Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 1, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians: U.S. Position Supportive on Borders and Jerusalem (Al-Hayat-Arabic)
    Sources in the Palestinian Authority expressed satisfaction Wednesday with the "new ideas" presented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    A senior Palestinian official told Al-Hayat that Rice presented "an open approach to the resolution of the conflict, and offered an outlook close to that of the Palestinians regarding the cessation of settlement activity, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 4 June 1967 borders including Jerusalem, and a one-to-one exchange of territory of equal quality between the sides."

Kidnapped Israeli Released in Nigeria - (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli businessman Ehud Avni, who was kidnapped last week in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, has been released by his captors without any ransom payment after they discovered that he "was not the right guy," Army Radio reported Monday.

Al-Aqsa Brigades in Gaza Graduate Class of Fighters (Maan News-PA)
    A class of fighters trained by the Al-Aqsa Brigades, Fatah's armed military wing, graduated on Sunday in the northern Gaza Strip. The group stated during the graduation ceremony that they intend to continue armed resistance against Israel.
    Trainees displayed military skills such as storming buildings and kidnapping soldiers, and launched rocket-propelled grenades for the audience.
    See also Islamic Jihad Celebrates Graduation of Trained Fighters (Maan News-PA)
    The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, are preparing for a major imminent confrontation with Israel, and graduated a third class of fighters on Friday.
    Trainees shouted "death for America and Israel" and displayed fighting skills such as jumping over fire, blowing up an imaginary Israeli settlement, and kidnapping Israeli soldiers.
    See also Video: Islamic Jihad Trains for War (France 24-YouTube)
    See also Gaza Kids Training to Kill Jews - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Dozens of children have undergone weapons training in recent days with gunmen from the Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.

Iran Plotting to Sabotage Gaza Cease-Fire - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is mobilizing Islamic Jihad in Gaza in an effort to sabotage the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Friday. A spokesman for Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades in Gaza, Abu Anas, warned on Saturday that the truce's end was nearing.
    Commenting on the report, senior security analyst Yaakov Amidror told the Jerusalem Post that Hamas would not hesitate to use force to shut down Islamic Jihad to defend the cease-fire.
    "Islamic Jihad lives off of Iran. It is more similar to Hizbullah than to Hamas in this respect. Hamas cooperates with Iran, but Islamic Jihad is dependent on it. If Islamic Jihad attempts to undermine the cease-fire, Hamas will explain to them - in terms they understand - that it will have to pay for such a move," Amidror said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Rejects Idea of Interim Peace Deal - Wafa Amr
    Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday that the Palestinians "will not be part of any interim agreement. Either everything will be agreed or nothing will be agreed," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah. Abbas is cool to the idea of pushing through a preliminary peace deal simply to meet Washington's goal of an agreement by year's end. (Reuters)
        See also Bush's Mideast Peace Timeline Looking Unattainable - Steven Gutkin
    President Bush's goal of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal within five months is looking increasingly unattainable. These days it's hard to find anyone optimistic about the deal's January 2009 target date, announced with great fanfare at a U.S.-hosted Mideast peace conference nine months ago. Of all the obstacles to peace, none is more formidable than Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza 14 months ago. The Palestinians holding talks with Israel control only the West Bank, but say their future state must include both the West Bank and Gaza, two separate land masses located on opposite sides of Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Russian Offensive Hailed in Arab Mideast - Ellen Knickmeyer
    For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew last week to Moscow, where he endorsed Russia's offensive in Georgia and, according to Russian officials, sought additional Russian weapon systems. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. "What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game," he told the Russian daily Kommersant. Many Arab analysts initially cheered Russia's flexing of its military muscles. An opinion piece in the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf News called it "long overdue." (Washington Post)
        See also President Assad Wants a Cold War - Meir Javedanfar (Middle East Analyst)
  • Anti-Israel Protest Is Countered by Standing Ovation - Tim Cornwell
    Protesters who interrupted a concert by Israeli musicians five times Friday sparked outrage - but the audience for the recital, by the Jerusalem Quartet as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, responded with a standing ovation. Five Scottish protesters stood up, one after another, at the concert in the Queen's Hall to disrupt the performance, denouncing "Israeli army musicians," before being bundled out and arrested. But the audience rallied to the musicians - two of whom are members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, established to promote harmony between Israeli and Arab musicians and cultures.
        Scotsman music critic Susan Nickalls called it "absolutely disgraceful.... Even if one might have sympathy with the Palestinian cause, this was not the platform. The audience had come to hear an uncontroversial program of Brahms, Smetana and Haydn, not the views of political activists." (Scotsman-UK)
  • Gaza Doctors Strike Against Hamas Sackings
    Doctors in Gaza struck for a second day Sunday to protest what they said was the Hamas-run government's firing of health workers loyal to the rival Fatah movement. Participation in the strike climbed to around 90 percent, said a senior medical official at Gaza City's main Al-Shifa hospital. He said Hamas-run security forces had started rounding up doctors and health workers and taking them to hospitals by force. The doctors went on strike Saturday to protest the sacking of some 50 doctors and other health workers by the Hamas-run health ministry, saying the decision was politically motivated. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Senior U.S. Official: No Refugees to Israel, Settlement Blocs to Remain
    Yediot Ahronot correspondent Nahum Barnea reported Sunday on a conversation in Washington with a senior U.S. government official that included the following remarks: "The Bush Administration is committed to the president's 14 April 2004 letter: the solution is a Palestinian state and not the return of refugees to Israel. In her last visit ten days ago, Secretary of State Rice heard opposition to the Israeli settlement blocs remaining in the area of the West Bank from the Palestinians. They said that this impairs Palestinian movement. We told them that this is a problem that has to be dealt with, but the settlement blocs would remain. We made it clear to them that they must understand the reality: no Israeli prime minister can abandon communities where tens of thousands of Israelis live." (IMRA/Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Hamas Piping in Fuel from Egypt - Avi Issacharoff
    Arab sources report that Hamas recently laid a pipeline for supplying Gaza with fuel from Egypt through a tunnel dug specifically for this purpose. At a conference last week in Rafah organized by a Gazan human rights group under the banner: "The Tunnels - Advantages and Disadvantages," Rafah Mayor Issa al-Nashar and Hamas civil defense chief Yousef al-Zahar praised the tunnels as important conduits for weapons for the "resistance." The national security commander for the border region, Ibrahim Abu al-Najar, reported that there are 200 tunnels in operation. Hamas' monthly profit from the tunnels is estimated at $20 million. Hamas levies a special tax on tunnel proprietors, and also collects fees for every bit of contraband - whether goods or people. (Ha'aretz)
  • Anti-Israel Markings on Google Earth Now Filtered - Haviv Rettig
    The default map of Israel on Google Earth no longer displays anti-Israel markings. Google was criticized in recent months for a series of orange markings overlaying the satellite map of Israel that were labeled "Nakba - The Palestinian Catastrophe." Clicking on them led to the anti-Israel website Palestine Remembered. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Google Earth: A New Platform for Anti-Israel Propaganda and Replacement Geography - Andre Oboler (ICA/JCPA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Few Things Are as They Seem in Tehran - George Jahn
    It's Friday, the Muslim holy day, and thousands of Iran's faithful are again gathering at Tehran University's main campus for what has become a weekly ritual. "America is the greatest Satan of them all!" the black-bearded speaker howls. "Down with the U.S.!" comes the response, first from a few, then from the full gathering. The voices are thunderous, but the faces are curiously emotionless. The expressionless faces offer a clue - this is a regular staged performance, a message from the official Iran.
        Yet the chatter in Tehran of a myriad of other voices is startling in its defiance of the party line and threatens to drown out the government message of strict Islamic piety and distrust of the West. Iran's leaders have been more enthusiastic than ever in preaching hatred of America. Yet at the same time, and in reaction, a more reform-minded public has become contemptuous of the mullahs and clerics, bending when it has to and doing what it wants otherwise. (AP/Washington Post)
  • The Autumn of Mubarak - Jeffrey Azarva
    Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, 80, the man who has ruled longer than almost any pharaoh, is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to secure the longevity of the regime and a seamless transition of power. Determined to pass the baton to his son, Gamal, he has embarked on an unbridled campaign to crush dissent and consolidate autocratic rule. For years, Mubarak has walked a tightrope, billing himself as a stalwart U.S. ally and secular dike against the rising tide of extremism. This balancing act has paid off.
        For maintaining nominal peace with Israel and strengthening strategic cooperation with the U.S., his regime has been rewarded with $2 billion annually. Now assured it will outlive the Bush administration, his regime treats U.S. largesse as an entitlement and dismisses Washington's demarches as "unacceptable interference" in Egyptian affairs. Egypt's continuing pro-Western orientation cannot be taken for granted. As a new U.S. administration prepares to enter office, it would do well to send Mubarak and the one-in-three Arabs he rules the message that U.S. aid cannot be taken for granted, either. The writer is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    A Middle East Strategy for the West - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • The great battle in the Middle East is between Arab nationalism and Islamism. Democracy isn't on the agenda. Roughly 60-70% of the Arabic-speaking world is still Arab nationalist, 20%-30% is Islamist and 10% pro-moderate democracy.
    • In Syria, the regime is Arab nationalist but its international policy and domestic propaganda are largely Islamist. It backs Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian Islamist terrorists, and is deeply committed to the Iranian alliance.
    • The notion of helping groups like the Muslim Brotherhood become more powerful or seize control of countries is insane. It is more likely to ensure decades of bloodshed, the deaths of many thousands of people in internal strife and foreign warfare, and the destruction of Western interests.
    • The two contending forces are both local. The West is an outside factor whose intervention won't decide this contest generally. The West can, however, do some critical things if it knows how to help one side against the other where appropriate. The people to help are the Arab nationalists. As a group, at least with Saddam Hussein gone from Iraq, they are less internationally aggressive and less internally repressive than the revolutionary, enthusiastic and ideologically idealistic Islamists.
    • But don't romanticize Arab nationalist regimes. They're incompetent, corrupt, anti-democratic and unreliable. We know their failings are one significant reason the Islamists have grown but, frankly, there's nothing we can do about it. There's no third alternative.
    • Any concession made to the Islamist side - including Syria - sends a signal to regimes, radical Islamist groups, and the people that the Islamists are winning and everyone better join or appease them.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

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