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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 12, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Islamists Suspected of Planning Attack in France (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
    Three suspected Islamist militants arrested in southern France appeared to have been planning an attack in the days ahead, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Monday.
    Police found weapons and explosives at the home of one of the suspects in Marignane, near Marseille, and intercepted communications between the men suggested they were close to going into action.
    "The investigation showed we were faced with a veritable laboratory for making improvised explosive devices and...the messages exchanged by the participants suggested the timetable could be accelerated," Molins said.

    See also Signs of a Quiet Exodus of Jews from France - Maurizio Molinari (La Stampa-Italy)
    Increasing numbers of French Jews are appearing each week on the Upper West Side of New York City.
    Zachary, 29, a transport manager from Strasbourg, said: "If New York is full of French Jews, it's because in 2002, in connection with the second Palestinian Intifada, a season of physical aggression began towards us from the Arabs that still hasn't stopped."
    "Episodes occur continuously in the [French] streets or in the subway," adds Aharon, a designer in a start-up. "They force you to walk with your head down, put a hat on to conceal the kippah."
    The response from the police is to "often not classify the attacks as anti-Semitism but as robberies or violence" which conceals the true extent of the phenomenon.

Report: Woman with Explosive Vest Caught at Jordan-Syrian Border (The Tower)
    Last month Jordanian border guards closed a crossing used by Syrian refugees after a woman was caught trying to cross into the country wearing an explosive vest.
    She's suspected of being affiliated with Syrian groups seeking to target Jordanian institutions.

Jury without Jews Request Rejected by New York Judge - Russell Goldman (ABC News)
    A lawyer's request that Jewish people be excluded from a jury that will hear a case of a suspected terrorist, accused of lying about plans to kill Americans in Afghanistan, was rejected Monday by New York federal Judge Eric Vitaliano.
    "The judge denied my application," said Frederick Cohn, the lawyer representing Abdel Hameed Shehadeh.
    By law jurors cannot be excluded from a jury based on race, gender or religion.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Likely to Be Next Target of Syrian Rebels, General Says - Jonathan Ferziger
    Israel's military chief of staff warned that some of the rebel forces trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad may soon turn their attention southward and attack Israeli towns in the Golan Heights. "We see terror organizations that are increasingly gaining footholds in the territory and they are fighting against Assad," Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the Herzliya Conference on Monday. "Guess what? We'll be next in line."  (Bloomberg)
        See also Syria Rebels Vow to "Liberate Golan Heights" after Assad Falls - Daniel Siryoti
    Syrian rebels operating near the border with Israel threatened on Sunday to fight to regain the Golan Heights following the toppling of Syrian President Assad. In a video, a rebel fighter said, "we are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor Hafez Assad sold to Israel 40 years ago....We will open a military campaign against Israel. We will fire the bullets that Assad did not and we will liberate the Golan."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Warns of "Somalization" of Syria - Burak Bekdil
    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has voiced concerns about radical Sunni elements taking power in a post-Assad Syria. He told Hurriyet Daily News in an interview: "There is a great concern that uncontrolled elements at the service of extremist ideas will manage to take over smaller or bigger separate territories inside the Syrian borders....The 'Somalization' of Syria is a great concern. We hope that this war ends as quickly as possible, with a central power emerging that will rule all of Syria."
        Asked about a possible Israel-Turkey rapprochement after the Mavi Marmara incident, Palmor said: "The real question is, does the Turkish government want to normalize its relations with Israel?...We don't understand what motivates the Turkish government. We would know more if the Turkish government agreed to engage in some kind of dialogue, but that's not the case."  (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • UN: Syrian Government Using Militias for Mass Killings
    The Syrian government is using local militias known as Popular Committees to commit mass killings, UN human rights investigators said on Monday. The investigators, who cited accounts from witnesses and victims, also said people were being harassed or arrested by the committees because they came from regions perceived as being supportive of the uprising. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Barak: Israel the Strongest Power in the Middle East
    Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday in his parting address that Israel faces great security challenges but that it is clearly the strongest power in the Middle East, Israel Radio reported. "There are very complex challenges ahead of us. The Iran threat is not disappearing, Syria is crumbling before our eyes, and weapons transfers to Hizbullah can take place on any day."
        Despite these challenges Barak emphasized, "Israel is clearly the strongest country in the Middle East," adding, "we do not expect that there is a power in the region that can attack Israel with air forces and with armored divisions."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hoenlein Appeals to Save Mount of Olives - Sam Sokol
    Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, delivered a letter to the prime minister during a visit to Israel in February calling to secure the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world. The 3,000-year-old Jewish graveyard faces "continuous violence against visitors, rampant grave desecrations, dumping of refuse and gross defilement of the cemetery by local Arab youths."
        Some 150,000 Jews "are buried there, including three of our prophets, foremost Torah scholars, heads of hassidic dynasties, and many of our national leaders over the ages, including prime minister Begin," said the letter. "There are reports almost every three to four days of rocks being thrown at vehicles or visitors." More than 30 American states have laws which mandate "severe penalties" for crimes committed in, or near, a cemetery. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control Is Vital - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Turkey's Prime Minister Sends a Fresh Chill through the Country's Jews - Mark I. Pinsky
    When Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey last week declared Zionism a "crime against humanity," Turkish Jews had fresh reason to worry about the Islamist direction of Erdogan's rule in the once proudly secular state. Officially the Jewish population is 24,000, but Jewish leaders tell me the true number is closer to 14,000 as Jews have been leaving or sending their families abroad.
        A sense of foreboding was already evident when I visited Turkey a year ago. Among more than a dozen families and Jewish leaders I met with, I didn't find a single one without a child or grandchild living or studying in the U.S., Europe or Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas' Disenchantment with Morsi - Hussein Ibish
    Many Hamas leaders were convinced that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would mean a radical transformation of its fortunes and hold the key to its eventual control of the Palestinian national movement. However, it has become clear that the Morsi government is at least as problematic as its much-hated Mubarak predecessor.
        Egypt has moved to stop the transfer of all goods, including huge shipments of fuel, through the smuggling tunnels. Egypt has also refused to allow Hamas to establish a formal office in Cairo, and has urged Hamas to abandon "armed struggle" against Israel.
        While the ideology of Egypt's presidency may have changed, its interests have not. Egypt has a vested interest in not being sucked back into responsibility for Gaza. And it has a mutually advantageous peace treaty with Israel that no rational government is going to gamble with.
        In addition, Egypt has a massive national security crisis in the Sinai Peninsula, particularly in the regions bordering Gaza. In Sinai, political extremists are disrupting almost all Egyptian government activities. This is a grave political challenge for Morsi, who cannot be seen as incapable of securing vital areas of his own country.  The writer is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. (Daily Beast)
  • Settlements Not Illegal under International Law - Eric Rozenman
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon erroneously has asserted, for the fourth time in two years, that "all [Israeli] settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, is illegal under international law." Article 6 of the League of Nations' 1922 Palestine Mandate encouraged "close Jewish settlement" on the land west of the Jordan River. The 1945 UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, continues Jewish rights recognized under the Mandate. Furthermore, UN Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) do not call for Israeli withdrawal from all the West Bank. So Jews building communities west of the Jordan River do so in accord with relevant international laws.  The writer is Washington, D.C., director for Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). (Washington Times)

UN Peacekeepers on the Golan Heights at Risk - David Schenker, Michael Herzog, Andrew J. Tabler, and Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights was created after the October 1973 War to supervise the Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement, and its 1,000-man force has been conducting bimonthly inspections within 15 miles on either side of the border ever since.
  • Over the past two years, however, the emergence of rebel combat formations in the area has created an increasingly precarious security environment for UNDOF personnel operating in Syria.
  • For Israel, jihadist tactical gains are fueling concerns that the days of longstanding quiet along the border are numbered. To mitigate that threat, the Israeli military is fast erecting a new, sophisticated border fence in the Golan. It has also added more seasoned troops and more formidable weapons systems along the frontier.
  • As Syria deteriorates, the UNDOF mission may become unsustainable. Austria, India, and the Philippines are already discussing the future of their deployments. Furthermore, Syria's successor government - presumably Islamist in orientation - may not consent to UNDOF's reconstitution.
  • With UNDOF gone and post-Assad Syria brimming with well-armed jihadists, the long-quiet Israel-Syria border could easily revert to a battlefield.

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