Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 16, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Diplomat: Israel and U.S. Differ on Interpretation of Bush's 2004 Letter to Sharon - Barak Ravid and Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)
    The U.S. clarified to Israel during President Bush's visit that it disapproves of all Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank - including in the large settlement blocs, a senior Western diplomat said Tuesday.
    He added that Israel and the U.S. differ on their interpretation of the letter President Bush sent to former prime minister Ariel Sharon in April 2004.
    "The letter refers to major population centers and not the settlement blocs, while stressing that everything must also be decided in the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians," the diplomat said.

Israel Asks UN to Condemn Terror Attack on Kibbutz Volunteer - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    Israel wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council president Tuesday regarding the killing of Ecuadorian volunteer Carlos Andres Chavez by a Palestinian sniper at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosa and the Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot on Tuesday.
    Israel called on the UN to condemn the incidents and the states which aid the terror organizations.
    Israel is entitled to defend itself against a military offensive like any other country under Article 51 of the UN Charter, the letter said.
    The Israeli delegation to the UN has recently been filing a complaint following every terror attack or rockets fired at Israel.

Thai Satellite Firm Terminates Deal with Hizbullah TV (AP/The Hindu-India)
    The Thai satellite company Thaicom said Wednesday it halted broadcasts of Hizbullah's Al-Manar television channel last Friday after learning it was tied to the Shiite militant group.
    Piyanuch Sujpluem, a spokeswoman for Shin Satellite Public Company, said the contract with Al-Manar had been a purely commercial deal "without knowledge that such a station had connections to a terrorist group."

France Announces Base in Persian Gulf - Molly Moore (Washington Post)
    President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Tuesday that France would establish a military base in the United Arab Emirates, making it the only Western power other than the U.S. to have a permanent defense installation in the Persian Gulf.
    The base, announced at the end of a three-day visit by Sarkozy to Persian Gulf countries, is part of his effort to raise France's international and diplomatic profile.
    Though small in size - at least 400 navy, army and air force personnel - the installation would be an important symbol for both countries.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rice: Arabs Should Reach Out to Israel - Terence Hunt and Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Rice said Tuesday that the U.S. wants Arab nations to do more to reach out to Israel, as a way to do their part to nudge a Mideast peace accord into being. Rice spoke from Saudi Arabia, at the side of its foreign minister, Prince Saud. "We have believed that it will be important for the regional states, the Arab states, to do everything possible to encourage the process and that, yes, there should be efforts to reach out to the Israelis as this process goes forward," she said. (AP)
  • Bush Wraps Up Middle East Visit on Peace, Iran, Oil - Tabassum Zakaria
    President Bush ends a Middle East trip on Wednesday in which he told regional allies that Iran is a threat, Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts need support, and high oil prices are in no one's interest. (Reuters)
        See also Egyptian Opposition Finds Common Ground Against Bush - Jonathan Wright
    Egyptian opposition groups - Islamists, liberals and leftists - found common ground on Tuesday in criticism of U.S. President Bush's imminent visit to the country. Bush will spend less than four hours in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday where he will see Egyptian President Mubarak on his way back to Washington. (Reuters)
  • Beirut: Blast Near U.S. Embassy Vehicle Kills 3 - Alia Ibrahim and Ellen Knickmeyer
    A bomb exploded Tuesday as a U.S. Embassy sport-utility vehicle passed a parked car in Beirut, killing at least three Lebanese motorists but only lightly injuring two embassy workers. One American, a private citizen teaching at a nearby school, was among 20 people reported wounded. Secretary of State Rice, who is traveling in the Middle East with President Bush, called the bombing a "terrorist attack." (Washington Post)
  • Syrian Officials Call on Arab Countries to Deepen Relations with Iran
    Against the backdrop of President Bush's Middle East visit and of the recent visit to Syria by Ali Larijani, representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran's Supreme National Security Council, high-ranking Syrian government officials called on Arab countries to deepen relations and cooperation with Iran. Such calls have been voiced by Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal and Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal al-Miqdad. In addition, a column published in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra advised Arab states that Iran's becoming a regional power was in their interests. (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Barrage Wounds Ten in Israel - Mijal Grinberg
    At least 10 people were hurt Tuesday when Palestinians in Gaza launched a barrage of Kassam rockets and mortar shells at Israel. Lior Ben-Shimol, 5, was at a neighbor's house playing. Her father, Yaron Ben-Shimol, said: "I heard an explosion and saw a rocket had hit the neighbor's house. I ran to the neighbor's house and saw my daughter come to me drenched in blood." The Israel Defense Forces Tuesday counted 50 Kassam rockets and 30 mortar shells fired from Gaza. In addition, a Grad Katyusha rocket was found near a residential area in Ashkelon.
        In Sderot, the Red Alert siren was sounded 14 times. Time and again, local residents scrambled for cover. Toward nightfall, a rocket hit a power line and the city's residents remained in the dark until it was fixed. "The center treating people for shock remained open thanks to a generator," said Dr. Adrianna Katz. "We treated 20 people Tuesday." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Rain Down on Ashkelon and Sderot
    Palestinians in Gaza fired at least 28 rockets at Israel Wednesday morning, including 11 at Ashkelon and 12 at Sderot. Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing of an Ecuadorian volunteer on a kibbutz near Gaza by a Palestinian sniper on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 15 Palestinian Militants Killed in Gaza - Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury
    In fighting Tuesday in Gaza, 19 Palestinians were reported killed, 15 of whom were confirmed to be armed militants. One was Hussam Zahar, son of the former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar, considered to be a firebrand and one of the leaders of the more extremist wing of Hamas, with close ties to its military wing. Israeli security sources emphasized Tuesday that Hussam's killing had not been planned. He was among a group of Hamas gunmen and was killed in an exchange of fire with IDF forces. The Hamas militants killed Tuesday lost their lives in fighting with IDF forces or because they had been targeted while they tried to launch rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns.
        The IDF's current modus operandi in Gaza is characterized by ground forces raids, limited in both time and scope, and in targeted interceptions of militants in the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, as well as Hamas rocket crews. Senior sources in the defense establishment said Tuesday that this could change if the escalation in rocket attacks continues. The firing of the Katyusha rocket at Ashkelon, the second instance in recent weeks, is evidence the city is permanently within the scope of Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
        The IDF entered Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood Tuesday to hunt for cells that fire mortars at Israel, and succeeded in hitting two such cells. When Hamas sent in forces to fight the soldiers, it lost 13 men in the ensuing battle.
        Faced with mounting public criticism, Mahmoud Abbas was forced to denounce the "massacre" in Gaza, even though the vast majority of those killed were armed fighters. Abbas is worried about being seen as an Israeli collaborator, while Hamas paints itself as a patriotic organization that fights Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Kills Top Islamic Jihad Leader in West Bank - Ali Waked
    Walid Abid, the commander of the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing in the West Bank, was killed Wednesday in Kabatiya, Palestinian sources reported. Abid was responsible for all the organization's activities in the West Bank, including shooting attacks and attempted terror attacks inside Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Head of Islamic Jihad in Samaria Killed
    Walid Abid, 46, has been involved in intensive terrorist activity since the 1980s. He was directly responsible for several murderous suicide bombings, among them the planning of the April 2006 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in which eleven civilians were killed and dozens wounded. (IDF Spokesman)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What's Mine Is Mine and What's Yours Is Mine - Editorial
    President Bush said on Jan. 10 that the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians "must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people." The last ten words are the key to resolving the conflict, a missing element whose absence has caused the peace process to oscillate between stalemate and war rather than move steadily toward lasting peace.
        According to the Arab demand for a "right of return," Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, while Jews not only have no right to move to a future Palestinian state, but those who live now within the future borders of that state must leave. This cannot be solved by drawing different lines on a map. It has nothing to do with borders, but whether the Jewish people have the national right to sovereignty anywhere in the Land of Israel. If Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, and Jews or Israelis can't move to Palestine, then the Palestinians are saying: What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Local Jews Feeling Vulnerable in Chavez's Venezuela - Dina Siegel Vann
    The dangerous antics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, his alliance with Iran, his open hostility toward the U.S. and a number of anti-Semitic incidents have generated widespread concern about the fate of the small Jewish community in this oil-rich South American nation. Venezuela Jewry's heightened sense of vulnerability has resulted above all from two outrageous police assaults, in 2004 and 2007, on Hebraica, the Caracas complex housing the Jewish community center and school, as well as incendiary anti-Semitic reports in major media. Venezuelan Jews are well aware that they enjoy strong support not only from mainstream American Jewish organizations, but also from the U.S. government and important neighbors in South America, notably Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. (Miami Herald)
  • Observations:

    Bush in Arabia - Editorial (New York Sun)

    • In this visit to the Middle East, Mr. Bush is pressing the freedom agenda in a way no less revolutionary than the visits by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan to Berlin during the last great global struggle, the Cold War.
    • Mr. Bush was asked about the comparison between the fence that Israel has built to protect itself from the terrorists to the wall that the Soviet Union built to keep the people of East Berlin locked behind the Iron Curtain. Mr. Bush rejected the comparison. He had just finished issuing calls for increased freedom in the Arab and Muslim world that were all the more startling because Mr. Bush was making his remarks on unfree soil, or, as Mr. Bush put it in his speech in Abu Dhabi, "on Arab soil."
    • "You cannot build trust when you hold an election where opposition candidates find themselves harassed or in prison," Mr. Bush said, in a comment clearly aimed at Egypt. And, moving on to language that seemed aimed at Saudi Arabia, he said, "You cannot expect people to believe in the promise of a better future when they are jailed for peacefully petitioning their government. And you cannot stand up a modern and confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms."
    • We differ with the prescription by Mr. Bush earlier in his Middle East trip that "The point of departure for permanent status negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs "should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967." The point of departure should be the Arab acceptance of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an end to terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel's city of Sderot. It's not constructive to describe the disputed territory as "occupied," any more than it is to describe Iraq or Afghanistan as "occupied."
    • But Mr. Bush has more than earned his standing as a tactician, for on the broad strokes he sketches an inspiring vision, one that, if realized, would result not only in a safer America and Israel, but in a Middle East where liberty, freedom, and democracy, now scarce, are secured.

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