Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israel: Hizballah Coup in Lebanon Could Oust UNIFIL - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
- November 30, 2006
Issue of the Week:
Israel Summer Programs
North and South - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Saudi Ultimatum to UK: Cancel Probe or Plane Contract Goes to France - Christopher Hope (Telegraph-UK)
U.S. Warns of Al-Qaeda Financial Cyber Attack - Kristin Roberts (Reuters)
Survey: Americans Like Canada, England, and Israel the Best (AP/Macleans-Canada)
Sniffer Bees Detect Explosives (Reuters/The Australian)
Woman Found Inspiration Doing Volunteer Work in Israel - Pilar Ulibarri De Rivera (Palm Beach Post)
Israel to Provide Vietnam with Farming Technology (Thanh Nien Daily-Vietnam)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Talks to form a Palestinian unity government are at a dead end, Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday, ensuring that the Bush administration's plan to start pushing hard for a Middle East peace initiative will stay in a deep freeze for now. Abbas gave his grim assessment about the state of talks between his Fatah faction and Hamas, the militant faction that controls the Palestinian government, after a one-hour meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jericho, in the West Bank.
American officials said they had hoped to use this trip to build on the fragile Gaza cease-fire reached Saturday between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and perhaps to start a Middle East peace initiative. That hope was bolstered Monday after Mr. Olmert offered to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier and said he was reaching out "for peace." But chances for a new initiative evaporated Wednesday after the Hamas leader, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, took off on a month-long trip to visit Arab allies, a clear indication that the unity talks between Hamas and Fatah had reached an impasse. (New York Times)
Hizballah and its political allies said Thursday that they intended to occupy the center of Beirut beginning Friday with a huge sit-in that they said would last as long as it took to force the Lebanese government to resign. The sit-in would be the most volatile escalation in what has turned into a political death match between the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian Hizballah and its adversaries, the pro-Western March 14 alliance, which leads the current government.
In a televised speech, Prime Minister Fouad Sinoria blamed Hizballah for dragging all of Lebanon into a war with Israel and for the "heavy price" the country paid. "I am going to stay in office and defend democracy and independence, and we will not be scared by their threats or terrorized by their threats," he said. (New York Times)
See also Lebanese Think the Unthinkable: Another Civil War - Megan K. Stack (Los Angeles Times)
Secretary of State Rice signaled Thursday that the U.S. is willing to risk a breach with Russia if the Russians do not soon sign on to a UN Security Council resolution to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. "I am all for maintaining unity, but I am also in favor of action," Rice said. (Washington Post)
See also Sunni Arab States Wary of Role for Iran
The so-called "moderate" Arab states are as reluctant as the White House to give Tehran and Damascus a larger role in resolving the Iraq conflict. Troubled by the rising influence and nuclear ambitions of Shia Iran in a largely Sunni Arab world, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are desperate to limit Tehran's power in Iraq. Arab officials say that giving Tehran and Damascus a greater role in containing Iraq's civil war risks further emboldening them. Riyadh, Cairo, and Amman also want to shore up the pro-Western Siniora government in Lebanon and derail Syrian-backed efforts by Hizballah to bring the government down. (Financial Times-UK)
The government has been set a high bar for conviction in the AIPAC secrets case - prosecutors must show the two lobbyists charged under espionage laws knew that the disclosure of the material they allegedly passed to reporters and Israeli officials would hurt the U.S. "The Court imposed the requirement that the government prove that the defendant knew the information...would harm the United States," Judge Thomas Ellis told a Nov. 16 pre-trial hearing, though prosecutors had asked that this requirement be lifted.
Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, said the prosecution had "radically expanded the practical scope of national security law." He said it had always been understood that government employees who leaked were in criminal jeopardy, but not the reporters - or in this case lobbyists - to whom they were leaking.
The case was originally expected to come to trial this year, but the date has been repeatedly deferred. Judge Ellis now says he will reserve time in May and June 2007 for a possible trial. (UPI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Friday morning, in violation of the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired 15 rockets at Israel since the cease-fire began Sunday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Israel has not responded to the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz/Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Secretary of State Rice came to Israel on Thursday, patted Prime Minister Olmert on the back, and left a few hours later without leaving much of a footprint. Rice praised Olmert for his "very positive speech" Monday, saying it represented "a hand reaching out to a Palestinian partner." Rice also praised Israel for its "statement of restraint" concerning the cease-fire, "because it is of course quite fragile, but we would like to see it consolidated and then extended." The main purpose of Rice's last-minute visit to Jerusalem, said a U.S. official, was to show support for the cease-fire and Olmert's speech. (Jerusalem Post)
France and the U.S. agree there is no point in talking to Syria because the conditions for an honest dialogue do not exist, French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday at a NATO summit in Latvia. (Ha'aretz)
According to a senior European diplomat, Prime Minister Olmert told EU ambassadors Tuesday, "We are not interested in establishing a multinational force UNIFIL-style to oversee the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Besides, if we allow such a force, you would [later] curse us." Olmert also warned of the possibility of a severe terrorist attack or rocket firing which could cause much harm and may bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire.
The diplomat also said the EU stood behind the three Quartet conditions which included recognizing Israel, renouncing terror, and acknowledging past agreements between Israel and Palestinians. "None of the European ambassadors present at the meeting with Olmert asked for flexibility of those conditions," he explained. (Ynet News)
See also Olmert: No Hizballah Prisoner Swap Unless Israeli Soldiers Are Alive
Israel will not free prisoners to Hizballah unless it proves that two Israeli soldiers it captured are alive, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told EU ambassadors this week. "We do not plan on giving Hizballah what they want in exchange for coffins," a participant quoted Olmert as saying. "We do not plan on making any deal with Hizballah until I receive proof the soldiers are alive." (Reuters)
Despite an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes issued by the Auckland District Court, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon remained in New Zealand on Friday after the local Justice Ministry canceled the warrant at the last minute. Ya'alon said, "I am fully aware of the intention to make a claim against me, but thankfully New Zealand is still one of the countries which enforces the law correctly and does not allow people who want to stir up public opinion, to use Western tools to attack people like us on democratic missions, as opposed to those on missions of terror." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Former Israeli ambassador to Iran Uri Lubrani, currently an advisor to the defense minister, says the second Lebanon war really drove him crazy. "Suddenly everyone was surprised at the depth of Iran's penetration of Lebanon. People started to talk in terms of 'Iran's northern command is right on the Israeli border.'" "For years, at every opportunity we warned that there was an Iranian danger. That it was greater and more profound than any other danger facing Israel. Even more than the Palestinian issue. We said that it should be handled first. Not only in Lebanon, but in Tehran as well. Because from Tehran they send out tentacles to Berlin, to Saudi Arabia, to Argentina."
"We have a big and important ally in Iran: the Iranian people....The question is what is necessary to make them take to the streets instead of succumbing to submissiveness and depression." "I believe that there's a popular basis for a change in Iran. The Iranians do not want to be a nation that has religion forced upon it....The Iranians have access to radio and television. They see what's going on in the world. There's a community of four million Iranian exiles and emigrants. There are family ties. Those who live abroad constitute an object for imitation and envy."
"There is a great deal of wealth there as a result of the royalties from oil and the increase in oil prices. On the other hand there is astonishing poverty. The economic situation of most of the nation is very bad. There is tremendous unemployment. There is inflation of over 20 percent. I feel that conditions are ripe for carrying out a regime change." "The United States has thus far spent $100 billion on Iraq; with a small fraction of this sum, the aim can be achieved." (Ha'aretz)
It would be a fatal mistake to walk away from an offer that would end the pariah status of the Haniya [Hamas] government and ultimately lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Unfortunately, it's a mistake Palestinian leaders have made before. (San Antonio Express-News)
Even by the standards of Palestinian terrorists, this ranks as a new low. Last week Hamas sent a grandmother as a suicide bomber to attack Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The good news is that she was unsuccessful: She didn't kill anyone except herself. And we suppose it's also good news that Hamas is so short of recruits that they must now resort to brainwashed grandmas - much as the Nazis conscripted young boys and old men in the waning days of the Second World War. The bad news is that there are Muslims on this earth who think Allah wants them to turn grandmothers into walking bombs. It seems the harder Israel and the rest of the world try to give the Palestinians their own country, the harder they try to prove that they don't deserve one. (National Post-Canada)
Why hasn't Egypt's ongoing involvement in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians helped in resolving the ongoing conflict? While Egypt is still the most important Arab country, it is not an oil power. Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, is a moderate man, a man of peace, who is trying to make something happen, but it won't work. Today we face a different Arab world where the radical forces have become stronger and they do not bend to normal political pressures.
The Egyptians want an orderly Gaza to guarantee stability in the region. They are as afraid of terrorists as we are, but they also do not know how to deal with people who don't care about human lives. The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
Abu Abdullah has almost finished assembling another rocket at a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hideout in Gaza's Khan Yunis refugee camp. His is merely one of a dozen or so armed groups that are operating in Gaza. Most, if not all, have rockets. According to the Israeli government, 640 rocket attacks have been launched from Gaza since July, with about 530 landing inside Israel. The Gaza militants say they've made big improvements, packing in more explosives and adding a second engine; some groups have begun upgrading to military-grade explosives, smuggled in from Egypt. And years of experience have sharpened their aim until they can count on striking within a quarter mile of a chosen target. (Newsweek)
The Fatah Party that dominated Palestinian political life for four decades under Yasser Arafat has sunken deeper into irrelevance since Islamic Hamas militants ousted it from power 10 months ago. Its leaders are ailing or well beyond retirement age, its rank-and-file are entangled in petty infighting, and its only hope for a comeback at the polls languishes in an Israeli jail. Its weaknesses have forced Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, to try to co-opt Hamas rather than break it. "Sadly, our historic movement is dying," said Mohammed Mansour, the party's Ramallah district leader, sitting in a deserted office with broken chairs and torn posters on the walls. "Apparently, our role is over."
Israel and the West see Fatah as the only Palestinian partner. But polls show Fatah would have a hard time winning if Abbas called early elections. Paradoxically, Abbas is seen as a key obstacle to change. His critics say that as Fatah chief, Abbas could have taken the first steps toward reform by calling a long-overdue party convention - the last one was 17 years ago - and by setting a date for internal elections. However, the 71-year-old Abbas does not have a strong power base in Fatah and an overhaul could further weaken his position. By leaving the old guard in power - the average age in Fatah's 16-member Central Committee is 67 - he can control the party more easily. (AP/Boston Herald)
Voting for student government at Gaza City's Al-Azhar University was proceeding smoothly on a recent fall morning until a pushing match erupted outside a polling booth. Kalashnikovs appeared seemingly from nowhere as gunmen stormed onto campus. Panicked students scrambled for shelter beneath bursts of automatic gunfire. Al-Azhar is a Fatah stronghold. Next door, the Islamic University is Hamas country. Dozens of windows at the Islamic University remain shattered from a recent battle sparked by an inflammatory speech by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus. Stones and fists soon turned to guns, and before the dust had settled, a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into an Al-Azhar classroom. (AFP/Yahoo)
The concept of land for peace has long been the reigning sentiment fuelling the push for consensus in the Middle East. Too bad it's a myth. Israel retreats and the Arabs smell weakness, ululating in joy as they dream of the eradication of the Jewish state. By now, the Palestinians should have been well on their way to statehood. It's been more than a year since Israel uprooted thousands of Jewish settlers and pulled out of Gaza. But when you elect terrorists whose priorities include murdering Israelis and kidnapping Westerners for kicks, it's hard to build a state, never mind lure tourist dollars.
Israelis live in hope that one day Palestinians will choose reconciliation and peacemaking over terror and hatred. Ordinary Palestinians, however, continue to embrace murderous pursuits, as exemplified by the recent decision of a 64-year-old grandmother to blow herself up near Israeli troops. If "innocent" Palestinians want peace, they should stop forming human shields to protect terrorists and destroy the rockets in their backyards instead. (Edmonton Sun-Canada)
The Energy Wall - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, 1Dec06)
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