Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israeli Intelligence: Abbas Is Too Weak (Jerusalem Post)
FBI: Al-Qaeda May Strike U.S. Shopping Malls in LA, Chicago - Richard Esposito and Vic Walter (ABC News)
Israel, U.S. Meet to Discuss Common Middle East Strategy - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
Gulf Investors Give Damascus Vital Cash Boost - Roula Khalaf (Financial Times-UK)
Iranian-Saudi Sparring at the Istanbul Conference (MEMRI)
Syrian Grand Mufti Says He Is "Sunni and Shiite" - Haian Nayouf
Israeli Firm Sold to AOL for $363M - Avi Shauli (Ynet News)
Cypriot Girl Undergoes Brain Surgery in Israeli Hospital - Alexia Saoulli (Cyprus Mail-Cyprus)
Norway: Extreme Expressions of Anti-Israel Attitudes - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
A Jewish Outpost in the Persian Gulf - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
Half Billion Birds Flock to Galilee Migration Paradise - Jacques Pinto (AFP)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israel says Egypt is doing far too little to stop the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, from smuggling weapons, militants and cash into the area from Egypt, and is appealing to Cairo to do more. At the same time, a senior Israeli legislator from the opposition Likud party, Yuval Steinitz, has written to all the members of the U.S. Senate to support a move begun in the House of Representatives to freeze $200 million of a projected $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt unless it takes action. Steinitz said he was asked to write the letter by senators he met as a leader, with Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), of a joint group on defense. In his letter, Steinitz accuses Egypt of allowing Hamas to obtain 20,000 rifles, 6,000 anti-tank missiles, 100 tons of explosives and several dozen Katyusha rockets and shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles.
In the last three months, Steinitz says, Egypt has allowed "the organized departure of large groups of operatives from Gaza for military training in Iran." In September, he notes, 100 Gazans who had trained in Iran were allowed by Egypt to return home despite Israeli protests. His complaints are shared by the Israeli government. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday told her Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, that "there is a real need for a determined effort to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza." The House move was led by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the subcommittee on the Middle East and Asia, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chairwoman of the state and foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. (New York Times)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked for a full investigation of an incident in which Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel from a UN-run school in Gaza, the UN said on Thursday. "The Secretary-General condemns this abuse of UN facilities, which is a serious violation of the UN's privileges and immunities," UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. (Reuters)
See also Despite Attacks From Its Facilities, UN Agency Requests More Funds - Benny Avni (New York Sun)
Palestinian rocket attacks against the city of Sderot in southern Israel last week struck a house and a power line, knocking out electricity to the city. "Something has to be done," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "There is an obligation to the people of Sderot....Making it a ghost town is intolerable." Hoenlein noted that Hamas continues to arm itself with weapons coming from Egypt through tunnels and openly at the Gaza-Egypt border. (New York Jewish Week)
See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets that struck Israel's western Negev region on Thursday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
A senior State Department official told Congress that Syria or its supporters might use violence to interfere in Lebanon's coming presidential election. "Interference or intimidation in the electoral process is unacceptable to the United States and to the international community," the diplomat, C. David Welch, said at a hearing of the Senate Middle East subcommittee Thursday. "We are very concerned that in the next few weeks Syria or its supporters will attempt to manipulate the outcome through violence, intimidation or an obstinate refusal to participate in the electoral process. These concerns are not unfounded."
"This is a government that strives to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and security through pro-Syrian proxies and partners, a government that continues to harbor and support terrorists and terrorist organizations," Welch said. Unfortunately, he said, "the Syrian regime has yet to demonstrate the necessary willingness to reorient its behavior back toward international norms." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Naim Kassem, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's deputy, said in an interview with the Arab-Israeli paper Sawt el-Balad published Thursday that Hizbullah's weapons arsenal can hit all parts of Israel. He described a training exercise the group conducted at the beginning of this week as preparation for the next war with Israel. (Ynet News)
The forecast presented by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror at last month's meeting of the Israel Missile Defense Association was quite worrisome. Amidror, the former head of the research department in the Israel Defense Forces' intelligence branch, predicted that if, in the future, Israel gets into a war with the conventional army of a neighboring country (Syria is the most likely opponent), the missile and rocket threat the country will face in such a situation will make the Second Lebanon War look like child's play. This time, the threat to population centers on the home front would not end, as in the war of the summer of 2006, at the Afula-Hadera line, but would cover most of the country.
At the same time, Syria and Hizbullah are expected to use artillery, rockets and missiles against the forces at the front and military targets located toward the rear - from headquarters and army bases to areas where reserve units have been mobilized. "We've never had a war in which the IDF was so threatened by fire on its permanent bases," said Amidror. "In two hours, a Syrian rocket battalion could produce more fire than everything we took from Hizbullah in the entire war."
Is Israel capable of deterring its hostile neighbors from launching a missile attack on its territory? After Lebanon, the conventional wisdom in Israel says the answer is no. With encouragement and funding from Iran, a comprehensive threat to the Israeli home front has begun to take shape: From the north (Syria and Lebanon) and from the southwest (Gaza), with the only real deterrent to rocket fire from the east (the West Bank) being intensive IDF and Shin Bet security service activity against the terror networks there.
About two months ago, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi presented the IDF's new multi-year plan. Its major emphases include the importance of achieving a rapid victory and the need to significantly upgrade the ground forces. On several occasions, Ashkenazi has said that in case of war, one of his main objectives would be that, at the end, "no one will ask who won, because it will be obvious that we won." (Ha'aretz)
Concerns are mounting in the Israeli defense establishment over the possibility that European countries which contribute military forces to UNIFIL might begin to gradually reduce their participation in the peacekeeping force over the coming year. UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano was quoted as warning Lebanese leaders he met in Beirut last week that the tension in the south and a deepening political crisis in the country might prompt European countries "to withdraw from UNIFIL within less than four months."
In addition, the IDF has recently lodged informal complaints with several European countries over the fact that their forces are involved more in protecting themselves from terror groups in southern Lebanon than in fulfilling their mission of preventing weapons smuggling and Hizbullah build-up. On Tuesday, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's research division, told a Knesset committee that Hizbullah was learning to adapt to the new reality in southern Lebanon where UNIFIL operates. According to defense officials, since the deaths of six Spanish soldiers in a terror attack in June, UNIFIL has been investing most of its resources in self-protection at the expense of conducting its missions. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Annapolis Meeting
The character of the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis is changing in order to avert failure or an immediate Israeli-Palestinian crisis over core issues. Instead of the expected pre-conference declaration of final status, Annapolis will only mark the beginning of negotiations on these issues. In addition, the November conference will attempt to revive the moribund Quartet Roadmap laid out in 2003, with particular focus on the plan's first phase. But unlike the past, the parties have agreed to simultaneously negotiate the third, final-status phase while implementing the first phase. At the same time the Israelis are wary of sacrificing territorial cards with no concessions in return.
The U.S. will be called on to simultaneously guide final-status talks and monitor implementation of the first phase, a task that will test the U.S. on how to measure compliance and how to enforce judgments. The new dual-track process will either instill confidence in both parties and stave off the ascendancy of Hamas, or simply serve as a way of parking the Israeli-Palestinian issue until the end of the Bush administration. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
For now, with the Palestinians, there is no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. One after another, their leaders have turned out to be bloodthirsty extremists or too weak to reach an agreement, of which compromise is a central component. At Annapolis, Condoleezza Rice will be flexing all her muscles to bring home at least one achievement, at our expense, before Bush leaves the White House. At most, Mahmoud Abbas will quit and Hamas will grab the reins - a scenario that is not so far-fetched even without Annapolis.
Rice will go back to Stanford University and write her memoirs, and Bush will build his library and ride horses at his ranch. But we will still be here, as Hizbullah, Hamas and other terror organizations, together with volunteers from the Islamic fundamentalist camp, gear up for the next round.
That's the Palestinians for you: The UN-approved Partition Plan gave them a state and they did not take it. They signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn with the whole world looking on, but opted for jihad rather than building themselves a state. At Camp David, they were offered the 1967 borders and the division of Jerusalem, but they preferred a second intifada. (Ha'aretz)
Despite widely expressed misgivings inside and outside the Bush administration, U.S. Secretary of State Rice appears determined to go ahead with her plan to host a conference on Middle East peace later this month at Annapolis. Dennis Ross, the veteran U.S. peace-broker in the Middle East, believes that Rice's goal may be modest: "The Secretary believes that such a 'political horizon' will benefit President Mahmoud Abbas in his competition with Hamas. Hamas may control Gaza today, but Rice is betting that if Abbas can show that he offers a pathway to achieving Palestinian national aspirations and Hamas offers only failure, Palestinians will eventually reject Hamas." Yet whatever Abbas might be able to secure would still look paltry to those Hamas supporters who want everything and more.
A complicating factor is the growing perception within the region that the U.S., plagued by internal divisions, is losing its traditional position of power and influence in the Middle East. Both the Islamic Republic in Tehran and the Baathist elite in Damascus are determined to force the Bush administration or its successor into a humiliating retreat from the region. Today, even the offer to return the Golan Heights to Syria is unlikely to persuade the Syrian leaders to sign a formal peace treaty with Israel. The reason is that they have attached their wagon to that of the Islamic Republic on a journey towards what Tehran believes would lead to a reshaping of the global order. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
The Hamas leadership voluntarily imprisoned itself in a narrow prison, isolated from Israel, from the Palestinian Authority, from Egypt, and in fact from any Arab element. This leadership presents a model of an Islamic state in a test tube that is completely detached from regional, political, and economic realities.
Today, the Hamas state is boycotted by all global elements, with the exception of Iran. However, the ties with Iran are turning out to do more damage than good. They indeed bring in tens of millions of dollars a year, but they have tainted Hamas' image in the eyes of the Arab world and in the eyes of some of the Palestinians themselves. Hamas is being portrayed as a servant of a foreign phenomenon. (Ynet News)
While prominent voices in the West are calling for a new political dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, in the Arab world many serious analysts warn about its continuing violent nature and global ambitions. This year, newly revealed federal court documents accepted into evidence during the trial of the Holy Land Foundation revealed the inner thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood about its global mission. An Arabic document discloses: "The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within."
The Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda differ regarding tactics but share a common strategy. Al-Qaeda favors an implacable jihad to destroy the economies of the Western countries. The Muslim Brotherhood supports terrorism and jihad against foreign presence in the Islamic world, but its top priority is constructing a Muslim infrastructure in the West which will slowly but surely enable it to rule during the 21st century. As far as the final goal is concerned, there are no policy differences between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both have the same objective: to place the entire world under an Islamic caliphate. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Multinational companies are coming under increasing pressure from the U.S. to stop doing business with Iran, with increasing evidence that European governments, mainly France, Germany and Britain, are supporting the U.S. campaign. It emerged on Thursday that Siemens, one of the world's largest engineering groups and based in Germany, has pulled out of all new business dealings with Iran after pressure from the U.S. and German governments. This follows the decision by Germany's three biggest banks, Deutsche, Commerzbank, and Dresdner, to quit Iran.
The British Foreign Office has privately backed the U.S. warnings in recent weeks, telling companies such as Shell and BP of the risks of continuing business with Iran. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has urged French energy firms Total and GDF not to pursue new business in Iran. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, is joining him in pressing for new sanctions. Germany is Iran's biggest trading partner, but trade was down 18% in the first half of this year. (Guardian-UK)
See also Why Europe Won't Sanction Iran - Robert Maginnis
Economic sanctions intended to persuade Iran to stop its radical nuclear and terrorist programs are being marginalized by robust European trade with Tehran. Europe must reverse this policy or a U.S.-led military solution becomes more likely. The EU is Iran's best trading partner, accounting for 28% of its total trade in 2006 and 40% of Iran's imports. In 2006, EU exports to Iran grew 8%, providing 33% of Iran's total imports.
Europe is also Iran's primary importer of energy, lapping up 88% of all Iranian energy products. According to the Conflict Securities Advisory Group, a Washington-based consultancy, an estimated 124 publicly-traded European businesses have financial interests in Iran; many of them in Tehran's energy sector. Germany leads the EU in trade with Iran with more than $5.45 billion in goods each year and Germany's central bank holds Iranian assets worth $9.2 billion. The Germans have argued that stopping trade with Tehran would cause thousands of German workers to lose their jobs. (Human Events)
Near East expert Bernard Lewis has noted that, in America, we tend to view the collapse of the Soviet Union as an American, or Western, triumph. Freedom, democracy and capitalism beat repression, oligarchy and communism. The truth of this view seems self-evident. Not, however, to many Middle Eastern Muslims. "According to the point of view of Osama bin Laden and his many, many followers, it was nothing of the kind," Lewis explained. "It was not a Western victory in the Cold War; it was a Muslim victory in a holy war. It was a triumph of Islam in a jihad against the infidels." To radical Muslims, the West and the Soviet Union were not competing powers, but simply two halves of the larger whole with which they were competing. They saw the fall of the Soviet Union as their victory (because, in large part, of Afghanistan).
Lewis' other key point applies to the proposition that democracy might be incompatible with the Arab world. "There are people to talk to, there are people we can seek the friendship of in the Islamic world," he insisted. "The dictatorial regimes that we have seen in our time in Iraq, in Syria, and in other places - these have no roots in the Arab or Islamic past. These are an importation from Europe." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
See also Group Formed to Improve Middle East Scholarship - Annie Karni
Middle East scholars are forming a new group to promote high standards of teaching and scholarship on the Middle East. The Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, founded by a noted Middle East scholar at Princeton University, Bernard Lewis, will challenge the Middle East Studies Association, which is dominated by academics who have been critical of Israel and of America's role in the Middle East. "Given the importance of these regions, there is an acute need for objective and accurate scholarship and debate, unhampered by entrenched interests and allegiances," Professor Lewis said in a statement. (New York Sun)
Indiana can join the growing number of states that have passed bills in their legislatures to divest their public employee retirement funds from billions of dollars invested in key foreign companies that invest in Iran. These states include California, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri. We can learn more about the campaign to divest from Iran at the Web site www.DivestTerror.org which is sponsored by the Center for Security Policy.
The residents of the state of Indiana have a responsibility to make sure that their public funds do not unwittingly help sponsor the Iranian terrorism that kills American soldiers in Iraq and civilians in Israel. By divesting from terror, we can send a message to Iran that the UN Security Council has failed to send: So long as Iran sponsors terrorism and pursues nuclear weapons, we will not take part in the Iranian economic parade. (South Bend Tribune)
After spending a week in Israel, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) says he sees an important similarity between the U.S. and the Jewish state. "We hold ourselves to a higher standard" because of "our own traditions of the law," said McDonnell, recalling a favorite quote he heard on the trip: "With democracy, you fight with one hand tied behind your back - but that's what gives you the upper hand."
McDonnell said his "respect for Israel" had increased tremendously during the trip - part of a National Association of Attorneys General delegation - and had "renewed my absolute commitment to support Israel at every turn." McDonnell said he was impressed just talking to everyday Israelis, including students at Bar-Ilan University Law School. "There is an amazing resiliency," he said, noting that the students were optimistic and weren't going to allow the threat of terror to affect how they lived their lives. Looking back on the trip, McDonnell said, "It has certainly changed my life." (Washington Jewish Week)
Churchill Understood that Jews Are the Bedrock of Western Tradition - Arthur Herman (Wall Street Journal)
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