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,
January 28, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

IDF Drilling on Lebanon Border in Search for Hizbullah Tunnels - Noa Shpigel (Ha'aretz)
    IDF troops began drilling Wednesday along the Lebanon border to search for suspected tunnels dug by Hizbullah into Israeli territory.
    Residents in Moshav Zarit said that in the years since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, "strange looking" buildings began appearing across the security fence some 450 meters away.
    More than 10 residents living on one street have complained over the last few months about hearing noises at night. Investigations revealed what appeared to be a possible tunnel route dug from Lebanon into Israel.

10,000 Palestinian Teens Graduate Hamas Terror Camp, Practice Tunnel Attacks Against Israel - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh attended the graduation ceremony of a training camp for more than 10,000 future Hamas militants on Tuesday.
    Under the "Pioneers of the Resistance" program, the Palestinian youths - aged 15 to 21 - underwent intensive military training, using sniper rifles on targets with portraits of Israeli leaders.
    They also simulated attacks on Israeli targets through model terror tunnels, meant to recreate the experience of infiltrating Israeli territory.

Islamic State Calls on Muslims to Attack West (AP-Military Times)
    The spokesman for the Islamic State group is calling on Muslims living in Western countries to carry out more attacks, saying any loyalist who has the opportunity to "shed a drop of blood" should do so.
    Abu Mohammed al-Adnani on Monday praised recent attacks in Australia, Belgium, France, and Canada.

Syria Rebels Overrun Strategic Base in South (Reuters)
    Hundreds of Syrian insurgents armed with rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons, including fighters from al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, seized the Assad regime's Brigade 82 base near the town of Sheikh Maskeen in Deraa province on Sunday. The base lies at the heart of a heavily fortified zone protecting the southern approaches to Damascus.
    The south is the last major stronghold of the mainstream, anti-Assad opposition, who have been weakened elsewhere by the expansion of Islamic State in the east and north. Nusra is fighting in the south alongside the Western-backed groups.

Asian Army Buys Israeli System to Protect Its Aircraft - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Elbit announced that it had reached a deal to outfit the Blackhawk helicopters of the air force of an Asian country with its MUSIC aerial laser defense system that protects against shoulder-launched missiles and RPGs.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Anti-Tank Missile Fired at Israeli Military Vehicle on Lebanon Frontier, Casualties Reported
    An anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Lebanon border on Wednesday, wounding four soldiers, a military source said. Israeli helicopters were deployed after the attack. Hizbullah is the dominant force on the Lebanese side of the border. (Reuters)
  • Democrats Give Obama Two Months to Reach Iran Deal - Burgess Everett
    Senate Democrats, led by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said Tuesday that they will give President Obama two months to reach a deal on the country's nuclear program before they vote for new sanctions. At least 10 Senate Democrats wrote the president Tuesday that they will not support final passage of a sanctions bill until March 24. That will allow the U.S. and other Western powers time to reach a framework for a deal scaling down Iran's nuclear program.
        In their letter, the Democrats defended the forthcoming sanctions legislation as "reasonable and pragmatic," given that the economic penalties would kick in only if negotiators fail to reach a final agreement by June 30. They added, "Considering Iran's history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table....[We] look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability."  (Politico)
  • On Auschwitz Anniversary, Leader Warns Jews Again Targets - Vanessa Gera
    A Jewish leader stood before 300 survivors of the Nazis' most notorious death camp on Tuesday and asked world leaders to prevent another Auschwitz, warning of a rise of anti-Semitism that has made many Jews fearful of walking the streets, and is causing many to flee Europe. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, made his bleak assessment on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz where more than a million people were murdered.
        "For a time, we thought that the hatred of Jews had finally been eradicated. But slowly the demonization of Jews started to come back....Once again, Jewish businesses are targeted. And once again, Jewish families are fleeing Europe."
        "For decades, the world has been fed lies about Israel: that Israel is the cause of everyone's problems, that Israelis are the villains of the 21st century, that Israel has no right to exist. We all learned that when you tell a lie three times and there is no response, then the lie becomes the truth. This vilification of Israel, the only Jewish state on earth, quickly became an opportunity to attack Jews."
        "Schools must teach tolerance of all people. Houses of worship should be places of love, understanding, and healing. They should not be telling their people to kill in the name of God. All countries and the EU must make hate a crime. Any country that openly brags about the annihilation of another country should be excluded from the family of nations."  (AP-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Strikes Syrian Army Targets Following Golan Rocket Attacks - Yaakov Lappin
    The Israel Air Force struck Syrian army artillery targets on Tuesday in response to an earlier rocket attack on the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon. The IDF had quickly returned fire, directing artillery fire at the sources of rocket fire in Syria. "The IDF views the Syrian regime as responsible for what occurs in its territory, and will act at any time and any way it sees fit to protect the citizens of Israel," the IDF said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Golan: Israel and Hizbullah's New Battleground - Amos Harel
    The four Katyusha rockets fired at the Golan Heights from Syria on Tuesday weren't stray fire but rather were launched deliberately, Israeli defense officials believe. Israel evacuated the Mount Hermon ski resort. A single rocket every few days would be enough to paralyze the ski season. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S., Arab League Ask Abbas to Delay New UN Statehood Bid - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PA leadership has accepted a U.S. request to delay its plans to resubmit the Palestinian statehood resolution to the UN Security Council until after the March 17 election in Israel, a senior Fatah official said on Tuesday.
        The London-based Rai al-Youm also quoted Palestinian officials as saying that Arab League foreign ministers who recently met in Cairo asked PA President Abbas to delay the next statehood bid at the Security Council. The ministers said the Arab leaders fear that a U.S. veto would put the U.S. on a collision course with the Arab people. The Arab countries prefer that the Palestinians come up with a new resolution that would be less controversial and lead to the revival of the peace process with Israel, the sources said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Muhammad Dahlan and the Succession Battle for the PA Chairmanship - Yoni Ben Menachem
    In recent weeks, Dubai-based Muhammad Dahlan has become much more actively involved in Gaza. He is attempting to exploit the difficult situation there after the 2014 Gaza war and views himself as the potential successor of his bitter enemy, Mahmoud Abbas, as chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Dahlan is also involved in providing financial aid to needy residents in Gaza. He recently sent his wife, Dr. Jalila Dahlan, to Gaza where, with Hamas' consent, she has been intensely involved in providing funds to the needy.
        Egypt and Hamas believe that Abbas will soon end his role as chairman of the PA, and Abbas' troubles in the Palestinian domestic arena have afforded Dahlan a foothold. Egypt is inclined to support Dahlan because of the great sympathy he enjoys among Gaza residents. In the past, during Arafat's rule, Dahlan was head of Gaza's Preventive Intelligence force. Dahlan has had close ties with Mohammed Deif, the "supreme commander" of Hamas' military wing, since the 1980s when the two shared the same cell in an Israeli prison. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Rising Tension in the Golan Heights - Omer Einav
    For the first time, the Iranians are not concealing their presence in the Golan Heights, which until now was an improbable scenario. Hizbullah is permitting itself freedom of action and a high profile in the Golan and is working to establish an infrastructure in the region for attacks on Israel.
        Israel is working to significantly improve the components of defense in the north and to lower the profile of its moves so as to deny Hizbullah attractive operational opportunities. Israel's leading objective, aside from peace and quiet and security, is not to allow Iran and Hizbullah to establish a foothold for control and terror infrastructures in the Golan.
        Israel must show resolve and not be deterred by escalation if it has an interest in preventing the establishment of an Iranian-Hizbullah foothold in the Golan, which would be a platform for attacking Israel at a time and in circumstances that suit the axis. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • A Small Victory in Syria as the Islamic State Gets Stronger - Editorial
    The apparently successful defense of the Kurdish town of Kobane, on the Syrian-Turkish border, came to be seen as a test of whether the U.S. and its allies could stop the expansion of the Islamic State. Kobane consumed 75% of the nearly 1,000 airstrikes carried out by allied planes throughout Syria since September. In the rest of the Syrian territory it controls, the Islamic State faces little pressure from Western airstrikes and is growing stronger rather than weaker. (Washington Post)
  • B'Tselem Adds to the Chorus of False Gaza War Allegations
    In its report on IDF strikes during the 2014 Gaza conflict, the B'Tselem NGO's claims regarding international law are marked by major omissions and distortions. It notably fails to state that under the laws of war, the presence of civilians does not render military objectives immune from attack. B'Tselem has a history of presenting faulty information on civilian casualties in alleged attacks against "families bombed at home." Independent studies have identified at least 14 combatants present in such incidents, whom B'Tselem misleadingly portrayed as innocent civilians. (NGO Monitor)

About that Netanyahu Invitation to Address Congress - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • When Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last addressed a joint session of Congress in 2011, Walter Russell Mead wrote a remarkable comment on the speech Netanyahu made and the reception he received. "Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth....Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-American."
  • Obama administration officials who are trying to argue that Netanyahu's invitation from Speaker Boehner is outrageous and political (just a few days after the president got British prime minister Cameron to lobby Congress directly) will lose the argument.
  • Iran's nuclear program is one of the most significant national security issues we face and an even larger issue for Israel.
  • I think it's fine that Obama will not see Netanyahu so close to the Israeli election; that's a good practice in general and avoids the inference of U.S. intervention in a foreign electoral contest.
  • But the White House's whining about Boehner's invitation is amateurish, and for the reasons Mead explained it will persuade few Americans beyond the Beltway.
  • Given the situation in the Middle East and the state of nuclear negotiations with Iran (where the U.S. has abandoned almost every red line it ever set), it's no wonder that Netanyahu wants to speak about Iran and that the Speaker wants to hear him.

    The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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