Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israeli President Seeks Time Off as Criminal Case Considered - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
Shias Order Palestinians to Leave Iraq or "Prepare to Die" - Aqeel Hussein and Gethin Chamberlain (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
Four Hurt in Fatah-Hamas Clash in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Palestinian Street Named for Saddam Hussein Was Paved with USAID Money - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
1,100 Holy Land Maps Now on Internet (Jewish National and University Library)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has blamed Iran and Syria for organizing a general strike in Beirut that led to rioting and the deaths of at least three people. Siniora declared that Lebanon has "been paying the price of imposed decisions coming from outside countries, like Iran and Syria." He also criticized Hizbullah for starting last summer's war with Israel, which caused widespread damage to the south of Lebanon. He claimed the group did not "ask for our opinion" before launching rockets and mortars at the Jewish state, along with the killing and kidnap of Israeli soldiers. (Times-UK)
It would be hard to imagine a less promising moment for the U.S. to restart serious Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. Six years after the last such talks, the Palestinian government is controlled by Hamas, which preaches Israel's destruction. Yet the Bush administration is holding a meeting on Feb. 2 of the Quartet, to be followed by "informal talks" between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with help from Secretary of State Rice, about the shape of a final peace treaty and the nature of a Palestinian state beside Israel.
The Americans are responding to pleas for re-engagement from the EU, Mahmoud Abbas, and moderate Arab nations. But expectations are purposely low. With the Israelis battered by the war in Lebanon, rockets coming from Gaza, and a Palestinian power struggle, few Israelis would support large new withdrawals from the West Bank when Abbas cannot control Palestinian militants and the PA is run by Hamas. (New York Times)
Palestinian newspaper editors and local figures in Gaza City expressed their disillusionment with Hamas this week to Ismail Haniyeh, who was elected as Palestinian prime minister one year ago. Ali Badwan, a Palestinian economist in Gaza, said, "For me, after one year they have failed and they have to change and eliminate the mistakes they made before. They don't recognize the change from being a resistance movement to being in power...and having to deal with the international community." (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday: "Today, there is not one among us who does not sense the dangers inherent in [the Iranian] threat, not only to Israel, but also to the future of the region and to the stability of the world order. Every Israeli government over the past decade acted vigorously to improve our ability to track Iran's intentions, increase international awareness of the threat, mobilize international support to stop external assistance of the Iranian plans and prepare appropriate options in the event that these efforts prove unsuccessful in the end."
"It is clear to everyone that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue is the preferred solution....Those who believe, as we do, that a diplomatic solution is preferable, must now muster their strength to exert pressure on Iran and thus stay the course until change is achieved....Our desire for peace should not be interpreted as weakness, but rather as a source of strength. Anyone who threatens us, who threatens our existence, must know that we have the determination and capability of defending ourselves, responding with force, discretion and with all the means at our disposal as necessary. We will not place the lives of our people, the life of our country, at risk....We have the right to full freedom of action to act in defense of our vital interests. We will not hesitate to use it." (Prime Minister's Office)
A number of Christian families have described Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in Bethlehem after increased attacks over the past few months. Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based Shepherd TV station, said he has documented more than 160 attacks on Christians in recent years. He said thieves have targeted the homes of many Christian families and a "land mafia" has seized vast areas of land belonging to Christians.
One Christian businessman said the conditions of Christians in Bethlehem had deteriorated ever since the area was handed over to the PA in 1995. "People are running away because the Palestinian government isn't doing anything to protect them and their property against Muslim thugs. Of course not all the Muslims are responsible, but there is a general feeling that Christians have become easy prey." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society - Justus Reid Weiner (JCPA) (1.4M pdf file)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Financial Times (Editorial, Jan. 22) correctly points out that "Israel has been sorely tested in the six decades since its foundation," but mistakenly blames Israel alone for the apparent lack of progress towards achieving a durable peace. The fundamental challenge Israelis continue to face is the adamant refusal of most Arab countries to recognize their country and negotiate peace agreements as did Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Israel's consistent quest for peace and security has often been met by a dispiriting Arab response.
For its complete transfer of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, Israel was rewarded with the continuation of deadly rocket attacks on Sderot and other communities in Israel, as well as the election of Hamas, which has steadfastly blocked Mahmoud Abbas from pursuing peace negotiations. Similarly, Israel's complete withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 was rewarded with Hizbullah's massive arms build-up. On the day the two Israeli soldiers were captured by Hizbullah inside Israel, which triggered last summer's war, the terror group also began shelling Israel's north.
While Israel has regularly extended its hands for peace, it has continually met the iron fists of Palestinian terror groups, and their patron in Tehran. That reality is the central lesson for all who truly desire peace in the Middle East. The writer is president of the American Jewish Committee. (Financial Times-UK)
So confident is Ahmadinejad that the U.S. has become a toothless tiger that he has ordered a series of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to test the Americans. In Afghanistan, the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces are Iran-based, has moved onto the offensive against British forces in several places. At least two pro-Taliban warlords, Mullah Jalaleddin and Haji Akbar, have visited the Iranian city of Mashhad to coordinate future tactics against NATO forces with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Tehran has also ordered the Mahdi Army militia, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, to disperse its forces throughout central and southern Iraq, partly to escape the expected U.S. attack on their stronghold in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, but also to prepare new positions for anti-U.S. operations. Tehran has also speeded up arms deliveries to its clients in Lebanon. (New York Post)
Taking the Offensive on Iran - David L. Grange and Ilan Berman (Chicago Tribune)
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