Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 7, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Leader, Ahmadinejad Meet to Plan Next Steps - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
    Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Manuchehr Mottaki in Tehran on Tuesday to brief "our friends and brothers" about the details of the Mecca deal between Hamas and Fatah and the steps that need to be taken in the future.
    Ahmadinejad told Mashaal to continue carrying out acts of "resistance" against Israel.
    "They must prepare the ground for the removal of the Zionists from the holy land of Palestine until not a single piece is occupied."

Poll: More Americans Are Pro-Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Americans are more pro-Israel today than they were 10 and 20 years ago, according to a February Gallup poll.
    Averaging all polls conducted from 1993-1999 and comparing these with all polls conducted since 2000, Gallup trends show that the average level of sympathy for Israelis rose from 41% to 53%, while the average sympathy for Palestinians rose from 13% to 16%.
    The percentage of Americans who are impartial regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has decreased. Only 22% are impartial, compared with 30% two years ago and 43% 14 years ago.
    As Americans have moved out of the "no preference" column, they have moved disproportionately into the pro-Israel column.

U.S. Criticizes UN Human Rights Body for Anti-Israel Bias - George Gedda (AP/Washington Post)
    For the second year in a row, the U.S. has decided not to seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the State Department said Tuesday, accusing the panel of an anti-Israeli bias.
    Spokesman Sean McCormack said the council has had a "singular focus" on Israel, while countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea have been spared scrutiny.
    The most senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said: "Rather than standing as a strong defender of fundamental human rights, the Human Rights Council has faltered as a weak voice subject to gross political manipulation."

Embassy of Iraq in Athens Hid Explosives (Kathimerini-Greece)
    A joint operation by Greek and U.S. secret services in March 2003, just before the American invasion of Iraq, led to the seizure of a large cache of explosives from the basement of the Iraqi Embassy in Athens.
    U.S. authorities claimed to have been tipped off about the presence of a weapons cache in the embassy by an Iraqi with links to the embassy, sources revealed.
    A raid on the embassy unearthed explosive materials, car bombs, detonators, several guns and dozens of rounds of ammunition, much of the material "ready to use."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Key Lawmaker Seeks More Congressional Pressure on Iran - Dan Robinson
    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)
  • Interpol Seeks Arrest of Irans in 1994 Argentina Bombing - Eli Lake
    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)
  • New Palestinian Finance Minister: Financial Reforms Were Reversed - Kevin Peraino
    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)
  • Israeli Ambassador Blasts German Bishop for Warsaw Ghetto Remark
    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:

  • IDF Raids PA Security HQ in Ramallah, Arrests 18 Terrorists - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    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)
  • Israeli Poll: Talk with Palestinians Only After Quartet's Conditions Fulfilled - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    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):

  • Israel, Saudi Arabia Explore Changing Saudi Peace Plan - Leslie Susser
    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)
  • The Silence That Kills - Thomas L. Friedman
    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)
  • Observations:

    Enough with Despair - Yair Sheleg (Ha'aretz)

    • Objectively speaking, the present situation is much better than the difficulties with which our fathers and grandfathers had to deal: the economy is booming. The country's military might is greater than ever before. Even Israel's famous isolation is not what it was. Alongside Israel, against the Iranian threat, there is a covert alliance of most of the moderate Arab states which do not even have the capability of presenting Iran with a "balance of terror."
    • If during the 1980s and 1990s there was a feeling that if we merely make the necessary concessions, we could ensure our future in the region, the past few years have severely damaged that security. The strongest threat today comes from a side that does not lay down any conditions for an agreement - it simply wants to annihilate the State of Israel. The Palestinians, too, since the failure of Camp David in 2000, broadcast the message that they prefer to harm Israel rather than build their future.
    • There is a constant pall of danger over life. But this is the situation of mankind in general. The vast majority of people do not allow this fact to hamper their joy of life or their ability to stick by the missions they have undertaken. Human decisions are made not only according to the risk involved but also with a life that is worth living, that has significance.
    • Alongside the recognition that Israel has not managed to turn into the safest place for the Jewish individual, the Zionist choice is still the most correct choice for someone who wants to live a Jewish life that is worth living - life in the only place where Jews are not a minority fighting for the very survival of their identity.

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