Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 14, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Bus Bomb in Lebanon Kills 15 and Wounds 40 - Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    A bomb hidden in a briefcase tore through a bus packed with Lebanese Army soldiers on Wednesday, killing 15 people, including nine soldiers, and wounding more than 40 people, in the deadliest attack in Lebanon in more than three years.
    Was Syria Behind Lebanon Bus Bombing? - Michael Young (Daily Star-Lebanon)

Syrian Infiltrator Shot in Golan Heights - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    IDF forces shot and wounded an armed man who crossed from Syria into the Golan Heights on Wednesday, the army said.
    The infiltrator was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

PA Forces to Get Flak Jackets - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    Israel has agreed to allow the U.S. to supply flak jackets to Palestinian security forces, but not the heavier-duty body armor that the Palestinians and some American advisers had sought.
    "They're getting the same flak jackets that police get in the United States," said a Western official involved in the program.
    A year-and-a-half-long tug-of-war over flak jackets underscores skepticism in Israel's defense establishment about the multimillion-dollar U.S. training program for Abbas' men.
    "You have to understand, we've been burned before," said Danny Ayalon, Israel's former ambassador to the U.S.
    Yoni Fighel, a former army colonel who served as governor of Ramallah and Jenin in the early 1990s, said, "You build up trust and personal connections and then, one day, you find yourself being shot at."

Israel to Supply Military Drones to Canada (AFP)
    Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a contract to supply unmanned aerial drones to Canada for use by its special forces.
    The first batch of aircraft, worth an estimated $90 million, would be delivered by 2011.

Digitizing the Holocaust - Bob Davis (Wall Street Journal)
    Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, is digitizing 75 million records, videotaping interviews with former concentration-camp inmates, and using art and multimedia displays - even a YouTube channel - to create a record that will outlive the now-elderly survivors.

Seaweed Gel from Israel Could Save 20,000 Heart Attack Patients in Britain - Stephen Adams (Telegraph-UK)
    Researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University developed a gel - derived from an ordinary type of brown seaweed - which helps to repair heart tissue damaged in a heart attack.
    After an attack, scar tissue forms which tends to be thinner and weaker than the original. The left ventricle also becomes dangerously enlarged. The gel helps aid regrowth, thickening the tissue, and so lessening the risk of a further heart attack.

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

  • Iran Legislators Condemn Official for Suggesting Iran Is a Friend of the Israeli People - Nazila Fathi
    The Iranian Parliament declared Wednesday that saying Iran is a friend of the Israeli people is an "unforgivable mistake." In a statement signed by 200 members of the 290-seat assembly, Iranian lawmakers called on President Ahmadinejad to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, the vice president for tourism, after he repeated on Sunday his earlier comment that "we are a friend of all people in the world, even Israelis and Americans." "We do not recognize a country called Israel and so we cannot recognize a nation called Israel," the lawmakers said in their statement. (New York Times)
        See also Ahmadinejad in New Anti-Israel Tirade (Reuters)
  • Despite Gaza Truce, Palestinian Militants Still Building Rockets - Paula Hancocks
    The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza last week showed off what they said was a new rocket, called the Nasser-4, which can travel 25 km. (16 miles) - double the range of the existing Nasser-3. If true, larger Israeli cities like Ashkelon and Ashdod would be under threat of attack. Israel says the rockets would represent a violation of the six-month Egyptian-brokered truce reached in June. "If the cease-fire is just a front for extremists in Gaza to rearm and regroup, of course we have the right to act," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN. "Any arms buildup is a direct violation of the calm that was achieved."
        CNN was the only Western news organization to take part in the tour of the PRC rocket factory. Inside the "factory" - a tiny room with rockets lining the walls - masked men tried to light a fire from a gas canister in order to heat the explosives to liquefy them so that they could be poured into the shells. But first, the lighter didn't work. Then, a leak in a canister filled the room with suffocating gas. Explosions, euphemistically called "workplace accidents," occur in Gaza from time to time. (CNN)
  • Lebanon, Syria Agree to Open Diplomatic Relations - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman agreed on Wednesday to establish diplomatic relations between their countries at the ambassadorial level, Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad, said. The two countries announced last month in Paris that they intended to open diplomatic relations for the first time since they gained independence in 1943. Wednesday's agreement formally set those ties. In Washington, Secretary of State Rice said, "We have long stood for the normalization of relations between Syria and Lebanon on the basis of equality and respect for Lebanese sovereignty." (Reuters)
        See also Warmer Lebanon-Syria Ties Puts Focus on Fate of Lebanese Prisoners in Syria - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Fears Georgia War Could Hurt Iran Effort - Herb Keinon
    Russia's war with Georgia and the infuriated reaction in the West could make it harder to enlist Russian help on the Iranian issue, according to Israeli diplomatic officials and academics. According to one diplomatic official, Russia is trying to reaffirm its status in the world. "They have an interest in showing that they are tough in South Ossetia, and that they are also not going to be pushed around by the West when it comes to Iran." The Russians might also conclude that they now needed Iranian support to maintain stability in the south of Russia, including in Chechnya, which borders Georgia, the official said.
        There was a direct correlation between Russia's policy toward Iran and its relationship with the U.S., said Brenda Shaffer, a lecturer on Central Asia and the Caucasus region at the University of Haifa. "If they feel the U.S. is cooperative, then they are cooperative on Iran," she said. "And if not, they feel they can hurt the U.S. on Iran." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Probe Clears IDF Tank Crew in Death of Gaza Journalist
    The Israel Defense Forces has closed an investigation into the death of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana in Gaza last April. The army found that troops acted properly when they opened fire. The shooting occurred on a day of clashes in which three Israeli soldiers and 20 Palestinians were killed. Earlier in the day, Israeli troops had come under fire from mortar shells, and a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a tank.
        Brig. Gen. Avihai Mandelblit, the army's top prosecutor, said in a letter that the tank commander sought permission to open fire after spotting a small group of people attaching an unidentified black object to a tripod and pointing it toward the tank. He also said Shana and Wafa Mizyed, a Reuters colleague wounded in the attack, were wearing body armor commonly used by Palestinian militants. "The tank crew's superiors, asked to authorize firing by the tank, reasonably concluded...that the characters identified by the tank were hostile, and posed a threat to the tank and its crew," he wrote. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Caught with Pipe Bombs at Checkpoint - Efrat Weiss
    IDF soldiers on Wednesday detained a Palestinian at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus in the West Bank, after he was found to be carrying two pipe bombs. The bombs were detonated by military sappers. Over the past few years the IDF has thwarted numerous attempts to smuggle explosives and weapons through the Hawara checkpoint. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinian Poet an Uncompromising Voice for Israel's Transience - Jonathan Spyer
    In 1988, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died this week, wrote a poem that became the anthem of the first intifada. The poem shocked Israelis who hoped for historic compromise with the Palestinians, as Darwish rejected Israel's moral claim to existence. Palestinian nationalism is united in the fundamental article of faith that Jewish claims to connection with the land are fictitious, fraudulent and lacking in moral or factual basis.
        Darwish authored the Palestinian "Declaration of Independence" of 1988 and scripted Arafat's speech before the UN General Assembly in 1974. His funeral took place in the mukata compound in Ramallah at a site close to Arafat's grave. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Son of Hamas Leader Turns Back on Islam - Jonathan Hunt
    Mosab Hassan Yousef, 30, the son of one of the most influential Hamas leaders, has renounced his Muslim faith, left his family behind in Ramallah, and is seeking asylum in the U.S. In an interview, he explained: "All those walls that Islam built for the last 1,400 years are not existing anymore....Now, people have media. If the father closes the door for his daughter not to leave the house, she's going to go behind her computer and travel the world....For the next 25 years this is for sure going to make [a] huge change in the Muslim and the Arab world."
        "When I was 18 years old, and I was arrested by the Israelis and was in an Israeli jail under the Israeli administration, Hamas had control of its members inside the jail and I saw their torture; (they were) torturing people in a very, very bad way....Hamas leaders that we see on TV now, and big leaders, [were] responsible for torturing their own members. They didn't torture me, but that was a shock for me, to see them torturing people: putting needles under their nails, burning their bodies. And they killed lots of them....Hundreds of people were victims for this, and I was a witness for about a year for this torture. So that was a huge change in my life. I started to open my (eyes)." (FOX News)
  • Observations:

    Sticks, Carrots and Nukes - Patrick Clawson (Guardian-UK)

    • Israel is the country most at risk from a nuclear Iran. Israelis see a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, due to the possibility of nuclear terrorism, the potential for miscalculation in a crisis, or the prospect that an irresponsible or fanatical Iranian leader might be tempted to use Iran's nuclear arsenal to expunge Israel from the region.
    • The challenge facing the international community is to persuade Iran to step back from the nuclear brink. Diplomacy is more likely to be effective if it is reinforced by sticks and carrots.
    • Besides its key role in the European-led diplomacy, Britain could do much on its own to reinforce the actions of its European partners to press Iran until it agrees to compromise. The City of London's importance as a hub for international finance means that warnings from the British government regarding the risks of doing business with Iranian institutions could appreciably increase the pressure on Tehran.
    • If Iran were in effect locked out of the world's two largest financial centers, New York and London, even hardline Iranian leaders might reflect on the high cost of their refusal to compromise. British authorities need not take formal action; they have long been skilled in the art of passing quiet messages to business leaders.
    • Scapegoating Israel sidesteps the issue. Instead, those worried about what Israel might do should take steps to address the security concerns that led Israel to conduct its recent military exercises designed to show that it could strike Iran if need be. Not only Israel but Britain and the whole world will be safer if together we can reduce the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons by reinforcing respect for the UN and international inspections.

      The writer is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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