Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Shin Bet: Palestinians Working to Improve Missile Capabilities - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
Hamas Facing Internal Split Over Mecca Accords - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
U.S., Israel Walk Out During Iran's Speech at Geneva Disarmament Conference - Alexander G. Higgins (AP/Guardian-UK)
Japan Hosts Mideast Peace Meeting to Raise Profile - Elaine Lies (Reuters/Washington Post)
U.S. Students Volunteer in Battered North - Hagai Einav (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Vice President Cheney told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2007 Policy Conference on Monday: "The President has been clear and forthright about his vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. He remains committed to the achievement of that vision, nor has he compromised the basic principles he has stated from the very beginning: Peace requires a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel's right to exist, accepts the validity of past agreements and renounces violence and terrorism totally and completely."
"We understand...the right and responsibility of every democracy, if it wishes to survive, to protect itself and its values. Doing so requires moral clarity, the courage of our convictions, a willingness to act when action is necessary, and a refusal to submit to any form of intimidation, ever. These qualities are a credit to the American and the Israeli people. And these qualities are tested every day as we wage the war on terror." (White House)
See also AIPAC Convention Video Presentations (Jerusalem Online)
A military database released to an anti-settlement group under court pressure shows that very little private land was seized from Palestinians to build Israel's largest West Bank settlement. In November, Peace Now claimed that 86% of Maale Adumim, a Jerusalem suburb of more than 30,000 residents, was built on private Palestinian land. The group reported Wednesday that data show only 0.5% of the settlement is built on private land. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
Ellen R. Sauerbrey, assistant U.S. secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, met on Monday in Damascus with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad, but officials said the rare face-to-face exchange is not likely to ease tensions between the U.S. and Syria. "The purpose of the visit was to discuss the refugee issue, and that's what her conversations focused on. I don't think we see it as anything more or less than that," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey. (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Last week the Arab League said it would relaunch the 2002 Saudi initiative, but Arab leaders said it would not include changes Israel has been pushing for. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria on Tuesday explained their reasons for turning down Israel's request to amend the proposal. "We have the Arab peace plan and we are committed to it as a whole. Talk about amending it is baseless," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's spokesman Suleiman Awwad said, "Israel cannot pick and choose from the initiative and then jump into establishing normal relations with Arabs." Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said, "We have no desire to negotiate over this." (Ha'aretz)
See also below Observations: What's Missing from the Saudi Initiative - Negotiations - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's excavation work at the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem is being carried out in accordance with international standards, according to the report drafted by a team of UNESCO experts who came to Jerusalem to inspect the dig. Sources in the UN said the report, to be published Wednesday, accepts Israel's claims that the excavations do not harm the Temple Mount compound, and support the legality of the work.
However, the report criticizes Israel's choice to carry out the excavation independently, and calls on Israel to temporarily halt the excavation immediately to allow continued international supervision. (Ha'aretz)
Ali Haddad, a senior commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, was killed Tuesday in an exchange of fire with Fatah members in Gaza. According to eyewitnesses, gunmen stopped the car in which Haddad was traveling, opened fire and killed him. Nine people were injured in the shooting. Hamas accused Fatah members serving in the Preventive Security Service of being responsible for the murder. Palestinian sources said Haddad was accused several months ago of being responsible for the killing of an officer in the Preventive Security Service in response to the killing of a senior Hamas member. (Ynet News)
Palestinians fired at an Israeli car near Itamar in the West Bank on Tuesday night, lightly wounding the driver. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
All the scenarios point to a war in Gaza. A decision must be made to do something. According to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin's forecast, some 200,000 Israelis will find themselves under the threat of missile fire from Gaza as early as this year. A senior defense establishment official says that each time the army asks the prime minister to change something in the rules of engagement pertaining to the Kassam launchers or to carry out a limited operation in Gaza along the fence, the answer is: "No, we shall maintain the ceasefire to the end. So that when we have to strike we'll have clean hands in the eyes of the international community and we'll gain support." The defense establishment feels that even the political echelons have already come to terms with the inevitability of a military operation.
In parallel to upgrading its rockets against the Israeli home front, Hamas has established a well-equipped and trained, four-division army based on the Hizbullah model. Just like in Lebanon, bunkers and underground tunnels under built-up areas are being constructed in Gaza. Hamas' effective military might is improving daily. (Ynet News)
Every couple of years, a much-ballyhooed new initiative has surfaced to solve the Israel-Arab problem. Will anyone remember the current "Saudi initiative" 40 or even five years from now? Not unless the Saudis are willing to go a lot further toward meeting minimal Israeli conditions for a peace agreement. There is no way that even the most dovish Israeli government can agree either to return all the way to the pre-1967 borders or to accept a massive influx of the descendants of the 1948 refugees.
And because the Saudis know this, they also know that their initiative in its current form is no more than a propaganda ploy. This is not to say that the Saudis would not like to see Israel at peace with the Arab world as part of their efforts to contain the spread of Iranian and Sunni jihadist influence. They are simply not, so far, willing to take any real risks to do so. (New York Sun)
See also The Saudi Mirage - Editorial (New York Sun)
See also See You Later, Riyadh - Eitan Haber (signed editorial)
One has to know and remember that the "Saudi plan" in its current form is a recipe for the destruction of Israel. Agreement (over which there is not even the slightest possibility) to absorb in Israel hundreds of thousands or even millions of Palestinian refugees means from our standpoint that we have to pack our bags. The conclusion at this point can only be to agree to discuss the Saudi plan, but not agree to the lethal clauses that are contained in it. (Yediot Ahronot, 13Mar07)
Are the clerical elite and their praetorians - the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the thuggish Basij, and the killers of the Ministry of Intelligence - still running a revolutionary enterprise within which they see themselves as the ideological vanguard of the nation and Islam? Yes, absolutely. To a striking degree, the ruling elite has maintained its sense of religious mission, while the Iranian people, especially the young who don't remember the charisma of Khomeini, have gone cold. For the vast majority of Iranians, an Islamic missionary spirit is no longer happily married to the national identity.
It is astonishing that some Western analysts of Iran, and some senior U.S. government officials, actually believe that Khamenei and his kind would be willing to restore relations with the United States. Such a restoration would be an end to the revolution as we have known it. For the mullahs and for God, this would be an unbearable defeat. Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and Rafsanjani have no intention of letting this happen. Rafsanjani's voluminous writings show him, just like Khamenei, to be deeply impregnated with the idea of an Islam-destroying, globe-trotting, American tyranny. (Weekly Standard)
What's Missing from the Saudi Initiative - Negotiations - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)
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