Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Bribery Suspected in Hamas Salary Scandal - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
Abbas Asks Mubarak to Dig Moat Along Gaza-Egypt Border (Jerusalem Post)
Law and Order in the PA (IMEMC-PA)
Gaddafi's Son: Bulgarians Were Tortured - Molly Moore (Washington Post)
South Korean Troops Begin Lebanon Mission (Yonhap News-South Korea)
Israel to Send Emergency Firefighting Equipment to Macedonia (ReliefWeb-UN)
Anti-Israeli Bias in France - Interview with Nidra Poller (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
150 American Youths to Join IDF
- Israel Moskovitch (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Islamic extremists embedded in the U.S. - posing as Hispanic nationals - are partnering with violent Mexican drug gangs to finance terror networks in the Middle East, according to a DEA report. "Since drug traffickers and terrorists operate in a clandestine environment, both groups utilize similar methodologies to function," said the confidential 2005 report. It outlines an ongoing scheme in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells operating in the U.S. fund terror networks overseas, aided by established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes. An El Paso, Texas, law enforcement report documents the influx of "approximately 20 Arab persons a week utilizing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver's licenses from Arabic to Hispanic surnames." (Washington Times)
See also Congressman Seeks Hearing on Islamic, Mexican Ties - Sara A. Carter
Rep. Ed Royce, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee, said the DEA document highlights how vulnerable the nation is when fighting the war on terrorism. "I'll be asking the terrorism subcommittee to hold a hearing on the DEA report's disturbing findings," he said. "A flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels on the Texas border with Middle East terrorism needs to be thoroughly investigated." According to the DEA report, a Middle Eastern member of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in narcotics sales and other crimes, married into a Mexican narcotics family. (Washington Times)
A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will not be reached for at least three to five years, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported Israel's defense minister as saying. In private conversations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the idea of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians anytime soon was a "fantasy." He also said that Israel would not withdraw from the West Bank before finding a solution to Palestinian rocket attacks. "What will determine the situation in the end is if Abu Mazen (Abbas) and (Palestinian Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad are capable of implementing anything in the West Bank," Barak was quoted as saying. (Reuters)
The federal judge presiding over the Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial ordered his courtroom cleared of spectators Thursday as a secret agent for the Israel Defense Forces took the stand. The agent testified about a cache of documents, videos and posters that his team of commandos seized during raids on several charity committees in the Palestinian territories between 2002 and 2004. Prosecutors say these committees are controlled by Hamas and contend that Holy Land's support of them amounts to illegal support of terrorists. Prosecutors are expected to get into the details of what is in the evidence later, when an agent with the Israeli Security Agency is to testify in the case. (Dallas Morning News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
According to Jerusalem District Police Commissioner Aharon Franco, near Jaffa Gate a Palestinian attacker succeeded in taking a guard's gun and shot him. As the attacker escaped from the scene, another guard ran after the man, shooting and killing him during the chase, during which bystanders were injured. (Ha'aretz)
A number of senior members of Hamas' armed-wing who were stuck in Sinai for the past few weeks recently managed to return to Gaza. 79 Izz al-Din al-Qassam men had been banned from entry into Gaza in light of information indicating they had been training in Iran. During the last few days some of the men managed to infiltrate Gaza through the border fence, while others returned to the countries from which they came, mainly Syria. (Ynet News)
Two Kassam rockets landed near Sderot Thursday evening, raising the day's total number of rocket strikes to four. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Both the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency have found Iran in breach of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The IAEA reports that Iran ignored the Security Council's February deadline to stop enriching uranium and has even expanded its nuclear program. As Iran's Atomic Energy Organization moves toward its announced goal of operating 50,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz, the World Bank is funding nine government projects in Iran totaling $1.35 billion - one of which operates in Isfahan, where Iran's nuclear program is headquartered.
As the Treasury acts to dry up funding for Tehran, the World Bank is providing support to the Iranian government through 2010. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledges the destruction of Israel, funds Hizbullah and Hamas, and defies Security Council resolutions, the bank's board will approve further Iran disbursements. The writer is a Republican congressman from Illinois. (Washington Post)
Israel should do what it believes is necessary based on the facts on the ground. The United States says it will not negotiate with Syria because Syria has failed every test, and has not taken a single step to indicate that it's serious about peace and about improving the situation in the region. There are clear benchmarks and Assad has not met even one.
If Mr. Assad is prepared to say that he has changed like Gaddafi, let him prove it. When Gaddafi wanted to signal his new direction, he produced and the West responded. Mr. Assad has not produced....Israel as an independent country has the right to pursue whatever avenues it determines to be necessary to serve the security and well-being of the state and its people.
The goal of Syria was to talk to the U.S., not to Israel. If they want to talk to Israel, they know how to do it. Prime Minister Olmert said he was prepared for unconditional negotiations on all issues. But the fact is that Syria keeps insisting that there will be a go-between. Why shouldn't there be direct contact? If the Syrians are truly interested in talking peace with their neighbor, they don't have to have somebody from Washington mediating. (Conference of Presidents)
Last Sunday's pivotal by-election in Lebanon saw a relatively unknown candidate from the opposition narrowly beat a former president, Amin Gemayel. Gemayel's doom seems to have been sealed by his support from the Bush administration. "It's the kiss of death," said Turki al-Rasheed, a Saudi reformer. "The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win." The paradox of American policy in the Middle East - promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West - is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose. "No politician can afford to identify with the West because poll after poll shows people don't believe in the U.S. agenda," said Mustafa Hamarneh, until recently the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. (New York Times)
Michel Aoun, a charismatic former general who heads the country's largest Christian political party, the Free Patriotic Movement, is openly allied with Hizbullah. What could Lebanese Christians possibly have in common with Hizbullah, the Islamist resistance movement? Perhaps it is the fact that Aoun's Christian supporters and Hizbullah's rank and file are motivated by a shared animus towards Lebanon's political elite, a handful of families such as the Gemayel, whose progeny resurface in government after government.
In fact, many of the supporters of the current government are civil war-era militia leaders who accommodated themselves rather nicely to the years of Syrian occupation, but who have now emerged wearing business suits and talking U.S.-friendly language about democracy and independence. Neither Aoun nor Hizbullah is a poster child for democratic civil society. Still, both popular movements tap into the general resentment of average people who have watched as a relatively small number of Lebanese - well represented in the anti-Syria ruling coalition - have cashed in on the post civil-war reconstruction of the country. (TIME)
Tourism to Israel is on an upswing, with officials predicting a 10 to 20% increase over the two million visitors to Israel last year. About 25% come from the U.S. Since the beginning of 2007, Israel has suffered only one suicide bombing - down from 60 in 2002, according to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The reasons, say security experts, are a cease-fire between Israel and some Palestinian groups, and the security fence separating the West Bank territories from Israel.
Bruce McIndoe, CEO of iJET Travel Intelligence, likens the risk to traveling in the Philippines, Indonesia or Spain. "There's a lot of territory in Israel that is extremely low-risk for terrorism. You have the same thing in Spain." (Miami Herald)
In excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Tiberias impressive and unique finds were uncovered in the last three months that shed light on the history of the ancient city. A Byzantine church (from the fourth-fifth centuries CE) was exposed that is paved with magnificent polychrome mosaics decorated with geometric patterns and crosses. Three dedicatory inscriptions written in ancient Greek are incorporated in the mosaics. In addition, the remains of a Jewish neighborhood that dates to the tenth-eleventh centuries were discovered in the excavations. (Israel Antiquities Authority/Scoop-NZ)
Amy Blasberg, a 23-year-old preschool teacher, always wanted to visit Israel. Then a friend went last year - for free. He came back raving about "his amazing time, how cool the people were." A bold program has been enticing young Jews with free trips for those who are age 18 to 26. When Taglit Birthright started in 2000, it sent 12,000 young adult Jews to Israel, program officials said. Today, it's nearly 30,000 annually - and the group claims it's shepherded about 150,000 people to Israel over the years.
During the 10-day visits, participants tour Jerusalem and meet with other Jews like themselves in a land where they are not the minority. Israel has historically played a central role in Judaism, said Rabbi Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. People face Jerusalem when they pray and mention Israel in their prayers. She encourages people in her congregation, young and old, to go if they can and has led her congregation on several trips. Toward the end of her trip, Blasberg wandered the streets of Jerusalem alone. A shopkeeper asked if she was with Birthright. Yes, she said, but we're going home tomorrow. "He replied: 'You're already home,'" Blasberg recalled. (San Jose Mercury News)
Syrian Rockets Aimed at Tel Aviv - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
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