Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 30, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Homeland Security Chief: Hizbullah Makes Al-Qaeda Look "Minor League" (FOX News)
    Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, speaking at a terrorism forum in Jerusalem, said Thursday: "Someone described Hizbullah like the 'A-team' of terrorists in terms of capabilities, in terms of range of weapons they have, in terms of internal discipline....To be honest, they make al-Qaeda look like a minor league team."
    See also Chertoff Keen on Israeli Airport Security Technology - Avida Landau (Reuters)
    U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday he will seek to adopt novel Israeli methods, like behavior-detection technologies, to better secure America's airports. "That's a scenario where Israel has a lot of experience," he said.

Israel World's Fourth Largest Defense Exporter (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Yossi Ben-Hannan, chief of export sales at the Defense Ministry, said Thursday that Israeli defense manufacturers have signed overseas sales contracts worth around $10 billion over the past two years, with the U.S. and India as the biggest clients.
    Israel said last year that with $4.3 billion in sales in 2007 it had become the world's fourth largest defense exporter, behind the U.S., Russia and France and ahead of Britain.
    Ben-Hannan said every billion dollars in new contracts creates another 20,000 jobs. Israel exports mostly radar systems, drones and anti-tank missiles.

Bahrain Names Jewish Woman Ambassador (BBC News)
    Bahrain's king has appointed a Jewish woman as the country's envoy to the U.S. Houda Nonoo is believed to be the Arab world's first Jewish ambassador.
    Nonoo, 43, has served as a legislator in Bahrain's 40-member Shura Council for three years and is head of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch. Her family moved to Bahrain from Iraq over a century ago.

A Mall Party for Israel's 60th - Rachel Beckman (Washington Post)
    "Israel @ 60: A Capital Celebration" will be held Sunday, noon-5 p.m. on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
    The free event will feature singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, the Israeli rock band Mashina, and actor Mandy Patinkin as emcee. Event-goers can also expect folk-dance workshops, cooking demonstrations, crafts for children and kosher food for sale.

Official Israel 60 Lapel Pins, Baseball Caps, and T-Shirts (

Jerusalem Day: Monday, June 2 (IMRA/Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies)
    Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, is on Monday, June 2.
    The population of Jerusalem at the end of 2007 reached 746,300 - of whom 489,480 (66%) were Jews and others, and 256,820 (34%) were Arabs.
    In 2007 the birth rate among the Jewish population stood at 25.8 per 1,000 and 30.5 among the Arab population.
    The fertility rate in Jerusalem (births per woman) has been decreasing among the Arab population (from 4.3 in 2000 to 4.0 in 2006) and increasing among the Jewish population (from 3.7 in 2000 to 3.9 in 2006).

Britain's Respect Party: The Leftist-Islamist Alliance and Its Attitude toward Israel - Eran Benedek (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    The Respect Party has introduced a fresh example of sectarianism and communalist politics into mainstream British politics.
    Respect comprises a coalition of the Socialist Workers Party and elements associated with the Muslim Association of Britain, along with antiglobalization activists and antiwar protesters.
    Its ideology is thus an amalgamation of radical international socialism and Islamism and offers a basis for cooperation around a shared agenda.
    Although Respect preaches peace and social justice, it is intensely anti-Zionist and rejects the right to independent Jewish statehood in Israel.
    Respect's rapid electoral ascent suggests that it has the capacity to persist, at least in the medium term. The writer is a research analyst at the Community Security Trust.

Israel Economy Grows by 5.4% in Q1 (Reuters)
    Israel's economy is showing little sign of slowing despite a global downturn, growing at an annualized rate of 5.4% in the first quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday.
    The economy grew at a 5.8% rate in the fourth quarter and 5.3% for all of 2007.

    See also Unemployment Hits 13-Year Low - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's unemployment rate hit a 13-year low in the first quarter of 2008, and now stands at 6.3%.
    The number of jobless fell below 190,000 for the first time in many years (to 184,600), and 155,000 people have joined the workforce since the first quarter of 2007, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Matchmaking Via Birthright - Francesca Segre (New York Times)
    Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that sends young American Jews on 10-day trips to Israel, treats couples who meet on the trip and then marry to a honeymoon at his Caribbean villa.
    At least 30 couples have taken Steinhardt up on his offer.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA "Alarmed" by Iran's Nuclear Weapons Work
    Inspectors from the UN atomic watchdog are "alarmed" that Iran has in its possession a document describing the process for making what could be the core of a nuclear weapon, a Western diplomat said Thursday. The 15-page document describes the process of machining uranium metal into two hemispheres of the kind used in nuclear warheads.
        At a closed-door meeting with diplomats, the International Atomic Energy Agency's chief for inspections, Olli Heinonen, revealed that the agency had gathered intelligence from around ten countries suggesting Iran was engaged in weaponization studies in the past. "The term he used for this document was 'alarming.' He essentially said there was no reason why a country would need to possess such a document unless they wanted to produce uranium hemispheres for a nuclear weapon," the diplomat said. (AFP)
  • Iran in Secret Talks with Al-Qaeda, U.S. Officials Say - Jonathan Karl
    Senior U.S. officials say that in recent months there have been secret contacts between the Iranian government and the leadership of al-Qaeda. The contacts are on the status of high-level al-Qaeda operatives who have been under house arrest in Iran since 2003. Intelligence analysts say the group in Iran includes al-Qaeda's management council, or "shura," and numbers about two dozen militants, including Egyptian Saif al-Adel, al-Qaeda spokesman Suliman abu Ghaith and some of bin Laden's relatives, including two of his sons, Saad and Hamza. Adel is on the FBI list of Most Wanted Terrorists and is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The State Department has put a $5 million bounty on his head.
        U.S. officials say one reason they have not raised the issue of turning these al-Qaeda figures over to their native countries for interrogation and trial more publicly is that they believe Iran has largely kept them under control since 2003. "It's been a status quo that leaves these people, some of whom are quite important, essentially on ice," said a U.S. official. One senior U.S. official said, "al-Qaeda [is] very much interested in trying to get these guys released and back in the fold...with Iran playing strategic games knowing that al-Qaeda is ultimately their enemy." (ABC News)
  • U.S. Cites Big Gains Against Al-Qaeda - Joby Warrick
    CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, in an interview this week, portrayed al-Qaeda as essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world, including in its presumed haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda's allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group's core leadership. While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents.
        Ticking down a list of accomplishments, he said: "Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally - and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' - as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam." (Washington Post)
        See also The Unraveling: The Jihadist Revolt Against Bin Laden - Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank (New Republic)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Syrian Source: Israel Did Not Ask Us to Sever Ties with Iran - Roee Nahmias
    Israel did not ask Syria to sever its ties with Iran, the London-based Asharq Alawsat reported Friday, quoting a Syrian source involved in the indirect Syrian-Israeli negotiations. The source said that "serious progress has been made in the talks," adding that both sides were on the verge of launching direct talks. According to the source, the next round of talks is expected to deal with "the fundamental issues" and that the regional issues, including ties between Syria and Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, were postponed to future talks. (Ynet News)
  • Lebanese Terrorist in Possible Prisoner Swap Vows to Return to Jihad - Roni Shaked
    Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, whom Israel has agreed to free as part of a possible prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah, has vowed to continue engaging in terror after his release. Kuntar, jailed 29 years ago after murdering Haran family members and a police officer during a terror attack on Nahariya, made the promise in a letter to Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. (Ynet News)
        See also Samir Kuntar's Bloody Deeds - Adam Kredo
    A member of the Palestine Liberation Front, Samir Kuntar and four others sailed under cover of night from south Lebanon to Nahariya on April 22, 1979. The group murdered police officer Eliahu Shahar after he stumbled upon the gang. The men then entered an apartment building and broke into the Haran family's apartment, taking them hostage. Kuntar shot Danny Haran at close range and threw his body into the sea to make sure he died. He then bashed four-year-old Einat Haran's head on rocks and with the butt of his rifle, killing her instantly.
        Haran's wife, Smadar, hid with her two-year-old daughter Yael in a crawl space above the couple's bedroom. Smadar tried to muffle the girl's cries, and accidentally smothered her. In a 2003 article in the Washington Post, she recalled: "I will never forget the joy and the hatred in [the terrorists'] voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades....As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. 'This is just like what happened to my mother,' I thought." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands near Negev Synagogue Thursday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets at Israel Thursday. One rocket landed dangerously close to a synagogue in a kibbutz, damaging the building. "This was a very close call; we could have had many casualties," one of the community's residents said. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Slams into Israel Home Thursday
    A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the Sha'ar Hanegev region Thursday afternoon, damaging an exterior wall. Also Thursday, two young Sderot girls, aged three and nine, were lightly injured when they fell as they ran to find shelter during a rocket attack. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Mortars Strike Ashkelon Beach Friday
    Two mortar shells fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the Ashkelon Beach region on Friday morning. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Tractors in Gaza Border Communities to be Fortified - Hanan Greenberg
    The Defense and Agriculture Ministries decided Thursday to fortify tractors in Gaza-vicinity communities due to escalating Palestinian sniper attacks on farming areas in southern Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Negotiations with Syria: An Empty Package - Jonathan Spyer
    The revelation of negotiations with Syria last week came wrapped in the packaging of a diplomatic breakthrough. But it was nothing of the kind. The reason why the current negotiations are almost certain to lead nowhere relates to the Syrian regime, and to its perception of its own interests. Syria should not be expected to break with Iran, for the following, central reason: The Iranians and their friends are winning. In all the areas in which it is engaged in its long war with the West, Iran is gaining ground. Hamas, hosted by Syria and increasingly sponsored and trained by Iran, is holding on in Gaza. More fundamentally, the rise of Hizbullah to the status of arbiter of power in Lebanon represents a very significant and clear gain for the Iran-led bloc.
        If Syria were to depart the Iran-led bloc, its place in all of this would evaporate: no more blocking of the Hariri tribunal, because there would be no more backing of Hizbullah. No return to Lebanon - with its many economic opportunities - because its new American friends will want to respect Lebanese sovereignty. No more influence over the Palestinians through the support of Hamas. Instead, the Assad regime would gain the basalt plateau of the Golan Heights - the absence of which causes it no tangible discomfort - and would in return become a vulnerable, minority-led dictatorship with no immediately obvious justification for its own existence. Peace will become a possibility in the region only when the pro-Iranian alliance is challenged and faced down. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Golan Isn't Going - Marty Peretz
    After World War II, the allies allocated to themselves (and their allies) territories from which Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy had aggressed against the rest of Europe. These are the costs paid by the bellicose and the belligerent. Japan paid a similar price, too. What is the rationale for the Arab countries being rewarded for their diversion of water supplies, tank crossing of borders, sending artillery and terrorists through otherwise quiet frontiers? (New Republic)


  • Iran Must Not Get the Bomb - Editorial
    A new UN report cites "serious" concerns about "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear programs. The IAEA found "substantial parts of the centrifuge components were manufactured in the workshops of the Defense Industries Organization." It also describes evidence of detonators, testing systems, and missile configuration that can only go with a nuclear weapon. So much for last year's estimate by U.S. spy agencies that Iran suspended its weapons program in 2003. In 2006, the West offered Iran a generous and face-saving way to obtain nuclear energy if it ended its weaponization drive. Iran's rejection of that offer has only helped forge world opinion against it, bringing on tougher sanctions and widening splits between its hard-line and moderate conservatives. The U.S. presidential candidates should be demanding that the UN tighten the sanctions now. That might save the next president from taking tougher action later. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • High Noon in the Middle East - Joschka Fischer
    A hitherto latent rivalry between Iran and Israel has been transformed into an open struggle for dominance in the Middle East. The result has been the emergence of some surprising, if not bizarre, alliances: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and the American-backed, Shia-dominated Iraq are facing Israel, Saudi Arabia and most of the other Sunni Arab states, all of which feel existentially threatened by Iran's ascendance. The danger of a major confrontation has been further heightened by: persistent high oil prices, which have created new financial and political opportunities for Iran; the defeat of the West and its regional allies in proxy wars in Gaza and Lebanon; and the UN Security Council's failure to induce Iran to accept even a temporary freeze of its nuclear program.
        Iran's nuclear program is the decisive factor in this equation, for it threatens irreversibly the region's strategic balance. That Iran - a country whose president never tires of calling for Israel's annihilation and which threatens Israel's northern and southern borders through its massive support of proxy wars waged by Hizbullah and Hamas - might one day have missiles with nuclear warheads is Israel's worst security nightmare. The writer was Germany's foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005. (Ha'aretz)
  • The World Must Ratchet Up Its Efforts to Stop Iran from Enriching Uranium
    If there was an easier way to end Iran's nuclear defiance, Britain, France, Germany, America, Russia and China would have hit on it by now. Diplomacy through the UN is jammed; force is both unpalatable and unlikely to finish the job. The last UN sanctions resolution, just after the NIE was published, pulled all its punches. The next one needs to be tough enough to make Iran sit up and blink. (Economist-UK)

    Other Issues

  • An Al-Qaeda Mastermind Questions Terrorism - Lawrence Wright
    Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, known to those in the underground mainly as Dr. Fadl, was the former leader of the Egyptian terrorist group Al Jihad and one of the first members of al-Qaeda's top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; al-Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting al-Qaeda's violence.
        Fadl repeatedly emphasizes that it is forbidden to kill civilians - including Christians and Jews - unless they are actively attacking Muslims. "There is nothing in the Sharia about killing Jews and the Nazarenes, referred to by some as the Crusaders," Fadl observes. "They are the neighbors of the Muslims...and being kind to one's neighbors is a religious duty." Indiscriminate bombing - "such as blowing up of hotels, buildings, and public transportation" - is not permitted, because innocents will surely die. (New Yorker)
  • Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Leader Praises Bin Laden - Tariq Alhomayed
    Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the supreme guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, praised the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, whom he considered to be a faithful mujahid (resistance fighter). The praise extolled by the Muslim Brotherhood's guide for Bin Laden can only be described as a crime. Is it conceivable for anyone to defend the leader of al-Qaeda after the crimes he and his terrorist organization have committed and are still committing in Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, Europe, America, and other states around the world? The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Alawsat. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Europe and Israel: Worlds Apart? - Robin Shepherd
    Traditionalist hostility to Israel may in part be motivated by a residual anti-Semitism of the "I wouldn't want Jews in my club" variety. But it is also linked to a rejection of those forces - America generally and Israel in the Middle East in particular - that are seen to have upset the kind of old world certainties which are constitutive of the traditionalists' sense of nostalgia. The quasi-feudalistic, traditionalist character of much of the Arab world resonates with old right values in a way that "upstart" Israel never could.
        There is certainly a sense in which anti-Israelism unites people and ideological viewpoints which feel that they have lost out in the modern world. This may yet include the supranationalists of the EU and their deeply held belief that nationalism is an anachronism. For all across the old continent, the evidence in recent years has been pointing to a revival rather than a diminishing of national (and nationalist) loyalties. The writer is Senior Research Fellow for Europe at Chatham House in London. (Z Word-American Jewish Committee)
  • All the Lies that Are Fit to Print - David Warren
    Watching television over the last eight years, you will have seen the clip, probably many times, of a Palestinian man and boy cowering by a wall. Then suddenly the boy is shown dead in his father's arms. The voice-over explains that he was picked off by an Israeli marksman. In most Muslim countries it continues to be shown, endlessly. Hundreds of schools throughout that world have been named after the child, Muhammad al-Dura, and the Arab League declared Oct. 1 to be "Al-Dura Day."
        The film was shot by a Palestinian cameraman. Charles Enderlin, the French news correspondent who provided the voice-over, was not in Gaza at the time. When a formal Israeli investigation showed that it had not been physically possible for any Israeli soldier to have shot the boy, it was hardly reported. Several independent investigations confirming the Israeli finding were similarly ignored. (Ottawa Citizen)
        See also Palestinian Industry of Lies - Danny Seaman
    The al-Dura affair is the most conspicuous and blatant of the phenomenon of media manipulation undertaken by Palestinian workers employed by international media outlets. These employees stage, produce, and edit events and photos in a bid to slander Israel in the world. Media manipulation has turned into a strategic Arab weapon used against the State of Israel as an equalizer vis-a-vis Israel's military advantages.
        Often we see reports about some kind of harm done to the Palestinians by Israel that immediately make headlines worldwide. In many cases, the charges turn out to be false, yet the damage to Israel is already done. This stems from the fact that foreign networks do not do the minimum they should be doing - verifying sources and crosschecking information. After all, they always attribute reports to Palestinian reporters and always find "credible" sources that would confirm the charges. This may be forgiven the first and possibly second time. Yet once these revelations emerge time and again, we could expect foreign media outlets to be stricter and exhibit proper professional conduct before again leveling false charges at the State of Israel. Israel must insist on adherence to journalistic ethics and accurate reporting. The writer is director of the Israel Government Press Office. (Ynet News)
  • Book Review - The Foundation of Democracy: Sharansky's Defending Identity - Ira Stoll
    In a new book, Defending Identity, Natan Sharansky - who spent nine years in Soviet prisons before moving to Israel and eventually becoming deputy premier - writes: "Far from being the hostile enemy of democracy, identity is in fact necessary to sustain it." Although identity can be "used destructively," it is also "a crucial force for good." Strong identities, he says, "are as valuable to a well-functioning society as they are to secure and committed well-functioning individuals. Just as the advance of democracy is critical to securing international peace and stability, so too is cultivating strong identities."
        The most compelling proof in Sharansky's account is his own life story. "Identity gave me the strength to become free," he writes. "When Jews abandon identity in the pursuit of universal freedom, they end up with neither. Yet when they embrace identity in the name of freedom, as Soviet Jews did in the 1970s, they end up securing both." (New York Sun)
  • Israel at Sixty: Asymmetry, Vulnerability, and the Search for Security - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Sixty years ago few observers gave Israel much chance of survival. The small Jewish society faced a huge asymmetry in power, demography, and other factors. This asymmetry has not changed, but Israel has survived through the combination of intense motivation to restore national sovereignty - an equal place among the nations - and finding the necessary strategies and tactics, adapted in each period to changing threats.
        Israel's unique situation - a small and vulnerable country surrounded by many large and hostile neighbors - led to its ambiguous nuclear deterrent policy that has been in place since the 1960s, and can be expected to continue as long as rejection of Israel's legitimacy and threats to national survival continue. Israel can look back on sixty years of warfare and terrorism with the knowledge that these threats have been overcome. Although this is not the peace and stability that Israel seeks, the Jewish state has survived to take its place as an equal member among the other nations of the world. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Cutting Out the Middleman - Shlomo Avineri (Ha'aretz)

    • The Israel-Syria negotiations were not initiated by the U.S. and so far, Washington has played no part in them. There are even some who have discerned a certain sourness in the American reaction to reports of talks in Ankara.
    • For decades, the U.S. has been trying to broker an agreement between Israel and Arab states, but not a single one of these initiatives has led to an Israeli-Arab deal. All the peace agreements that have been reached so far began as an initiative of the parties themselves, and the truly significant negotiations were not conducted via the U.S.
    • Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem took place without American knowledge or involvement. Negotiations between Israel and the PLO, which led to the Oslo Accords, were conducted covertly and without American knowledge. Even the agreement between Israel and Jordan was reached in talks between the two sides - to which the U.S. was not a party.
    • Ultimately, it was the political will and considerations, the initiative and resourcefulness of local leaders that set the stage for negotiations, and which made them both possible and successful. America is important, but ultimately, local interests prevail - and that's to the good.

      The writer is professor emeritus at Hebrew University and former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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