Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Fatah al-Islam at Work in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Poll Shows Peace Pessimism - Jonathan Beck (Jerusalem Post)
"Miracle" - Mortally Wounded IDF Soldier Fully Recovers - Sarit Rosenblum and Dan Evan (Yediot Ahronot/IMRA)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Meeting for the second time this month as part of a new U.S.-launched peace effort, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Monday discussed Israel's demand that the Palestinians crack down on armed groups, as well as proposed Israeli construction in areas the Palestinians claim for a future state. Israel sees little chance of progress unless the Palestinians take action against militias that have carried out hundreds of attacks against Israelis, including regular rocket attacks from Gaza. "We demanded that they carry out their public commitments on security," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel.
Israeli media have reported that Israel's proposed 2008 budget includes funds to build more than 700 housing units in Har Homa and in Maale Adumim. Israel views Har Homa as part of the municipality of Jerusalem and thus subject only to Israeli law. Israeli officials contend that any construction in Maale Adumim, a suburb of Jerusalem, would comply with the Roadmap because it would occur only in areas that are already built up. Israel views Maale Adumim, with a population of over 33,000, as one of the settlement blocs that would end up in its hands in any treaty with the Palestinians. (Los Angeles Times)
A group of 40 new immigrants from Iran arrived in Israel on Tuesday. "I was scared in Iran as a Jew," said Michael, 15, who also said all his friends wanted to come. 200 Iranian Jews have immigrated to Israel in 2007. (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to Egypt on Wednesday for meetings with the Egyptian leadership on the continued arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza, and efforts to achieve a tahadiyeh, (calm) between the Palestinian militant groups and Israel. The increasingly dominant assessment in the Israeli defense establishment is that the Hamas leadership is inclined to support a tahadiyeh even though it is not unified on this matter. (Ha'aretz)
See also More Tapes Showing Egyptian Complicity in Gaza Smuggling - Roni Sofer
Government officials told Ynet on Tuesday that the IDF has in its possession additional videotapes which prove Egypt's complicity in the ongoing smuggling of weapons and terrorists into Gaza. "The Egyptian unease is trivial in comparison to the lack of security for citizens of the State of Israel - to whom the rocket attacks, explosive devices, and mortars smuggled into Israel from the Philadelphi corridor are addressed," a government official said. Israel has said that given the tons of explosives that have been smuggled into Gaza in recent months, it was left with no choice but to confront the Egyptians on the matter. The Intelligence Branch of the IDF's Southern Command claims that weapons and explosive materiel pass through Egypt's Sinai desert unhindered and there has been a steep increase in the extent of smuggling in the last year. (Ynet News)
One senior defense official said that Egypt's decision to unilaterally open the Rafah crossing earlier this month and allow 2,000 Palestinians, including a number of terrorists en-route to Iran, to leave Gaza was "grounds for a diplomatic crisis." A government source said that Israel wants good relations with Egypt and sees its relationship with Cairo as a key strategic interest. But, the source said, "there is frustration on the Israeli side about what goes on at the border. We understand that the Egyptians can't do everything, but they must do more. The strengthening of Hamas is not just a threat to Israel, but a threat to the Palestinian Authority and to regional stability."
Diplomatic officials said that Egyptian inaction stems from a number of different reasons, including: An economic interest, since the arms smuggling is a multi-million dollar "industry" for those involved on the Egyptian side. An interest in not exacerbating ties with Sinai Bedouin, who are believed to be involved in the smuggling and who have a tense relationship with the central government in Cairo. An interest in letting the arms smuggling continue in order to place pressure on Israel to open up the Camp David Accords and let the Egyptians increase the number of soldiers on the border. General ineffectiveness of the Egyptian security forces. A belief that Hamas is now well ensconced in Gaza, and that it is not in Egypt's interest to push Hamas too hard, lest they push back and cause domestic problems in Egypt via the Muslim Brotherhood. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians in Gaza fired nine rockets at Ashkelon and Sderot on Tuesday. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Retired Russian General Vladimir Dvorkin told the "Luxembourg Forum" of nuclear strategists that the thrust of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate was disquieting rather than reassuring. In his opinion, the central finding of the report was the very fact that until 2003, Iran had a nuclear weapons program.
Dvorkin does not see the fact that Iran's military program was allegedly suspended as encouraging; on the contrary, it could point to the fact that Iran's mission to build simple "gun-type" mechanisms has been accomplished. In his opinion, the program was frozen in order to allow for the production of the larger amounts of fissile material that such mechanisms require. Now all that remains for Iran to complete an operational nuclear weapons arsenal is to produce the necessary amounts of fissile material.
If the observation of the NIE's authors is correct - that Iran is motivated by cost-benefit calculations - then it is now more urgent than ever to intensify the political and economic sanctions against Iran, particularly in the critical area of the importing of oil products and the exporting of oil and gas. Moreover, it is crucial to restore credibility to the military option. The writer heads the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Ynet News)
Israel's freedom of action to strike at Iran's nuclear program has been curtailed after a recent American intelligence assessment that Tehran stopped its work on nuclear weapons, but force remains an option of last resort should Israel eventually conclude that the weapons threshold is about to be crossed, according to Israeli experts and former intelligence officials. Iranian nuclear weapons development work has apparently resumed clandestinely, said former chief of Israeli military intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash. "Israel's job is to continue trying on the intelligence level to find a smoking gun and to see to it that the West takes action so that [Iranian nuclear weapons capability] doesn't happen," Zeevi Farkash said.
In the wake of the NIE, Israel has three options, according to Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, who headed the research division in Israeli military intelligence, with responsibility for preparing the Israeli national intelligence assessment. Israel can launch a military strike to set back the Iranian nuclear program, try to persuade the U.S. that its intelligence approach is flawed and press for more vigorous diplomacy to block Tehran's nuclear ambitions, or it can acquiesce in a nuclearized Middle East with a Cold War-style balance of power that would deter any attack on Israel. (Chicago Tribune)
Stupid Intelligence on Iran - James Schlesinger (Wall Street Journal)
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