Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 25, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Egyptian Army Training to Cross Suez Canal - Smadar Peri and Alex Fishman (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 25Sep07)
    The Egyptian Army, under the supervision of Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, has just concluded a five-day military exercise in Sinai which resembled its crossing of the Suez Canal in the Yom Kippur War.
    The last time the Egyptian Army engaged in such an exercise was in 2002.
    According to Israeli sources, these exercises involve moving large armored forces across the canal, despite the fact that the peace agreement with Egypt forbids the movement of tanks from Egypt to Sinai.
    The exercises indicate that Egypt is preserving its capabilities in the event of possible future changes in the region.

German Bomb Plot Links Seen in Syria - Randall Mikkelsen (Reuters)
    The network of three suspects arrested this month in an al-Qaeda-linked bomb plot in Germany may have extended to Syria, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday in Washington.
    The suspects had an international network that ranged to "not only Pakistan (but also) Syria," Schaeuble said.

At State Department, Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    Walid Jawad was tired of all the chatter on Middle Eastern blogs and Internet forums in praise of gory attacks carried out by the "noble resistance" in Iraq.
    One of two Arabic-speaking members of the State Department's Digital Outreach Team, he posted his own question: Why was it that many in the Arab world quickly condemned civilian Palestinian deaths but were mute about the endless killing of women and children by suicide bombers in Iraq?
    The team has made scores of postings on about 70 Web sites since it put its two Arab-American Web monitors to work last November.
    The department expects to add seven more - four in Arabic, two in Farsi and one in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan.

Forsaking the Egyptian Free Press - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)
    Two years ago, political liberalization in Egypt was at the center of President Bush's attention.
    This month, after speculation about Mubarak's failing health, Ibrahim Eissa of the newspaper al-Dustor was charged by a state prosecutor with disturbing the peace and harming Egypt's economic interests.
    On Sept. 13, Eissa and three other newspaper editors were hauled into court and sentenced to a year in prison for publishing articles critical of Mubarak; his son and presumed heir, Gamal; and other government officials.
    It was the biggest single assault on the press in Mubarak's quarter-century in power and one of the worst blows in years to media freedom in the Arabic-speaking world. Yet there was no reaction from the State Department or the White House.

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  • Columbia University President Stuns Ahmadinejad with Blunt Rebuke - Annie Karni
    President Lee Bollinger of Columbia, in a dramatic speech Monday, delivered an oratorical haymaker to President Ahmadinejad, attacking his record on human rights, Israel, and terrorism in remarks that will likely overshadow anything the Iranian might say during his diplomatic rounds in America. "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said, after challenging the Iranian to admit a delegation from Columbia to speak at an Iranian university.
        Many audience members expressed some disappointment, if not surprise, that Ahmadinejad evaded answering almost every question posed to him by the dean of Columbia's School of Public and International Affairs, John Coatsworth, who read questions from index cards that were filled out by students and faculty members in the audience. When asked if he sought the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, Ahmadinejad said many Jews live in Iran peacefully and with security. "We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people," Ahmadinejad said. When pressed for a "yes" or "no" answer, he prickled. "You asked the question and then you want the answer the way you want to hear it - that isn't really a free flow of information," he said. (New York Sun)
        See also My Questions for President Ahmadinejad - Lee Bollinger (Salon)
  • Palestinian State Is Still Achievable, Bush Says - Peter Baker
    President Bush expressed confidence Monday that his vision of a Palestinian state is still "achievable." Arriving in New York to mark the opening of the UN General Assembly, Bush met with Palestinian leaders and former British prime minister Tony Blair, now serving as a Middle East envoy, to build support for a regional peace conference this fall. (Washington Post)
  • Berlin Says U.S. and France Guilty of Hypocrisy on Iran Sanctions
    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier opposes French calls for EU sanctions against Iran, saying German Foreign Ministry data shows that leading French and American companies are conducting large amounts of business with Iran. According to the economics department of the German Foreign Ministry, French companies in the automobile, energy and financial sectors have hardly reduced the level of business they do with Iran, while German exports to Iran, in contrast, have dramatically declined. Moreover, the ministry accuses American firms of bypassing the boycott against Iran by creating front companies in Dubai to carry out their business. German politicians have long internally accused the U.S. of knowingly tolerating the practice. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Iran's German Enablers - Yossi Klein Halevi
    By weakening the sanctions effort, Germany is sabotaging the only real alternative - as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has described sanctions - to war with Iran. Perhaps most ironic of all, by appeasing evil rather than resisting it, Germany compromises its profound efforts to break with its past. (Wall Street Journal)
  • California: State to Divest Iran Holdings - Jesse McKinley
    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would sign a bill forcing two of its huge pension funds to divest from any company doing business in Iran. The bill, which sailed through the legislature earlier this year, would pull out at least $3.4 billion invested by two retirement funds controlled by the state's public employees and teachers. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: November Meeting Not a "Peace Conference" - Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday not to call the November meeting in Washington a "peace conference." He referred to it instead as a "short international meeting intended to give international encouragement to the process that we initiated with the Palestinians." "We don't need to build exaggerated expectations that tomorrow there will be an accord," Olmert said.
        Olmert conditioned any Israeli withdrawal from territory in the West Bank on the Palestinians keeping all their commitments in the road map, which would be implemented without skipping its stages. "I am not talking about withdrawing from all of the territories but rather from specific territories that will be under Palestinian control," Olmert said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Archaeologists Unearth Quarry Used to Renovate Second Temple - Nadav Shragai
    The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday that archaeologists have found an ancient quarry where King Herod's workers may have chiseled the giant stones used to renovate the Second Temple in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. Experts believe stones as long as eight meters were extracted from the quarry and then dragged by oxen to building sites in Jerusalem for major projects such as the Temple.
        Some of the blocks discovered at the site resemble stones used in the lower parts of the Temple Mount compound. Workers stumbled upon the quarry during excavations for a new school in the outlying Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem. Archaeologists also discovered coins and shards of pottery which confirm the quarry was operating during the Second Temple period, when King Herod embarked on major construction projects. Archaeologists found a complete iron tool at the site which they believe was used to chisel out the blocks from the quarry. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that struck Israel's western Negev region Tuesday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Live From New York, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Unreality Show - Dana Milbank
    "For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the National Press Club Monday. That's true - as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by poison gas. "Our people are the freest people in the world," said the man whose government executes dissidents, jails academics and stones people to death. "The freest women in the world are women in Iran," he continued, neglecting to mention that Iranian law treats a woman as half of a man. "In our country," judged the man who shuts down newspapers and imprisons journalists, "freedom is flowing at its highest level." And if you believe that, he has a peaceful civilian nuclear program he wants to sell you.
        Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is? Ahmadinejad lost his audience at the press club almost immediately. After only one sentence of his speech, the translator stopped translating. "The president is reciting verses from the holy Koran in Arabic," she explained. (Washington Post)
        See also Ahmadinejad in His Own Words - Hugh Hewitt (
  • Ahmadinejad's Crack-up - Editorial
    The Iranian president had a hostile crowd at Columbia University laughing and applauding Monday. Of course, Ahmadinejad's audience was mostly laughing at him rather than with him. It isn't likely that many were swayed by his wild-eyed questioning of the facts of the Holocaust or who was really behind the 9/11 attacks. The biggest laugh of the afternoon came when, in response to a question about the Iranian regime's brutal treatment of homosexuals (a crime punishable by death), Ahmadinejad remarked, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country." He also declared that "women in Iran have the highest level of freedom" even though they are forbidden from such basic social activities as attending soccer games, and said "we are friends with the Jewish people" while attributing nearly all the world's ills to Jews. It's hard to believe that anyone with a third-grade education would find him convincing. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Kindly Face of Global Terror - Editorial
    The terrorist often plays a double game. That was the lesson on display Monday at Columbia University. "We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people," said the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad, of course, was lying. And the evidence is ample. The Iranians are training and supplying terror armies in Lebanon, Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq. Our State Department has long warned that Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
        In the same way Yasser Arafat could sign peace treaties with one hand and order terror strikes with the other, Ahmadinejad can play the pacifist as he briskly strides toward a nuclear Iran and Middle East dominance. The terrorist can talk like your friend, kill your countrymen and still enjoy invitations to your most esteemed institutions. (Arizona Republic)
  • Observations:

    Australia on Iran Sanctions and Indicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Australia/Israel Review)

    • Prime Minister John Howard:
      The Government remains seriously concerned at support from within Iran for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are similarly concerned that Iran is still not providing full cooperation and transparency to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and remains in breach of three UN Security Council Resolutions.
    • Australia is imposing sanctions against Iran in relation to its nuclear and missile proliferation-sensitive activities as required by UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously in December 2006 and March 2007 respectively. These sanctions oblige all states to prevent Iran gaining access to goods and services that would contribute to Iran's enrichment related, reprocessing or heavy-water related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.
    • Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd:
      Iran's repeated violations of international law and monitoring requirements for its nuclear program are intensely concerning. First, we would like to initiate legal proceedings against President Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide. This could occur through the International Court of Justice on reference by the UN Security Council. This option has a growing body of supporters, including former Canadian Attorney-General Irwin Cotler, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
    • They refer to Ahmadinejad's statements about wiping Israel off the map, questioning whether Zionists are human beings and the recent abhorrent conference that he convened on the veracity of the Holocaust. It is strongly arguable that this conduct amounts to incitement to genocide - criminalized under the 1948 genocide convention.
    • Adopting this approach would serve two purposes. Firstly, as the former Israeli UN Ambassador Dore Gold mentioned, it will move the international legal system from punishing genocide post-facto to preventing it before it occurs. Secondly, it would seriously undermine Ahmadinejad's international legitimacy and his standing at home. The preparation of formal changes and the process of hearing would require Ahmadinejad to justify his inflammatory and destabilizing posturing and rhetoric.

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