Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 29, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Olmert Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday that he is suffering from early-stage prostate cancer.
    He is expected to make a full recovery and said he would continue to run the state's affairs.

Israel Campus Beat
- October 28, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    Should Israel Take the Lead on the Iran Issue?

Saudi King's State Visit to Britain Faces Protests and Boycotts - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
    The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, will be the guest of the Queen during a visit that will include a ceremonial welcome, two banquets and meetings with Britain's political leaders.
    But Vince Cable, the acting Liberal Democrat leader, announced that he would boycott the visit because of the Saudi record on human rights, including its maltreatment of British citizens.
    Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East and the UK is its second biggest foreign investor.
    The Serious Fraud Office was forced by Tony Blair's government to drop - on alleged national security grounds - an investigation into alleged corruption tied to BAE arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in which Prince Bandar bin Sultan, now the king's national security adviser, reportedly received secret payments of £1b.
    Saudi Arabia last month agreed to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes from the UK at a cost of £4.43b - the biggest export order yet for the aircraft.

Report: Attack on Israeli Embassy in Germany Thwarted - Ido Liven (Ynet News)
    A report Monday by the German magazine Focus says a Turk and two German Muslims planned to attack the Israeli embassy in Berlin, among other targets, last September 11, according to taped records of conversations.

Secret U.S. Move to Upgrade Air Base for Iran Attack - Ian Bruce (Herald-UK)
    The U.S. is secretly upgrading special stealth bomber hangars on the British island protectorate of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, according to military sources.
    The improvement of the B1 Spirit jet infrastructure coincides with an "urgent operational need" request for £44m to fit racks to the long-range aircraft.
    That would allow them to carry experimental 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bombs designed to smash underground bunkers buried as much as 200ft beneath the surface through reinforced concrete.
    One MOP - known as Big Blu - has already been tested successfully at the U.S. Air Force proving ground at White Sands in New Mexico. Tenders have now gone out for a production model to be ready for use in the next nine months.
    The French government recently received a memo from the International Atomic Energy Agency stating that Iran will be ready to run almost 3,000 centrifuges in 18 cascades by the end of this month.
    Diego Garcia was used for strategic strike missions during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars against Iraq.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel's Syria Raid Responded to Nuclear Proliferation Threat - Jay Solomon
    Following Israel's attack on an alleged Syrian nuclear facility, the U.S. and international community are increasingly split over how to respond to the latest nuclear-proliferation threat in the Middle East, underscoring a deep mistrust between the U.S. and the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, over how to confront would-be proliferators.
        "I would say there's no doubt now that Syria was in an early phase of a program," said a senior U.S. official who has worked extensively on nuclear issues. Some U.S. diplomats derided the IAEA for failing to identify the Syrian program itself. These U.S. officials said involving the IAEA before the Israeli strike could have bogged down the Syrian proliferation threat in endless rounds of negotiations at the UN Security Council, with no action. "The Israelis decided to take care of this early on," said the U.S. official working on nuclear-proliferation issues. "We don't want to involve an agency that thinks it's in control, but isn't."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also IAEA Chief Criticizes Israel over Syria Raid (Reuters)
  • Israel Cuts Gaza Fuel in Response to Rocket Fire - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Israel began reducing fuel supplies to Gaza on Sunday in response to Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns. "The Defense Ministry will this week begin cutting fuel supplies to Gaza by 5-11%, depending on the type of fuel," an Israeli security source said. (Reuters/Yahoo)
  • Iran Adapts to Economic Pressure: Oil Market Could Help It Weather U.S. Sanctions - Steven Mufson and Robin Wright
    Confronted by mounting U.S. and UN pressure, Iran has been steadily shifting its trade from West to East and, with the benefit of record high oil prices, is likely to be able to withstand the new U.S. sanctions, according to U.S., European and Iranian analysts. China is expected to overtake Germany as Iran's biggest trading partner this year. The U.S. Treasury said that more than 40 banks, mostly in Europe, have curbed business with Iran as a result of U.S. pressure, but smaller banks, Islamic financial institutions and Asian banks are likely to step in and replace Western financial institutions.
        "Given particularly the price and demand for oil, Iran clearly has leverage with countries that need Iran's oil," said Shaul Bakhash, a George Mason University historian and author of The Reign of the Ayatollahs. In addition, he said, "Iran has a huge cushion of foreign-exchange reserves." On Friday, oil settled above $90 a barrel. Iran has also moved to protect its Achilles' heel - gasoline imports. The government has trimmed gasoline subsidies, which has curtailed consumption and smuggling, cutting imports of gasoline in half. Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "These sanctions are not negligible, and they're not going to be pain-free for Iran. The question is: Will they be substantial and painful enough to change Iranian behavior? No, I don't think they will be." (Washington Post)
  • Revolutionary Guard Runs Iran's Baghdad Embassy
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard is using Iran's embassy in Baghdad to coordinate covert operations in Iraq, Mohammad Mohadessin, a spokesman for the Paris-based National Council Resistance of Iran, an Iranian opposition group, claimed Saturday. He named four diplomats at the embassy as senior Guard officers, including the ambassador, Kazemi Qomi. "They are directly responsible for supervising the transfer of shipments of weapons and ammunition...from Iran to (the Guard's) proxy forces in Iraq," Mohadessin said. Because large chunks of Iran's exports and imports are conducted by companies controlled by the Guard, "a major portion of the $40 billion in EU trade is now done with (the Guard), its affiliates and its front companies." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Allows Money into Gaza Despite Sanctions - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel continues to allow money into Gaza despite increased sanctions. Israel agreed last week to another shipment of funds into Gaza via the Erez crossing. Security forces said the money was intended for Palestinian Authority salaries. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Seeks to Cut 30,000 Policemen from West Bank Security Forces - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PA security forces have some 80,000 on their payroll. However, nearly half of them don't report to work and actually have no real jobs. Agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel in 1994 and 1995 limited the PA security forces to 30,000. The PA has an unusually high ratio of security forces to civilians.
        Under pressure from the U.S. and EU, Abbas recently agreed to reduce the number of policemen in the West Bank by half. However, previous attempts by the PA leadership to lay off thousands of policemen were called off for fear of a mutiny inside the Palestinian security services. According to the new PA plan, all policemen over the age of 45 would be forced into retirement. In addition, thousands whose names appear on the payroll of the security forces but don't do any work would be fired immediately. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Three Palestinian Girls Killed in Gaza "Work Accident" - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Two teenaged Palestinian girls and one 2-year-old died Saturday in an explosion in a house in southern Gaza. The blast is thought to have been the result of a "work accident" after a large bomb hidden in the house exploded. Six other Palestinians were injured. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel's western Negev on Sunday night. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israeli-Arab Conflict Not Ripe for Resolution Yet - Richard N. Haass
    The U.S., EU, Russia, and the UN are planning to convene many of the parties to the Israeli-Arab conflict at a meeting near Washington in November. The problem is that the conflict is not even close to being ripe for resolution. Ignoring this reality will lead to failure, if not catastrophe. Ripeness has several elements. There must be: a formula for the parties involved to adopt, a diplomatic process to get them to that point, and protagonists who are able and willing to make a deal. It is not clear that any of these conditions exist in today's Middle East.
        What, then, should be done? First, keep expectations modest. Calls for an agreement on the most controversial elements of a final peace settlement are unrealistic. Simply agreeing to an agenda for follow-up meetings would be an accomplishment. Second, this meeting must be the start of a serious process, not a one-time event, but rigid timetables should be eschewed. The Palestinian leadership cannot be expected to take risks for peace without political protection. Arab governments - led by Egypt and Jordan, but including Saudi Arabia and other members of the Arab League - must publicly declare their willingness to support a peace that is based on coexistence with Israel. The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Miami Herald)
        See also Middle East Conference More Harm than Good? - Editorial
    There simply aren't enough promising developments to suggest a conference in Annapolis will have much success. History shows the high price of failure. If a conference this year doesn't have the potential to launch a serious new peace effort, then it should be scrapped. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • What Will Happen after Bush? - Itamar Rabinovich
    A letter signed by eight famous individuals including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, Brent Scowcroft, and Thomas Pickering holds that the Annapolis conference must deal with "the substance of a permanent peace" and that it should adopt the outlines of a permanent status agreement. If Israelis and Palestinians do not manage to reach such an agreement, the Middle East Quartet will have to propose a formulation of its own for an agreement based on the partition into two states on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines.
        The importance of this letter must be sought in the effort to shape the American agenda on "the day after" the presidential elections. The day after the elections will see an increase in the efforts to convince the new president that there is no better way to shake off Bush's legacy than by bringing about a far-reaching change in U.S. Middle East policy.
        Another context is the continuing erosion of Israel's standing in the U.S. This does not manifest itself in public opinion polls and in votes in Congress, but rather in the loss of the "moral horizon," the change that has occurred in the standing of Israel, which used to be regarded as an attractive and just state. A clear expression of this is the recent reception of Jimmy Carter's book and of the book written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt about the Israeli lobby. These books are making waves and their authors are appearing throughout the U.S. The "letter of the eight" is another link in this chain. The author is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (1993-96). (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    No Security, No Power - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • On Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave the go-ahead to gradually reduce the provision of Israeli power and other supplies to Gaza. Yet the government stressed that none of this should be regarded as retaliatory, lest Israel be accused of collective punishment. Hence official Israel portrays its threat to Gaza's power supply as "a continuation of Israel's disengagement" from Gaza.
    • Gazans frequently fire on the very Ashkelon power plant that provides their electricity. That electricity is used, among other purposes, to power rocket production. No other sovereign state would resign itself to a situation in which it is forced to power the production of hardware and munitions geared to destroy the very facilities in which said power is generated.
    • Moreover, are Palestinian rockets aimed at Israeli kindergartens not in the category of collective punishment? Do Sderot's children not deserve protection from indiscriminate assault?
    • The sort of deterrence contemplated in Jerusalem is the least painful and most nonviolent imaginable. It would not be necessary, moreover, were it not for the inaction, and in some cases even support, of Gaza's inhabitants and leaders for the rocket assaults.
    • Israel withdrew from Gaza more than two years ago. It would have no involvement in Gaza were it not being constantly attacked from there without provocation. Its return fire, and its latest efforts to deter the rocket crews, are the direct consequence of those attacks as Israel strives to fulfill its paramount obligation to protect its citizens.
    • Those who turn a blind eye to Gaza's transgressions cannot appoint themselves advocates for its citizenry. There is either serenity everywhere, or nowhere.

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