Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Al-Qaeda Video Urges Muslims to Kill Saudi King for Hosting Interfaith Conference (AP/FOX News)
Oil Exports from Northern Iraq Rise Sharply - Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times)
"Cyber-Dissidents" Imprisoned in Syria (Economist-UK)
Muslim Radicalism Strong in British Universities - Abul Taher (Sunday Times-UK)
Israel to Launch Websites in Hindi and Urdu (FreshNews-India)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran appears to have overstated the expansion of its uranium enrichment program at a sensitive juncture in talks with world powers, a diplomat close to the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday. He said the International Atomic Energy Agency checked President Ahmadinejad's announcement on Saturday that Iran had more than 5,000 centrifuges running and could verify just 4,000 were installed, 3,500 of which were regularly enriching uranium. These figures were only marginally higher than those given in the IAEA's last monitoring report on Iran two months ago. (Reuters)
Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah. An estimated 20-30% of the detainees suffered torture, including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions, said Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq, citing sworn statements from 150 detainees. He said three died in detention in Gaza and one in the West Bank.
"The use of torture is dramatically up," added Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch, that is releasing its own report on abuse this week. Human Rights Watch said Abbas' Fatah forces need to come under closer scrutiny because of the international support they enjoy. (AP/ABC News)
Ayman Daraghmeh, who entered parliament on the Hamas list, says Hamas is the victim of a PA crackdown that has now reached the force of a "tsunami." Over the past two days, the PA has detained several dozen members of Hamas in response to a crackdown on Fatah supporters in Gaza. Daraghmeh says Fatah - the party of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas - is out to "destroy" Hamas in the West Bank. (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, "I don't believe that understandings that will include Jerusalem can be reached this year" with the Palestinians. "There is no practical chance of reaching an overall understanding on Jerusalem." (Ha'aretz)
Israeli diplomatic officials were not overly impressed Monday by a seven-minute interview Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustafa gave to Americans for Peace Now, in which he called for "an end to the state of war." "We have heard this type of thing from the Syrian ambassadors before in places like Washington and London," one senior diplomatic official said. "But why doesn't Syria's ambassador in Cairo say the same thing? Why do we not hear it from others, from Damascus? They are speaking to their audience in the West, giving them what they want to hear. They are not speaking to us."
Another diplomatic official said the Syrians were "playing a double game. They are interested in a breakthrough with Washington, not with us. They want the process, not peace." Moshe Maoz, a professor emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, downplayed the importance of Mustafa's comments, saying they were "more of the same." The fourth round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria, with Turkey as the mediator, is scheduled to take place this week in Turkey. (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's defense establishment has agreed to dismantle a 2.4-km. stretch of the West Bank separation fence north of Kalkilya in order to return 2,600 dunams of agricultural land to Palestinians. The dismantled stretch will be replaced by 4.9 km. of fencing closer to the "green line" at a cost of more than NIS 50 million. The High Court of Justice ruled in 2006 that the fence should be moved. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Like most Syrians, Samer Zayat, 35, a television cinematographer, has no love for Israel. Yet he says he views a peace deal with Israel as necessary and inevitable because Syria's vulnerable economy needs all the help it can get. That sentiment is echoed by many others. The oil reserves Syria has relied on for so long are rapidly disappearing. A country that could once afford to be serenely indifferent to Western sanctions is now being forced to liberalize and open its economy. However, it is far from clear if the Syrian government sees economic troubles as a factor in negotiations with Israel. (New York Times)
Today Syria is seen as an Iranian island in the Arab world - used to project its power to Israel's borders and the shores of the Mediterranean. Indeed, Iranian-Syrian relations seem closer than ever - including a newly signed military cooperation agreement. But Damascus' ties with Tehran - like its ties with all countries - remain ambiguous.
A high-profile Iranian project to replace Damascus' aging public bus fleet with Iranian vehicles was mysteriously cancelled and awarded to a Chinese company. Two high-profile Iranian-Syrian joint ventures to assemble automobiles in Syria are barely scraping by due to Syrian government foot-dragging on promises to cut tariffs on the plants' imported components. Statistics recently released by Syria's state investment office put direct Iranian investment in Syria at $544 million, a mere 8% of Arab investment in Syria and a far cry from reports last year that estimated Iranian investment at 66% of Arab investment in the country. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Every evening for the past four months, tall, blue-eyed Mohannad, hero of the hugely popular Turkish TV soap "Noor," has been stealing hearts across the Middle East. He's romantic, attentive to his wife, Noor, supportive of her independence and ambitions as a fashion designer - in short, a rare gem for women in conservative, male-dominated surroundings. "Noor" delivers an idealized portrayal of modern married life as equal partnership - clashing with the norms of traditional Middle Eastern societies where elders often have the final word on whom a woman should marry.
In Saudi Arabia, the only country with ratings, about three to four million people watch daily, out of a population of nearly 28 million, according to MBC, the Saudi-owned satellite channel that airs the show, dubbed into Arabic for Middle East audiences. In the West Bank and Gaza, streets are deserted during show time. (AP)
See also Saudi Grand Mufti Condemns "Malicious" Turkish Soap Opera - Hassna'a Mokhtar
The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, has condemned Turkish soap operas, which have charmed millions of people across the Arab world, and prohibited people from watching them, Al-Watan daily reported Sunday. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
How Terrorist Groups End: Implications for Countering Al-Qaeda - Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki (RAND Corporation)
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