Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Iran's Representative in Lebanon Heads Hizbullah's Military Wing (Jerusalem Post)
Ahmadinejad to Go on Pilgrimage to Mecca (AFP)
Saudis and Gulf States Welcome Ahmadinejad - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Post)
Reach Out to Israel - Ramesh Thakur (Times of India)
Israel Now World's Fourth Largest Weapons Exporter - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
Quebec Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitism in Quebec - Morton Weinfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Indian State to Import Israeli Livestock to Enhance Milk Production - Kay Benedict (DNA-India)
Pro-Israel Group Puts Emissaries on Campuses - Annie Karni (New York Sun)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Lebanese Army investigators on Thursday looked into the possible involvement of al-Qaeda-inspired extremists in the bombing Wednesday that killed Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, chief of military operations, who led a three-month military campaign which ended in September that crushed Fatah Islam in Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon. Security officials said there was a strong possibility that Islamic extremists or dormant Fatah Islam cells carried out the attack. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Bush Warns Against Syrian Interference in Lebanon - Tabassum Zakaria
President Bush on Thursday warned Syria against interfering in Lebanon, as investigators tried to determine who was responsible for the assassination of a top Lebanese general. Gen. Hajj was the ninth in a string of assassinations that began with the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafik al-Hariri, and was the first military officer to be killed. The other attacks targeted anti-Syrian figures. (Reuters)
See also Syria Denies Killing General in Car-Bomb Attack - Robert Fisk
Interestingly, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has constantly blamed the Syrians for attacks on democratic politicians in Lebanon, did not blame the Syrians for Hajj's assassination. (Independent-UK)
Israel is working together with the U.S., Britain, and France to counter the effect caused by the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report, which stated that Iran had stopped its military nuclear program in 2003. U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Prime Minister Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbovich, were involved in planning subsequent actions. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's statement last week that Iran was still in defiance of the international community, and therefore Britain would seek further sanctions, was also part of these efforts.
A senior Israeli intelligence source said, "Now everyone has gone into damage-limitation mode. There is still no question among the intelligence agencies, including those of the U.S., that the Iranians are working on a bomb and one out-of-context sentence from one report doesn't change that at all. The U.S., Israel, Britain and France are now working together to change the impression caused by that report." (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Investigators examining the bungled terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow six months ago believe the plotters had a link to Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which would make the attacks the first that the group has been involved in outside of the Middle East, according to senior officials who have been briefed on the inquiry. Phone numbers of members of the Iraqi group were found on the plotters' cellphones recovered in Britain. Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a Sunni extremist group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners. Officials stopped short of saying that the plot originated with Al-Qaeda or was directed by the group. (New York Times)
President Bashar Assad rejected claims that Syria's alliance with Iran had been weakened by Damascus' participation in the Annapolis peace conference, insisting Thursday that ties between the two countries will never be shaken. Assad made the comments as he inaugurated two joint Syrian-Iranian industrial projects - factories for cars and cement - joined by the Iranian industry and housing ministers. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
An Israeli woman was moderately injured on Thursday after a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza crashed through the roof of her home in Sderot, causing extensive damage. The Mujahideen Brigades, a military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility. (Ynet News)
See also The Rocket Threat from Gaza, 2001-2007 - Reuven Erlich
Palestinian rocket fire at Israel from Gaza began in 2001. As of the end of November 2007, there have been a total of 2,383 identified rocket hits in Israel. Rocket fire has been directly responsible for the deaths of ten Israeli civilians , nine of them Sderot residents. In addition, 433 individuals have been wounded. Mortar fire has been responsible for the deaths of ten individuals, eight civilians and two IDF soldiers. Of the 150 wounded, 80 were civilians and 70 soldiers. More than 190,000 Israelis now live under the potential threat of daily rocket and mortar attacks. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
See also Video: Israelis Under Siege in Sderot
You try to be never more than 15 seconds away from the nearest shelter. (EuroNews)
Syria's current conduct prevents Israel from engaging in negotiations with it, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told EU ambassadors in Tel Aviv on Thursday. She said Syria's role in the Mideast was "unconstructive," as it continued to supply weapons to Hizbullah, meddle in Lebanese politics, and support terror organizations, including Hamas. (Ynet News)
Armed gunmen in Gaza kidnapped top Fatah official Omar al-Ghoul, an adviser to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, early Friday. Al-Ghoul is considered a harsh critic of Hamas and attacks it frequently in his newspaper column. Al-Ghoul arrived in Gaza from the West Bank on Thursday to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law. (AP/Jerusalem Post)
PA officials admitted Thursday that they still have a long way to go in reforming their security forces - a key condition set by the international community for funding the government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. The PA, which is hoping to raise $5.6 billion over the next three years at Monday's donors conference, still hasn't made enough progress in imposing law and order in the West Bank, the PA officials conceded. According to the officials, the PA's U.S.-backed security plan, which was launched in the last few weeks in Nablus and Tulkarm, had failed to achieve most of its goals, largely due to the incompetence of the PA security forces.
One official cited a lack of discipline among the ranks of the Palestinian policemen. "We still have many officers who are involved in various crimes and corruption," he said. "We are still far from talking about real reforms in the security establishment. In the coming days we will launch a similar security operation in Bethlehem. But the real test will be in Hebron and Jenin, as well as in the refugee camps, where Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah militiamen call the shots."
Meanwhile, PA Civil Police commander Gen. Kamal al-Sheikh revealed that more than 600 Fatah-affiliated policemen helped Hamas take control of Gaza last June. (Jerusalem Post)
An Israel Air Force strike killed three Palestinian militants in Gaza City on Thursday after they were detected firing a Kassam rocket at Israel. Islamic Jihad said one of the dead was Sami Tafesh, a commander of its rocket crews. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Hizbullah's main operational goal prior to the July 2006 war was to conduct a war of attrition against the Israeli home front. Hizbullah invested most of its efforts in assembling an extensive missile system, including rockets with ranges of over 100 km, under the assumption that Israel would not conduct significant ground operations south of the Litani River. Most of the organization's operational mass was concentrated in this area.
From the very beginning of the fighting, Hizbullah maintained a continuous bombardment of Israeli territory in order to wear down the Israeli home front. As Hizbullah had predicted, the IDF countered with massive airpower. Only a few ground-based operations were conducted, and primarily close to the border.
At the same time, a number of weak points in Hizbullah's operational preparations surfaced. The first was the IDF's success in damaging its medium and long-range rocket systems. The destruction of Hizbullah's Zelzal rockets in Beirut in the first hours of fighting appears to have been especially painful. Hizbullah's second weak point was probably the low fitness of its rearguard units. (Strategic Assessment/Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
The Syrians are accelerating their return to Lebanon, and the disastrous French initiative on the presidency only confirmed to them that the international community would readily engage Syria on Lebanon. What remains of the Cedar Revolution is under mortal threat, with March 14 increasingly disoriented and without imagination. Amid such chaos, no wonder the Syrians feel they are but a step away from reversing the losses of 2005. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Just as secret back channels laid the groundwork for historic Israel-Arab advances in 1977 and 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas are liable to rely on behind-the-scenes talks far removed from the public. Even though Olmert and Abbas have met regularly in public over recent months, a parallel secret discussion is indispensable, said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
While the informal atmosphere of a back channel is supposed to produce the key compromise, some caution that it's a recipe for miscommunications. Dore Gold, an ex-Israeli ambassador to the UN, says informal talks are flawed since leaders can deny their credibility and informal envoys can go overboard. "There are serious problems with their effectiveness," he says. "Understandings Israelis and Palestinians might agree to in a five-star hotel in Europe may not stand the test of a real negotiating session." (Christian Science Monitor)
The real power at the UN has for more than 30 years been exercised by an adroit group of operatives, working out of a few of the diplomatic missions in New York, who have succeeded in imposing on the General Assembly an agenda far removed from the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter and devoted to undermining the international standing of the U.S. and, above all, to the delegitimization of Israel. Those who want to thwart an Israeli-Palestinian agreement will use the various bodies of the UN system, including the UN's unique anti-Israel propaganda apparatus, to put insurmountable obstacles in Abbas' way. For that reason it is best for the Israeli-PA talks to stay as far away from the UN as possible. The writer chairs the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, and served as Deputy U.S. Representative in the UN Security Council and U.S. Representative in the UN Commission on Human Rights. (Jerusalem Post)
Little noticed amid the grim Middle East headlines, a Jewish state founded by European socialists and long hobbled by stagnant growth and inflation is turning into a mature market economy. This ongoing transformation is no less dramatic than Eastern Europe's since 1989. The third consecutive year of strong growth, up to 5.5% in 2007, is driven by exports of software, pharmaceuticals, consulting and other services. The government in 2005 tapped Stanley Fischer, formerly No. 2 at the IMF, as central bank chief. Inflation is around 2%, down from 400% in the 1980s and the shekel is stable. Strong human capital and an opening market are the best resources any country could ask for - a good lesson for the oil-rich Middle East. And while far from finished, the mini-revolution of recent years ties Israel into the world, and vice-versa. That's good news for its future prosperity and security. (Wall Street Journal)
In a new two-storey building, scores of computerized machines cut reams of denim into different shapes as women in headscarves bend over new sewing machines. The Lotus Garments Company factory is a hive of industry, one of many companies taking advantage of an Egyptian-U.S.-Israeli trade agreement that has thrown a lifeline to the Egyptian textile industry. The qualified industrial zones agreement came into effect in 2005. In 2006, Egyptian garment exports to the U.S. rose 41%, from $444m to $625m, officials say.
The U.S. initiative allows Egyptians to export to the U.S. tariff-free as long as they use a certain percentage of Israeli goods, and is intended to foster peace through trade. QIZ's impact on thawing political relations is questionable, but for Egyptian garment producers, the trade deal has meant a chance to stand up to the competition posed by Asian producers. (Financial Times-UK)
To illustrate that academic anti-Semitism is "structural," rather than haphazard or negligible, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs have just published Academics Against Israel and the Jews. As Gerstenfeld explained in an interview: "Israelis are called the Nazis of today, citizens of an apartheid or colonialist state. None of this is true, of course. Colonialists pulled money out of countries they came to; the Jews put money into Israel. The Jews were a nationalist movement, not a colonizing movement. Nor do the Israelis practice apartheid against the Palestinians. Apartheid is a phenomenon specific to South Africa. And the anti-apartheid movement used violence as a last resort, whereas the Palestinian movements use it as a prime one. Furthermore, the Jews offered them a state twice. So, it's all false, but that is why it constitutes demonizing." (Jerusalem Post)
Paul Maria Hafner, 84, a former officer in the feared Waffen SS, found asylum in Franco's Spain after the war and is living a peaceful existence in Madrid. In "Hafner's Paradise," directed by Gunter Schwaiger, he boasts about the glory days, referring several times to Hitler as "the greatest figure in history." He can only dream of living to see a Fourth Reich and he fiercely denies the Holocaust, insisting that no Jew was ever killed under Hitler for being a Jew. The climax of the film comes when Schwaiger brings Hafner face-to-face with a survivor from Dauchau, the very camp where Hafner himself acted as an officer. (Jerusalem Post)
American Intelligence Reappraises the Iranian Nuclear Issue - Ephraim Kam and Ephraim Asculai (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
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