Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 28, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria: U.S. Sanctions Crippling Aviation Growth (AFP/Zawya-Dubai)
    U.S. sanctions on Syria have crippled the development of Syrian Arab Airlines, the national carrier, Transport Minister Yaarob Badr said on Tuesday.
    Syria cannot place orders for new planes "because of the U.S. sanctions" which Washington imposed in 2004.
    Earlier this month, President George W. Bush said he was extending the sanctions by one year after Washington accused Damascus of building a nuclear reactor with North Korea's help.

"Durban II" UN Racism Conference to Be Held in Geneva - Betsy Pisik (Washington Times)
    The UN Monday moved the venue of its second anti-racism conference from Durban, South Africa, to its European headquarters in Geneva in an attempt to dampen the raucous anti-Israel public expressions that marred the 2001 conference.

British Nuclear Submarine Damaged in Red Sea Crash (Telegraph-UK)
    HMS Superb, a British nuclear-powered attack submarine with a crew of 112, damaged its sonar equipment when it collided with rocks in the Red Sea, forcing it to surface 80 miles south of Suez after having passed through the Suez Canal.

Study Finds Strong Jewish and Arab Consensus for Peaceful Coexistence in Israel - Todd L. Pittinsky, Jennifer J. Ratcliff, and Laura A. Maruskin (IMRA/Harvard Kennedy School)
    A study on "Coexistence in Israel" by the Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership, released on May 15, finds strong support for coexistence among a majority of Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.
    73% of Jews and 94% of Arabs want Israel to be a society in which Arab and Jewish citizens have mutual respect and equal opportunities.
    68% of Jews support teaching conversational Arabic in Jewish schools.
    77% of Arab citizens would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world.

Kabbalah-Inspired Fashion Reaches Saudi Youth - Iman al Khaddaf (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    Today it is common to see large numbers of young Saudi men sporting a piece of red string around their wrists.
    However, the wearing of the red string is practiced by followers of the Kabbalah, a school of thought that focuses on the mystical aspects of Judaism, prompting concern among some Saudi experts who are against what they consider a form of "cultural invasion."

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

  • Assad Dismisses Israeli Demand on Iran - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday dismissed Israeli demands that Syria abandon an alliance with Iran as a requirement for a peace deal. Israeli officials have repeatedly said a peace agreement depends on Syria distancing itself from Iran and severing ties with Hizbullah and Hamas, which are supported by Iran. (Reuters)
        See also Syria to Increase Military Cooperation with Iran - Dudi Cohen
    Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani said on Tuesday that his country was prepared to increase its military cooperation with Iran. "Iran and Syria share the same viewpoint regarding regional issues and efforts will be made to strengthen our shared interests and bilateral relations," said Turkmani, who was dispatched to Tehran to reassure the Iranian leadership following the resumption of negotiations with Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Governments in Gaza, West Bank Faulted for Rights Violations - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    The rival Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza are increasingly violating human rights in their territories in a quest for control. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights said Tuesday it received more than 2,000 complaints in 2007, double the number from the previous year. The head of the group, Mamdouh al-Aker, said both Palestinian governments are increasingly arresting people on political grounds, raiding homes without warrants, mistreating detainees and restricting freedom of expression. (AP)
  • Germany: Need to Pressure Iran on Nuclear Issue - Kerstin Gehmlich
    The UN nuclear watchdog's report on Iran this week showed the international community must push for a faster response from Tehran over its nuclear program, Germany said on Tuesday. "Open questions remain, where we have to push for an answer with more time pressure," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told members of NATO's parliamentary assembly meeting in Berlin. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Iran Continuing Its Deception over Nuclear Program
    "Iran is continuing with its deceptive and evasive tactics," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said following release of a fresh IAEA report on Iran's nuclear activity. "The report expresses Iran's continued breach of the UN Security Council's resolutions and stresses the military aspects of its nuclear activity." "Israel calls once again on members of the international community to step up their pressure on Iran so that it will abandon its threatening program to obtain nuclear arms." According to the IAEA report, Iran is refusing to cooperate with nuclear inspectors. (Ynet News)
        See also The IAEA Report: Implementation of the Safeguards Agreement and Security Council Resolutions in Iran (pdf) (IAEA)
  • New PA Battalion to Deploy in West Bank - Yaakov Katz
    A battalion of some 600 Palestinian soldiers will return to the West Bank on Wednesday for possible deployment in Tulkarm or Kalkilya after completing training in Jordan. Until a final decision is made, the PA soldiers will be in Jericho. On Sunday, a third Palestinian battalion is slated to travel to Jordan for training conducted by American contractors under the supervision of U.S. security coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.
        On Tuesday, the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and head of the Judea and Samaria Division Brig.-Gen. Noam Tibon met with PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein a-Sheikh in Ramallah. The IDF officers urged that the PA battalion in Jenin take more action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The officials said that while the battalion was doing an effective job at enforcing the law and closing down Hamas charities, it had yet to begin actually confronting the terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Netivot
    A Palestinian rocket, likely a Grad, fired by terrorists from Gaza landed near the western Negev town of Netivot on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Trusting Syria on the Golan Heights - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Few in Israel believe that the regime of Bashar Assad will honor an agreement. No Arab state has consistently shown greater hostility to Israel than Syria. The Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas is headquartered in Damascus; Syria is Iran's leading Arab ally. The Golan poses no moral or demographic dilemmas. There is no occupation of another people: the area is populated by barely 20,000 Druze, and an equal number of Jews. Israelis sense that, for the sake of quiet if not formal peace, it is far better to have their soldiers overlooking Syria than for Syrian soldiers to be once again looking down on the Galilee. The writer is a senior fellow of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Jimmy Carter and Nuclear Exposure - Reuven Pedatzur
    Jimmy Carter chose a book fair in Wales to reveal that Israel has 150 nuclear bombs. The former American president, upon entering the White House, adopted the policy of covert American nuclear cooperation with Israel, which was formulated four decades ago. The principles were agreed upon in 1969, when Prime Minister Golda Meir met with U.S. President Richard Nixon in Washington. The U.S. officially accepted Israel's status as a nuclear power, while agreeing not to publicly reveal details about its weapons. Israel committed not to carry out nuclear testing or declare that it has nuclear weapons. For their part, the Americans promised not to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
        Every American president since, and every senior administration official who knew the details of the Israeli nuclear program, kept silent and effectively adopted Israel's official policy: that it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.
        Iran will make use of Carter's comments to point to the double standard of the Western world, which is prepared to accept a nuclear Israel but makes a great effort to prevent Iran from going nuclear. However, the more important ramification is the reinforcement of Israel's deterrent image. In the future, if Iran does acquire nuclear weapons, this image will be of critical importance in the process of developing mutual deterrence. (Ha'aretz)
  • How the Arabs Failed in Bethlehem - Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
    At a conference in Bethlehem last week, the Palestinian Authority failed to attract the interest of Arab governments and major economic establishments to help it develop its economy. Most of those who came and most of the projects offered came from the Westerners whom we accuse of favoring Israel. The Arab side packaged the aid promised in the past and called them real estate projects. But what is the value of housing the Palestinians without an active economy? (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
        See also The West Bank Rises - Ephraim Sneh
    I attended the Palestinian Investors Convention with over 1,200 business people from the West Bank, Gaza and the Gulf states. On Thursday, the foreign investment deals that were signed passed the $1 billion mark. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad initiated the successful convention, which served as a non-violent show of force against Hamas. The West Bank is becoming a place in which investors are prepared to conduct business. Security forces that were deployed in Jenin and Nablus reached Bethlehem to secure the convention. The writer is a former deputy defense minister. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    The U.S.-Israel-Egypt Trilateral Relationship: Shoring Up the Foundation of Regional Peace - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Egypt is in the process of leadership transition in which the fate of the Egypt-Israel relationship may be up for grabs. The U.S. has a strong interest in an outcome with a new leadership in Egypt that sees peace with Israel and partnership with America as a cornerstone of its national interest.
    • Egypt and Israel definitely have common interests. Neither side favors a Hamas government in Gaza. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly said recently, "The situation that has developed in the Gaza Strip in recent months has led to Egypt in practice having a border with Iran." Both Egypt and Israel oppose not only Iranian support for the Hamas-backed government in Gaza, but also oppose Iranian support for Hizbullah in Lebanon and Iran's effort to develop a nuclear program. A strong Iran hurts Egypt and is an existential threat to Israel.
    • The most pressing issue is contention over whether Egypt is being sufficiently pro-active in sealing its side of the border and halting the weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza. If Egypt wants a cease-fire to last, it must do better in halting the smuggling. Failure to address the smuggling issue not only will lead to a major Israeli incursion but will also put pressure on the parties to freeze the Annapolis talks.
    • Israel views the lack of Egyptian action more as a result of deliberate policy and not as a lack of capacity. The Israelis do not believe the smuggling of rockets is the work of rogue elements in the Egyptian security services who are paid by local smugglers to turn a blind eye. Israel has provided Egypt with the names of 250 smugglers and asked that they be arrested, but knows of none that have been. Israel rejects the view that the problem is insufficient Egyptian troop levels along the Sinai-Egyptian border.

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