Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Western Intelligence Eyes Jihadist Upsurge in Lebanon - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
- March 1, 2007
Issue of the Week:
Purim Week: What Makes Israelis Laugh?
UNESCO Experts Tour Controversial Jerusalem Dig - Corinne Heller (Reuters/ Washington Post)
Israel and U.S. Discuss Expanded Military Aid - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
Israel's Liaison to Its Neighbors: Saudi Prince Bandar - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Druze, Circassian Forum: Israel Should Remain a Jewish State - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
German Chancellor Condemns Arson Attack on Jewish Nursery School in Berlin (Reuters)
The Star of Afghanistan's Jihad - Matthias Gebauer (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Israelis Pick Anti-Nuke Song for Eurovision (BBC News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Major powers on Thursday made progress towards agreeing on new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program and hope to have their UN ambassadors begin drafting a formal Security Council resolution next week, a senior U.S. official said. Senior officials representing the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany "were able to resolve most of the issues" in a two-hour conference call and hoped to complete their deliberations in another conference call on Saturday, the official said. (Reuters)
Iran's president has responded to increased international pressure over his country's nuclear program by unleashing inflammatory rhetoric about Israel, denouncing Zionists as the "true incarnation of Satan" during a visit to Khartoum. His comments were greeted by shouts of "God is Great!" by the audience of Sudanese Islamic scholars, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported Thursday. (Telegraph-UK)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran will meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Saturday to discuss the Middle East's growing sectarian and political crises, Iranian officials said Thursday. Ahmadinejad's first state visit to Saudi Arabia was initiated by Iran, a former Saudi official said. "The Iranians want to come to an understanding with the Saudis," said Khaled Dakhil, professor of political sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh. "The Iranians want the help of the Saudis on the nuclear front." Abbass Abdi, a political analyst in Tehran, said, "This trip is more like a show for Mr. Ahmadinejad to say that Iran is not an isolated country." (New York Times)
EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Thursday in Amman: "We have never abandoned the Palestinian people...and even if the [unity] government did not meet these requirements [the Quartet's principles] we will not abandon the Palestinian people." "We are reaching out to one-quarter of the Palestinian population," she said of social allowances handed out to those who have suffered loss of income as a result of the international sanctions. (AFP/Yahoo)
Tales of Taliban-style justice in the tribal belt along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan are proliferating, a sign the region, which already serves as a rear base for militants fighting in Afghanistan, is slipping further out of government control. The U.S. voiced growing concern this week that al-Qaeda was regrouping in the same region. U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell said Tuesday in Washington that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, were believed to be hiding in northwestern Pakistan and trying to establish an operational base there. (AP/Boston Globe)
See also below Commentary: Pakistan: An Uneasy Alliance - Zahid Hussain (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Jerusalem aimed harsh criticism at Russia on Friday for its decision to supply Syria with advanced missiles, including anti-aircraft missiles and new anti-tank missiles that can penetrate Western-made tanks. Senior Israeli officials expressed concern that the arms would be transferred to Hizbullah, warning that missiles that were supplied to Syria in the past were used against IDF tanks in Lebanon. Vice Premier Shimon Peres said that the supply of arms to Syria "encouraged Damascus to turn to war." (Jerusalem Post)
Syria has spent the past few months constructing and moving infrastructure to its southern border that could be used to launch a war against Israel, senior defense officials say. The Syrian military has moved fuel depots closer to the frontier and has also built structures that could serve as weapons stores and military bases. "There is no doubt that something out of the ordinary is taking place on the Syrian side of the border," a high-ranking official said. (Jerusalem Post)
Hundreds of Hamas members are being smuggled across the Rafah border terminal to Egypt to attend advanced terror training camps in Syria and Iran, senior Israeli defense officials said.
In recent days Israel has filed a complaint with the EU, Mahmoud Abbas, and Egypt claiming that the European inspectors at Rafah do not maintain tight enough supervision at the crossing, and fail to stop the stream of terrorists and money used to fund terror in and out of Gaza. Top Israeli defense officials warned that if the EU inspectors don't clamp down on money smuggling and the passage of terrorists, Israel may consider not renewing the agreements on Rafah crossing supervision when they expire in two months. (Ynet News)
An IDF operation launched Sunday with the aim of destroying Islamic Jihad and Fatah infrastructure in the West Bank terror stronghold of Nablus ended Thursday. During the operation in the Casbah - the Old City, nine wanted terrorists were arrested and four explosives labs were discovered and destroyed.
A top officer in the Judea and Samaria Division said the IDF employed a new "policy of restraint" when operating inside the city and did its best to avoid violent encounters with the civilian population. He also noted the relatively low level of resistance by Nablus residents to the operation, claiming that Palestinian civilians were also opposed to the terrorists who destabilized life within the city. "The residents of Nablus suffer from the terrorists of Fatah and Islamic Jihad almost just as much as we do," he said, adding that the IDF tried to coordinate the operation with local Palestinian leaders and international organizations. (Jerusalem Post)
An explosive device was detonated near IDF troops near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday night. In a separate incident, an anti-tank missile was fired towards soldiers patrolling the fence in the southern Gaza Strip. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed near Kibbutz Zikim on Friday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
After last year's war in Lebanon, there was much talk in Syria about how Hizbullah proved that a military confrontation with Israel could achieve something. If this is the case, then Israel needs to consider the possibility of war with Syria at some future date. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, insists that Israel must not give up the Golan. Doing so will not solve Israel's other strategic problems and may even aggravate them. The Syrians will not keep their word, and if a war breaks out, without the Golan Israel will be in a worse position than it would be with the Golan. (Ha'aretz)
A cartoon featured in the Syrian daily Tishreen on Feb. 14, 2007, showed a stereotypical-looking Jew digging directly under the foundations of the Dome of the Rock Muslim shrine. A Syrian television channel claimed on Feb. 6 that Israel had destroyed several parts of the Temple Mount. A government minister told a Syrian television reporter on Feb. 13, "We shall not allow those [i.e., the Jews] who killed the prophets to also destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque." Anti-Semitic incitement in Syria makes no distinction between criticizing Israel and spreading hatred against the Jewish people using "classic" and Islamic anti-Semitic themes. The Syrian media are under strict government control, meaning that anti-Semitic incitement is published with the regime's approval and as part of its policy. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
We have been negotiating with the Iranian mullahs ever since the 1979 revolution, participating in countless face-to-face encounters and meetings. The lack of any tangible result is obvious. Ken Pollack, who was involved in many of these efforts, discusses the long, sad history of these failed negotiations in The Persian Puzzle. Those who still dream of the grand bargain must explain to us why there is anything different today that might make a bargain with the Iranians more likely than it has been for the last 28 years. Certainly the Iranians have shown no desire for reconciliation; quite the contrary. The Supreme Leader is the same fanatic as he was then, in terrible health to be sure, but no friendlier towards satanic negotiators. The only big change in Tehran personnel is the president. Instead of Khatami-the-Reformer we've got Ahmadinejad, Hitler's great admirer. I don't think that is an improvement.
The real history of U.S.-Iranian relations suggests very strongly that the only possible winners in such talks will be the mullahs. They will gain more time to organize their war against us, and to build atomic bombs. (American Enterprise Institute/National Review)
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mark Regev, speaking in Toronto, made the case for the Palestinians to join the moderate Arab camp. Ultimately, he said, "more and more Palestinians are going to understand the extremists promise blood" and a political dead end. "They can't bring anything tangible to the Palestinian people." "What the moderates offer is tangible support, international recognition and an energized peace process." The Palestinians "have to make their own choices. They have to choose between the path articulated by Ahmadinejad or the path articulated by [former Egyptian president] Anwar Sadat." If they choose Ahmadinejad's path, violence will increase, but if they follow Sadat's path, the door can open to the internationally sponsored "road map" peace plan, which ends in Palestinian statehood.
Regev said that Iran's "Shiite revolution is a threat to all [its] neighbors....Many countries see a threat to their stability as Iran in the east and not Israel in the west. So, we are seeing countries that in the past did not have a dialogue with Israel opening a dialogue with Israel." Israel now has an opportunity to engage with that "pragmatic impulse in the Arab world." (Canadian Jewish News)
There is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that we have to try to end. But one must also see the broad picture. There is a clash between a narrative of enlightenment versus a dark narrative. Islam is not an open society. In the terms of Karl Popper, it is the most closed society conceivable. It is an intolerant society.
A well-known professor said not long ago that we have to adopt the values of the Middle East in which we live. I would like to ask him which values he is talking about. About the humiliation of women? About corporal punishment? About the hanging of a homosexual a month ago in a city square in Iran? About the flogging to death of a young homosexual in Saudi Arabia? About the Nazi propaganda in Egypt? I really want to know. What values are we talking about? After all, there is not one Arab state that upholds the values of freedom of expression, human rights and minority rights. And across the Middle East the Arab Christian minorities are disappearing at an appalling rate. No one talks about that.
I am not willing to accept a multicultural approach that says that their culture is like my culture. I do not understand how one can talk about cultural relativism in a generation that saw Nazism and Stalinism. Is it really possible to say that all the narratives are equal? That the Nazi narrative is equal to the Anglo-Saxon narrative? That the Stalinist narrative is equal to the narrative of the French Revolution? Professor Rubinstein, a former Israeli Minister of Education and Communications, is President of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
When Sinai was returned to Egypt following the 1979 peace agreement, some Bedouin families and tribes were divided, and for years a movement of "uniting families" created almost a habit of some tribes regarding the unfenced Israel-Egypt border as practically open. Some of the Bedouin tribes see smuggling as a legitimate source of livelihood. Over the years the smuggling infrastructure used mainly for criminal activities and merchandise is now also used for smuggling weapons and terror-oriented activities. The smugglers are well acquainted with the terrain as well as with the regular activity of Israeli security forces on the border, showing a fast learning curve and adaptation to changes. (Institute for Counter-Terrorism, IDC-Herzliya)
The Saudis are polarizing, some say, between the supporters of King Abdullah, 83, and his enemies, the fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics. Valentine's Day is a touchy subject in Saudi Arabia. On Feb. 12, the Riyadh newspaper al-Jazeera reported that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - the Wahhabi religious militia or mutawwa - would inspect hotels, restaurants, and gift shops to prevent Muslim couples from giving each other Valentine's Day presents, condemning the day as a "pagan feast." On Feb. 13, the mutawwa forbade the sale of Valentine roses in the markets and malls. The newspapers al-Jazeera and al-Watan said all red-colored items had been removed from shops.
Yet Saudis report that the mutawwa harassment failed. Many ordinary Saudi Muslims favored their beloved with Valentine gifts, which were more popular than ever. The price of red roses shot up and were quickly sold out. What makes this significant is that it is one of several signs of waning mutawwa power. Rumors have circulated for months that Abdullah wishes to outright abolish the mutawwa. In Jeddah, a cosmopolitan business center, women now refuse to wear the face covering, or niqab. In a series of incidents, the women of Jeddah have harassed the mutawwa off the city's streets. (Weekly Standard)
Gen. Musharraf's 2001 decision to forge an alliance with the U.S. meant taking Pakistan to war with itself, pitting the military against the militants, the present against the past, and a political partnership with America against the culture of jihadist radicalism. Musharraf's security forces have captured and delivered to the U.S. several of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks.
But Musharraf's break with the constituency that backed the Taliban has yet to come. He tried to combat al-Qaeda while seeking to avoid direct confrontation with Taliban remnants and homegrown Islamic militants. The relationship between jihadist organizations and Pakistan's all-powerful Inter Services Intelligence - which helped create much of the Islamic militancy and religious extremism that Musharraf is now confronted with - has not completely broken down. (Wall Street Journal, 2Mar07)
See also Keep Pressuring Musharraf - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)
A few years ago it became public that Finland had handed over almost three thousand Soviet prisoners of war to the Germans during World War II. Until that time Finland had the reputation of a country that protected all its Jews, except for eight Central European Jewish refugees who were handed over to the Gestapo. At least seventy Soviet Jewish prisoners were extradited to the Gestapo.
The Finnish government has appointed a historical commission to investigate the deaths, extraditions, and deportations of Soviet prisoners of war and others to the Germans. Author Elina Sana, who has played a crucial role in bringing the matter to public attention, says in her book that Finland should establish a truth commission. There was little punishment for war criminals in Finland. It now seems that a large part of Finland's tarnished wartime record will never be revealed. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Report of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for 2006
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