Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


May 26, 2008

To contact the Presidents Conference:
click here

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Has Rockets that Can Strike Ashdod and Kiryat Gat - Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas has rockets capable of striking Ashdod and Kiryat Gat, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Sunday. "It is only a matter of time" before these long-range rockets are used.
    Diskin also warned that "the chances of a calm with Hamas are very slim."
    Diskin stressed that as long as the Philadelphi Route along the border between Gaza and Egypt is not totally blocked, the range of the rockets smuggled into Gaza will only increase.
    "We have identified Iranian efforts to transfer more sophisticated rockets to Gaza," he said.
    Diskin expressed his opposition to a proposed truce with Hamas in Gaza. He said if Hamas is given time to strengthen its capabilities, any future military operation in Gaza will claim more Israeli casualties.

Hizbullah Employs Shock and Awe in Beirut - Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times)
    Whenever I've asked Hizbullah officials whether they are armed or trained by Iran, they say they actually think the Iranians are not that good at war. They boast that they train the Iranians.
    In its takeover of West Beirut earlier this month, Hizbullah employed the tactic of "shock and awe," using tremendous and disproportionate firepower to quickly subdue the enemy.
    Hizbullah quickly went after its enemy's media outlets, snipping key cables at Hariri's television station to keep it off the air for at least a few days.
    But the conflict also revealed Hizbullah's limits. Going after the more hardened and more motivated fighters in the Druze mountain villages proved a disaster, and Hizbullah lost a dozen fighters without gaining any territory.

Israel Sends Second Batch of Quake Relief Materials to China (Xinhua-China)
    An Israeli cargo plane carrying relief materials left the country on Sunday, heading for the quake-hit Sichuan Province in southwest China.
    The second batch of Israel-donated aid, worth $1.5 million, includes tents, blankets, water-purification devices and other materials. It follows the first batch delivered last week.

Egyptian-Born Jews Cancel Trip to Egypt Amid Media Frenzy (AP/Ha'aretz)
    A group of elderly Egyptian-born Jews was forced to cancel a visit to Egypt following a local media storm over their trip, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo said Sunday.
    The Egyptian press claimed the visit was part of a demand to return properties once owned by Jews in Egypt, a charge denied by the group.
    "The average age of these people was between 70 and 80, not all of them in good health," said Dr. Gabriel Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo. "Before they die, they just wanted to come see Egypt, to see the synagogues, to see maybe the tombs of their fathers and then go back."

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Serious about Peace with Syria - Ron Bousso
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that indirect peace talks with Syria, a process begun more than a year ago and confirmed this week, will be conducted seriously and in secrecy. "I can say we are taking these negotiations seriously. There has been, and will be, very precise and detailed preparations, which are appropriate for the expectations we have of these negotiations, given the current reality," he told the cabinet. Both Israel and Syria confirmed on Wednesday they have launched indirect peace talks, with Turkey acting as mediator, after an eight-year freeze. (AFP/Yahoo)
        See also Barak: Peace Not a Priority for Damascus - Herb Keinon
    Peace with Israel is not one of the top four items on President Bashar Assad's to-do list, but is still something Israel should pursue, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "The Syrians have a different agenda than Israel." Barak said Assad's first priority is the survival of his regime. His second priority is getting the international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri canceled. Third is securing a "special status" for Syria in Lebanon, followed by getting into the good graces of the U.S. and the West. Only after all those interests does the Golan Heights enter Assad's list of priorities.
        Barak said Israel has an interest in seeing whether it was possible to pull Syria out of the circle of implacably hostile countries. It was necessary to realize, however, that these talks would continue for quite some time, and that such negotiations were more complicated now than in the past because of Syria's deep involvement with Iran and Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Lebanese Parliament Elects Army Chief as President - Sam F. Ghattas
    Lebanon's parliament elected a new president Sunday, army chief Michel Suleiman. Political bickering had prevented parliament from electing a president 19 times, leaving the country without a president since Emile Lahoud left office in November. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Lebanon President Praises Hizbullah's Fight Against Israel
    Gen. Michel Suleiman, 59, speaking after being elected president of Lebanon Sunday, praised Hizbullah's fight against Israel. He also said he would seek friendly relations with Syria, Lebanon's former powerbroker which backs the opposition. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Hizbullah Awaits the Next Round in Lebanon - Kevin Peraino
    Even as Hizbullah leaders cut a deal to remove their troops from Beirut's streets last week, its commanders were expanding their network of intelligence collection. Starting a year ago, Hizbullah operatives began meticulously surveilling Sunni security guards with close ties to Saad Hariri's Future Movement. By the time fighting erupted in Beirut two weeks ago, the operatives had compiled a comprehensive list of names and phone numbers that were used to intimidate Sunnis during the fighting. (Newsweek)
        See also Hizbullah Image in Arab World Less Shiny - Raed Rafei
    Hizbullah's offensive against mostly Sunni Muslim political rivals in Lebanon has sullied its image in the Arab world as an armed force engaged in a righteous struggle against Israel. But interviews with analysts and Arab news media accounts suggest that the Shiite Muslim group still came out ahead. It won major concessions from the Lebanese government after its assault and largely retained its popularity despite turning its weapons against fellow Muslims. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Gaza Sewage Crisis Threatens Israel's Shores - Robert W. Gee
    An expanding sewage crisis in Gaza threatens Israel's shores. Israel claims that Gaza receives ample fuel for humanitarian needs, including the operation of sewage treatment plants, but that Hamas hordes fuel for its own use. As a result, Palestinian sewage treatment facilities are dumping raw and semi-treated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, where the current takes it north. The director of the Ashkelon Desalination Plant, which is 3 miles north of Gaza and produces 13 percent of Israel's domestic consumer demand, confirmed that seawater processed by the plant is polluted by sewage from Gaza. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sarkozy Tells Israel French Talks with Hamas a "Blunder" - Roni Sofer
    "The meeting between the French envoy and representatives from Hamas was a blunder," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during their meeting in Paris on Sunday. "France will not hold any talks with Hamas," Sarkozy said. Last week the French foreign minister confirmed a report that a retired ambassador had met senior Hamas officials a month ago. France assumes the presidency of the EU on July 1. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas "Very Disturbed" over Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas leaders in Syria were "extremely disturbed" when they heard about the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, Hamas representatives in Gaza said over the weekend. "Hamas is unhappy with the latest developments on the Israeli-Syrian track," said a Hamas official. He said Hamas leaders were convinced that they and leaders of other radical Palestinian factions in Damascus would be the first to pay the price for a peace treaty between Israel and Syria.
        Khaled Mashaal, who is currently visiting Tehran, reportedly discussed the possibility of moving the Hamas leadership from Damascus to Tehran. Sources close to Iranian President Ahmadinejad said he did not hide his discontent and shock when he learned about the negotiations. The London-based Asharq Alawsat reported that Ahmadinejad accused Syria of "violating the mutual commitments between Damascus and Tehran." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Can Syria Break its Iranian Bear Hug? - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Iran's official response to the news of indirect talks between Syria and Israel suggests that Tehran was not in the loop. However, it is not readily obvious that Syria will rush to break ties with Iran, certainly not in the first stage of talks with Israel. The new rules of the game in Lebanon have granted Hizbullah de facto control over the country. Retaining Syrian influence in Lebanon is more important to Assad than regaining the Golan Heights. That is very hard to do without Iran and Hizbullah. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Syria Reassures Iran - Dudi Cohen
    Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani arrived in Tehran on Saturday as part of Damascus' bid to reassure its Iranian ally after resuming peace negotiations with Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rockets Target Netivot - Shmulik Hadad
    Four Palestinian rockets landed in Israel on Saturday. Throughout the day barrages of mortar shells were fired from Gaza, most towards IDF forces operating along the border fence. Two of the rockets were longer-range Grads. One landed near the marketplace in Netivot and the other near Ma'agalim. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Missing Palestinian Moderates - Clifford D. May
    The need for balance between Israel and the Palestinians has become conventional wisdom. The problem with it: If my goal is to kill your two children and your goal is to keep them alive, a balanced position - one midway between the two - would endorse the murder of one of your kids. Such balance is relentlessly on view in the mainstream media. To commemorate Israel's 60th year of independence, the Washington Post ran a Page One feature on two men, one Israeli, one Palestinian, both born 60 years ago "into a land at war." The story neglects to mention how that war began: The UN passed a resolution that established Israel and called for an Arab state as well. Jewish leaders agreed. Had Arab leaders done likewise, Palestinians also would be celebrating 60 years of statehood - and there would have been no war and no refugees. The writer is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • The Syrian Talks Aren't Serious - Barry Rubin
    There isn't going to be a Syrian-Israeli deal. Both sides know it, yet have good reason to be seen talking. If Syria is ready to move away from Iran, stop backing terrorist groups, be ready to make full peace with Israel and meet other conditions (limiting forces in the Golan Heights, early warning stations, etc.), the talks can advance. When this doesn't happen, the talks will either collapse or enter a long slow-motion process. The idea that Syria wants real peace, will recognize Israel, move away from Iran, abandon Hamas or Hizbullah, and cease terrorist meddling in Iraq is the purest nonsense. All these steps are against the regime's vital interests. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at IDC Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    How to Have Successful Negotiations - Dennis Ross (Wall Street Journal)

    • As a longtime negotiator involved with the Middle East, some may say that I have a natural bias for talking. That does not mean, however, that we should talk in any and all circumstances. At a minimum, we need to draw a basic distinction between states and nonstate actors.
    • Nation states typically have a certain standing on the world stage. When we choose not to talk to them, we are not eroding their legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. Instead, we tend to make our unwillingness to talk the issue. We should want their egregious behaviors to be the focal point internationally, not our rejection of negotiations.
    • For nonstate actors like Hamas and Hizbullah, the circumstances are different. They don't have standing internationally. They seek legitimacy on the world stage to prove the "inevitability" of their agenda and their goals. If achieving legitimacy is so important to them, then it is essential that they not get something for nothing. They should be required to meet certain conditions before we negotiate with them.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert