Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 9, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Donate $5 Million to Aid Refugees in Darfur and Chad - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli Foreign Ministry intends to implement a $5 million aid plan for Darfur refugees in the near future.
    Israel will transmit $4 million to four aid organizations operating in Chad.
    The contribution will place Israel among the 10 largest donors to Chad refugees in the world in 2007.

Hizbullah Deputy Chief: Rockets Fired at Israel Required Iranian Approval (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's deputy, told the Iranian Arabic-language TV channel Al-Kawthar on April 16 that firing rockets on Israeli civilians required the jurisprudent permission of the Iranian leadership.
    His statements confirm that Hizbullah considers Iran and its supreme leader Khamenei to be the highest source of authority for its activity and policy, including its terrorist operations.
    Hizbullah nurtures Khamenei's personality cult among its operatives and among the Shi'ite community in Lebanon, portraying the "leader" as a role model to be followed.
    While Hizbullah does not necessarily need the approval of the Iranian leadership for each and every terrorist attack, the Iranian leadership has the ability to regulate the extent of Hizbullah's anti-Israeli activity by allowing or prohibiting various kinds of operations at various times.

Guns Vie with Used Cars in Gaza Market - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades, pipe bombs and assorted ammunition are now on sale in Gaza's bustling used car market.
    Abdallah al-Ghalban, 33, said he had come to the market to buy a car. "We were shocked to see it has been turned into a black market for weapons," he said.

America's Efforts to Spy on Israel - Gregory Levey (New Republic)
    When I recently asked a former U.S. intelligence official who spent several years working on Middle East issues if America spied on Israel, he replied, "As an American, I would certainly hope so."
    He said that he had himself analyzed information from "classified sources in Israel."
    There is "definitely an inordinate amount of focus" on Israel in U.S. intelligence, he told me.

Correction: What the "Shoe-Bomber" Tried to Do (Little Green Footballs)
    A video reported here on May 8 that reconstructed the "Shoe-Bomber's" bomb was actually a video of a 1998 test.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Six Foreign-Born "Radical Islamists" Charged in Plot to Strike Ft. Dix Army Base - Josh Meyer and Erika Hayasaki
    Six foreign-born "radical Islamists" charged Tuesday in a plot to attack the Ft. Dix Army base in New Jersey were trying to buy AK-47 and M-16 rifles when they were arrested, and posed a serious terrorist threat, authorities said. The men allegedly had discussed trying to kill hundreds of people on the base with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The suspects include three brothers, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, a Turkish national, a Jordanian, and a former Yugoslavian.
        Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said, "These were six men who, from out of nowhere, directed themselves to try and kill as many Americans as possible. They trained themselves, they motivated themselves, they did their own reconnaissance." FBI special agent P. Weis said, "We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Rice: Bush Won't Give Up Military Option on Iran
    President Bush will keep a military option on the table as he seeks a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran over its nuclear plans, Secretary of State Rice said Tuesday. "The American president will not abandon the military option and I believe that we do not want him to do so," Rice said. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • Israel Proposes Gaza Buffer - Laurie Copans
    Israel's army has developed a plan to create a "buffer zone" inside the Gaza Strip to halt the latest wave of Palestinian rocket attacks, military officials said Tuesday. Gaza militants have continued to fire rockets into southern Israel and the rocket fire has spiked in recent days, with 16 rockets fired since Friday, including two launched Tuesday. On Monday, Israel carried out an airstrike in Gaza on a car carrying rockets near the Israeli border, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned he was losing patience with the rocket barrages. The military's plan for a 300-yard-deep zone inside Gaza is one of several options Israel is considering to counter the rocket fire. The plan also calls for an increase in attacks on rocket launchers, including airstrikes on high-ranking militants who oversee the firings. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Defense Officials Oppose U.S. Plan for Gaza-West Bank Travel - Aluf Benn
    Wary of the security implications of Palestinians traveling between Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli defense officials expressed opposition on Tuesday to this part of the American benchmarks plan for Israel and the PA. Officials said that allowing freedom of movement between the two territories may create a dangerous security situation, enabling the transfer of technological know-how for making Kassam rockets in the West Bank. Officials said the security situation in Gaza has deteriorated significantly since a 2005 agreement on movement and access.
        Political sources in Jerusalem said the U.S. "dropped" the benchmarks document on Israel and did not coordinate its content in advance. "In our relationship with the Americans, we are accustomed to closer coordination," sources said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Benchmarks Won't Work - Yaakov Katz
    The American benchmarks are no different than the stages set in the U.S.-backed road map, which never really moved past phase one due to Abbas' inability to stop Palestinian terrorism. Senior Israeli defense officials said the plan demonstrates a basic lack of understanding by U.S. Security Coordinator Maj.-Gen. Keith Dayton and the rest of the U.S. administration as to what is needed to obtain a lull in Palestinian rocket attacks.
        In closed-door meetings, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who is on friendly terms with Dayton, has declared firm opposition to linking Gaza and the West Bank, as well as to the lifting of roadblocks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S.: Benchmark Plan Only Informal - Herb Keinon
    The new U.S. document on movement and access that sets deadlines for steps Israel and the Palestinians are expected to fulfill is not a "take it or leave it" document, U.S. diplomatic officials said Tuesday. It is an informal draft meant to serve as a basis for discussion, they said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Diplomatic Talks between Israel, Palestinians on Hold - Ronny Sofer
    Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian leader Abbas agreed to hold biweekly meetings in order to advance diplomatic progress, but their last meeting took place on April 15. The two were supposed to meet on April 29, but the meeting was postponed due to the publication of the Winograd Commission's report the following day and another meeting has not been scheduled. U.S. Secretary of State Rice announced on Monday that she had canceled her scheduled visit to Israel due to the political situation in the country. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Concerned Over Gaza Chaos - Hanan Greenberg
    With the number of Kassam rockets launched by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel increasing, an Israeli security source said: "Chaos rules the streets, the anticipated improvements after the establishment of the joint Fatah-Hamas government have not materialized. The number of casualties from inner clashes is growing continuously." Col. Nir Peres, head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said: "At the end of the day they need to choose whether they want to work in Ashdod or Ashkelon or whether they want to launch rockets at them."   (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Economic Crisis - Amir Taheri
    Economic issues spell the most trouble for Ahmadinejad's struggling presidency. Last week tens of thousands of angry workers, forming an illegal umbrella organization, flexed their muscles against Ahmadinejad on International Labor Day in Tehran and a dozen provincial capitals. Ahmadinejad centered his 2005 presidential campaign on a promise to "bring the country's oil money to every family's dinner table." With inflation running around 18% and unemployment jumping to more than 30%, the average Iranian is worse off than three years ago - and that despite rising oil revenues. There has been a massive flight of capital, mostly into banks in Dubai, Malaysia and Austria. Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, the Islamic Chief Justice, claims that as much as $300 billion may have left the country since Ahmadinejad was sworn in.
        Ahmadinejad's entire economic philosophy seems to be designed to do more harm than good. He seems to believe the global economic system is a Jewish-Crusader conspiracy to keep Muslim nations in a position of weakness and dependency. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Does Al-Qaeda "Coordinate" with Iran? - Blake Hounshell
    One of the big debates in the "war on terror" is whether and to what extent Iran is working with al-Qaeda. Nasser Ahmad al-Bahri, a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden (who is apparently still alive), told the Al Arabiya satellite channel (Arabic) that top al-Qaeda leaders such as Seif al-Adel and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian are responsible for the "coordination file" with Iran. The reason for the alliance? Al-Bahri says it's because "our enemy is one and that is the United States." That doesn't mean, he says, that al-Qaeda supports "the Iranian agenda." (Foreign Policy/Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
  • Observations:

    President Truman and the Birth of Israel - Michael Beschloss (Newsweek)

    From Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989 (2007)

    • Truman's ultimate decision about a Jewish state - one of the most significant foreign-policy decisions in U.S. history - emerged from a storm of cross-pressures and motives. He was besieged by Zionists, anti-Zionists, Democratic politicians eager to court the Jewish vote in an election year, and diplomats afraid to rile the Arabs.
    • He felt compassion for the Holocaust survivors still in European camps and reverence for biblical history. But he feared as well that the new state might require defense by U.S. troops and dreaded that respected leaders like Gen. George Marshall would accuse him of warping American diplomacy to his own political needs. Truman also had to rise above his own lingering small-town parlor anti-Semitism.
    • In the end, Truman recognized Israel for many different reasons. The Jews' display of military strength in Palestine had convinced him that U.S. troops would not be needed to defend them. He feared that letting the Russians recognize Israel first would give them a foothold in Palestine.
    • Truman also realized helping to found a Jewish state was a historic act that might qualify him for some future edition of "Great Men and Famous Women."
    • By recognizing Israel, Truman knew he would be forever damned by people who did not want the Jews to have their own state - or who did not want it in Palestine. But as Truman always told himself, the ultimate test of any presidential decision was "not whether it's popular at the time, but whether it's right....If it's right, make it, and let the popular part take care of itself."

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