Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Islamic Conference Calls for Muslims to Buy Influence in Media (Reuters)
Amnesty: Hizballah Rocket Attacks on Israel a "War Crime" - (Amnesty International)
Defense News: Saudi Defense Budget Is Double Israel's - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
Cartoons Mocking Holocaust Prove a Flop with Iranians - Angus McDowall (Independent-UK)
Costa Rica, Egypt Resume Diplomatic Ties (People's Daily-China)
31% of Canadians Blame Israel for 9/11 - Janice Arnold (Canadian Jewish News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reacted skeptically Wednesday to a proposed unity Palestinian government that would include Hamas, saying the militant group must first renounce terrorism and accept Israel's right to exist before restrictions on international aid can be lifted. Rice said, "It's hard to have a partner for peace if you don't accept the right of the other partner to exist. It goes without saying that it's hard to have a process for peace if you do not renounce violence." (Washington Post)
See also Rice: Release Israeli Soldiers "Unconditionally"
Secretary of State Rice said Wednesday: "The United States continues to call for the unconditional and immediate release of the Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territory and the Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon. We pray for their safety and for their well being. But the international community has made very clear that they should be released and released unconditionally." (State Department)
Iran, Syria, North Korea, and more than 100 other nations are pushing to broaden the world's definition of "terrorism" to include the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Converging on Fidel Castro's communist Cuba for a summit this week, members of the Nonaligned Movement complain that powerful nations like the U.S. and Israel decide for the world who the terrorists are. A draft of the group's joint declaration condemns "the use of the term 'axis of evil' by a certain state to target other states under the pretext of combating terrorism."
The draft declaration condemns Israel's invasion of Lebanon, with no balancing comments about Hizballah's missile attacks on Israel, hails the Lebanese people's "heroic resistance to the Israeli aggression," and demands that Israel compensate the Lebanese government. (AP/Forbes)
The German cabinet agreed Wednesday to send 2,400 air and naval troops to join the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Germany is to command naval forces patrolling the Lebanese coast, after negotiating a mandate that allows its ships to control the whole of Lebanon's waters. The navy is charged with preventing arms from being smuggled by sea to Hizballah. Two frigates, four fast patrol boats, two supply ships, one tender, and two helicopters will be deployed in cooperation with naval forces sent by the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. (International Herald Tribune)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The Hamas-Fatah agreement to form a national unity government is not enough for the Europeans to begin channeling money back into the Palestinian Authority, a senior European diplomat said Wednesday, a day before the EU's foreign ministers are to meet in Brussels to discuss the issue. The European official characterized the PA unity government as "a gesture in the right direction. It is an acknowledgement that there is a problem, but it is not a true step. It is hot air and mirrors."
The official said that all the agreement really indicated was that Hamas "is now pretty desperate to get the money flowing from European countries. Some European countries are said to have told the Palestinians that if they go to a unity government the money will start up again, but I don't think that is true." He said he did not feel the EU would alter its policy toward the PA unless there was a "formal commitment and proof on the ground that they will stop all violence, stop brandishing weapons, stop talking about suicide bombings, stop exalting the 72 maidens waiting for the 'martyrs.'" (Jerusalem Post)
See also Europe Seen Easing, Not Ending Palestinian Embargo - Adam Entous
European states are willing to begin loosening an embargo of the Hamas-led Palestinian government if a new unity administration takes steps toward meeting international demands, diplomats said on Wednesday. But the new government would need to be far more explicit in renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, and abiding by interim peace deals if it hoped to restore full diplomatic and economic ties with Europe. The diplomats cast doubt on prospects for a quick resumption in direct aid to the PA. (Reuters)
Hizballah leader Nasrallah said in an interview aired Wednesday on al-Jazeera: "There is no area south of the Litani [River] which is demilitarized. The resistance is there....We did not leave that area, as we are residents of the villages along the border. We are along the border. We have indeed cancelled our exposed points, but no one can prevent us from remaining on our lands." (Ynet News)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into the town of Sderot Thursday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
A cursory perusal of the Arab press reveals that Hizballah's status in Lebanon has changed for the worse, as many Lebanese come to the realization that the south of their country had been transformed into an Iranian and Syrian launching pad against Israel posing an existential threat to their own country. Hizballah is now on the defensive, trying to protect its political assets against a more assertive Lebanese domestic majority that seems more determined than ever to contain Hizballah's "state within a state" so that they are not drawn again into a destructive war with Israel without a word of consultation. Many in Lebanon, especially non-Shi'ites, but also some important Shi'ite spokespersons, are calling for an end to the armed phase of Hizballah's development and its integration into the Lebanese political system. In other words, they are demanding the disarming of Hizballah.
Nasrallah now has to contend with his newly constructed image as the destroyer of Lebanon rather than its protector. The writer is director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Pride in Hizballah Fades as More Lebanese Question War's Toll - Daniel Williams
Pride among Lebanese in surviving the war with Israel has given way to questioning why it all happened, with measures of blame heaped on Hizballah, the Shiite Muslim militia that triggered the conflict. "Do I have to pay for someone else's adventure?'' asked Abdel Rahman Soubri, 52, a Sunni Muslim construction worker in Haret Hreik, a heavily bombed, mostly Shiite district of Beirut. "Doesn't Hizballah ever get tired of shooting?'' Such views among the Lebanese public are calling into question Hizballah's future place in Lebanon's political landscape. (Bloomberg)
Anwar Sadat began his rule by reopening the doors to the Muslim Brotherhood and other off-shoots of Islamic groups. He then initiated what one could term "the Great Islamic Transformation" of Egypt. The first step was to stipulate in a new constitution, promulgated in 1971 (long before Khomeini), that the principles of Islamic Sharia were "a main source" of legislation. In May 1981, the "a" was replaced with "the," making Sharia the term of reference for the entire constitution and providing the legal, political, and psychological basis for the Islamic transformation.
This transformation has paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the rule in a perfectly natural and even "democratic" fashion. That the Islamists only won a fifth of the Assembly's seats can be misleading; they fielded candidates in no more than a third of the total constituencies. In fully-open, fair, and free elections in the future, the Brotherhood would be bound to sweep the vote. (MERIA Journal-Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya)
U.S.: Embargo on Weapons to Hizballah a Top Priority (State Department)
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday:
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