Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
February 18, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Senior Al-Qaeda Figure Leaves Iran amid a Series of Departures by Terrorists - Adam Goldman (Washington Post)
    Thirwat Shihata, a senior al-Qaeda figure who was the deputy of Ayman al-Zawahiri, has left Iran where he had lived after fleeing American forces in Afghanistan in 2001, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
    In the past two years, up to a dozen notable al-Qaeda figures have left Iran, and two have ended up in U.S. custody.

Russia May Build New Nuclear Reactor in Iran - Kharunya Paramaguru (TIME-Reuters)
    Iran's ambassador to Moscow, Mehdi Sanaei, said Monday that Russia could build a second nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in exchange for Iranian oil.
    Russia and Iran have been negotiating a deal that could see 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day exchanged for goods and equipment.

IDF Deploys U.S.-Made Robot in Dangerous Tunnels - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The IDF has deployed the American military robot Talon 4 for use in dangerous tunnels on the Gaza border.
    The new robot can defuse explosive devices underground in pitch black conditions and already has been used in anti-tunnel operations against Hamas.
    "We don't rush to put fighters in tunnels," explained a soldier in Yahalom, the IDF's special operations engineering unit.

Google Acquires Israeli Start-Up SlickLogin - Netradeep Dhonde (CrazyEngineers)
    Google has acquired SlickLogin, a start-up company from Israel which made its debut just 5 months ago.
    The company offers an alternative process for login confirmation by using sound-based passwords.
    A nearly-silent sound is played through the computer's speaker, which is recognized by an app on the user's smartphone.

Muslim Insurgents in Sinai Unwittingly Name Themselves after Jewish Temple in Jerusalem - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    The most significant Islamist insurgency group fighting against the Egyptian authorities in northern Sinai today is Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem). It originated in Gaza, and made its way to Sinai following the ouster of President Mubarak in 2011.
    The group's name will raise a smile from Hebrew-speakers. The Arabic term "Bayt al-Maqdis" for Jerusalem derives from the Hebrew name for the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem - "Beit Hamikdash." Many Muslims fiercely deny that any Jewish Temple ever stood in Jerusalem.

Finland Looks to Israel for High-Tech Inspiration - Luke Baker (Reuters)
    Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen is determined to overhaul his economy, and cites Israel's success as a "start-up" nation brimming with high-tech innovation as his model.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Says Nuclear Talks Will "Lead Nowhere" - Ramin Mostaghim and Alexandra Sandels
    Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, expressed deep skepticism Monday about the next round of nuclear negotiations with world powers, even as Tehran's delegation headed to Vienna. The nuclear session will "lead nowhere," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state.
        "I'm not optimistic about the nuclear talks, but not opposed to them either," Khamenei said, adding that Iran will "never succumb to the bullying and blackmailing of America."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Little Optimism as Iran Nuclear Talks Resume - Steven Erlanger
    Talks with Iran over a permanent agreement on its nuclear program begin on Tuesday in Vienna. Senior Western diplomats say that this round, expected to last three days, will be spent largely trying to determine how to organize the negotiations. (New York Times)
  • Egypt Facing Shortage of Natural Gas for Power Plants - Maggie Fick
    Successive Egyptian governments have failed to develop a sound strategy to tap major natural gas reserves even as an exploding population boosted demand. Egyptian gas exports more than halved from 2008 to 2012 and have now slowed to a trickle. Production from maturing gas fields is declining, and the government forecast this month that consumption will outstrip output starting in July.
        Gulf Arab donors have propped up Egypt with aid including oil, but their diesel is not compatible with Egypt's gas-based power plants and big factories. Qatar bailed out Egypt with extra gas during Morsi's rule, but his ouster badly soured Qatar's ties with Cairo. (Reuters)
  • New Israeli Unit Targets Syrian Border Threats - Barbara Opall-Rome
    On Israel's Golan Heights frontier, the Israel Defense Forces is using the latest intelligence collection technologies and a new frontline division dedicated to combating multiplying threats spawned by the war raging in Syria. The new Bashan Division contains forces responsible for defending and defeating all threats in the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon sectors as part of the IDF's Northern Command. The division includes a new combat intelligence collection battalion using the latest systems.
        Aside from three or four villages at the border still controlled by forces fighting for Assad's regime, Israel's Golan Heights frontier is largely in rebel hands. "Among rebel forces, the moderates are increasingly exhausted while the radicals have become strengthened. The moderates lack sufficient external backing, and they're losing the support of the local population, all of which benefits the radicals," a senior IDF officer said.
        In addition to Global Jihad forces operating in Syria, there are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 Hizbullah forces and another 2,000 Iraqi volunteers fighting on behalf of the Assad regime. Additionally, hundreds of advisers, supervisors and commanders of the Al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are providing tactical command and control in battles against the rebels. (Defense News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt Fortifying Border with Israel - Yoav Zitun
    Egypt's army has been working to fortify its border with Israel in recent weeks, for the first time since the early 1980s, in response to intensified threats against it. Concrete guard posts are being constructed along the border, offering Egyptian troops protection against small-arms and anti-tank missiles. Dozens of Egyptian soldiers have been killed and injured in Sinai during exchanges of fire with al-Qaeda operatives or armed Bedouin smugglers. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Thanks U.S. for Fighting Academic Boycott - Yori Yalon
    The presidents of universities in Israel sent a letter last week to their colleagues at 150 leading universities and colleges in the U.S., including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and Duke, thanking them for fighting against the academic boycott against Israel. "We are honored that you stand beside us in this unacceptable situation," Hebrew University of Jerusalem President Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson wrote. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Don't Expect Abbas to Sign Anything - Shlomo Avineri
    As prime minister, Ehud Olmert met 36 times with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and couldn't reach an agreement with him. Olmert was prepared to go further than any other Israeli leader in meeting the Palestinians' demands, but when Olmert proposed that Abbas sign a document containing the Israeli concessions, he refused.
        This is exactly what happened in 1995 in Yossi Beilin's talks with Abbas. There was never any Beilin-Abbas agreement. There was only a paper laying out Israeli concessions.
        Abbas will talk as long as the talks are designed to lead Israel to make more and more concessions. Then he will bring the negotiations to a halt, so they can be restarted in the future "where they left off": with all the previous Israeli concessions included, and no concessions having been put forward by the Palestinian side. The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Rouhani Has a Firm Belief in Iran's Islamic Revolution - Scott Peterson
    Those who were dancing in the streets after the election of President Hassan Rouhani misplaced their hope, says Hamidreza Taraghi, a conservative politician who has known Rouhani for 42 years and first introduced him to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "[Rouhani] is not the person they think he is," says Taraghi. "He has a firm belief in the pillars of the revolution, which are the supreme leader and the Islamic system, although his word choices are quite different from Ahmadinejad, and his friendship with reformists is much more."
        "But he's not the kind of person to let them make decisions for him," although reformists used him to "come back into the political system after eight years on its margins under Ahmadinejad."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Of Zionism and Camels - Tom Wilson
    Research from two scholars at Tel Aviv University is said to suggest that domesticated camels may not have existed in the Levant in the time of Genesis. Andrew Brown in the Guardian parades this as proof positive that the camels mentioned in Genesis must be a fiction. If the camels in Genesis are made up, then everything else in the Bible is made up, which means promises to Abraham and his descendants about the inheritance of the land were made up, which means the foundations of Zionism are made up and invalid, Brown asserts.
        Yet the research cited only appears to concern specific copper smelting sites in the Negev's Arava Valley, showing the date at which domesticated camels were probably introduced to work at that specific site, which is several centuries after the time at which the Patriarchs and their camels are believed to have been moving through the surrounding region.
        Perhaps the Methodist Sunday school I attended was deficient, but I don't seem to recall anything about the Patriarchs participating in the copper smelting industry. Indeed, it seems like a stretch to say that because there were no camels working at a specific copper site prior to a specific date, therefore no one kept domesticated camels in the entire region before that date. (Commentary)

Netanyahu: The Interim Deal Has Set Back Iran's Nuclear Program by Only Four Weeks (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday:

  • "If Iran perches itself as a threshold state in which it has all the elements of a nuclear weapon in place, they'll just have to do one little twist of the knob to get final enrichment of fissile material that is the core of a nuclear weapon. Then all they'll have to do is take these components...put them together and in a very short time, days or weeks or perhaps even hours, they'd have a nuclear weapon....Our goal is to prevent Iran from having the capacity to manufacture or put together nuclear weapons."
  • "[The Iranians] don't need ICBMs - long-range, inter-continental ballistic missiles....There's only one purpose in the world to develop ICBMs....You develop an ICBM in order to deliver a nuclear payload. Iran continues to develop that."
  • "How much time has been saved by the interim deal?...They've been sent back in time [by] four weeks. That's what Iran has given to the world, which means it's given practically nothing, but Iran has received a great deal. It's received the easing of sanctions."
  • "We're trying to make peace with those Palestinians who at least have not engaged in terror and we say to them, if you want to achieve a real peace, then that peace has to be based on a real reconciliation with the Jewish State of Israel. I appreciate the effort, I must say ceaseless efforts, that Secretary John Kerry is engaging in with me."
  • "The Palestinians expect us to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people. How do they have the temerity not to recognize the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people? Do they not know that we've been here for the last 3,800 years?...They can try to distort ancient history and modern history...but it doesn't make it true. This is the Land of Israel. We've been here on this land, associated with it for millennia."
  • "Why do they insist on not recognizing us? There is a reason. Because once you accept the fact that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, then you have no more claims on this land and on this country....The minute you agree to the formulation of two nation states, a Jewish state for the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, you end all claims."

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