Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
U.S. Targets Terrorist in Somalia Wanted for Attacks on Embassies, Israelis - Barbara Starr (CNN)
Iran Arming Hizbullah Via Turkey - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Qatar Seen Bankrolling Hamas - Nicholas Kralev (Washington Times)
Palestinian Preemies Safe in Ashkelon Hospital Bomb Shelter (IMRA)
British Using Israeli-Made Add-on Armor in Iraq (Strategy Page)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Following five days of combat that left at least 117 Palestinians and three Israelis dead, Hamas declared victory and held a celebratory rally in Gaza City. "I wish them many more such victories," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. "I have no doubt that the incursion... succeeded in hurting the Hamas military machine. I also have no illusions that it's over." Israel has accused Hamas of intentionally choosing to store and launch its rockets in heavily populated areas, turning civilians into human shields. (Washington Post)
After a meeting with Secretary of State Rice in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas refused Tuesday to publicly commit to restarting suspended talks with Israel, frustrating Bush administration officials who contended that he was giving Hamas a tactical victory by allowing it to hijack Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Abbas did not say that he would never return to talks. He just refused to say when, and seemed to relish a new role of standing up to the U.S. and Israel. (New York Times)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was right to look smug at the end of his two-day state visit to Iraq, the first Iranian president to visit Baghdad. Twenty years ago the two countries fought to a standstill after the deaths of one million people over eight years of combat. Yet Iraq today is now ripe for Iranian domination.
Apart from his familiar anti-American rhetoric, Ahmadinejad also announced several new initiatives aimed at binding Iraq ever closer to Iran. These include loans, customs agreements, joint oil ventures, and a free-trade zone, in addition to the construction of an airport for pilgrims near the holy city of Najaf and the possible supply of electricity to the southern city of Basra. Without the need to fire a shot, Iran is becoming Iraq's indispensable political ally and trading partner. (Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Seven rockets fired by Palestinians from Gaza hit Israel Tuesday. One rocket struck the Ashkelon Beach region, while another hit south of the city. (Jerusalem Post)
Yusuf Samiri, a senior Islamic Jihad member, was killed in clashes with IDF troops operating in central Gaza on Tuesday. Palestinians said at least eight gunmen were wounded in the clashes. (Ynet News)
On Tuesday IDF commanders in the recent Gaza operation reported during a debriefing that while the resistance they encountered was fierce, it was less organized than they expected. IDF units penetrated around three kilometers west of the border fence between Sajiyeh and Jabalya before they were discovered. Fierce fighting then broke out and the two Israeli soldiers killed were shot during the first two hours of the fighting. The moment Hamas realized that the advancing IDF forces were relatively large, they withdrew. The Palestinians were trying to coordinate their moves by radio, and their deployment reflected some organization. Hamas was well-equipped with weapons, night-vision gear and flak jackets. They fired dozens of RPGs at Israeli tanks, hitting a few, but not penetrating them.
The officers said some of the Palestinian civilians were hit by "heavy and inaccurate" Palestinian fire. In one case an officer saw a boy of about 10 sent to bring a weapon from a dead gunman. The officer ordered his men not to fire and the boy delivered the weapon to other armed men. (Ha'aretz)
During the IDF activity in Gaza, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad frequently called upon Palestinian civilians to gather in places where, they claimed, the IDF was about to attack, to have them serve as human shields, exploiting the fact that the IDF avoids deliberately harming Palestinian civilians. On Feb. 28, Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV called on the residents of Khan Yunis to gather at the house of Ma'amoun Abu 'Amer. An hour later, dozens of Palestinians were gathered on the roof to serve as human shields to prevent the house from being hit. On Feb. 29, Al-Aqsa TV called upon Palestinians to go to the house of the martyr Othman al-Ruziana to protect it because the IDF was threatening to blow it up. On March 1, Al-Aqsa TV called on civilians to form a human shield at the home of Abu al-Hatal in Sajaiya. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Police on Tuesday stopped Wakf Muslim trust officials from performing unauthorized construction work on the Temple Mount. Officers blocked workers from continuing unauthorized "surfacing work," said Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco. (Jerusalem Post)
See also The Latest Damage to Antiquities on the Temple Mount - Nadav Shragai (ICA/JCPA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
There could hardly be a worse moment for Condoleezza Rice to arrive in the Middle East to drive forward peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The basis for the U.S.-backed peace plan is falling apart. The two-state solution now looks scarcely viable. A single Palestinian state comprising Gaza and the West Bank was always dubious, given the geographic separation. It now looks stillborn: Israel has no negotiating partner in Gaza and the enmity between Hamas and the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank is such that Abbas has privately urged Israel not to contemplate such a move. (Times-UK)
The Hamas-sanctioned rockets and the Israeli retaliation are actually at the core of Secretary of State Rice's inability to move the peace process even one inch forward since it was launched in Annapolis last November. Stop the rockets, and the process could move. Now the idea of land for peace has been replaced by land for violence and vulnerability. And if Israelis do not like the book in Gaza, why would they want to see the movie in the West Bank, from where Kassam rockets could reach much of Israel?
Until now, Rice's Gaza strategy has been to leverage a diplomatic breakthrough on the broader conflict, including the fate of the West Bank. She believed Abbas could use this to bring about his re-election, and thus achieve the political reunification of Gaza and the West Bank. But things are not likely to get that far. Abbas cannot reach a deal because of the ongoing violence, and Israelis will see Gaza as a cautionary tale against any deal over the West Bank. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (International Herald Tribune)
Three little-noticed aspects of the UN resolution tightening sanctions against Iran deserve closer scrutiny. First, unlike its two predecessors, Resolution 1803 wasn't sponsored by the U.S. It was a European draft (watered down by the Russians and Chinese), and it was French President Nicolas Sarkozy who worked all weekend persuading the four Security Council members who voiced objections on Friday. Monday's vote was unanimous, and only Indonesia abstained, under intense pressure from its vast Muslim population. Second, the sanctions are narrow, and that's smart. They punish two banks, Melli and Saderat.
Third, the evidence of nuclear warhead designs found in an Iranian laptop is said to have stiffened the spines of the Russians, Chinese and Europeans, who genuinely fear an Iranian bomb but who aren't willing to risk war to prevent it. This resolution finally passed in part because President Bush is so weakened by the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, by domestic economic woes, and by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the Russians, Chinese, and Europeans no longer fear that he'd attempt to take advantage of a tougher UN stance to justify a military attack on Iran. (Los Angeles Times)
See also UN: Security Council Will Not Endorse Use of Force to Deal with Iran
The UN Security Council, which Monday imposed additional sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities, will not support the use of force to deal with that issue, the 15-member body's president for March, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, stated Tuesday. (United Nations)
Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza - Issues of Proportionality (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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