Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 13, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Video: "Iranians Fighting in Syria" - Mohamed Madi (BBC News)
    Video footage has emerged of Iranian nationals dressed in military clothing operating inside Syria and working with government forces.

Al-Qaeda Calls for Attacks Inside the U.S. (Reuters)
    In an audio speech released online a day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 strikes, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged small-scale attacks inside the U.S. to "bleed America economically," adding that he hoped eventually to see a more significant strike, according to the SITE monitoring service.
    "As we defeated it in the gang warfare in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, so we should follow it with...war on its own land. These disparate strikes can be done by one brother or a few of the brothers."
    At the same time, Muslims should seize any opportunity to land "a large strike" on the U.S., even if this took years of patience.
    Zawahri also said Muslims should refuse to buy goods from America and its allies.

Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assessment (Bipartisan Policy Center)
    Al-Qaeda and allied groups today are situated in some 16 different theatres of operation - compared with half as many as recently as five years ago, according to a new report, "Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assessment," by the Homeland Security Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
    The Boston Marathon bombings in April served as a reminder that the U.S. still faces a terrorism threat from disaffected individuals influenced by al-Qaeda's ideology.
    It demonstrated that "al-Qaeda-ism," the movement's ideology, continues to resonate and attract new adherents.
    The U.S. needs to develop defenses against the more diffuse threat posed by radicalized individuals while continuing to destroy and disrupt al-Qaeda and its associated groups, and the ideology that fuels and sustains them.

Syrian Kurds Clash with Al-Qaeda-Linked Units (Reuters)
    Dozens of al-Qaeda-linked rebels and Kurdish fighters have been killed in clashes in Syria's oil-producing northeast in the past two days, activists said on Thursday.
    Fighters from Syria's ethnic Kurdish minority - roughly 10% of its 23 million population - have carved out an autonomous region near the frontiers with Iraq and Turkey.
    The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said fighters from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked a string of Kurdish villages in Hasaka province.

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Sunnis of South Lebanon Condemn Hizbullah - Ana Maria Luca and Luna Safwan (NOW-Lebanon)
    Residents of Hebarieh, a small Sunni village in southeast Lebanon three miles from the Israeli border, say that for years they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hizbullah, which they call the Islamic Resistance.
    But in 2013, residents say things changed after Hizbullah got involved in the Syrian civil war against a largely Sunni uprising.
    Sheikh Abdel Hakim Attoui, the town's imam, pointed out that "All people who defend human rights are against Hizbullah's involvement in Syria," insisting that many people living in South Lebanon feel the same way including many Shiites from the neighboring communities.
    "I wish Hizbullah came back to Lebanon and then we would stand by it. But we can't stand by it when they are fighting in Syria."

Palestine's Economic Outlook "Dim," Says IMF - Joshua Mitnick (Wall Street Journal)
    The economic outlook for Palestine is "dim" and public finances will become unsustainable in a few years, as key government reforms have "languished" and growth has disappointed, the International Monetary Fund said in a report released on Thursday.
    The Palestinian government hasn't done enough to cut spending in order to keep its budget in line with declining support from international donors, the IMF said.
    The PA recently appointed a political neophyte, Rami Hamdallah, as prime minister to replace economist Salam Fayyad, whose ambitious push on government reform won international praise.

Israel Restocking Sea of Galilee with Fish (Times of Israel)
    600,000 tilapia fish were introduced into the Sea of Galilee this week by the Agriculture Ministry to boost the lake's dwindling fish population. The fish were raised in pools at Kibbutz Ginosar for four months.
    300,000 silver carp were also introduced this week, while an additional 400,000 tilapia will be introduced in October.
    The fish will help clear the waters of toxins originating in seaweed and act as biofilters to balance the lake's ecosystem.

Genband Buys Israel's Fring for $50M (Reuters)
    Genband, a developer of multimedia and cloud communications software, has acquired Fring's Internet-based mobile communications service, which works on all major smartphones, for $50 million, a market source told Reuters.
    "Fring is one of the pioneers that helped change the way consumers communicate on-the-go," said David Walsh, Genband chief executive.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile - Adam Entous, Julian Barnes and Nour Malas
    Syria's elite Unit 450, at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program, has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials. The movements of chemical weapons raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.
        "Attacking Unit 450, assuming we have any idea where they actually are, would be a pretty tricky affair because...if you attack them you may reduce the security of their weapons, which is something we certainly don't want," said Jeffrey White, a veteran of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a defense fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The U.S. doesn't want any strike to destabilize the unit so much that it loses control of its chemical weapons, giving rebels a chance to seize the arsenal. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Report: Syria to Send Chemical Arms to Iraq
    Preparations are underway to move "quantities" of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal to Iraq, Louai Miqdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, told the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan on Thursday. He said the weapons transfer would take place under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force and with the knowledge of the Iraqi government of Nour al-Maliki. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Assad: Syria to Submit Data on Chemical Weapons in a Month - Bassem Mroue
    Syrian President Bashar Assad told Russia's state Rossiya 24 news on Thursday that his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons. "We agreed to put Syria's chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia's request," Assad said. "In my view, the agreement will begin to take effect a month after its signing, and Syria will begin turning over to international organizations data about its chemical weapons."  (AP)
        See also Kerry Rejects Assad's 30-Day Timetable for Submitting Data on Chemical Weapons (AP-Washington Post)
  • Listing Demands, Assad Uses Crisis to His Advantage - Brian Stelter
    In exchange for relinquishing his chemical arsenal, President Assad of Syria said Thursday he will require that the U.S. stop arming the Syrian opposition. He told a Russian TV interviewer that the arms-control proposal floated by his patron in Moscow would not be finalized until "we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists."
        Assad, sounding relaxed and confident, hinted in his interview that the Russian proposal could become a lever for endless negotiations and delays, much as Saddam Hussein delayed arms control inspectors during the 1990s. "It doesn't mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations, and that's it," Assad said. He also hinted at another possible stumbling block by saying Israel should ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention first. (New York Times)
  • Cairo Accuses Hamas of Training Egyptian Militants - Michael Georgy
    Egyptian state television accused Palestinian Hamas on Thursday of training Egyptian Islamists in how to carry out bombings. "Security authorities have learned that the military wing of the Hamas movement trained several people to undertake car-bombing operations and trained various others to make explosives," said the report. "The military wing of the Hamas movement provided various Salafi jihadists and also other religious currents with 400 landmines. The security apparatus documented this and they will be arrested."
        The main state newspaper, al-Ahram, cited high-ranking security sources as saying Hamas was also involved in the failed assassination attempt against Egypt's interior minister earlier this month. Meanwhile, Gaza preachers, in fiery sermons, have accused Egypt's army chief, General Sisi, of waging war on Islam. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Arrow 3 Missile Defense Trials Successful - Yoav Zitun
    Analysis of the Arrow 3 missile launch tests, which took place last February in cooperation with the U.S., revealed that the experiment was successful beyond all expectations. Arrow 3 can intercept long-range missiles that exit the atmosphere and is designed to counter an Iranian launch of a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
        Inbal Kreiss, who until recently headed the Arrow 3 program, said, "The missile's ability to divert course while reaching the targeted missile was proven beyond all doubt, as the accuracy of interception high above the State of Israel was improved." Additional trials are to take place in the next year and a half until the system is declared operational. (Ynet News)
  • PA Campaigns Against Jews at Temple Mount - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority is stepping up its condemnation of visits by Jews to the Temple Mount - Judaism's holiest site. The visits are described by the PA-controlled media as attempts by "hordes of settlers and Jewish extremists to storm and desecrate the Aksa Mosque." The PA campaign against Jewish visitors has triggered several violent protests over the past few months. The PA is probably trying to divert attention from its controversial decision to resume peace talks with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Barrier to Help Protect Jewish Neighborhood in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    The Jerusalem municipality dug a separation ditch this week between the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem and the Palestinian village of Isawiya as a security measure after repeated complaints of violence against Jewish residents, such as firebombing and criminally motivated burglaries and car theft. Female students in the neighborhood have also complained of sexual harassment by Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Assad Has All the Time in the World to Hide His Chemical Weapons - Avi Issacharoff
    Syria declared this week that it would join the treaty against chemical weapons proliferation. But a scenario in which the Syrian president actually transfers all his chemical weapons to international oversight, while possible, is not likely. Syria needs this kind of weaponry in order to deter outside players like the U.S. from attempted intervention, and to deter Israel. It is Assad's insurance certificate. So it is more logical that Assad will agree to hand over part of his chemical weapons, maybe even most, but will keep at least some for himself, just for emergencies.
        He has all the time in the world to try to hide this weaponry. It will be weeks until a binding decision is reached at the UN, and even after that, UN delegations will be delayed because of pretexts such as warfare in precisely the areas they are supposed to visit. This could go on for months. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria has been forgotten altogether, as the crisis is reduced to a debate over chemical weapons. Yet since the August 21 chemical attack, 200-250 people have been dying every day in Syria.
        Aaron Zelin, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said this week that there is substantial foreign involvement from Islamists coming to fight against Assad. "The fighters have come from over 60 countries to fight alongside the rebels. At the moment, there are 5,000-10,000 foreign fighters in Syria, a thousand of them European."
        "The main concern stemming from this phenomenon is that the foreign fighters will return to their home countries. And with the indoctrination they received, and the connections they made with the jihadist forces in Syria, they will carry out terror attacks in the West."  (Times of Israel)
  • Survival of the Syrian Regime Is a "Red Line" for Russia - Fouad Ajami
    The sun may have set on the old Soviet empire, but Syria offered Russia the consolation that it could still play the game of the great powers. From the outset of the civil war, Moscow insisted that it would not stand idly by and accept a repetition of what had happened in Libya. By their lights, the Russians had let Gaddafi down when they let slip through the cracks of the UN machinery a proposal that called for the protection of Libyan civilians. The proposal gave NATO the warrant that led to the destruction of the Libyan dictatorship. This time around, Russia was determined to see its client regime in Damascus to victory. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • Israeli Official: PA Lacks Political Infrastructure for Peace Deal - Shlomo Cesana
    The Palestinian Authority has yet to form the political infrastructure that would allow it to reach a permanent peace agreement with Israel, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, said Wednesday at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Writing for the Jewish Policy Center recently, Kuperwasser said Israel's relations with the Palestinians would continue to be complicated "because of Palestinian insistence on operating unilaterally, and their ongoing incitement to hatred and violence."
        "Chief among the difficulties is the Palestinian organizations' denial of the legitimacy of Israel's existence in any form, and specifically existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people," he wrote.
        "There are also the problems of the aging of the current leadership and radicalization of political discourse in the region as well as inside the Palestinian community. The current misperceptions of many European governments about the conflict offer no incentive for the Palestinians to drop their intransigence toward real, positive peace based on accepting Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Palestinian policies bolstered by Western governments may well lead to increased violence and terror, though the Palestinians are reluctant to experience another intifada."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Israel's Strategic Challenges: The Next Five Years - Yossi Kuperwasser (inFocus Quarterly-Jewish Policy Center)
        See also Palestinian Incitement Against Israel Stronger Since Oslo - Manfred Gerstenfeld
    On September 13, it will be 20 years since the Oslo agreements were signed. One decisive development in the past 20 years has been the huge ongoing incitement against Israel by Palestinian sources. While the PLO and Arafat were in exile, they could not promote hate against Israel on a massive scale, as both the PA and Hamas have done since.
        Israel has received some benefits from the Oslo Accords, such as diplomatic relations with more countries. In the long run, however, damage caused by the massive Palestinian and Arab incitement may far exceed whatever benefits Israel gained from the agreements. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Europe's Double Standard on Israel - Dore Gold
    The demand by the European Union that its research and development grants not be applied to territories beyond the 1967 lines is built on a clear double standard. In 2005, the EU and Morocco signed an international agreement allowing European fishermen to operate in Moroccan waters, including in the territorial waters of Western Sahara, which was claimed by Morocco but not recognized as Moroccan territory by the international community, including the states of the EU.
        Morocco stands to gain at least 40 million euros in annual fishing fees. The EU is going ahead with the agreement, regardless of how it views the question of sovereignty in Western Sahara.
        European citizens have been purchasing beachfront vacation homes in the territory of Northern Cyprus that was occupied by Turkey in 1974. No punitive measures have been contemplated against Turkey because of the ongoing conflict over the future status of this disputed territory. The writer, Israel's former ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Resilient Jewish State - Efraim Inbar
    Israel has faced existential threats from its neighbors since its inception. At the same time, Israel's foes in the Arab world are consumed with severe political, social, and economic crises and have little energy and resources to build mighty militaries to attack Israel. The rise in political Islam may bring about a growing motivation to destroy the Jewish state, but what counts in the final analysis is capability.
        The only grave national security challenge in the region is a nuclear Iran. While the world has become more attentive to Israel's perspective on this matter, the international community has failed so far to stop Tehran's nuclear buildup. It is quite possible that Israel might be left alone to deal with the ayatollahs, something that is not beyond its capabilities.
        During the 2009-12 global economic crisis, Israel experienced a 14.7% growth of GDP, the highest among OECD countries. Israel's 2012 GDP growth (3.3%) led the rest of the OECD, which averaged only 1.4%. Israel's foreign exchange reserves expanded from $25 billion in 2004 to $75 billion in 2012. The writer is professor of political studies and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • Egyptian Children's Rights Group: Underage Girls Are Summer Rentals for Gulf Arabs - Cam McGrath
    Each summer, wealthy male tourists from Gulf Arab states flock to Egypt from the Arabian Peninsula. In El Hawamdia, a poor town 20 km. south of Cairo, they are easy to spot in their luxury cars and SUVs. Egyptian fixers run alongside their vehicles, offering short-term flats and the town's most sought-after commodity - underage girls. Each year, in impoverished rural communities across Egypt, thousands of girls between the ages of 11 and 18 are sold by their parents to wealthy, much older Gulf Arab men under the pretext of marriage. The sham nuptials may last from a couple of hours to years, depending on the arrangement.
        "It's a form of child prostitution in the guise of marriage," said Azza El-Ashmawy, director of the Child Anti-Trafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM). The girl is returned to her family when the marriage ends, usually to be married off again. "Some girls have been married 60 times by the time they turn 18," says El-Ashmawy.
        A NCCM-commissioned survey of 2,000 families in three towns near Cairo found that 75% knew girls involved in the trade, and most believed the number of marriages was increasing. The 2009 survey indicated that 81% of the "spouses" were from Saudi Arabia, 10% from the UAE, and 4% from Kuwait. (Inter Press Service)
        See also Temporary Marriage in the Arab World - Max Fisher (Washington Post)
        See also Muslim Persecution of Christians: Summer of Horror for Women - Raymond Ibrahim (Gatestone Institute)

  • Weekend Features

  • 500,000 Attend Slihot Prayers at Western Wall in Jerusalem in Past Month - Jeremy Sharon
    Some 500,000 people have participated in nighttime slihot prayers at the Western Wall since the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced on Thursday. Especially in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, tens of thousands came to the site - individually, as families, or as part of an organized group - to recite the traditional prayers said at this time of year.
        "This dramatic spectacle of the masses of the Jewish people thronging to the Western Wall is an impressive testimony and is an honor for the people of Israel and its affinity to its traditions and inheritance and to the remnant of our Temple," said Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. "It is hard not to be moved by the strength of these images, which demonstrate the true strength of the Jewish people."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Herod's Mountain Hideaway - Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am
    Herodian National Park is a mountain in the wilderness where King Herod won a battle with the Parthian (Iranian) army in 40 BCE. When he died in 4 BCE, his son Archelaus carried out his father's wishes and buried Herod at Herodian, as recorded by the Roman historian Josephus Flavius. Today, Herodian is just a seven-minute drive from Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood. An astonishing archaeological site complete with a labyrinth of cool underground caves, the site recently opened a small visitors' center with a sparkling production about King Herod and his funeral procession.
        Visitors spot Herodian well before they arrive. Its cone-like shape, protruding from the desert landscape, looks very much like a volcano. Herodian was constructed in 23 BCE as a summer palace with a wonderful view of Jerusalem and the Judean Desert. It also provided Herod with a sanctuary close to Jerusalem if it became necessary to flee. A double-wall, 63 meters in diameter and seven stories high, surrounded an exquisite fortified castle with salons, banquet rooms, courtyards, and a luxurious bathhouse. At the foot of the mountain, Herod added an elaborate palace complex which served as both country club and administrative center. A large rectangle surrounded by pillars was once an impressive pool 70 meters long by 45 meters and three meters deep.
        In 66 CE the Jews revolted against Roman rule and conquered Herodion. Underground tunnels were prepared for action at the beginning of the Bar-Kochba Revolt in 132. (Times of Israel)
  • The IMI Academy for Advanced Security and Anti-Terror Training - Moriya Ben-Yosef
    The IMI Academy for Advanced Security and Anti-Terror Training provides anti-terror training to foreign clients approved by the Israel Ministry of Defense. "In some respects, we constitute an outsourced training institution of the defense establishment," says academy principal Ami Maor.
        "We train security personnel to armed and unarmed warfighter standards, while emphasizing the security officer's image and conduct. Such a training program can take between five days and six weeks and even longer. The training we provide focuses on the use of firearms, combat skills generally, unarmed combat and physical fitness and everything that goes with it, including basic knowledge of explosives and first aid. We derive our lessons from actual occurrences in Israel and abroad."  (Israel Defense)

What Russia's Plan for Syrian Chemical Weapons Tells Iran - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)

  • Iran observed how Syria, with Russia's assistance, has wiggled out from what was to be limited U.S. strikes. It will take note at how effectively Syria was able to split the international community over the planned attack and how uneasy people in the West are over military interventions in the Middle East.
  • Emily Landau, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told the Jerusalem Post that Iran is paying close attention to "how deep the divide is between the U.S. and Russia."
  • The Syrian issue "is a kind of test case for the international community in facing serious noncompliance in the WMD realm," she said.
  • The good news is that Iran, Russia and Syria saw the U.S. threat to use force as real. It was this threat that caused Russia and Syria to come up with this alternate proposal, thus demonstrating that the U.S. is able to modify behavior of rogue regimes if it chooses to do so.
  • Furthermore, the success of the Russian proposal could result in "the U.S. and Russia moving closer together, meaning Iran cannot count on Russia and the U.S. to be on opposite sides regarding its ongoing nuclear progress."
  • "On the negative side, we have yet to see how this plays out, and what Obama does if the Russian proposal does not materialize into an effective plan."

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