Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Beyond Rhetoric: Hizbullah Threats after the Mughniyeh Assassination - David Schenker (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Egypt Plans to Provide All of Gaza's Electricity (AP/Ha'aretz)
"Dead" Palestinian Suicide Bombers Resurface in Egypt - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
New Columbia Israel Director Supported Refusal of Israelis to Serve in Territories - Jared Irmas (New York Sun)
Sweden and Norway Hold Suspects After Terror Raids - Simon Johnson and John Acher (Reuters/ Washington Post)
Al-Qaeda Seeking Stealth Recruits - James Gordon Meek and Kenneth R. Bazinet (New York Daily News)
A Hamas Family Tradition - Ibrahim Barzak (AP)
Bedouins Have Solar-Powered Mosque - Batsheva Sobelman (Los Angeles Times)
Bedouin Muslim Dedicated to Prosperous Future for Israel - Larry Mitchell (Chico Enterprise-Record)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Israeli city of Ashkelon, located 17 kilometers (11 miles) from Gaza, was hit by several Iranian-made Grad (Katyusha) rockets on Thursday fired by Hamas militants in Gaza. One hit an apartment building, slicing through the roof and three floors below, and another landed near a school, wounding a 17-year-old girl.
After Thursday's rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Israel activated its "Code Red" rocket warning system there. Israel hesitated to activate the system because officials didn't want to send 120,000 people running for shelter every time a rocket was launched in the direction of the city. The army is now considering installing more radars near Ashkelon so that the system will be able to better analyze the course of an incoming rocket and warn only the residents of the target neighborhood, rather than the whole city, defense officials said Thursday.
Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defense mister, said Friday, "We're getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we've used a small percentage of the army's power because of the nature of the territory." Israel does not intend to launch a major ground offensive in the next week or two, partly because the military prefers to wait for better weather, defense officials said. But the army has now completed its preparations and informed the government it's ready to move immediately when the order is given. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
See also Ten Palestinian Rockets Hit Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
Ten Palestinian rockets hit Ashkelon on Thursday. Many parents said they will not be sending their children to school in the near future. Most educational institutions in Ashkelon are not fortified. (Ynet News)
With American officials working to close a deal on a missile defense system in Europe, the head of the U.S. program warned Thursday that Iran was within two or three years of producing a missile that could reach most European capitals. "They're already flying missiles that exceed what they would need in a fight with Israel. Why? Why do they continue this progression in terms of range of missiles? It's something we need to think about," Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told a conference in London on missile defense. "Our short-range defenses could protect Rome and Athens," Obering said, but he warned that London, Paris and Brussels would remain vulnerable "against an Iranian [intermediate-range missile] threat."
Many in Europe have expressed doubts that Iran would target European cities. But Obering said it was possible to imagine as little as seven years from now a nuclear-armed Iran shutting off oil shipments in the Persian Gulf, or al-Qaeda militants seizing freighters off Europe and arming them with nuclear-tipped Scud missiles "to punish the West for invasion of Muslim holy lands." (Los Angeles Times)
The UN Security Council will tighten economic sanctions on Iran as early as Saturday to compel the Islamic republic to end its uranium enrichment efforts, diplomats say. The five veto-wielding permanent members of the council have agreed on the core language, but four nonpermanent members of the council - Indonesia, South Africa, Libya, and Vietnam - may vote against the new resolution. (Washington Times)
See also Russia Warns Iran over Nuclear Program - James Kilner
Russia toughened its stance towards Iran on Wednesday, threatening to back further UN sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program unless it halted uranium enrichment in the next few days. (Reuters)
In a move that strengthens the American-backed effort to isolate Iran, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a leading international organization responsible for combating financial crimes, called Thursday for all countries to be wary of Iran's banking system because of concerns over money-laundering and aid to terrorists. The U.S. Treasury Department said the action "sends a clear message to governments and financial institutions worldwide that the threat Iran poses to the international financial system continues unabated."
In a separate development on Thursday, the Bush administration imposed penalties on four Syrians accused of easing the flow of money, weapons and people involved in terrorism through Syria into Iraq. The action had the effect of freezing their assets in the U.S., a largely symbolic step because the Syrians are not thought to have such assets. (New York Times)
The residents of Sderot think twice about walking the streets, shopping for food and clothes, and letting their children play outdoors. Businesses have few customers, house prices have dropped dramatically, and more than 3,000 of the town's 24,000 residents have upped and left. When a rocket is fired from Gaza, a siren normally sounds alerting Sderot's residents, who mostly take cover in bomb shelters. During a two-hour-long interview with a local resident this happened on three separate occasions, as she and her daughter huddled in the hallway, away from the windows in case they were blown out by a blast. (BBC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Hamas' decision to put Ashkelon, and its 120,000 residents, within permanent range of their rockets from Gaza may turn out to have been a mistake on their part. A round of increased violence between Israel and Hamas takes place every two or three weeks. And each time, the latest round is more severe than the one preceding it. More than 30 rockets were fired at Israel Thursday, and close to 90 in the last two days.
Hamas has adopted an extreme, uncompromising stance. Conversations with its leaders sometimes give rise to the suspicion that they are out of touch with the military reality on the ground, in which their forces are suffering more and more casualties. Hamas has also been criticized for the way it distributes humanitarian aid from Arab states, providing food only to its supporters. When four out of every five Gazans live below the poverty line, this is not the kind of behavior that makes Hamas popular. (Ha'aretz)
As Hamas drew Ashkelon into the circle of communities coming under heavy rocket attacks, Defense Minister Barak and the Foreign Ministry on Thursday began preparing both Israeli and world opinion for the possibility of a large-scale incursion into Gaza. According to defense sources, the goals of such an operation would not "merely" be to reduce the threat of rocket fire and rocket manufacturing in Gaza, but would also likely entail paralyzing the Hamas government's ability to operate. Barak told Quartet envoy Tony Blair and Egyptian intelligence head Omar Suleiman that Israel could not tolerate the current level of rocket fire without offering a wider response.
Foreign Minister Livni said "there is no moral equivalence between terrorists and those fighting them, even if during those actions innocent civilians are accidentally killed. In these cases the world should not come to us - there is only one address for the Palestinian situation in Gaza and for what is likely to happen there in the future - and it is Hamas." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Little Enthusiasm to Reoccupy Gaza - Herb Keinon
Barak is unlikely to initiate a large-scale ground invasion to reoccupy Gaza. While there is a need to secure the border between Egypt and Gaza, and while he may penetrate into Gaza to more effectively strike out at Hamas' infrastructure, there is little enthusiasm in either the defense establishment or the Prime Minister's Office about going in to reoccupy Gaza. Ironically, the party at this moment most eager to see the IDF march back into Gaza is Fatah, which would like nothing more than for Israel to do its dirty work: smash Hamas and then hand Gaza to Fatah on a silver platter. The Israeli public, however, will have little stomach for losing the lives of its soldiers in order to deliver Gaza to Mahmoud Abbas. (Jerusalem Post)
Soldiers from the IDF's Home Front Command handed out pamphlets containing guidelines on how to act in case of a rocket attack to residents of Ashkelon on Friday. The main guideline stated that residents must take cover in a secure room upon hearing the "Color Red" alert system. In a structure that does not contain a secure room, residents are asked to: 1. Enter the room farthest from where the rocket is expected to land and shut the door and windows. 2. Sit on the floor below window sill level near one of the internal walls. 3. Residents of the top floor must run to the stairwell and walk down to the floor beneath them. They can use the stairwell or hallway as a secure room.
Residents who are outdoors during a rocket attack are asked to take cover in the nearest structure, or, if there is no structure close by, lie on the ground and protect their heads with their hands. Residents who are driving during a rocket attack are asked to pull over, step out of the car and enter the nearest structure. If in an open area, residents are to lie down and protect their heads with their hands. (Ynet News)
Emergency room staff at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center went into shock when a Palestinian rocket landed near the helipad on Wednesday, according to hospital deputy director-general Dr. Ron Lobel. "We have no fortification at all, even for the emergency room and surgical theaters, not to mention delivery rooms and the dialysis unit. We in the hospital live in a kind of bubble, saving lives and treating patients while ignoring what is going on around us," Lobel said. "But in this case, our bubble exploded."
Fortunately, the rocket on Wednesday did not wound anyone or cause any physical damage, "but the effect was dramatic," said Lobel. "When I returned to the emergency room, I saw all the doctors, nurses and other staffers were in shock." "There have been so many rockets in the last four years, and it has been our hospital that has primarily treated the victims," Lobel said. (Jerusalem Post)
Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Monday that reaching a comprehensive national defense strategy where Hizbullah's arms are to be put under the Lebanese Armed Forces' control is "inevitable." In remarks published on Tuesday in Al-Anbaa, Jumblatt said, "there is not any country in the world that accepts to have undisciplined armed factions that open wars with enemies whenever they want and however they want, as if they are the only ones to run the country's affairs." "We do not want to get involved in international terrorist...wars that could drag us to never-ending conflicts on our territory," Jumblatt said. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Let no one be deluded. Hamas is bruising for a war, and Israel will oblige. Sooner rather than later. Katyusha rockets hit the city of Ashkelon, which dates to deep antiquity and is now home to 120,000 people. The attacks on Ashkelon signify that Hamas' capacity now has longer range and greater accuracy. (This is a forewarning to the Israelis about what might happen if they were to hand over the West Bank to the Palestinians. After all, what guarantees could there be that Israel's population centers - Jerusalem, Tel Aviv - will not be similarly exposed and endangered?)
When the Israel Defense Forces enter Gaza, their goal will be to obliterate Hamas' military strength. But this has been implanted among the civilian population in order to obstruct an Israeli retaliation. The Israelis will restrain themselves as much as they can. But the victims of the fighting will also include Palestinian civilians, who will have brought their tragedy on themselves. (New Republic)
Israel is gone from Gaza. Yet Hamas has intensified its attacks on Israel. A mindset that loathes Israel more than it seeks its own freedom will not be remade by Israeli withdrawal or endless international funding and sympathy. A leadership inciting against Israel in its media, mosques and school system will not be rejected by the Palestinian public so long as much of that population is mired in a bigotry that inculcates permanent victimhood, refuses to recognize any shred of justice to Israel's sovereign claims, and extols the virtues of violence and death.
What the Hamas-inspired murderous rocket fire across the Gaza border should long since have made plain to all is that even territory cleared of every last vestige of Israeli presence does not sate the appetite of the Islamists - who happen to constitute the parliamentary leadership freely elected by the Palestinian public. (Jerusalem Post)
On Feb. 22, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA's Board of Governors that represents ElBaradei's best effort to whitewash Tehran's record. IAEA technical experts have complained anonymously to the press that the latest report on Iran was revamped to suit the director's political goals. In 2004, Mr. ElBaradei sought to purge mention of Iranian attempts to purchase beryllium metal, an important component in a nuclear charge, from IAEA documents. He also left unmentioned Tehran's refusal to grant IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military complex, where satellite imagery showed a facility seemingly designed to test and produce nuclear weapons. The IAEA's latest report leaves unmentioned allegations by an Iranian opposition group of North Korean work on nuclear warheads at Khojir, a military research site near Tehran. Pletka and Rubin are, respectively, vice president for and resident scholar in Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Latest Iran Report Highlights Problems of UN's Atomic Watchdog
So is Iran trying to build the bomb or not? Iran says it is not. Israel says it is. America's intelligence people say it was trying to until 2003 but probably stopped - and is still keeping its options open. Wouldn't it be splendid if an independent referee, with full access to the evidence, could rule for sure one way or another? Such a body does exist. But the latest report from the IAEA shows how tentative the UN's nuclear watchdog must sometimes be. (Economist-UK)
A website linked to radical elements of Iran's regime last week attacked the lifestyle of Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Hassan. "Driving a $100,000 BMW and relaxing in his uptown villa in north Teheran, is Hassan Khomeini actually following the footsteps of his grandfather in caring much for the poor, with the hot bubbles that come out of his steaming Jacuzzi?" the Nosazi website asked. The criticism reflects a growing resentment of the wealth accumulated by some religious leaders who took power after 1979 and today run profitable businesses as near monopolies: one imports cigarettes, two are involved in the oil trade, and another is reported to benefit from foreign currency fluctuations because he has first-hand information on the rate of exchange.
With parliamentary elections on March 14, the clerics' purported excesses have provided political opponents, particularly the radical Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, with an opportunity to seize the moral high ground. Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, has avoided criticism by leading a simple life. Critics suspect that the attacks on other clerics are part of a campaign to eliminate domestic opposition to his rule. (Telegraph-UK)
In the summer of 2007, the Muslim Waqf in Jerusalem requested authorization to dig a ditch dozens of meters long to replace power lines on the Temple Mount. Subsequently, the Israel Antiquities Authority issued details about the uncovering of a "sealed stratum of human activity," a layer of earth with pottery shards found broken in situ, where they had remained without change since the days of the First Temple.
Since 2004, archaeologists have been sifting through the rubble the Waqf removed from the Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley eight years ago. Among the ancient finds were many belonging to the late period of the Kings of Judea (8th and 7th centuries BCE). The most striking find was a seal impression with letters in the ancient Hebrew script of the last days of the First Temple. The finds are small in size because, during the excavation on the Temple Mount, the Waqf separated out the larger pieces from the rubble and reused the ancient building blocks. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
An ancient seal bearing an archaic Hebrew inscription dating back to the 8th century BCE has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday. The seal, discovered near the Gihon Spring, bears the Hebrew name Rephaihu (ben) Shalem, a public official. The excavation also uncovered pottery shards that date back to the 8th century BCE, which were used to date the seal. The excavation, being carried out by Haifa University Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, is one of several digs taking place in the City of David. (Jerusalem Post)
Whether Muslims acknowledge it or not, whether Americans themselves admit it or not, the Pax Americana is the provider of order of last resort in the lands of Islam. In less than two decades, there have been American campaigns of rescue in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Two of these American wars, the ones in the Balkans, were on behalf of Muslims stranded in a hostile European landscape. In its refusal to acknowledge the debt owed American power, Muslim society tells us a good deal about its modern condition, and about that false, mindless anti-Americanism on the loose in Muslim lands. The writer teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. (Wall Street Journal)
Prof. Jeremy Popkin teaches a popular course on the Holocaust at the University of Kentucky. On Feb. 19, he opened his e-mail and was informed that his class did not exist. "This week, the University of Kentucky removed the Holocaust from its school curriculum because it offended the Muslim population, which claims it never occurred," the message stated. Over the past year, faculty members and administrators in Lexington have collectively received thousands of e-mail messages like this one, repeating the same baseless accusation.
University president Lee T. Todd Jr. wrote, "I understand quite well the power of the Internet....In this instance, though, the University of Kentucky is experiencing the flip side of that power - the negative impact of an unfounded rumor that flows across a world seemingly without check. It's disconcerting, although perhaps understandable in that context, that so many people would be the victim of a rumor so patently and obviously without merit." The writer is a professor of journalism at Columbia University. (New York Times)
Collective Punishment and Newspeak - Michael I. Krauss (American Thinker)
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