Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Suspected in Rocket Fire on Northern Israel - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel Protests Katyusha Fire from Lebanon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
PA Rejects International Troops in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Fatah Gunmen Surrender to PA - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Report: Israel Planned 1991 Strike on North Korea-Syria Missile Ship (AFP)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Bush warned Iran Tuesday that its confrontation with three U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf on Sunday was a provocative act, as the Pentagon released audio and video recordings of the dawn showdown. Bush said one of the themes of his Middle East trip will be the menace posed by Iran, particularly because it has not complied with two UN resolutions telling it to suspend its uranium enrichment.
The president acknowledged that a "mixed signal" had been sent by the National Intelligence Estimate, and during his trip he will remind allies that "Iran was a threat. Iran is a threat. And Iran will continue to be a threat if they are allowed to learn how to enrich uranium." (Washington Post)
See also Video: Iranian Boats Harass U.S. Navy (Washington Post)
Secretary of State Rice said Monday: "I was just asked by an Arab TV station: 'well, do you think it's right that the world tries to isolate Hamas?' Well, Hamas has isolated itself. When you say, if you're Hamas, that you're not prepared to renounce violence, when you say that you're not prepared to live up to the agreements that Palestinian leaders have signed, what is there left to do except to isolate Hamas?"
"There is nothing in the NIE that suggests Iran is not dangerous. The NIE talks about one of the three elements of a nuclear program, which is weaponization. Enrichment and reprocessing, which can lead to fissile materials, continues. The effort to get ever longer ranges of ballistic missiles continues. And what even the halt to weaponization says to me is that this is a state that after denying for years that it had a covert military program - in fact, our intelligence says had a covert military program. Now, did they halt it? Perhaps."
"We think that Egypt has to do more. Those tunnels need to be dealt with...the will to do it is very important here....Look, the Egyptians don't have any national interest in having Hamas strengthened next to them." (State Department)
Two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers were slightly wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in south Lebanon on Tuesday near Rmaileh, 35 km south of Beirut and not far from Ain al-Hilweh, a hotbed for Islamist militant groups. It was the third attack on UNIFIL since the Israel-Hizbullah War ended in August 2006. (Reuters)
Sderot, a working-class Israeli town less than two miles from Gaza, has been hit over the past four years with some 2,000 rockets of improving range and explosive power - 22 in the last eight days. Eight Sderot civilians have been killed by the rockets. For many Israelis, Sderot embodies the fears of what happens when they pull back as they did from all of Gaza more than two years ago - the land turns into a staging ground for attacks by extremist Palestinians that a peace treaty will not stop. The problems of Sderot - and of a Gaza run by Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the U.S. - are at the heart of Israel's security concerns. But those concerns are present only in the abstract in the American-led peace effort, which features negotiations between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who has no control over Hamas or Gaza.
The people of Sderot live in a most un-Israeli hush, so they can hear the rocket alerts. People keep their car windows open and their radios and televisions on low volume. They take quick showers, no longer sleep in upstairs bedrooms, and avoid public places at what are considered peak rocket times. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Israel Wednesday for a visit that will seek to advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "We see a new opportunity for peace here in the holy land and for freedom across the region," Bush said. "The alliance between our two nations helps guarantee Israel's security as a Jewish state," Bush added. (Ha'aretz)
Prime Minister Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas agreed Tuesday to hold negotiations on core issues according to a "three-level" model. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and head of the Palestinian negotiating team Ahmed Qureia will discuss the core issues in a direct dialogue. The negotiation teams will then discuss the issues in detail. In case of disagreement, Abbas and Olmert will intervene. A senior source at the Prime Minister's Office said that Olmert and Abbas have been discussing the core issues over the past few months. (Ynet News)
A Kassam rocket crashed into a private residence in Sderot on Wednesday leaving several people in shock. "I arrive at my brother's house and see a rocket that disintegrated his young boy's bed," Sderot resident Danny Dahan told Army Radio. "[His wife] was at home with their three-week-old son. She ran into the bomb shelter and was saved by a miracle," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Palestinians Fire Nine Rockets at Israel - Shmulik Hadad
Palestinians in Gaza fired nine Kassam rockets and a number of mortars at Israel Wednesday morning, just a few hours before U.S. President Bush's arrival in Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
President Bush Visits Israel
Mr. Bush's policies previously seemed unequivocal. He repeatedly affirmed America's support for Israel's identity as a Jewish state, and so ruled out the Arabs' demand for the resettlement of millions of Palestinians within Israel's pre-1967 borders. He further recognized the reality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and insisted that any agreement take that reality into account. Most importantly, Mr. Bush had reversed the once-sacrosanct formula through which the Israelis first ceded territory to the Arabs and only then received peace, insisting that the Arabs first eschew terror and recognize Israel's existence before regaining land. The president upheld Israel's right to defend itself, while stressing the Palestinians' duty to dismantle terrorist infrastructures and abjure violence.
Since Annapolis, however, much of this paradigm has been jettisoned. While the old George Bush deemed the end of terror as imperative for peace and the containment of Iran as the prerequisite for eliminating terror, the new George Bush focuses on Israeli settlement-building and hesitates to confront Tehran. Presidential visits are always characterized as "historic," but Mr. Bush's trip is marked by a lack of momentousness. Israelis will greet Mr. Bush exuberantly, but his departure may leave them grappling with terror largely on their own. The writer is senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal)
Both the Israeli and Palestinian publics have to be willing to take a second look at peacemaking. Israelis say, "We left Lebanon, and look what happened. We left Gaza and Hamas took over. Not for a single day has rocket fire ceased. Why wouldn't the same thing happen in the West Bank, leaving our entire population vulnerable?" Palestinians say, "Israelis build settlements in what should be our state and restrict our movement. If we can't go from Nablus to Jenin, why should we think we will get any of Jerusalem as our capital?"
Why not ask each side to take steps they are capable of taking and that could still be meaningful to the other side? For example, on the Israeli side, a meaningful freeze on settlement activity - certainly in all areas close to Palestinian cities, towns, and villages - is within Israeli political capabilities and would be recognized by Palestinians. On the Palestinian side, a sustained and public effort to stop incitement in the media, schools, and mosques is something Palestinians could do and that the Israeli public would notice. (New Republic/Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Bush is not coming to make a serious effort to advance a substantive peace process. His visit, like the Annapolis conference that preceded it, does not represent a major turning point in his administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this regard, his latest attempt to frame the objective of his final year in office as "defining the outlines of a Palestinian state" is decidedly less ambitious than actually solving the conflict. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (bitterlemons.org)
The U.S. has no real answer to Hamas' continued arms smuggling or the firing of Kassam rockets at Israel. Until a real solution is found to the rocket fire, Israel cannot withdraw from the West Bank, since this would bring Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion International Airport into rocket range. If Bush wants progress in the West Bank, he had better focus on finding a solution for Gaza first. (Ha'aretz)
Dubya's Real Mideast Agenda - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
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