Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 10, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Official Visits Russia Despite UN Travel Ban - Nasser Karimi (AP/Newsday)
    An Iranian Revolutionary Guard general who is banned from traveling abroad by the UN Security Council visited Russia without any difficulty, Iranian state television reported Monday.
    Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, who is also deputy interior minister for security affairs, was one of 15 Iranians listed in UN Resolution 1747 that the Security Council approved unanimously in March.

Hamas Chief Vows No Compromise (AFP/Yahoo)
    Speaking from Damascus by telephone, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told thousands of supporters in Ramallah that Hamas would not compromise its claims to all of historical Palestine.
    "Hamas will not back down. We will not give up on a single meter of our homeland," Meshaal said to thunderous applause. "We must continue in the path of resistance," he added.

Banks Balk at Dealing with New Palestinian Government (Reuters)
    Local, regional and international banks are refusing to transfer funds to the new Palestinian unity government, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said on Friday.
    Under U.S. law, any foreign bank that refuses to cooperate in cutting off funding to Hamas could have its U.S. assets frozen and lose its access to U.S. financial markets.

NY Court Unblocks Palestinian Bank Funds - Wafa Amr (Reuters)
    The Supreme Court of the State of New York has ordered $30 million in Palestine Monetary Authority funds unfrozen and allowed it to resume operations in the U.S., ruling that it "is a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority."

Palestinian Woman Tries Again to Stab Soldiers at Checkpoint (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF troops thwarted an attempted attack on soldiers at the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem on Monday by a 23-year-old Palestinian woman carrying two knives, Army Radio reported.
    The same woman was released several months ago from an Israeli prison after serving time for a similar offense.

How Israel Saved Intel - Ian King (Bloomberg/Seattle Times)
    The chip Intel is counting on to recover from a battering by AMD wasn't invented in Silicon Valley. Instead, Intel is betting on the new Core 2 Duo, created at its Israel Development Center.
    "They saved the company," said Doug Freedman, an analyst for the brokerage American Technology Research. "Without those new products, Intel would be in a lot more trouble."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Experts Skeptical of Iranian Claims of Large-Scale Uranium Enrichment - Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi
    Iran's announcement Monday that it had achieved the capacity to enrich uranium on an "industrial scale" raises the fear that the Islamic Republic could manufacture a nuclear weapon within a year, but was met with deep skepticism from nuclear experts. Iran's assertion that it had fed gaseous uranium into 3,000 centrifuges to begin purifying nuclear material on an industrial scale was quickly disputed. Few outside experts believe Iran has successfully installed and is operating such a large system. Western experts suggest Iran has no more than 1,000 such devices, which it can operate only part time. A report in February by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was able to operate about 328 centrifuges. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Iran Wants 50,000 Centrifuges, Not 3,000 (AFP/The Australian)
  • Freed British Sailors Say Their Confessions Were Coerced - Kim Murphy
    On Friday, the British sailors and marines who spent 13 days in an Iranian jail said that they were blindfolded and threatened into fabricating their confessions. Several told of being locked in isolation for days and said they were threatened with seven years in prison if they did not admit entering Iranian waters. "When we first went to prison, we were put up against a wall, hands bound, blindfolded, and there were people cocking weapons in the background," Lt. Felix Carman said at a news conference with six other former captives.
        "We were not prepared to fight a heavily armed force who, it is our impression, came out deliberately into Iraqi waters to take us prisoner," said Marine Capt. Chris Air. He said all the navigation equipment they had on board during the incident showed without doubt that they were 1.7 miles inside "internationally recognized Iraqi territorial waters." (Los Angeles Times)
  • UN May Probe Syria-Lebanon Smuggling - Edith M. Lederer
    France circulated a draft Security Council statement that expresses "serious concern" at mounting reports of illegal arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon and authorizes an independent mission to assess how their border is being monitored. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Lebanese Security Agents Help Hizbullah Smuggle Arms - Shlomo Shamir
    Druse leader Walid Jumblatt told Al-Jazeera on Saturday that Lebanese security agents were helping Hizbullah smuggle in weapons from Syria by allowing trucks to pass without being searched. (Ha'aretz)
        See also In Beirut, a Crisis Settles into a Routine - Anthony Shadid
    Lebanon's political standoff has entered its fifth month. Lawmakers gathered in the parliament, but there was no session; the speaker has refused to call one, in a test of wills between the government and its opposition. (Washington Post)
  • Media Seeks to Keep AIPAC Lobbyists Trial Open
    News organizations filed documents in federal court Monday opposing a government request to close portions of an upcoming trial of two former pro-Israel lobbyists. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Planned Tel Aviv Passover Bombing - Amos Harel
    The Shin Bet announced Tuesday that it broke up a Hamas cell in the West Bank city of Kalkilya that had planned to detonate a car bomb in Tel Aviv during the Passover holiday. The driver, a suicide bomber, had crossed into Israel in a vehicle laden with about 100 kilograms of explosives. However, once he reached Tel Aviv, he changed his mind and returned to Kalkilya. Nineteen members of the cell have been arrested by the security forces. The would-be suicide bomber managed to enter Israel because he holds an Israeli identity card. He is married to an Israeli Arab from Taibeh and received residency status as part of the program of reuniting families. The vehicle he was driving had Israeli license plates. (Ha'aretz)
  • Obstacles in the Way of a Deal on Kidnapped Israeli Soldier's Release - Ze'ev Schiff
    On several occasions, reports have announced the imminent release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. However, the list of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel who are to be released in an exchange is a major obstacle to the conclusion of the negotiations. It is obvious that Mahmoud Abbas has no relevant information about Shalit, and that his ability to influence the negotiations is nearly nonexistent. European representatives announced that unless Hamas takes a positive step, which must be expressed first of all in Shalit's release, there is no chance for a thaw in the European position on relations with the Palestinian unity government. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Damages Warehouse in Sderot
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket on Saturday that damaged a factory warehouse in Sderot's industrial area. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Iran Probed, Found Weakness and Won a Triumph - John Bolton
    In seizing the 15 British hostages, Iran probed and found weakness. Now President Ahmadinejad can undertake equal or greater provocations, confident he need not fear a strong response. Indisputably the winners in Iran were the hardliners. It was Ahmadinejad who stood in the international spotlight for hours on end, who awarded medals to the Revolutionary Guards who captured the hostages, who announced the hostages' release and accepted their thanks.
        The question is, who increased relative to others in the Iranian calculus of power? The evidence unmistakably points to Ahmadinejad. If strengthening his hand within the Tehran leadership amounts to success for British diplomacy and Iranian moderates, one hesitates to ask what would constitute failure. The writer is former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Biased BBC - Editorial
    The BBC's lavish state funding of more than £3 billion a year is usually justified by references to its role of serving the "public interest," which includes scrutinizing government. Now the BBC is using taxpayers' money to hide its own work from scrutiny. The issue is anti-Israel bias. The BBC refuses to publish a 2004 report by former BBC editor Malcolm Balen, which the BBC itself commissioned in 2003 after Jerusalem temporarily withdrew all official cooperation with the broadcaster over its perceived bias. Numerous examples point to a simplistic narrative that invariably portrays Israel as the aggressor and the Palestinians as mere victims.
        The BBC's power to influence foreign policy and shape public opinion is almost unparalleled among media organizations. Its radio shows alone attract more than 160 million listeners a week. Little wonder, then, that according to opinion polls, an increasing number of Europeans consider Israel a pariah state and anti-Jewish feelings are on the rise. (Wall Street Journal, 20Apr07)
  • Women's Rights at the UN: Israel as the Only Violator - Anne Bayefsky
    The UN's lead agency responsible for the promotion and protection of women's rights the world over, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), ended its 51st session on March 9, 2007, by criticizing only one state - Israel. Apparently, the CSW missed the arrests in Tehran of 33 Muslim women calling for an end to polygamy or the teenager in Riyadh sentenced to 90 lashes for meeting a young man who was not a family member, after being kidnapped at knifepoint and gang-raped. It also failed to notice the millions of vulnerable women and girls raped, displaced, dead or dying in Sudan, the millions of women forcibly aborted in China, and the thousands murdered or forced to commit suicide for the crime of "dishonoring" their fathers and brothers across the Arab and Muslim world.
        Instead, it adopted by a vote of 40 to 2 a resolution on the injustices "the occupation of Palestine imposes on Palestinian women." Only the U.S. and Canada confronted the move for what it was: the hijacking of yet another UN body to spin world opinion against Israel and toward the PA. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Statecraft Requires a Reality Check - Dennis Ross (New Republic)

    • Secretary of State Rice says a strategic realignment in the region creates an opportunity for peace-making. She sees the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians, and other "moderate" Arabs sharing with Israel a common fear of Iran. However, while the Saudis and Israelis may both see Iran as a threat, they have different ideas about how to deal with it.
    • Effective statecraft should have led Rice to explore how far Arab leaders were prepared to go. She would have quickly found that the Saudis (and others) are very hesitant. Good statecraft also would have revealed that any "political horizon" disconnected from the realities on the ground would not have been sustainable. For Israelis, continuing terrorist attacks, rocket salvos, and Hamas build-ups in Gaza (patterned after Hizbullah's in southern Lebanon) must end before they trigger a major Israeli incursion into Gaza, Nablus, or Jenin - any of which would sink whatever diplomacy still exists.
    • Priority number one should be a comprehensive ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians (as opposed to complete resolution of the conflict).
    • A second priority should be to foster a dialogue between Israelis, Palestinians, and the larger Arab world about the responsibilities of a Palestinian state once it is finally created. How will it interact with Israel and the outside world? The dialogue could hammer out specifics about how normalized Israel-Palestine relations could evolve in stages.
    • A third priority should be to ensure that Fatah gains strength against Hamas. Fatah must clean up its act, and the U.S. should help. Make no mistake about it, if Hamas wins the next elections in two years (for president and legislative council), the conflict will be transformed from a national conflict into a religious conflict. If that happens, we'll be out of the peace-making business for a long time, and Islamists will be able to dominate the most evocative issue in the region.

      The writer is counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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    Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.