Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Women in Gaza Prepare to Become Suicide Bombers (MEMRI TV)
    On August 19, 2008, Al-Jadid/New TV (Lebanon) aired a report on female Palestinian suicide bombers.
    "This is the belt we wear around our waists, so that we can detonate ourselves at the push of a button," explains a young Gaza woman called the "lover of Al-Quds."
    She is about to be married, but has said: "Nothing will stop me from committing martyrdom. I have given up all my dreams and aspirations, in order to become a martyrdom-seeker."

Canadian Plotter Proposed Suicide Attack on Israel - Donna Casey (Ottawa Sun-Canada)
    In the terrorist trial of Momin Khawaja, 29, in Ontario Superior Court, it was revealed that on Oct. 27, 2003, Khawaja sent on e-mail to Omar Khyam, the convicted ringleader of a UK fertilizer bomb plot, suggesting that an associate named Immy be sent on a "one-way mission to Yahoodi land," a derogatory term for Israel.
    Prosecutor David McKercher said Tuesday this showed that Khawaja's desire to wage "violent jihad" against Western powers wasn't limited to fighting as an insurgent in Afghanistan.
    Defense lawyer Lawrence Greenspon has admitted that Khawaja built a remote-control device, dubbed the "Hi-Fi Digimonster," which the Crown says plotters planned to use in a 2004 UK plot targeting a nightclub, a shopping complex and gas and electric facilities.

Israeli Kidnapped in Nigeria - Roni Gal (Ynet News)
    An Israeli businessman was kidnapped in Port Harcourt in Nigeria on Tuesday evening, said Yossi Levy, a spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry.
    Hundreds of local and foreign workers employed in Nigeria's oil industry have been kidnapped in recent years.

Man Sentenced in U.S. for Crashing Car into Crowd to Avenge Muslim Deaths (UPI)
    Mohammed Taheri-Azar, who pleaded guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder after driving into a crowd of students in March 2006 at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will spend as long as 33 years in prison, Orange County Superior Judge Carl Fox ruled Tuesday.
    "One of the things our government won't tolerate - and after 9/11 our citizens won't tolerate - is trying to use Americans as punching bags or targets for terrorist acts or mindless acts," Fox said.
    The Raleigh (NC) News and Observer said after the attack, which resulted in some injuries but no deaths, Taheri-Azara alleged that it was a response to the U.S. government's targeting of Muslims throughout the world.

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

  • Syria, Iran Warm to Russia - Sam F. Ghattas
    "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)
  • Syria: No Headway in Peace Talks with Israel
    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)
  • Iranian Cleric Criticizes Ahmadinejad
    "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:

  • UN: Lebanon-Syria Border Still Wide Open to Smugglers; Israel: Hizbullah Building Network of Fortified Bunkers - Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern
    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)
  • Israel Grants Amnesty to Dozens of Wanted Palestinians - Ali Waked
    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)
  • Hamas, Fatah Rivalry Causes Gaza School Strike
    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):

  • "Unparalleled Cruelty" - Editorial
    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)
  • Time Runs Out for Bush Administration on Mideast Peace Settlement - Danna Harman
    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)
  • Observations:

    The Palestinian Prisoner Release - Three Views

    • Palestinian Prisoner Release: The Right Move - Yossi Alpher
      The release of 198 hard-core non-Hamas terrorist prisoners as a confidence-building gesture to the PLO/PA leadership - including two who were directly involved in the murder of Israelis prior to the Oslo accord of 1993 - is a smart and courageous move. Israel has a peace process with the PLO - something that is inconceivable with Hamas. (
    • Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price - Nadav Shragai
      According to an informal estimate by Israeli security bodies, about 50 percent of the terrorists freed for any reason whatsoever returned to the path of terror, either as perpetrator, planner, or accomplice. In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    • Gestures Are Patronizing - Udi Label
      We have seen all sorts of gestures, always made unilaterally, by Israel, to the Palestinians. More than anything, these gestures adopt a patronizing perception vis-a-vis the Palestinians. They must be appeased, trained, and showered with gifts and gestures, as if they are not rational people who can be partners to genuine talks. The gesture strategy marks capitulation to the narrative that perceives them as hysterical, hot-blooded, and obsessed with honor - the kind of people who must constantly be given gifts so that they don't suddenly leave the negotiations. The writer is a senior political psychology lecturer at Sapir College and the Ariel University Center. (Ynet News)

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