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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
February 10, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Intelligence Official: ISIS to Attempt U.S. Attacks This Year - Ryan Browne (CNN)
    ISIS "will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016," Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that violent extremists were active in about 40 countries and that there currently exist more terrorist safe havens "than at any time in history."
    Clapper warned that ISIS was using the refugee exodus from Iraq and Syria to hide among innocent civilians in order to reach other countries, "taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow."

Russia Detains Seven for Planning Islamic State Terrorist Attacks - Ivan Nechepurenko (New York Times)
    Russia's Federal Security Service said on Monday that it had detained seven people suspected of being members of a terrorist cell aligned with the Islamic State that was planning large-scale terrorist acts in the country.
    The seven, who were detained in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, are citizens of Russia and Central Asian states, and their cell was managed by a leader from Turkey. Law enforcement officers discovered an explosives laboratory, firearms and grenades.
    According to Rossiya 24 TV, members of the cell were planning simultaneous attacks on the subway systems of St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

Israel Signs Stem Cell Research Agreement with California Institute - Danielle Ziri (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis signed an agreement Monday with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for research cooperation in the field of biotechnology, with a focus on stem cells.

Palestinian Doctor Aims to Boost West Bank Medical Services - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP)
    Dr. Saleem Haj-Yahia performed the first-ever successful artificial heart transplant in the West Bank last month.
    The British-educated cardiologist returned home in 2014 to become dean of the medical school at the An-Najah teaching hospital in Nablus.
    He seeks to increase Palestinian medical self-sufficiency, and make the Palestinian medical system less dependent on its Israeli counterpart.
    For years, any complicated operations or sophisticated treatments have had to be carried out in Israeli hospitals.
    Dr. Amera Hindi, head of the Medical Transfer Unit in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said spending on transferring Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals has dropped by 30% in the last year.
    She credited the "development of the medical services in the Palestinian hospitals."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Intelligence Assessment: "Tehran Already Has the Largest Inventory of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East"
    On Tuesday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the threat Iran could pose to U.S. interests and the Middle East. According to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, "Iran does not face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon, making Iran's political will the central issue."
        "We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran's ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran's progress on space launch vehicles - along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies - provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs."  (U.S. Institute of Peace)
        See also Full Text: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community (U.S. Senate)
  • Iran Reaffirms Support for Hamas
    Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari on Monday rejected media reports claiming that Hamas has not received any support from Tehran since 2009. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has declared that supporting the Palestinian nation and the Palestinian Resistance Movement (Hamas) is among its fixed policies and has continuously taken some measures on this path."  (Tasnim-Iran)
  • Syrian Opposition Groups Sense U.S. Support Fading - Anne Barnard
    The U.S. has spent many millions of dollars backing Syrian opposition fighters they deem relatively moderate as the cornerstone of Syria's future. But those Syrians - who risked their lives in the process - now say that investment is in danger of going down the drain, and they see little urgency from Washington, diplomatic or military, to save it. In nearly five years of war, many Syrians have been repeatedly disillusioned by what they saw as a mismatch between tough American rhetoric against the Syrian government and comparatively modest efforts to aid some of its opponents. (New York Times)
  • Turkish President Erdogan Hosts U.S. Jewish Leaders - Ali Unal
    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met on Tuesday with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP). According to presidential sources, in the meeting the CoP and Erdogan discussed the current stage of the normalization talks between Turkey and Israel. Members of the CoP expressed their support for the normalization of Israeli-Turkish relations. (Daily Sabah-Turkey)
        See also Israeli and Turkish Negotiating Teams Meet in Switzerland on Wednesday - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Jogger Stabbed in West Bank - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Tomer Ditur, 28, was stabbed in the head and shoulder on Tuesday as he was jogging on the Derech Ha'avot path near Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion. The arrival of a second jogger on the path scared away the assailant, who fled in the direction of the Palestinian village of Nahlin. (Ynet News-Jerusalem Post)
  • Two More Hamas Operatives Killed in Gaza Tunnel Cave-Ins - Raoul Wootliff
    A Hamas member was killed Tuesday in a tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border near Khan Yunis, according to Palestinian media reports. The collapse came a day after another Palestinian was killed when a smuggling tunnel caved in north of Rafah. Tuesday's incident marks the 11th death in recent weeks in Gaza tunnel collapses. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Pays Family of Dead UNIFIL Soldier - Roee Kais and Itamar Eichner
    Israel recently paid compensation of 200,000 euros to the family of Spanish UNIFIL soldier Francisco Toledo who was killed during IDF shelling towards Lebanon on Jan. 28, 2015, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. The shelling was in retaliation for Hizbullah anti-tank fire that killed IDF Major Yochai Kalangel and Staff Sergeant Dor Nini. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Holocaust as "White on White Crime" and Other Signs of Intellectual Decay - David Bernstein
    In a Facebook post, a recent Oberlin alumna, Isabel Storch Sherrell, clearly a political progressive herself, recounted various anti-Semitic incidents she experienced at the school. I found most remarkable her assertion that multiple students had dismissively referred to the Holocaust as "white on white crime," as if the "progressive" students there found it impossible to conceive of horrific racist violence outside the parameters of paradigmatic examples of racist violence in the U.S.
        What's remarkable about the incidents recounted, which range from gross insensitivity to blatant anti-Semitism, is not that such attitudes exist, but that, if true, some of the most purportedly progressive students, those who are the most acutely sensitive to and active against other forms of racism, ignore anti-Semitism, belittle it and, in some cases, participate in it. The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law. (Washington Post)
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Is Dead - Thomas L. Friedman
    The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead. It's over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas devoted all its resources to digging tunnels to attack Israelis from Gaza rather than turning Gaza into Singapore, making a laughingstock of Israeli peace advocates. And Hamas launched a rocket close enough to Tel Aviv's airport that the U.S. banned all American flights for a day, signaling to every Israeli, dove or hawk, what could happen if they ceded the West Bank.
        The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, sacked the only effective Palestinian prime minister ever, Salam Fayyad, who was dedicated to fighting corruption and proving that Palestinians deserved a state by focusing on building institutions, not UN resolutions. (New York Times)
  • Iran Deal "Launders" Iranian Nuclear Program - Avner Golov interviewed by Satgin Hamrah
    The Iran "deal demonstrates the American shift: from seeking to solve the Iranian nuclear problem, to managing the problem....However, this agreement buys time and the U.S. should use the time given wisely in order to be prepared for the next round....The agreement does not challenge the Iranian narrative; it 'launders' the Iranian nuclear program that violated international norms according the UNSC, and seeks to bring Iran back to the international community despite its misbehavior."
        "I think this agreement renders war imminent rather than preventing it. Iran is emboldened by the agreement and can now push for a bolder regional policy. Iran's adversaries - some are U.S. allies - are frightened by the Iranian policy and particularly by what they see as an American passive policy in the region (or even rebalancing efforts eastward). Iran and its regional adversaries are busy in improving their military capabilities." Avner Golov is a Truman Scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and a research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. (E-International Relations)

What Vladimir Putin Is Really Up To in Syria - Dennis Ross (Los Angeles Times)

  • Even as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressured the non-Islamic State Syrian opposition to come to peace talks or lose American assistance, the Russians were increasing their operations in support of Syrian military and Iranian-Hizbullah offensives. These operations were designed to strengthen the Assad regime and weaken the non-Islamic State Sunni opposition.
  • The nature of the Russian strikes makes clear that Putin was not just trying to improve Assad's leverage before negotiations. He was intent on changing the balance of power fundamentally on the ground and sending a message to Arab leaders: If you want to deal with problems in Syria or in the region, you deal with us.
  • Putin aims to demonstrate that Russia, and not America, is the main power broker in the region and increasingly elsewhere.
  • Putin is undercutting America's aim of isolating Islamic State and having Sunnis lead the fight against it. Sunni-led governments in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan won't seriously join the fight against Islamic State so long as there appears to be a war against their coreligionists in Syria.
  • Rather than being opposed to the Russian efforts, the U.S. looks to be in league with them. Unless we are prepared to use more leverage against what the Russians are doing, we will not have Sunni partners and there will be little prospect of diplomacy working.

    The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior positions in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

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