Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 17, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Confirms Target of Israeli Attack Was Nuclear Facility (Ha'aretz)
    Israel Army Radio said Wednesday that Syria has confirmed that the target of an Israel Air Force raid last month was a nuclear facility.
    Israeli diplomats at a UN disarmament committee quoted an unnamed Syrian delegate as having told the panel that "The IDF attacked a nuclear facility and not an agricultural building for soils research, as had been stated thus far."
    Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs Miriam Ziv attended the meeting.
    Syria later denied that its representatives to the UN had confirmed an Israei strike on a nuclear facility, adding that such facilities do not exist in Syria, the state-run news agency SANA said, quoting a foreign ministry source.

Foreign Ministry Submits Holocaust Education Bill to UNESCO - Marissa Levy (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry submitted a resolution to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization this week calling for the creation of a UNESCO-sponsored curriculum to teach students around the world about the Holocaust and its role in history, in order to preserve the memory of the Holocaust while preventing its denial.
    Orli Gil, head of the ministry's Division of International Organizations, said the ministry expected the initiative to be ratified by the end of the month.

Palestinian Rivalry Fuels Jump in West Bank Gun Prices - Haitham Tamimi (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Two years ago, an M16 automatic rifle could fetch $5,400 or more in the Palestinian West Bank. Now buyers at Hebron's clandestine gun market are asked to pay more than double.
    Fears that clashes between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah could erupt in the West Bank is fuelling a scramble for guns.
    Dealers in Hebron say weapons sales have jumped by up to 70% since Hamas took control of Gaza.
    "I don't feel safe anymore," said West Banker Abo Abdo, 28, who sold his car this month to buy a rifle to protect his wife and two children. "Everyone is buying guns."
    "People distrust the Palestinian police. They are buying guns to defend themselves," a Palestinian security source said.

Would-Be Bomber Accidentally Kills Mom, Siblings in Afghanistan - Amir Shah (AP/Seattle Times)
    A mother who tried to stop her son from carrying out a suicide bomb attack triggered an explosion in the family's home in southern Afghanistan that killed the would-be bomber, his mother and three siblings, police said Monday.
    The would-be bomber had been studying at a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan, and when he returned home over the weekend announced that he planned to carry out a suicide attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Putin Warns U.S. Against Military Action in Iran - Robert Tait
    Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, used a historic visit to Tehran - the first by a Kremlin leader since Stalin in 1943 - to amplify his opposition to an American attack against Iran. "We should not even think of making use of force in this region," he told a five-nation summit meeting of Caspian Sea nations on Tuesday. Putin called on the five countries - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia and Iran - not to allow an outside power to use their territories to launch an attack on another member of the group. His comments appeared to be aimed at Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic which has a partnership deal with NATO. It has been touted as a potential launching pad for U.S. strikes against Iran after American military commanders inspected its airfields. (Guardian-UK)
  • Egypt Cautious on Mideast Talks - Andrew England
    Egypt on Tuesday suggested the timing of a U.S. meeting intended to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process should be put back if the necessary preparations are not in place and if the parties are not ready for genuine negotiations. "The idea is we have to go to that meeting in Washington or Annapolis ready to launch negotiations...and because of this we said if we are short of time let's extend the time span," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit after holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rice. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Rice Wins Egypt's Support for Conference - Matthew Lee (AP/Washington Post)
  • Support Wanes in Congress for Armenian Genocide Vote - Carl Hulse
    Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago. On Tuesday, a group of senior House Democrats made it known that they were planning to ask the leadership to drop plans for a vote on the measure. "This vote came face to face with the reality on the ground in that region of the world," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and an opponent of the resolution. (New York Times)
  • Libya Elected to UN Security Council - Colum Lynch
    Libya was elected overwhelmingly on Tuesday to serve a two-year term on the UN Security Council, raising the possibility of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi one day presiding over the world's premier security body. Secretary of State Rice met with Gaddafi's son last month and is planning the first visit to Libya by the top U.S. diplomat in more than 30 years. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Rice: Timing of Conference Depends on Palestinian-Israeli Progress - Avi Isacharoff and Barak Ravid
    Secretary of State Rice said Tuesday that the regional conference scheduled for next month in Annapolis would likely be delayed pending progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks on a joint document for a future peace agreement. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Hizbullah Provided Exact Information on Fate of Kidnapped Soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - Roee Nahmias
    Hizbullah has provided Israel with exact information on the fate of kidnapped troops Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev as part of the exchange of bodies and the release of a Hizbullah prisoner two days ago, according to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan. (Ynet News)
        See also Information from Hizbullah Did Not Reveal Ron Arad's Fate - Amos Harel
    Information provided Monday by Hizbullah during an exchange with Israel did not shed light on the fate of Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad, missing since his plane went down over Lebanon on Oct. 16, 1986, Ha'aretz has learned. Documents given to Israel by Hizbullah on Monday were apparently dated to when he was held in Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands South of Ashkelon Tuesday
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed south of Ashkelon on Tuesday night. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Mortars at Israel Wednesday (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Arrests Palestinian Terrorists Possessing Mortars in West Bank
    IDF troops operating in the West Bank town of Nablus on Tuesday arrested two Palestinians terror suspects, Army Radio reported. The Palestinians were in possession of mortars and large amounts of ammunition. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • See No Proliferation - Editorial
    The silence from the Bush Administration over Israel's recent bombing of a site in Syria gets louder by the day. Reports multiply that Israel and U.S. intelligence analysts believe the site was a partly constructed nuclear reactor modeled after a North Korean design. Israel's former chief of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, called these intelligence judgments "logical." That's the term people use to confirm things in Israel when they want to get around the military censors. The world is lucky Israel preferred to act against the threat, in what seems to have been a smaller version of its 1981 attack against Iraq's Osirak reactor.
        Secretary of State Rice said that "The issues of proliferation do not affect the Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts we are making." In other words, even if North Korea is spreading nuclear weapons, she doesn't want to say so in public because it might offend a country - Syria - that is refusing even to take part in the regional Palestinian-Israeli peace conference next month. (Wall Street Journal)
  • One Mistake in the Fall - Shmuel Rosner
    On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rice said: "I understand as well as anybody that there are risks to announcing a meeting and then doing the hard work." Like many before her, Rice failed by demonstrating the arrogance of the mediator - the absurd assumption that all that is lacking in order to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict is the charismatic presence of an experienced diplomat. Rice in recent years has moved between too much interference in petty matters: on the one hand, as in her decision to make the effort to achieve the "crossings agreement" in Gaza, which was never implemented; a lack of concentration regarding important core issues on the other, as in her unrealistic agreement to enable Hamas to participate in the Palestinian elections. In both cases she twisted Israel's arm, and in both she was mistaken.
        Bush already made it clear in the speech announcing the conference that this is Rice's playing field. He does not share the messianic enthusiasm she brings to the Palestinian arena. Bush's friends, aside from Rice, are telling him that this is not the appropriate time or place for action. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gates: U.S.-Israel Partnership as Important as Ever - Gerry J. Gilmore
    In an age of Middle Eastern-sourced terrorism with global reach that is threatening Americans and Israelis alike, "it is even more important to maintain and bolster our partnership," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs' annual Henry Jackson Award dinner in Washington. Iran is no friend of the U.S. or Israel, and its desire for nuclear capability and apparent ambition to dominate the region are causing "great anxiety and instability" across the Middle East, Gates pointed out. Only "a united front of nations" can exert enough pressure to coerce Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, Gates said.
        Gates said Israel is a mature democracy that, like the U.S., has "no taste for war, no taste for the destruction and devastation that it creates." But America and Israel are prepared to fight to defend themselves against any threats, Gates maintained. "If we are not left in peace, if our security is challenged, we also know that there may be times when we have to defend in no uncertain terms our interests and our liberties," he said. (American Forces Press Service)
  • Observations:

    Expect a Process, But Likely No Peace - Oakland Ross (Toronto Star)

    • The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks now underway in Jerusalem and Ramallah under the tutelage of U.S. Secretary of State Rice may not come to much - but they're better than nothing. Perhaps most significant about the current negotiations, following a seven-year hiatus, is that they are taking place at all.
    • "I think we will have a process," said Gabriel Ben-Dor, chair of the school of politics at the University of Haifa. "I don't think we will have peace. I don't see a conclusive agreement that will put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." That seems to be the consensus view among Israeli experts.
    • "It's very obvious this is an attempt at the last minute to swim against the tide," said Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. "It's too late and too weak, and there's no hope for it."
    • "The first question a diplomat has to ask himself is whether the gap between the parties is bridgeable or unbridgeable," said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "The gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis is presently too wide. When you get down to the hard realities of the positions of both parties, this is going to be a very difficult exercise."

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