Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hizbullah Poised to Strike? - Richard Esposito and Brian Ross (ABC News)
Abbas Downsizing PA Security Forces - Adam Entous (Reuters)
Succession at the House of Saud: The Men Who Would be King - Anne Penketh (Independent-UK)
Exploiting Anne Frank - Alvin H. Rosenfeld (Weekly Standard)
Seven Years of Palestinian Rockets from Gaza - Abe Selig (Jerusalem Post)
Silicon Wadi Reaches Out from Israel (National Post-Canada)
Bank of Israel Forecasts 4.2% Growth in 2008 - Sharon Wrobel
Programming for Peace: Israeli Hi-Tech Companies Outsource to West Bank - Guy Grimland (TheMarker-Ha'aretz)
Tourism to Israel Breaks All-Time Record in May
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
In an interview with France's Le Monde published Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "This cease-fire, we don't know how long it can hold, two days or two months. Historically we have been on a collision course with Hamas. But it nevertheless makes sense to seize this chance. If (the cease-fire) breaks, we will have a stronger legitimacy. If it holds, it is an opportunity." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean during the first week of June in what American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Israeli officials declined to discuss the exercise, saying only that the country's air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel." But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies.
A Pentagon official said one Israeli goal was to send a clear message that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter. "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said. (New York Times)
UN inspectors go to Syria on Sunday to probe allegations of covert nuclear work at a site where Israeli warplanes destroyed a desert complex at the heart of Western suspicions. Washington said Syria, an ally of Iran whose shadowy uranium enrichment program has been under IAEA investigation for five years, almost completed the nascent reactor with North Korean know-how. "Don't expect much from this trip, given Syria's extensive efforts to remove incriminating evidence and the restrictions they will put on where the IAEA can go," said Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "If the IAEA doesn't find anything, it shouldn't be taken as any exoneration of Syria." (Reuters/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview broadcast Thursday on BBC Arabic Television that Israel is ready to make major concessions on the redrawing of its borders in an effort to secure peace with the Palestinians and Syria. Olmert said his government was determined to continue efforts to resolve the conflict, and that he was working towards bridging the "historic gap" between Israel and Syria through negotiations. Olmert said Hamas would be welcome to join peace negotiations after it accepted and complied with the demands of the international community, namely calling off terror attacks and recognizing Israel. The conditions set by the Quartet also call for Hamas to observe past accords signed with Israel and release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. (Ynet News)
Israel is reportedly attempting to block a $400 million arms deal between the U.S. and Lebanon that would include hundreds of anti-tank missiles. Israeli authorities have stated that Hizbullah's resurgence in southern Lebanon has led them to believe that the arms transfer could pose a security threat if the arms fell into the hands of Hizbullah. The Head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, has reportedly held talks recently with officials from the Pentagon in order to convey Israeli reservations about the deal. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Gaza Cease-Fire
In accordance with the international boycott which has been in effect since Hamas seized power one year ago, economic sanctions have now brought Hamas to their knees. According to Palestinian political scientist Mkhaimar Abu Sada from Al-Azhar University in Gaza, "Hamas is putting the blame for the misery on Israel, but fewer and fewer Palestinians are convinced that that is the case." Hamas strategists hope that lifting the sanctions and improving supplies to the territory will help to strengthen the Islamist group's standing among Palestinians. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
The most recent visit to Tehran by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal produced an increase of Iranian aid to Hamas to $250 million a year and a commitment to supply enhanced weaponry. Hamas assesses that current and anticipated conditions - the absence of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the weakening of Fatah, a new American president, Iran's stronger position - will enable it to enjoy the "fruits" of a cease-fire more than Israel, until the cease-fire can in any case be improved upon. The writer is a former commander of the northern brigade in the Gaza Strip and headed the Negotiations Management Center under Prime Minister Ehud Barak. (bitterlemons.org)
Hamas has won a measure of the international recognition it sought by indirectly negotiating a truce with Israel. Western diplomats and some Israeli insiders consider the truce a boost to Hamas' standing at Israel's and Abbas' expense. "This all puts Hamas back in the saddle," said a senior European diplomat. "Hamas becomes an interlocutor again and gets international and regional recognition....It shows the lack of authority of Abu Mazen (Abbas), who wanted Hamas to be brought to its knees and has now had to relaunch the national reconciliation process with them." (Reuters)
Hamas is acting as though the tahadiye (truce) was a deal between equal partners. Israel will receive a cease-fire that will satisfy the residents of Sderot and the communities in the western Negev. Hamas gains a cease-fire without having to surrender, the entry of basic commodities from Israel, and the opening of the border with Egypt, Gazans' only exit to the world. Hamas' big political plan is to gain power in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. But this time, unlike in 2006, it will reach its goal thanks to its achievements against Israel, not because of the corruption of the PA and of Fatah leaders. (Ha'aretz)
Both in theory and in practice, this cease-fire accords Hamas equal status and international validity. Israel flinched from engagement and settled for a stalemate - a stalemate that is a defeat. In the past few months, a biblical-style war was waged around Gaza: siege versus catapults. The catapults won. Israel's siege was intended to avert a large-scale crisis reaching the point of hunger, while at the same time denying Hamas the possibility of showing economic development. The operation succeeded, the patient did not die, but the physician was the first to get tired, before the population in Gaza got fed up with Hamas and blamed the organization for its plight.
Hamas will go into the 2009 presidential elections as the victor of the cease-fire, or alternatively, as the leader in the resistance to the reoccupation of Gaza. And Hamas will be considered relatively moderate compared with Hizab al-Tahrir (Liberation Party), which aspires to restore the glory of the Muslim caliphate. This party has attracted a following of tens of thousands, maintains a secret leadership alongside a public one, and is on the brink of moving from religious activity to perpetrating violent attacks. (Ha'aretz)
Without making any diplomatic-ideological-strategic concession, Hamas was recognized by Israel as the legitimate master of the Gaza Strip, the authentic representative of the Palestinian people, and a partner for agreements of one kind or another. This is a priceless gift for Hamas. Without it, it would have capitulated. We were within reach of this. (Ynet News)
On June 4, Mahmoud Abbas made a surprise call for dialogue with Hamas, abandoning demands for Hamas to return Gaza to its pre-June 2007 condition and apologize for its violent coup. However, a gulf remains between Hamas and Fatah, and it is unlikely that renewed dialogue can bridge the gap. Abbas' call should be viewed more as a hedging strategy against the prospect of a failed peace process rather than a well-formulated plan for Palestinian reconciliation. No doubt, he is using the possibility of dialogue with Hamas as a way to pressure the U.S. to increase its efforts. And if Abbas concludes that his legacy will not be defined by bringing peace with Israel, then he may turn his attention to restoring Palestinian unity. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Hamas must answer - at least to the Palestinians in Gaza who primarily pay the price - as to why it continues to fire rockets into Israel when it is fully aware of the consequences. Is this "resistance" for its own sake, without sense or strategy, or is there any coherent purpose at work? The policies of any responsible leadership must be aimed at easing rather than intensifying the plight of its people. Hamas should end these reckless rocket attacks at once. The writer is president of the American Task Force on Palestine. (Washington Times)
The U.S. administration wants to bolster Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and remove the rationale for Hizbullah's continued bearing of arms. Hizbullah currently uses the Shaba Farms as its central rallying cry; hence, the apparent idea is to induce Israel to cede the farms, probably to UN control. The idea is likely to backfire. Hizbullah will declare any Israeli withdrawal as its own achievement, a delayed result of the 2006 war. The call for the "return" of the Shaba Farms is associated with Hizbullah and was picked up by other elements in Lebanon only later. Hizbullah will claim that Israeli concessions on this issue are proof positive of the successful application of violence against Israel, since the international community declared the matter closed in 2000 and then reopened it as a result of the war of 2006.
Should Shaba be ceded, Hizbullah already has a list of subsequent "grievances" against Israel that will be used to justify further "resistance." These include seven Shi'a villages that existed in the Galilee prior to 1948, and the large Palestinian refugee presence in Lebanon. Hizbullah has already issued a statement saying that "anyone who believes that placing Shaba Farms under UN mandate will mean eliminating the rationale behind our resistance is mistaken." Reopening the issue of the Shaba Farms is unlikely to produce the desired results. Rather, the impression given is more likely to be one of confusion, disunity and lack of resolution among pro-Western forces in the region. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hizbullah Sees Role Beyond Israel Leaving Shaba Farms
Hizbullah said Thursday that Lebanon would still need its armed presence even if Israel finally quit the disputed Shaba Farms district in the south. (AFP)
As any veteran diplomat of the Middle East "peace process" will tell you, no progress can be achieved without the full weight of the White House. Yet almost without a warning the region has been transformed. Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement brokered by Egypt for a six-month truce in Gaza. Israeli and Syrian officials are holding indirect discussions with Turkish mediation. An imminent prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah is being brokered by the German government. (Times-UK)
If claims by Iran that it's building 3,000 more centrifuges to enrich nuclear fuel are true, then the Bush administration and Congress face a more serious challenge than we first thought. Even assuming that Iran intends to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes - and there are very good reasons to doubt Iran's stated intentions - the dangers posed by unsupervised, weapons-grade material in the hands of a regime that has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" are unacceptable. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Cal.) is chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment. (Wall Street Journal)
Two years of Iranian intransigence have removed any doubt that the leadership in Tehran is determined to develop the technology for a nuclear bomb - if not the weapons themselves - as quickly as possible. And after more than two years of giving Iran the benefit of every doubt, the European Union and Britain announced Monday that they will at last impose tougher financial sanctions. Of course, the sanctions are mainly symbolic, and Iran will find ways to circumvent them. But that does not make them any less important politically. (Los Angeles Times)
There is scant evidence that extremists really do moderate once they assume power. Two years after Hamas' electoral victory and a year after its forcible takeover of Gaza, there are few signs that the Palestinian Islamist group has moderated.
Western governments are seeking to find ways to make the moderates more powerful. Given the wildly different criteria for what constitutes "a moderate," policymakers will run in circles trying to determine who is a moderate and worthy of support, and who is not. One person's moderate is another person's radical, and a policy built on support for moderate Islam is only asking for trouble. Rather, policymakers should focus on identifying those who can contribute pragmatic solutions to the many problems we confront in the region, "moderate" or not. The writer is the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Foreign Policy)
'Everyone is entitled to a political point of view," says Prof. Avi Bell, head of the International Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, established in January with the help of the Legacy Heritage Foundation. "The trouble is that so many people these days - including experts - tend to confuse their opinion on what is moral with what is legal." According to Bell, "Attitudes toward Israel serve as a perfect example of groupthink having replacing critical examination." The International Law Forum was established to set the record straight by providing accurate information and "get people to understand international law in general - what it is, what it isn't, what it can do and what it can't."
"For some reason, whenever discussions on the 'war on terror' emerge, no one ever discusses the body of international law that requires combating terrorism. They will discuss civil rights, which is important, and the laws of war, which are also important. But they won't discuss the law of terrorism." "There are interesting issues relating to the Genocide Convention that are very relevant in this region, where there are leaders who actually talk about real programs to carry out real genocide."
"Human Rights Watch says that Israel is engaging in collective punishment in Gaza by not supplying fuel and other goods. But there's never been an instance in history of an individual or state's being prosecuted for committing the war crime of collective punishment just for carrying out economic sanctions....This kind of charge has little or nothing to do with the legalities of the issues." "Does collective punishment mean anything that sounds like punishment that happens to a collection of people? The answer is no. Collective punishment consists of criminal-type penalties or indiscriminate military force as a punishment - such as executing all of the residents of an entire neighborhood because of a murderer in its midst." (Jerusalem Post)
Three years ago, Sister Ruth Lautt founded Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, vociferously speaking out for Israel's right to self-defense and security. Fair Witness has specialized in behind-the-scenes infighting at religious denominational meetings. A former litigator with a Manhattan law firm, Sister Ruth works the floor at religious conventions, helping opponents of divestment draft motions, applying persuasion at the subcommittee and committee levels.
"We are informed by the Christian mandate to stand for justice and to raise our voices when we see someone being falsely accused," said Sister Ruth, 44. "The issue isn't divestment. Divestment is a symptom, a symptom of bias against the State of Israel and an attempt to lay the blame on the shoulders of Israel." "I need to question how people feel they have the right in the name of peace and justice, to tell other people not to try to preserve their own lives," she says. "You're not obligated to lay down and die." (New York Times)
In Vancouver, Canada's venerable Maclean's magazine awaits a hate-speech verdict from a human-rights tribunal for publishing a chapter from syndicated columnist Mark Steyn's best-selling book America Alone. The accusers charge the author and publisher with "Islamophobia" - an example of a growing campaign to use judicial power to silence critics of militant Islam. If Islamic leaders have it their way, writing op-eds criticizing Islamic radicalism, or speaking out against Muslim terrorists or, of course, publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, are soon to be considered criminal examples of racism. The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal)
"The Blessing of a Broken Heart," first a memoir and now a play, will be performed for the first time on the East Coast later this month in New Jersey and Maryland and at the Riverdale YM-YWHA in the Bronx. Adapted from the book by Sherri Mandell, the New York-born mother of Koby Mandell, 13, who was murdered with Yosef Ishran, 14, in 2001 near Tekoa, the show offers an American take on a tragedy that is uniquely Israeli - the bludgeoning death by Palestinian terrorists of two young boys. But the story, Mandell says, is also about resilience, the process of healing she underwent in the first year after her eldest son's headline-making murder. "I hope they will take [from the show] the ability to transform pain into a kind of hope and healing," Mandell said.
Seeing the book on the stage "just extends Koby. That's my goal: that people should know what happened to him, and that his spirit should be able to continue on in this world. Anything that does that is so important." All proceeds from the show benefit Camp Koby, a support program for Israeli children who've lost an immediate family member to terrorism. (Forward)
German narratives on the Holocaust and World War II have changed since 1945. Native Germans tend to focus increasingly on their own fate as Germans and to idolize their society's behavior during the Holocaust era. Right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have steadily increased since 1990. Studies confirm a stable anti-Semitism that has reached new dimensions. One survey found that 23% of the population are openly anti-Semitic and about 30-40% harbor hidden anti-Semitism. Another survey by Stern in October 2007 found that 25% believe that National Socialism had its "good aspects." It is suggested that these rates are based on political correctness and that the actual number holding such views is higher. The writer is a historian employed by Yad Vashem in the European Department of the International School for Holocaust Studies. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Why Americans Back the Jewish State - Walter Russell Mead (Foreign Affairs)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert