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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,
March 8, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

What Is Israel Doing about the Gaza Tunnels? - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Since the 2014 Gaza war, fighting inside, above and at the entrance to tunnels has taken center stage in the IDF.
    In reaction to the tunnel threat, Israel is constructing an underground wall dozens of meters deep, to be completed in about a year and a half.
    IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has stressed that the army must be prepared for a conflict breaking out on any of the fronts, particularly on the Gaza front.
    In January, the Southern Command conducted a drill to test preparedness for a surprise attack by Hamas, with an emphasis put on its special forces (Nukhba) infiltrating Israel through the tunnels.
    On Feb. 27, after Hamas failed to stop the firing of a rocket at Israel, the Air Force hit two infrastructure targets vital for Hamas in Gaza.
    It may have surprised the terror group that Israel knows about these projects in which it had invested hundreds of millions of shekels and years of work.
    See also Hamas' Tunnel Network: A Massacre in the Making - Daniel Rubenstein (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Jordan's Fight Against ISIS - Ben Lynfield (Jerusalem Post)
    In its fight against Islamic State, Jordan last week executed 15 people by hanging. Ten of the executed had been convicted of terrorism charges. Another five had been convicted on murder charges.
    Jordan's aim is to project power and deterrence against ISIS, which Jordanians associate with the group's burning alive of captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh in 2015.
    Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at Haifa University, said, "It is psychologically important for the Jordanian public to show they are fighting back and it's very important for Jordan, on the inter-Arab front of moderate Sunni countries, to show it is fighting with them and that it is determined and capable of punishing its enemies."
    "The regime has many people who would support it but are not certain that it is really here to stay, that it is strong and viable, so this kind of activity is helpful to it from that point of view."

First Rocket Launch from Unmanned IDF Navy Vessel - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The Israeli Navy has successfully completed two years of trials of the Sea Knight made by Rafael - an unmanned vessel that can be controlled from shore or from a ship at sea.
    The trials included the first time a remotely controlled, unmanned, operational vessel has fired missiles.
    The Sea Knight can patrol for 12 hours straight and reach a speed of up to 40 knots (74 kph-46 mph).
    The vessel has remotely controlled machine guns as well as water cannon against rioters approaching on boats.
    "We will establish a very powerful unit of Sea Knights," a naval officer said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • As More Jewish Facilities Get Threats, All 100 Senators Ask Trump Administration for "Swift Action" - Mark Berman
    A new wave of bomb threats were made Monday and Tuesday to Jewish schools and institutions, including the New York and Washington offices of the Anti-Defamation League. A letter signed by every U.S. senator was sent to top law enforcement officials in the Trump administration, asking them to do more in response to the threats.
        "We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish day schools, synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country," the senators wrote. (Washington Post)
        See also Two Jewish Community Centers in Ontario Evacuated after Receiving Robo-Called Bomb Threats - Ashley Csanady (National Post-Canada)
  • U.S., Russian and Turkish Generals Meet on Friendly-Fire Deaths in Syria - Margaret Coker, Nathan Hodge and Gordon Lubold
    U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov and Turkish Gen. Hulusi Akar in Antalya, Turkey, on Tuesday to improve communications after a number of deaths in what were deemed friendly-fire incidents. The meeting took place a week after a Russian airstrike near Manbij hit Syrian forces being trained by the U.S.  Last month, a Russian airstrike killed three Turkish soldiers near al-Bab. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Syrian Government Forces Take Over Positions from U.S.-Backed Militia in Northern Syria
    Syrian government forces have taken over positions from a U.S.-backed militia in the northern city of Manbij in line with a deal brokered by Russia. (Reuters)
  • Iran Is Expanding Its Reach - Donna Abu-Nasr
    In Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north, Iran is successfully building enclaves of fervent support way beyond the Middle East, an example that Iran wields growing influence in unexpected places. "Iran is on its own crusade, its own global war, believing that the U.S. is out to get it," said Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. "They're building networks, under religious slogans, that they can use in any fight."
        Saudi cables released in 2015 by WikiLeaks reveal concern about Iran-driven Shiite expansion from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria in West Africa to India and China in Asia. For the Iranians, it's about gaining an advantage anywhere in the world that can be used now or in the future, said Salem. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Internationally, Israel Is Being Sought After - Udi Shaham
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday that both diplomatically and militarily, Israel is strong and only getting stronger. "Three weeks ago I met with U.S. President Donald Trump," he said. "Tomorrow I will arrive in Moscow to meet [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, in about 10 days I am scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi [Jinping] after receiving an invitation from him, and in several months Indian President [Narendra] Modi will come here to visit. The biggest world powers are tightening their ties with us - and they are not the only ones....Israel is being sought after, it is a wanted country."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis Meets Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman in Washington
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was hosted at the Pentagon on Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Israeli officials described the meeting as "warm and friendly." The two discussed strategic Middle East issues, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon and more. Lieberman said, "We need an active America in our region." He also voiced Israel's concern over the line being taken by the Lebanese president and the involvement of the Lebanese army in Hizbullah's efforts. (i24news)
  • Israeli Stabbed by Palestinian Hitchhiker - Elisha Ben Kimon
    A Jewish man, 40, from Beitar Illit who had taken his car to get serviced at a garage in al-Walaja, near Jerusalem, picked up a Palestinian hitchhiker who later stabbed him in the shoulder with a knife. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Growing Impact of Women in the IDF - Lt. Col. Oshrat Bachar
    On International Women's Day, on March 8, we should celebrate the growing presence of women in critical positions in the Israel Defense Forces where they serve their country and fulfill their duties equally with men. During my military service, I have maintained my femininity and have never attempted to emulate the men beside me, but instead have remained who I am - a woman and a fighter. It is pivotal for a woman to maintain her character wherever she goes in the IDF because, in the end, it is character and not gender that constitutes the deciding factor.
        The demand for combat positions among female recruits is tremendous. These days, the IDF is opening a fourth mixed-gender combat battalion, joining Caracal, Arayot Hayarden, and Bardelas. There is also a growing number of women in the mixed Homefront Command battalions patrolling in Judea and Samaria, in the Oketz K-9 special forces unit, and in the Air Defense Command. The writer is the deputy women's affairs adviser to the IDF chief of staff. (Israel Hayom)
        See also IDF Women Protecting Their Families and the Citizens of Israel - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel's Women Combat Soldiers on Frontline of Battle for Equality - Yuval Ben-David (Reuters)
  • Does Feminism Have Room for Zionists? - Emily Shire
    I identify as a Zionist because I support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Increasingly, I worry that my support for Israel will bar me from the feminist movement that has come to insist that feminism is connected to a wide variety of political causes. This insistence can alienate feminists, like myself, who don't support all the causes others believe should be part of feminism.
        I am troubled by the portion of the International Women's Strike platform that calls for a "decolonization of Palestine" as part of "the beating heart of this new feminist movement." The platform also states: "We want to dismantle all walls, from prison walls to border walls, from Mexico to Palestine." Implying that mass incarceration is analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simplistic at best. But why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?
        One of the organizers behind the March 8 International Women's Strike is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, convicted for her involvement in a 1969 bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students and an attempted bombing of the British consulate. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, categorized as a terrorist organization by the State Department. (New York Times)

The Boycott of Israel Nobody Is Talking About - Scott Shay (New York Jewish Week)

  • Jewish foundations and federations unintentionally boycott investments in Israel. Jewish endowments actually invest more in Qatar, a primary funder of Hamas, than in Israel.
  • Endowments seek to maximize income in order to maximize grants. Granting philosophy should be wholly separate from investment policy, they say. Based on this approach, Jewish endowments rely on the advice of investment consultants alone. When a consultant is asked to evaluate an Israel investment opportunity specifically, they almost always find a reason to say no.
  • Generally, this is not a case of malice. Rather, it is because considering Israel requires time and money, Israel is perceived as controversial and no Jewish endowment is insisting. As a result, the typical Jewish endowment invests four times more in places such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
  • The irony is that Israel is often a better investment choice than many of the countries that enjoy greater representation in the indexes whose funds consultants usually recommend as part of any endowment portfolio. Israel has had superior performance during and after the worldwide financial crisis compared to most countries.
  • The problem can be fixed. Jewish endowments should invest according to Jewish values. This doesn't mean accepting lower returns; studies have indicated that in some cases socially conscious investing provides superior returns, but in any event does not need to lead to lower returns.
  • There are about $90 billion in endowment funds in Jewish organizations across the U.S.  No more than a handful have taken any meaningful action to align their values with their investments. Jewish endowments should insist that consultants agree as part of their contract to review Israel-related investments.

    The writer, co-founder and executive chairman of Signature Bank, is also chairman of the investment committee of the Elah Fund, a private equity fund that invests in Israel.

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