Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 14, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran to Target Heart of Israel, 32 U.S. Bases If Attacked (Xinhua-China)
    "In case the United States and Israel dare to shoot a bullet, Iran will target the heart of Israel and 32 U.S. bases in the region imminently," said Mojtaba Zolnoor, an aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Saturday.

Hizbullah Decorates South Lebanon in Anticipation of Prisoner Swap (Agence France Presse/Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Hizbullah is speeding up preparations in South Lebanon to celebrate an expected prisoner swap with Israel.
    A Hizbullah media worker in Nabatieh said hundreds of volunteers have been hanging banners throughout the South to praise Hizbullah's role in having secured the exchange.
    The decorations adorn the coastal road all the way from the Israeli border up to Sidon, with slogans taken from speeches by Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah.

U.S. Taxpayers Fund Grants for "Palestinian Studies" - Jonathan Schanzer (National Review)
    For more than a decade, the allocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S.-funded doctoral and post-doctoral grants on Palestinian issues has been decided by a group of Middle Eastern Studies professors that includes some of the most polarizing and radical figures in the field.
    The Bethesda, Maryland-based Palestinian American Research Center (PARC) receives Title VI funding from the U.S. State Department and Department of Education for "Palestinian studies."
    Under the aegis of the U.S. government, PARC then gives out grants of $3,000 to $8,000 for activism in the name of academia.

Iranian Swimmer Shuns Israeli Rival (Press TV-Iran)
    Iranian swimmer Mohammad Bidarian, 19, refused to compete with his Israeli rival in the 100-meter freestyle event in Croatia.
    Despite the fact that he had a chance to get an Olympic berth for his country, Bidarian gave up the competition when he was grouped with an Israeli swimmer on Thursday.

Palestinian Factional Divide Shredding Society - Wafa Amr (Reuters)
    Conflict between Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and rival Islamist Hamas has damaged the fabric of Palestinian society and torn families apart, especially in Gaza.
    "One of our neighbors refused to receive mourners from Hamas at his house," said Ahmed Youssef, a Hamas official in Gaza. "When a man goes to ask for a woman's hand in marriage, her family now inquires about his political affiliation first."
    He also spoke of marriages that had broken down in divorce over politics since last year's factional violence.
    "It is now common for a member of Hamas to hide his face behind a mask and arrest his brother from Fatah," said Palestinian commentator Talal Okal.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Olmert Ignored by Assad in Paris
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert looked his way, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad avoided any eye contact when the two leaders attended an EU-Mediterranean summit. As Olmert entered the main hall of the Paris Grand Palais, a Reuters photographer captured him casting glances toward the Syrian leader. But Assad turned away, raising one hand to his face as if to block off any eye contact with the Israeli. It was the first time they had ever been in the same room together. (Reuters)
  • French Military Against Assad's Presence at Bastille Day Parade
    The French government has banned a demonstration by French veterans meant in part to protest against the presence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an honored guest at the July 14 Bastille Day military parade, French media reported on Friday. French veterans blame Syria for the deaths of 58 French members of a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon in 1983. The FNAME veterans group has called on soldiers marching in Monday's parade to wear black armbands to protest Assad's presence. Former French President Jacques Chirac has previously said he would not be at the July 14 ceremonies because of Assad's participation. Chirac blames Assad for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, for which Syrian intelligence services have been implicated. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
        See also Assad Makes Remarkable Comeback - Roula Khalaf
    After years of isolation Bashar al-Assad staged a diplomatic comeback on Saturday, courtesy of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Still boycotted by some of his Arab neighbors and shunned by the U.S., the Syrian president will be in the company of European leaders at the union for the Mediterranean summit in Paris. The trip marks a remarkable turnaround for a leader whose behavior at home and in the region had relegated Syria to the ranks of a pariah state. (Financial Times-UK)
  • More Power for Hizbullah in Lebanon's New Cabinet - Robert F. Worth
    Lebanon's political leaders formed a new cabinet on Friday, formalizing an earlier agreement that hands decisive new powers to Hizbullah and its allies in the opposition. Under the deal, the opposition won a "blocking third" in the cabinet, which allows it to stop any major government decision. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Wounds Two Policemen in Jerusalem Shooting - Etgar Lefkovits
    Two police officers were shot and seriously wounded late Friday night near the Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the attack, which was captured by security cameras, a Palestinian with a handgun snuck up on the two security officials posted at the site, shooting them in the head and chest. One of the officers returned fire at the attacker, who managed to flee through a nearby Muslim cemetery. The attack is the sixth since the beginning of the year in the city. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Border Policeman Fighting for His Life - Etgar Lefkovits
    David Chriqui, 19, the border policeman shot in the head at close range Friday by a Palestinian assailant in Jerusalem, remained in critical condition Sunday, hospital officials said. "We are praying for a miracle," said Dr. Yuval Weiss, Director of Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hizbullah Report: Airman Ron Arad Died Trying to Escape During 1988 Israeli Raid - Yaakov Katz, Tovah Lazaroff, and Yaakov Lappin
    After 22 years, two photographs of missing Israel Air Force airman Ron Arad, as well as three letters written by him and fragments of a diary, were given to his wife Tami on Sunday. The personal material was part of an 80-page report by Hizbullah detailing the group's search for Arad, who was shot down over Lebanon and captured alive in 1986. The report, which did not solve the mystery of what happened to Arad, represents the first stage of a planned prisoner swap with Hizbullah.
        The Hizbullah report is merely an updated version of a report it passed to Israel in 2004, defense officials said on Sunday. The conclusion remains the same as the 2004 report, that Arad had tried to escape when his guards went to fight during Israel's Maydun operation on May 4, 1988, and probably died. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Former Mossad Agent: Arad Likely Died During Escape - Tovah Lazaroff
    Rami Igra, head of the Mossad's department for prisoners and missing persons until 1999, reportedly traveled overseas more than 100 times to meet with sources and colleagues from other intelligence agencies to gather information about missing navigator Ron Arad. By the end of his tenure, he had concluded that Arad had most likely died while escaping from his captors in May 1988. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Hits Israel Saturday in New Gaza Truce Violation
    Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday fired a rocket into Israel in a new violation of a June 19 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Another Truce Violation: Two Mortars Fired from Gaza Sunday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two mortar shells on Sunday that landed near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Jitters Over Iran - Jim Hoagland
    Polarization and conflict help Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad maintain his somewhat shaky grip on power and money. His rocket-rattling makes clear to all concerned, including his own diplomats, that he doesn't need no stinkin' peace conferences. Regional war jitters were initially sparked in early June by the staging of Israeli aerial maneuvers in Greece. Scheduled long ago, the high-altitude joint maneuvers have been widely misinterpreted as preparation for a strike against Iran.
        Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor emphasized to me last week that, "Sanctions on insurance and maritime and air transportation would raise the cost of Iran's doing business. But effective sanctions on the import of refined petroleum products could be a game-changer," since Iran produces crude oil but lacks refining capacity. The world's oil companies "should not sell gasoline that is used by Iran's nuclear scientists and its terror chiefs to drive to 'work,'" Meridor said. (Washington Post)
  • Israel and Iran: On a Collision Course - Jonathan Spyer
    Within the Iranian clerical-led elite has arisen an ultra-radical faction, centered on the Revolutionary Guards and represented at the highest level by President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. The desire of this faction is to revive what it sees as the authentic spirit of the revolutionary period, in the face of the waste, decay and corruption that is the reality of contemporary Iran. The drive to project Iranian power across the region is a vital aspect of this ambition. A nuclear capability would make this possible. Hatred of Israel is a genuinely felt sentiment in such circles. It is also a useful tool for building regional influence. Israel sees the Iranian nuclear program within this framework. The hesitant diplomacy of the international community appears a poor tool for deterring the Tehran radicals. (Guardian-UK)
  • Canada, Australia May Seek to Try Ahmadinejad for Incitement to Genocide - Interview with Irwin Cotler
    Jewish-Canadian legal expert Professor Irwin Cotler has initiated an international effort to bring Iranian President Ahmadinejad to justice for incitement to genocide. Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister, has already discussed the issue with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and it is possible that the Canadian statesman, together with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will promote this initiative. (IBA News-Hebrew)
        See also A Leadership Role for France - Irwin Cotler
    State parties to the Genocide Convention, such as France or Canada, have not only a right, but a responsibility, to enforce the convention, particularly to prevent genocide. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Not Israel's Policemen - Alexander Yakobson (Ha'aretz)

    • Hamas in Gaza is currently interested in a lull. The rocket fire targeting Israel is perpetrated by armed groups refusing to accept Hamas authority - including Fatah operatives. Hamas leaders have spoken out vehemently against the rocket fire, but they have also stated repeatedly that Hamas will not function as Israel's policeman or turn its weapons on other Palestinian groups to defend Israel's security. Such a government has no chance of "convincing" those groups to obey.
    • This slogan - we won't be Israel's policemen - was adopted by Fatah in the early days of the Palestinian Authority and, more than anything else, this is what decided the fate of the Oslo process. The PA never made a systematic effort to disarm the militant groups or impose the basic rule without which no government can exist: a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.
    • From Israel's perspective, this slogan disparages the principle of land for peace, since it promises that as long as Israel cedes land, it will get less peace - and that's regardless of the will of the Palestinian leadership.
    • Mahmoud Abbas has openly and courageously denounced the terror attacks and the armed struggle against Israel. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity, because such comments did nothing to improve his popularity when the prevailing assumption among Palestinians in the territories was that a few exploding buses would topple Israeli society. But even Abbas stuck to the approach that it was permissible to try to persuade those attacking Israel, but that the government should not confront them and certainly should not fight them - because after all, "we're not Israel's policemen."
    • Indeed, the Palestinian government should not be Israel's policeman. It should act against terrorism for its own reasons. It is hard to imagine a situation in which the operation of a collection of gangs would be in its interest.
    • The Palestinian unwillingness to do so is not just a matter of weakness, but is also connected to Israel's lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian public. The primary issue is whether there will be a Palestinian leadership, whatever its ideology, that operates as a national leadership and as a government - one that polices itself.

      The writer is a senior lecturer in the Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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