Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hamas Leader, Ahmadinejad Meet to Plan Next Steps - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
Poll: More Americans Are Pro-Israel (Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Criticizes UN Human Rights Body for Anti-Israel Bias - George Gedda (AP/Washington Post)
Embassy of Iraq in Athens Hid Explosives (Kathimerini-Greece)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Congressman Tom Lantos, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, is proposing legislation to step up economic pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions by increasing financial costs to the Iranian government of continuing uranium enrichment. The Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 would target foreign companies investing in Iran's energy sector.
"If Dutch Shell moves forward with its proposed $10-billion deal with Iran, it will be sanctioned," said Lantos. "If Malaysia moves forward with a similar deal, it too will be sanctioned. The same treatment will be accorded to China and India should they finalize deals with Iran." Lantos' measure would prohibit the U.S. from signing nuclear cooperation accords with countries aiding Iran's nuclear program, re-impose import sanctions on Iranian exports to the U.S., and declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Qods Force to be terrorist groups. (VOA News)
See also Momentum Builds for More Sanctions Against Iran - Howard LaFranchi
The Bush administration is spearheading a multilateral effort to use sanctions to turn the screws on Iran and its nuclear program. Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are expected to begin work in New York this week on a second resolution of sanctions against Iran.
Among the measures being considered are expansion of the list of Iranian officials whose assets would be frozen, a travel ban on more Iranians who are involved in the country's nuclear research and development, and additions to the list of parts, material, and technology that would be banned from Iranian trade. The U.S. also hopes to see further restrictions on export credits that encourage trade and to limit access that Iran's largest banks have to international markets. (Christian Science Monitor)
A Feb. 28 ruling from Interpol's office of legal affairs recommends that international law enforcement agencies arrest and detain five of the Iranian regime's former high officials for masterminding the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 86 people were killed. The wanted Iranians include former minister of Intelligence and Security, Ali Fallahijan; former commander of Iran's Qods Force, Ahmad Vahidi; the former commander of the revolutionary guard, Mohsen Rezai; Iran's cultural attache for its embassy in Buenos Aires, Mohsen Rabbani; and the embassy's third secretary, Ahmad Reza Asghari. The recommendation would effectively make their travel to Europe impossible, or at least very difficult. (New York Sun)
Salam Fayyad, 55, a former World Bank official, has agreed to take over as the new PA government's finance minister. He said in an interview: "The past year...was an extremely difficult period. The state of public finance has suffered and suffered badly. There has been a reversal of many areas of reform. Transparency - there's been a major decline there. Extra-budgetary spending re-emerged. Getting a handle on what's been going on becomes more difficult. It's the job of the treasurer to know what's going on. None of this has happened. We need to fix the system in a hurry....We need to reconstitute a single treasury account - an address where all the money comes. I'll never say: 'It doesn't matter how we get money, as long as we get it.'" (Newsweek)
See also World Bank: Donor Funds Shouldn't Go Through Abbas - Avi Issacharoff
A new World Bank report, presented last week to the PA and the donor countries, discusses the possibility of renewing the transfer of funds ahead of the establishment of a unity government. It recommends the PA dismiss 6,000 workers that include "ghost workers" - people listed as employees who are not working or who hold more than one position. The World Bank also wants the PA to institute a two-year hiring freeze. It says the employment of workers in the authority has become a tool to create influence and patronage. The report also notes that the pension now offered to PA workers relative to their salaries is much higher than that in the countries donating money to the PA. (Ha'aretz)
The Israeli ambassador in Berlin, Shimon Stein, on Tuesday criticized comments by a German bishop in which he compared the situation of the Palestinians to Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. The bishop of Eichstaett, Gregor Maria Hanke, was quoted by German media Monday as saying after a visit to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, "In the morning we saw photographs from the inhumane Warsaw ghetto, in the evening we drove through the ghetto in Ramallah....It is infuriating."
In 1940, months after invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis forced some 500,000 Jews into the Warsaw ghetto, surrounding it with a high wall. About 100,000 died inside from hunger and disease, and over 300,000 were sent to death camps. Stein said the bishop had "demonized" Israel in the conflict and used double standards to attack its policies. "A fence or a wall built by people as a security measure can, when the political conditions change, be dismantled," he said. (AFP/Yahoo)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel Defense Forces troops raided the Palestinian military headquarters in Ramallah Wednesday and arrested 18 fugitives who had sought shelter there, Palestinian security officials said. Among those taken was Khalil Shilo, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who has been on the run since 2000. The fugitives, all allied with Fatah, were involved in shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers, as well as attempted kidnappings, the army said. (Ha'aretz)
According to Tel Aviv University's Peace Index survey of Feb. 26-27, 2007, 56% of the Jewish public sees it as impossible to reach a settlement with the PA government based on the principle of two states for two peoples, compared to 40% who think it is possible. 83% say the Israeli government should not recognize the Palestinian unity government or negotiate with it as long as it does not recognize Israel and fulfill the Quartet's conditions, especially in regard to fighting terror. 82% believe Iran's nuclear armament constitutes an existential danger to Israel. Only about one-fifth favor a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Saudis have quietly been exchanging ideas with Israeli leaders on changes in the 2002 Saudi peace plan that would make it more palatable to Israel. The main sticking point for Israel is the Saudi plan's prescription that would give Palestinian refugees a right to return to Israel proper, which virtually all Israelis see as shorthand for the destruction of the Jewish state through a demographic onslaught. In the secret talks with Prince Bandar, Israel has made it clear that the refugee option is totally unacceptable. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni argues that in the context of a two-state solution, it's logical that Palestinian refugees would return to a Palestinian state, not Israel. According to unconfirmed Israeli press reports, Saudi King Abdullah has ordered an appropriate change in the text to give refugees a choice: either to return to the Palestinian state or stay where they are - in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria - and receive financial compensation. (JTA)
Nobody in the Arab world ''has the guts to say that what is happening in Iraq is wrong - that killing school kids is wrong,'' said Mamoun Fandy, director of the Middle East program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. ''People somehow think that killing Iraqis is good because it will stick it to the Americans, so Arabs are undermining the American project in Iraq by killing themselves.'' The world worries about highly enriched uranium, but ''the real danger is highly enriched Islam,'' Fandy added. That is, ''highly enriched Sunnism'' and ''highly enriched Shiism'' that eats away at the Muslim state, the way Hizbullah is trying to do in Lebanon or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or al-Qaeda everywhere.
One result: there's no legitimate, decent, accepted source of Arab-Muslim authority today, no center of gravity ''for people to anchor their souls in,'' Fandy said. In this welter of confusion, the suicide bombers go uncondemned or subtly extolled. ''The battleground in the Arab world today is not in Palestine or Lebanon, but in the classrooms and newsrooms,'' Fandy concluded. That's where ''the software programmers'' reside who create symbolic images and language glorifying suicide bombers and make their depraved acts look legitimate. (New York Times, 2Mar07)
Enough with Despair - Yair Sheleg (Ha'aretz)
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