Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 15, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

The Secret War with Iran - Eli Lake (New York Sun)
    Israel and America are intensifying a clandestine war against Iran, claims Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in The Secret War with Iran.
    He suggests that the West has had some successes in the war to stop the Iranian bomb, reporting, for example, that in January 2007 Iran determined that some of its nuclear suppliers in Europe were fronts for Britain's MI6 intelligence service.
    Between February 2006 and March 2007, at least three planes "belonging to the Revolutionary Guards crashed in Iran, while carrying personnel connected with the security of the nuclear project."
    Specialized pipes for centrifuges sold to Iran have been modified, and specialized computers sold to Iran for its nuclear laboratories contained viruses that sabotaged the code.
    The secret efforts appear not to be limited to modifying equipment: On January 18, 2007, an Iranian expert on electromagnetics who worked in an Isfahan enrichment facility, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, died in his apartment.
    The author quotes the deputy director of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Eli Levite, as saying in a closed forum that operations against Iran "gained time for us" and have "doubtless caused significant delays in the project. The process has led to the revealing of large parts of the program in the areas of sources of supply, of the infrastructure, and of the goals."
    Bergman reports that Israel first learned of the nuclear facility in Natanz in 1996, six years before the facility was first disclosed to the public. Two Israeli operatives, posing as tourists, arrived at the site and took soil samples, which they brought back to Israel in their shoes and which showed some radiation.

Sir Paul McCartney: Terror Target - Dennis Rice (Sunday Express-UK)
    Sir Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.
    Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri, in his weekly Internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, claimed the former Beatle's decision to take part in the Jewish state's 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.
    "Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call 'sacrifice' operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression."

Six Muslims Found Guilty of Terrorism in Australia - Mick Tsikas (Reuters)
    An Australian jury found a Muslim cleric and five of his followers guilty on Monday of planning to stage a "violent jihad" in Melbourne in 2005 to force Australian troops out of Iraq.
    Muslim cleric Abdul Benbrika, 48, and his followers planned a bomb attack on an Australian Football League (AFL) grand final in Melbourne, attended by 97,000 fans.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Aims to Stay in Office to 2010 Despite Hamas
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published on Sunday he will remain in office until January 2010. Hamas, which defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006, says Abbas' term ends on January 9, 2009. (Reuters)
        See also Abbas: Palestinian Refugees Must Return to Israel - Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff
    In an interview, Abbas was asked: "Is it clear that on the issue of the right of return, the refugees will return only to the areas of the Palestinian state?" Abbas replied: ""Not at all. This issue is not at all clear. There are today five million Palestinian refugees whose forefathers were expelled from the area of Israel, not from the West Bank and Gaza. We understand that if we demand of you that all five million return to Israel, the State of Israel would be destroyed. But we must talk about compromise and see to what numbers you can agree....We intend to hold talks with Israel about the number of refugees who will return to its area." (Ha'aretz)
  • Iraq to Prosecute Legislator for Israel Trip - Waleed Ibrahim
    Iraq said on Sunday it would prosecute secular Sunni parliament member Mithal al-Alusi who made a trip to Israel earlier this month for a conference on terrorism and security. "In the name of the government and prime minister, we reject this visit which violated the law and provoked the feelings of the Iraqi people. The government will take all legal measures against this person," minister for parliamentary affairs Safaaeddine al-Safi told the assembly.
        Two sons of Alusi were murdered in 2005 and a former culture minister, Asaad al-Hashemi, was found guilty in absentia last month and sentenced to hang for involvement in the killings. (Reuters)
        See also Iraqi MP Visits Israel
    Chairman of Iraq's Democratic Party, Mithal al-Alusi, arrived at a conference on terror in Herzliya on Wednesday, calling for the establishment of a joint intelligence network with Israel and the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)
  • European Union Ends Funding of Anti-Israel NGO
    The European Union has decided not to renew its funding of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). The organization's director Jeff Halper, who played a leading role in the "Free Gaza" voyage, announced: "We have just heard that our request for re-funding has been rejected." For several years, despite its extreme anti-Israel agenda, ICAHD has been a recipient of major EU funding under the Partnerships for Peace framework. As NGO Monitor demonstrated, an EU grant of 473,000 euros in 2005 constituted the majority of ICAHD's annual budget.
        ICAHD routinely refers to Israel as an "apartheid" state, while its director promotes a one-state solution, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. NGO Monitor's executive director, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, noted: "ICAHD's facade has finally been acknowledged, and the European Commission has acted appropriately in ending further funding. In reality, ICAHD does nothing to advance coexistence and instead promotes extreme views which fuel the conflict." (NGO Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Ahmadinejad: Iran Will Support Hamas until Collapse of Israel
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Friday to keep supporting Hamas until the "collapse of Israel." The Iranian news agency Khabar quoted Ahmadinejad as telling Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in a phone conversation that Iran views the support of the Palestinian people as part of its religious and national duty and that Iran will stand behind the Palestinian nation "until the big victory feast which is the collapse of the Zionist regime."  (DPA/Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Orders All Soldiers Not to Visit Sinai
    The Israel Defense Forces has issued an order prohibiting soldiers in mandatory service, career soldiers and civilians working for the military from traveling to Sinai, Army Radio reported on Sunday. On Sep. 4, the Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning on serious terror threats to Israelis in Sinai including suicide bombings at holiday sites and kidnapping Israelis and smuggling them into Gaza. Israel fears that terror cells from Gaza have infiltrated Egypt and are currently searching for Israelis to kidnap or murder. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Despite Gaza Ceasefire, Palestinians Fire Rocket at Sderot - Shmulik Hadad
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza Sunday evening landed near a residential complex in the Israeli town of Sderot. One man suffering from shock was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Divided Palestinian Entity Is Unlikely to Become a Viable State
    With Hamas' takeover of Gaza seemingly complete, the West Bank going its own way and scant prospects for reconciliation in the foreseeable future, the crisis of the Palestinian national movement is only worsening. After a series of unfruitful ventures - including the Mecca Agreement and national unity government, the Yemeni Initiative and ongoing Egyptian mediation - the split between Fatah and Hamas as well as between the West Bank and Gaza seem destined to endure and deepen. Some Gazans have gone so far as to speak nostalgically about the days of Israeli occupation when their economic and medical needs were better met, and they could move in and out of Gaza with relative ease.
        A divided Palestinian movement is unlikely to be in a position to make bold decisions. A weak Palestinian counterpart is unlikely to gain Israel's trust or encourage it to compromise. A segregated Palestinian entity is unlikely to become a viable state. Under current conditions, prospects for a genuine and sustainable peace process are bad and getting worse. (International Crisis Group)
  • Rice Should Focus on Extending Abbas' Term - Dennis Ross
    What happens in January 2009 when Mahmoud Abbas' term as president of the Palestinian Authority expires? With Hamas in control of Gaza, Abbas issued a decree some time ago to hold the presidential elections simultaneously with the legislative council elections in January 2010. Hamas leaders have already begun to declare that Abbas will have no legitimacy after his term ends. Secretary of State Rice remains determined to try to produce an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians on the permanent-status issues of Jerusalem, refugees, security and borders. While that might be desirable, it is simply not in the cards.
        Rice would be well advised to direct her attention elsewhere and line up Arab support for Abbas staying in office - something that should not be hard to do. One option would be to try to seize the high ground and put Hamas on the defensive by having Abbas (with a public endorsement from Arab leaders and the Quartet) call for presidential elections to be held as soon as security conditions in Gaza permit. Those conditions would require at least some PA security presence, along with international observers to ensure the elections are free and fair and conducted without Hamas intimidation. (Washington Post)
  • The Real Russia Problem - Natan Sharansky
    As the free world tries to formulate an effective response to Russia's recent incursion into Georgia, policymakers might want to consider how we got to this point. The situation in Georgia is the culmination of a failed post-Cold War policy toward Russia. Central to this failure has been ignoring the inherent connection between internal freedom and external aggression. As democracy was rolled back within Russia, the world abandoned an approach that had been so effective during the later stages of the Cold War, when relations with the Kremlin were linked to the expansion of freedom inside the Soviet Union.
        If the root of the problem is to be addressed, the focus must return to the matter of democracy within Russia itself. The threat to Georgia, Russia's other democratic neighbors and America ultimately arises from a lack of democracy within Russia. Changing that should be the focus of statecraft today - if we want to ensure that the Kremlin poses no threat to peace tomorrow. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    The Myth of al-Aqsa: The Holiness of Jerusalem to Islam Has Always Been Politically Motivated - Mordechai Kedar (Ynet News)

    • Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran. After Palestine was occupied by the Muslims, its capital was Ramle, 30 miles to the west of Jerusalem, signifying that Jerusalem meant nothing to them.
    • In 682 C.E., 50 years after Mohammad's death, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Islamic rulers in Damascus, conquered Mecca and prevented pilgrims from reaching Mecca for the Hajj. Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad ruler, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and settled on Jerusalem which was then under his control.
    • In order to justify this choice, a verse from the Koran was chosen which states: "Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque." The meaning ascribed to this verse is that "the farthest mosque" is in Jerusalem and that Mohammad was conveyed there one night (although the journey took three days by camel) on the back of al-Buraq, a magical horse with the head of a woman and wings of an eagle. He tethered the horse to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and from there ascended to heaven.
    • Orthodox Muslim thinkers have concluded that the nocturnal journey was a dream of Mohammad's. The people of Mecca, who knew Muhammad well, did not believe this story. Another difficulty with this belief is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in Kitab al-Maghazi, a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi.
    • One aim of the Islamization of Jerusalem is to undermine the legitimacy of the older religions, Judaism and Christianity, which consider Jerusalem to be a holy city. Though Judaism and Christianity can exist side by side in Jerusalem, Islam regards both of them as betrayals of Allah and will continue to do all in its power to expel both of them from this city. Notably, this expulsion is retroactive: The Islamic broadcasters of the Palestinian radio stations consistently make it a point to claim that the Jews never had a temple on the Temple Mount.
    • Must Judaism and Christianity defer to myths related in Islamic texts or envisioned in Mohammad's dreams, long after Jerusalem was established as the ancient center of these two religions, which preceded Islam? Should Israel give up on its capital just because some Muslims decided to recycle the political problems of the Umayyads?

      The writer, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, is a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

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