Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 5, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Jerusalem: Israel Not Obama's First Priority - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    According to diplomatic assessments in Jerusalem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli-Syrian talks are not expected to be on the top of the new U.S. president's agenda.
    "We are not the first priority," one senior diplomatic official said, reflecting the consensus thinking in the Foreign Ministry.

Hamas: "Jihad Until Victory" - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Mohammed Deif, the former head of Hamas' military wing, on Tuesday declared that the Palestinian military group will continue to launch terror attacks against Israel.
    Deif said his men will continue Jihad "until victory and martyrdom." "We will pursue the Zionist enemies of God," the former Iz al-Din al-Qassam commander vowed.
    See also Hamas: Obama, McCain Both "Awful" (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas officials voiced skepticism on Tuesday that the U.S. presidential election would result in a change in policy toward the group, Israel Radio reported.
    A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoom, described the choice between Obama and McCain as one between two "awful" options.

Abbas Aide: Obama Never Promised Us Eastern Jerusalem (Maan News-PA)
    An aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday denied reports that American presidential candidate Barack Obama informed him that he would support the Palestinians' right to eastern Jerusalem.
    Nimar Hamad called the claims "completely false," adding that the reports are a "perversion of Obama's declarations."
    Hamad insisted that during Obama's meeting with Abbas in Ramallah, Obama promised to activate the peace process in accordance with the Road Map and other signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israel.

Vatican Hosts Meeting with Muslim Scholars - Ariel David (AP/Washington Post)
    In a bid to improve strained Catholic-Muslim relations, the Vatican hosted scholars, imams and clerics from both religions Tuesday as it opened a three-day religious conference intended to help the two faiths find common ground.

Britain Pressing EU to Curb Exports from Israeli Settlements - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
    Britain is taking the lead in pressing the EU to curb imports from Israeli producers in the West Bank. An internal EU note circulated by the UK expresses concern that goods produced from the settlements may be entering Britain.
    Several retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose and Somerfield, say they import food - such as organic herbs - grown on settlements, and that by designating the goods as "West Bank" they are complying with EU requirements to denote the area of origin.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gaza Rocket Hits Israeli City of Ashkelon
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket into the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Wednesday. The Kassam rocket was among 20 fired into Israel between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, an Israeli police spokesman said. (CNN)
        See also below IDF Enters Gaza to Thwart Kidnapping Operation, Six Gunmen Killed (Ynet News)
  • Rice Heads to Mideast for Final Peace Push - Howard LaFranchi
    Secretary of State Rice sets out Wednesday on what could be a final push for the sputtering Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This weekend, the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheik will host a summit of the foreign ministers of major powers along with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, perhaps setting markers from which a new U.S. administration could take up the peace process next year. (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Rice Seeks to Document Status of Israeli-Palestinian Talks
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice will likely present the next U.S. administration with her own parameters for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said on Tuesday, two days before she arrives for yet another visit to the region. According to assessments in Jerusalem, Rice was likely to present a paper summing up the talks and laying out what she thought needed to be done to reach an agreement, similar to the way President Clinton issued his "Clinton Parameters" before leaving office in January 2001. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Power Struggle Swallows Millions in Aid Cash - Donald Macintyre
    Britain has warned the European Commission and the PA that it wants to prevent its humanitarian funding being swallowed by an increasingly damaging power struggle in Gaza. The Department for International Development is trying to work out how to disburse the funds earmarked in July by Gordon Brown for aid to the Palestinians without it being used merely to offset the impact of paying salaries of health and education employees on strike in Gaza. The British government has made it clear privately that it wants to ensure UK taxpayers' money is directly used to meet vital humanitarian needs. (Independent-UK)
  • Iranian Parliament Impeaches Ahmadinejad Ally Over Fake Degree - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iran's parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impeach a cabinet minister who has been a close ally of President Ahmadinejad. Interior Minister Ali Kordan was impeached for having falsely claimed to hold an honorary law degree from Oxford University. The struggle over Kordan has exposed a growing divide in the parliament between the government's remaining backers and those who are abandoning it. Out of 290 deputies, 188 voted for the impeachment of Ahmadinejad's confidant, 45 voted against.
        On Sunday, Ahmadinejad called the impeachment "not legal" and "unfair." Kordan is the 10th Iranian minister to leave office, either through impeachment or resignation, since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. Ahmadinejad has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection in June. "If he does, he will be a very weak candidate," said Ahmad Zeidabadi, a political analyst and well-known critic of the president. "Anybody who is in touch with Iranian society, in cities and villages, realizes that Ahmadinejad doesn't have much support anymore." (Washington Post)
        See also 4th of November Will Be an Unforgettable Day for Ahmadinejad - Meir Javedanfar (Middle East Analyst)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Enters Gaza to Thwart Kidnapping Operation, Six Gunmen Killed - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF forces operated in Gaza Tuesday night to collapse a tunnel located 250 meters from the border, which terror groups intended to use for kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Palestinian sources reported that six gunmen were killed in the clashes that ensued during the operation. Six IDF soldiers were wounded.
        The IDF force arrived at a structure near al-Bureij and a fierce gunbattle ensued. Shortly afterwards a loud explosion occurred. The army said the intensity of the blast was due to the large amount of explosives stored in the building. After mortar shells were fired at the troops during the operation, the Air Force launched two separate strikes on cells launching mortar shells, killing at least five Hamas gunmen. IDF sources said the operation was "an innately defensive one and not an offensive one." A senior military source called the incident "a ticking tunnel," adding that "this is a pinpoint operation."
        Palestinian sources said IDF forces had recently arrested a Palestinian who was hurt while attempting to carry out a suicide bombing in the same area and they assumed the man told the security forces about the tunnel. "The IDF is committed to maintaining the ceasefire and is acting accordingly," Ynet was told. "In this case, we had a credible threat indicating soldiers might be kidnapped and we had no choice but to act in order to thwart it." Security sources said that risking a kidnapping attempt "was not an option." (Ynet News)
  • PA Warns Arabs Against Voting in Jerusalem Elections - Etgar Lefkovits
    The Palestinian Authority told Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem on Tuesday not to vote in next week's municipal elections and said that those who defied the boycott order would face punishment. Mahmoud Abbas' chief of staff, Rafiq Husseini, said, "We call on all [Arab] residents of Jerusalem not to take part in the elections." The PA would stop Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem from voting "by all means," Husseini said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The United States, Israel, and Iran: Defusing an "Existential" Threat - Chuck Freilich
    Iran is an existential threat to Israel. This apocalyptic warning call has become a mantra continually repeated by virtually all Israeli leaders and defense officials and has been adopted by much of the U.S. national security establishment. What can be done to forestall an Iranian nuclear weapon? Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns recently participated in negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issue. Others have floated the idea of establishing an interests section in Tehran. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speaks of engagement as a necessity. On all sides - the U.S., Europe, and Israel - the preference for a diplomatic solution is manifest.
        At this point, conditional but all-out engagement, limited in time and closely combined with stringent multilateral sanctions, rapidly followed by a naval blockade, appear to hold the best prospects for success at an acceptable cost, possibly even without bloodshed. Hopefully, further measures will not be required down the line. In any event, let us not engage in unwarranted, self-deterring risk aversion. Iran at least has a good appreciation of the true balance of power and for power politics. The writer, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, is a senior fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Schusterman fellow. (Arms Control Today)
  • Financial Caution Pays Off for Israel - Tobias Buck
    As the credit crisis spreads havoc and economic gloom around the globe, bankers and policymakers in Israel are growing in confidence that they will weather the storm. The Bank of Israel expects the economy to grow by 4.5% this year and about 2.7% in 2009. This is less than in each of the past five years, when Israel clocked up growth rates of more than 5%. But that expansion contrasts with the faltering economies of Western Europe and the U.S. "We entered this period in relatively good shape. In particular, we started with a budget that was essentially in balance," said Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel. He said there was no sign the country was slipping into a recession and that "the credit system continues to operate." Fischer said Israel's banks had largely shunned mortgage-backed securities and other risky assets, and were "barely exposed to the subprime crisis."  (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Why the Next U.S. President Will Be a Wartime Leader - Michael Eisenstadt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The next U.S. president will face unprecedented challenges and dangers in the Middle East, with few good options and precious little time to waste.
    • At the current reported rate of enrichment, Iran might have enough low enriched uranium by late 2009 necessary for its first bomb. Iran's progress toward acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities is already transforming the regional security environment in ways inimical to U.S. interests.
    • The U.S. should avoid public advances toward Iran prior to the country's June 2009 presidential elections because Iranian President Ahmadinejad might claim credit for any diplomatic progress, thus increasing his electoral prospects. The U.S. should also roll out plans for a regional security framework to contain and deter a nuclear Iran, which will make the point that acquiring nuclear weapons will harm, rather than help, Iran's security.
    • The new administration must be prepared to support PA and Israeli efforts to quash Hamas-inspired violence in the West Bank. Providing political support to the PA and Israel, and bolstering U.S. efforts to build a professional and effective Palestinian security force, will be vital to keep Hamas at bay in the West Bank in the short-run, and to bolster PA influence in the long-run.
    • The current Israeli-Hamas ceasefire is unlikely to last indefinitely, and Israel eventually will reenter Gaza to remove the rocket threat or dismantle Hamas' terror and governmental infrastructure.
    • In Lebanon, Hizbullah, with the help of Syria and Iran, has rebuilt its rocket forces. It had 13,000 on the eve of the 2006 war and has more than 30,000 now - in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In the event of another war, the U.S. needs to coordinate with Israel so that the next war is much shorter, and succeeds in significantly weakening Hizbullah and undermining the interests of its Syrian and Iranian patrons.

      The writer is a senior fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute.

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