Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
"Palestinians Will Reject Any Agreement that Does Not Make Jerusalem the Palestinian Capital" (Maan News-PA)
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Hizbullah Still Targeting Israelis Abroad - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Sinai Terror Attacks Feared During Holiday Season - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
Gaza Strike Deepens Palestinian Rift - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Iran Expels Al-Arabiya Reporter - Barbara Surk
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Bush administration, European governments, and religious rights organizations are mounting a new effort to defeat a General Assembly resolution that demands respect for Islam and other religions but has been used to justify persecution of religious minorities. The resolution, called "Combating Defamation of Religion," is sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The Bush administration and European governments warn that the resolution - which specifically mentions Islam but no other religions - is an Orwellian text that has been used to shut down free speech. The resolution "replaces the existing objective criterion of limitations on speech where there is an intent to incite hatred or violence against religious believers with a subjective criterion that considers whether the religion or its believers feel offended by the speech," said a brief by the European Center for Law and Justice.
Felice Gaer, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal body that investigates abuses, said, "We are seeing a clear attempt by OIC countries to mainstream the concept and insert it into just about every other topic they can....They are turning freedom of expression into restriction of expression." U.S. officials working on human rights said the resolution is being used to justify harsh blasphemy laws in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan and Afghanistan. (Washington Times)
Condoleezza Rice will make a landmark trip to Libya this week, the first by a U.S. secretary of state in more than half a century, the State Department announced on Tuesday. Her trip is a tangible sign of warming U.S.-Libya relations, which first began to thaw when Tripoli gave up its weapons of mass destruction program in 2003. (Reuters/Washington Post)
See also U.S., Libya Neither Friends Nor Enemies, Gaddafi Says - Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post)
A Pakistani neuroscientist was carrying handwritten notes when she was detained in Afghanistan that referred to a "mass casualty attack" and listed landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, according to a federal indictment announced on Tuesday. The scientist, Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is being held on charges that she tried to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. Siddiqui, who has been described by American officials as an al-Qaeda operative, was taken into custody in July after being found loitering outside an Afghan police station with suspicious items in her handbag. After being in custody, she picked up an unsecured rifle and fired at least two shots toward one of the soldiers who was part of an American team of FBI agents and military personnel who were about to question her. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israeli officials say no decisions have been made regarding withdrawing from the northern side of the village of Ghajar, despite unconfirmed media reports indicating Israel has recently expressed a willingness to withdraw. "No new decisions have yet been taken," government spokesman Mark Regev said on Tuesday. The London-based Asharq Alawsat reported this week that Israel had informed the U.S. of its readiness to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, but the State Department said Tuesday it was unaware of any such communication. Israel has been willing to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar in the past under certain conditions, but despite assurances from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), these conditions have not yet been met, according to Israeli diplomatic officials. (Jerusalem Post)
Egypt halted the supply of natural gas to Israel on Friday, most of which is used by the Israel Electric Corporation. In 2006 the Egyptian-Israeli consortium EMG began laying a 100-kilometer undersea pipeline to bring the gas from El-Arish in Egypt to Ashkelon, at a cost of $470 million. Gas began to flow on May 1, 2008, but only about a third of the promised amount has been forthcoming. Meanwhile, opposition has been rising in Egypt, partially against the sale of gas to Israel, but mainly against the relatively low price set in the contract. Sources in Israel's energy market say that Egypt simply doesn't have the production capacity to supply its own consumption of gas and its contractual obligations to clients.
Israel's National Infrastructures Ministry said, "We have no doubt that Egypt will stand by the agreement it signed with the government in Israel....The ministry is in constant contact with government officials in Cairo and in parallel is making great effort to assure additional sources of gas, including Russia and Azerbaijan." (Ha'aretz)
Seventeen Georgian citizens who suffered severe injuries in the recent conflict arrived in Israel on Tuesday for medical treatment. The cost of the care is funded by the hospitals and Magen David Adom as part of the humanitarian assistance offered to Georgia. Another medical mission is scheduled to leave for Georgia on Thursday, sponsored by IsraAid - the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The most that any Israeli government can offer the Palestinians (and still survive politically) is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian regime could agree to accept (and still survive politically). The real gap between the sides is huge, and it keeps on growing. With the rise of Hamas, it is clear that should a final-status agreement be secured, and should Hamas not torpedo it, there is high likelihood that a Palestinian state in the West Bank would be controlled by Hamas. For Israel, this is not only a question of "painful concessions," but rather also of taking an unreasonable risk. In addition, the conviction by Israelis that the Palestinians want "only" a small state split between Gaza and the West Bank is waning.
A final-status agreement cannot be secured in the foreseeable future and the time has come to think about other solutions. One of them is a return not to the 1967 borders, but rather to the reality that prevailed in 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is the former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
Western security forces spent 25 years pursuing Hizbullah warlord Imad Mughniyeh, a pioneer of brutal tactics later emulated by al-Qaeda. He oversaw foreign networks that he built after his terrorism campaign in Lebanon, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks. His cells carried out operations in France and Argentina, where two car bombings of Jewish targets left more than 100 dead. He also met in Sudan in the early 1990s with Osama bin Laden, whose militants got explosives training from Hizbullah experts.
On the evening of Feb. 12, 2008, he left a safe house in Damascus. He had just held a sit-down with a Syrian spy chief and was preparing for a secret meeting that night with President Bashar Assad, Western anti-terrorism officials say. Seconds after Mughniyeh got behind the wheel of his sport utility vehicle, an explosion incinerated him.
Mughniyeh's duties included aiding Palestinian militant groups with training and arms procurement, and running security for Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. On May 13, 2006, he met in Lebanon with Hassan Zarkani, a representative of Iraqi Shiite strongman Muqtada Sadr, and agreed to provide smuggled anti-tank missiles to Iraqi fighters and train them in their use. But his prime obsession was the destruction of Israel. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Hizbullah Shrine to Mughniyeh Enthralls Lebanese Children - Robert F. Worth
The children crowd forward around the glass case, eager for a glimpse of the martyr's bloodstained clothes. The dead man being shown such veneration is Imad Mughniyeh, the shadowy Hizbullah commander. Hizbullah has hailed him as one of its great military leaders in the struggle against Israel. Now, the group has opened an exhibit in Nabatiye in honor of Mughniyeh. The eerie heart of the exhibit is the glass-encased room displaying his possessions, as if they were a saint's relics. In addition to an extraordinary array of weaponry and martyrs' paraphernalia, the exhibit includes a large indoor room that was remodeled to resemble "what we believe the martyrs' heaven is like," according to a guide on duty. (New York Times)
View Slide Show: Exhibit Honors Hizbullah Commander (New York Times)
Can Ahmadinejad Lose the Election? - Benedetta Berti (Jerusalem Post)
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