Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 12, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas Aide: Western Wall Is Ours (JTA)
    Adnan Husseini, an adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday that Palestinian demands for Israel to cede eastern Jerusalem under any peace accord also include the Western Wall.
    "This is part of Islamic heritage that cannot be given up, and it must be under Muslim control," Husseini told Israel's NRG Web site, adding that all of Jerusalem's Old City should be part of a future Palestinian state.
    The Western Wall is a last vestige of the Second Temple, which was razed by the Romans in 70 CE.
    Husseini's statements appeared to contradict several past land-for-peace proposals that had called for Israel to retain control of the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City.

By a Landslide, Food Co-op Rejects Israel Boycott - Daniel Strauss (Michigan Daily-University of Michigan)
    The Board of Directors of the People's Food Co-op of Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced Thursday the outcome of a vote to boycott Israeli products.
    The final vote was 262 members in favor of the ban and 866 opposing it.

Germany's Iranian Secret - Benjamin Weinthal (Ha'aretz)
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's tough political rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to the pricey business deals German firms have closed with the Tehran regime, to the tune of $5.7 billion in 2006. That makes Germany Iran's most important trading partner in the EU.
    A total of 5,000 German enterprises conduct business with Iran, and the list reads like a "Who's Who" of blue-chip corporations.
    Michael Tockuss, former president of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran, said: "Some two-thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products."

Syrian Soap Opera Captivates Arab World - Dalia Nammari (AP/Washington Post)
    A Syrian soap opera has become the latest rage in the Arab world during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    "The Neighborhood Gate" follows families in a Damascus neighborhood between the world wars, when the French ruled Syria and the local population chafed under foreign control.
    The neighborhood's brawny men sport manly mustaches. Syrian beauties with curly hair and pouting lips are cunning, but invariably submit to the will of their husbands and fathers.
    Couples fight and mothers-in-law scheme, while a stooge for the ruling regime, disguised as a blind man, spies on everyone else.
    Imad Qadi, a preacher in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said more worshippers this year were hurrying home to watch the show instead of performing a lengthy evening prayer for Ramadan.
    Last Friday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech in support of the Palestinians. But the speech was broadcast at the same time as "The Neighborhood Gate." For many Palestinians, the choice was easy.

Israel Hosts Hot Air Balloon Festival (Zeenews-India)
    Fourteen hot air balloons took flight at the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Timna Park in southern Israel, held from September 30 until October 2.
    The balloons were operated by amateur and professional teams from across the globe including one team from Israel.

Movie Review: Golda's Balcony - Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times)
    Valerie Harper leads us through the tumultuous life of Golda Meir, Israel's fourth prime minister, a Ukraine-born, Wisconsin-raised woman who was determined to be more than a "parlor Zionist."
    See also O Jerusalem (
    "O Jerusalem," to be released on Oct. 17, is an epic drama recreating the historic struggle surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
    View O Jerusalem Preview (New York Times)

As Farmers and Fields Rest, a Land Grows Restless - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
    This year, 5768 by the Jewish calendar, is a shmita, or sabbatical, year. Jewish-owned land is to be left fallow.
    Exodus 23:10 - "Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat."
    That presumably worked fine in a primitive economy before decent fertilizer, but shmita presents problems for a modern Jewish state.

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  • Islamic Jihad: No Peace for Israelis - Steven Gutkin
    Abu Hamza is constantly on the run from Israel. His hideout today is a barren room with a computer hooked up to the Internet, which the Islamic Jihad commander said is used to plan rocket attacks on southern Israel. He pledged to keep up the violence. "We must create a balance of terror with the enemy," he said. The rockets that Islamic Jihad fires into Israel almost daily serve as constant reminders that renewed talk of Mideast peace remains a distant dream in Gaza. Thousands of rockets fired over the past seven years have killed 12 Israelis, wounded dozens and disrupted life for thousands.
        Islamic Jihad, a virulently anti-Israel group backed by Iran and Syria, has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and has about 2,000 militants armed with automatic rifles, grenades and anti-tank weapons. It operates independently of the much larger Hamas, whose tolerance and sometimes encouragement of rocket attacks have increased Gaza's isolation. "Resistance must continue until we uproot the occupation from all the land of Palestine...from the sea to the river," said Abu Hamza, outlining Islamic Jihad's position that a future Palestinian state must replace Israel, not live alongside it. He said that Palestinian rocket fire forced Israel out of Gaza in 2005 and that he expected the same result in southern Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon.
        Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Gaza's Al Azhar University, said there is no doubt Syria and Iran are involved. "There are outsiders giving orders from outside the Gaza Strip, whether from Damascus or Tehran, for their own reasons," Abusada said. "They (Gaza militants) are doing this because they're getting paid for it." (AP/Washington Post)
  • Hamas Leader Warns Abbas Against Peace Concessions - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday urged Mahmoud Abbas not to make concessions to Israel at a planned peace conference. Hamas has repeatedly called on Palestinians not to participate in a peace conference next month near Washington. Haniyeh said the conference "carries grave risks for the Palestinian cause and the entire region." (Reuters)
  • Rice Says Iran "Lying" About Nukes - Matthew Lee
    Secretary of State Rice on Thursday accused Iran of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program, saying there's no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the UN's atomic watchdog about its intentions. "There is an Iranian history of obfuscation and, indeed, lying to the IAEA," she said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. "There is a history of Iran not answering important questions about what is going on and there is Iran pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material," Rice said. (AP)
  • Pope Seeks to Counter Anti-Semitic Hatred of Iranian Leadership - Ruth Gledhill
    The Pope hit out at Iran as he pledged to help world Jewish leaders in their fight against anti-Semitism. Pope Benedict XVI told leaders of the World Jewish Congress that Iran was "an issue of big concern" to him. At a meeting at the Vatican, the Pope spoke of his concern about rising anti-Semitism and described how he wanted to use educational tools to counter the hatred of the Iranian leadership towards the Jewish people and Israel. Ronald Lauder, new president of the WJC, who headed the delegation, said that the Pope had agreed to host a joint event with his organization when Benedict XVI visits New York next year. (Times-UK)
  • Police Warn 122,000 Iranians Over Un-Islamic Dress
    Iranian police have warned 122,000 people, mostly women, about flouting strict Islamic dress codes since April and nearly 7,000 of those attended "guidance classes," the daily Jomhuri-ye Islami reported Thursday. The dress codes require a woman's hair to be covered and the shape of her body to be disguised by a loose coat. A Tehran police commander, Reza Zaraei, said 482 people were arrested for taking part in mixed parties. Men and women are not allowed to mix in Iran unless they are family members. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also Fatah Uses "Morality Police" to Burnish Image Among Palestinians - Joshua Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Arms Smuggling in Gaza "Is Becoming a Strategic Problem" - Barak Ravid
    Egypt could halt the flow of weapons from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza in a single day, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told UN Middle East envoy Tony Blair on Friday. Senior Israeli political figures said Thursday that in talks with their American counterparts, they stressed that the porous border in Sinai "is becoming a strategic problem" and asked them to raise the issue with the Egyptians. "The smuggling of weapons and terrorist experts from Sinai to the Gaza Strip through the Philadelphi Route poses a real threat to the holding of the Annapolis conference," was their message.
        "Egypt is working against everything we are all trying to achieve," senior Israeli officials told the Americans. "We are organizing a summit to further the diplomatic process under the banner 'strengthening Abu Mazen' [Mahmoud Abbas], and they are strengthening Hamas." Israeli officials are particularly irate at the clandestine entry of dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants through the border near Rafah, without Egypt's trying to stop them. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Targets Palestinian Rocket Launchers in Gaza - Ehud Zion Waldoks
    An IDF force completed an operation to root out terrorist infrastructure in Gaza on Thursday. During the operation, four Palestinian gunmen were wounded in clashes near El-Bureij, and 40 terror suspects were arrested. Soldiers also discovered seven Kassam rocket launchers ready to fire near Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. Overnight Wednesday, the IDF targeted and hit a Kassam rocket squad in northern Gaza just after it fired a Kassam, which landed near the security fence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Israel Can't Ignore Hamas' Growing Strength in Gaza - Alex Fishman
    "The IDF will have to enter parts of the Gaza Strip and stay there for a few months," outgoing Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told Yediot Ahronot Thursday. "We won't be able to keep ignoring Hamas' strengthening in Gaza and the incessant rocket attacks for long....In order to dismantle the terror infrastructure we need systematic treatment and the ground operation is a matter of timing," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Fatah al-Islam Terrorists Were Planning on Claiming North Lebanon
    The interrogation of detained Fatah al-Islam terrorists unveiled plans to seize control of a "big section" of northern Lebanon, to "destabilize" the country by shelling government institutions and business facilities, and to attack UN peacekeepers. A large number of the militants were "true jihadis," or holy warriors, who were under the impression that they were going to fight in Iraq. Most of the non-Lebanese militants had illegally crossed into Lebanon overland from Syria via a border area controlled by Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, which is backed and financed by Syria. (Ya Libnan-Lebanon)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Are the Palestinians' Weapons Getting More Lethal?
    Hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel by the militants of Gaza. The rockets are popularly known as Kassams after their inventors, the Kassam Brigades loyal to the Islamist Hamas movement. But the rocket that fell on Oct. 7 near Netivot, 11 km. from the Gaza border, was a Grad-type Katyusha, a variant on the ones that Hizbullah rained on Israel from south Lebanon during last year's war. Israel's military intelligence says it has logged an increase in weapons-smuggling in recent weeks, with Fatah sources claiming that this included a delivery of several dozen Katyushas. (Economist-UK)
  • How to Cope with Global Jihad - Ariel Cohen
    The main lesson of the Hizbullah war is that military responses are simply not enough. The jihadi threat needs to be defeated by a combination of political, ideological, media, military and intelligence measures. The good news is that the potential does exist for a broad coalition between Western, non-Western and Sunni Muslim and Arab nation-states to get the job done. (Policy Review-Hoover Institution)
  • Let's Not Make a Deal - Barry Rubin
    The West is more concerned over the suffering of Arabs than the Arabs' own governments or leaders. The West is desperate to get the Palestinians a state, while both Hamas and Fatah want only an independent country on their own terms. Hamas wants total victory and Israel's eradication; most of Fatah merely wants an agreement to move that dream closer to reality.
        Why is this? Because they: think they are winning; fail to comprehend the concept of compromise; embrace a culture of patience in which steadfastness wins versus what they perceive to be a Western culture of instant gratification; use militancy as a demagogic substitute for peace or prosperity; understand that he who says no gains bargaining leverage; hold such extreme goals that they cannot be satisfied by any conceivable deal with Israel, America, or the West.
        The West assumes that the Palestinian leadership will be grateful if it is given a state, when it wants to be given all of Israel; that Iran merely need feel secure from U.S. power, when it wants to throw America out of the region; that the Iraqi insurgents want more of a voice for the Sunni minority, when they want to chop the head off the Shi'ite majority; or that Syria just wants the Golan Heights when it desires Lebanon enslaved and Israel destroyed. Or that the Muslim Brotherhood wants a reformed democratic state when it prays for an Islamist theocracy. There are very good reasons why Western efforts at engagement are never followed by marriage, and why endless confidence-building measures, peace plans, aid packages, and summit conferences keep failing. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Legal Divergences Between the European Union and Israel with Regard to Jerusalem - Interview with Ruth Lapidoth
    A number of major political divergences of view between the EU and Israel also find their expression in legal positions. One such issue concerns the legality of Israeli neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem. Differences also exist as far as the settlements are concerned. The Europeans, UN organs, the International Court of Justice, and the Palestinians consider that these violate the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Yet both the plain meaning of the words and the legislative history of the relevant provision of the Convention do not support this interpretation. Ruth Lapidoth is Professor Emeritus of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Been There, Done That - Liat Collins
    The latest peacemaking drive relies on the principle of harnessing moderate forces. That's moderate as in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Bush is hoping that Riyadh can be relied on to rein in hostile forces in the Gulf and basically bring about world peace - even though it itself does not recognize Israel's right to exist and hardly seems to be on better terms with Syria or Iran. And indeed, exactly with whom is Israel meant to be making peace?
        We have tried Oslo I and Oslo II, and many cities in Israel bear the scars to prove it: memorials set up to commemorate ordinary citizens blown up on buses, in restaurants, wedding halls and other places of entertainment. Not to mention the psychological scars. It's not that Israel and its Arab neighbors can't make peace. Both Egypt and Jordan have managed to maintain ties, not necessarily cordial but at least not confrontational. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features

  • A Priest Methodically Reveals Ukrainian Jews' Fate - Elaine Sciolino
    Patrick Desbois, 52, a French Roman Catholic priest, has been quietly seeking out the terrified witnesses to mass slaughter, roaming the back roads of Ukraine, hearing their stories and searching for the unmarked common graves. The Nazis killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. But with few exceptions, most notably the 1941 slaughter of 34,000 Jews in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, much of that history has gone untold.
        Over four years, Father Desbois has videotaped more than 700 interviews with witnesses and bystanders and has identified more than 600 common graves of Jews, most of them previously unknown. Unlike in Poland and Germany, where the Holocaust remains visible through the searing symbols of the extermination camps, the horror in Ukraine was hidden away, first by the Nazis, then by the Soviets. "There was nothing to see in Ukraine because people were shot to death with guns," said Thomas Eymond-Laritaz, president of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Ukraine's largest philanthropic organization. "That's why Father Desbois is so important." (New York Times)
        See also Finding - or Erasing - Ukraine's Jews? - Omer Bartov
    Over two dozen scholars gathered in Paris last week to discuss the murder of some 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during the Holocaust. Father Patrick Desbois was among those attending. (Ha'aretz)
  • In Egypt, a Son Is Readied for Succession - Ellen Knickmeyer
    Gamal Mubarak is the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the man most widely expected to succeed him. Egyptians have never experienced a democratic transfer of presidential power. As Hosni Mubarak, 79, begins the 27th year of his rule this month, many say they expect Mubarak's family and ruling party, military officers and security officials to decide on his successor. If power passes to Gamal, Egypt would join Syria, Jordan and Morocco on the growing list of modern Middle East dynasties in which sons have taken over from fathers.
        Gamal Mubarak denies any interest in the presidency, but he is accumulating power in the ruling party and as his father's economic adviser. Cautious but business-friendly changes in economic policy have helped the country achieve a 7% growth rate this year and attract $11 billion in direct foreign investment, up from less than $500 million four years ago. (Washington Post)
  • Geostrategist Sees "Another 100 Years of Terrorism Ahead" - Ruthie Blum
    According to Haifa University geostrategist Arnon Soffer, who serves as head of research at the IDF National Defense College, "We are living in a 100-year period of terrorism, and we have another 100 years of terrorism ahead of us. We will forever be forced to live by the sword. We are not wanted in the Middle East....No Palestinian wants us here. No Muslim wants us here. No Arab wants us here." "I live with the sense that one day we will wake up to the news of a coup in Jordan and Egypt. And woe is the day when insane Islam takes over those two countries."
        Soffer sees Iran as "weak and vulnerable." "Two missiles on the Iranian islands of Karaj and Siri, and Iran's entire oil revenue drops from $60 billion to zero." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Major Diplomatic Assets Such as Road Map and Bush's Letter Must Be Defended - Dov Weisglass (Ynet News)

    • The Road Map conditioned a final-status agreement with the Palestinians on, among other things, the reorganization of the PA in a way that would prevent terror as much as possible.
    • President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon set out, among other things, the American administration's position on two issues pertaining to a final-status agreement: There will be no withdrawal to the 1967 borders and large Jewish settlement blocs will remain in Israeli hands; and there will be no return of refugees to Israel.
    • The Road Map - and the inherent principle of ending terror as a condition for engaging in diplomatic talks - is a diplomatic document accepted by all nations, and was validated by a Security Council resolution. It was also approved with a binding decision by the Israeli government.
    • The president's letter to the prime minister is an integral part of the disengagement plan, which was approved by a government resolution. In the U.S., the president's letter was approved by a vast majority in Congress.
    • These are important diplomatic assets. The Palestinian argument widely voiced ahead of the upcoming international conference completely ignores this.

      The writer was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief and senior adviser.

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