Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Iran's Winning Latin Power Play - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
U.S. Airstrike Kills Somali Linked to Al-Qaeda - Stephanie McCrummen and Karen DeYoung
The Carter Center: Follow the Money - Lloyd Greif (New York Daily News)
Cigarette Smugglers Funnel Money to Terror Groups, U.S. Report Finds - Catherine Herridge
In France, Prisons Filled with Muslims - Molly Moore
Azerbaijan Frees Russian Equipment for Iran Nuclear Plant (Reuters)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Secretary of State Rice raised fresh doubts Thursday about the nature of Iran's nuclear program, saying if it really wanted only peaceful atomic energy, it could quickly have it. "I continue to suspect this is not at all about a civil nuclear program," Rice said. Iran's insistence that it be able to enrich uranium on its terms seems at cross-purposes with that goal, she said. Rice is meeting Friday with other permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss the next step with Iran. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Rice Returning to Mideast - Arshad Mohammed
Secretary of State Rice this weekend makes her fourth visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since the November Annapolis peace conference. U.S. officials and analysts played down expectations for her trip. "It is all behind-the-scenes stuff. She is not going to say much in public. She really is trying to get the two sides to deal with, and make progress on, the core political issues," said a senior U.S. official. The Bush administration has so far been loathe to float its own proposals to help the two sides bridge their differences, preferring to leave them to work these out directly. (Reuters)
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, 73, underwent an angioplasty procedure Thursday at a Jordanian hospital. (CNN)
Israel is negotiating a "framework agreement" with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. But it has always insisted that Abbas first show that his security forces can take the place of the Israeli army in fighting Palestinian gunmen. That is asking a lot. The PA has never had full control of the West Bank, many security people are ex-militants, and the armed "resistance" to Israel is popular.
Both Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, have used the security forces as patronage, letting them swell to around 85,000-strong, far beyond the 30,000 limit envisaged in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s.
A detailed plan presented last autumn by General Dayton sets sensible long-term goals: to unify, shrink and spruce up the security forces. But it is impossibly ambitious. (Economist-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad will convey to Egypt Israel's reservations concerning the cease-fire deal Cairo has brokered with Hamas in Gaza, Israeli defense officials said Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Edging toward Silent Acceptance of a Truce in Gaza - Yaakov Katz
According to the Israeli defense establishment, under Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza, Hamas has everything to gain from six months of quiet. Southern Command head Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant has said on more than one occasion that Hamas would use a cease-fire to rebuild its military infrastructure, extend the range of its rockets and fortify its positions. In the end what is likely to happen is that Israel will "silently" accept the truce offer. (Jerusalem Post)
See also A Coming Cease-Fire in Gaza? - Zvi Bar'el
"Israel will not extract a tahdiyeh (cease-fire) from Hamas from a position of victory," Mushir al-Masri, the secretary general of the Palestinian parliament's Hamas faction, asserted on Monday. His statement was intended to make it clear that the situation was a matter of a duel between equals in status. Sources in Hamas claim that Egypt gave Hamas leader Mahmoud a-Zahar guarantees that it would open the Rafah crossing by itself if Israel were to reject the cease-fire deal. (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians fired at least ten Kassam rockets from Gaza on Thursday afternoon. Seven fell in the area of Sderot, and at least two near Ashkelon. One rocket fell near a high school in Sderot, while another fell in a kibbutz, damaging a house. Four Sderot residents were treated for shock, including three high school students. Eli Edri, principal of the religious Sderot high school next to where the rocket hit, said: "Unfortunately this is the daily reality we are faced with. After the firing we try to resume the school routine as quickly as possible, but after every barrage we are forced to evacuate at least one or two students suffering from shock." (Ynet News)
Nafez Mansour, 40, a key figure in the Hamas military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, was killed Thursday when an Israel air force aircraft fired a number of missiles at a group of Hamas militants near Shabura in Rafah. Mansour is believed to have been involved in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and in the attack at the Kerem Shalom crossing two weeks ago in which Hamas used explosives-laden jeeps. Security sources said that Mansour had been busy planning another major attack in the near future. Hamas said that Mansour was in charge of a rocket production unit in the Rafah area. (Ha'aretz)
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization continues to display a "clear, identifiable political bias in both the quality and quantity" of its Israel coverage, Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor concluded this week in its report on HRW's 2007 activities. According to the report, HRW accuses Israel of "collective punishment" in a way that is applied to no other country in the world, and despite continued rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians. (Ynet News)
Read the Report (NGO Monitor)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Recently, yet another Hamas spokesperson compared the situation in Gaza to events during the Holocaust. There is no factual or coherent parallel that can be drawn between contemporary events in Gaza and the historic events of the Holocaust. The Nazis' goal was to murder every single Jewish person in Europe, and ultimately in the world. They created death factories in the heart of Europe. When events share no real common denominator - as anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge and intellectual honesty will attest - equating generally constitutes purposeful manipulation. If we label every event a "genocide," or equate every event with the Holocaust, then we detract from the real meaning of those words. (Ha'aretz)
Predictions regarding Israel's possible demise are becoming increasingly fashionable among some elements worldwide. Israel is the only country in the world that sees other countries calling for wiping it off the map. On Holocaust Memorial Day, we are permitted to - and in fact, obligated to - make it clear to others that there will be no situation whereby the State of Israel will be harmed without those who perpetrate this, including their collaborators, paying the full price for it. The decree "Never Again" does not only mean that no longer will we be defenseless, but also that those who harm us will not be spared. The writer, former Director of Intelligence for the Mossad, is Director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center. (Ynet News)
As was to be expected, during the second round of parliamentary elections held on Saturday, the representatives of the extremist stream that support Iran's president won a majority. But this success does not diminish the criticism that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who will come up for re-election next year - is facing. Ahmadinejad has dismissed nine ministers since he was sworn in as president in 2005. The head of the country's judiciary, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who was appointed to his post by the Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, and who is not subject to election, has made an unprecedented direct and public attack on Ahmadinejad.
The president also finds himself in serious confrontation with the chairman of the parliament, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, whose daughter is married to the son of the all-powerful Khamenei. In next year's presidential elections, Haddad-Adel is likely to present his candidacy against Ahmadinejad. (Ha'aretz)
The Qatar Foundation hosted a televised debate Tuesday, broadcast by BBC World as part of the Doha Debate series, on the motion: "The Sunni-Shiite conflict is damaging Islam's reputation as a religion of peace." In interviews with the panelists before the debate, all four essentially agreed that the current tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are guided by political forces rather than religious differences. Sunnis and Shiites, after all, have learned to "grudgingly" tolerate each other for centuries, despite doctrinal differences, says Hisham Hellyer of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. "Those differences have never turned into religious wars like we saw in Europe."
The distinctions between Sunnis and Shiites were not an issue during the height of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s, says Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan. While Shiite- and Sunni-dominated countries have fought each other in the past - such as the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War - those conflicts were not motivated by disputes over religious interpretation. "They were about power and politics," Hellyer says. (Christian Science Monitor)
On May 8, Israel celebrates its 60th birthday. Every decade people ask the same question: will Israel still be there for the next one? Its situation as a permanently embattled nation is unique. On the day after Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared its independence, six Arab armies invaded and tried to wipe it out. With the current exception of Egypt and Jordan, the Arab and Muslim world has been trying ever since.
Ben-Gurion would today be surprised to find that Israel is regarded as illegally occupying the West Bank. Along with modern Israel, this was part of the territory of Palestine within which in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the task of re-establishing the Jewish national home because of the unique claim by the Jews - the only people for whom it had ever been their nation state, hundreds of years before the Arabs invaded it. In other words, far from being "Palestinian land," the Jews are entitled to claim it under international law, which also gives it the right to hold on to it in self-defense. Yet some not only deny both law and history but demand the ethnic cleansing of every last Jewish settler from a putative Palestinian state.
The denial and inversion of such facts have singled out Israel for vilification applied to no other country. Scapegoated for crimes of which it is in fact the victim, Israel has become the Jew of the Western world. Much of the responsibility for these six decades of conflict lie with a Western world which, from 1921 onwards, has chosen to appease Arab violence while shedding crocodile tears over its Jewish victims. But the future of Israel is the future of the West. If the front line in Israel were to go down, the West would be next. Given its current internal appeasement of Islamism, however, the West may go down anyway. (Spectator-UK)
In mid-April, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) unveiled a ten-point plan for fighting against jihadist activity in the U.S. 1) Investigate all military chaplains endorsed by Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is serving 23 years in prison for funding jihad terrorism. 2) Investigate all prison chaplains endorsed by Alamoudi. 3) Investigate the selection process of Arabic translators working for the Pentagon and the FBI. 4) Examine the non-profit status of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has had several of its officials convicted on jihad terror-related charges, and was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case.
5) Make it an act of sedition or solicitation of treason to preach or publish materials that call for the deaths of Americans. 6) Audit sovereign wealth funds in the U.S. 7) Cancel scholarship student visa program with Saudi Arabia until they reform their textbooks, which preach hatred and violence against non-Muslims. 8) Restrict religious visas for imams who come from countries that don't allow reciprocal visits by non-Muslim clergy. 9) Cancel contracts to train Saudi police and security in U.S. counterterrorism tactics. 10) Block the sale of sensitive military munitions to Saudi Arabia. (FrontPageMagazine)
Osama bin Laden has issued a document entitled "The Nuclear Bomb of Islam," which insists it is "the duty" of Muslims to acquire a nuclear bomb in order to use "as much force as possible to terrorize the enemies of God." The British Foreign Office's senior counter-terrorist official has "no doubt at all" that Islamist terrorists are actively seeking a nuclear device. "There are people" he adds dryly, "for whom exploding a nuclear bomb in a city would be a triumph for the cause."
Deterrence depends on your enemy having cities and a population that can be threatened with obliteration. The problem is that terrorist organizations have neither, and deterrence breaks down as a consequence. Which means that the over-arching aim of the civilized world must be to ensure that they cannot get hold of a nuclear bomb, because that is the only way we can protect ourselves against nuclear terrorism. That is why the Israelis destroyed Syria's "not for peaceful means" nuclear facility last September, and why the rest of the world acquiesced in the destruction. (Telegraph-UK)
Yossi Harel, who renamed the rickety ship he commanded Exodus 1947 and sailed it to legend as a symbol of the righteousness of the mission by Jews to settle Palestine in the face of British opposition, died Saturday at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 90. Unlike the fictionalized account in Leon Uris' book Exodus, when the real Exodus approached the port of Haifa on July 18, 1947, British forces boarded the boat and engaged in a violent encounter with Holocaust survivors, leaving three Jews dead and hundreds injured. The British returned the Jews to Germany - to an old Nazi SS camp near Hamburg. The events caused wide outrage and prompted support for the Zionist dream. (New York Times)
The Guardium, a remote-controlled, unmanned vehicle commissioned by the Israeli military, is designed to replace human soldiers in dangerous roles and sometimes tedious missions, cutting casualties. Like the pilotless drones that have become a mainstay of the air force in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere, the four-wheeled Guardium is operated from a command room and can carry cameras, night-vision equipment and sensors, as well as machine guns. Relying on cameras that scan 360 degrees at all times, the vehicle's sensors send alerts of anything suspicious to the remote operator.
"Representatives of armies with troops who are taking high casualties in asymmetric warfare, from threats like roadside bombs, get excited about this product," said Erez Peled, general manager of G-Nius Unmanned Ground Systems, which developed the Guardium. Robots like this are potentially the future of ground warfare, said John Pike, director of the military think tank Globalsecurity.org. "A robot means you don't have to write a condolence letter." (AP)
The Diplomatic Dance with Hamas - Efraim Karsh (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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