Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
IDF: New Palestinian Rockets Could Reach North of Ashkelon - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Sunni Muslims Fear "Shiite Bomb" - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
Al-Qaeda Member Killed in Jordan (Jordan Times)
The Iranian Thought Police - Nir Boms and Niv Lilian (Omedia.com)
Royal Intrigue, Unpaid Bills Preceded Saudi Ambassador's Exit - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush is scheduled to unveil his new strategy for the war in Iraq Wednesday night in a televised address to the nation. The president is expected to call for an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops to quell the violence in Baghdad. He is also expected to propose renewed American diplomacy in the Middle East. (VOA News)
The U.S. on Tuesday barred American financial institutions from doing business with Bank Sepah, a major Iranian bank, after concluding that it had been involved in illicit weapons programs. Last year, the U.S. took similar action against Bank Saderat. "Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network, and has actively assisted Iran's pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Levey also said the U.S. had been in touch with Britain, France, Italy, and Germany to discuss the need to stop doing business with Bank Sepah. (New York Times)
Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff called an Indonesian draft UN statement on the Middle East Tuesday "an unbalanced snapshot of the situation." "We have Israelis retaliating to terrorist attacks. We've got a security vacuum as a result of the military conflict between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian territories....The Israelis have every right to defend their citizens, and so without some sense of context or reference, this sort of one-sided statement does not contribute to the effort to promote peace and security and stability in the region. On the contrary, it makes people think that the United Nations can't view this issue objectively." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Hizbullah and its allies widened their campaign Tuesday to force the Lebanese government's resignation, backing what they vowed would be a series of daily protests scattered across the capital. So far, the government has refused to resign. But by paralyzing the government, Hizbullah has stanched what it saw as growing U.S. influence, and delayed the convening of an international court to try suspects in the 2005 slaying of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, an assassination that government supporters blame on Syria. (Washington Post)
Israel opened a new passage for goods in the northeastern West Bank Tuesday morning, as part of promised goodwill gestures, the Israeli military announced. The newly-built passage allows direct transportation of agricultural produce from the Jordan Valley to northern Israel, said a military spokesman, Captain Zidki Maman. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday: "Between several dozen and several hundred al-Qaeda activists have arrived in Lebanon from Iraq and Pakistan, in accordance with instructions from the group's leadership to deploy in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt in order to carry out terror attacks." He added that the targets could be UNIFIL and other Western interests. He said a small number of al-Qaeda operatives had infiltrated Gaza, and a few have been found in Nablus in the West Bank.
According to Yadlin, Hizbullah has not left southern Lebanon and arms transfers from Syria are continuing apace, It is currently focused on rehabilitating its strength with the help of large quantities of arms from Iran.
Yadlin said Hamas' financial situation is improving, along with its standing in relation to Fatah, adding that Hamas members have received training in Syria and Iran. He said Fatah incurred most of the casualties during the recent Palestinian clashes in Gaza, but Fatah remains the main power broker in the West Bank. Yadlin said 77 Palestinian suicide bombers were arrested in 2006, 45 of whom were en route to an attack. Terrorists fired 1,200 Kassam rockets at Israel in 2006, 700 of which hit populated areas. (Ha'aretz)
In the midst of a bloody civil war in Gaza, and persistent threats against him by Hamas, Mohammed Dahlan was all smiles and jokes - and curses - perfectly coiffed, stylishly suited. Few today doubt the identity of the strongest man in Fatah - and Abbas' heir apparent. On Sunday he headed the biggest rally in the history of Fatah in Gaza, where he taunted Hamas: "Please, shoot me." Dahlan says the Palestinian security organizations are at the height of a process of change: retiring officers over 60, uniting the forces into three branches: national security (the army), internal security (police), and preventive security (intelligence). With the backing of Abbas, the young commanders previously sidelined by the older leadership have been appointed as grassroots leaders.
Q: How will the war [with Hamas] end?
Dahlan: "It is not a war. It is an attack by Hamas on Fatah....In the end we will have to go forward together. But to do this we must make sure Fatah is strong enough. And the rally, from my point of view, was just the beginning. We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs."
Q: What would you expect from Israel? How should it help?
Dahlan: "Stay away from us. You don't help, you only do damage. Every time somebody on your side talks about 'helping Abbas,' they hurt him....At the moment, I am interested only in rehabilitating Fatah." (Ha'aretz)
See also Hamas Threatens Fatah Strongman It Brands an Agent of Israel - Ben Lynfield
Hamas implied Monday that Fatah's strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, is a collaborator with Israel and also accused him of being a stooge of the U.S. (Scotsman-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Saddam Hussein's execution was a fitting finale for an aging despot who once dispatched tens of thousands of people in a like manner. Much offense was taken from the fact that in his final moments he had to endure the insults of onlookers. As fate would have it, those Shiites for whom Saddam had displayed such contempt were the ones dropping him into the pit. There was also much commotion about the fact that Saddam was hanged on the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha. But the criticism missed the point. For a man who had ordered the bombing or plundering of myriad holy sites, whose intelligence services had murdered thousands of prisoners in their cells just to make more room for new ones, whose soldiers had slaughtered with unflinching barbarism hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, the hangman's rope was almost too polite a way to go. What justified the reaction of so many Arabs outside Iraq, who could never work up indignation over the regime's crimes, yet now stand in condemnation of Saddam's hanging? (Daily Star-Lebanon)
See also Measure for Measure - Fouad Ajami
We have been asking the Iraqis to claim responsibility for their country. On that morning in Baghdad, three years after he had been flushed out of his spider hole, Saddam Hussein came face to face with the wrath and hurt he had bequeathed Iraqis. Those vengeful men taunting him as he fell through the gallows' trapdoor were in the most direct way the children of his cruel reign of terror. (U.S. News)
See also Aftermath of a Hanging - Nibras Kazimi
If you wanted Saddam executed, then all you took from the spectacle was the end result: Saddam is no more. If you didn't want Saddam executed or were conceptually against the death penalty, then you nitpicked every detail and decried what happened. Saddam's mortal remains were respected and returned to his clan, who promptly turned his grave into a shrine. Back in Saddam's era, should you be a lucky family to get the corpse of a loved one back after an execution, you would have received a bill from the regime for the price of the bullets used. (New York Sun)
Prior to his official visit to China, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told Xinhua press agency, "I have a spiritual connection to China. China is the country which hosted my parents. They studied in China, they grew up in China and they spoke Chinese....The Chinese culture is part of my upbringing and my memories as a young boy in Israel. China is not just another country for me." Olmert's grandfather is buried in Harbin. Olmert visited the grave in 2004 as the Minister of Trade and Industry, but said he won't have time during this visit. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
See also China Renovates Jewish Cemetery Ahead of Israeli PM Visit - Mu Xuequan
China has spent $385,000 dollars repairing the Jewish cemetery in the city of Harbin in northeast China, ahead of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is a son of a former Jewish resident of China. Olmert's grandparents moved to Harbin from Russia to flee persecution in the late 19th century. The number of Jewish people living in Harbin topped 25,000 in the 1920s. (Xinhua-China)
The Connection Between Elections and Militias - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)
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