Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 24, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

"Iran Needs 18 Months to Produce the Bomb" - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    Sima Shine, who heads the Iran desk at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told the Times of Israel that it would take Iran "a few months" to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear bomb and around a year and a half to produce the bomb itself.
    As former head of the Mossad's research department and deputy director of Israel's National Security Council, she spent years monitoring Iran's nuclear efforts.
    Shine said the exact timetable is of little consequence to Israel. "If they decide they're going for nuclear weapons, they are very close. Even a year or a year and a half is not a long time."
    Iran is adding centrifuges for uranium enrichment and is working on a parallel plutonium-based nuclear track through its reactor in Arak, Shine said.
    “They are slowly but surely establishing a wide and diverse [nuclear] program, without actually crossing the red line."

Abbas Accepts PA Prime Minister Hamdallah's Resignation - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas accepted Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's resignation on Sunday, less than three weeks after he succeeded former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Egyptian Army "Ready to Intervene to Stop Conflict" (BBC News)
    A week ahead of planned mass protests by opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who is also the country's defense minister, warned Sunday that the army would "not remain silent as the country slides into uncontrollable conflict."
    See also Egypt to Exhaust Fuel Reserves by Month's End (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    Egypt has enough diesel fuel to last eight days, butane enough for ten days and petrol enough for 14 days, the Turkish news agency Anadulo reported on Thursday, citing Petroleum Minister Sherif Haddara.

Russia Stations Advanced Intelligence Vessel off Syria - Ronen Solomon (Israel Defense)
    The Russian Navy vessel CCB-201 - one of the Russian Navy's largest intelligence vessels - left the Black Sea and crossed the straits of Turkey on June 10 on its way to an area off the coasts of Syria and Cyprus.
    The vessel contains a signals collection and decryption unit capable of listening to military transmissions in the region.
    Its purpose appears to be for gathering intelligence on NATO and U.S. force activities, as well as Israel's readiness.

German Mosque Groups Raising Funds for Hizbullah - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The head of Germany's federal agency for domestic intelligence and the country's Interior Ministry have recently presented a report showing Hizbullah's use of German-based mosques to raise funds for the terrorist group's activities in Lebanon.
    The report said there were 950 Hizbullah members in Germany in 2012.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Won't Ask U.S. to Exempt Israel from Budget Cuts
    Israel will not object to a planned 5% cut in annual military aid from the U.S., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said. Under the sequester, the across-the-board cuts mandated by 2011 legislation, Washington is set to cut more than $150 million from the annual $3.1 billion aid package to Israel.
        Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, told Maariv that "Israel did not seek an exception....We are willing to share in the burden." The planned cuts will likely affect Israel's ability to purchase F-35 stealth fighters, but will apparently not affect funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. (JTA)
  • U.S. Training Syrian Rebels at Secret Bases - David Martin
    Since late last year, the CIA has been training small numbers of Syrian rebels at secret bases in Turkey and Jordan, CBS News has confirmed. The training has included the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, which have been provided by Arab countries. (CBS News)
  • Hamas Executes Two Palestinians for Working with Israel - Fares Akram
    Hamas authorities in Gaza on Saturday executed two Palestinians convicted of providing information to Israel, raising to 16 the number of Gazans executed for spying or other crimes since it took control in 2007. The Hamas Interior Ministry said two informants, ages 43 and 49, were hanged, and released four photographs of the hanging.
        Some Palestinians accused of spying have been executed in extrajudicial proceedings. In November, during a fierce round of fighting with Israel, Hamas militants executed, in public, seven Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel. (New York Times)
  • Israel Furious at UN Report Charging Torture of Palestinian Children - Phoebe Greenwood
    The UN Committee on the Rights of Children stated in its periodic review of Israel's record, released on Thursday: "The Committee expresses its deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police."
        Israel countered that the findings are "not based on any direct investigation on the ground, only on documents gathered from secondary sources." Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, described the report's allegations that Israel did not comply with requests for information as a "bold, scandalous lie." "The [committee] were fully informed that instructions have indeed been issued and that the use of children as human shields is totally forbidden. Yet the authors pretend there never was any such communication by Israel," Palmor said. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Rockets Fired from Gaza at Israel, Two Intercepted by Iron Dome - Gili Cohen and Yanir Yagna
    At least six rockets were fired Sunday night from Gaza toward Israel, following weeks of relative calm. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The Israel Defense Forces struck four targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Islamic Jihad Rocket Chief Killed by Hamas
    Hamas police on Saturday killed one of the commanders of the Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades in Gaza, Raed Jundiya, 38. Islamic Jihad said: "Gaza government police shot him in the head in his home....The martyr was, as everybody knows, on the top of the Zionists' hit-list as he headed the Brigades' rocket unit." The Hamas Interior Ministry said Jundiya had opened fire on police, prompting them to respond. (AFP)
  • Syrian Civil War Eroding Hizbullah's Forces - Yaakov Lappin
    Any battlefield experience Hizbullah is gaining in Syria is being outweighed by the high price of its involvement, says Yoram Schweitzer, director of the Terrorism and Low Intensity Warfare Project at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
        "The organization is suffering a loss of personnel. And of course, politically, this is increasingly chipping away at Hizbullah's image as the resistance party that fights the common enemy [Israel]....Hizbullah is entangled. It is seen as a foreign army and a sectarian religious entity operating against the will of the majority in Syria."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: 34 Hizbullah Men Killed near Damascus
    Syrian opposition officials say that 34 Hizbullah fighters were killed near Damascus on Saturday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Druze Leaders Ask Israel to Take in Syrian Brethren - Haviv Rettig Gur
    Leaders of the Druze community on the Golan Heights have asked Israel to take in Druze students who had left the Golan and settled in Syria, Maariv reported. While the request referred only to the students, a broader issue was raised in talks with Prime Minister's Office Director-General Harel Locker: family members of the Golan Druze trapped in the conflict zones of the Syrian civil war. One Druze leader said, "There are many families in Syria who have relatives living here, and they are asking us for sanctuary from the battles taking place over there."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria Rebels Get Libyan Weapons - C. J. Chivers, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti
    Evidence points to an active multinational effort, financed largely by Qatar, to transport arms from Libya to Syria's opposition fighters. Libya's own former fighters, who sympathize with Syria's rebels, have been eager collaborators. Yet once inside Syria the flow branches out. Extremist fighters, some of them aligned with al-Qaeda, have the money to buy the newly arrived stock, and many rebels are willing to sell.
        For Russia this black-market flow is a case of bitter blowback. Many of the weapons Moscow sold to Libya in the Soviet era are now being shipped to the rebels seeking to unseat another Kremlin ally. (New York Times)
        See also Syrian Refugees Returning Home to Fight - William Booth and Taylor Luck
    On many days in the past month, more refugees returned to Syria than entered Jordan, where an estimated 500,000 have sought refuge since the conflict began. In the Zaatari camp, home to 140,000 displaced Syrians, many said they were heading back because they feared that the rebels were losing and that any day, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad would seize control of the last safe zones along the Syria-Jordan border and leave them stranded on the wrong side. (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah's Role in Syria Fighting Threatens to Spread Holy War - Jeffrey Fleishman
    "Arab states see Syria as a place to exhaust Iran's capabilities and keep it distracted," said Rabha Alam, a researcher at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "Hizbullah entering the equation has quickened the pace of sectarian rhetoric and turned it into a Sunni-Shiite conflict."
        The specter of Hizbullah militants set loose in Syria, where they recently were victorious in the battle for Qusayr, has sent tremors through Egypt and other Sunni-dominated nations. "A Saudi cleric was on TV thanking Nasrallah for getting the Sunnis to finally unite," said Riad Kahwaji, founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, UAE. "For the Gulf states, the fight in Syria is with Iran."
        Hizbullah's entry into the Syrian civil war "has led preachers and leaders in Gulf states to adopt the discourse of 'victory for [Sunnis],'" said researcher Alam. "This keeps populations distracted from internal issues."  (Los Angeles Times)
  • PA Denial of Jewish Connection to Jerusalem an "Offendable" Moment - David Suissa
    The Palestinian Authority announced last week that they are adamantly opposed to Natan Sharansky's plan to build an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall. Specifically, they will not permit Israel to change the entrance to the Temple Mount - which adjoins and looks down on the Wall Plaza - in order to expand the area for an egalitarian service.
        PA President Mahmoud Abbas has already gone on record as denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Jews rarely get offended by Palestinian insults that touch the core of our identity. Instead of acting insulted, we prefer to act stoic.
        I would call this an "offendable" moment, a moment when Jewish groups the world over ought to draw a big red line and say loudly and clearly: "We are deeply offended that the Palestinian Authority is denying the 3,000-year Jewish connection to Jerusalem." Acting insulted when you feel insulted helps your case by making you look more real and more human. If a Palestinian leader has the chutzpah to tell the world that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem, we have every right to be deeply insulted and to call him on it. (Jewish Journal of Los Angeles)

How the U.S. Gains from the Israel Alliance - David Pollock and Michael Eisenstadt (JTA)

  • When two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in April, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital were well prepared for the aftermath. Two years earlier, Israeli medical experts had helped update the hospital's disaster response plan to deal with mass-casualty incidents, including how to distribute the wounded to hospitals and methods to locate fragments deep in wounds.
  • On the day of the bombing, Alastair Conn, Mass. General's chief of emergency services, said, "We asked the Israelis to come across and they helped us set up our disaster team so that we could respond in this kind of manner." Israel's training of Boston first responders spotlights one of the many ways the U.S. has benefited from bilateral cooperation with Israel.
  • The strategic logic that first brought the two countries together to fight Soviet influence and counter radical Arab nationalism during the Cold War endures amid the current challenges of political Islam and violent extremism. Israel has contributed to American security through counterterrorism cooperation, intelligence sharing and the development of such innovations as unmanned aerial vehicles and missile defense.
  • At the same time, Arab ties with the U.S. have boomed in the past decade. Arabs are coming to the U.S. as students or visitors in record numbers; anti-American street protests have fallen dramatically since the start of the Iraq war in 2003; and defense cooperation with most Arab countries is closer than ever. Just as important, public opinion in every Arab or predominantly Muslim country polled has turned sharply against al-Qaeda.

    The writers, senior fellows at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, are the authors of Asset Test: How the United States Benefits from Its Alliance with Israel.

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