Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hamas Smuggles Iranian Blueprints into Gaza for Rocket Upgrades - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Hamas, Islamic Jihad Reject Egyptian-Brokered Truce with Israel (AFP)
Unrest Grows in Egypt as Food Prices Soar - Heba Saleh (Financial Times-UK)
EU Releases 300 Million Euros in Aid for Palestinians (AFP)
Egyptian Editor Jailed for Reporting on Mubarak's Health - Maggie Michael (AP/Washington Post)
Jordan Parliamentarians Submit Bill to Scrap Treaty with Israel - Massoud A. Derhally (Bloomberg)
Former Arafat Aide Under Investigation for Embezzling Funds from PA (Maan News-PA)
British Academics Union to Again Discuss Israel Boycott - Anthea Lipsett
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Palestinian Authority won a major legal victory when U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero Wednesday agreed to set aside a judgment of nearly $200 million awarded to American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel and allow a new trial. The judge said that he would vacate the previous legal victory only if the PA put up a $192.7 million bond to ensure that it does not default again if it loses in court. He also ordered the Palestinians to reimburse the plaintiffs for previous legal expenses. But Marrero's decision gives the Palestinian government hope that it can escape from lawsuits that its officials said threatened to bankrupt it. (Washington Post)
President George W. Bush apologized to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday for the killing of an Egyptian vendor when a cargo ship chartered by the U.S. opened fire on his small boat near the Suez Canal on Monday in an incident that has enraged Egyptians. On Wednesday, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff said a security team on board the ship had fired two sets of warning shots as three small boats approached. After the first set, two boats turned away, but the vendor's boat did not. The U.S. navy has been wary of small motorboats since the attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole in 2000, in which terrorists drove a small vessel packed with explosives into the ship at a Yemeni port, killing 17 crew members. (International Herald Tribune)
The Arab League meeting in the Syrian capital this weekend will be remembered for its display of Arab disunity. The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt - two heavyweights in the region - will be staying away, sending low-level officials instead in deliberate protest against Syria's refusal to defuse the political crisis in neighboring Lebanon. Some 10 to 12 heads of state (out of 22 Arab League members) are expected to participate. (Financial Times-UK)
British solicitor Trevor Asserson, who set up a website to monitor the BBC's coverage of events in the Middle East, released a report on Wednesday claiming that the BBC's Arabic-language radio programing provided a platform for terrorist organizations who hate Israel. Asserson presented his report, "The BBC Goes Native," co-written by Deena Pinson, at a conference held by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Asserson studied the Arabic radio station's main news-analysis program, Hadeeth Al-Sa'a, over a four-week period during the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. "We identified 17 spokespeople for Hizbullah and Iran among program guests, and only five for Israel. The airtime given by BBC Arabic radio to the pro-Hizbullah position outweighed that given to the pro-Israel position by a ratio of some 4.5 to one." (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
See also The BBC's Arabic Service - Melanie Phillips
Asserson charges that the BBC's Arabic service provided a platform for the campaign by Hizbullah and Iran to delegitimize and demonize both the U.S.A. and Israel in the eyes of the Arabic-speaking world. "The BBC Arabic gives little indication of the destruction, the evacuations and the deaths (often of Israeli Arabs), caused by the thousands of Hizbullah rockets fired into Israel. By contrast some of the language used to describe Israel is hysterical in tone and the translated transcript reads like an Islamist extremist tract." When such propaganda is transmitted back into the Arabic-speaking world - and with the mark of BBC journalistic integrity, no less - this is bound to incite yet more violence, turning the BBC effectively into an accomplice of Iran against America and Israel. (Spectator-UK)
Read the Report (BBC Watch) (pdf)
A UN body with a history of passing anti-Israel resolutions heard about a different side of the Arab-Israeli conflict last week when a Jewish refugee described her family's eviction from the home they had occupied in Libya for hundreds of years. Regina Bublil-Waldman told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that her family was expelled from Tripoli by the Libyan government after the 1967 Six-Day War. During that conflict, mobs turned out in the streets shouting "Slaughter the Jews."
"I appear before you today not alone, but representing the nearly one million Jews resident in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region at the turn of the century," she said. "Today, less than 5,000 Jews remain. Their plight and flight from 10 Arab countries has been ignored by the international community." (Canadian Jewish News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told U.S. special envoy Gen. James Jones at a recent meeting that approving the transfer to the PA of weapons and armored vehicles could backfire because Hamas could come to power in the West Bank and be better equipped to turn on Israel. "We need to keep in mind the possibility that after all we have done, Hamas will take over the West Bank, not only by force but even in the upcoming general elections," Barak told Jones. (Jerusalem Post)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak praised the peace with Israel this week, on the 29th anniversary of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. In an interview with the Polish Warsaw Gazette, Mubarak commended Sadat's signing of the 1979 peace treaty. "I would have made the same decision," he said. Mubarak went on to praise Sadat's vision and his historic visit to Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
U.S. Secretary of State Rice will arrive in Israel on Saturday and stay for three days, holding meetings in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman. The visit is intended to signal American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia, who head the respective negotiating teams, met twice this week and three times last week. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
In a curious reversal of normal scientific practice, the failed experiment of the 1990s peace process is now being performed again. The "Annapolis process" is based on the expectation that Fatah will play the role of the pro-Western, pro-stability element among the Palestinians. The facts indicate, however, that for both structural and ideological reasons, it is neither able nor willing to play this role.
When Israel commenced a negotiating process with Fatah in the 1990s, it assumed that Fatah had accepted that its goal of the destruction of Israel was for the moment impracticable. The hope was that, as the movement was drawn into the practical, day-to-day affairs of governing, its view would be replaced by a sober, practical outlook. When that didn't happen, the consequence was the bloody years of 2000-2004. Since then, change has been mainly in a negative direction - with those elements in Fatah opposed to political realism being strengthened.
Today, influential elements within Fatah openly reject the possibility of a two-state solution. These include up-and-coming leaders in the West Bank - such as Ziad Abu Ein. Analysts are also noting the increasing prevalence of Islamic theological motifs in the symbols used by armed Fatah factions. Such Fatah-associated forces as the Abu Rish Brigades in Gaza and the Brigades of the Return now openly speak the language of political Islam. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
Preparations are accelerating for the international tribunal in The Hague that will try those accused of assassinating Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, three years ago in Beirut. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, is expected to announce soon that the tribunal is finally ready to start work. Eleven Lebanese and foreign judges have already been selected (though their names have not been announced for security reasons). The tribunal process is "irreversible," insists Nicolas Michel, the UN's chief legal counsel. "We have a prosecutor, we have judges, we have a registrar, we have a budget, we have a building and we have an investigation going on," he said. "There is no way it can be halted."
The first UN report on the case, compiled by the German judge Detlev Mehlis, found "probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate Hariri could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials." Investigators are also looking at 19 other cases of political murder. "There is huge concern bordering on panic in Damascus," said Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Foundation's office in Beirut. "There is a sense that Syria is drifting into a very serious problem." (Guardian-UK)
The federal case against two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), already three years old, long ago crossed the line between serious prosecution and farce. While nobody condones the illegal use of sensitive national security information, federal prosecutors have signaled that this case is about something else: the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy, with maybe a dash of resentment about the pro-Israel lobby thrown in for good measure.
A prosecution that looked flimsy at the outset has grown progressively weaker, with Judge Thomas Ellis sometimes openly disdaining elements of the government's case and the chief prosecutor quitting to go into private practice, leaving his staff to plod ahead even as legal scholars scratch their heads. More than anything, the affair looks like prosecutorial overreach, followed by a bad case of bureaucratic inertia by officials too proud - or too embarrassed - to back down. (New York Jewish Week)
Despite the conflict that engulfs the people and governments throughout the entire Middle East, of which the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is really a footnote, Israelis go about their daily lives, and their positive actions affect the lives of Americans and the rest of the world. A small number of domestic flights in America went wireless last year, and seasoned travelers released a collective sigh of relief. By the end of this year expect trans-Atlantic flights to become the newest frontier to go wireless, thanks to Israeli ingenuity.
An Israeli-developed system for generating rain in desert regions has interested Texas officials who hope that it can be useful to increase agricultural production in Texan deserts. Through a new process, scientists hope that they can alter air currents and increase condensation, resulting in increased rainfall. For nearly two decades, the Texas Agriculture Commission has worked to harness the Israeli-designed drip irrigation systems to enhance production for the multitude of large and small agriculture farms and greenhouses throughout the state. (Houston Chronicle)
Zenith Solar, based in Israel, is a pioneer in a new type of solar energy that uses mirrors and lenses to focus and intensify the sun's light, producing far more electricity at lower cost. Compared with traditional flat photovoltaic panels made of silicon, this "concentrated solar power" technology has proved in tests to be up to five times more efficient. "Our goal is to utilize every suitable roof, backyard, and open space in Israel to turn households, hotels, and factories into net producers of electricity and thermal heat," says Roy Segev, founder and chief executive. (BusinessWeek)
Economic Incentives Have Little Effect on Palestinian Attitudes Toward Israel - Yossi Alpher (bitterlemons.org)
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