Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 21, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

PA Security Forces Carried Out Most of the Attacks in Second Intifada (MEMRI)
    Palestinian ambassador to Libya Mutawakkil Tahah told Al Jazeera on Sep. 27, 2013:
    "Israel decided to gather the youth who had fought it in the First Intifada, and to organize them into security forces, showering them [with money], so that they would defend it."
    "When the 2000-2001 Intifada broke out, it turned out that 70% of the martyrs, and of the people who carried out attacks...were members of the Palestinian security forces."
    "In other words, even when [Israel] establishes [our] security forces, these security forces remain patriotic and continue to fight the occupation. They will continue to serve as a wall defending the Palestinian spirit and Palestinian interests."
    View Video (MEMRI)

IDF Phones Gazans to Slam Hamas for Wasting Money on Tunnels - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinians in Gaza said they received phone calls from the IDF on Friday accusing Hamas of spending funds on terrorism instead of on the local residents.
    According to a report by AFP, which appeared in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the message tells Gazans that Hamas is investing money in digging cross-border tunnels to be used in terror attacks against Israel and that it would be better if these funds were used to improve the quality of life in Gaza, especially for health, education and basic infrastructure.
    Gazans were told that use of the money to dig tunnels was a primary reason for inflation and the high cost of living in Gaza.

For Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Aid from Israel Comes in a Whisper - Debra Kamin (Times of Israel)
    In a UN mega-camp in Jordan, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees are desperately trying to feed themselves and stay alive. Local NGOs say that on most days, 700 to 1,000 more Syrians cross the border.
    Sultana fled Damascus with her husband and their five children. She may not realize it, but now her food, cooking oil and cleaning supplies come to her thanks to the Israeli aid organization IsraAid and a network of Jewish donors across the diaspora, including the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the AJC, World Jewish Relief and the Pears Foundation.

Saudi Arabia Rejects Seat on UN Security Council - Edith M. Lederer and Aya Batrawy (AP)
    Just hours after winning a coveted place on the UN Security Council, Saudi Arabia in an unprecedented move Friday rejected the seat, denouncing the body for failing to resolve world conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.

Hizbullah Attacking al-Qaeda-Linked Rebels in Syria - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    For the past several months, Hizbullah has been carrying out surgical strikes against anti-government forces deep in Syrian territory, especially militia forces belonging to the Nusra Front and other groups linked to al-Qaeda, sources close to Hizbullah told the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hamas Says It Built Tunnel into Israel
    The military wing of Gaza's ruling Hamas movement said Sunday it built a tunnel found by Israelis beneath the Israel-Gaza frontier. "This tunnel was made by the hand of the fighters of (Izzadine) al-Qassam and they will not sleep in their efforts to hit the occupation and kidnap soldiers," the group's spokesman Abu Obeida told Hamas' Al-Aqsa radio. "Kidnapping soldiers is the only way to succeed."
        In June 2006 a group of Hamas and other fighters moved into Israel through a cross-border tunnel and kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He was released on Oct. 18, 2011, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. (Al Jazeera)
        See also U.S. Ambassador "Shocked" During Visit to Terror Tunnel - James Morrison
    "Even though I have seen the photos of the tunnel in the papers, the truth is I was shocked by what I saw," U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro said after touring a tunnel for terrorists dug from Palestinian-controlled Gaza into Israel. "It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers," Shapiro said.
        "The U.S. condemns terrorist tunnels, supports Israel's right and ability to self-defense, and is focused on advancing negotiations for peace."  (Washington Times)
  • Hamas Gaza Chief Calls for New Violent Uprising Against Israel
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called Saturday on all Palestinian factions to oppose the recently restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and take up "armed resistance." The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, does not recognize Israel and calls for its destruction. It was responsible for scores of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel in the last decade. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Will Iran Silence its "Death to America" Chants? - Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat
    Chants of "Death to America" have been part of Iranian public life since the country's Islamic revolution in 1979. But a national debate on the appropriateness of the chant erupted last month. Since Iran wants the West to lift economic sanctions in return for nuclear concessions over its nuclear program, there is a drive by President Rouhani to end its public use.
        "We can stand against powers with prudence rather than with slogans," Rouhani said, winning the backing of the most senior cleric in Isfahan who called for a ban on the chant. "'Death to America' is not a verse in the holy book of the Koran and there is no logic in chanting it forever," Sheikh Mohammad Taghi Rahbar told the Ghanoon daily.
        But Ahmad Khatami, a leading ayatollah, publicly rebelled against the move. "As long as there is American evil in the world, this slogan will endure across the nation," he said. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iran Has Systematically Misled the International Community, Increase the Pressure
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday: "Last week saw the start of an additional round of talks between the major powers and Iran. We must not forget that the Iranian regime has systematically misled the international community. In 2006, Iran had 167 centrifuges. Today, despite all the bans and all the promises, they have over 18,000 centrifuges.... Despite strong UN Security Council decisions that bar them from this enrichment process and from producing centrifuges, they are continuing."
        "There is a danger of granting international legitimacy to a recalcitrant regime that is now participating in the mass slaughter of civilians - men, women and children - in Syria and has done so over the past two years, a regime that is currently continuing a constant campaign of terrorism on five continents, a regime that calls for the destruction of Israel and which ignores and grossly violates the decisions of the UN Security Council on the nuclear issue. I think that the correct approach toward such a regime is to be wary and increase the pressure."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Report: PA Rejects Israeli Leasing Proposal for Jordan Valley - Naama Barak and Lazar Berman
    As part of ongoing peace talks, Israeli negotiators offered to transfer sovereignty over the Jordan Valley to the Palestinian Authority, which would in turn lease it back to Israel. Palestinian representatives rejected the idea out of hand, the Maariv daily reported last week. Israel signed a similar leasing agreement with Jordan as part of the 1994 peace accords, in which Israel acknowledged Jordanian sovereignty over 300 sq. km. along the border, and leased back 30 sq. km. in automatically renewed long-term leases.
        "No Israeli soldier will be there," Palestinian National Council member Hanan Ashrawi told Maariv. "We will not agree [to] control or lease lands." "Netanyahu...refuses to discuss the option of placing international forces in the Jordan Valley."
        Israel insists on having an IDF presence on the Israeli-Jordanian border, which gives the narrow country some measure of strategic depth and early warning on its eastern border, and rejected an American proposal to place an international force there.
        In a reference to Israeli demands that Israel maintain a buffer zone in the Jordan Valley, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli negotiators "will have to convince the Palestinians to adjust their demands to the circumstances around us." Israel must maintain a security presence in the Jordan Valley "precisely as Yitzhak Rabin insisted."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Why Israel Opposes International Forces in the Jordan Valley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What a Nuclear Deal with Iran Could Look Like - Michael Singh
    The efficacy and durability of a deal over limited enrichment would rest on Iranian transparency. To be meaningful, transparency measures would have to include allowing inspectors unfettered access to sites of their choosing, not just those declared by Iranian officials, and a comprehensive accounting of Iran's past and present nuclear work, including the military elements of its nuclear program, such as weaponization research.
        Iranian officials continue to dismiss as "unfounded allegations" evidence deemed "credible" by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has engaged in nuclear work related to weapons. Iran continues to deny inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites and key personnel.
        The unlikelihood of a change of heart by Iranian leaders suggests a more straightforward path to an agreement: requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for any relief from sanctions, which would be increased should Tehran refuse to yield. The West is offering Iran something it desperately needs - sanctions relief - in exchange for something it has little ostensible use for - uranium enrichment and reprocessing - given its disavowal of nuclear weapons. That's hardly a maximalist position. The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Assad Is Still in Control - Jim Hoagland
    President Bashar al-Assad's promise to dismantle his regime's chemical arsenal inflicts greater strategic damage on Syria's rebel forces than those weapons could ever achieve on the battlefield. He has drawn the world's attention away from the opposition's grim struggle to liberate their Arab nation. With Assad the key to implementing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, the Obama administration is in no position to weigh in heavily on the side of his mortal enemies. (Washington Post)
  • PLO: Battle for Succession Has Begun - Khaled Abu Toameh
    U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations have served as a catalyst for increased calls by senior PLO and Fatah officials to start planning for the day after Mahmoud Abbas' departure from the scene. Like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, Abbas, 78, has been running the PA in an autocratic fashion since his election as president in January 2005. Many senior members of the PLO and Fatah receive from Abbas tens of thousands of dollars every month for office rentals and vehicles, as well as salaries for their secretaries and henchmen. Still, the funds have not been able to buy Abbas 100% quiet.
        Abbas has been facing increased calls to appoint a deputy president as a way of limiting his powers. Palestinian sources said figures who consider themselves appropriate candidates to serve as deputy president include: Jibril Rajoub, a former security commander, Mohammed Shtayyeh, a former minister and member of the Palestinian negotiating team with Israel, Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, and Nabil Sha'ath, a former PA foreign minister.
        Since Abbas, whose term in office expired in January 2009, has shown no sign of willingness to accept power-sharing, the battle for succession is likely to intensify in the coming weeks and months, casting a shadow over his regime as well as the peace talks with Israel. (Gatestone Institute)

Why Jordan Relies on Israel to Secure the Jordan Valley - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Post)

  • A report last week in Maariv that fundamental disagreement between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators over the future of the Jordan Valley may soon collapse peace talks comes as no surprise to Middle East observers.
  • Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin insisted on Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley in order to defend Israel's main airport and coastal cities. Rabin declared to the Knesset in October 1995, as it endorsed the Oslo II interim accords, that "the security border for defending the State of Israel will be in the Jordan Valley, in the widest sense of that concept."
  • Since 1967 Israeli governments have been guided by the security doctrine of "defensible borders," that depends on the Jordan Valley and the rising 900-meter Judea-Samaria hill ridge as Israel's front line of defense against conventional assaults and terror attacks from the east.
  • Without an Israeli presence along the border, jihadi groups from Iraq and Syria would be attracted to cross into Jordan and then to Palestinian territory.
  • King Abdullah II has publicly supported the establishment of a Palestinian sovereign state in the West Bank. However, the king and his security echelons are mindful of the Palestinians' "checkered" security record, and have reason to be concerned. A common Palestinian-Jordanian border would likely increase Palestinian irredentism towards the East Bank, which has been a major Jordanian concern since "Black September" in 1970, when Syrian-backed Palestinian insurgents threatened the Hashemite Kingdom.
  • Jordanian security concerns may help explain why various senior Jordanian officials have told their Israeli counterparts regularly over the past decade that if a Palestinian state is established, it must be demilitarized, and the Palestinian leadership must agree that Israeli and Jordanian security forces will be the only two armies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

    The writer served as secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress from 2011 to 2013.

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