Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hizbullah Planned Attacks in Rome, Paris: French Police Suggest - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)
Flights to Israel Buckle Up Amid Hizbullah Threats - Dan Williams (Reuters)
Southern Lebanon Obsessed by New Conflict with Israel (AFP/Naharnet-Lebanon)
Fearing Civil War, Lebanese Arm Themselves - Sylvie Briand (AFP)
Islamic School Kept Copies of Race-Hate Books - Sophie Borland (Telegraph-UK)
Syrian-Saudi Ties Continue to Deteriorate - Marwan al-Kabalan (Gulf News-Dubai)
Pop Preacher Sings of a Tolerant Islam - Mark MacKinnon (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Saudi Hip-Hop's Painful Birth - Faiza Saleh Ambah
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The UN Security Council on Thursday began formal consideration of a new resolution introduced by Britain and France on Iran's nuclear program that imposes restrictions on cargo to and from Iran, travel bans, the freezing of assets for people involved in the program, and tightened monitoring of Iranian financial institutions. The Council has twice voted unanimously to impose sanctions to stop Iran from enriching uranium, in December 2006 and March 2007. This third measure tightens and extends earlier ones but does not significantly broaden them. The text has the backing of the five permanent members of the Council. Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador, said, "The assessment is that this is the best you can get, given the present composition of the Security Council." (New York Times)
See also Iran Could Have Enough Uranium for a Bomb by Year's End - Markus Becker
New simulations carried out by European Union experts come to an alarming conclusion: Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year. When the U.S. released a new National Intelligence Estimate last year, it seemed as though the danger of a mullah-bomb had passed. The report claimed that Tehran mothballed its nuclear weapons program in autumn 2003.
As part of a project to improve control of nuclear materials, the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, set up a detailed simulation of the centrifuges currently used by Iran in the Natanz nuclear facility to enrich uranium. The results look nothing like those reached by the U.S. intelligence community. For one scenario, the JRC scientists assumed the centrifuges in Natanz were operating at 100% efficiency. Were that the case, Iran could already have the 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium necessary for an atomic device by the end of this year. Another scenario assumed a much lower efficiency - just 25%. But even then, Iran would have produced enough uranium by the end of 2010. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
See also Iran Says God Protects Nuclear Program - Nasser Karimi
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that God would punish Iranians if they do not support the country's nuclear program, state radio reported. (AP)
The Bush administration Thursday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus. "Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country." Makhluf is a top player in Syria's telecommunications, commercial, energy and banking sectors, said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution calling on Israel to lift the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that any talk of ending the sanctions only weakens Mahmud Abbas. "Any indirect support of Hamas, even if it is done through discussions on the crossings or the humanitarian situation, weakens those interested in reaching an agreement," Livni said. She told EU Middle East envoy Mark Otte,"Europe should understand that Gaza represents a 'zero sum game.' It is either Hamas or the moderates. We should not allow Hamas to win points." (AFP)
Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states' growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "There will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace," said Muhammad Sobeih, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of the Palestinian issue. However, Sobeih said he would never, under any circumstances, accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. (New York Times)
Israel this month renewed its order to keep closed the Palestinian center known as Orient House and other symbolic buildings that are rallying points for the Palestinians' claims to Jerusalem's eastern sector. "As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state," the center's Web site says. Israeli police shut down the institutions in 2001, shortly after the second Palestinian uprising erupted. It has issued orders every six months since then renewing the closure. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that officers periodically visit Orient House to ensure that it is not being used, citing a law prohibiting Palestinian political activity in the city. (AP/Washington Post)
The closure has led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israel activity in eastern Jerusalem, and an increase in security in the Old City, according to Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry. "Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem." During the Oslo peace process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations, Harari said. (Jerusalem Post)
Living conditions for Christians and moderate Muslims are becoming increasingly difficult in Gaza, Christians say. "First there was the murder of (Christian bookstore owner) Rami (Ayyad), now the YMCA (bombing). We can feel it step by step," said one young Christian. A Christian youth was injured Feb. 16 when the "modesty patrol" attacked his car after he was seen driving a former female classmate to her home. The girl also was injured.
Msgr. Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza, said, "We are moving toward the unknown. The Christians are worried about the general tone in the country." He said the conditions in Gaza and relations with government ministries have changed drastically following the militant Islamic group Hamas' takeover last June. Msgr. Musallam said the character of the parish school has changed, with Muslims students increasingly coming from Hamas-affiliated families. "The children are more fanatic, very violent toward each other and also with the teachers." In addition, he said people could not speak openly. "When you are in a conservative Muslim society you can't live an open life." (Catholic News Service)
See also Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Minister of Pensioners' Affairs Rafi Eitan on Thursday said that Jerusalem must not be divided as part of the peace process with the Palestinians, saying, "we took a poll and found the [Arab] residents themselves don't want to leave. They like it with us." Eitan said that he did not believe that the Palestinian government was able to fight terror, "and therefore we must keep the capital whole, and fight to have it all under Israeli control." (Ha'aretz)
Two Palestinian gunmen, members of Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, were killed Thursday by an Israeli missile in central Gaza, sources in Gaza reported. Home Front Command officials said this week that some 400 rockets have landed in Israel since the beginning of 2008. (Ynet News)
See also Palestinians Fired 60 Rockets, 50 Mortars in Past Week
In the past week, Palestinians fired over 60 Kassam rockets and approximately 50 mortar shells at Israeli communities. IDF forces continue to operate in Gaza to distance terrorists from the security fence and to target rocket and mortar launching cells and armed gunmen. (IDF Spokesman)
See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Friday
Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot on Friday. (Jerusalem Post)
More than 10,000 people from northern and central Israel traveled to Sderot on Friday to carry out their weekend shopping and show their solidarity for the residents of the beleaguered town. Numerous groups participated in the solidarity mission including student organizations, secular and religious communities, and sports clubs. Several municipalities even provided buses. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Israel can no longer explain to itself that it has to become reconciled to the shooting of rockets and mortars against its communities. A responsible government is required, at the end of the day, to be accountable to its citizens who are under attack. Israel is not excited about a large-scale operation in Gaza, but the operation is nearing because the Kassam rocket terror is not coming to an end. Whoever wants to avoid the need for an IDF offensive must pressure Hamas to put an end to the shooting that is causing all this. (Ha'aretz)
Twenty years ago, on Nov. 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Council in Algeria declared the establishment of the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital. This declaration was recognized by more than 100 countries. Again on May 4, 1999, the Palestinian National Council ratified the declaration of independence. Yet the conditions for the creation of a sovereign state do not only include a political entity that declares itself to be independent and enjoys broad international support. There is another basic condition that the Palestinians must fulfill: Displaying effective control over the area under its jurisdiction. Yet according to Israel and many world nations, Palestinian leaders over the years have completely failed on this front, unless the relationship between Abbas and the territories, and particularly Gaza, can be termed "control."
The economic front is yet another reason why there is no independent Palestinian state. The PA's history since the Oslo agreement shows that there is good reason why the Palestinians are in love with the peace process more than they are in love with peace itself. The process is profitable. Kosovo can only be jealous of the puzzling pampering treatment enjoyed by Abbas and Abed Rabbo between one declaration of independence and another. Brig. Gen. (res.) Moshe Elad was a senior IDF official in the territories and is now a researcher for the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion. (Ynet News)
My guide in Sderot takes me through the local ground rules: 1. I am not to fasten my seat belt. Buckling up prevents drivers and their passengers getting out of a vehicle quickly. 2. I am not to play my car radio. It may drown out the warnings. 3. I am not to have a shower if there is nobody else in the house to hear the alarms. 4. Be extra vigilant when it's foggy. It can confuse the laser-activated warning systems.
And suddenly it comes, a noise like the slamming of a heavy door as a six-foot-long Kassam rocket bursts into the cloudless blue sky, its trajectory marked by a trail of white smoke as it curves towards the town. Almost simultaneously, sirens begin to wail. A woman's urgent voice repeats the words "Red Alert" over public address loudspeakers. For the next 72 hours "Red Alerts" will sound almost continuously as Islamic militant groups in Gaza rained more than 100 rockets on the town during a terrifying three-day attack. (Daily Mail-UK)
The Palestinians are politically polarized between rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank that pursue radically opposed policies and that are economically dependent on the world's charity. Inside Gaza, the brief euphoria after last month's breach of the border with Egypt has dissipated. Hamas' leadership appears split between pragmatists, aware of the need to end their diplomatic isolation, and a stronger core of radicals who glory in posing as Muslim resistance heroes. Yet even the pragmatists shy from the kind of concessions - such as recognizing Israel - that might convince the world to grant them legitimacy.
In the West Bank, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas is surrounded by bickering, corruption-tainted aides, and faces a groundswell of opposition to what younger party members see as his overly soft negotiating strategy with Israel. "The trend that wants a return to resistance is very strong, and the world powers that support the peace process should be aware of this," says a junior Fatah leader in Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative center in the West Bank. (Economist-UK)
Kosovo's declaration of independence marks a broader process: Nationalism is not disappearing. It continues to exist side by side with the trend toward creating broader political entities. The democratization of multinational societies does not lead different national and ethnic groups to want to live side by side. Instead, it heightens the will for self-determination, for a national home - however small - that the members of the national group can see as their own. Each national group thinks to itself: Why should I be a minority in your state when I could be a majority in my own? Size doesn't matter, but the consciousness of identity, belonging and every person's desire to live in a home of his own do.
Nationalism can devolve into extremist, ugly and oppressive developments, but this is not inevitable. The possibility itself does not strip nationalism of its legitimacy. The past decades have shown that it is not nationalism that is the source of violent conflicts, ethnic cleansing, and oppression; rather, it is the attempt to impose a multinational framework on a place where there is no political will for it. The recognition of the liberating power of nationalism, which enables different national groups to express their identities, is in fact necessitated by the principles of nationalism and liberalism. The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University, is a former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
As Iran's March 14 parliamentary elections approach, President Ahmadinejad is expected to lose ground, while the big winner will be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose role as decisionmaker will be reinforced. The Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council have disqualified more than two thousand mostly reformist candidates, so that reformists can only compete for around 30 of the 290 seats in the Majlis (parliament).
Yet the reformists lack the social power base required to take advantage of electoral opportunities in the first place. The reformist candidates failed in the most recent presidential and municipal elections because the Iranian people have lost faith in their ability to change the system and make real reforms.
The basic difference between Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and Supreme Leader Khamenei is charisma: while the founder could achieve his goals by using his charisma to engender massive public support, his successor can only establish his authority through military and intelligence institutions. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Dr. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and political sociologist, is also a former CIA case officer. In his important book, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty First Century, Sageman asserts that the process of radicalization depends on an individual's sense of moral outrage in response to perceived suffering by fellow Muslims around the world; how he might interpret such moral outrage within the context of a larger war against Islam; whether or not the sense of "moral outrage" resonates with one's own experience, for example, discrimination or difficulty in making it in Western society; and, finally, being mobilized by networks that take one to the next level of violent radicalization in the form of terrorist cells.
To counter the social movement inspired by al-Qaeda, Sageman proposes a strategy to "take the glory and thrill out of terrorism." Military operations against them should be conducted swiftly and precisely, with such terrorists considered "common criminals." The sense of "moral outrage" by young Muslims can be diminished by helping to resolve local conflicts that al-Qaeda's propaganda highlights as injustices against the Muslim world. The young jihadists want to become heroes, so they need to be provided with alternative role models, such as Muslim soccer stars and other successful community leaders. (Washington Times)
It is by now accepted wisdom that the war in Iraq brought huge numbers of holy warriors to the anti-American cause. But is it true? If we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptism for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Iraq. While 25,000 Arab mujaheddin went to Pakistan to fight the Red Army, in Iraq we see nothing of this magnitude, even though Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is in the Arab heartland and at the center of Islamic history.
Furthermore, the arrival of foreign holy warriors is deradicalizing the local population. In Iraq, with the anti-al-Qaeda, Sunni Arab "Awakenings," Sunni extremism is now in retreat. If bin Ladenism is now on the decline - and it may well be among Arabs - then Iraq has played an essential part in battering the movement's spiritual appeal. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former case officer for the CIA. (Washington Post)
Ahmadinejad, Israel, and Mass Killings - Ze'ev Maghen (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
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