Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 29, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Americans' Views toward Israel Remain Firmly Positive - Lydia Saad (Gallup)
    62% of Americans say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis and 15% favor the Palestinians, according to a Gallup poll conducted Feb. 3-7.
    All major demographic and political subgroups of Americans lean toward Israel over the Palestinians. While Republicans show extraordinarily high support for Israel, the majority of Democrats and independents are also on the same page.

U.S., Israel Discuss New Defense Aid Agreement - Amir Rapaport (Israel Defense)
    The new U.S. defense aid agreement is considered as compensation for the nuclear deal with Iran.
    However, the truth is that the compensation is not for the nuclear deal, but for the massive arms sales of American companies in the Persian Gulf.
    The entire region is in an intense arms race, as Iran plans to spend $20 billion to finance the procurement of advanced weapons systems, primarily from Russia.
    Iran's neighboring countries fear its massive procurement and its transformation to a nuclear power, sooner or later.
    For this reason, they also acquire weapons, mainly from France and the U.S. These weapons may one day be directed against Israel.
    Because the U.S. is committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge (under a law passed years ago in Congress), Israel is expected to receive increased aid, to allegedly ensure this advantage.

IDF Preparing for Third Lebanon War - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah has the ability to launch 100,000 rockets at Israel at a rate of 1,200 a day from batteries hidden in dozens of villages in south Lebanon. It also has plans to take over Israeli towns near the border fence.
    A senior Israel air force officer said, "In such a conflict where the home front will be attacked, all restrictions will be lifted. We will not call houses before we attack."
    The IDF is also building a new defensive line. No one who drives along the northern border can ignore the new line of cliffs which are carved out of the hills next to the border communities.
    The barriers, ten meters high, are aimed at preventing infiltrations of Hizbullah special forces into Israeli towns.

McGill Students Reject BDS - Marian Scott (Montreal Gazette-Canada)
    McGill students have rejected a Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign against Israel. In an online vote, 57% (2,819) overturned the BDS motion adopted last Monday by the general assembly of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU), while 43% (2,119) supported it.
    McGill principal and vice chancellor Suzanne Fortier said the university "continues to steadfastly oppose the BDS movement, of which this motion is a part."
    Fortier added the motion "flies in the face of the tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university," and is contrary to "academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Senate Democrats Split with White House on Israel Trade Provisions - Vicki Needham
    Six Democratic senators on Thursday broke with the White House in saying that they support provisions in two laws ensuring free trade with Israel. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) was joined by Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) in urging the Obama administration to implement the provisions in the recent trade laws, arguing that they are consistent with U.S. policy.
        "While the Obama administration has reiterated its opposition to boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, it has mischaracterized the TPA (trade promotion authority) and customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements," the senators said in a statement. "This simply is not the case. These provisions are not about Israeli settlements." They argued that the provisions in the two laws are in line with U.S. policy and are about discouraging commercial actions "aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."  (The Hill)
  • Syria's Cease-Fire Frays as Russia Resumes Airstrikes - Liz Sly
    A truce in Syria that started at midnight Friday began to fray Sunday, with Russian warplanes resuming airstrikes on towns in the north and fresh reports of artillery fire across several front lines. (Washington Post)
  • Talk Grows about Who Will Succeed Palestinians' Fading Mahmoud Abbas - Steven Erlanger
    The past five months of Palestinian attacks on Israeli Jews have undermined the already weak political position of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who rules ineffectively over a divided people and failing institutions. Talk of who will replace Abbas, 81, and when, has surged.
        Abbas might go sooner rather than later, said a former Palestinian negotiator. Facing this new wave of violence, Abbas is typically paralyzed. "He can neither support it nor oppose it," he explained, "so he shuts up and does nothing." "Abu Mazen [Abbas] is like a tree in the wind, with leaves blowing off everywhere," said a former aide. "He thinks everyone is listening to him, but no one is listening anymore."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iranian Aggression Against Israel from Syria Must End
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "We welcome the efforts to achieve a stable, long-term and genuine cease-fire in Syria. Anything that stops the terrible killing there is important, especially from a humanitarian standpoint, but it must be clear at the same time that any agreement in Syria must include a halt to Iran's aggression toward Israel from Syrian territory. We will not agree to the supply of advanced weaponry to Hizbullah from Syria and Lebanon. We will not agree to the creation of a second terror front on the Golan Heights. These are the red lines that we have set and they remain the red lines of the State of Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Netanyahu: Palestinian Terrorism Not Motivated by Despair
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said attempts to explain Palestinian terrorism as motivated by despair were "incorrect." Terror attacks "don't come because of their despair and frustration over their inability to build. They come because of their despair and frustration over their inability to destroy." Such a claim of desperation "exonerates the Palestinians from being responsible for their actions."
        He noted that Arab attacks on Jews in Israel in the 1920s "started because of the claims of (Jerusalem's grand mufti) Haj Amin al-Husseini that the Jews were about to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque and build the Third Temple in its stead. Sound familiar?"  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Nabs Terrorist Behind Gruesome Mall Ax Attack - Efrat Forsher
    Saadi Ali Abu Hamed, 21, a Palestinian who critically wounded Tzvika Cohen, a security guard in Maaleh Adumim, with an ax early Friday, was arrested Sunday by Israeli authorities. A gruesome security video shows Abu Hamed repeatedly striking Cohen with an ax. Cohen's brother Moshe said Abu Hamed had worked at the same shopping center and he and Cohen knew each other. One of the terrorist's relatives called the police and turned him in. (Israel Hayom-Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Moderation, Tehran Style - Editorial
    The Iran nuclear deal's cheerleaders are proclaiming Friday's election results as a triumph for the Islamic Republic's "moderate" and "reformist" factions. Some moderates. Consider Mostafa Kavakebian. The General Secretary of Iran's Democratic Party, Mr. Kavakebian is projected to enter the Majlis as a member for Tehran. In a 2008 speech he said: "The people who currently reside in Israel aren't humans."
        Another moderate is Kazem Jalali, who previously served as spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Majlis and is projected to have won a seat. In 2011 Mr. Jalali said his committee "demands the harshest punishment" - meaning the death penalty - for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two leaders of the pro-democracy Green Movement who are still under house arrest. The political reality in Iran is that the Ayatollahs, backed by the Revolutionary Guards, remain firmly in control. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Farce of Iranian Elections - Eyal Zisser
    Friday's elections for Iran's Majlis (parliament) and for the Assembly of Experts were apparently a celebration of democracy. President Hassan Rouhani and his fellow reformist camp leader, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, did well and will likely enjoy a much more comfortable position in parliament this time around. But we should question whether the results will really change the way Iran operates in the region and with regard to Israel.
        After all, there were thousands of candidates demanding real change who were banned from participating in this celebration of democracy. This means that whoever is elected - even if he is committed to reform and change - is part and parcel of the Islamic Revolution and is certainly not looking forward to its collapse. At most, he will try to make improvements to it.
        Aside from that, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls the country's security and defense, is dedicated to safeguarding the spirit of the revolution. If the Guards sense that Rouhani is threatening the revolution or their own status, they are likely to try to overthrow him. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Moderation in Iran? Don't Get Your Hopes Up - Aaron David Miller
    The Iran nuclear accord will consolidate the government's power, not undermine it. Iran got access to billions of dollars in frozen assets, the prospect of billions more in trade deals with Europe and Asia, and the capacity to develop nukes down the road if it wants to. An improved economy co-opts pressure for change in Iran, even though it is the elites, not the broader public, that will be the primary beneficiaries.
        At the top of Iran's power structure sits supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who has no intention of letting the U.S. or Rouhani slip significant change through the back door of the nuclear agreement. Khamenei will ensure that there is no serious normalization with Washington, and that interactions with the Americans are purely functional. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Los Angeles Times)

The Knife and the Message: The Roots of the New Palestinian Uprising - Hirsh Goodman and Yossi Kuperwasser, eds. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The latest wave of Palestinian violence against Jews is something new, an insidious wave of seemingly un-orchestrated attacks, perpetrated by unlikely assailants, and generally untraceable to any particular organization.
  • These attacks were also characterized by brutality, viciousness and randomness, and the purposeful use of the knife, to drive home the intent of bringing a new and unrelenting wave of slaughter to the Jews; a message to all Israelis that neither they, nor their children, will ever be able to live in this land in peace.
  • As this document will show, the Palestinian president and those under his authority are indeed instructing young Palestinians what to do, goading them into action through deliberate messaging, distortion and fabrication, aimed at keeping the conflict alive and portraying the Palestinians as the victims in a whitewash of terror.
  • There is a guiding hand in all this, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian faction that leads it, Fatah. What is being witnessed today is the end-game of a strategy adopted by Fatah in 2009 and culminating in Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the UN General Assembly on September 30, 2015, when he announced that the Palestinians are no longer bound by the Oslo (peace) Accords.
  • A carefully calibrated policy of incitement and cynicism has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a new level, one that generates terror without fingerprints, but which adroitly serves Fatah's strategy of an endless war of attrition, by varying means, against Israel.

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