Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 27, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Russia-Syria S-300 Sale Still On - Gavriel Fiske and Ron Friedman (Times of Israel)
    A senior Israeli official on Sunday denied a report that Jerusalem and Moscow have struck a deal under which Russia would withhold a Syrian-bound shipment of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.
    Reports of this cancellation have "no basis in reality," the official said. "It's a fairy tale. There was no agreement between Putin and Netanyahu."
    Still, the official assessed, "It's likely that the Russians will try to stall for time and use this as a bargaining chip without following through on the deal [with Syria]."
    Prime Minister Netanyahu and his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, explained to Putin that planes landing or taking off from Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv would be within the 200-km. range of the S-300 system.

Rocket Attack on Beirut Suburb Wounds Four - Jana El-Hassan (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Two rockets slammed into a southern Beirut suburb Sunday, wounding four Syrian workers, witnesses said. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets. Hizbullah maintains its main offices in the suburb.
    The incident came 12 hours after Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah confirmed his group's participation in the fighting in Syria.
    See also Rocket Fired from South Lebanon toward Israel (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
    A rocket was fired from south Lebanon towards Israel on Sunday, Lebanese security sources said. Residents of the northern Israeli town of Metula reported hearing a blast.

Israel Conducts Nationwide Missile Attack Drill - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    A nationwide war drill simulating a missile attack on Israel from multiple fronts will be held on Monday with two air raid sirens.
    The first siren will sound at 12:30 p.m., and is aimed at schools, kindergartens and work places. The second will be heard at 7:05 p.m., when families at home will practice seeking cover.

5,000 Hizbullah Troops in Syria, with 5,000 More to Join Them - David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
    Lebanon's Hizbullah has 5,000 troops fighting alongside President Assad's forces in Syria, and another 5,000 are getting ready to join them, Salman Shaikh, director of the Doha Center of the Brookings Institution, told the World Economic Forum on Sunday.
    There were also 1,500-2,000 fighters from Iraq in the battlegrounds of Syria, he said.
    See also Iraqi Shiites Fight for Syrian Government - Abigail Hauslohner (Washington Post)

Reports of Syrian Cyberattack on Haifa Water System Are False - Yanir Yagna (Ha'aretz)
    Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, a former cyber-security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denied statements attributed to him on Saturday regarding a Syrian cyberattack on Haifa's water system.
    He noted that reports of the attack originated in the Iranian media.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hizbullah Commits to an All-Out Fight to Save Assad - Anne Barnard
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah decisively committed his followers on Saturday to an all-out battle in Syria to defeat the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. He said the organization was entering "a completely new phase," sending troops abroad to protect its interests. The speech signaled a significant escalation in Hizbullah's military involvement in Syria, deeply enmeshing the group in the war across the border.
        Hizbullah "wouldn't do this if they thought there was going to be some kind of reaction," said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ali Rizk, the Beirut bureau chief for Press TV, the satellite channel of Hizbullah's patron Iran, noting that Nasrallah promised victory, said, "Victory means you're in it to the very end and you're going to go all the way. Hizbullah is going to go all the way."
        Hizbullah has essentially become the ground assault force for the Syrian Army in the battle for Qusayr and Homs Province, which links Damascus with the government's coastal strongholds. "In Qusayr, the ones who are engaging on the front lines, the man-to-man firepower, that's Hizbullah," Rizk said. (New York Times)
  • New Computer Attacks on U.S. Traced to Iran - Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger
    American officials and corporate security experts examining a new wave of potentially destructive computer attacks striking American corporations say they have tracked the attacks back to Iran. The targets have included several American oil, gas and electricity companies. The goal is sabotage. Government officials describe the attacks as probes looking for ways to seize control of critical processing systems. A government official said that "most everything we have seen is coming from the Middle East."
        American officials describe the recent campaign as different from attacks against American companies from China which quietly siphon off intellectual property for competitive purposes. The new attacks were devised to destroy data and manipulate the machinery that operates critical control systems, like oil pipelines. (New York Times)
  • Kerry Unveils $4 Billion Palestinian Economic Plan
    On Sunday at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a $4 billion economic plan to revitalize the Palestinian economy. He said: "Quartet Representative Tony shaping what I believe could be a groundbreaking plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy that will transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, but also, significantly, transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel. It is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo....We are looking to mobilize some $4 billion of investment."
        "Experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50% over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds - to 8%, down from 21% today - and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40%....I am happy to say that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas support this initiative."
        "The economics will never work properly or fully without the political process....President Abbas, the economic approach is not a substitute for the political approach. The political approach is essential and it is our top priority. In fact, none of this vision...will happen without the context of the two-state solution."  (State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Kerry Concludes Mideast Visit - Barak Ravid
    On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry concluded two months of talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. During that time he met privately and spoke on the phone with each of them at least 10 times. Before he left, the secretary made clear to Netanyahu and Abbas that he expects answers within one to two weeks.
        From statements Kerry made at the press conference, the outline of his plan for renewing negotiations begins with the renewal of direct talks without preconditions. During the talks, the parties will refrain from provocative statements or actions; that is, the Palestinians will avoid incitement against Israel, while Israel will stay away from moves relating to settlements. Kerry stressed that he does not want the issue of construction in the settlements to become a precondition that will prevent the resumption of talks, "because if you can negotiate borders, and if you negotiate security and get to a final settlement, you have resolved the issue of settlements themselves."
        Senior Palestinian officials said heavy pressure was being applied on President Abbas to renew talks without preconditions. "All the foreign ministers who were here in recent days urged Abu Mazen [Abbas] to accept Kerry's proposal," a senior Palestinian official said.
        A senior Israeli official said after Kerry's departure that Prime Minister "Netanyahu appreciates Kerry's efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians....We welcome his comments calling for the renewal of direct talks between the two sides....We are prepared to launch direct negotiations with the Palestinians immediately."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Key to German Decision for Hizbullah Terror Label - Benjamin Weinthal
    Israeli diplomats traveled recently to Berlin and presented court documents showing Hizbullah's role in terrorism within the European Union. The meticulous documentation collected by Israeli officials played a critical role in changing attitudes among German foreign ministry officials who were reluctant to include Hizbullah in the EU's terror list.
        Die Welt reported that the Israeli file contained three decades of German court verdicts covering Hizbullah. "The Israelis took over the role of doing the homework for the federal government," wrote the paper's foreign-policy editor. The Israelis presented a wide range of illicit and terrorist Hizbullah activity in Germany, including recent administrative court rulings expelling Hizbullah members from Germany. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Is the U.S. Receding to a Containment Policy on Iran? - Emily B. Landau and Ephraim Asculai
    In March 2012, President Obama affirmed unequivocally that his policy regarding Iran's nuclear advances was a policy of prevention, not containment. Since his visit to Israel in March of this year, another round of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran has failed, and the latest IAEA report on Iran - released May 22, 2013 - indicates that Iran's uranium enrichment and plutonium programs are creeping slowly but surely toward a situation that will soon be unstoppable.
        It is blatantly apparent that the "diplomatic" route for solving the Iran conundrum has failed, even though the U.S. administration has yet to admit this. In considering the next stage, can the U.S. indeed depend on the fact that it will obtain reliable information that an Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons has been taken? If it does, will it be at a stage when there is still a realistic option of employing military force in a manner that will reverse the current trajectory toward a military nuclear capability? And most importantly, will the U.S. ultimately be willing to employ force in dealing with Iran? The writers are senior research fellows at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Demise of the Middle East's Borders - Dore Gold
    Should the fragmentation of Syria combine with the Balkanization of Iraq, what will the Middle East look like? The Sunni Arabs are the likely candidates to look for mergers with their neighbors. If they are politically dominated by the same branch of al-Qaeda, then the emergence of a new Afghanistan in the heart of the Arab world might be the result.
        If more moderate forces among the Iraqi Sunnis emerge, then it should not be ruled out that they might consider some federal ties with their western Sunni neighbor, Jordan, which would give them an outlet to the Red Sea. But however the political systems in Syria and Iraq evolve, it is clear that the map of the Middle East is likely to be very different from the map that the colonial powers fixed during the First World War.
        There is only one boundary in the Middle East that Western diplomats have become rigidly obsessed with. It is not even formally an international border under international law, but only an armistice line from 1949 - what is inappropriately called the 1967 border. While a solution to this territorial dispute must be addressed, the final borders drawn between Israel and its neighbors will have to take into account the dramatic strategic shifts being witnessed elsewhere in the region. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom)

Iran's Nuclear Designs Are the Greater Middle East Threat - Michael Oren (Washington Post)

  • For the Iranian regime, the situation in the Middle East is a convenient distraction, as the Iranian nuclear program advances unchecked. The Iranians have amassed some 182 kg. of uranium enriched to a level easily enhanced to weapons grade. This stockpile stops short of the red line drawn by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the Iranians are quietly preparing to cross it.
  • The Iranians have installed 16,000 centrifuges - an immense number by any standard - most of which are spinning. Iran is introducing 3,000 advanced centrifuges that will at least triple its enrichment rate and more than double its total output.
  • Virtually overlooked was the year-long diplomacy that produced nothing but a hardening of Iran's position. Although sanctions led by President Obama and Congress continue to cut into Iran's economy and undermine its currency, the nuclear program progresses. Iranian rulers believe that they will eventually achieve their nuclear aspirations. They are not yet convinced that the prize will be denied them by military action.
  • If Iran gets the bomb, so too will a number of Middle Eastern states. An Iran with military nuclear capabilities will dominate the Persian Gulf and its vast oil deposits, driving oil prices to extortionary highs. And Iran can transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists who can launch them at foreign ports in shipping containers. The entire world will be endangered.
  • Iran's nuclear designs may yet be thwarted by a combination of escalating sanctions and a credible military threat. Iranian rulers must not only hear about the policy of all options on the table, they must fear it.

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

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