Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 1, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Cameraman for German TV, Tortured by Hamas, Freed (AP/USA Today)
    Hamas released Sawah Abu Saif, 42, a Palestinian cameraman for German TV, on Thursday after five days in detention.
    Richard C. Schneider, ARD's Middle East bureau chief, said Abu Saif was tortured and is currently in poor condition, but preferred not to detail the abuse he suffered "out of fear for Abu Saif and his family's safety."
    Hamas also arrested the director of the Palestinian news agency Maan, Imad Eid, in Gaza this week. The Hamas government has banned all West Bank newspapers from distributing in Gaza since Sunday.
    The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association, which represents foreign media covering Israel and the territories, issued a statement saying: "We express our profound concern over information we have received that Abu Saif was tortured at the hands of Hamas security. Such abuse runs counter to any civilized notion of respect for human rights, and we sharply condemn it."

Hamas-Fatah Fight Spreads to Mustaches - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas has resumed its policy of shaving mustaches of political opponents to humiliate them, Fatah officials said Wednesday.
    Hamas, for its part, accused PA security forces of shaving the beards of detained Hamas officials in the West Bank.

22 "New" Polish Jews Rediscover Their Heritage - Jackie Len (Jerusalem Post)
    A group of 22 Polish youth who only recently discovered their Jewish roots arrived in Israel this week for a three-week-long Polish-language seminar in Jerusalem.
    "We are seeing this incredible phenomenon of the hidden Jews of Poland emerging from the shadows," said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization which aims to strengthen ties between Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.

A Respite from War (Washington Post)
    Children from Sderot, Israel, wrapped up a month-long visit to Montgomery County, Md., last week, during which they got to know U.S. host families and attended Camp Gan Israel in Gaithersburg, one of 13 camps in North America and Europe that hosted a total of about 160 campers.
    The visit, a joint project of the Chabad-Lubavitch centers and the Rohr Family Foundation, provided Israeli kids with a summer escape from the threats of missile attacks and war that often rule their lives at home.

Ireland's Jews: Past, Present, Future - Rory Miller (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The economic boom since the 1990s has led to an increase in the number of Jews who have settled in Ireland for economic reasons.
    It also turned Ireland into a multicultural and multiracial society that has challenged Irish Jewry's status as the major non-Christian minority in the country.
    The current widespread support for a boycott of Israel among civil society groups is a worrying development, as is the potential of the growing Irish Muslim community to become radicalized.

Blooming Deserts Turn Israeli Water Industry into Money Magnet - Tal Barak (Bloomberg)
    Today, some 300 Israeli companies make equipment to deliver water or purify it with lasers or diffusion, putting them in a position to profit as climate change, population growth and food shortages strain supplies.
    Deere & Co., the world's largest maker of tractors and combines, on June 5 agreed to buy Israel's Plastro Irrigation Systems Ltd.

Ethiopia: Germany Finances Israeli Agricultural Assistance - Abdullahi Mohamed (Geeska Afrika)
    A tripartite agreement that helps Ethiopia modernize its agriculture and ensure food security was concluded Monday by Israel, Germany and Ethiopia.
    The agreement helps farmers residing in rain deficit areas to utilize modern irrigation technology to boost their income.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., Israel Discuss Diplomatic Push on Iran - Dan Williams and Susan Cornwell
    U.S. diplomat William Burns, who joined envoys from other world powers for a July 19 meeting with Iran, hosted Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz on Thursday for routine bilateral consultations known as the "strategic dialogue." Mofaz's spokeswoman, Talia Somech, said, "He (Mofaz) urged the Americans to set firm conditions, such as a refusal to allow the Iranians to enrich uranium on their turf, and to be clear that the deadline must be preserved. The Iranians are simply looking for cracks to exploit." Mofaz said that "all options against Iran should not only be on the table, but prepared," Somech said.
        The State Department issued a statement after the meeting saying: "The United States and Israel share deep concern about Iran's nuclear program, and the two delegations discussed steps to strengthen diplomatic efforts and financial measures to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability....We also reaffirmed our strong mutual determination to counter Iran's support for terrorism."  (Reuters)
        See also Iran Again Rejects Nuclear Deadline - Farhad Pouladi
    Iran on Thursday rejected any deadline to give its final response to a package drawn up by world powers seeking to end the nuclear crisis. Meanwhile the U.S. held back on Thursday from insisting on a strict deadline for Iran to give a final answer to the incentives package. "I didn't count the days. It's coming up soon," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack when asked if Saturday was the deadline for Iran to accept or reject the offer.
        Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili held talks with EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana on July 19, at a meeting that was also attended by a top U.S. diplomat in a major policy shift by Washington. Solana said then that he expected an answer in a fortnight. (AFP)
  • Palestinians in Gaza March for Worldwide Islamic Rule
    About 3,000 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters calling for a worldwide Islamic state and waving black flags marched through Gaza for the first time Thursday. Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to establish a caliphate that would govern the world according to Islamic law. The group was founded in Jordan in 1953 and is banned in several countries, including Russia, Germany and some Arab states. The group opposes Hamas, which rules Gaza. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Bush Expresses Appreciation to Departing Prime Minister
    President Bush took a telephone call from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday just before Olmert announced that he will resign. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush intends to work closely with Olmert until that time, and wishes him well. Johndroe says Bush has appreciated Olmert's friendship, leadership and work for peace. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Resigns
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, submitted his resignation Thursday, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. Turbowicz, one of the prime minister's representatives in Israel's indirect talks with Syria in Turkey, will stay on in a voluntary capacity as the prime minister's special advisor until he leaves office. On Wednesday, Olmert announced that he will step down to make way for his successor after the Kadima party primary elections next month, in which he will not be a candidate. (Ynet News)
        See also Arab Media: Olmert's Announcement Will Affect Talks - Roee Nahmias
    "Israel and the peace process are awaiting the post-Ehud Olmert era," the London-based Al-Hayat determined Thursday in the wake of the Israeli prime minister's announcement that he would step down. Al-Hayat said Olmert's move was likely to affect the continuation of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. (Ynet News)
  • PA Appeals to World Bank for Cash to Pay Salaries - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has asked the World Bank for emergency funding so that he can pay salaries to PA employees, PA officials in Ramallah said Wednesday. The Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction said this week that the PA had received only $900 million of the $7.7b. promised during the December 2007 Paris Donors' Conference. PA officials said, "Most of the Arab countries are now setting conditions for providing us with financial aid. Some are saying that they will give us the money only after we end our differences with Hamas, while others are suddenly talking about the need for reforms and transparency." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Seal of King Zedekiah's Minister Found in Jerusalem Archeological Dig - Etgar Lefkovits
    A seal impression belonging to a minister of the biblical King Zedekiah, which dates back 2,600 years, has been uncovered completely intact during an archeological dig in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, Israeli archeologist Prof. Eilat Mazar said on Thursday. The 1 cm. in diameter seal impression, or bulla, with the name Gedalyahu ben Pashur, who served as minister to King Zedekiah (597-586 BCE), was found just meters away from a separate seal impression of another of Zedekiah's ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was uncovered three years ago. Both ministers are mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1-4. The letters are in ancient Hebrew and are very clearly preserved.
        "On the one hand it is so unexpected to find such a fragile bulla in such harsh conditions of excavation, while on the other hand it was logical to find precisely here the bulla of Gedalyahu ben Pashur," Mazar said. "It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible," she said. The current dig is being conducted under the academic auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hopes Dim for Peace Deal - Helene Cooper
    The official line in Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah is that the decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel to resign will not affect American efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before the end of the year. At the State Department, a senior administration official said, "Fundamentally, as Americans, we don't give up." To that end, Secretary of State Rice told Palestinian and Israeli officials that she would return to the region in late August for more talks. But that trip may be based mostly on wishful thinking, foreign policy experts said.
        A few officials at the State Department expressed the hope that Olmert could turn his lame-duck status into an asset and strike a peace bargain with Abbas. But even if Olmert were able to reach a deal on the contentious "final status" issues that have bedeviled peace negotiators since 1979, he would be in no position to sell it to a skeptical Israeli public. The chances of a deal that could be carried out on the ground were not great to begin with, foreign policy experts say, since the authority of Abbas is confined to the West Bank and would not be honored by Hamas which controls Gaza. (New York Times)
        See also The Impact of Olmert's Announcement - David Makovsky
    Olmert's resignation seemingly ends the efforts of Secretary of State Rice to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough by the end of the year, a goal set at the Annapolis peace conference last November. Olmert's resignation provides Rice with an excuse to explain why the U.S. administration was unable to produce a successful conclusion. As caretaker, Olmert now will certainly lack the moral authority to move ahead on the peace process. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Berlin - Iran - Editorial
    Berlin's refusal to use its considerable economic leverage over Tehran puts it at odds not only with Washington but increasingly with its European partners in London and Paris. In February, Germany's Export Control Office gave the green light for a $157 million gas deal with Iran. SPG Steiner-Prematechnik-Gastec will build three plants that turn gas to liquid fuels. German imports from Iran rose 28% last year. And German exports to Iran are up 13.6% in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Germany is increasingly siding with China and Russia to give diplomacy yet another chance even as Iran's regime shows no willingness to respond to the carrots. (Wall Street Journal-Europe)
        See also Israel Criticizes German Firm's Deal with Iran
    Israel said on Thursday it was disappointed by Germany's decision to allow a German firm to export gas plants to Iran. "The German government's decision contravenes the spirit of sanctions handed down by members of the Security Council on Iran," the Israel Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (Reuters)
  • Hamas Is Not Like the IRA - Cnaan Liphshiz
    In response to frequent references to Northern Ireland as a model for peace in the Middle East, two British researchers last week released an analysis of the conflicts in which they reject the comparison and warn against turning dialogue without preconditions into a "fetish." Drs. John Bew and Martyn Frampton argue that the analogy between Northern Ireland and other conflicts is "often more focused on contemporary agendas than on the core realities unique to the region, which do not necessarily translate elsewhere." The authors contrast the IRA's failure to dominate internal rivals with Hamas' triumph over Fatah. They argue that while the IRA's talks with London followed a decline in the Irish Republicans' power, Hamas sees itself as "riding the crest of a wave."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Talking to Terrorists: The Myths, Misconceptions and Misapplication of the Northern Ireland Peace Process - John Bew and Martyn Frampton (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Roots of Muslim Anger - Salim Mansur
    In the Muslim world much sorrow is expressed over how greatly that world has degenerated into a pathetic shadow of its past. The character of Muslim society is exemplified by the mosque culture, whereby the authority of the man on the pulpit is final and public dissent is disallowed. Similarly, inside of homes, most discussions flow in one direction from the patriarchal center of power and influence downwards. Any critical review or independent examination of controversial subjects is frowned upon, if not repressed. Anger in such circumstances is mostly an effect of the pent-up resentment bred of life in a society without any sort of freedom. (National Post-Canada)
  • Extremists Capture Arab Hearts and Minds - Ayman Safadi
    Uncompromising revolutionary thinking intolerant of dissenting viewpoints is increasingly shaping the political culture in the Arab world. Exclusionist groups are mushrooming as larger segments of societies are embracing their absolutist stands. (The National-Abu Dhabi)

    Weekend Features

  • Foreign Media's Israel Coverage Wanes - Ben Sales
    A relative lull in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to a fall in the number of foreign journalists in Israel, according to Simon McGregor-Wood, ABC News bureau chief in Jerusalem. The CBS office closed a year and a half ago, while the other major U.S. television networks - ABC, NBC and Fox - have retained their bureaus but cut their staff by half. The cuts, he says, are due to the decrease in "spectacular" violence in the area, coupled with the rise to the fore of other issues.
        "In terms of the media market there is less interest than there was....There is the enormous drain on resources because of the war in Iraq, which is editorially more interesting and financially more expensive. It's hard to get the attention of the American viewer or reader because of the domestic agenda, which is strong because of the presidential campaign." "The daily conflict between Israel and the Palestinians doesn't change much and becomes repetitive and boring. It's been over-covered." He added that there is an overall decrease in the U.S. media audience and almost all of the big newspapers and television stations are contracting. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians: Save Us from Jewish Rats - Ian O'Doherty
    According to two Palestinian newspapers, the Jews have come up with a new plan to dislocate Jerusalem's Arabs from the area - through the medium of supernatural rats. Yup, the Jews have been secretly breeding a new species of giant rodent which can even chase away Arab cats. The rats are apparently being introduced into the area by Jews "who bring them in huge cages and release them onto the streets to make living there a nightmare for Arabs." Terrifyingly, the rats even know the difference between Jew and Arab and they leave the Jews alone while terrorizing the Arabs. (Independent-Ireland)
  • Observations:

    Syria Reaps Considerable Benefit from Talking with Israel - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)

    • A fourth round of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli representatives was concluded in Istanbul this week. For the Syrians, the already considerable benefits derived from the very act of talking are more important than the talks themselves. Damascus' allies in Iran have given no sign of real concern that their most important Arab allies are about to jump ship.
    • Damascus' main aim in entering the talks was to use them as a means to rebuild relations with the U.S. and other Western powers, in particular France. Syria is also determined to prevent the functioning of the international tribunal into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and a string of subsequent political murders in that country.
    • For the cost of the flight tickets and hotel rooms in Istanbul, Assad has ended Syria's isolation. He and his wife found themselves feted in Paris in July where Syria was welcomed into French President Sarkozy's new Mediterranean Forum. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem beamed after his meetings with French officials that the Hariri tribunal had not even been mentioned.
    • With all this rapprochement going on, Syria's alliance with Iran seems safe and sound. Muallem was in Tehran this week where he and President Ahmadinejad reconfirmed their "regional cooperation."

      The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

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