Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Saddam Hussein's Hanging Seems Imminent - James Glanz (New York Times)
Israel Not to Free Palestinians Before Kidnapped Soldier's Release (Reuters)
Israel Launches Networked Border Data Base (UPI)
No Slowdown Yet for Israel's Property Boom - Neal Sandler (Business Week)
Two Vietnam Universities Send Students to Israel for Agricultural Training (Than Nien News-Vietnam)
Israel's Population: 76% Jewish, 20% Arab (Ynet News)
Nefesh B'Nefesh Brings 10,000th Immigrant to Israel - Sharon Roffe-Ofir (Ynetnews)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday he is open to "any murmur of peace" from Israel's enemies. "If our enemies genuinely want peace, they will find in us a fair partner, determined to establish relations of peace, friendship, and reciprocity," he said. (AP/Fox News)
Two Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq were senior members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods force and had coordinated attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NICR), said Thursday. The group has provided relatively accurate information on developments in Iran over the past several years. In Washington, a Pentagon official said Thursday that the two Iranians "are involved in the transfer of IED technologies from Iran to Iraq." IED stands for "improvised explosive devices" that are commonly used in attacks in Iraq. (AP/Washington Post)
Islamist fighters abandoned Mogadishu, the Somali capital, as thousands of troops of the transitional government and the Ethiopian infantrymen who have been backing them marched into the city on Thursday in a stunning reversal of fortune. In five days, the internationally recognized government, that was marooned in a provincial market town, captured the capital and most of Somalia - with more than a little help from Ethiopia. The Islamists, whom many Western nations had considered a grave and growing regional threat with terrorist connections, were vanquished or at least removed from power.
On Sunday, Ethiopia, with tacit approval from the U.S., carried out an aggressive counterattack against the Islamist forces after the Islamists had vowed to invade Somali-speaking areas of Ethiopia and wage a holy war against it. (New York Times)
The Charity Commission, Britain's charity watchdog, is investigating reports that Interpal, a British-based charity group which the U.S. calls a terrorist organization, is actually funneling funds to Hamas, the commission said Thursday. In 2003, the U.S. government named Interpal a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, freezing its assets in the U.S. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
First, Pakistan tried to fight the Taliban militia along its remote, craggy border with Afghanistan. Then it tried to make peace with them. This week, Pakistan announced a new solution to the problem on its western frontier: mines and fences along the Afghan border, designed to keep militants from crossing in and out of the tribal zone. (Christian Science Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The Israeli army is preparing for the possibility that Palestinian armed groups will improve the range of the rockets they fire from Gaza. The IDF is drafting plans to expand the protection zone to 20 km., three time wider than currently. The plan includes the fortification of schools and strategic sites at a cost of $332 million. About 50,000 residents live within the current 7 km. zone, and expansion to 20 km. will bring that number to 162,000, including residents of the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Netivot, and Ofakim. (Ynet News)
The Popular Resistance Committees on Thursday warned that arms transferred by Egypt to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement will reach its operatives who will use them against Israel. "In all the security services, including in the Presidential Guard, there are activists affiliated with all the Palestinian groups, including ours, and Hamas," said spokesperson Muhammad Abdel Al. "At least a third of the workforce in the security apparatuses are affiliated with resistance movements," he said. (Ynet News)
The number of trucks carrying export produce from Gaza has tripled in the past three months due to security and infrastructural improvements on the Palestinian side of the Karni crossing, a senior diplomatic official said Thursday. The official said the improvements were part of a plan initiated by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, Washington's security coordinator for the Palestinians. The international community has raised $6 million to make the crossing safer and more efficient. The official estimated it would take one more year to complete the project at a total cost of $20 million. Security on the Palestinian side of the crossing was taken over six weeks ago by forces of Abbas' Presidential Guard. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket from northern Gaza toward Israel on Friday morning that landed near Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli security system currently has six specific warnings and another 10 general alerts regarding plans to carry out terror attacks. Most of the plans originate in the northern West Bank. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Iran's official reaction to the modest but unanimous UN Security Council resolution is a defiant pledge to "accelerate" the nuclear program that has exposed it to UN sanctions. But that does not make the resolution unimportant. Ten months after being referred to the Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran is finally on the council's formal watchlist. That guarantees one thing: Iran's nuclear ambitions will be the focus of concentrated international attention throughout 2007, at last given a prominence commensurate with the dangers they present.
Iran has proved itself an energetic troublemaker, not only in Iraq but in Lebanon. Defiance will be costlier now. It is evident that the regime is even more dependent on oil revenues than the world is on Iranian oil - and Iran's oil industry, starved of foreign technology, is in trouble. (Times-UK)
Does anyone really think it is possible to reach a settlement with the Palestinians that will guarantee peace between us? How can one not see the rift among them, their inability to administer their own lives, Fatah's helplessness, Hamas' abysmal hatred, the murderousness of the popular resistance organizations, the destructive influence of radical Islam, the interference of Iran, and the belief - so deeply rooted in almost every Arab heart - that, sooner or later, Israel will disappear off the map?
Even if Israel agreed to withdraw to the 1967 borders (and it doesn't); even if Israel agreed to allow the refugees to return to Israel within the 1967 borders (and it doesn't); would Hamas ever recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist in the heart of the Muslim Middle East? True, anything is possible. But not in the foreseeable future. Not in this generation. And if not the Palestinians, then radical Islam will make sure there is no peace agreement with Israel. The writer is a former Israeli cabinet minister. (Jerusalem Post)
Historically, conflict in the Middle East was defined by the struggle between Israel and the Arab world. Today, a new conflict has emerged between pragmatic moderates and fanatical extremists. In this new conflict, Israel finds itself on the same side as the moderate Arab community. Both support the implementation of a two-state solution to resolve the ongoing issues surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Moderate Arabs also call for the renunciation of terrorism, and progression toward modernity and enlightenment.
On the other side of the divide stands an alliance of strong forces. Iran has proven to be a leader in promoting chaos and terrorism and exporting Islamic extremism throughout the Middle East. Syria cultivates an alliance of convenience with Iran in a desperate attempt to divert attention from its brutal machinations in Lebanon. Consequently, both Iran and Syria support Hizballah, Hamas, and other Palestinian terrorist organizations as proxies in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories.
In the wake of the war between Hizballah and Israel, moderates in the Arab and Muslim world are beginning to grasp the danger of supporting these extremists. In the Arab world, there is a discernible fear of fundamentalism in moderate regimes, including Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf, and the Maghreb states. These nations are wary of Iranian ambitions and the dangers of a destabilizing extremist alliance. The writer serves as consul general of Israel to New England. (Boston Globe)
Although Bashar Assad does not possess the same state-building skills as his father, the American quagmire in Iraq, Syria's strong ties to rising power Iran, and Damascus' support of Palestinian terrorist groups have all recently converged to offer Assad his first real opportunity to manipulate Middle Eastern affairs on a grand scale.
Syria still plays a dominant role in Palestinian politics. With Hamas leader Khaled Meshal ensconced in Damascus, Assad is a welcoming host, allowing his guest to be the main arbiter in the formation of any viable Palestinian government. Damascus - with its influence over Hamas and Hizballah - continues to be the key to the settlement of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors and the formation of a Palestinian state. The writer is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Baltimore Sun)
In responding forcefully to Hizballah's provocation in the summer of 2006, Israel not only restored much of its deterrent capability, but did so against a weapon of the Iranian and Syrian militaries. Israel acted only after exhausting a number of other options over the decades, including everything from all-out invasion and regime change to quiet diplomacy and open negotiations.
Israel's overall response was not disproportionate when considering the enemy Israel was fighting, the tactics Hizballah used, and the past unprovoked attacks that had been left unaddressed. Appeasement simply does not work when dealing with terrorist organizations. Hizballah is not interested in gaining a portion of land from Israel, but plans to continue fighting until "all" of "historic Palestine" is "liberated." The writer is a Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Studies at Harvard University. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Judean Desert was teeming with hikers who came to see the floods. "When you see the rain front reaching the Hebron and Jerusalem area, it's time to be on your way," says Ofer Ben Asher, of Tel Aviv, who has been going to the Judean Desert whenever there is a flood since 1991. "Floods are a thrill," says Ein Gedi Field School director Kitri Maoz. "On such a day the desert changes completely. If you go out to the desert today you're in for a treat," said Amir Balaban, the director of the bird watching station of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) in Jerusalem. "It's an hour from Jerusalem." The most popular spots were the large rivers crossing the Dead Sea road - Og, Dragot, Arugot, Hever, and Ze'elim. Also, one must not miss the waterfalls of Hatzatzon, Salvadora, and Kedem rivers. (Ha'aretz)
Israel's Options vs. Iran's Bomb - Joshua Brilliant (UPI)
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