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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 Tuesday,
January 3, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Why Iran Wants Naval Bases in Syria and Yemen - Yoel Guzansky (Foreign Affairs)
    In November, Iran announced it was planning to build naval bases in Syria and Yemen which, as a state-run paper later posited, "could be ten times more efficient than nuclear power."
    Yemen sits on the strategic shipping route of the Bab el Mandeb Strait, one of the world's most heavily trafficked waterways, and a naval outpost there would put it in a more advantageous position to threaten its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
    A base in Yemen would also enable Iran to better support the Houthi rebels. A Saudi-led blockade on Yemen has prevented Iran from accessing Yemen's shores.
    A base in Syria would stretch Iran's naval arm to the Mediterranean and enable Iran to transport regular supplies to Hizbullah without being dependent on overland convoys or aerial transport through Iraq or Turkey.
    The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Kissinger: U.S. Must Thwart Iranian Expansionism - Barney Breen-Portnoy (Algemeiner)
    The biggest challenge facing the Middle East is the "potential domination of the region by an Iran that is both imperial and jihadist," former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the America-Israel Friendship League in November.
    "[America must] make it clear that we are opposed to a further territorial expansion of Iran and what we are asking of the Iranians is to act like a nation, and not like crusaders. What we have to see to is that Iran does not achieve such a dominant position that the whole region explodes."

Report: Hizbullah the Most Serious Conventional Threat to Israel - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah remains the most serious conventional threat Israel faces, according to a report released Monday by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
    Hizbullah has rockets that can reach any range, precision-guided missiles, attack and suicide drones, the best Russian-made air defense systems, and ground units that are training to conquer Israeli towns and cities.
    The report stressed that while the direct conventional threat to Israel remained low, paramilitary militias funded by Iran are growing stronger.
    See also Strategic Survey for Israel 2016-2017 - Anat Kurz and Shlomo Brom, eds. (Institute for National Security Studies)

In Palestinian Eyes, All of Israel Is a "Settlement" - Alan Joseph Bauer (Jerusalem Post)
    From the language of UN Resolution 2334, one might conclude that the Palestinians regard everything on the other side of the 1949 armistice line as being Israel. But do the Palestinians really believe that?
    In March 2002, my son and I were both wounded in a suicide bombing on King George Street in west Jerusalem, well within the 1948 Israeli borders.
    Yet the Al-Aksa Brigades, a division of Fatah that took responsibility for the bombing, described it as having taken place in "occupied Jerusalem."
    The Palestinians view all of Israel as illegally held by the Jews.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Rebels Freeze Peace Effort, Citing Regime's Truce Violations
    Syrian rebel groups have announced they are freezing discussions about joining peace talks sponsored by Russia because of "breaches" in a four-day-old cease-fire by the Syrian government. Government forces have intensified attacks around Damascus and Aleppo. "The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations...threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," said a statement signed by a dozen mainly moderate rebel groups operating under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army.
        The rebel groups questioned Russia's ability to force the Syrian government and its Iranian allies to abide by the terms of the cease-fire deal. (RadioFreeEurope-RadioLiberty)
  • Venezuelan Jews Are Moving to Israel to Escape Deepening Poverty - Ruth Eglash
    Venezuela's economic crisis is so severe that citizens must wait in lines for hours at grocery stores to buy basic staples. Tens of thousands have left the country, including a growing number of Venezuelan Jews who have relocated to Israel. Israeli government figures show that 111 Venezuelan Jews made "aliyah," the Hebrew term for immigration meaning "ascending," to Israel in 2015, more than double the number who arrived in 2012. Between 6,000 and 9,000 Jews remain in the country of 30 million. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Jewish Groups Oppose Paris Conference on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Danielle Ziri
    In the aftermath of the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, American Jewish organizations expressed their strong opposition to a Middle East peace conference called for Jan. 15 in Paris. Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called for the French to cancel or postpone this "ill-conceived, poorly timed and damaging" event, saying it is not the time "for another sham forum in which the usual one-sided outcomes against Israel are the likeliest result."
        The group noted the impending transition to a new U.S. administration just five days later and said, "It makes no sense that the next administration is precluded from participating in a discussion of an essential component of U.S. foreign policy with which it will be engaged." The Conference of Presidents urged the U.S. to announce that it will not participate in the event and called on leaders of all the invited countries to "work to cancel the Paris meeting and refocus on the parties coming together for direct negotiations."
        American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris told the Jerusalem Post that the Paris conference "is not the way to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." Anything other than bilateral talks "simply convinces the Palestinians they can avoid the face-to-face bargaining table."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Assad's Palestinian Mercenaries - Dr. Edy Cohen
    Tens of thousands of Palestinians are apparently fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The most fervent Assad supporters belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's General Command, led by Ahmed Jibril, headquartered in Damascus with thousands of fighters.
        The Jerusalem Brigade (Liwa al-Quds), numbering several thousand, was formed in 2013 by Palestinian engineer Muhammad al-Sa'eed. It has taken part in every campaign in Aleppo, mostly with Russian coordination and support. Some of its fighters have even been awarded citations by the Russian army. Since 2013, some 300 of its fighters have been killed and 600 have been wounded.
        Another Palestinian faction fighting for Assad, numbering hundreds of fighters, is the Galilee Brigade - the military wing of the Palestinian Youth Return Movement led by Fadi al-Mallah. The writer is a research fellow at Bar-Ilan University. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Video: The UN Is Ignoring the Real Violators of the Geneva Convention Who Are Changing the Demographic Makeup of Syria - Dore Gold
    The UN Security Council resolution tries to establish whether the settlements are legal or not. Its major reference point is the 1949 4th Geneva Convention, adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War when the Axis powers, particularly the German army, were seizing territories, throwing out the populations that lived there, and bringing in German citizens to live in those areas. But is Israel forcibly throwing the Arab population out of the West Bank? No.
        Where the principles of the 4th Geneva Convention are very much relevant and where are they not being applied is in Syria where the army of President Assad and its Iranian and Russian allies are engaged in mass expulsions of the Sunni Arab population. They are also bringing in Shiite population to settle in Syria from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, altering the demographic balance inside Syria. So the UN is ignoring the real violators of the 4th Geneva Convention who are changing the demographic makeup of the Syrian state to serve the interests of expansionist Iran.
        The writer, former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The UN's Stunning Anti-Israel Bias - Maajid Nawaz
    Israel is not the biggest problem in the Middle East, by a long shot. But you wouldn't know that from the disproportionate way in which the UN has treated the country. To this day, 47 resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been adopted by the UN Security Council. In 2016 alone, 18 resolutions against Israel were adopted at the UN General Assembly in September, and 12 resolutions were adopted in the Human Rights Council.
        Opposing Israel is the sacred god that must not be questioned. So deep runs this bias against Israeli transgressions, that to call it out is to arouse immediately incredulity. There is nothing unique about the Israel conflict deserving such disproportionate attention. Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, and Taiwan are but a few other disputed territories not fetishized like Palestine is at the UN and in our media. All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.
        Why is it that Israel is expected to integrate - and does a reasonable job of including - the 20% of its population that is Arab, yet a Jewish presence of 500,000 settlers in any future Palestinian state is deemed "an obstacle" to the two-state solution? Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which the West holds Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?
        In reality, Israel has been the perennial excuse used by Arab despots seeking to silence their domestic opponents or the foreign critics of their ferocious repression of dissent. To call for greater freedoms in these countries where there was little or none was to be accused of "Zionist collusion." And as often as not, the UN played along.
        Only by releasing the "exceptional status" pressure from this conflict, by removing it from the spotlight, by simply placing it on a par with every and any other conflict in the world - tragic but not unique - do we stand a better chance of solving it, because the stakes are lowered and the frothing prophets of doom are taken out of the equation. The writer, a British Muslim, is the founding chairman of Quilliam, a London-based think tank that works to counter Islamist extremism. (Daily Beast)

How the New U.S. Administration Can Negate the Anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution - Eugene Kontorovich (Washington Post)

  • The U.S. decision to allow a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements to pass was met with bipartisan condemnation, including from leading players in efforts to achieve a two-state solution, such as Democrats Dennis Ross and George Mitchell.
  • The new U.S. administration cannot directly reverse the resolution, but the President and Congress can take action to negate its ideas, and to create a different reality from the one Resolution 2334 seeks to promote.
  • The U.S. must clearly declare that whatever the political merits of Israeli settlements, they do not violate international law. The Security Council's condemnation of any Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank is a unique rule invented for Israel. What is being demanded of Israel in its historical homeland has never been demanded of any other state, and never will be. Congress can pass legislation making clear that Israel does not violate international law by permitting Jews to live in territories under its control.
  • The U.S. should move its embassy to the location of the current U.S. Consular Section in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. This location is a few hundred meters over the imaginary line across which the UN says Jews may not go. Moving the embassy there would be the most tangible rejection of the resolution's "1967 lines" policy.
  • The U.S. must clarify that all its treaties or laws applicable to Israel apply fully to all areas under Israel's civil jurisdiction. For example, the President could immediately rescind Treasury regulations that require Israeli goods from the West Bank to be labeled "Made in West Bank," and instead direct that they be labeled "Made in Israel." Moreover, Congress should also pass anti-boycott legislation specifying that it applies to boycotts of territories under Israeli jurisdiction.

    The writer, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, is an expert on constitutional and international law.

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