Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 6, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

A Message for Iran When Israel Launches Airstrikes in Syria - Blake Hounshell (Foreign Policy)
    Taking out Iran's fortified and far-flung nuclear facilities would be vastly more challenging than hitting a few warehouses in nearby Damascus.
    But the intended lesson here for Tehran (and Washington) is clear: Israel will defend itself when threatened, and we mean what we say.
    See also below Observations: Israel Hits Syria, Sends Message to Iran - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)

Report: Over 100 Syrian Soldiers Killed in Airstrike - Anne Barnard (New York Times)
    The air assault near Damascus struck several critical military facilities, killing dozens of troops from the elite Republican Guard, a high-ranking Syrian military official said.
    At the military's Tishreen Hospital on Monday, a doctor said that there were at least 100 dead soldiers and many dozens more wounded.
    Israeli analysts suggested that any deaths of Republican Guards, who were guarding weapons stockpiles, were probably incidental.

Syria: Hundreds of Families Flee "Death Squads" - Magdy Samaan and Phoebe Greenwood (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
    Hundreds of families streamed out of areas dominated by the Alawite clans of President Assad, seeking safety after a second village in two days was destroyed by death squads apparently bent on ethnic cleansing.
    Relatives of the dead in the Sunni Muslim villages of Bayda and Ras al-Nabaah told the Sunday Telegraph that scores had been killed by Alawite militias that attacked the villages on Thursday and Friday. Pictures posted online showed piles of disfigured bodies, including women and young children.
    Abu Abdullah described the massacre in Bayda: "Security and Shabiha militia entered the village with knives and guns and started to kill everybody they met. Almost 60% of the women and children of the village were killed."

Google Gives a Virtual Nod to "Palestine" - Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times)
    Google has switched the tagline on its Palestinian website, replacing the words "Palestinian territories" with "Palestine" in both English and Arabic.
    Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said the company was following the lead of the UN, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the International Organization for Standardization.
    Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, "This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private Internet company in international politics."

Berkshire Hathaway Buys Rest of Israel's Iscar for $2B (Reuters)
    Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. on Wednesday said it paid $2.05 billion cash to buy the 20% it did not already own of toolmaker Iscar from the Israeli company's founding Wertheimer family.
    Berkshire in 2006 bought an 80% stake in Iscar for $4 billion. "As you can surmise from the price we're paying for the remaining interest, [Iscar] has enjoyed very significant growth over the last seven years," Buffett said.
    German-born Stef Wertheimer founded Iscar in 1952. He has established a number of industrial parks in Israel aimed at promoting peace by having Jews and Arabs work together.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Targeted Iranian Missiles in Syria Attack - Anne Barnard, Michael R. Gordon and Jodi Rudoren
    A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday, which Syrian state television said was the result of Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation, the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days. The airstrike that Israel carried out in Syria on Thursday was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hizbullah, American officials said Saturday.
        As fighting in Syria escalates, both Iran and Hizbullah have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hizbullah. The Iranian missiles were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official. Israel has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hizbullah to receive "game changing" weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland. "The Israelis are saying, 'O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama's,'" said Ehud Yaari, a fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
        An American official said the targeted shipment consisted of Iranian-made Fateh-110s - a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that has the range to strike Tel Aviv. Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said the shipment included Scud Ds with a range long enough to reach Eilat. An American official said the warehouse struck Thursday was believed to be under the control of Hizbullah and Iran's Quds Force.
        President Obama said, "The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hizbullah."  (New York Times)
        See also Video: Rocket Attacks Hit Syrian Weapons Dumps (BBC)
        See also Iran's Plans to Take Over Syria - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Airstrikes May Have Exposed Flaw in Syrian Air Defenses, Embolden U.S. - Brian Bennett
    "The Russian-supplied air defense systems are not as good as said," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Leahy said the Israel Defense Forces was using American-made F-16 jets to launch the missiles against Syrian targets. "Keep in mind the Israelis are using weapons supplied by us," Leahy said. "They have enormous prowess with those weapons."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Messages from the Israeli Air Strikes in Syria - Tariq Alhomayed
    Two messages can be read from the Israeli raids on Syria. The first is that Israel is unconcerned by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's threats. The second is that Assad's defense capabilities are not as significant as the Americans have portrayed. An Israeli official within the Ministry of Defense told CNN that Israel would do everything necessary to prevent the transfer of arms to "terrorist" organizations, that it had done so in the past, and that it "will do so in the future, if forced."
        The Syrian regime is like a dead body waiting to be buried - this is what the Israeli air strikes demonstrated. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Israel: Syrian Chemical Arms Are Under Assad's Full Control
    Syrian President Assad retains control of the country's chemical weapons, Israel Defense Ministry strategist Amos Gilad said Saturday. Gilad said Assad had huge quantities of chemical weapons, missiles and rockets. "The good news is that this is under full control (of the Syrian government)," he said.
        "Nor is a group like Hizbullah...keen to take this (chemical) weaponry. It is keen to take weapon systems, like rockets that can reach, say, all the way here [to Israel]....There is a problem with chemical weaponry. It can also kill those who don't know how to use it. It is not a sympathetic thing. So, for now it is under control."  (Reuters)
        See also Israel: Air Strikes Aimed at Hizbullah, Not Assad - Dan Williams
    Veteran Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio on Monday that the Netanyahu government aimed to avoid "an increase in tension with Syria by making clear that if there is activity, it is only against Hizbullah, not against the Syrian regime." He noted that Israel had not formally acknowledged carrying out the raids to allow Assad to save face, adding that Prime Minister Netanyahu began a scheduled visit to China on Sunday to signal the sense of business as usual. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt Condemns Israel over Reported Syrian Strikes - Adiv Sterman
    Israel's reported airstrikes against Syria drew condemnations from Egypt, Lebanon, and the Arab League. The Egyptian government said, "Egypt condemns the Israeli attack on Syria, which is considered a violation against international principles and laws."
        In Syria itself, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned Sunday that recent Israeli airstrikes constituted an Israeli "declaration of war."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Iraqi Shiite Leader Urges Syria to Strike Back at Israel - Ilan Ben Zion
    Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday urged Damascus to retaliate against Israel and called on his followers to defend Syria's prestige in the face of alleged Israeli aggression. His political party, the Sadr Movement, holds 40 seats in Iraq's 325-seat parliament and is widely regarded as an Iranian client.
        Professor Moshe Maoz of Hebrew University noted that "The Sunni world is rejoicing that Israel struck Syria." (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Enforcing Red Lines on Syria - Yaakov Lappin
    The two aerial strikes on Damascus reportedly carried out by the Israel Air Force are likely the result of intelligence indicating an imminent attempt to transfer strategic weapons from Syria to Hizbullah. With Hizbullah deploying up to half of its fighting force to Syria to help Assad, it will be seeking reward for its actions. Hizbullah and its patron Iran may have asked Assad to make the advanced weapons available. Israel is prepared to enforce its red lines on weapons proliferation with Hizbullah and take a calculated risk now, to avoid facing a significantly worse strategic situation later. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Obama and Netanyahu's New Red Line on Iran - Ron Ben-Yishai
    According to various reports, the American president and Israeli prime minister agreed on a new plan to block Iran's nuclear program, which calls for narrowing the gap between the Israeli and American red lines. Obama promised Netanyahu that if diplomatic efforts fail and the economic sanctions do not dissuade Iran from building an atomic bomb, the U.S. would act militarily to thwart these efforts.
        The American leader also gave Netanyahu the "yellow light" for a unilateral operation against Iran. The light will turn green should the Israeli government conclude, after consulting with Washington, that it must bomb Iran in order to defend itself. Israel's promise to consult with the U.S. prior to a go-it-alone attack will secure Washington's diplomatic, military and logistical support - even if the White House believes the time has not yet come for military action in Iran.
        During his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu clarified that Israel realizes the U.S. has superior capabilities which can delay or even destroy Iran's nuclear program - capabilities Israel does not have. Therefore, Israel prefers to wait for America to act on its own against Iran. Should Israel feel that it must act unilaterally, it wants to do so only after securing America's assistance. (Ynet News)
  • An Improved Arab Peace Initiative? - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    The Arab Peace Initiative, which was adopted at the Beirut summit in 2002, returned to the diplomatic discourse after an April 29 visit to Washington by an Arab League delegation. The Palestinian Authority confirms that there is nothing new in the formula of minor land swaps. Hamas, for its part, stresses that the entire territory of Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people.
        Thus, the assessment of a change in the Arab League's position was premature. The Qatari prime minister's declaration was basically tactical, aimed at putting the ball back in Israel's court, pushing Israel into a corner. Moreover, the U.S. was looking for a peg, however artificial, on which to hang diplomatic activity that gives an impression of advancing the peace process. The writer is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Arab Proposal Not a New Initiative, Says Qatari Premier (The Peninsula-Qatar)
        See also Egypt: No Change to Arab Peace Initiative (Middle East Online-UK)

Israel Hits Syria, Sends Message to Iran - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)

  • For Israel, three types of Syrian weapons - in addition to chemical weapons - constitute game changers, the types Israel will never allow to flow to Hizbullah, according to experienced military sources:
    1. High-precision Yakhont missiles that are able to strike ships or marine platforms from a distance of 300 km. or farther. These missiles would put Israel's gas platforms within strike range.
    2. SA17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would limit the Israeli air force's freedom of operation.
    3. Missiles such as the Fateh-110 which were hit in Damascus in recent days. They are considered game changers because they are far more precise than the Scuds, and because they are propelled by solid fuel and launched from mobile launchers. Because of solid fuel, the Fateh-110 can be launched within a matter of minutes from a relatively small vehicle, and strike its target with lethal precision, with a warhead weighing half a ton.
          If Hizbullah's Nasrallah gets such missiles, he would threaten Israeli airbases and other strategic facilities.
  • It is believed that the operation was coordinated with the U.S. through a very long series of discussions, and was also raised during President Obama's visit to Jerusalem in March. According to sources privy to these talks, the Americans gave approval and suggested that Israel only do so when it is clear that the consignments were about to make their way to their destinations.
  • Israel has once again put on a show of military, and especially intelligence, strength. The missiles that exploded in Damascus were underground, protected by thick layers of concrete. There are very few air forces in the world that know how to crack such caches, and with such ease.
  • Tehran is looking at bombed out and burning Damascus and understanding that the U.S. is supportive and the world is silent. If we think about it, we are actually right in the middle of the dress rehearsal.

        See also Attack into Syria - Message to Iran - Ron Ben-Yishai
    According to foreign sources, the Assad regime already succeeded to transfer a small number of Scud D missiles to Hizbullah in Lebanon two-and-a-half years ago. Israel was aware but refrained from acting due to Washington's objection. The Americans feared an Israeli attack would undermine stability in the Middle East, and the Israeli jets, which were already in the air, returned to base. It is safe to assume that since then the Obama administration has changed its position on the issue.
        Washington is making sure to leak to all American media outlets that Israel attacked and what the target was, after Assad's regime tried to "save face" and conceal the blow it had received. The Obama administration, in accordance with its new agreements with Israel, is trying to show Syria and its supporters - Iran, Russia and China - that the U.S. stands by Israel when it protects itself. (Ynet News)

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