Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
IDF Uncovers Two Rockets Being Assembled in Nablus - Yuval Azoulay and Avi Isaacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Olmert Meets Jordan's King Abdullah in Aqaba - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
Russia Foils Atomic Smugglers - Will Stewart (Telegraph-UK)
10,000 Policemen to Secure Bush Visit - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
Study: Israel's Image Hurt Since Gaza Pullout - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
India's Navy Chief Leaves for Israel - (Times of India)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush's aides all but ruled out a three-way meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his upcoming Mideast visit and dampened hopes that the president's high-profile travels would make tangible progress toward peace. "Just his going there is going to advance the prospects," Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, said Thursday. "We're not looking for headline announcements." Bush departs Tuesday on an eight-day trip that will take him to at least six Mideast nations and the Palestinian territories. Middle East experts said the trip is an important signal of U.S. involvement in the region, but probably won't produce concrete results.
"People are going to be polite. They will be accommodating in some ways. But they are well aware that this is not only an election year, it is an election year from an administration that really has no heir that can really speak for the future or run for the future," said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. (AP)
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Iran sees "no benefit" in resuming ties with the U.S. "Cutting ties with the United States is one of our basic policies. We have never said that they will be cut for ever," Khamenei said. "The conditions of the U.S. government are such now that it is harmful for us to resume relations," he said, describing the U.S. as a global "danger." "Resuming relations will create the possibility of U.S. influence and the coming and going of U.S. spies," he said.
Khamenei angrily lashed out at moderates inside Iran who had suggested suspending enrichment to de-escalate the nuclear crisis. "Some people challenge the system and the government over this and, in line with the enemy, seek to create disappointment. The nation should be watchful of such infiltrations." (AFP/Yahoo)
Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam and his wife received a personal tour of the White House, an official escort on Capitol Hill and a luncheon with executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Raytheon, as well as the U.S. trade representative's office, as Libya's highest ranking official to visit Washington in 35 years. "There's still a lot to be done with respect to instituting basic freedoms within Libya. There's still some outstanding issues with respect to claims by U.S. citizens. Those need to be resolved," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel is seeking to reach an understanding with the U.S. administration that would safeguard Israel's security interests in a future final-status agreement with the Palestinians and during current negotiations, government sources have said. At the heart of Israel's demands is that it remain free to act against terror in the West Bank for as long as negotiations last, and that demilitarization arrangements place limitations on the future Palestinian state. Israel wants Palestine to be completely demilitarized, and for Israel to be able to fly over Palestinian air space. Israel is to propose the deployment of an international force in the West Bank and along the Philadelphi Route at the Gaza-Egypt border, and would ask that a permanent Israel Defense Forces presence remain for an extended period in the Jordan Valley. (Ha'aretz)
See also PA Rejects Israeli Demands for a Demilitarized Palestine - Khaled Abu Toameh
PA officials in Ramallah said Thursday they were very concerned that Israel was planning to demand that the IDF be able to operate inside a future Palestinian state to foil terrorist attacks or a military offensive from the east. "The Palestinian Authority rejects talk about a demilitarized Palestinian state," a senior PA official said. "A Palestinian state that does not have a strong security force won't be able to survive for one day." Another official in Ramallah said Israel's talk about a demilitarized Palestinian state and retaining control of Ma'ale Adumim and other settlement blocs in the West Bank "proves that Israel is not working toward achieving a two-state solution." (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF stepped up its offensive against Islamic Jihad rocket squads in Gaza on Thursday, killing nine Palestinians in a series of ground and air strikes after a long-range Katyusha rocket struck northern Ashkelon for the first time. A senior PA representative said, "The instructions for firing the Katyusha rocket came from Damascus and Teheran....The timing of the rocket attack is no coincidence and is mainly aimed at disrupting Bush's visit." Also Thursday, three Kassam rockets and 10 mortar shells were fired by Palestinians in Gaza at Israel, including one rocket that hit the backyard of a home in Sderot.
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office characterized the rocket attack on Ashkelon as "a strategic threat," and said it showed once again the urgency of stopping the arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. "We are concerned that the types of weapons coming into Gaza are giving them new strategic potential," the official said. "This was not the first rocket of this type to be fired on Israel, but we are concerned that unless decisive action is taken there could be more of this." "If we see ongoing smuggling into Gaza of munitions and weaponry, then this is a strategic threat for a quarter of a million people in the South who are within the range of the rockets," he said. The official said it was clear that the current level of weapons smuggling cannot go on, and that "actions have to be taken." (Jerusalem Post)
See also National Security Council: Rocket Threat Could Worsen - Roni Sofer
Israel's National Security Council warned Thursday against the looming rocket threat, saying that Palestinian rocket range could rise significantly due to new technological developments. "The wide range of operations carried out by Israel, both military and civil, have succeeded in curbing activity by gunmen, but no real answer has been found for the rocket threat, which has been Israel's main concern for the past two years," says a report by the council submitted to the government. According to the report, 2,383 Palestinian rockets landed in Israel in 2001-2007, 20 people were killed and 583 wounded in rocket strikes. More than 1,600 cases of stress-related injuries have been reported in the last six months due to rocket attacks. Sderot is the main target for the attacks, absorbing 45% of the rockets. (Ynet News)
See also Katyusha in Ashkelon - Amos Harel
A rocket hitting Ashkelon's northern edge means that another several thousand people are suddenly in rocket range of Gaza. It is clear that the threat to Ashkelon is now greater than had previously been thought. The ruins of the former settlements in northern Gaza provide a launching ground from which the rockets can reach northern Ashkelon. Most rockets hitting Ashkelon are launched by Islamic Jihad, with Hamas' consent. (Ha'aretz)
See also Palestinian Rocket Fire at Sderot Continues Friday (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli planes bombed three buildings linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Thursday. The first air strike targeted the Gaza City home of Karim al-Dahdouh, a senior Islamic Jihad bombmaker killed last month. The second air strike hit the home of Abu al-Murshed, an Islamic Jihad leader killed last week. A third building belonging to an Islamic Jihad member in Khan Younis was bombed minutes later. (Reuters)
Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by human rights groups against fuel cuts to Gaza, rejecting their argument that the cuts cause humanitarian harm. Israel instituted the cuts as part of a policy of pressure to stop daily rocket fire at Israel by Gaza militants. ''Reducing fuel supplies hits the terror infrastructure and hinders its ability to attack Israeli citizens,'' the court said in its decision. The court said it took Gaza's civilian population into consideration and would monitor the effects of the fuel cuts to prevent a humanitarian crisis. (AP/Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The detention last month of an outspoken Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, is an act of thoroughly modern despotism and one King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia should immediately overrule. If King Abdullah is really serious about reforming his kingdom's legal system, as he has indicated that he is, then he must change not only the Sharia-based courts but also the organs of state security that silence critics in his name.
Defenders of the existing Saudi system argue that change in this traditional society must come slowly. Many Saudis are clearly eager for more and faster change. King Abdullah must understand that cruelty, sex discrimination, and censorship cannot be part of a modern legal system or a country that wants to participate in the modern world. When President Bush visits Saudi Arabia this month, he should remind the king of that. (New York Times)
Minutes before Egyptian police officers opened the gates and let Hamas pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia back into Gaza, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad from the Defense Ministry received a phone call. On the other end was an acquaintance from Cairo. We are opening the gates, the Egyptian caller informed the stunned Gilad. Only three weeks ago, Gilad traveled to Cairo to warn our Egyptian allies that the pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia include some Hamas men, including some terrorists who headed for training in Iran. He also warned that they will be bringing back plenty of money, aimed at greasing the wheels of the terror machine.
The Egyptians made a move that completely ignored all the understandings reached with Israel. It is one thing to ignore past understandings. This time around they disregarded a fresh agreement from last week, reached when President Mubarak met Defense Minister Barak. (Ynet News)
See also The Smuggling Crisis - Editorial
There is no diplomatic crisis with Egypt. There is a smuggling crisis. Egyptian irresponsibility is risking Israeli lives, harming Israeli security, and working directly counter to the international goal of isolating Hamas and bolstering an Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process. Our leaders should certainly not stop pressing Israel's case now. (Jerusalem Post)
It is not clear what Mr. Bush will bring his hosts in Jerusalem next week. The man who hoped his invasion of Iraq in 2003 was going to bring peace to Palestine and democracy to the Arabs has not exactly over-achieved. At the Annapolis summit, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas promised to talk fearlessly to one another about "final status" issues, but these talks have already been soured by familiar complaints. Mr. Bush may listen sympathetically, but is unlikely to apply strong public pressure to Mr. Olmert. One reason for that is that America and Israel may be rather more focused on what to do about Iran.
Mr. Bush is bound to be politely received by all the region's leaders even though, like other Americans before him, he has chosen to tour the Middle East very late in his presidency (Richard Nixon paid a visit just days before resigning to avoid impeachment). (Economist-UK)
In the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, questions are being raised as to whether sanctions and financial pressure remain a viable approach to changing Tehran's decision-making on its nuclear program. As evidence of this strategy's demise, critics point to the foundering attempts to negotiate a third round of UN sanctions against Iran - sanctions that appeared imminent before the NIE's publication. While additional punitive measures by the UN are important and necessary, better enforcement of the various sanctions regimes already in place could have an equally significant impact. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
For nearly 40 years Yossi Vardi has helped to found and nurture over 60 Israeli companies in industries that include software, Internet, telecommunications, and energy. He was the founding investor in Mirabilis, which created ICQ, sold to AOL in 1998 for $400 million.
Vardi says: "It's not about technology. Technology is like a piano. You need to have it to create music but you really need the pianist....There is this culture in places like Israel and Silicon Valley where there is a certain energy, where people are willing to take chances and risks and fight for new ideas." "U.S. multinationals do more R&D here than any other country in the world....This is a 'startup country,' socially and culturally, it is in our heritage, our ethos. It all started with the kibbutz that started a new way of life in agriculture. The country is constantly renewing itself all the time." (Business Week)
Ouda Abu Muamar, 96, has served the state for over 60 years. Even before the establishment of Israel, Abu Muamar was reportedly in close contact with the Palmach, aiding them in their anti-British insurgency. Southern District police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev presented Abu Muamar with a lifetime achievement award on Wednesday, recognizing the Azazmeh tribe leader for his service to the Bedouin community and to the defense of Israel. Abu Muamar is one of the few Bedouin to hold a campaign ribbon for service in the Palmach and the War of Independence and was among the founders of the IDF's Bedouin Trackers Unit. (Jerusalem Post)
The Bush Visit - Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
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