Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Olmert Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer - Ronny Sofer (Ynet News)
Israel Campus Beat
- October 28, 2007
Should Israel Take the Lead on the Iran Issue?
Saudi King's State Visit to Britain Faces Protests and Boycotts - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
Report: Attack on Israeli Embassy in Germany Thwarted - Ido Liven (Ynet News)
Secret U.S. Move to Upgrade Air Base for Iran Attack - Ian Bruce
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
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 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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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):
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)
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)
No Security, No Power - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
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