Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israel to Boycott Al-Jazeera TV Over Incitement to Terror (Ha'aretz)
U.S.: 90 Percent of Foreign Fighters in Iraq Come Via Syria (AP)
Paris Book Burning - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
Weapon of Terror: The Kassam Rocket - Margaret Weiss (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket at the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, fracturing a tenuous lull. The rocket landed south of the city and caused no casualties, an Israeli police spokesman said. Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 10 miles north of Gaza, was struck by at least 20 foreign-made, Katyusha rockets during the recent increase in hostilities. (New York Times)
The U.S. is not satisfied with the pace at which Israel is moving to implement the peace "road map," U.S. and Western officials said. Officials said Washington also believed the Palestinians needed to do far more to meet their obligations to boost security and rein in militants in the West Bank, though U.S. officials have privately complained to Israel that its frequent raids were undermining those efforts. Washington believes that Abbas' security capabilities will improve by summer when Palestinian forces return from advanced U.S.-funded training in Jordan. (Reuters)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to rebuild France's frayed ties with Israel and hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres in Paris this week. "Those who call in a scandalous, scandalous way for the destruction of Israel will always find France in front of them to block their route," said Sarkozy. Paris lined the Champs-Elysees with French and Israeli flags - an image not lost on many French Jews. Sarkozy said at a state dinner that Israel "is not alone" in its concerns about Iran's nuclear program, which will require "a reaction of great firmness."
Sarkozy also said France, during its presidency of the EU later this year, will monitor the planning for the UN anti-racism conference scheduled to take place in South Africa in 2009. He said he "will not stand" for a possible replay of "intolerable deviations" that could mar the so-called Durban II conference. (AP)
See also French Banks Release Iran's Frozen Assets
Presidential advisor for legal and parliamentary affairs Majid Jafarzadeh said on Tuesday that the assets of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which were seized by French banks, have been released. The case is regarded as a significant achievement for Iran, Jafarzadeh said. (IRNA-Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The current quiet on the Gaza front is a result of a rare congruence of interests among Israel, Hamas, and Egypt, who have a clear interest to prevent the fighting from going on. The lull aims to allow for negotiations on an agreement with Egyptian mediation and active American support. The negotiations are being held in el-Arish and in Cairo, as Egyptian representatives are simultaneously meeting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as well as with Amos Gilad, who represents Israel's defense minister.
For Hamas, the main motive is the fear of a major Israeli operation in Gaza. Hamas was badly beaten in Israel's recent operation; it sustained a much harder blow than what emerged from media reports. Hamas estimates that if it continues to fight, Israel will topple Hamas' Gaza regime and prevent the group from realizing its strategic objective: Taking over the West Bank and ruling the Palestinian people.
Israeli officials estimate that one or two more rounds of escalation may be needed in order to prompt Hamas to soften its demands. For that reason, the lull may end at any moment. (Ynet News)
Egypt has noticeably increased its efforts in recent weeks to curb the smuggling of weaponry and explosives from Sinai into Gaza, senior Israeli defense officials say. Egypt began significantly increasing its efforts following the firing of Katyusha missiles into Ashkelon two weeks ago. "The Egyptians finally understood that they could no longer deny that the smuggling was taking place," one official said this week. A senior Egyptian official said that U.S.-made tunnel-detection systems would be deployed along the border in the coming weeks. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit couldn't conceal his smug satisfaction as he stood next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a news conference in Cairo last week. In the past, Mr. Aboul Gheit fumed in such situations as Ms. Rice spoke out about the need for Egypt to move toward democracy or criticized the unjust imprisonment of liberal reformers such as Ayman Nour. Now he watched as, at the prompting of an Egyptian state television reporter, Ms. Rice acknowledged that the Bush administration had quietly waived a congressional hold on $100 million in military aid to Egypt.
The government of Hosni Mubarak hasn't come close to meeting the conditions Congress attached to the money, which are that it protect the independence of the judiciary, stop police abuses and curtail arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza. (Washington Post)
Regardless of the affiliation of the actual perpetrator of the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, the ultimate responsibility for this attack, as for almost all the terror attacks on Israel in recent years, lies with Iran. The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran.
After Yasser Arafat launched a war against Israel in September 2000, he initiated an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Until then, Iran's only client within the Palestinian national movement had been the Islamic Jihad, the smallest of the Palestinian terrorist factions. According to a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, Arafat promised the Iranians that he would turn Gaza into a second southern Lebanon, and Iran began providing weapons and funds to Arafat's Fatah. In January 2002, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets and mortars and C-4 explosives for use in suicide bombings.
Three years ago, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal orchestrated a formal alliance and today Hamas is an integral part of the Iranian war against Israel. Iran has trained hundreds of Hamas operatives - and continues to fund individual members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigades. The writer is a senior fellow at the Adelson Center for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (New Republic)
Negotiations with an organization that explicitly avows Israel's destruction at every opportunity are anathema to many Israelis. What could Israel and Hamas actually talk about? Is there anything short of voluntary national suicide that would satisfy Hamas? Negotiating with Hamas would prove that terrorism, not diplomacy, is the way to gain Israeli concessions. It would also gravely undermine whatever residual legitimacy Mahmoud Abbas still enjoys. Hamas' proposal to negotiate a long-term ceasefire is entirely unacceptable. If Hamas had its way, Israel would have to cease all counterterrorist operations not only in Gaza, but the West Bank, as well - the only thing that has kept Abbas in power and the rockets out of Tel Aviv. The writer is a senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for International Affairs. (Foreign Policy)
Palestinian Twins Under Rocket Fire from Gaza - Christoph Schult (Der Spiegel-Germany)
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