Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


June 10, 2008

To contact the Presidents Conference:
click here

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Assad's Brother-in-Law Attempted Coup (Ynet News)
    Die Welt reports that Syrian military intelligence chief Assaf Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law, attempted to seize power by force in February, but was arrested after Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyah informed Assad of the plot.
    Shawkat was detained along with a hundred other Syrian intelligence officers. Mugniyah was assassinated in Damascus days later.

Poll: 67% of Israelis Oppose Full Withdrawal from Golan Heights (Ynet News)
    According to the latest monthly War and Peace Index published by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, 67% oppose signing any peace treaty which will entail Israel's full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, while only 16% of Israelis support such a move.
    66% said they would like a referendum to be held on the matter.

Iran Building Seven Refineries to End Petrol Imports (Fars News Agency-Iran)
    Iran has launched construction of seven oil refineries in an effort to boost its crude and gas refining capacity and achieve energy self-sufficiency.
    All seven refineries would begin operations by 2012, a senior Iranian official said.
    Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer but lacks sufficient refining capacity and imports large amounts of gasoline which it then sells at a heavily subsidized price, imposing a heavy financial burden on the state.

Syrian Economy Requires a Peace Deal with Israel - Sami Moubayed (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Many Syrians believe a peace deal with Israel would undoubtedly encourage investment in Syria, and end the financial hardships imposed on Syria since relations soured with the U.S. back in 2003.
    State coffers are empty, and the Ministry of Finance lifted the state subsidy on some fuels in May, with the price of fuel rising by a staggering 350%.
    The increase in the price of fuel led to a sharp increase in other prices. Public and private transportation prices increased 61-77%, and some commodities increased in price by 300%.

Iran's Brutal Morality Police Are Growing in Power - Anne Penketh (Independent-UK)
    Zahra Bani Yaghoub was sitting on a park bench chatting to her fiancé when Iranian religious police arrived and arrested the couple.
    The fiancé was released but the body of Ms. Bani Yaghoub, a 27-year-old doctor, was delivered to her family two days later.
    According to Shirin Ebadi, a Tehran-based lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, "Ms. Bani Yaghoub's family believes she was tortured and died as a result. That's my reading, too."
    Under President Ahmadinejad, Iran's feared morality police have been acting with renewed vigor against what they consider to be unIslamic behavior.

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

  • EU, U.S. Ready Crackdown on Iranian Banks
    The EU and the U.S. will warn Iran at a summit in Slovenia on Tuesday that they are ready to go beyond agreed UN sanctions, raising the possibility of a crackdown on Iranian banks. "We will continue to work take steps to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism," said the final draft of the communique to be issued at the meeting. Diplomats said the EU is preparing an asset and funds freeze on Iran's biggest bank, state-owned Bank Melli. (Reuters)
        See also Ahmadinejad Orders Iran's Banks to Move Assets to Beat EU Freeze - Con Coughlin
    The president of Iran has ordered the country's leading banks to transfer billions of dollars of assets from Europe to the Central Bank to prevent them being frozen by international sanctions, according to Western diplomats. The funds are being moved through a secret network of "front" companies set up in Gulf states such as Dubai.
        Washington succeeded in persuading the UN Security Council to monitor the financial dealings of two Iranian banks - Bank Melli and Bank Saderat - as part of the new sanctions imposed against Iran in March. According to reports received by Western diplomats, officials at Bank Melli have been ordered by the Iranian government to smuggle assets held in Europe back to Iran. This follows a surprise raid by German financial investigators last month on Bank Melli in Hamburg. The bank was ordered to freeze its activities until a thorough examination had been carried out.
        Western officials fear most of the bank's assets will have been repatriated to Iran before any ban comes into force. They are particularly concerned at the role of Dutch banks in helping to transfer funds back to Tehran via Dubai. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel Transfers Tax Revenue to Palestinians - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Israeli officials said they have transferred $74 million in delayed tax revenue to the PA, money that will help pay thousands of workers who have not received their May wages, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Monday. Fayyad staffers suspect Israel delayed the transfer deliberately after the prime minister called on the EU to not upgrade relations with Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Proposes Trilateral Talks with Israel, PA - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. has proposed holding trilateral talks with Israel and the Palestinians in order to accelerate negotiations on the core issues and bridge the major gaps that still exist. But both Israel and the PA have expressed reservations about this idea, in light of their commitment to the principle of direct bilateral negotiations. Rice will fly to Israel Saturday night to try to push negotiations forward, and is likely to visit the region again later this month. The Americans have also suggested not holding the meeting in Jerusalem; Europe and Washington are both possible venues.
        Israeli sources said there are still significant differences between the two sides, especially concerning borders, security arrangements and refugees. The sources confirmed that the parties have agreed to begin drafting their respective positions. But "the fact that the parties' positions are being written down does not solve the disputes," said one source. (Ha'aretz)
  • Foreign Worker Hurt as Palestinian Rockets Pound Israel
    Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday fired a barrage of Kassam rockets toward Israel. A foreign worker was hurt by shrapnel. Over the weekend, Palestinians fired 12 mortar shells and four rockets at Israel. One of the rockets on Friday exploded in the parking lot of Sapir College in Sderot, damaging some vehicles. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Caught with Six Pipe Bombs at Nablus Checkpoint - Efrat Weiss
    IDF soldiers manning the Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday apprehended an 18-year-old Palestinian who was carrying six pipe bombs. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Syria Card - Editorial
    The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly been tantalized by the possibility of driving a wedge between Tehran and its chief Arab ally, Syria. The problem is how to move the murderous and corrupt regime of Bashar al-Assad, which hosts Hamas' leadership and is under investigation by the UN for assassinating Lebanese politicians. Sanctions against Syria have been too weak to be effective, and most of the political bribes that might interest Assad would be self-defeating - such as allowing him to restore Syria's political hegemony over Lebanon.
        Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's decision to begin exploratory talks with Syria, using Turkey as an intermediary, was a logical one. What remains unclear is whether either side seeks more than short-term tactical gain from the talks. For Syria, the public announcement of the talks - which it pressed for - eases the isolation that the Bush administration has tried to impose on Assad and distracts attention from his continuing campaign of murder in Lebanon. For now, it's difficult to believe that either side is willing or able to strike a larger bargain.
        In the absence of a convincing demonstration of change in Syria's strategic orientation, most Israelis and their representatives in parliament will strongly oppose giving up the Golan. Assad has become so deeply enmeshed in his alliance with Iran and in criminality in Lebanon that he is almost certainly incapable of such a switch. (Washington Post)
  • Iran and the Problem of Evil - Michael Ledeen
    The world is simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes - from Hizbullah and al-Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahhabis - who swear to destroy us and others like us. More often than not, we downplay the consequences of their words, as if they were intended for internal consumption. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? It is unpleasant to accept the fact that many people are evil, and entire cultures can fall prey to evil leaders and march in lockstep to their commands.
        Old Jew-hating texts like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now in Farsi and Arabic, are proliferating throughout the Middle East. Calls for the destruction of the Jews appear regularly on Iranian, Egyptian, Saudi and Syrian television and are heard in European and American mosques. There is little if any condemnation from the West, and virtually no action against it, suggesting, at a minimum, a familiar Western indifference to the fate of the Jews.
        The nature of Western politics makes it very difficult for national leaders to take timely, prudent measures before war is upon them. But this time, ignorance cannot be claimed as an excuse. If we are defeated, it will be because of failure of will, not lack of understanding, as, indeed, was almost the case with our near-defeat in the 1940s. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (AEI/Wall Street Journal)
  • People vs. Dinosaurs - Thomas L. Friedman
    From outside, Israel looks as if it's in turmoil, but Israel has a strong civil society. The economy is exploding from the bottom up. Israel's currency, the shekel, has appreciated nearly 30% against the dollar since the start of 2007. The reason? Israel is hard-wired to compete in a flat world. It has a business culture that strongly encourages individual imagination and adaptation, where being a nonconformist is the norm. While you were sleeping, Israel has gone from oranges to software. In the first quarter of 2008, the top four economies after America in attracting venture capital for start-ups were: Europe $1.53 billion, China $719 million, Israel $572 million and India $99 million, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Israel, with 7 million people, attracted almost as much as China, with 1.3 billion.
        Because oil prices have gone up to nearly $140 a barrel, Ahmadinejad feels relaxed predicting that Israel will disappear. But Iran's economic and military clout today is largely dependent on extracting oil from the ground. Israel's economic and military power today is entirely dependent on extracting intelligence from its people. Israel's economic power is endlessly renewable. Iran's is a dwindling resource based on fossil fuels made from dead dinosaurs. So who will be here in 20 years? I'll bet on the people who bet on their people - not the people who bet on dead dinosaurs. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Britain Is a Hotbed of Anti-Israeli Sentiment - Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor (Telegraph-UK)

    • Throughout its modern history, Britain has prided itself on its liberal society, which cherishes human rights and values civil liberties. That pride was well-founded when Britain stood alone in Europe facing the dark forces of the Third Reich.
    • Since returning to these shores as Israel's ambassador last November, however, I have been dismayed to find that, as far as Israel is concerned, these values are under threat.
    • Israel faces an intensified campaign of delegitimization, demonization and double standards. Britain has become a hotbed for radical anti-Israeli views and a haven for disingenuous calls for a "one-state solution," a euphemistic name for a movement advocating Israel's destruction.
    • Those who propagate this notion distort Israel's past while categorically denying Israel's right to exist as a liberal Jewish-democratic state. No other country in the world is constantly forced to justify its own existence.
    • The concept of an academic boycott is a ludicrous oxymoron, undermining the democratic principles of free speech and free debate. Academics who are supposedly society's guardians of knowledge, objectivity, and informed debate have seen their union held hostage by radical factions, armed with political agendas and personal interests. British academia has built its reputation on freedom of expression and the pluralistic exchange of ideas. Alarmingly, these values are under threat in an institution that should be safeguarding them.
    • I implore the British public to prevent the radical fringe from monopolizing British-Israeli discourse. It is vital that British values of fair play and even-handedness are brought to the debate. The time has come for the silent majority to speak up and say "yes"; yes to context, yes to democracy, and yes to an understanding of the challenges Israel faces as a democracy under fire.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert

    Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.