Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
President Bush Addresses Israel's Knesset
Israel and Hamas on a Collision Course - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Lebanon Cancels Anti-Hizbullah Measures - Yara Bayoumy (Reuters)
Rocket Attack Survivors' Stories - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
Three Jordanians Jailed for Bush Attack Plot (AFP)
Israel Deserves Admiration - Salim Mansur (Edmonton Sun-Canada)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday fired a rocket at the Israeli city of Ashkelon that crashed through the roof of a health clinic at a shopping mall, badly wounding a woman and her 2-year-old daughter. The doctor who was attending to them and a fourth person were also badly hurt. Maj. Gen. Uriel Bar-Lev, the police commander of Israel's southern district, said bomb experts had determined that the rocket was Iranian-made. "It has Iranian fingerprints on it," he said. (New York Times)
See also Palestinian Rocket Wounds 15 in Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
As President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert were meeting in Jerusalem, a Palestinian Grad rocket crashed into a busy shopping mall in central Ashkelon, wounding 15 people and burying several shoppers under piles of rubble. In addition to those badly wounded, 11 more suffered from moderate wounds and 62 people were treated for shock. (Ynet News)
See also IDF Intelligence: Palestinian Rockets Could Reach Beersheba within Two Years - Yuval Azoulay, Amos Harel and Ari Shavit
Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said in an interview that "every community within a 40-kilometer range [of Gaza] may come within range of the Hamas rockets: Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, even Beersheba." (Ha'aretz)
Sixty years after Israel's birth, the Palestinian national movement finds itself in a deteriorating state of paralysis. "There's almost no Palestinian leadership," said Kadoura Fares, a former Palestinian cabinet minister and member of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. "When [the Palestinians] shoot rockets, it's not a sign of strengthening. It's a sign of weakness."
Fatah, the political party founded by Arafat as the core of the PLO, remains paralyzed by internal fighting. It has been unable to shake the image of corruption rooted in years of cronyism and patronage that became the hallmark of the PA. Eyad Sarraj, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, notes, "We have a serious structural problem in the national movement. The control all the time was by the gun, and militants, who are largely uneducated and ignorant, caused most of the disasters we are in today."
A final mistake, says Fares, was the failure to build an effective government in the 1990s when the Palestinians were offered autonomy under the Oslo peace accords. "It's like you demand a palace but get three rooms as a test before you get the palace," he said. "The world gave us a chance to establish an authority. We could have used the authority as a good model to show we are a modern people, an educated people. We failed." (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Three days ago, Hamas started to target Ashkelon in order to welcome President Bush with an impressive rocket attack. Rocket cells test-fired several rockets that missed, but every strike was more accurate than the previous one. On Wednesday, they fired one of the 200 Grad (Katyusha) rockets they possess with lethal precision. As opposed to the Kassam, whose warhead contains 16 pounds of explosives, the Iranian Grad's warhead contains 44 pounds of explosives, which enabled it to penetrate the mall's thick walls and cement ceiling.
The attack on Ashkelon was also Hamas' response to the terms presented by Israel Monday for a cease-fire. Hamas is unwilling to tie the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit to the cease-fire agreement and is unwilling to end arms smuggling and building up its military strength. If Israel is unwilling to accept Hamas' terms, Hamas says, it will see Grad attacks on Ashkelon and we'll see who breaks first. Hamas estimates that as long as President Bush and other leaders are in Israel, the Israeli government would not respond with a fierce military operation. (Ynet News)
A cease-fire that does not prevent the transfer of weapons to Gaza will be "a major strategic victory" for Hamas and will only serve to strengthen its rule there, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday. "A cease-fire, which is the easy way out, will ensure us several months of quiet but will also entrench the Hamas state in Gaza, which will become more and more dependent on the Iranians," he said. Such a cease-fire would also serve to further weaken Mahmoud Abbas, he added. The official noted that "hundreds" of Palestinians were freely crossing through Gaza's porous border with Egypt to receive training from Iran, and that "The Egyptians, to put it mildly, are not successfully preventing the supply and rearming of Hamas." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
In reality, if not politically, Hizbullah, the terrorist group that takes its orders from Iran and Syria, now commands Lebanon. Where was the Lebanese army during the crisis? Nowhere. The army remained officially "neutral" while Hizbullah thugs trashed and burned the offices of a government-allied satellite television station and its newspaper affiliate. It did nothing while Hizbullah broke its promise never to turn its guns on fellow citizens. (Chicago Tribune)
See also Why Hizbullah Should Be Condemned - Dean Godson
Why does Hizbullah's putsch of 2008 not excite stern criticism? When the legitimate, democratic government of Lebanon dared to challenge Hizbullah, it went on a sectarian rampage, murdering scores of opponents and destroying much of the country's free media. Yet there has been not a peep from concerned humanitarians. Hizbullah and its allies - which command only 30% of the Lebanese vote - seek to make good its democratic deficit at the polls through the use of force. Hizbullah claims that it is an entirely indigenous "resistance" movement, but if so, why have pictures gone up of the Iranian leader, Ali Khamenei, and the Syrian President, Bashar Assad, for the first time in Beirut since the Cedar Revolution of 2005? The writer is research director of the Policy Exchange think-tank. (Times-UK)
The Iranian media reported that Iranian Vice Foreign Minister S.E. Mehdi Safari visited Berlin for three days in mid-April at the invitation of the German government, where he met with officials at the foreign, interior and economics ministries, as well as with lawmakers and businessmen. It is strange, to say the least, that neither the German government nor the media said a word about the visit. While Chancellor Angela Merkel argues for tougher sanctions if necessary to stop the Iranian bomb, Germany's foreign policy establishment preaches accommodation, even a "strategic partnership" with Iran.
"Sanctions get us nowhere," wrote Christoph Bertram in the weekly Der Spiegel last month. Bertram used to head the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and later the German Foundation for Science and Politics, a think tank that advises the government and parliament on foreign policy. According to Bertram, the West must recognize "the immense advantage of a close and cooperative relationship with this country [Iran]." After slowing between 2005-2007, German exports to Iran surged 13% in January. Germany is the world's second largest exporter to Iran, and its products are crucial for Iran's economic survival. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Bush Denounces Extremists in the Middle East - Jennifer Loven (AP/Washington Post)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert