Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. Working to Sabotage Iran Nuke Program - Sheila MacVicar and Ashley Velie
Israelis Don't Want Gaza to Be Their Next Lebanon - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
Ahmadinejad and the Petrol Paradox - Michael Theodoulou (Times-UK)
UN: Internal Violence Killed 55 Palestinians, Injured 243 Last Week (Maan News-PA)
Smug in Damascus - Nibras Kazimi (New York Sun)
Storm-Watching in Jordan - Richard Cohen (Washington Post)
Israel Sends Kassam Rockets to Europe - Lilach Shoval (Ynet News)
Israeli Agricultural Expertise Aids Tibetan Refugees - Stephanie Freid (Israel21c/IsraAid)
Israel Launches Humanitarian Mission in Vietnam (Xinhua-China)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The head of the UN nuclear inspection agency warned for the first time Thursday that Iran probably can enrich enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb in three to eight years. Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, gave his assessment a day after a strongly worded IAEA report cautioned that Tehran had reduced its cooperation with UN inspectors while sharply accelerating its uranium enrichment efforts. (Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S. Urges New Sanctions as Iran Stands Firm on Nuclear Policy - Karen DeYoung
President Bush said Thursday that the administration will press the UN to adopt new, expanded sanctions against Iran, as Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Tehran would "never retreat even one step" from its nuclear enrichment program. In a news conference, Bush said he would discuss additional sanctions with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao. "The first thing these leaders have got to understand is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing for the world," Bush said. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Thursday for swift adoption of new sanctions. Kouchner said Iran now had more than 2,000 centrifuges in operation at its underground facility near Natanz. (Washington Post)
See also Iranian Leader Warns Israel It May Be "Uprooted"
Iran's President Ahmadinejad on Thursday warned Israel it would be "uprooted" if it made any move against Lebanon in the coming summer. Israeli officials have denied plans for such a conflict. Speaking live on state television, Ahmadinejad said: "If this year you repeat the same mistake of the last year, the ocean of nations of the region will get angry and will cut the root of the Zionist regime from its stem."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Ahmadinejad's comments reflected the Iranian leadership's support for the "most extreme elements in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Authority." "Ahmadinejad funds, trains and arms the most extreme anti-peace elements in the region. If there is any real threat to regional security, it comes from an expansionist fundamentalist Iran," Regev said. (AP/MSNBC)
Military aid began arriving in Lebanon Friday after the U.S. said it will rush supplies to the Lebanese army fighting al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic militants barricaded inside a Palestinian refugee camp in the country's north. Meanwhile, sporadic gunfire exchanges Friday punctured the lull in the fighting as the Lebanese army continued to build up around the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. The move appeared to be either a preparation to storm the encampment with hundreds of Fatah Islam militants holed up inside, or a tightening of the siege to force the militants to surrender. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are also trapped inside. (AP/CNN)
See also Gaza-Based Group Vows to Help Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon
A Gaza-based Palestinian militant group that follows al-Qaeda ideology has said it was willing to help terrorists from Fatah al-Islam holed up in the northern Lebanese refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. "We swear...that Fatah al-Islam and its Muslim brothers in Lebanon are not orphans. There are those Muslims in the East and West who will help them to victory," the Army of Islam said in a statement released on Thursday. The group, which said it was behind the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza City on March 12, issued the plea on a website often used by Islamic militants. (Naharnet-Lebanon)
The UN said Thursday it would send a team to Lebanon early next week to check on reported arms smuggling across the border with neighboring Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-moon informed the Security Council of the impending mission which was requested by the Council last month. UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe said Thursday the UN team would assess Lebanon's ability to check on arms movements across its border. The UN team, which is to spend roughly two weeks in Lebanon, will be led by Lasse Rosenkrands of Denmark and will be made up of experts from Algeria, Germany, Jamaica and Switzerland. (AFP-France)
Hamas has vowed to block a potential £2 billion deal being brokered by the BG Group to supply Palestinian gas to Israel. Ziad Thatha, the Hamas economic minister in the Palestinian government, denounced the sale of "Palestinian gas to the Zionist occupation." The comments threaten to overshadow key negotiations BG Group hoped would lead to the development of the Gaza Marine gas field it discovered seven years ago. Talks over a 15-year contract are due to begin next week and the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was keen to conclude a deal "as soon as possible." The Gaza Marine field is Palestine's only sovereign natural resource and its development could generate £500 million for the Palestinian economy in royalties from BG Group. (Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Hamas threatened on Thursday to escalate its attacks against Israel in response to the arrest of dozens of its representatives in the West Bank by the IDF. Hamas also rejected an appeal by Mahmoud Abbas to stop firing Kassam rockets at Israel.
According to Israeli security officials, the arrests were intended to put additional pressure on Hamas and send a clear message that Israel would target all of the movement's officials until the Kassam rocket attacks on southern Israel ceased. Security officials said that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) planned to file indictments against the arrested Hamas officials, who, they said, were involved in funding terror activity and transferring terror know-how from Gaza to the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians fired at least five Kassam rockets at Israel on Friday morning which landed near Sderot and south of Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
See also Palestinian Rockets Destroy Negev Kibbutzim's Crops - Shmulik Hadad
At kibbutzim in the western Negev, dozens of acres of wheat went up in flames in the past week, just when it was time to begin the harvest. Palestinian rockets have been raining on the area and setting the fields on fire, causing substantial damage. The kibbutzim are now making efforts to salvage the remaining crops. (Ynet News)
The two security cabinet meetings Prime Minister Olmert held on the situation in Gaza, and the security consultations he convened, indicated that he is not eager for escalation. He is trying to exert controlled pressure on Hamas which is meant to lead to a reduction in the firing of Kassam rockets. A security cabinet member speaks of "graded escalation": deploying forces in the northern Gaza Strip to distance the rocket threat; declaring a broad section along the fence as a killing zone, in which movement of Palestinian vehicles will be forbidden; and stepping up the pressure on Beit Hanun, in Gaza's northeast corner. "And we haven't yet said anything about the water and the electricity in Gaza," the cabinet minister notes. (Ha'aretz)
See also Pinpoint Accuracy Is Key to Israel Air Force's Gaza Strikes - Yaakov Katz
Since the IDF began its operation in Gaza last week - aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot - it has been generally successful in keeping its strikes precise and on target. Cars carrying terrorists were bombed in the middle of streets and buildings housing weapons warehouses and factories were leveled. An international outcry - usually quick to come - was nowhere to be heard. (Jerusalem Post)
The trick is to know, at all times, where you are relative to Gaza, where the rockets come from, says Sderot Fire Chief David Sheetrit. If you're facing north, Gaza is on your left, and you need to hug the eastern side of a building, to keep the structure between you and the rockets. If you get this calculation wrong, you are exposing yourself to a direct hit. Sderot is turning into a city that never sleeps. Fear is everywhere.
When you're driving and the siren sounds, get out of the vehicle and run to the nearest shelter or wall. If there is no building, lie down on the road and cover your head. Just don't stay in your car. The main reason is that rocket shrapnel - and every Kassam rocket has ball bearings or bolts in its warhead - can tear through your gas tank and blow up your car. Remember to always have your window slightly open, so that you can hear the Color Red alert and the Kassam shriek. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The armed Palestinian organizations in Gaza are demonstrating once again what has become a norm among the Palestinians - that the agreements to which their leaders commit have no value. In this latest round of internal Palestinian violence, the warring parties have already decided on a cease-fire five times. Each time, within hours, they were back to killing each other and injuring bystanders in the process. If this is how they behave among themselves, why should they be any more scrupulous in abiding by agreements with outside elements such as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt? This is an important lesson that Israel must learn from the recent events in Gaza.
Israel has no choice but to continue to seek agreements with the Palestinians, but it also must insist on maintaining broader margins of security. For example, by making every effort in the current situation to isolate the West Bank from Gaza and prevent Hamas from gaining the upper hand in the West Bank. For this reason, most of the security-related sections in the proposal by the American general Keith Dayton must be rejected.
Granted, the Egyptians have improved their efforts to take action against the terrorists in Sinai, but if you compare Egyptian activity with the Jordanians' efforts, the Egyptians receive a low mark. The Egyptians are turning a blind eye to Hamas' smuggling of large amounts of money, mostly from Iran, into Gaza for the establishment of a Hamas army. The sense in Israel is that Egypt is playing a two-faced game in the war on terror. (Ha'aretz)
In the midst of heavy fighting 60 years ago, many Palestinians found themselves in the great and neighborly Arab homeland of what they called "the one Arab nation." A crossing of maybe 25 miles into an abutting province where people speak the same tongue, practice the same religion and purport to be of one ethnic seed is not truly an exile.
It is a fact that the Palestinians were not over time truly made welcome. This shows something of the sham of the fraternity of their Arab brothers. But the Palestinians - many thinking themselves South Syrians, others Jordanians, and still others in some way Egyptians - were not exactly thankful guests. In Iraq, they aligned themselves with the tyrant. In Jordan, they stirred up a revolution that brought "Black September" on their heads. In Kuwait, they cheered when Saddam invaded. In southern Lebanon they set up a brutal mini-state run by Yassir Arafat and his minions that over-lorded their hosts. The Saudis were canny: they did not allow them in in the first place. (New Republic)
In the U.S. and Europe, there is a widespread belief that the Bush administration has failed to engage Iran diplomatically. Among the advisers to the Iraq Study Group, of which I was one, most believed that the Bush administration, not the mullahs' regime, was the most culpable party in foreclosing dialogue between Washington and Tehran after 9/11. Yet it ought to be clear that just the opposite is the case. The clerical regime today is no more interested in reaching a peaceful modus vivendi with the U.S. than it was in the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright all but begged President Mohammad Khatami of Iran to just talk to them.
Case in point: Haleh Esfandiari, an American citizen and the director of the Middle Eastern program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, has been jailed in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since May 8. For years, she has been an articulate and determined advocate of better relations between her homeland, Iran, and her adopted country. By arresting her during a visit to her 93-year-old mother, the clerical regime sent a blatant message about the effectiveness of engagement. A 67-year-old woman who has over the years shown Iran's representatives in the U.S. and other visiting Iranians, including esteemed clerics, the utmost kindness and respect, is a perfect target to show the regime's distaste for Iranians who want to build bridges. The writer, a former CIA officer, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (New York Times)
According to a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, one out of every four American Muslims under 30 think suicide bombing in defense of Islam is justified. If, as the Pew study estimates, there are 2.35 million Muslims in America, that means there are a substantial number of people in the U.S. who think suicide bombing is justified. Similarly, if 5% of American Muslims support al-Qaeda, that's more than 100,000 people.
To bring an end to Islamophobia, it is imperative to adopt new Islamic teachings that do not allow killing apostates. Islamic authorities must provide mainstream Islamic books that forbid polygamy and beating women. Muslims should teach, everywhere and universally, that a woman's testimony in court counts as much as a man's, that women should not be punished if they marry whom they please or dress as they wish. (Wall Street Journal)
The decline of traditional political institutions within Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon has allowed the rise of militant splinter groups such as Fatah al-Islam. The popularity of political Islam has risen in the camps over the past decade as the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has fallen apart, experts said Monday. "These camps are no longer part of Palestinian society," said Bernard Rougier, author of Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon and a professor at the University of Auvergne in France. "They are only spaces - now open to all of the influences running through the Muslim world." "Many consider Palestine a useless fight....By changing their own identities to one of a Sunni warrior, they also get money from Saudi Arabia and other private sources throughout the [Palestinian] diaspora. You are inventing a new figure of the fighter, and it is very exciting to young people," Rougier said. (Washington Post)
See also Saving Lebanon's Liberal Future - Michael Young (Reason)
The movement of emissaries between Fatah Islam and Damascus is well-documented; the Arab world's newspaper of record, Al Hayat, even reports that much of Fatah Islam's leadership is made up of Syrian officers. The real battle for Lebanon will not take place in Beirut but in New York at the UN Security Council. Syria's strategy appears to be to kill the tribunal resolution via a Russian veto.
The key to constraining counterproductive Syrian behavior and ensuring Lebanese sovereignty is seeing through the international tribunal, letting the chips fall where they may. Justice for Hariri is really justice for the Lebanese people and should not be traded as a card either to jump-start still hypothetical Israeli-Syrian peace talks or to rent Syrian assistance on Iraq. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002-06, he was the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the Secretary of Defense. (USA Today)
See also Convene the Court - Editorial
The regime of Bashar al-Assad is desperate to stop the creation of the UN tribunal and has made that objective the overriding goal of its foreign policy. Advocates of "engagement" with Syria tend to overlook this reality. The right response to this week's violence is for the Bush administration, France and Britain to step up their lobbying of the Security Council and schedule an early vote on the tribunal resolution. (Washington Post)
People assume Israel itself was an artificial creation resulting from Holocaust guilt, when a load of European Jews were transplanted into a land owned for millennia by Palestinian Arabs. That itself is false. Israel was the nation state of the Jews centuries before the Arabs took it by force, and an unbroken Jewish presence remained in Jerusalem and other cities, some of which, indeed, had a Jewish majority. It is not surprising that people with perfectly decent instincts are enraged by the continued "occupation" of the West Bank. But they have been led to believe something that is not true.
For a start, Israel's occupation of this territory is perfectly legal and legitimate as an act of self-defense, after a war of aggression against it in 1967. But at a deeper level still, the idea that Israel had no locus in this territory until 1967 is simply false. This West Bank land was never owned by the Palestinians. Following the war of extermination waged by the Arabs against the fledgling Israel at its creation in 1948, Judea and Samaria - as they then were - were illegally occupied by Jordan, and became "the West Bank" as a result. Furthermore, and even more significant, Judea and Samaria were part of Mandatory Palestine, within which Britain was enjoined to re-establish a Jewish national home. Hebron, for example, is one of the four most sacred Jewish cities. Jews lived there continuously for some 38 centuries - Abraham settled there some 1800 years before Christ - until they were driven out by an Arab pogrom in 1929. To be told that Hebron is a place where Jews have no claim is therefore nauseating beyond belief.
It is very important that people come to understand that Israel's core claim is one of justice, and the way this has been misrepresented is profoundly unjust. Indeed, it is monstrous. There are those who believe that the vilification of Israel is a prejudice which is not susceptible to reason. I beg to differ. Much of this madness is based on profound ignorance. Only when people are taught the truth will the big lie finally be nailed. (melaniephillips.com)
Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti described kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston as someone who "has done a lot for our cause" - not the sort of endorsement one imagines the BBC welcoming from an equivalent figure on the Israeli side. For years, the BBC had invariably covered Palestinian affairs within the context of Israel's occupation - the core truth from which all manifestations of conflict supposedly derived. Developments within Gaza following Israel's withdrawal showed the hollowness of that analysis. Domestic Palestinian politics, it turned out, were shot through with their own discontents, contradictions and divisions, not just between Hamas and Fatah but between scores of clans, gangs, factions and personalities.
For now, one can only pray for Johnston's safe release. Later, the BBC might ask itself whether its own failures of prudence and judgment put its reporter's life in jeopardy. (Wall Street Journal)
The halo that surrounds Amnesty International reports and campaigns is beginning to fray, as the evidence of political bias and inaccuracy mounts. Recently, the Economist, published in Britain, noted that "an organization which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters' scrutiny." In 2006, Amnesty singled out Israel for condemnation of human rights to a far greater extent than Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and other chronic abusers of human rights.
And while Amnesty International was founded to fight for the freedom of political prisoners, the officials in charge of this organization failed to issue a single statement calling for the release of the Israeli soldiers that were kidnapped by Hizbullah and Hamas, and who have not been heard from since their illegal capture. (New York Sun)
For a very long time Europeans' weakness has been that every so often someone else has to solve their problems. Frequently the United States has had to do so. As far as the Middle East conflict is concerned, the EU at best has been an irritant. For Europeans to appear as if they are a factor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is much more important than playing a real role. From the period he was Israel's Ambassador to the EU, Halevy recalls that the EU channeled part of the funds for the Palestinian Authority semi-legally into Yasser Arafat's bank accounts. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Drastic Measures Needed to Curb Rocket Attacks on Sderot - Giora Eiland (Ynet News)
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