Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Headmaster at UN School Was Islamic Jihad Rocket-Maker - Adam Entous (Reuters)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
After initially resisting the idea, Secretary of State Rice, the top envoy for a Bush administration that once sniffed at Mideast peacemaking as a fool's game, is shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and getting into nitty-gritty obstacles that have blocked progress. Rice left the region Monday but plans to return in less than two weeks. She's deep in the Mideast weeds now, tossing off jargon about roadblocks and checkpoints and asking for assessments on whether Israel should lift this roadblock or that one.
The situation on the ground makes the goal of a deal by year's end look somewhat absurd. The Palestinians, while stationing police in key cities to keep down crime gangs, have done little to dismantle what Israel calls "the terrorist infrastructure" of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The big elephant in the room is Hamas, whose control of Gaza makes implementing any peace deal extremely problematic. After Hamas capitalized on Israel's 2005 Gaza withdrawal to launch rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Jewish state is highly unlikely to evacuate any more territory unless it can be assured against a repeat. Olmert himself has said no deal will be implemented until Abbas regains control of Gaza. (AP/Yahoo)
See also U.S. Monitors to Study West Bank Roadblocks - Arshad Mohammed
The U.S. said on Monday it would send monitors to study whether the removal of Israeli roadblocks was making life easier for Palestinians in the West Bank. Rice spent much of her recent trip discussing steps to dismantle some of the checkpoints and roadblocks Israel has erected to prevent Palestinian suicide bombings. Rice said she thought Israel was acting in good faith, but that the monitors would "actually talk to villagers" about how to get their crops to market. (Reuters)
Hizbullah now has about 27,000 rockets and missiles, more than double its supply before the 2006 war, Israeli officials say, including Iranian missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv. "We know without a doubt that the international embargo on the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah has been deliberately violated by the governments of Iran and Syria," said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman. Israeli officials say Hizbullah's most potent weapons include about 500 Iranian Zilzal guided missiles, with ranges of 77, 136 and 186 miles. In addition, Hizbullah has 4,000 to 6,000 Iranian Fajr 3 and Fajr 5 rockets with ranges of 27 and 46 miles, respectively. And Syria has provided an estimated 20,000 rockets.
"The Syria-Iran-Hizbullah axis is closer than it has been since 2006," an Israeli security official said. "In operational planning, the Syrians know that Hizbullah is part of their defense architecture. Hizbullah is stronger than before the war. They have improved their antitank capabilities, the number and quality of their rockets." Western security officials say they discovered last year that Iran was procuring telescopic sights for antitank guns and rocket-propelled grenades from an Eastern European country. Communications among Iranian diplomats revealed that the sights were earmarked for Hizbullah, say the officials. Iran also furnished night-vision equipment and binoculars, the officials say.
Patrick Haenni, a senior analyst in Lebanon for the International Crisis Group, said, "All the signs on the ground show that Hizbullah is in a concerted phase of preparation, and concentrated on its military reactivation." (Los Angeles Times)
Iran said Monday it would not hold a new round of talks with the U.S. on security in Iraq until American forces end their current assault against Shiite militias. Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of ambassador-level talks on security in Iraq since last May. The U.S. has accused Iran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel and the PA are both unhappy over a request by U.S. Secretary of State Rice that they publish a memorandum of understanding on the progress of their final-status negotiations to date before President Bush arrives on a visit next week. "The work of drafting such a document will merely halt the progress and the momentum," argued one Israeli official. Both Israel and the PA would prefer to keep this progress under the media's radar for now. Israeli officials who met with Rice said their impression is that she is determined to produce an achievement at almost any price, given the political capital that both she and Bush have invested in the Palestinian issue over the last year. (Ha'aretz)
An intoxicated Arab man from Kuwait who claimed he had a bomb briefly held three Jewish teenagers captive in their Polish hotel room on Monday. Police forces stormed the room at central Warsaw's Holiday Inn and released the captives unharmed. No explosives were found in the hotel, which was evacuated during the incident. (Jerusalem Post)
The Gaza Health Ministry said one man was killed, five were wounded and one is still missing after a cross-border smuggling tunnel collapsed on Monday. (AP/Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Three decades of playing cat-and-mouse with American power have emboldened Iran's rulers. We have played by their rules, and always came up second best. The low-level warfare against American soldiers in Iraq by Shiite groups - aided and abetted by Iran - may be responsible for hundreds of American deaths. The hope entertained a year ago, that Iran would refrain from playing with fire in Iraq, has shown to be wishful thinking.
Iran's nuclear ambitions are of a wholly different magnitude. But before we tackle that Persian menace, the Iranian theocrats will have to be shown that there is a price for their transgressions. (Wall Street Journal)
Some of the recent friction between Israel and Europe results from EU funding for anti-Israel "civil society organizations." While supposedly promoting peace and coexistence, these groups often preach division and confrontation - taking every Palestinian complaint at face value and writing inflammable reports castigating Israel as the aggressor. The EU was also one of the main funders of the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
A few weeks ago, Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, one of Saudi Arabia's most senior religious authorities, directed that Abdullah bin Bejad al-Otaibi and Yousef Aba al-Khail, two reporters for a mainstream Saudi newspaper, be executed for publishing stories suggesting that religions other than Islam are worthy of respect. Barrak, a leading authority on Wahhabism, the country's fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, is not just some cranky old miscreant. He is a member of the Saudi legislature, appointed by the king. Two weeks after he issued that fatwa, the legislature soundly defeated a proposal to adopt a law promoting respect for other religions.
In Saudi Arabia, malefactors are beheaded by sword, often in public, outside a mosque just after Friday prayers. By official count, authorities beheaded 151 people last year. The debate over the reporters offers a window into Saudi thinking and helps explain why so many Saudis dedicate themselves to anti-Western jihads. If a respected religious authority calls for the execution of someone who simply suggests that people holding other faiths deserve respect, doesn't that tell Saudis that the lives of Christians, Jews, Hindu and Buddhists are of lesser value? (San Francisco Chronicle)
War of the Rockets - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)
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