Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Israel Never Pledged Full Withdrawal from Golan (Ha'aretz)
Tehran University to Host International Conference on "Israel's End" (IRNA-Iran)
Meet Michel Suleiman, Lebanon's Next President (Ya Libnan-Lebanon)
Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism - Raphael Israeli (Jerusalem Post)
Anti-Semitic Hate Speech in the Name of Islam - Matthias Kuntzel (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Anti-Semitism among Palestinian Authority Academics - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
A Million Israeli Olive Trees to Make Indian Desert Bloom - Rhys Blakely (Times-UK)
Israeli Economy Weathers Global Storm - Neal Sandler (Business Week)
Microsoft Opens New R&D Facility in Israel - Sylvie Barak (Inquirer-UK)
Tourists Flock to Israel - Jennifer Fishbein (Business Week)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner Thursday that world governments must shun Hamas, after he disclosed that France was in touch with the Islamic militant rulers of Gaza. Referring to a suicide bombing earlier Thursday at a Gaza crossing, Livni said the bombing "should demonstrate to the international community that, while it demands that Israel take care of the situation in Gaza and open the crossing points, Hamas, which controls Gaza, is not interested in improving the lives of the population and doesn't take even minimal responsibility." "The international community must continue to delegitimize Hamas," she said. (AP/Washington Post)
U.S. Secretary of State Rice and British Foreign Secretary Miliband said Thursday they believed Hizbullah had been weakened by this month's fighting in Beirut despite the greater influence the militant group gained in Lebanon's cabinet. "Hizbullah lost something very important, which is any argument that it is somehow a resistance movement on behalf of the Lebanese people," Rice said. "The guns of Hizbullah were trained on their own people. The long term consequences of that are potentially going to strengthen the forces of democracy in Lebanon," said Miliband. (Reuters)
The U.S. will aggressively impose more sanctions on Iran as long as it refuses to give up sensitive nuclear work and uses the world's financial system for "terrorism," U.S. Secretary of State Rice said on Thursday. "If Iran has peaceful intent as they say, then they should have no problem with the International Atomic Energy Agency having complete and absolute and total access. The word that is coming out is that that is not" the case, said Rice. (Reuters)
Pakistan's new government Wednesday agreed to pull its forces out of a restive region near the Afghan border and allow elements of Islamic Sharia law to be imposed there in return for a promise by local Islamic militants to end a wave of terror and arrest foreign terrorists operating in the area. The accord came a day after Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte expressed deep reservations about such accords, noting that a similar deal struck by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2006 had allowed Taliban and al-Qaeda forces to recruit and rearm. (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
After rejecting Israel's conditions for a cease-fire, Hamas officials on Thursday expressed disappointment over Egypt's failure to endorse their stance. "Instead of putting pressure on Israel to accept the truce, the Egyptians are pushing us to accept the Israeli conditions," a top Hamas official in Gaza said. A Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Zahar and Musa Abu Marzouk that held talks in Cairo this week with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman left Egypt Thursday after failing to reach an agreement on the terms of the truce proposal. Suleiman is reported to have warned that the entire Hamas leadership would be wiped out if Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza to halt Palestinian rocket attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
An IDF soldier was wounded by an anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian gunmen during activity against terror infrastructure in south Gaza on Friday. On Thursday IDF forces uncovered an anti-tank missile and launcher in a school yard in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaiyeh. Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian was killed and 18 others were injured as IDF soldiers opened fire at a procession approaching the border fence organized by Hamas. At first, the soldiers attempted to disperse the procession using crowd dispersal means, but at a certain stage the forces spotted a number of gunmen and fired at the lower part of their bodies. (Ynet News)
A truck loaded with four tons of explosives blew up on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing Thursday in Gaza. IDF sources said the truck was supposed to explode on the Israeli side, but must have blown up too early either due to a technical problem or because it ran into poles near the crossing. The Israel Defense Forces believes that the failed attack was part of an attempt to abduct IDF soldiers. The truck blew up about 100 meters from the Israeli side of the crossing.
Islamic Jihad released a video of the suicide bomber, Ibrahim Nasser, 23, showing a young bearded man in uniform, smiling as he brandished a Kalashnikov rifle. Palestinians also fired mortar rounds at Israeli positions during the attack, which occurred while the area was covered by dense fog. The explosion left a 12-meter-wide hole and shattered windows at nearby Moshav Netiv Ha'asara. (Ha'aretz)
As Turkish envoys were mediating Israeli-Syrian talks in Istanbul, construction workers were putting the finishing touches on the first shopping mall in the southern Golan Heights, which will open next month in Moshav Bnei Yehuda - just one example of the Golan's rapid development in recent years. "We've succeeded in branding ourselves as a region of superb wines, high-quality water, high-quality olive oil, homemade cheeses and excellent meat," said Ofer Zilberberg of Kibbutz Gashur. Local communities are planning to bring in hundreds of new families, unique archaeological sites are being developed, and there are even plans to build a small airport, noted Assaf Schuster, CEO of Terrace Investments which owns the mall. (Ha'aretz)
The new Judea and Samaria District Police Headquarters has opened in the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, police spokesman Danny Poleg said Monday. The station, whose construction was approved by the government in 2005, will replace the dilapidated station in eastern Jerusalem which has served as the headquarters for the West Bank police for decades. The U.S. has opposed any Israeli construction in the area, and Israel has frozen the long-planned construction of 3,500 housing units that would link the major Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim with the capital. Israel plans to keep several major settlement blocs - including Maale Adumim - as part of any final peace treaty with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Why are Israel-Syria talks happening now? Syria's economy is in the doldrums. The threat of an international tribunal hangs over its leaders because of their alleged involvement in former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's murder. A new peace process could divert international attention and persuade the major powers that making peace is more important than bringing Hariri's killers to justice. Plus, at least part of Syria's leadership also worries about the regime's increasing reliance on Iran, which has led to Syria's unprecedented isolation in the Arab world.
Even in Lebanon, the cost for Syria is high. For decades, Syria was the main foreign influence in Lebanon. Now Iran has taken its place. During last week's Lebanese peace talks in Qatar, Hizbullah delegation leader Muhammad Hassan Raad left four times to "check things out" with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motakki. Iran wants to control Syria and Lebanon as advance posts in what it sees as its inevitable war against Israel. Its efforts in Syria include creating the largest Shiite theological seminary outside Iran, plus a massive campaign of "Shiificiation" via 14 Iranian "cultural centers" recently opened in Syrian provinces.
The chances of peace breaking out remain low. Syria can't easily abandon Iran, something that Israel is demanding as a precondition. And Israel can't commit itself to handing back the Golan Heights, which Syria insists upon as a precondition. (New York Post)
Assad is quite eager to ease his isolation - life is tough when your greatest friend in the world is Iran - and engaging with Israel presumably renders kosher a whole range of countries' dealings with Syria. Not least, I think Syrians believe that such negotiations will protect them from attack by both Americans and Israelis, the two countries they fear most. For Israel, such talks serve to light a fire under the Palestinians, who fear that the prime minister will lose interest in their track to concentrate on Syrian negotiations. The Bush administration's keen disinterest in engaging Syria dims hopes, as one of the prizes the Syrians seek is U.S. acceptance. The writer is director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
It remains to be seen whether Israel's talks with Syria, mediated by Turkey, lead to the genuine breakthrough of an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement. But the negotiations in Istanbul already qualify as historic for at least one reason: They are not being conducted under American auspices. (Boston Globe)
Is it possible, and if so is it proper, to reach an agreement with a state such as Syria? Except for its one-time association in 1991 with the American-led coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein's invasion force from Kuwait, Syria has been on the wrong side of the war against Islamic terror. It sponsors terrorist groups and offers them safe haven; it is loyal to Iran's objectives and backs Iran's allies, including Hamas and Hizbullah.
Clearly American interests do not lie in a peace with the current regime in Damascus. In previous talks, it was understood that Syria expected Israel's assistance in securing its role in Lebanon and righting relations with America. That is obviously not a role that it would benefit Israel to play. The 1999 talks may have, in theory, resolved a few details of the dispute, but they did nothing to resolve the strategic and moral differences between Syria and the free world. The likelihood is that the talks will founder on the Syrian regime's epiphany that peace with the West would bring new dangers from the Iranian-backed factions. So peace with Syria will have to await a democratic revolution in Tehran. (New York Sun)
Syria cannot deliver the minimal goods required of it: severing its ties with terror organizations and the Iranian influence in favor of normalization with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has no desire to provide the Syrians with military positions on the Golan Heights, which would again threaten Israeli communities, or to allow the Syrians access to the Sea of Galilee. On the other hand, both sides have an interest in maintaining a sort of pre-dialogue process; that is, an interest in being perceived as though they are aspiring for peace.
The supreme interest of President Bashar Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, is to safeguard his regime. The hatred for Israel, the external enemy, enables him to maintain absolute power in his country. The connection with terror groups, Iran, and the Palestinians enables Assad to get along with the Arab world and with his own citizens under the umbrella of hostility to Israel. Peace with Israel will endanger his regime to a much greater extent than an ongoing low-intensity conflict with the "Zionist enemy." (Ynet News)
The Doha agreement gives Hizbullah its top priority - a "blocking third" in the Lebanese cabinet - without making any real concessions on its weapons. Essentially, its modus operandi of using its military power to wrest concessions from the government was validated. For the March 14 ruling coalition, this deal, while setting a problematic precedent, does not really change the status quo on the ground. As the May showdown with Hizbullah demonstrated, even without the "blocking third," the Shiite militia is able to veto major government decisions. Hizbullah's increased role in the cabinet will not change this dynamic. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The agreement reached by Lebanese political factions Wednesday amounted to a significant shift of power in favor of Hizbullah and its allies, who won the power to veto any cabinet decision. It also underscored the rising power of Iran and Syria, which have backed Hizbullah in a proxy battle against the governing coalition and its American and Saudi allies. Government leaders said they had given way on major provisions because they felt the alternative to an agreement was war.
But the deal leaves unresolved such questions as Hizbullah's weapons and Lebanon's relations with Syria. The divisive issue of cooperation with a UN tribunal to investigate former Prime Minister Hariri's murder and ten other killings that followed also remains to be solved. (New York Times)
See also Hizbullah's Lebanon Veto Power Boosts Iran's Middle East Influence - Tim Butcher (Telegraph-UK)
Various experts outline doomsday scenarios in the event of a military attack by the U.S. or Israel to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Fearing the reaction of the ayatollahs has a paralyzing effect. Even before the first shot has been fired, Iran can credit itself with a success. It created an image of an omnipotent country that will not hesitate to use its power to respond and avenge a military operation against it. This is an impressive psychological achievement. But a new paper, "The Last Resort," written by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that the success or failure of a military attack depends on many variables.
Clawson explained in an interview that success or failure is determined by the political result of any such attack. Israel has to create the circumstances in which world public opinion will understand Israel and its motives, which is what happened with the attack against the nuclear facility in Syria. Israel benefited from President Assad's hostile attitude to the world, and therefore the international community showed understanding of the Israeli air force's attack.
Iran has lately been threatening that if it is attacked it will close the Straits of Hormuz and block the flow of oil. But this is a problematic threat, since it would also affect Iran's friends and supporters, such as China and India.
Most experts estimate that in the event of an Israeli attack, the Iranians will launch Shihab missiles at Israel. But Shihab missiles are not considered particularly reliable and the Shihab's guidance system is not very accurate. Israel's Arrow missile defense system would certainly intercept quite a few Shihab missiles. Moreover, Iran's firing missiles at Israel would enable Israel to respond in a decisive manner. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Hizbullah will react automatically by firing rockets. Clawson's assessment is that contrary to the impression that has been formed, Iran's options for responding are limited and weak. (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S., Israel "Afraid" of Iran's Power
Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said that the U.S. and the Zionist regime are "afraid of Iran's power, political and spiritual influence" in the Middle East. (Press TV-Iran)
To think of Israel as 60 years old may be wrong when its enemies seek to portray it as an alien usurper. In fact, the Jews have lived in the Land of Israel for over 3,300 years, since 1312 BCE. They had lived there at least 1,800 years before the Arab conquest of 635 CE, which lasted only 22 years. Jerusalem was the Jewish capital for over 3,300 years and never was the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. King David founded Jerusalem; Muhammad never set foot in it. Jews pray facing Jerusalem, and Muslims face Mecca. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old Testament and not once in the Koran. The Jews have never had any other national homeland.
The Jews who became Israelis have cultivated desolate lands with one of the world's most innovative agricultural economies; they have established legal systems that protect civil liberties against the backdrop of the most lethal security threats. They have made a home for the world's largest Jewish population, passing America. The realization of the dream that Israel represents with its rebirth has evoked the spirit of kinship and emotional association with those who share the Judeo-Christian community throughout the world. (U.S. News)
Over time the power differential between Israel and its regional foes has grown. While Israel has become stronger, its enemies, with the exception of Iran, have become weaker. Moreover, the Jewish state is widely recognized as an entrenched reality even by Arab and Muslim states. The common image of a deeply-torn Israel is inaccurate, as social cohesion is greater than before. The Ashkenazi/Sephardi social rift has become much less divisive than in the past, with an influx of Sephardi Jews into the middle class and into the ranks of the senior officers of the Israeli military. An analysis of the political, social and economic dynamics within Israel indicates that time is on Israel's side.
The ideological debate over the future of the territories acquired in 1967 is over. The Sinai was relinquished in 1979 and Gaza in 2005. Over two-thirds of Israelis oppose any territorial concessions in the Golan Heights. Concerning Judea and Samaria, there is a great majority in favor of partition and in favor of retaining the settlement blocs, Jerusalem (the Temple Mount), and the Jordan Rift Valley. Expectations for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians after the Oslo agreements have been replaced by a sober consensus that peace is not around the corner. The failures of the Palestinian national movement and the ascent of Hamas in Palestinian politics have elicited greater understanding for the Israeli predicament. 9/11 was an event that also sensitized much of the world to Israel's dilemmas in fighting Palestinian terrorism.
The only serious security challenge is a nuclear Iran. Possibly, Israel might be left alone to deal with the ayatollahs, but the obstruction of the Iranian nuclear program is not beyond the capabilities of Jerusalem. The writer is Director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (BESA/Bar-Ilan University)
Abdurrahman Wahid, 67, the former Indonesian president and a leading Muslim scholar, revealed the root of his understanding of the risks and perils of Jewish existence. Wahid was a student at Baghdad University in 1966, earning his keep as a secretary at a textile importer, when he befriended the firm's elderly accountant, an Iraqi Jew he remembers only by his family name, Ramin. In 1968, the Iraqi government effectively had come under the control of Saddam Hussein, who at that time was deputy to the president, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. At Saddam's behest, Iraqi courts had convicted 14 Iraqis - nine of them Jews - on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel, and they were hanged in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, just steps away from where the textile firm had offices.
Wahid has gained prominence for his insistence on introducing Muslim nations to certain truths about the Jews. He has called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "liar" for denying the Holocaust. Wahid says moderate Islam stands a greater chance of triumphing over Islamic radicalism once Western leaders stop trying to accommodate Islamic extremists. Saudi Arabia, in particular, remains the primary funding source for the global spread of fundamentalist Islam. (San Francisco Sentinel)
The city of Ashkelon (pop. 110,000) has sadly joined Israel's southern front line as rockets fired from Gaza improve in range and technology. Last week, a rocket hit a shopping mall in town; the dozens of injured were treated at the city's Barzilai Medical Center. When the hospital was built in 1961, nothing indicated that the hill out back was anything special. It turns out that it is a site holy to certain Shiite Muslims, mostly from India and Pakistan, thousands of whom have come to pray there over the years. A prayer area for pilgrims built of marble from India was opened seven or eight years ago. "They are quiet, peaceful people. They come in silence," said Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director of the medical center. "An island of Shiite Muslim prayer in an Israeli hospital in a Jewish state. It really is unique." (Los Angeles Times)
The Golan Heights and the Syrian-Israeli Negotiations - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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