Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Live Webcam: The Excavation at the Mughrabi Ramp in Jerusalem (Israel Antiquities Authority)
See also Q and A with Archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar on the Mughrabi Ramp Dispute (Jerusalem Post)
- February 15, 2007
Issue of the Week:
The Kibbutz Movement Today
U.S.-Funded Palestinian University Holds
Anti-American Symposium - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
The Eilat Suicide Bombing: It's Iran, Again - Eran Lerman (Omedia)
More Palestinians Entering Israel on Health Grounds (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs/Reuters)
Containing the Spillover from an Iraqi Civil War - Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack (Saban Center for Middle East Policy/Brookings Institution)
Blood Feud - Zvika Krieger (New Republic)
Walls Are Going Up All Over the World - Gwynne Dyer (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Film Review: Close to Home - Kam Williams (News Blaze)
Smooth Sips from Israel - Julie Cope Saetre (Indianapolis Star)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas complicates her peace mission this weekend, strongly suggesting that the new government falls short of standards that would allow a resumption of international aid. "Our position toward the Hamas government was very clear: It did not meet the international test," Rice said. "I have to say that we have not yet seen any evidence that this one will." Abbas' deal with his Hamas rivals has placed the U.S. in a quandary because, under Rice's formulation, he is a "mainstream" leader, while Hamas is an "extremist" group that needs to be isolated.
After a weekend of meeting separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials, Rice intends to bring together Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday for a lengthy series of talks on the contours of a Palestinian state. Rice's hope is that the "political horizon" will provide a vision for a Palestinian state that will inspire the Palestinians, strengthen Abbas, and reduce the influence of anti-Israeli militants such as Hamas. (Washington Post)
See also Rice Faces Uphill Battle for Mideast Breakthrough - Helene Cooper
Bush administration officials, publicly lukewarm about the national unity government agreement, were angry with Abbas, saying the pact brings him closer to Hamas instead of bringing Hamas closer to Abbas. While Rice was angry about the Mecca deal, she said that she would nonetheless go ahead with the planned summit, but has warned Abbas that the U.S. would deal only with Palestinian government ministers who explicitly agreed to the three conditions: to recognize the right of Israel to exist, forswear violence, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian accords. So what was supposed to be a summit that shored up Abbas in the eyes of the Palestinian people by discussing a future Palestinian state may now downgrade to one in which Abbas spends his time trying to defend the Mecca deal and convince the U.S. and Israel that he has not sold out to Hamas. (New York Times)
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has agreed to a five-year extension of joint testing and upgrades of the U.S.-Israel Arrow system after a Feb. 11 test, conducted at night over the Mediterranean Sea, featured the debut launch of the Arrow M-4 interceptor jointly produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Boeing, its American partner. The upgraded defensive system demonstrated its ability to intercept targets at higher altitudes and longer ranges, so that fallout from mass destructive warheads would remain far away from Israeli territory, Israeli officials said. "We widened the defensive envelope," said Uri Sinai, manager of the IAI division which designed and produces the Arrow interceptor. (Defense News)
Japan's Cabinet on Friday approved sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program under UN Security Council guidelines. The measures include a ban on supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. "It is necessary to take a firm response in consideration of the maintenance of the nonproliferation regime," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki. (AP/Newsday)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The U.S. will boycott all Palestinian unity government ministers, including non-Hamas members, unless international demands on policy towards Israel are met, Palestinian officials and diplomats said on Thursday. A senior Palestinian official said: "The Americans have informed us that they will be boycotting the new government headed by Hamas. The Fatah and independent ministers will be treated the same way that Hamas ministers are treated." Abbas received word of the new U.S. position in a phone call from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch on Wednesday, Abbas' aides said. The U.S. government would still maintain ties with Abbas and his office, the aides added.
During their meeting in Amman earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin also told Abbas that despite Russian statements supporting the Mecca agreement, Moscow would only cooperate with the new government if it accepts the Quartet's demands. (Ha'aretz)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Thursday to let a Turkish delegation inspect excavations at the Mughrabi Gate, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday after a meeting between the two in Ankara. Israel's Ambassador to Turkey Pinhas Avivi said the team would be made up of officials from the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv. Olmert said that anyone who wanted to come look at the work taking place at the site was invited to do so, and that Israel had "nothing to hide." "As a modern Muslim country, Turkey can play a role building ties between Israel and Muslim countries that do not have relations with Israel," Olmert added. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired three rockets at Israel's western Negev region Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Many, including Secretary of State Rice, see Saudi, Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders as sharing a perception of Iran as a threat. With such common fears, the thinking goes, the leaders should be willing to accept the necessary hard compromises and end the Palestinian conflict so Iran can no longer exploit the conflict to build its following and put the region's moderates on the defensive.
The assessment of the common threat perception is correct. But basing policy only on this misses an important regional reality. Priorities differ on how best to respond to the Iranian threat. For the Saudis, weaning Hamas away from Iran and producing intra-Palestinian peace is more important than trying to forge peace between Palestinians and Israelis. For the Israelis, however, an intra-Palestinian peace that entails accommodating Hamas (and that does not require Hamas to change its hostile posture toward Israel) is hardly a basis for reaching out to Palestinians in a way that would satisfy the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians.
Is Israel likely to contemplate excruciating concessions on Jerusalem or territory with a Palestinian government led in part by those who refuse to acknowledge its existence or renounce terrorism? The political options available for peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians have been reduced. And Rice's efforts have to be guided by what is possible, not by what is most desirable. (Washington Post)
The Mecca accord is a victory for Hamas, which has achieved its goal of forming a unity government without agreeing to the conditions imposed by the Quartet - namely, no recognition of Israel, no disavowal of violence and no commitment to agree to past written agreements. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Abbas has legitimized an unrepentant Hamas. Secretary Rice's political horizon initiative was being done in no small measure in order to bolster Abbas at Hamas' expense. People who felt there was a logic to bolstering Abbas against Hamas' growing strength, and therefore supported the security mission of Gen. Keith Dayton and $86 million in non-lethal military assistance, must now wonder if the new Palestinian coalition alignment could lead to a very different outcome. The Mecca experience suggests that not everyone is on the same page. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
If Hamas has one supreme objective, it is to mutate the essentially ethno-political Palestinian national struggle into a fundamentally religious conflict. Accomplishing this goal entails transforming Palestinian society - a relatively secular culture, compared to other Muslim societies in the Arab world - into one that is religiously zealous and politically extreme. Such a project of radicalization is the goal of all violent Islamist groups, from al-Qaeda to Egyptian Islamic Jihad. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
For nearly 60 years, outside parties have decided what is good for the Palestinian Arabs based on what is good for those parties' interests. Saddam wanted suicide martyrs - as does Iran - to bug Israel. Should Iran and Iraq ever reach some mutually satisfying status quo with Israel, funds and training for these Palestinian Arab martyrs will dry up in a hurry. Saudi Arabia wants little Palestinian Arab Wahhabi jihadists running around and Saudi-style Islam spreading out in Gaza and the West Bank.
In the midst of it all, disoriented Palestinian Arabs keep hoping for a leadership that is courageous and purposeful enough to chart its own course. It won't happen. What kind of leadership can be expected from a prime minister who says, "We are not seekers of office but seekers of martyrdom?" This is what the so-called Hamas government prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, is fond of repeating.
The only common denominators between all figures of authority among Palestinian Arabs have been mediocrity and dishonesty. For those reasons and more, the latest agreement to calm Palestinian Arab internecine conflict will not end the Palestinian Arab conundrum. It is only a matter of time before Iran stirs its operatives in Hamas to disrupt the accord - if only to upset Saudi Arabia. (New York Sun)
The wonder is not that the Palestinian Authority seethes with violence and instability; there are other places too where bloodshed is the daily fare. The wonder is not that the Palestinians, who receive copious amounts of international aid - more than $1.2 billion last year from Western governments alone - channel so much of their resources into weapons and warfare. The wonder is that so many voices still push for a Palestinian state.
But has any population ever been less suited for statehood than the Palestinians? From the terrorists they choose as leaders to the jihad promoted in their schools, their culture is drenched in violence and hatred. Each time the world has offered them sovereignty - an offer that the Kurds or the Chechens or the Tibetans would leap at - the Palestinians have opted instead for bloodshed and rejectionism. (Boston Globe)
While Palestinians see themselves in a conflict with Israel, the real battle is among themselves. Will the Palestinian people be a democratic society based on tolerance and respect for all views and religions, or will it be dominated by a religious demagoguery that distorts religion into a self-serving political agenda? Mahmoud Abbas signed an "accord" with Hamas, the Islamicist organization whose entire existence has been based on violent rejection of compromise, not just with Israel but with the larger and dominant secular Palestinian movement.
Hamas has always understood that its ability to prevent peace through the use of violence and even acts of terrorism and suicide bombings against non-military Israeli targets would serve to prevent a genuine peace accord. Today, with no sign of a possible peace accord on the horizon, thanks to Hamas intransigence on compromise, Hamas has forced the secular Palestinian leadership to surrender to its will. Hamas wants all of Palestine or nothing, willing to sacrifice Palestinians for an endless conflict. Despite the pain of an internal Palestinian civil war, the question of whether the future would be in the hands of Hamas or Fatah was too important to sign away in some pathetic deal in which Abbas has basically surrendered his leadership. Hamas is now the voice of Palestine, whose real goal is not Palestinian independence, but the greater goal of political Islam. (Ynet News)
Ahmadinejad's violent rhetoric abroad and repressive measures at home stem not from a position of strength but weakness. There have been workers' protests in ten cities since January and others at universities, where students have greeted Ahmadinejad and his projects with slogans of "death to the dictator." He has been the target of severe criticism even within the ruling hierarchy, including the conservative camp. And he has been chastised in parliament for using bluster and violent rhetoric abroad to divert attention from domestic problems.
The most effective war against the tyrants in Iran is through giving voice to the workers asking for their rights, to women fighting for equality, and to students, journalists, writers, and intellectuals fighting for freedom of expression. The writer is director of the Dialogue Project at the School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. (Los Angeles Times)
In Baluchistan in Iran, a bus carrying a dozen military officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is stopped in broad daylight by a group of police officers, who ask its civilian driver to disembark. Minutes later, a car bomb explodes nearby, shattering the bus and killing the passengers. Since 2002, 75 Revolutionary Guards have been killed by assailants in the region.
Jund Allah (the Army of Allah) claimed responsibility. It is a predominantly ethnic Baluchi outfit, led by Abdul-Malik Khan. The Baluch are distinct from the Persian majority thanks to their language and culture. However, the main cleavage is because Baluchis are Sunni Muslims while Persians are Shiites. Iran's Baluch community, more than 2 million souls, is part of a 20 million-strong nation spread across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Oman and the Persian Gulf states.
Sunnis account for almost 12% of Iran's population of 70 million. They are not allowed to have their own schools and mosques outside areas where they form a majority. Tehran is home to some 2 million Sunnis, who are denied the right to have a mosque of their own. The mullahs have rewritten all textbooks to reflect only the Khomeinist brand of Shiite Islamic theology, history and rituals. The registrar of birth does not allow newborn babies to be given typically Sunni names. (New York Post)
The Islamic fundamentalist war against Israeli and Jewish existence in the Middle East - which is being waged by both Hizbullah and Hamas - did not begin in 1967, and it is not going to end even if Israel redeploys along the 1967 lines. Hardly anybody in Israel thinks that if we give territories now, we will get peace in return. We left Lebanon and Hizbullah grew stronger, ending in a war. We left Gaza and received a stronger Hamas and Kassam rockets. Israeli is not suicidal and we are unlikely to try this strategy again in another place.
If Iran achieves a nuclear weapons capability, it will proliferate very quickly to terror organizations, which is reason enough for Israel to defeat both Hizbullah and Hamas. Even if Hizbullah does not have nuclear weapons itself, it will be operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, which could affect Israel's ability to respond effectively to attacks.
Israel should tell the countries that are going to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the reconstruction of Lebanon that the money will be transferred only after we have a sign of life from Israel's kidnapped soldiers and they are released as stated in UN Resolution 1701.
Signing an agreement with Syria will not change the situation, except to make Syria stronger in Lebanon. Talking with Syria does not start with the Golan Heights. It starts with terrorism, and the role that the Syrians play between Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The writer served as Chairman of Israel's National Security Council and was the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister. (ICA/JCPA)
With the international tribunal mandated by the UN Security Council to try those who will be accused of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the international community is confronting head-on the tradition of modern Arab political violence and intimidation. It seeks to end the impunity that criminal assassins have enjoyed in the modern Arab world, especially when those killers are part of, or hired by, ruling regimes and security agencies. The Hariri murder tribunal is the first serious attempt to counter the rule of the gangsters in the Arab world with the rule of law; to replace criminal impunity with judicial accountability. The process must be completed, or the Arab world will face many more decades of death on the world's last lawless frontier. The writer is director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
In 1949, the UN established the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Last week UNRWA launched a drive to increase contributions. In the 1980s the Arab world financed 8% of UNRWA's outlay. By 2006 its share was less than 3%. The very nations responsible for keeping the "refugees" displaced, and who whip up lust for revenge, do the least for them.
Israel has withdrawn completely from Gaza, including dismantling settlements and even moving cemeteries. This was the moment the Palestinians claimed to be waiting for - complete territorial contiguity and not a single Israeli settler, roadblock, or military base in sight. Israel's withdrawal freed up substantial tracts of prime real estate. Yet nothing has been done to help the refugees find permanent homes.
Florida-born children of Cuban refugees are no longer considered refugees. But UNRWA stipulates that refugee rights extend to "descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948."
The time has come to impress on Western donors to cease shelling out millions that only impede peace, and to bring the UNRWA travesty to its overdue end. The Arab states need to start showing that peace, not Israel's destruction, is their solution to the refugee problem, and to stop doing their best to perpetuate the problem themselves. (Jerusalem Post)
At a conference organized by the Netvision Institute for Internet Research at Tel Aviv University, Jonathan D. Halevi, former head of the IDF's Department of Information and Public Affairs, explained: "The Israeli approach, namely, that it is enough if we just tell the truth, is wrong." Israel's opponents are sure not to let their side of the story fade away, and Israel is playing on the Internet without a proper defense. The Palestinians are using the Internet to rewrite history and to create the past through their eyes. They fastidiously post historical documentation in scrupulous detail of their narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus putting Israel's very existence in question.
"If we want to succeed in the information war on the Internet against the Palestinians, it would be very good if we copied how they do things. For example, the Israeli sites should appear in more languages, exactly like the Hamas site which appears in a large number of languages." (Omedia)
An exhibition of ideological video games from Arab countries at the Israeli Center for Digital Art outside Tel Aviv demonstrates the chilling potential of games as a propaganda tool. Special Force offers players a choice of missions in southern Lebanon against "the Zionist enemy." The game opens with a training center in which the shooting targets are portraits of Israeli leaders. A Syrian game called The Stone Throwers offers a sort of digital martyrdom, as the player takes the role of a lone Palestinian resistance fighter armed only with rocks against waves of Israeli soldiers.
In the Israeli game Intifada, the player becomes a single IDF soldier facing stone-throwing demonstrators. In dealing with the demonstration, players must bear in mind the army's public opinion rating, and refrain from using live ammunition. If they cause casualties, the government is voted out of office, and available weaponry is reduced for the next game. An al-Qaeda game called The Night of Bush Capturing is sophisticated, set in a U.S. military camp where players must gather weapons and shoot down approaching soldiers. It turns out to be a direct adaptation of an earlier American game, Quest for Saddam. (Telegraph-UK)
Four Ways to Act Against Ahmadinejad - Joshua Rozenberg (Telegraph-UK)
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