Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Women in Gaza Prepare to Become Suicide Bombers (MEMRI TV)
Canadian Plotter Proposed Suicide Attack on Israel - Donna Casey (Ottawa Sun-Canada)
Israeli Kidnapped in Nigeria - Roni Gal
Man Sentenced in U.S. for Crashing Car into Crowd to Avenge Muslim Deaths (UPI)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
"The Russian move into Georgia has begun a tectonic shift in the (Mideast) region," said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert in the U.S. "It has emboldened Syria, Hizbullah and Iran to push harder against Israel and the U.S." Syria's President Bashar Assad has publicly stepped up his outreach to old ally Russia in recent days, seeking aid to build up Syrian military forces. "Syria's bad negotiating position (with Israel) is leading it to look for more weapons and to try to grow more teeth before returning to the table with Israel," Landis said.
Some Iranian media have asserted that Russia is now less likely to back U.S.-led efforts to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program. The Russian ambassador to Iran, Alexander Sadovnikov, told the official IRNA news agency this weekend that Moscow won't support a new round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. "Russia is never after a new (sanctions) resolution," IRNA quoted the ambassador as saying. (AP)
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, speaking Monday at a joint press conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, said Monday that no headway has been achieved in several rounds of indirect negotiations with Israel. Moallem said the talks mediated by Turkey "regrettably" have not progressed enough for the two parties to hold direct negotiations. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
See also A Syrian-Israeli Breakthrough? - David Ignatius
Senior advisers to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told me in Damascus this week that Assad appears ready for direct peace talks with Israel, if the U.S. will join France as a co-sponsor. (Washington Post)
"Ahmadinejad is not complying with the will of the people," the Financial Times Deutschland quoted Grand Ayatollah Bajat Sanjani as saying. "This is a major threat, a big danger," he added. Sanjani accused Ahmadinejad's government of breaking the law, seriously encroaching on existing freedoms, and illegally empowering the Revolutionary Guard. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Lebanon's eastern border with Syria is wide open to smugglers, according to a report submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday by a task force he appointed to study the issue. The report harshly criticizes both Lebanon and Syria, saying there has been no improvement over the past year despite promises by both countries to address the issue. There are several well-known unofficial border crossings, which is where much of the smuggling occurs.
Israel says Hizbullah has built a network of sophisticated underground bunkers in some 150 villages throughout south Lebanon in recent months. These bunkers can hold up to 15 fighters, plus rockets and rocket launchers. Neither the UN forces in Lebanon nor the Lebanese Army has done anything to stop construction of these bunkers. (Ha'aretz)
Less than 24 hours after the release of 198 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Mahmoud Abbas, and with U.S. Secretary of State Rice in the region, Israel on Tuesday has granted amnesty to dozens of wanted Palestinians. A senior Palestinian source said 45 wanted men would receive full amnesty. Additionally, a number of wanted men who were not granted amnesty in the past will enter a probation period of several months. (Ynet News)
In Gaza, the new school year got off to a shaky start as teachers loyal to Mahmoud Abbas declared a five-day work-stoppage. Teachers' Union Secretary-General Jameel Shehada said Hamas police took over the building belonging to the PLO-affiliated Teachers' Union, fired some employees of the education ministry, and transferred some teachers to remote schools. Hamas is expected to appoint its own teachers to replace those who went on strike, and has already appointed its loyalists as principals in most schools. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
On any given day, Israeli prisons are hosting Red Cross representatives, journalists, lawyers and prisoners' advocates, as well as family members of convicted Palestinian prisoners. Gilad Shalit, the Palestinians' lone Israeli prisoner, is not a terrorist but a simple soldier who was guarding sovereign Israeli soil when he was abducted on June 25, 2006. The IDF soldier - who under international law should be treated as a POW - is not allowed to see Red Cross representatives, and his parents are forbidden to visit him.
Meanwhile, Israel released 198 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, including several killers, in a gesture to boost Mahmoud Abbas' standing. Abbas used a Ramallah ceremony welcoming the men to say: "We will not rest until [all] the prisoners are freed and the jails are empty," specifically citing Marwan Barghouti, serving five consecutive life terms for murder; Ahmed Saadat, imprisoned for the assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi; and Aziz Duaik, a Hamas politician taken into custody in response to Shalit's abduction. It is sobering to remind ourselves that Abbas reflects the most moderate of Palestinian opinion.
Writing in Yediot Ahronot on Monday, novelist and playwright Yoram Kaniuk, a government critic who has long expressed compassion for Palestinian suffering, did what Abbas should have done. He urged ordinary Palestinians to call for better treatment of Shalit: "Keeping a young person imprisoned without trial, without his parents being able to visit him, is unparalleled cruelty." It is. (Jerusalem Post)
Even those who believe that U.S. moves might have once made a difference in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks admit that now - with the Bush administration in its waning days - time has run out. "There is not enough time to do any work now. None of the players are in any shape to formulate policy and no one has energy to work on this peace process," says Mohammed Dajani, director of the American Studies Institute at Jerusalem's Al-Quds University. Danny Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to Washington until 2006, agrees: "There is absolutely no hope for progress on the peace process at this junction....The name of the game now is just keeping the fragile pieces together and a facade of momentum."
Even the release of 198 Palestinian prisoners Monday - as a goodwill measure toward Mahmoud Abbas - did little to brighten the mood. "The idea that this is going to strengthen Abu Mazen [Abbas] in any substantial way is a big mistake," says Yoram Meital, head of the Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University. "There will be celebrations, yes, but the day after, nothing significant will remain and it will not move dialogue forward." Ayalon says, "No matter who wins the U.S. elections, it will take months for the new administration to settle in, and no one expects any changes on the ground here during that time. Basically, we are talking about next summer." (Christian Science Monitor)
The Palestinian Prisoner Release - Three Views
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