Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 15, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Tensions Ease at Mugrabi Gate after UN Study - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    Tensions have subsided even though construction at the Mugrabi Gate leading to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has never stopped, despite violent clashes in February and concerns of diplomatic confrontations with Arab and Muslim countries.
    Senior police sources say the relative calm stems from the evaluations of the work by Turkish and UN delegations that confirmed that the Temple Mount is not being harmed.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Officially Asks UN to Form Hariri Tribunal - Rym Ghazal and Nafez Qawas (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    In an official letter to the UN on Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora requested help with the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri "as a matter of urgency."
    "We called on the UN Security Council to establish the court as soon as possible after all possible means to ratify it in Lebanon have failed," Minister of Information Ghazi Aridi said after a cabinet meeting on Monday.
    Siniora asked the Security Council to set up the court by whatever means "it deems appropriate."

Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric Gains Sway in Iran - Anne Barnard (Boston Globe)
    In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure.
    Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, said Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shi'ite leaders should stay out of government.

Saudi Arabia on Beheading Spree (Kuwait Times)
    Four Saudis were beheaded by the sword Monday after being convicted of rape and murder, while an Iraqi and a Pakistani national were executed for drug trafficking, the Interior Ministry said.
    The six beheadings - one of the highest numbers of executions in one day - brought to 72 the number of executions announced by the Saudi authorities this year, almost double the figure in 2006.

Study: Anti-Semitism on Rise in Parts of Europe - Allyn Fisher-Ilan (Reuters/ Washington Post)
    A survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Italy in March and April found that negative stereotypes about Jews had gained ground since 2005.
    "A large number of Europeans continue to be infected with anti-Jewish attitudes, holding on to classic anti-Semitic canards and conspiracy theories," said ADL Director Abraham Foxman.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Inspectors Cite Big Gain by Iran on Nuclear Fuel - David E. Sanger
    Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran appears to have solved most of its technological problems and is now beginning to enrich uranium on a far larger scale than before, according to the agency's top officials. In a short-notice inspection of Iran's main nuclear facility at Natanz on Sunday, conducted in advance of a report to the UN Security Council due early next week, the inspectors found that Iranian engineers were already using roughly 1,300 centrifuges and were producing fuel suitable for nuclear reactors, according to diplomats and nuclear experts.
        "They are at the stage where they are doing one cascade a week," said one diplomat familiar with the analysis of Iran's activities. A cascade has 164 centrifuges, and experts say that at this pace, Iran could have 3,000 centrifuges operating by June - enough, if the uranium were enriched further, to make one bomb's worth of nuclear material every year. Tehran may, the diplomat said, be able to build an additional 5,000 centrifuges by the end of the year, for a total of 8,000. (New York Times)
  • At Least 8 Dead in Hamas Attack on Abbas' Presidential Guard - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Hamas gunmen killed at least eight members of Mahmoud Abbas' Presidential Guard on Tuesday at a training base near the Karni Crossing as Palestinian factional fighting threatened to spill into full civil war. "They are attacking the headquarters and the crossing with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and mortar bombs....I warn of a massacre here (by Hamas)," Ali al-Qessi, a Presidential Guard spokesman, said in a call for help on Palestinian television. The U.S. has earmarked millions of dollars to provide training and non-lethal equipment to the Presidential Guard. (Reuters)
        See also Anarchy Wins in Gaza - Danny Rubinstein
    Hani al-Kawasmeh's resignation as the PA interior minister - the person responsible for internal security - dealt a mortal blow to efforts to prevent chaos in Gaza and endangers the unity government's continued existence. Most of the clashes of the past few days have been between Hamas' Operational Units (most of which are affiliated with the organization's military wing, Iz a-Din al-Qassam) and two security services headed by Fatah men, the Preventive Security Service and General Intelligence (which are affiliated with Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades). Gaza residents and journalists say that the organization, discipline and weapons of the Hamas forces are far superior to those of the Fatah groups. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza on the Verge of Civil War - Andrew Lee Butters
    The area evacuated by Israel in 2005 is well on its way to becoming a kind of seaside Falluja, a safe haven and training ground for extremists of all kinds. Aid workers recently returned from Gaza describe a city breaking down into tribal and gang formations, much like Iraq. The fact that these groups can act with impunity is clear in the ongoing captivity of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped in March, and has been held despite the fact that his release has been demanded by the top leadership of both Fatah and Hamas. (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Reunification of Jerusalem
    Jerusalem, divided during the 1948 War of Independence, was reunited in the June 1967 Six-Day War. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the city's liberation. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Jerusalem, Israel's Largest City, Still Growing Fast - Moti Bassok
    Jerusalem is Israel's largest city, with 732,000 residents in 2006. Some 469,000 (64%) are Jews, compared to 239,000 (32%) Muslims and 14,700 (2%) Christians. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Prime Minister Olmert's Remarks to a Special Knesset Session Marking the Reunification of Jerusalem (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Mossad: Talks with Syria Could Lead to War - Itamar Eichner
    Resuming peace negotiations with Syria may lead to war, Mossad chief Meir Dagan recently warned a closed government meeting. Dagan said that the peace signals coming from Damascus were only tactical, and that if negotiations between Israel and Syria fell through, this could lead to war, and therefore Israel should seek to maintain the status quo. The Mossad chief believes that the chances Syria will launch a war against Israel are slim, as the Syrians understand that they will suffer heavy damage. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Great Circle of Enmity - Fouad Ajami
    Vice President Dick Cheney may descend on Arab capitals, as he did last week, and our secretary of state can assemble one huge diplomatic conclave after another in support of Iraq, but the great circle of enmity around the fragile Baghdad government will not be broken. This region has been stubborn in its refusal to accept the stark verdicts of history. The State of Israel is a year away from its 60th anniversary, and still the Arab imagination denies Israel's legitimacy. Iraq is different, but a state that gives pride of place to the Shiites (and the Kurds) is still an oddity in the Arab landscape. For well over a millennium, the Shiite Arabs have not governed; they have been the stepchildren of the Arab world.
        The Sunni Arab rulers, and the angry men and women on the airwaves and in the "chat rooms" of the Arab world, insist that their animus toward this new Iraq derives from their opposition to the American presence. This is plain hypocrisy, for vast stretches of the Arab world are within the orbit of American power. Pax Americana, and the shadow and the reality of its power, underpin the security of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. In Amman, Jordan, and Cairo, American largess and security networks uphold these regimes. In the Arabian Peninsula, the American presence - military, economic and cultural - dates back decades. (U.S. News)
  • UNIFIL Caught Between Israel and Hizbullah: A Burning Issue for Nicolas Sarkozy - Georges Malbrunot
    The Shi'i militia, Hizbullah, is rearming north of the Litani River. On three occasions in recent weeks, Israeli political authorities have denied Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of the North Israel military region, authority to attack, not far from the Syrian border with Lebanon, trucks carrying weapons for Hizbullah arriving from Damascus. "This time the satellite photos that the Israelis showed us seem conclusive," according to a diplomat close to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has again voiced his "concern" about this forbidden traffic. Following the appointment in February of its new chief of staff, Gen. Gaby Ashkenazy, the Israeli army has greatly strengthened its defenses. At his first meeting with UNIFIL, Gen. Ashkenazy conveyed an extremely clear message: "Before, we were lambs; now we will be wolves," he warned. Israel does not intend to get trapped again. Hence the continuing flights over Lebanese territory by Israeli drones gathering intelligence about Hizbullah but also about UNIFIL's defense arrangements. (Le Figaro-France)
  • Observations:

    Fatah: We've Lost the Battle for Jerusalem - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

    • In the past four years, thousands of Arab Jerusalemites living outside the municipal boundaries of the city have moved back into Jerusalem for fear of being left on the other side of the security fence. Many abandoned large houses in favor of small and expensive apartments inside the city. "People see the anarchy and instability in the Palestinian Authority areas and prefer to leave to a safer place," explained Ibrahim Barakat, a businessman from Beit Hanina, a large Arab neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. "After all, life inside Israel is much better than the West Bank."
    • But perhaps the most significant change has been Israel's success in eliminating the presence of a Palestinian political address in eastern Jerusalem. The death of Faisal Husseini, the top PLO representative, and the subsequent closure by Israel of Orient House, the unofficial PLO headquarters in the city, eliminated one of the most prominent symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem.
    • The construction of the fence, together with strict Israeli security measures, also resulted in a sharp decline in the activities of PA security agents inside the city. Until a few years ago, hundreds of PA security agents were operating almost freely in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, sometimes kidnapping residents to Ramallah or Jericho for "interrogation."
    • Israeli institutions remain the largest employer of Arab Jerusalemites. Thousands of teachers are employed by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Ministry of Education, who receive higher salaries and better privileges than their colleagues who work for private or PA-controlled schools inside the city. In addition, scores of Israeli medical centers and clinics employ thousands of doctors, nurses, and administrative workers from eastern Jerusalem.
    • "Let's be honest, we have lost the battle for Jerusalem," admitted a Fatah legislator from the city. "The Palestinian Authority hasn't done anything to preserve the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem. The Arabs in Jerusalem have lost confidence in the Palestinian leadership and that's why most of them prefer to live under Israeli control. Frankly, when I see what's happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, I can understand why."

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