Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 26, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Cairo Climbs the Nuclear Pyramid - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
    The Soviet Union started its nuclear cooperation with Egypt in 1961 when it built a two-megawatt nuclear research center in Inchass. This is where Egypt began to acquire knowledge and expertise in the field of nuclear technology and to train its first nuclear technicians.
    In 1986, Egypt was about to issue an international tender to build a nuclear reactor for the production of electricity, but canceled the project following the Chernobyl accident.
    The program was officially resurrected in September 2006 when Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal Mubarak, announced that Egypt intended to restart its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
    The driving force behind that decision was the ongoing nuclear crisis with Iran. Egypt, which is proud of its status as the most powerful Arab country, cannot afford to ignore nuclear technology - today an essential part of a country's power and strength.
    According to a UN report, Egypt's oil and gas reserves will start to dwindle in 2016, while Egypt's population will have gone past the 100-million mark.
    While Egypt's original intentions might be for peaceful purposes, military considerations will undoubtedly come later.
    The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

West Bank Palestinians Hooking Up to Israel's Electricity Grid (AP/International Herald Tribune)
    About 15,000 Palestinians in the West Bank are hooking up to Israel's electricity grid in 27 villages in the northern West Bank near Jenin under a joint Israeli-French program. A ceremony inaugurating the new connection took place Tuesday.
    Power from Israel is also running a water reservoir, and connecting to Israel's electricity supply cuts water costs by a third.

Israel to Supply French Special Forces with UAVs (Shephard UVonline-UK)
    Israel's Elbit Systems will supply Skylark UAV systems to France's Special Forces, after winning a tender involving 10 of the leading UAV manufacturers worldwide.
    Haim Kellerman, General Manager of Elbit Systems UAV Division, said there is a worldwide growing demand for UAVs for special forces, counterterrorism units and other forces focused on the security of borders and sensitive facilities.

Christians in the Holy Land - David Pryce-Jones (National Review)
    On a visit to Israel, someone likely to know told me that there are in fact only 14,000 Christians in Jerusalem, including native Arabs and the international religious community. Not so long ago, there were many more.
    The Arab Christians are unable to resist Islamism. Muslims are taking over the Christian quarters of East Jerusalem as well as outlying Christian suburbs like Beit Jala and Beit Sahur.
    In Bethlehem, a town once 80% Christian, Christians are now a disappearing minority.
    Have Christians no place in the Muslim world? Islamist radicals talk about Christians as "Crusaders" as though fighting to the death the wars of the Middle Ages.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Egypt to Sign Nuclear Pact with Russia - Victoria Loguinova
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Tuesday with Russian leaders to close a deal allowing Moscow to join a tender for Egypt's first civilian nuclear power station. President Vladimir Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who takes over the Kremlin in May, told Mubarak that he expected a "productive partnership" in the nuclear sphere. Russia - which is close to completing Iran's controversial first nuclear facility in Bushehr - is keen to re-establish a commercial and diplomatic presence in the Middle East. Today, nuclear technology and conventional weapons sales are again giving Moscow a foot in the door, and Mubarak was expected also to discuss possible arms deals. (AFP)
  • Saudi King Calls for Interfaith Talks Including Jews - Richard Owen
    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a hardline Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, has for the first time announced plans to launch a dialogue between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He referred to his talks in Rome last November with Pope Benedict XVI, saying, "I wanted to visit the Vatican and I did...[where] I suggested this idea." "If God wills it, we will then meet with our brothers from other religions, including those of the Torah and the Gospel, to come up with ways to safeguard humanity." He added, "I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible." He said he had secured support of Saudi clerics, but did not name them. (Times-UK)
        See also Saudis Block Building of Catholic Church - Phil Lawler
    The president of the Middle East Center for Strategic Studies, Anwatr al-Oshqi, has reported that Saudi Arabia's royal family has decided against building a Catholic church in the kingdom. (Catholic World News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mubarak: Gaza Tension Brings Iran Threat to Egyptian Border - Barak Ravid, Yoav Stern and Avi Issacharoff
    "The situation that has developed in the Gaza Strip in recent months has led to Egypt in practice having a border with Iran," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a senior European diplomat about three weeks ago. Mubarak told the diplomat he was concerned over Iran's growing influence in the region. He also compared the situation in Lebanon to that in Gaza, saying that "in both places, the problems and the crises stem from the growing influence of Iran." (Ha'aretz)
        See also Mubarak Fears Iranian Control over Arab Policy - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S.: PA Fails in Fight Against Terror - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
    The American officers responsible for monitoring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the road map peace plan, headed by Gen. William Fraser, say the PA security services occasionally arrest members of Islamic terror organizations, but they do not follow up with the other steps in the "chain of prevention": interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Gunfire Wounds Israeli Farmer on Kibbutz Near Gaza - Mijal Grinberg
    An Israeli man was wounded on Wednesday by Palestinian gunfire while working in the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha near Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rockets Hit Israeli Kibbutz - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired six rockets at Israel Wednesday morning. Two rockets landed in Kibbutz Mefalsim, causing damage to several buildings. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Arab Officials and Columnists: Hamas Responsible for Escalation in Gaza
    On March 2, columnist Muhammad Hashem wrote on the website: "Hamas, and the Syrians and Iranians who fund it, bear the sole responsibility for the recent scenes of bloodshed in Gaza. Today they are the happiest of men, since they are no longer under political pressure to stop transforming Gaza into a terrorist entity and to be more receptive towards the calls for peace emanating from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority."
        "Has Qatar considered, even for a moment, withdrawing its financial and media support for this wretched and loudmouthed movement? Does Syria realize that its involvement with Hamas does not lessen its isolation but increases it? Will the people of Gaza wake up and rebel against Hamas and its financiers, and thus send [its members] scurrying like rats for cover, along with the al-Qaeda cells, both dormant and active [in Gaza]." (MEMRI)
  • Shifting the Blame in Gaza - Editorial
    Israel's attacks on Gaza over the last month have been far from unprovoked. Since 2001, there have been more than 6,000 rockets and mortars launched from Gaza into Israel. In just the first two months of this year, there were nearly 900 attacks (15 per day). Islamic fundamentalists have willingly misinterpreted Israel's belated, self-defensive attacks as provocative first strikes. Twisting the facts helps them whip up Muslim anger worldwide, which aids their recruitment of new foot soldiers for their terror war against the West.
        What puzzles us, though, is why so much of the world's media so easily swallows this cynical spin without even trying to ascertain the reasons behind Israel's counterstrikes. What response would Canadians demand of their government and armed forces if thousands of bombs and missiles had been fired into Vancouver or Montreal? It is unlikely we would have accepted such a long delay in reacting with force. Canadians who show sympathy for the Palestinian cause might well think differently of Israel using troops and gunships to take out mortar placements and rocket launchers if their own children were under constant threat of injury or death. (National Post-Canada)
  • So You Wanna Be a Hizbullah Fighter? - Andrew Lee Butters
    Hizbullah recruiters keep an eye out for young Shia Muslim students in both Hizbullah-run schools and the national school system. They look for energetic kids, violent kids, and smart kids, from the age of seven into the late teens. From the start, Hizbullah organizes its child recruits into cells of about five kids, with each cell having its own kid commander, and their own missions: usually games and exercises like treasure hunts. The training stresses the path to martyrdom, which is achieved through honesty, prayer, and combat. This ideological training can last for years.
        All along the way, the trainers are on the lookout for those with special abilities. The lazy ones - with the ability to sit for hours on end without getting bored - are chosen as lookouts to watch Israeli troop movements; the brave ones are chosen for attacks, the smart ones are chosen for intelligence and security; and the smart and unpredictable ones - the guys who don't look or act or behave at all like fighters - get chosen for counterintelligence. (TIME)
  • Observations:

    Israel to UN: Hamas Using Lull to Smuggle and Produce More Rockets - Ambassador Dan Gillerman (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • Across the globe, forces of extremism seek to transform resolvable political conflicts into endless religious wars. They fight not for their own rights, but to deprive the rights of others. In our region, Iran, a notorious state sponsor of terrorism, uses proxies like Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas among the Palestinians to draw the moderates into a cosmic battle, where victory is not about achievement but about total annihilation.
    • During the last month, Hamas fired more than 300 rockets at Israel, at least 23 of them Iranian-made Grad missiles - smuggled into Gaza from Iran during the breach of the Gaza border this January - that hit the city of Ashkelon, with a population of 120,000.
    • Though some wish to refer to an apparent lull in Hamas' rocket attacks, I must warn that the perceived quiet is only on the surface. The rockets out of Gaza have not stopped. Hamas is using this time to smuggle in and produce more rockets. Building rockets is a silent promise of more terror and more violence, more extremism and more bloodshed.
    • When it comes to the discourse concerning our region, some have a penchant for equating the lawful actions of states in defense of their citizens with the violence of terrorists whose goal is to endanger those very civilians. Such parity undermines the strength and credibility of moderate states to bolster one another and isolate the extremists.
    • Whereas Israel goes to great lengths to ensure the safety and well-being of all civilian populations - Palestinian and Israeli alike - in accordance with international law, Hamas indiscriminately fires rockets into Israeli civilian areas. While for Israel every dead Palestinian child is a horrible mistake and tragedy, for the terrorists every dead Israeli child is a victory and a cause for celebration.

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