Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Warning: Palestinian Terrorists Seek to Kidnap Israelis in Sinai and Bring Them to Gaza (Prime Minister's Office)
Open Border with Egypt Allows Free Flow of Terrorists and Weapons into Gaza (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Hamas Began Cutting Border Wall Four Months Ago to Ambush Israeli Forces - Mark MacKinnon
(Globe and Mail-Canada)
"Nobody Needs Tunnels Anymore": Open Border a Nightmare for Palestinian Smugglers - Mark MacKinnon (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Palestinian Forces Enter Jordan under U.S. Training Program - Adam Entous (Reuters)
Tehran, Havana and Caracas - Editorial (Washington Times)
Britain Unveils Terror Law Proposals - D'Arcy Doran (AP)
Yad Vashem Launches Arabic Website (AP/Ha'aretz)
An Israeli Scholar in Malaysia - Erika Fry (Bangkok Post-Thailand)
More Jerusalem Arabs Seek Israeli Citizenship - Dion Nissenbaum (McClatchy)
Latest Jerusalem Population Figures - Peggy Cidor (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Secretary of State Rice called on Egypt Thursday to control its border with Gaza. "It is an international border, it needs to be protected, and I believe that the Egyptians understand the importance of doing that." Palestinians swarmed into Egypt for the second day Thursday after militants blew open the border. Rice again pinned the blame on the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement for provoking the Israeli blockade. "This problem has come first and foremost out of the security situation created by Hamas in Gaza, their unwillingness to stop" firing rockets into Israel, Rice said. (AFP)
See also Egypt Fires Water Cannons at Palestinians at Border
Egyptian forces fired water cannons at Palestinians trying to force their way across the Gaza-Egypt border on Friday. Egyptian forces began placing barbed wire near the collapsed steel border wall early on Friday, and witnesses said Palestinians threw stones at Egyptian forces, who responded by beating some Palestinians with clubs. (Reuters)
See also Egypt Sets Friday Deadline for Gaza Border Closure (AFP)
See also Poverty-Stricken Gazans Spent $130 Million in Egypt in Two Days
Rami Abdou, an economic analyst, estimated that Gazans spent $130 million in less than two days, a princely sum for the poverty-stricken territory. (AP)
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Thursday that Israel wants to relinquish all responsibility for the Gaza Strip, including the supply of electricity and water, now that the territory's southern border with Egypt has been opened. "We need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side we lose responsibility for it. So we want to disconnect from it." (AP)
See also Egypt Won't Take Control of Gaza
Hossam Zaki, the official spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry, said Thursday of Israeli hints that it was thinking of giving up all responsibility for Gaza now that its border with Egypt is open: "This is a wrong assumption." "The current situation is only an exception and for temporary reasons," Zaki said. "The border will go back to normal." (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter on Thursday ordered to increase the state of alert near the border between Israel and Egypt. Yediot Ahronot's website quoted Dichter as saying that the higher alert level is necessary due to "the swarms of people who left Gaza towards Sinai and the terror alerts indicating a terror attack against Israel may originate from Sinai." (Xinhua-China)
See also Egypt Raises State of Alert after Palestinians Pour into Sinai (Xinhua-China)
See also Egypt Closes Suez Canal Bridge to Keep Gazans from Cairo
Egyptian authorities closed the As-Salam Bridge over the Suez Canal to stop tens of thousands of Gaza Strip residents from going on to Cairo after they crossed the Sinai Peninsula. (Maan News-PA)
The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday demanded Israel lift its week-long blockade of Gaza. The 47-member council adopted a resolution presented by Arab and Muslim states by a vote of 30 in favor and one against (Canada) with 15 abstentions, and one delegation absent. Britain, France, Germany and Japan were among countries to abstain. China and Russia backed the resolution. Western countries abstained in bloc after criticizing the text as unbalanced for failing to even mention the rockets launched into Israel from Gaza by Palestinian militants. The Israeli army estimates about 250 rockets and mortar rounds have pounded Israel since last week.
U.S. Ambassador Warren Tichenor warned that the Council session and its "one-sided resolution" would only stoke tensions and erode chances for peace. "The Human Rights Council has far too often been used simply as a platform from which to single out Israel, while too often ignoring the other human rights situations. This unbalanced approach has squandered its credibility." (Reuters)
See also UN Security Council Debates Condemnation of Israel over Gaza - Michal Lando
As the UN Security Council discussed a draft presidential statement about the situation in Gaza Thursday for the third day in a row, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said the mere occupation of the council with this matter was "unjustified" and played into the hands of Hamas. "By engaging, they are rewarding terror, doing Hamas' work, and doing what Hamas wants, which is undermining Abbas and the peace process." "There is no way to balance terrorists and killers and a country trying to defend itself," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israeli Mission in NY Displays 4,200 Balloons, One for Each Kassam Rocket (Ha'aretz)
When Iranian voters go to the polls on March 14 to select members of Parliament, they may be able to choose only between conservative candidates and other conservative candidates, leaders of Iran's main reform party said Wednesday. With more than 7,200 candidates registered to run for 290 seats in Parliament, officials of the Islamic Participation Front said 70% of reformist candidates had been disqualified. Two members of Parliament were disqualified as well, including one of Ahmadinejad's most outspoken critics, Akbar Alami, who has already served two terms. (New York Times)
A powerful bomb targeting a security convoy in a Christian area of Beirut on Friday killed at least 10 people, including a senior official, Captain Wissam Eid of the Internal Security Forces. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Border Policeman Rami Zohari, 20, was killed and a policewoman was seriously wounded in a terror shooting attack Thursday night at the northern entrance to Shoafat, north of Jerusalem. Two Palestinian terrorists had approached on foot, fired at the Israelis, and fled the scene. Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ynet News)
Two Palestinians armed with knives and a pistol infiltrated the Mekor Haim yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion, not far from Jerusalem. They entered a library and attacked the students and their counselors, who fought back. During the battle, one student was moderately wounded and two of the counselors were lightly wounded. One of the counselors grabbed the pistol from the terrorist and shot the intruders, killing them both. Witnesses said the terrorists were wearing uniforms of soldiers or security guards. (Ha'aretz)
See also Terrorists Who Attacked Kfar Etzion Released from Prison Last Week - Ali Waked and Efrat Weiss
The two terrorists who were killed Thursday after breaking into a high school in Kfar Etzion were released from an Israeli prison last week, Palestinian sources in Hebron said. (Ynet News)
Palestinian terrorists fired five Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot Thursday evening. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Israel Under Palestinian Rocket Fire
Imagine a situation in which thousands and thousands of people, many of them children and the elderly, are plunged into a reality in which they must fear for their lives day in and day out, in which their livelihoods are crippled, with their schools and even pre-schools under siege. Entire communities are trapped, paralyzed. Whole childhoods are spent in a state of post-traumatic stress. They are the victims of collective punishment. And they live in Israel. (Ha'aretz)
See also The Source of Gaza's Pain - Editorial
Left conspicuously unspoken is the collective punishment meted out by Hamas, which controls Gaza, against the Israeli citizens of Sderot - who have absorbed as many as 50 rocket attacks in a single day for the past seven years. The "cycle of violence" would end soon enough were Hamas to halt its attacks on the innocents of Sderot. It won't, sadly, as long as the international community continues to play the terrorists' game. (New York Post)
Life in Sderot is measured in intervals of 15 seconds. That is how long people have between the sounding of the sirens and the inevitable explosion. Civic life is almost non-existent. People are on edge, unwilling to plan anything in advance, and fearful of dropping their children at school, lest it is the last time they see them. Shula Sasson explains that 15 seconds is not long enough for anyone except the most agile to get to the safer downstairs from upstairs. "If you have to carry a small child, you haven't a hope." So the upstairs of their house is hardly used. Everyone - seven people - now sleeps in the living room. (Independent-UK)
In Sderot, Israel, the rocket alert was drowned out by the noise from the children's party. By the time the first kids dashed to the bomb shelter at the Parent and Child Community Center, it was too late. The Kassam rocket thundered overhead, accompanied by a subtle tremble. "You heard that boom," asked Dalia Yosef, the director of the Sderot Resilience Center, which focuses on easing the psychological toll of the rockets. "It's not that far away." "The worst problem is the lack of certainty. The body and mind are always in survival mode," explained Yosef, a native of Sderot whose parents still reside in the town. "All of the threads of life are being broken," Yosef says of the rocket-induced trauma. "It's hurting a lot more than it seems."
Katy Cohen spoke of sleeping in the safe room of her apartment with her three children. Holding her 2-year-old son, Cohen said that he wakes up in the middle of the night imagining a Kassam attack. "Every little noise he hears he thinks is a Kassam," said Cohen. "He knows what the 'Color Red' alert is and he knows to go into the shelter." (New York Jewish Week)
Moshav Netiv Ha'asara, a cooperative farming village a stone's throw from the Gaza border, was founded 25 years ago by evacuees from the Yamit settlement area of northern Sinai. "People said it would be a paradise," Nahum Yosefi recalls. "We had a great dream." "Even though the moshav is beautiful, the dream my friends and I had turned into a nightmare. If I'm afraid to let my grandson walk along the path next to my house, what more is there to say?"
In the past few days and weeks, the residents of Netiv Ha'asara have felt as if they are living in a battlefield. The volleys of screaming rockets mix with the whirring of the attack helicopters sent in to eliminate the squads firing the rockets. The media has focused largely on Sderot, but dozens of communities in the "Gaza envelope" have also come under relentless attack. (Ha'aretz)
The Gaza-Egypt Border
As always, Gazans look around, see how terrible conditions are, and point fingers. Many blame Israel. Or they blame the U.S. Or they blame Fatah, rival to Hamas. If things are to improve in Gaza, then that reflexive attitude is one of the first things that must change. Until most Gazans fix the blame for their miserable living conditions where it belongs - on their elected leaders of Hamas - Gaza will remain poised on the brink of crisis, sending rockets into Israel and then complaining bitterly when its foe retaliates.
This really isn't all that complicated. It's quiet for quiet. If the Palestinians stop lobbing rockets into Israel, there will be no retaliation. This is not a matter of the "cycle of violence." Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. That was supposed to end the "provocation" of the settlements and stop the rocket fire. But it hasn't. There's also no doubt Hamas could stop the rockets. Unfortunately, the leaders of Hamas find it to their political and economic advantage to allow their people to suffer while they smuggle arms and money from Iran and elsewhere to continue the campaign of terror against Israel.
As long as Hamas is in power, Gaza will be driven further into misery, further from the path that would lead to an independent state. For Gazans, the real enemy is within. (Chicago Tribune)
What some see as a problem may also be an opportunity because it could be a first step in getting the world to perceive that many of the residents of Gaza are Egyptians rather than Palestinians. They'd rather be in Egypt than in Gaza, as they showed by voting with their feet these past days. They speak Egyptian Arabic. They have closer family ties to Egypt than they do to the West Bank, where many of them have never visited.
Rather than forcing the Gazan Arabs to join with the West Bank Arabs into a state of "Palestine" that has never existed, why not let Gaza revert to its pre-1967 status as part of Egypt? Egypt, at least, is a country with which Israel has a peace treaty and diplomatic relations. If the plan of letting Gaza merge into Egypt works, it could be a model for allowing Jordan, another country with which Israel has a treaty of peace, to accept responsibility for parts of the West Bank. In the crisis along the Egypt-Gaza border could lie the seeds of a just resolution to the so-called Palestinian question. (New York Sun)
The wall between Gaza and Egypt was blown away in at least eight different places and through the breaches swept a tide of Palestinians. First came the curious teenagers, then came the smugglers. Fertilizer, broken down into half bags for lugging through the many tunnels that arms smugglers normally use for delivery into Gaza, was to be seen as it was manhandled overland. It was white, oily, and crystalline. Gaza militants use it to make explosives. "Hey, hey, hey," shouted a man as I took a photograph of a pile of fertilizer half bags. His aggressive tone jarred with the mood of the crowd as he grabbed my camera lens firmly.
For most of the thousands of Palestinians who flooded through the border breaches, it was the Eastern Mediterranean version of the British Booze Cruise to Calais. They made their way to shops in nearby Egyptian communities and bought as much as they could carry of things not available so competitively priced in Gaza. (Telegraph-UK)
"This may be a blessing in disguise," an Israeli official said of the destruction by Hamas of a chunk of the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt. An open border effectively absolves Israel of responsibility for the well-being of Gaza's population, and may prompt Israel to sever its remaining infrastructure and supply links to Gaza. A large part of the responsibility for Gaza would be shifted from Israel to Egypt.
There were 350,000 Palestinians in Gaza in 1967. Now there are 1.3 million, who are pushing against the envelope of Gaza's narrow borders with growing force. Israel has the power and the resolve to push back. Egypt just doesn't, which is why the envelope burst where it did. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
By maintaining its constant barrage of rocket attacks against Israel, the Hamas leadership could hardly be credited with working in the best interests of the civilian population it claims to represent. The dilemma facing the Israelis is how they respond to the endless acts of provocation from Hamas, for whatever action the authorities in Jerusalem take seems to provoke international condemnation. The recent closure of Gaza to all but essential humanitarian supplies was heavily criticized by aid agencies, which were less keen to condemn the Israeli casualties caused by Hamas rocket attacks. Given that the Palestinians are in no position to rein in Hamas' excesses, it seems almost inevitable that it will fall to Israel to deal with the existential threat the terror group poses. To make peace in the Middle East, it is often necessary first to make war. (Telegraph-UK)
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, agreed this week on a third, relatively mild round of sanctions on Iran if it goes on refusing to suspend its enrichment of uranium. China and Russia, major commercial partners of Iran, would sign on only for vigilant monitoring of Iranian financial and military institutions, not for the tough financial penalties sought by the Bush administration.
Without this third sanctions resolution, Ahmadinejad could go on pretending that the rest of the world accepts his claim that Iran's nuclear file is closed. The compromise tells the people of Iran that the outside world does not accept Ahmadinejad's propaganda line; that having hidden suspicious activities in its nuclear program for 18 years, Iran now must show good faith by suspending uranium enrichment while negotiating an agreement that guarantees it a supply of non-weapons-grade uranium for power generation. Meanwhile, the new sanctions tell Iran's leaders that they are not fooling anybody in the international community. (Boston Globe)
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on Jan. 24: "It is, after all, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations, who deliberately fire rockets - over 200 in the past week alone - at innocent civilians in Sderot and other Israeli towns....It is they who reject the very notion of a distinction between combatants and civilians."
"Israel risks the lives of its own soldiers to avoid harming civilians. To Israel, causing a civilian casualty is an unintended tragedy; to Hamas, it is a cause for celebration. The world knows this. The supporters of those who fire rockets at nursery schools summoned us here to accuse Israel of violating international humanitarian law." (UN Watch)
Alongside the territories is a much under-reported but fascinating and unique country. It's called Israel. The world media makes a mistake by using the same reporters to cover the Palestinian territories as well as Israel. They cover the territories and they only cover Israel as a brooding and malign presence in the territories. Naturally the reporting is one-sided. But it is worse than that. It omits from the equation Israel and the Israelis, and all the countless enthralling and diverse aspects of Israeli politics and society.
After the 1967 war, when Israel was attacked by a coalition of its Arab neighbors, Israel took territory in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Some of this, Israelis argue, is necessary for security. It has since left Gaza. Israel is constantly urged to go back to its 1967 borders, but the two places where it has done that, in southern Lebanon and Gaza, the result has been disastrous. It was subject to thousands of rocket attacks from southern Lebanon and now every day Kassam rockets are fired from Gaza at nearby Israeli civilian towns, especially Sderot.
After a three-week visit I left Israel profoundly optimistic about the morale of the society and the resolve of the people, but profoundly pessimistic about the peace process. If there were peace, any compromise on borders might be possible. But too many Arab leaders, and too many Palestinian leaders, are playing for the very long term and still believe that in time they will wipe Israel off the map.
The most powerful image I saw in Israel was in a small office in the Knesset (parliament) building in Jerusalem. I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labor Party politician and soldier, a former cabinet minister and a former general. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of two Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. "When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz," he says. His grandparents, he tells me, were killed by the Polish farmers they had paid to shelter them. You learn the lessons of trusting other people with your security. Israel will certainly make compromises. But it will not commit suicide. The writer is the foreign editor of The Australian. (The Australian)
They are in their 80s now, the last living links to Janusz Korczak, the visionary champion of children's rights who refused to part with his young charges even as they were herded to the gas chambers. When they speak of him, the old men are young again: transported to their days in his orphanage, a place they remember as a magical republic for children as the Nazi threat grew closer. Korczak's ideas for a declaration of children's rights were posthumously adopted by the UN, and dozens of Korczak associations exist worldwide. (New York Times)
They should persuade Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, to take a stroll through Israel's hauntingly magnificent Holocaust Museum. No one, not even the president of Iran, could tour the museum at Yad Vashem and yet remain under any illusion that the Holocaust - the systematic murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II - is not an historical fact. What is perhaps most impressive about the museum is the steady accumulation of minute, quotidian details that quietly illuminate the genuine experiences of individual people, human beings whose only crime, in the eyes of the Nazis, was to be Jewish.
Beneath four panes of thick glass embedded in the floor in one gallery lies a mute and yet eloquent exhibit - shoes, hundreds of pairs of men's and women's shoes all piled together without a word of explanation, for no explanation is needed. (Toronto Star)
Breach in Gaza: Hamas Blockades the Peace Process - Editorial (Washington Post)
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