Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 29, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. to Vet Abbas' Forces Before Training Begins - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    Members of Mahmoud Abbas' presidential guard eligible for U.S.-funded training and equipment will be screened in advance for militant ties, U.S. documents showed on Wednesday.
    The Bush administration is trying to allay concerns that a portion of the $59.4 million program could inadvertently benefit militants from Fatah or Hamas, both groups considered "terrorist organizations" by the U.S. and Israel.
    A U.S. government document said members of the presidential guard will undergo a series of local background checks before receiving any U.S.-funded training.
    In addition, Israel will be able to screen individual trainees before they are allowed to travel to Jordan for U.S.-funded training.

Hizbullah Instructors Tie Iran into Deaths of a Dozen British Soldiers - Ian Bruce (Glasgow Herald-UK)
    Iran has been training Iraqi militiamen to use the roadside bombs believed to have killed more than a dozen British soldiers in the past two years, U.S. intelligence sources confirmed Wednesday.
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has drafted in combat-experienced instructors from the Lebanese Hizbullah guerrilla movement to train Shiite insurgents operating in the UK sectors of Maysan province and Basra.
    Military engineers said radio receivers used as back-up detonators were set to Iranian military frequencies.

Saudi Arabia Opens Door to Israeli Journalist - Orly Azoulay (Ynet News)
    Long days of uncertainty had elapsed with a diplomatic incident looming in the background until I finally received authorization to be the only Israeli journalist present at the Arab summit in Riyadh.
    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called my presence on his flight his first "diplomatic achievement."
    Last Sunday, the secretary general had called the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal, to ask him to grant me a permit as part of his delegation.
    See also Saudi Arabia Bars Israeli Journalist Traveling with UN Chief - Warren Hoge (New York Times)

Adding the "Right of Return" to the Saudi Initiative Made It Impossible to Implement (MEMRI)
    Writing in Asharq Alawsat on the eve of the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Dr. Mamoun Fandy called for removing the demand for the return of Palestinian refugees from the Arab peace initiative in order to arrive at a practical and realistic solution to the Palestinian issue.
    "Leaving the Palestinian issue for 50 years without an ultimate solution is the largest rock blocking the road of Arab development."
    "The [second] rock that the Riyadh summit must deal with is...the export of extremism, which has become the Arabs' second [largest] export after oil."

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  • British Sailor Captives Paraded on TV - Thomas Harding, George Jones and Stewart Payne
    The release by Al-Alam television in Iran of film of Faye Turney, the captive Royal Navy rating, wearing a black Muslim headscarf, caused outrage Wednesday after she appeared to be speaking under duress as she apologized for straying into Iranian waters. Footage of several other British prisoners in Iran was also shown. Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defense produced evidence that the Navy boats were two miles inside Iraqi waters when "ambushed" by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Opens Naval Exercise in Persian Gulf - Michael R. Gordon
    In a calculated show of force, the U.S. Navy began a major exercise in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, a move that Bush administration officials said was part of a broader strategy to contain Iranian power in the region. Two American aircraft carriers - the John C. Stennis and the Dwight D. Eisenhower - participated in the exercise along with more than a dozen other warships. The exercise was clearly intended to send a signal that even with its forces stretched thin by the Iraq war, the U.S. still has the military means to project power in the region. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Tells Syria to Stop Bombers Crossing into Iraq - Sue Pleming
    Washington estimates that up to 90% of suicide bombers in Iraq enter the country via Syria, which has not acted to stop this flow of attackers, the U.S. State Department's Iraq adviser David Satterfield told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Tuesday. "It has to stop, it is not in Syria's long term interests to let this violence continue," he said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arab League Refuses to Change Plan - Herb Keinon
    The Arab League decided Wednesday to relaunch without changes its land-and-refugee-for-peace initiative from March 2002. A senior Israeli official said Israel would not reject the document out of hand, but will likely hone in on its positive elements, overlooking the problematic aspects. "What we are hearing is that the Arab countries are openly talking about resolving the conflict through dialogue and through recognition of Israel," the official said. "That is positive." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Hits Palestinian Rocket Crew in Gaza - Amos Harel
    On Wednesday, the Israel Air Force struck a group of Palestinians preparing to fire Kassam rockets into Israel from the former settlement of Dugit in northern Gaza, wounding four. The strike marks the first time in several months that the Israel Defense Forces has targeted a rocket-launching squad. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Fire Seven Rockets at Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired seven Kassam rockets at Israel on Wednesday across the western Negev. The rockets landed in open areas near Ashkelon and Sderot. One fell near a strategic facility in the Ashkelon industrial zone south of the city. (Ynet News)
  • Chief of Staff: "IDF Must Win" - Gideon Alon
    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi presented the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday with his governing principles: "The purpose of the army is to ensure the state's supremacy and to win in the face of every challenge." "My objective is to ensure that the IDF's operational fitness is such that it is clear in every war who won and who lost....We can't allow what happened in the Second Lebanon War to happen again." Ashkenazi also noted an overall trend of growing regional instability, which can be seen in increased capability on the part of Israel's enemies. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gunmen Attack Hamas Leader's Car in Gaza, Wound Five
    A sports utility vehicle filled with gunmen chased a car through Gaza City on Wednesday carrying Abu Salah Shinbari, a Hamas leader from Beit Hanoun, and his wife and two young children, witnesses said. The gunmen riddled the car with at least 10 bullets, injuring the four as well as a bystander. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Saudi "Peace" Plan Ultimatum - Editorial
    During her visit to the Middle East this week, Secretary of State Rice has been touting a peace plan advocated by Saudi Arabia as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - even though it has serious flaws that have raised well-founded concerns from the Israeli government. Parts of the Saudi plan, particularly provisions demanding that Israel yield all of the West Bank territory it captured in a defensive war and return to its precarious pre-1967 borders; requiring that it yield the Golan Heights to a Syrian Ba'athist regime that is aligned with Iran; and leaving open the possibility that Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants might be permitted to return to their former homesteads inside what is now Israel, are unacceptable. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert quite sensibly has asked that these provisions at a minimum be significantly modified.
        The U.S. government has invested considerable political time and effort over the years in trying to advance the cause of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. But in the real world, advancing any plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace today would appear to face tremendous if not insurmountable obstacles - so much so that it is difficult to understand why Rice has seen fit to spend so much political capital in wartime on a diplomatic initiative with so little likelihood of success. If the Saudis want to be taken seriously as peacemakers, they need to stop issuing ultimatums to Israel and start issuing them to the Palestinian irredentists they continue to lavish money on. (Washington Times)
  • Faced with Iranian Blackmail, Europe Must Show Real Solidarity - Timothy Garton Ash
    Last week, while the EU celebrated 50 years of peace, freedom and solidarity, 15 Europeans were kidnapped from Iraqi territorial waters by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. What is Europe going to do about it? Where's the solidarity? Where's the action? Europe has more direct, immediate leverage on Iran than the U.S. does.
        Europe should flex its economic muscles. The EU is by far Iran's biggest trading partner. More than 40% of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Much of this trade is underpinned by export credit guarantees given by European governments, notably Germany, France and Italy. The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was £3.9b., more than for Russia or China. In the Commons Wednesday, former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind asked if Britain's European friends - and Germany, France and Italy in particular - might be prevailed upon to convey to Iran the possibility that such export credit guarantees would be temporarily suspended until the kidnapped Europeans are freed. (Guardian-UK)
  • Palestinian Handouts - Linda Chavez
    One year ago, the U.S. and the EU decided to cut off aid to the PA after Palestinians elected Hamas, a U.S.- and EU-designated terrorist organization, to lead their government. Now, it turns out, Western sources, including the U.S. government, have actually put more money into the West Bank and Gaza since Hamas took over than in previous years. The Palestinians will never have a better life if they continue their destructive, self-defeating hatred of the Jewish state and its people. Palestinians have developed a culture built on hate. Until they learn to devote their energies into helping themselves rather than tearing down each other and their neighbors, we should not spend one more dime on aid. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Are the Saudis Seeking Peace? - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Post)

    • Israeli diplomats had hoped that a modified peace plan might be adopted by the Arab heads of state at the Riyadh Arab summit on Wednesday that would leave out any references to the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel - a non-starter across the Israeli political spectrum. When that seemed unlikely, there was increasing speculation that at least some other statements would be made separately that would try to reach out to Israeli public opinion and build mutual confidence.
    • But rather than obtaining some flexibility, Israel was handed an ultimatum when Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned Israel that its rejection of the plan would leave its fate in the hands of the "lords of war."
    • The real problems with the Saudi peace initiative go well beyond the issue of the "right of return." The Saudi plan demands "full withdrawal" from "all the territories" Israel captured 40 years ago in the 1967 Six-Day War, thus negating the territorial flexibility contained in UN Security Council Resolution 242 that intentionally did not use such limiting language.
    • Adopting the Saudi plan as presented would lead to the redivision of Jerusalem. It would also strip Israel of the "defensible borders" that President Bush said was Israel's right in his April 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon. In 2007, with al-Qaeda jihadism pouring out of western Iraq and Iran on the ascendancy across the region, these security assurances have only grown in importance.
    • The paramount problem of Saudi Arabia today is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is shaping Saudi Arabia's new diplomatic activism is the rapidly expanding Iranian threat and the weakness of the Western response.

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