Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 5, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Offers to Share the Burden of U.S. Budget Cuts - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Despite pledges by President Obama and key congressional leaders to shield U.S. support for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense program from sequestration cuts, Israel has offered to waive funding protection, insisting it should bear its share of the burden.
    With more than $1 billion earmarked for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs through 2015, Israel's share of the burden would come to nearly $55 million; a painful, yet pragmatic price for the goodwill to be generated among longtime supporters in Washington.

Top U.S. Diplomat Meets Jailed Egyptian Brotherhood Leader (AP-Washington Post)
    U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met in prison on Monday with Khairat el-Shater, the powerful deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as part of mediation efforts to end the standoff between Egypt's military-backed government and protesters supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
    Burns was accompanied by the foreign ministers of Qatar and the UAE as well as an EU envoy.
    El-Shater is charged with complicity in the killing of anti-Morsi protesters.

30 Palestinians Killed in Egypt's Sinai Anti-Terror Offensive - Michal Shmulovich (Times of Israel)
    As part of its anti-terror campaign in Sinai over the last month, the Egyptian army killed 60 armed militants, including 30 Palestinians, and arrested 90 suspected terrorists, 7 of whom were West Bank Palestinians, a senior Egyptian official said Saturday.
    According to Egyptian intelligence, there were at least 500 armed extremists operating in Sinai at the end of July, Al Ahram reported.

Lebanese President Criticizes Hizbullah, Rockets Land near Presidential Compound (AP-Fox News)
    Lebanese President Michel Suleiman suggested Thursday that Hizbullah's weapons should be folded into that of the national Lebanese army.
    The president said that "resistance weapons have trespassed the Lebanese border," referring to Hizbullah operations in Syria in support of Bashar Assad.
    On Friday, two rockets struck near Lebanon's presidential compound in Baabda.
    See also Hizbullah Threatens the Lebanese President - Abdulrahman al-Rashed (Al Arabiya)
    See also Lebanon's Suleiman Meets Iran's Rouhani in Tehran (Naharnet)

Report: Syria Fired Missiles into Populated Areas, Killing Hundreds of Civilians (AP-Washington Post)
    The Syrian military is firing ballistic missiles into populated areas, killing hundreds of civilians in recent months, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday.
    Nine missile attacks between February and July killed at least 215 people, half of them children.
    The most recent attack occurred in Aleppo province on July 26, killing at least 33 civilians including 17 children.

Syrian Christian Towns Emptied by Sectarian Violence - Ruth Sherlock (Telegraph-UK)
    Tens of thousands of Syriac Christians - members of the oldest Christian community in the world - have fled their ancestral provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasakah in northeastern Syria.
    Residents estimate that at least a third of Christians in northeastern Syria have fled.
    Christians make up approximately 10% of Syria's population.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Seen Trying New Path to a Bomb - Jay Solomon
    Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology. Until now, Western governments had been focused primarily on Iran's vast program to enrich uranium. Now, the West is increasingly concerned Iran also could use the development of a heavy water nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for a bomb.
        The Tehran regime has made significant advances on the construction of a heavy water reactor in Arak. The Arak facility, due to become operational by the second half of 2014, will be capable of producing two nuclear bombs' worth of plutonium a year by 2016. India and Pakistan have built plutonium-based bombs, as has North Korea. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Senators Urges Obama to Step Up Iran Sanctions - Raf Sanchez
    76 senators from both parties urged the White House to offer Iran no quarter despite the softer rhetoric of newly sworn in President Hassan Rouhani. "Until we see a significant slowdown of Iran's nuclear activities, we believe our nation must toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force at the same time as we fully explore a diplomatic solution to our dispute with Iran," the senators wrote.
        The House of Representatives voted last week 400-20 for measures designed to put pressure on the few remaining buyers of Iranian oil and to choke off Tehran's access to its dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The Senate is expected to pass its own bill in September. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Text of Senators' Letter to President Obama on Iran Sanctions (Telegraph-UK)
  • Netanyahu: Iran as Determined as Ever to Threaten Israel
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani had shown his true face after he was quoted as saying Israel was a "wound" that must be removed. Netanyahu said of Rouhani, who took office on Sunday: "The true face of Rouhani has been revealed sooner than expected....This is what the man thinks and this is the Iranian regime's plan of action....A nation that threatens to destroy the State of Israel must not be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction."  (Reuters)
        See also below Observations: Iran's New Leader and the Limits of Diplomacy - Gerald M. Steinberg (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt Nixes Erdogan's Visit to Gaza - Adiv Sterman
    Egyptian authorities announced Sunday that they would not allow Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to enter Gaza for a planned visit later this month due to his support of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Morsi. (Times of Israel)
  • 180,000 Palestinians Visit Israel During Ramadan - Elhanan Miller
    Nearly 180,000 Palestinians received special permits to enter Israel during the month of Ramadan this year. "The moment I entered Israel I was surprised; I felt like I was in Europe. There's a total difference between the West Bank and Israel," said Amer al-Jallad, 27, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem. "In light of the positive reactions to this policy, Israel decided to adopt an even more lenient policy this year, thanks to the stable security situation in Judea and Samaria," said a spokesman for Israel's office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). (Times of Israel)
  • Inside the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, I Saw the Entranceway to the Second Jewish Temple - Dr. Qanta Ahmed
    Leaving the Dome of the Rock, my guide, Ibrahim Ghazzawi, and I, an American Muslim tourist, walked south to the Al Aqsa Mosque. Inside, we approached a vestibule and were confronted with enormous columns. Their diameter deeper than the height of a tall man, they were disproportionate to the low roof and looked much older. They didn't belong to Al Aqsa.
        Ibrahim explained: "This was the entrance to the Second Jewish Temple that was here before Al Aqsa. You can see it is absolutely distinct." And without doubt, it was easy to see, this had been a place of worship for Jews centuries before. Somehow, these massive pillars had escaped even the Romans' determined destruction of the Second Temple. Before this place was made ours, it had clearly been theirs. We were on borrowed ground. The writer is Associate Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York (Stony Brook). (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israeli-Palestinian Riddle Won't Answer Middle East's Wider Woes - Crispian Balmer
    U.S. officials still hope that resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian confrontation will help to unlock the Middle East's wider problems, but analysts say it no longer lies at the strategic heart of a troubled region. "That was probably the case before the Arab uprisings, but a number of other struggles have now joined it, such as the Sunni-Shi'ite struggle and an intra-Sunni conflict," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank.
        To explain American thinking, you only need listen to retired general James Mattis, head of the U.S. military's Central Command until March. On July 20, he said, "I paid a military security price every day as the commander of Centcom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel," suggesting that this was holding back moderate Arabs from endorsing U.S. policymaking.
        Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, bristles at such a link. Gold, who used to be a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy-making circle, said, "It is ironic that a Western officer would speak about Israel being a source of political difficulty when, under the table, Arab states are seeking closer ties with Israel because of the shared threat coming from Iran."  (Reuters)
  • ElBaradei Hopes for Reconciliation in Egypt - Lally Weymouth
    Egyptian vice president for external affairs Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview: "We have 90 million people who are angry....We had a revolution two years ago, and we see a people moving from a completely authoritarian system into a democracy....What we need is anger management right now. Part of that is to lower the temperature in terms of violence and then have a dialogue."
        "Morsi adopted a policy of exclusion....He tried to impose social values that aren't sitting well with the majority of Egyptians, such as his own version of Islam, which is not shared by the majority of Muslims. The reaction right now is just anger. We tried to get even. But we shouldn't try to get even - we should try to reconcile."
        "Morsi was democratically elected. It was an opportunity for the U.S. to reconcile with political Islam....If I were American, I would have done the same. The problem is that the Brotherhood failed miserably."  (Washington Post)
        See also Pro-Morsi Protesters Defy Calls to End Sit-Ins - Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post)
  • Hizbullah Plays the Israel Card - Michael J. Totten
    Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah briefly emerged from his underground lair on Friday and delivered his first public speech in years urging his enemies to stop fretting over his involvement in the Syrian war and worry instead about the Jews. "We Shiites will never abandon Palestine," he said. But they have abandoned Palestine - for now - and are fighting instead to save their collective backside in Syria. If Bashar al-Assad falls to the Free Syrian Army, Hizbullah will lose its weapons supply link with Iran and find itself cut off and encircled by enemies.
        Never before has Hizbullah faced so much internal pressure. On Thursday, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, for the first time ever, publicly announced he can no longer sanction Hizbullah's existence as an armed militia in Lebanon. Nearly all my Lebanese sources - Sunni, Shia, and Christian - insist that Hizbullah has always been more worried about Sunnis than Israelis and Jews. The Sunni-Shia conflict is more than 1,300 years old. Various Sunni-Shia wars have killed far more people during my lifetime - over a million - than the Arab-Israeli conflict.
        Hizbullah leaders know perfectly well that Israel is not going to randomly invade Lebanon one day just for the hell of it. They say Hizbullah's military capabilities deter the Israelis, but it's a lie and they know it's a lie. On the contrary, the threat from Hizbullah is a magnet for Israeli invasions. Nasrallah is telling his fellow Lebanese to focus on Israel while he's ignoring Israel and fighting in Syria. It's not going to work. (World Affairs Journal)
        See also Nasrallah's Anti-Israel Rhetoric Finds Few Takers - Elhanan Miller
    Arab media was highly cynical of Nasrallah's speech, calling it a transparent attempt to distract the world from Hizbullah's crimes in Syria. (Times of Israel)

Iran's New Leader and the Limits of Diplomacy - Gerald M. Steinberg (Times of Israel)

  • For Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, diplomacy is simply warfare by other means. As Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Rouhani successfully shepherded Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program through its greatest crisis in 2003-2004. Through diplomatic engagement with the international community, he deflected the use of force and sanctions while bolstering Iran's regional status.
  • After President Bush had overthrown Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq, citing the nuclear ambitions of this regime, throughout 2003 the Iranians greatly feared the possibility of an American military strike. Rouhani's job was to prevent this. Through carefully packaged diplomatic feints, he kept his country off of the Security Council's agenda and away from America's target list.
  • With Washington busy attempting to create democracy in Iraq, the European Union claimed Iran as its chance to play a leading international role. Rouhani played along with the Europeans, encouraging the facade of progress through agreements that were never implemented.
  • While hiding and slowing the visible production of weapons grade material, this slowdown was a temporary, tactical move. As soon as the immediate threat had passed, Iran made up the lost ground, and far more.
  • Throughout this period, Rouhani navigated to maximize gains while minimizing the price Iran paid for keeping its nuclear ambitions alive. The agreements that he negotiated, declared by European interlocutors as major diplomatic triumphs, were disposable political band-aids without substance. Iran's commitments evaporated as soon as the immediate need had passed.

    The writer is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor.

        See also The Implementation of Coercive Diplomacy in the International Nuclear Crisis with Iran, 2003-2004 - Yehuda Yaakov (Israel National Defense College)

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