start of a Beautiful Friendship - Zvi Bar'el
    The Muslim Brotherhood's homepage on Wednesday played up the phone conversation between U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, quoting Sissi's promise to act decisively to keep Sinai from becoming a threat to Israel. Panetta's promise of continued American military cooperation with Cairo, including aid for military procurement, came as the Iranian president was trying to win the hearts of the Brotherhood and of ordinary Egyptians. During his visit to the country, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even promised to defend Egypt and Saudi Arabia against any attack.
        Egypt's resistance to a closer relationship with Iran is not only a reaction to American pressure or to threatening noises from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both of which have given Cairo massive financial aid, amounting to $7 billion. Morsi's Egypt, like that of his predecessor, sees itself as a leader of the Arab world.
        Iran is seen as an enemy of Saudi Arabia, as aggravating the Shi'ite rebellion in Bahrain, as having forced its patronage on Iraq and, above all, as conducting a controversial policy in Syria. Egypt cannot and does not want to embrace "the Arabs' enemies."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Foreign Government Funding for Israeli NGOs - Sam Sokol
    Israeli organizations receive financing for "political advocacy...from a number of foreign governments," according to a report issued on Monday by the NGO Monitor watchdog group. 2012 is the first year in which they were required to report such donations.
        NGO Monitor president Prof. Gerald Steinberg said, "the amount of foreign funding going to NGOs involved in polarizing activity in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict" was "alarming." Norway was the biggest donor to Israeli NGOs, with NIS 4,598,507. (Jerusalem Post)
        Read the Report: Foreign Governments Fund Israeli NGOs
    13 political advocacy NGOs reported grants from foreign government bodies in 2012 totaling NIS 21,671,115 for 2012. (NGO Monitor)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Obama to Visit Israel

  • Obama's Israel Trip Is Not about Middle East Peace - Josh Rogin
    U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Israel next month for the first time in his presidency, but few are expecting him to make a substantive push for real progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney downplayed the possibility that Obama will bring on his March 20 trip any plans that would be meant to form the framework for a resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Carney said the trip was timed for after the start of "a new administration and a new government in Israel, and that's an opportune time for a visit like this, that is not focused on specific Middle East peace process proposals....That is not the purpose of this visit."
        Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: "It's a good idea to have Israel be the anchor of this first big visit because it does suggest that the president will approach the second term having learned a painful lesson from the first term: how important it is from the outset to have a direct relationship with the public of Israel....In 2009, the objective was to create a new relationship with Muslims. This had the very unfortunate but entirely predictable result of raising doubts about U.S.-Israel relations, which hurts Israeli deterrence and undermines American influence in the region."  (Foreign Policy)
  • Chill Out, John Kerry - Aaron David Miller
    A recently minted American secretary of state has already called both the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian president to discuss the importance of trying to resume the peace process and to express America's commitment to Arab-Israeli peace. John Kerry is already planning his first Middle East junket. Having watched and played a role in this long movie for many years, I understand the temptation and the importance of America getting involved in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
        The last thing we need (or Kerry needs) is another abortive effort to get talks going. The inconvenient truth is that the gaps on the two least contentious issues (borders and security) are large; the divide on the identity issues (Jerusalem and refugees) are yawning. What's required now are separate discussions conducted by the U.S. - low key and quiet - not noisy enterprises generated by secretarial trips and visits to the White House.
        The last thing you should do at the beginning of a negotiation is to demonstrate more urgency than the locals themselves. Moreover, Kerry should not raise expectations now. He'll just end up spending the next few years walking them back. The writer, a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center, served as an adviser on the Middle East during both Republican and Democratic administrations. (New Republic)
        See also Why Obama Is Visiting Israel - Aaron David Miller (CNN)
  • What Would Happen at a Netanyahu-Abbas-Obama Meeting? - Jennifer Rubin
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas was offered the sun and the moon (and most of the West Bank) in a 2008 peace deal by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, but said no. Isn't Abbas even less likely to accept such a deal now with Hamas on board?
        Moreover, there are really big problems in the region - Syria, the destabilization of Lebanon, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government and the Iranian nuclear threat. The Palestinian Authority has virtually nothing to do with any of those. (Although Iran's sponsorship of Hamas certainly makes peace between the Palestinian Authority and Israel virtually impossible.) (Washington Post)
  • Boosting U.S.-Israel Ties - Editorial
    The agenda during Obama's upcoming visit includes matters of utmost importance to Israel's security. The most pressing issue is Iran's unyielding march toward acquiring nuclear weapons. Another is Syria's huge arsenal of chemical weapons. To make headway on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, instead of pressing Israel to freeze construction, the U.S. president should insist that the Palestinians sit at the negotiating table without preconditions. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Hizbullah

  • Confronting Enemy Force Buildup: The Case of Advanced Weaponry for Hizbullah - Amos Yadlin
    According to foreign sources, Israel attacked a convoy that was to transfer advanced SA-17 ground-to-air missiles from Syria to Lebanon. Israel has a history of acting against a wide range of emerging threats. This active approach argues that ignoring force buildup and future threats may ultimately force Israel to pay a heavy price or even face an existential threat, and therefore in relevant cases it is necessary to take action to remove the potential threat, even at the risk of response and escalation.
        The attack against advanced weapons intended for Hizbullah clearly prevented the transfer of advanced operational capability that could have challenged Israeli aerial supremacy in a future conflict in Lebanon or ambushed reconnaissance flights essential for collecting intelligence on Hizbullah's force buildup.
        The transfer of Russian weapons to Hizbullah violates Syrian assurances to Russia, a vital Syrian ally. For this reason, Syria was quick to respond that the attack was carried out on a military research institute and not on a weapons convoy. Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, is director of the INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Bulgarian Bomb Report in Hand, EU Must Now Cripple Hizbullah - Alex Wilner
    Until now, the EU has been particularly soft on Hizbullah. Only the Netherlands and the UK have blacklisted the organization, though Britain continues to distinguish between Hizbullah's militant and political wings. France and Germany have been hesitant to ban any part of the organization. They prefer turning a blind eye to Hizbullah's local activities. This means that in much of Europe Hizbullah is free to set up shop and finance its global operations.
        But now, with the Bulgarian report in hand, Europe has an opportunity to finally get tough on Hizbullah. Blacklisting and sanctioning the organization will freeze Hizbullah's European assets. The timing is perfect for strong European action. The Burgas blast was only one of more than 20 international terrorism plots Hizbullah and Iran tried to orchestrate since 2011. The writer is a senior researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. (Globe and Mail-Canada)

  • Syria

  • As Syria Crumbles, Israel Prepares for Instability - Michael Herzog
    Although the turmoil in Syria diminishes the risk of war with the Syrian army, it highlights the risk of confrontation with hostile nonstate actors. Israel would not mourn Assad's departure. He is a linchpin of the radical Iran-Hizbullah axis and a staunch rival of Israel. His fall would deal a major blow to Tehran, significantly weaken Hizbullah, and dismantle the trilateral axis.
        At the same time, Israel is particularly troubled by the increasing weight of Islamists in the opposition, the growing number of foreign jihadists, and the West's continued passivity about supporting non-Islamist opposition forces. In private, Israeli officials have criticized the West for playing a passive role in the crisis while Iran, Hizbullah, and even Russia actively support the regime. Such passivity has helped empower Islamists and jihadists, enabling them to radicalize the conflict. IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog served as senior military aide, advisor, and chief of staff to four Israeli defense ministers and participated in peace negotiations with Syria. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Bombing the Syrian Reactor: The Untold Story - Elliott Abrams
    In May 2007, Mossad chief Meir Dagan came to the White House and showed us intelligence demonstrating that Syria was constructing a nuclear reactor whose design was supplied by North Korea. Our own intelligence confirmed the Israeli information and we found that the reactor was at an advanced construction stage, just a few months from being "hot."
        Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued for a diplomatic option, informing the International Atomic Energy Agency and demanding immediate inspections and that Syria halt work on the reactor. If Syria refused, we would go to the UN Security Council and demand action. In the end, President Bush came down on Rice's side. On July 13, President Bush called Prime Minister Olmert and told him the U.S. was not going to take the military path; we are instead going to the UN.
        Olmert responded: We told you from the first day, when Dagan came to Washington, that the reactor had to go away. Israel cannot live with a Syrian nuclear reactor; our national security cannot accept it. You are telling me you will not act; so we will act.
        I sat in the Oval Office, listening to his conversation with Olmert. Bush heard Olmert out calmly and acknowledged that Israel had a right to protect its national security. He instructed us all to abandon the diplomatic plans and maintain absolute silence, ensuring that Israel could carry out its plan.
        This incident is a reminder that there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it. Think of how much more dangerous to the entire region the Syrian civil war would be today if Assad had a nuclear reactor, and even perhaps nuclear weapons, in hand. Israel was right in believing that it, and the U.S., would be better off after this assertion of leadership and determination. That lesson must be on the minds of Israeli, and American, leaders in 2013. The writer served on the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Commentary)

  • Other Issues

  • Is Palestinian-Israeli Peace the Key to Happiness in the Middle East? - Jeffrey Goldberg
    It is an article of faith among so-called foreign-policy realists that the key to American happiness in the Middle East is a resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. "Linkage" is the shorthand for this view. But linkage - the belief that a Middle East freed from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would be a "placid lake" - has been utterly discredited by events.
        On a quick tour of the greater Middle East we see the Syrian civil war, the slow disintegration of Yemen, chaos and violence in Libya, chaos and fundamentalism in Egypt, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, terrorism in Algeria, the Iranian nuclear program, the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq, unrest in Bahrain, and Pakistani havens for al-Qaeda affiliates - all unrelated to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. (Bloomberg)
  • Beyond Apologies: The London Sunday Times Blood Libel Cartoon - Manfred Gerstenfeld
    The British Sunday Times apologized for an anti-Semitic cartoon published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, stating that publishing the drawing "was a mistake and crossed the line." It admitted that Gerald Scarfe's caricature had reflected "historical iconography that is persecutory or anti-Semitic." The drawing showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall using what appeared to be the blood of Palestinians as cement.
        One issue not addressed is that the cartoon inverted the truth, rather than exaggerated it. Scarfe suggested that what is mainly a security fence - presented here as a wall - was meant to kill Palestinians. However, it was constructed in order to prevent Palestinian murderers from entering Israel and killing Jewish civilians.
        Furthermore, the drawing reflects a major anti-Semitic motif which has its historical origins in Britain. The blood libel was invented in the 12th century in Norwich, where it was falsely claimed that Jews had killed a 12-year-old Christian boy named William for ritual purposes.
        A study by the University of Bielefeld for the German Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert Foundation found in 2011 that 42% of the British people believe that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. Who has planted this extreme anti-Semitic world view into the minds of the British? Which British politicians, media, NGOs, academics and trade unions have consistently helped strengthen the genocidal image that so many British hold regarding Israel? Creating that world view was more than a mistake. It is a crime. The writer is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Ynet News)
        See also Major Anti-Semitic Motifs in Arab Cartoons - Joel Kotek (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
  • Know Your Enemy - Amal Al-Hazzani
    Israel is a small state but stronger than the Arab world. Just browse some Internet sites and observe the number of pages Israel has posted with both Arabic and Hebrew-language support. Look at the number of Israeli newspapers and magazines with Arabic-language versions. The spokesman of the Israeli ministry of defense is a thirty-year-old man who speaks Arabic fluently. During every Islamic religious occasion he tweets the Israeli army's congratulations to Muslims and says "may you have a happy Eid, may your fast be accepted and may your pilgrimage be blessed."
        The Arabs have been preoccupied with rage and blind hatred since 1967. During this time, Israel has managed to build eight public universities and 200 museums that receive nearly 4 million tourists a year. It has also become a rival to the U.S. in the programming and software industry. Israel's annual GDP is $240 billion. Annual U.S. aid does not exceed 1.5% of this figure.
        We must understand the Israelis to know how we compare. Wars cannot be won by sentiments of hatred alone; otherwise the Arabs would have dominated the world long ago. Know your enemy so as not to suffer greater losses. This is all that I am saying. The writer is an assistant professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)

Moving to Decision: U.S. Policy toward Iran - James F. Jeffrey (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Both Israel and the U.S. have declared their unequivocal willingness to use force against Iran's nuclear program to prevent a nuclear weapon. Absent a negotiated deal, the best course of action for the U.S., and for regional security, would be to wield this threat, along with other pressure, to delay Iran's move to nuclear capability or a nuclear weapons breakout. But in the end, this set of actions may not be successful.
  • Altogether, U.S. efforts, ranging from sanctions to the deterrent threat of military action, cannot directly produce an ideological change of heart for the Iranians or cessation of their nuclear program, a reality at the center of Israeli concerns. At best, these actions can pressure Iran to slow down its nuclear program, pay an increasingly high price economically and diplomatically, or risk a military engagement with unknown consequences. In the framework of the current approach, the U.S. can either aim for better results through negotiations or ramp up the pressure.
  • The U.S. position carries a major problem: the perception that the window between actionable, high-probability intelligence of an impending Iranian nuclear weapon and the actual acquisition or deployment of such a weapon will be too brief for U.S. action.
  • U.S. policymakers should confront Iran's hegemonic drive and deter or resist any Iranian efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons "breakout." U.S. strategy should be to prevent Iran's possession of nuclear weapons. It should also keep the economic pressure on Iran while reaching out to the Iranian population.

    Ambassador James F. Jeffrey has held a series of highly sensitive posts in Washington and abroad. In addition to his service in Ankara and Baghdad, he served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, with a special focus on Iran.
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