Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 3, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

American Technology Reducing Gaza Smuggling? - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Thanks to new, secret American-developed technology, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uncovered 42 smuggling tunnels running between Egypt and Gaza in less than a month.
    American experts arrived in the region a few weeks ago, making an effort to keep a low profile by wearing civilian dress.
    The machinery they brought with them, which probably relies on sonar to identify underground tunnels, is unlike any technology that Israel possesses.
    The recent rash of tunnel discoveries appears to have Hamas worried. Additionally, the tunnel exposure project has led to heightened tension between Hamas and Egypt.

Iran Urges Officials to Keep Out of Syria - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
    Iranian intelligence agencies have recently issued a travel advisory urging officials holding sensitive positions and top Hizbullah figures to refrain from visiting Syria for fear of possible assassination attempts and terror attacks, Yediot Ahronot reported Thursday.
    A car bomb explosion near Damascus last week killed a senior Syrian army officer and 16 civilians.
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said an Arab state was responsible for smuggling into Syria the car and explosives used in the attack.
    Meanwhile, Hizbullah has accused Assad of leaking classified information regarding Hizbullah's plans to kidnap Israeli businessmen abroad.
    Yediot Ahronot reported that top Assad advisor Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Suleiman secretly visited Paris two months ago and disclosed information regarding Hizbullah's plan to abduct two Israeli businessmen in Thailand and in one of the Gulf states.
    Suleiman, who also served as Syria's liaison officer to Hizbullah, was assassinated in the Syrian city of Tartous shortly after Hizbullah's plans were made public in Israel.
    See also Hizbullah Orders Members Out of Syria (Jerusalem Post)
    See also Syrian Army on Heightened Alert Amid Fears of Fresh Attacks (AKI-Italy)

French Panel to Probe Shooting of Palestinian Boy Mohammed al-Dura in 2000 - Adi Schwartz (Ha'aretz)
    A new French committee will investigate the death of the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura, who, according to a French television report, was killed by IDF gunfire on Sep. 30, 2000, the first day of the second intifada.
    The committee, set up by the French public broadcasting authority, will examine the validity of the original television report in light of repeated accusations that it was deliberately falsified.

Number of Net Users in Middle East Zooms 600 Percent (Bahrain Tribune)
    The Middle East saw the highest growth in Internet users in the world during the last six years, as the number of people using the web soared by more than 600%, three times higher than the global average increase, according to industry research firm RNCOS's report, "Middle East Broadband Forecast to 2010."
    Israel had the highest number of broadband subscribers in 2007, followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.

Saudi Religious Police Get Tough on Fashion - Abeer Allam (Financial Times-UK)
    Saudi Arabia's religious police have ordered shopkeepers in Riyadh to get rid of all adorned abayas, the black robes worn by women in the kingdom.
    Salesmen were turning away frustrated shoppers who wanted abayas with a hint of color or decoration, telling them that shopowners could face fines or prison.
    "I do not understand why they force us to wear black in such a hot country while men can wear white," says Buthaina Nassr, a women's rights activist.

The Canadian Campus Scene - Alain Goldschlager (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Bowing to internal and social pressure, the Canadian higher educational system generally stays silent when campus-based campaigns brand Israel as the international scapegoat.
    It is always claimed that universities must remain an open forum for discussing the most diverse and provocative ideas when the issue is anti-Zionist discourse. Yet the principle of free speech is applied differently when it comes to allowing Jewish students to host pro-Israeli speakers.
    Universities do not object when the very legitimacy of the existence of the Jewish state is rejected, as has been the case during Israel Apartheid Week events.
    No universities have protested when speakers have blamed the creation of Israel on what they present as the "Holocaust hoax."
    The writer is director of the Holocaust Literature Research Institute and professor of French at the University of Western Ontario.

Arafat Sniper Now Works for Jesus - Joseph Farah (WorldNetDaily)
    When Taysir Saada served as a trained assassin for Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization in the late 1960s, if he found a home belonging to Christians, he would sometimes throw a grenade inside and shoot it up with machine-gun fire.
    Today Saada has traded in his automatic weapon for the Bible, humanitarian service and apologies to Arab Christians he once persecuted.
    His transition from Islamic terrorist to Christian missionary is recounted in a new book, Once An Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life.

Singaporean Celebrity Becomes Jewish - Boaz Arad (Ynet News)
    Television star, actor, and popular radio broadcaster Andrew Lim is one of Singapore's best-known celebrity faces.
    Lim, the product of a religious Catholic home, knew almost nothing about Judaism until he arrived in Israel as part of a sight-seeing tour to witness firsthand the sights he had read of so many times in the New Testament.
    When Lim went back to Singapore he discovered Jewish blood ran in his family. He began reading up on the religion online.
    Lim, or Eliyahu Abraham as he is now called in Hebrew, converted to Judaism in Australia together with his wife and children.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Out to Stay Nuclear Course - Aamer Madhani
    Expressing confidence his country is facing a diminished military threat, Iran's top diplomat said Thursday that Tehran remains committed to its nuclear development program despite international pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki contended that the danger of an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities is waning as the U.S. finds itself mired in an economic crisis and Israel is roiled by its own domestic political troubles. (Chicago Tribune)
        See also Iran Ties Uranium Enrichment Halt to Fuel Import Guarantee - Ingrid Melander
    Iran would consider stopping sensitive uranium enrichment if guaranteed a supply of nuclear fuel from abroad, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggested Thursday. (Reuters)
  • More Anti-Semitic Attacks from Ahmadinejad
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad said on the Iranian News Channel in September: "The Zionists are crooks. A small handful of Zionists, with a very intricate organization, have taken over the power centers of the world. According to our estimates, the main cadre of the Zionists consists of 2,000 individuals at most, and they have another 8,000 activists. In addition, they have several informants, who spy and provide them with intelligence information."
        "Their Jewishness is a great lie. They have no religion whatsoever. They are a handful of lying, power-greedy people who have no religion, who only want to take over all the peoples and countries." "If they themselves do not wrap up Zionism, the strong arm of the peoples will wipe these germs of corruption off the face of the Earth." (MEMRI)
  • Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Faces Dissent from Within - Jeffrey Fleishman
    The Internet revolution is striking at the Muslim Brotherhood's identity in Egypt. In his blog, "Waves in the Sea of Change," Mustafa Naggar, 28, a Cairo dentist, blames the Muslim Brotherhood for a religious rigidity that has weakened the Islamic party as a political force and distanced itself from day-to-day concerns of most Egyptians.
        He and other young Brotherhood members began blogging to attack the government of secular President Hosni Mubarak, but now they have turned their cyber-debate toward their organization's stands on women's rights, religious freedom and tolerance. "Our biggest concern is changing the group's religious education system. It's obsolete and unable to create minds to contribute to an Islamic renaissance," Naggar said. "Our new generation needs an open society toward moderate Islam and away from extremist Wahhabi values."
        The bloggers "have gone beyond their role as a media tool" for the Brotherhood and have emerged as "rebels, freed from ideological and organizational constraints," Khalil Anani, an expert on the group, wrote for the magazine Arab Insight. The bloggers say they are trying to make the Brotherhood more palatable to the West, borrowing from the efforts of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, which allows for division between religion and the state. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Dutch Court Extends Prison for Four Islamist Terror Plotters - Toby Sterling
    An appeals court on Thursday increased the prison sentences of four Islamic radicals - Dutch nationals of Moroccan descent - accused of plotting attacks on Dutch politicians, convicting them of the additional charge of membership in a terrorist organization. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Egypt to Host "Annapolis 2" Peace Summit in November - Barak Ravid
    An international summit is to be held in Egypt in November, with representatives from Israel, the PA, and the members of the Quartet. In recent months U.S. Secretary of State Rice has been urging both sides to draft a document detailing the points of agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. She suggested they compile an "inventory" detailing progress on each of the core issues. Israel opposed Rice's suggestion and argued that it would set the talks back. "It would make each side harden its stance to appear as though it has made no concessions," an Israeli source said. Instead, the parties agreed to give a detailed briefing to the Quartet. Quartet members have also decided to hold a peace summit in Moscow next spring. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Central Command Head: "If We Leave West Bank, It's a Big Risk" - Amos Harel
    Head of IDF Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni says that instead of counting checkpoints in the West Bank, the Palestinians should be improving the economy. "We've taken down hundreds of barriers and today movement in the territories is almost free." "Hamas' military wing has suffered a serious blow, but it is still a threat. It has the capability to recover quickly, which necessitates unrelenting pressure, both from us and from the PA. There is enough knowledge out there, mostly accumulated by former prisoners. These are people who know how to carry out professional terror attacks, even within Israel. They learn new methods in prison and sometimes are released only to head straight to explosive materials waiting for them in a hiding place throughout their entire incarceration."
        A few months ago, Shamni told President Shimon Peres that without the IDF's presence in the West Bank, Hamas could gain control on the ground and defeat Fatah within two or three days. Since then, the PA has become stronger, "but I still maintain that if we leave the territories, it's a very big risk. It will take time for the PA to establish itself properly....They have just started building an alternative to what Hamas has been doing for years."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Sea of Galilee Drops to Lowest Ever Recorded Water Level - Eli Ashkenazi
    Having fallen two meters over the past year, today the level of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) stands at 214.06 meters below sea level, more than a meter from the lowest red line, according to data from the Water Authority published Thursday. Since Spring 2004, the level of the lake has dropped more than five meters. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran's Nuclear Waltz - Editorial
    The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report does at least tell us the Iranians are closer than ever to becoming a nuclear power. In unusually scathing terms for an outfit disinclined to criticize Iran, the IAEA lays bare Tehran's lack of cooperation and implies it was hiding illegal military work related to its nuclear program. After six years of monitoring, says IAEA boss Mohamed ElBaradei, "the agency has not been able to make substantive progress" to resolve concerns about Iran's military ambitions.
        According to the IAEA report, Iran had built up a stockpile of 1,058 pounds of "low-enriched" uranium hexafloride by the end of August. At this rate, as Gary Milhollin of Iran Watch pointed out in the New York Times, Iran will have the low-enriched uranium necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb by mid-January. Iran has recently tested long-range missiles and tried to retrofit them to carry a nuclear warhead.
        The Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to abide by the previous three resolutions to suspend its enrichment program. Translation: "Stop - or we'll do nothing." Condoleezza Rice called it "a very positive step." Her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a foreign minister in the Andrei Gromyko mold, was more honest: "This is a reiteration of the status quo."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards Are No Rogue Outfit - Michael Rubin
    Even a cursory look at the structure and personnel of the Iranian government and its history of involvement in terrorism and insurgency demonstrate that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Qods Force are in fact the opposite of rogues - they are deliberate creations of the Islamic Republic's government, are tightly controlled by the government, and exist to serve the government's policy objectives in Iran and abroad. Many of the Islamic Republic's current leadership - at least the nonclerical portion - spent their formative years at the front serving with the Revolutionary Guards. Both the IRGC and its elite Qods Force represent the core of the Iranian state and enjoy the full support of its all-powerful supreme leader. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • A Feast with the Beast: Ahmadinejad Dines with Church Officials in New York - Mark D. Tooley
    American church officials hosted the visiting Iranian president on Sep. 28 in New York City after Ahmadinejad had earlier delivered his usual rant against Israel and the U.S. at the UN. Notably absent from the interfaith evening with Ahmadinejad was the National Council of Churches (NCC), whose chief, Michael Kinnamon instead released a statement to be read at an earlier anti-Ahmadinejad rally.
        "President Ahmadinejad's hateful language, denying the Holocaust and apparently calling for Israel to be 'wiped off the map,' must be persistently and forcefully denounced by all who value peace....If President Ahmadinejad has so little regard for the verifiable facts of history and the legitimacy of a state created by UN decision, it is hard to believe he means it when he insists that Iran's nuclear program is only intended for peaceful purposes."
        The Rev. John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ (UCC), said in a statement: "I fear the occasion can and will be used by President Ahmadinejad to claim legitimacy and support for himself by an association with respected United States religious leaders....I respect the sponsoring organizations' intent for dialogue, but fear that the more likely outcome is sowing confusion and disappointment among our own members and, in particular, the American Jewish community." The writer directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. (Weekly Standard)


  • Disproportionate Force: Israel's Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War - Col. (res.) Gabriel Siboni
    Now, more than two years after the Second Lebanon War, Israel faces two major challenges. The first is how to prevent being dragged into an ongoing dynamic of attrition on the northern border similar to what developed along the border with Gaza. The second is determining the IDF's response to a large-scale conflict both in the north and in Gaza. These two challenges can be overcome by adopting the principle of a disproportionate strike against the enemy's weak points as a primary war effort, and operations to disable the enemy's missile launching capabilities as a secondary war effort.
        With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and the threat it poses. Punishment must be aimed at decision-makers and the power elite. In Syria, punishment should clearly be aimed at the Syrian military, the Syrian regime, and the Syrian state structure. In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbullah's military capabilities and target economic interests and the centers of civilian power. The closer the relationship between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government, the more the elements of the Lebanese state infrastructure should be targeted.
        Such a response will create a lasting memory among Syrian and Lebanese decision-makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for an extended period. The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Why Syria Will Keep Provoking Israel - Robert Baer
    Why has Syria had an uninterrupted record of attaching itself to radical causes and countries like Iran? For starters, Syria is ruled by a besieged and insecure minority, the Alawites. About 12% of Syria's population, the Alawites are looked at by extremist Sunni Muslims as heretics. In the late '70s and early '80s, the Sunni extremists came close to getting their way. During a February 1982 Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Hama, Syria's third largest city, Hafez al-Assad felt compelled to flatten it in order to stay in power.
        By joining Iran in the so-called "Islamic resistance" against Israel, Assad associated the Alawites with a cause larger than themselves. Since the Alawites cannot settle with Tel Aviv and survive the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood, it remains reliant on its alliance with Tehran. Americans don't understand the Alawites' insecurity - and the fact that they will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it. The writer was a case officer in the Directorate of Operations for the CIA from 1976 to 1997. (TIME)
  • Mass Killings and Human Rights Violations in Syria - O. Winter
    There has been series of flagrant human rights violations recently in Syria, including the mass killing of prisoners in Sidnaya prison and the killing of three Kurdish citizens who were celebrating Norouz (New Year) in the city of Kamishli. On July 5, 2008, Syrian oppositionist websites and human rights organizations reported that least 25 prisoners had been killed by security forces during rioting in Sidnaya prison. (MEMRI)

    Other Issues

  • Israelis Wary of U.S. Radar Base in the Negev - Tim McGirk and Aaron J. Kein
    When a contingent of U.S. soldiers opens a radar facility on a mountaintop in the Negev desert next month, Israel will for the first time in its 60-year history have a permanent foreign military base on its soil. And despite the early warning that the American radar would provide if Iran launches a missile attack on Israel, some senior Israeli officials are nonetheless wary about its presence. One top official said, "It's a like a pair of golden handcuffs on Israel." The radar will allow the U.S. to keep a close watch on anything moving in Israeli skies. Israeli officials expressed concern that the radar's installation may anger Moscow, since its range will enable the U.S. to monitor aircraft in the skies over southern Russia. (TIME)
  • U.S. Congress Joins Fight on "Durban II"
    In anticipation of the Durban Review Conference (scheduled for April 20-24, 2009), on Sep. 23, 2008, the U.S. Congress adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. government to "lead a high-level diplomatic effort" aimed "to defeat any effort by states to use the forum to promote anti-Semitism or hatred against members of any group or to call into question the legitimacy of any state." The resolution noted that the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, and particularly the NGO Forum, "misused human rights language to promote hate, anti-Semitism, incitement, and divert the focus of the conference from problems within their own countries to a focus on Israel."  (NGO Monitor)
  • Amnesty's Obsession with Israel - Yael Beck and Merav Fima
    With a ceasefire holding between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and in a month when war raged in Georgia, Amnesty International continued to focus on Gaza. In fact, Amnesty issued harsher condemnations of Israel than of any party to the Georgian conflict. Despite the fact that a greater number of civilians were killed during the conflict in Georgia than over the course of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, on that occasion, Amnesty rushed to condemn Israel in almost-daily publications. It portrayed Israel as an aggressor and largely ignored the fact that civilians in northern Israel suffered a constant barrage of rockets launched by Hizbullah terrorists.
        Had its aversion to war been genuine, Amnesty would have responded as forcefully or even more vocally to the Georgian conflict. Were it truly concerned with the universality of human rights, Amnesty would apply the same standards to all countries. The writers are researchers at NGO Monitor. (Ynet News)
  • Europe's Far-Right Revival Isn't Nazism - Ian Buruma
    Two far-right parties, the Austrian Freedom Party and the Movement for Austria's Future, won 29% of the vote in Sunday's general elections in Austria, double what they got in the elections of 2006. Yet to see the rise of the Austrian right as a revival of Nazism would be a mistake. Both parties share the same attitudes toward immigrants, especially Muslims. But because the leaders of the two parties, Heinz-Christian Strache and Jorg Haider, can't stand each other, there is little chance of a far-right coalition actually taking power. (Los Angeles Times)
  • French Muslims Find Haven in Catholic Schools - Katrin Bennhold
    At the St. Mauront Catholic School in Marseille, 80% of the students are Muslim. France has only four Muslim schools and 8,847 Roman Catholic schools. Muslim and Catholic educators estimate that Muslim students make up more than 10% of the two million students in Catholic schools. France is now home to around five million Muslims, Western Europe's largest such community. Imam Soheib Bencheikh, a former grand mufti in Marseille, is founder of its Higher Institute of Islamic Studies. His oldest daughter attends Catholic school. "It's ironic," he said, "but today the Catholic Church is more tolerant of - and knowledgeable about - Islam than the French state."  (New York Times)

    Weekend Features

  • Woman of Many Faces - Uri Blau
    Yehudit Nessyahu, a former Mossad agent who died five years ago at age 78, took part in one of the Mossad's most famous and most important operations: finding and kidnapping Adolf Eichmann in 1960 to bring him to Israel to stand trial. Nessyahu maintained a silence about her intelligence work until her dying day and would not allow her picture to be published as long as she was alive. This is the first publication of the account she wrote 14 years ago about her work as a Mossad agent. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel from Cliff Top to Desert Bottom - Caren Osten Gerszberg
    Israel is being recognized as an ideal destination for adventure travelers. During a recent trip to Israel I found myself dangling from a rope on the side of a steep canyon of the Judean Desert. Yes, I had a harness on, and the rope was controlled by the skilled hands of our guide, Boaz Langford - a soldier in an Israeli Army unit that specializes in rescues. So I gently rappelled my way down the 130-foot cliff, feeling increasingly secure and ultimately exhilarated. Between the hiking, biking, rappelling, and jeeping, people are discovering that Israel has a lot to offer. (New York Times)
  • Inside the World's Most Radical Drug Clinic - Nick Harding
    Dr. Andre Waismann's clinic, based in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, is at the forefront of rapid detoxification under anesthesia for drug addicts. He has successfully treated 11,000 patients over 14 years, and refers to his technique as ANR, or accelerated neuro-regulation. He says it reverses both the physical and the psychological dependency on the drug. (Independent-UK)
  • Cleaning Up the Jewish Cemetery in Basra - Abed Battat
    Municipal authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have mounted a campaign to clean up the Jewish cemetery there. The cemetery is seen as one of Basra's cultural landmarks and the authorities want to keep it clean and tidy, said Ahmad al-Yasseri who heads the clean-up campaign. There are no Jews left in the city, which used to house a sizeable Jewish community of tens of thousands before the creation of Israel in 1948. They were the finest goldsmiths and the most adventurous traders of Basra, known as the Venice of the Middle East. They lived in one of the city's smartest quarters with spacious villas adorned with palm trees and oranges. Yasseri said in the tumultuous post-Saddam period, 62 houses were built on the cemetery grounds illegally. (Azzaman-Iraq)
  • Observations:

    Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • A principal argument of those who support the division of Israel's capital is the need to improve the city's demographic balance between Jews and Arabs in favor of Jews. However, a higher Arab birthrate is not the primary cause for the decrease in the Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Rather, the main reason is that large numbers of Jews are leaving the city due to housing and employment difficulties. To reverse Jewish emigration from Jerusalem, the city must be declared an area of national priority of the highest order.
    • Furthermore, separation inside Jerusalem entails many risks: Should Jerusalem be physically divided according to its Arab neighborhoods, the separation line would also become the border between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or a future Palestinian state, as distinct from the current situation where the border is farther away from most of the city's Jewish residents.
    • The distances between many Jewish neighborhoods and Arab neighborhoods slated for "separation" are within light-weapon range. During the Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, Palestinians in the PA town of Beit Jalla fired toward the homes of Jewish residents in Jerusalem's nearby Gilo neighborhood.
    • For over three decades, Israelis believed that everything should be done to unify Jerusalem and avoid dividing the city again. In that spirit, new neighborhoods were built in eastern Jerusalem that today house some 190,000 Jews and contain official state institutions built on land that was annexed to the city in 1967.
    • Dr. Robbie Sabel, former legal counsel to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, examined the legal aspect of possible Israeli separation from Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies before the Annapolis Conference. In Sabel's opinion, eastern Jerusalem residents would have the option of moving to some other part of Israel and thereby retaining their status as Israeli residents. This calls into doubt the demographic gain that proponents of separation hope to obtain from it.
    • Despite their sense of national affinity with the PA, many eastern Jerusalem Arabs will find it difficult to surrender their freedom of movement and expression, employment options, and the wide range of material benefits to which they are currently entitled by virtue of their resident status. They have expressed those feelings in many rounds of unofficial talks. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Rafi Eitan reported in February 2008 that a survey showed the majority of eastern Jerusalem residents do not wish to leave Israeli rule.

          The writer is the author of At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (2005); The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (1995); and "Jerusalem Is Not the Problem, It Is the Solution," in Mister Prime Minister: Jerusalem, ed. Moshe Amirav (2005). He has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz since 1983.

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