Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 3, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Court Clears Ex-Shin Bet Chief in War Crimes Suit (Reuters)
    A federal judge threw out a war crimes lawsuit on Wednesday against former director of the Shin Bet security service Avi Dichter, currently Israel's Minister of Internal Security, for an Israel Air Force strike in Gaza City on July 22, 2002, that targeted Hamas leader Saleh Shehada, but also killed 14 Palestinian civilians.
    In the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Judge William Pauley ruled that Dichter could not be sued because he was acting as a government official at the time.
    Israel and the U.S. State Department had petitioned the court to grant Dichter's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Egypt: Not Time to Push Saudi Plan on Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Now is not the time to press Israel to accept the Saudi peace initiative, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit said on Thursday, Israel Radio reported.
    Abdul Gheit said that due to the sensitive political situation Israel is facing following the release of the Winograd Committee's interim report on the Second Lebanon War, one must wait until the political situation clears up.

Mubarak's Son Says He Has No Intention to Rule Egypt (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    Gamal Mubarak, 43, the youngest son of Egypt's longtime ruler, told the Arabic satellite TV channel Orbit Tuesday that he had no plans to become president.
    "I said before and I am repeating it again, the intention and ambition to run for president doesn't exist."
    "I'm not looking for any executive post," he said, adding that he was not interested in leading the ruling National Democratic Party or any other party.

British Doctors Call for New Israel Boycott - Jeremy Last (European Jewish Press)
    A group of 130 British doctors have called for a boycott of the Israel Medical Association and its expulsion from the World Medical Association.
    Martin Sugarman, the head of a twinning group between Homerton Hospital in London and Haifa's Rambam Hospital in Israel, said he was shocked by the call.
    "If suicide bombers from Gaza and the West Bank never dressed as pregnant or sick patients trying to reach and blow up Israeli hospitals, if PLO ambulances did not transport terrorists and arms, then maybe there would be no need for the security fence [and] check points," he told London's Jewish News.
    "Despite all this, Israeli hospitals still treat free, Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and Gaza with severe illnesses and conditions."

Ahmadinejad Criticized for Kissing Teacher's Hand (Maan News-PA)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad is being slammed by Iranian newspapers and Islamic groups after he kissed his teacher's hand during a celebration of Iranian teacher's day.
    The Tehran-based Hizbullah newspaper considered the Iranian president's behavior contradictory to Islamic law, "which prohibits kissing the hand of any lady if she is not one of the man's family members."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.-Iran Talks Unlikely at Conference on Iraq - Robin Wright
    Secretary of State Rice and her Iranian counterpart are unlikely to hold substantive one-on-one talks at a conference in Egypt on Friday, U.S. and Iranian officials said Tuesday. Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki are both scheduled to attend a meeting with Iraq's neighbors in Sharm el-Sheikh on the future of Iraq. Bilateral contact between top U.S. and Iranian officials is now likely to be limited to pleasantries on the sidelines, officials from both countries said.
        After talks with European officials, the Bush administration has decided that any dialogue with Iran would be more enduring and significant if conducted through representatives of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rather than the Foreign Ministry. In Iran's government, Khamenei holds a lifetime appointment and has veto power over any government action, while the Foreign Ministry reports to President Ahmadinejad. In Washington and Tehran, Mottaki is not seen as an influential figure. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Stresses Stark Choices for Iran in Nuclear Stand-Off - Robin Millard
    Iran must enter negotiations over its nuclear program or face increasing international isolation, Ambassador Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, stressed before six-party talks on the issue next week in London. "Iran is playing a central role in the four great interconnected crises in the Middle East that are part of American foreign policy," Burns said, citing Tehran's role in supporting Shia militants in Iraq, militant groups like Lebanon's Hizbullah, Iran itself and its nuclear program, and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Iran Charges Former Nuclear Negotiator with Spying - Nazila Fathi
    Hossein Moussavian, who served as a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator until President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 and who has been a prominent critic of Iran's nuclear policies, was arrested this week on spying charges, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Wednesday. "He was arrested because of his ties with foreigners and for giving them information" about the country's nuclear program, the agency said. At the time of his arrest, Moussavian was working at the Strategic Research Center, an organization affiliated with the Expediency Council, which is headed by former President Rafsanjani. (New York Times)
  • Florida Legislature Votes to Divest from Iran and Sudan
    Saying Florida needs to lead the battle against terrorism and genocide, state legislators are mandating that the state drop any investment it has in companies that do business with Iran's energy sector and the country of Sudan. Florida's $140 billion pension fund is the fourth largest in the country. The divestiture would affect about $1 billion worth of investments. The Florida Senate last week passed the measure 39-0. The House approved it 118-0 on Wednesday. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
  • Syrian Military Buildup Worries Israel - Barry Schweid
    Faced with the biggest military buildup by Syria along its border since the 1973 Middle East war, Israel is privately reassuring its Arab neighbor that it does not seek a confrontation, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor said Wednesday. He also said Israel would continue "to do everything humanly possible to enhance peace" opportunities with the Palestinians. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Terrorists Look to Kidnap More Israelis - Yaakov Katz
    A senior IDF Central Command officer warned Wednesday that, "As the negotiations over [Cpl. Gilad] Shalit's release advance, the Palestinians are doing everything they can to get their hands on another Israeli.... There is no question that two abductees are better than just one."
        The IDF has designed a warning system that it plans to install at hitchhiking posts throughout the West Bank that includes a distress button as well as a set of cameras that broadcast a live picture to nearby security forces. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Former CIA Director Blames Arafat for Being "Barrier to Peace" - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Former CIA Director George Tenet places most of the blame for the breakdown of the security plan bearing his name and other efforts to stop the violence after the outbreak of the second intifada on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his new book, At the Center of the Storm, published Monday. "Almost always, that last impenetrable barrier to peace had the same name: Arafat," he writes. "Arafat always wanted one more thing, and one more thing was never enough because what he really wanted was for the peace process to be ever-active and eternally unresolved," according to Tenet.
        He says that the White House was right not to push for greater diplomacy with the Palestinians once Bush entered office, as it was apparent little could be done with Arafat in power. "He got what he could from us [through the Oslo process], and from that point on gave little back," Tenet says. "Therefore - and it was a view I supported - there would be no more letting him in the front door." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Next Mideast War? - David Makovsky
    The causes of last year's war with Hizbullah in Lebanon still exist - and may spark another conflagration. Israel resorted to military action last July largely because the UN did nothing to implement Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680 which made clear that Hizbullah should disband and be disarmed. Israel was left to fend for itself after Hizbullah crossed a UN-demarcated line, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two soldiers it still has not released.
        The end of the war led to the passage of Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for an international embargo to prevent weaponry from entering Lebanon, a provision which has not been met. It has been widely reported that arms from Syria are being smuggled into Lebanon. The international community should agree to follow up Resolution 1701 with one involving the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Reviving Hitler's "Big Lie" to Vilify the Jewish State - Daniel Pipes
    "If today's Arab anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda strongly resembles that of the Third Reich, there is a good reason." So writes an associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Joel Fishman, in "The Big Lie and the Media War Against Israel" (Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2007), an insightful new piece of historical research. Fishman begins by noting today's topsy-turvy situation: Because Israel defends its citizens against terrorism, conventional warfare, and weapons of mass destruction, it is perceived as a dangerous predator. How did such an insane inversion of reality - the Middle East's only fully free and democratic country being seen as the leading global menace - come to be? (New York Sun)
  • Conference of Presidents Statement on the Winograd Commission Report
    In response to numerous press inquiries, Harold Tanner, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, of the Conference of Presidents, issued the following statement: With the publication of the Winograd Commission report, Israel has again shown its profound democratic nature and readiness to engage in difficult, even painful, self-examination. The report's findings will be subject to scrutiny by the people of Israel and their elected officials, who will draw their own conclusions. American Jewish organizations do not play a role in the decisions regarding the political futures of Israel's leaders. That is the prerogative of the citizens of the sovereign State of Israel.
        The role of American Jewry is to help the State of Israel and the people of Israel through this difficult period and to offer our continued support. With an unwavering commitment to the democratic principles that have been the underpinnings of the state since its founding, Israel has been through other difficult periods of introspection in the past and emerged stronger. We are confident of the same result in the case of the Winograd Commission report. (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, 2 May 2007)
  • Observations:

    Preserving Humanitarian Principles While Combating Terrorism: Israel's Struggle with Hizbullah in the Lebanon War - Daniel Taub (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • Israel's military operations in Lebanon took place in the context of a clear asymmetry with regard to the implementation of principles of international humanitarian law: Hizbullah, in clear violation of these principles, deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, while attempting to use the cover of civilians and civilian structures in order to stockpile its weapons, hide its fighters and fire missiles into Israel. Israel, on the other hand, held itself bound to apply the principles of humanitarian law, even while facing an opponent who deliberately flouted them.
    • In doing so, Israel took pains to ensure that its operations were directed against legitimate military targets and that in conducting its operations incidental damage to civilians was kept to a minimum, both by ruling out attacks which would cause disproportionate damage and by giving advance notice wherever possible. A survey of international practice suggests that the steps taken by Israel to address humanitarian considerations corresponded to, and often were more stringent than, those taken by many Western democracies confronting similar or lesser threats.
    • The suffering of civilians was a tragic reality on both sides of the conflict. Israel made strenuous efforts to reduce this toll, both by protecting Israeli civilians and by seeking to minimize civilian suffering on the Lebanese side. Following the conflict, Israel has also undertaken numerous investigations and analyses with a view to learning lessons from the conflict and to enabling improvements to be made in the future.
    • Israel's efforts in this regard should not, however, diminish the ultimate responsibility of those who callously and deliberately used the Lebanese civilian population as a shield, for the suffering that inevitably resulted from their actions.

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