Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
October 30, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Most Israelis Reject Jordan Valley Withdrawal by IDF - Benji Rosen (Jerusalem Post)
    63% of Israelis (74% of Israeli Jews) oppose Israel withdrawing from the Jordan Valley, even if international forces take on responsibility for Israel's security along the West Bank, a recent poll by Mina Tzemach of Midgam for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs revealed.
    The U.S. has proposed that international forces be installed in the Jordan Valley as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
    Jerusalem Center president Dore Gold said the likely explanation of the results involved the UN's historical inability to defend Israel's borders, such as prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. UN forces in Lebanon also failed to prevent the First and Second Lebanon Wars and Hizbullah's rearmament.
    The poll also showed that over 70% of Israelis were against dividing Jerusalem and transferring the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.

Iran Pays Assad's Energy Bill - Michael Weiss (Foreign Policy)
    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force has been training and financing a host of Shiite and Alawite sectarian militias in Syria.
    Moreover, documents obtained by Foreign Policy indicate that Iran "sold" 4 million barrels of crude oil over the last year to Syria at a 10% discount, paid out of a long-term $3.6 billion line of credit for energy imports that Tehran issued Damascus a few months ago.
    Not only are the Iranians selling Assad oil at a bargain, but they're floating him the money to buy it.

Hizbullah Offensive Expected North of Damascus - Jamie Dettmer (Daily Beast)
    Iranian-backed Hizbullah is poised to launch a much-anticipated counterinsurgency offensive to the north of Damascus in the mountainous Al-Qalamoun region between the Syrian capital and Homs, the country's third largest city.
    The offensive will pit Hizbullah fighters against jihadists and militant Islamists. The al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamist militias Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Islam have been reinforcing towns and villages in the region to prepare for the expected assault.
    For the regime, consolidating its hold on Homs is a priority. It represents a central link between Syria's interior cities and the seacoast north of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad's Alawite sect.

U.S. Has Spying Unit on Roof of Tel Aviv Embassy - Spencer Ho (Times of Israel)
    The U.S. maintains hidden rooftop spying units at several embassies around the world, including Tel Aviv, Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon told Maariv on Tuesday.
    Israeli officials said their working assumption is that the U.S. monitors all calls in the Middle East, especially if they are not encrypted.
    On Friday, former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Maariv he was "certain" the U.S. "has been listening in on its allies, including Israel."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Releases New Group of Palestinian Prisoners - Maher Abukhater
    Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners early Wednesday, the second group out of 104 prisoners to be released as part of peace talks that were renewed during the summer. Most of the prisoners were serving sentences related to the killings of Israelis prior to the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Many Israelis consider the men terrorists, but the Israeli Supreme Court rejected attempts to stop their release. The remaining 52 prisoners are expected to be released in two more groups, one at the end of December and the next at the end of March. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Senators Seek to Cut Iran's Oil Sales in Half - Timothy Gardner
    Fresh U.S. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program aim to slash the country's oil sales in half within a year, Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in New York on Monday. The Senate bill would cut Iran's current oil exports to no more than 500,000 barrels per day. A more severe bill passed by the House of Representatives in July would slash exports to nearly zero.
        Menendez said Iran must freeze and dismantle its nuclear program and demonstrate it is complying before sanctions are lifted. "This is not the time to loosen sanctions," he said. (Reuters)
        See also White House Urges Jewish leaders Not to Lobby for New Iran Sanctions - Michael Wilner
    White House national security advisor Susan Rice, her deputies Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with the leaders of major American Jewish organizations on Tuesday in an effort to dissuade them from lobbying the Senate for new sanctions against Iran. The White House meeting witnessed forceful exchanges between the two sides on the merits of the sanctions package. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jewish Leaders Meet with White House Officials on Iran - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    The Jewish leaders - from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and AIPAC - said the administration officials reaffirmed President Obama's "commitment to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capability and that all options remain viable to assure that end." White House officials said the meeting was only with organizations that had challenged the administration's policies on Iran. (Times of Israel)
  • Kerry: U.S. Won't Succumb to "Fear Tactics" When Pursuing Iran Talks - Nicole Gaouette
    "We will not succumb to fear tactics" against holding talks with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry told the U.S. Institute of Peace on Monday. While abandoning the diplomatic process now underway with Iran "would be the height of irresponsibility," Kerry said, "no deal is better than a bad deal."  (Bloomberg)
  • White House Seeks "Legislative Flexibility" on Egypt Aid - Ernesto Londono
    The Obama administration asked Congress on Tuesday to find a legislative work-around that would keep aid to Egypt flowing, in light of a U.S. law that bars Washington from providing funds to governments that came to power through force. Beth Jones, the top State Department official overseeing Middle East policy, asked lawmakers for "legislative flexibility."
        Derek Chollet, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told lawmakers on Tuesday, "The U.S. military is able to respond to contingencies and conduct operations throughout the region because of expeditious [Egyptian] overflight rights and Suez Canal transit."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Prisoner Release a Necessary Evil - Shlomo Cesana
    "Ordering the Palestinian prisoners' release has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as prime minister...given the injustice of seeing these heinous murderers freed before they have finished serving their sentences in full," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. "My heart goes out to the bereaved families. This decision was a necessary evil, dictated by the reality we live in."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Ya'alon on Prisoner Release: Strategic Considerations at Play - Aviel Magnezi
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressed the release of Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday: "The ministerial committee that dealt with the issue of the prisoner release convened with a heavy decide who among the prisoners will be released this time....We don't like it, but we have a responsibility as a government to steer the country according to long-term strategic considerations. I remind everyone that these prisoners are old and committed their crimes prior to the Oslo Accords. We will keep following them."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel to Human Rights Council: Release of Palestinian Terrorists Shows We're Serious about Peace - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel's willingness to release Palestinian prisoners who killed its citizens shows that it is serious about peace, Ambassador Eviatar Manor told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. "All of them have murdered Israelis. Their release, I believe, illustrates Israel's determination to reach an agreement with our Palestinians neighbors that will, once and for all, end the conflict."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinian Incitement Is Still There - Nadav Shragai
    What causes a Palestinian, like Hazem Kassem Shbair, who is now being released from prison, to axe to death a 68-year-old survivor of the Sobibor extermination camp, Bat Yam resident Isaac Rotenberg? For the answer, go to the Palestinian media, their education system, their poets and singers. It's business as usual for the Palestinians. There isn't even the semblance of change. The murderers are set free, while all around, the atmosphere rages on with hatred, incitement, delegitimization of the State of Israel, and the glorification of murderers and terror. (Israel Hayom)
  • What Is the U.S. Position Regarding the Legality of Israeli Settlements? - Elliott Abrams
    The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were "not illegal." The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs "new realities on the ground" that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations. More recently, the official U.S. attitude has been more critical.
        U.S. officials have tried to avoid an argument over the legal status of the settlements. The use of the term "illegitimate" rather than "illegal" suggests a desire to express disapproval as a political judgment without getting bogged down in arguments over the international legal status of the territories and Israel's actions in them. The writer is Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The PA's Diplomatic Terror - Guy Bechor
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is conducting a campaign of "diplomatic terror" against Israel. In every international forum, the Palestinian representative attacks Israel, and the world treats this harassment as something obvious. Abbas goes from one international leader to another and incites against Israel.
        If we are in a "peace" process, why is Abbas busy inciting? More than Abbas wants a state, he wants the Jews not to have a state. Just like we put an end to Fatah's military terror, there is room to demand an immediate cessation to diplomatic terror. The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Ynet News)

Allies in Revolt - Editorial (New York Times)

  • It is not every day that America finds itself facing open rebellion from its allies, yet that is what is happening with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. The Obama administration has denied there are serious problems. But there are clearly differences, some perhaps irreconcilable.
  • Here's a quick summary: Saudi Arabia and Israel are deeply worried about the Obama administration's decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran - their mortal enemy. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sore at President Obama's refusal to become militarily involved in ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, in particular his decision not to respond with military strikes to Mr. Assad's use of chemical weapons. Mr. Obama instead chose a diplomatic deal under which Syria's chemical weapons would be dismantled.
  • In addressing the UN last month, Mr. Obama reinforced his intention to narrow his regional diplomatic focus to the Iranian nuclear deal and an Israeli-Palestinian peace. His task now is to reassure the allies that the U.S. remains committed to their security.

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