Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Hamas Denies Holding Secret Talks with Obama's Advisors (Xinhua-China)
Iran, the Taliban, and Saudi Arabia - James Brazier
Egyptians Decry Doctor's Sentence of 1,500 Lashes in Saudi Arabia - Salah Nasrawi
Tony Blair's Bodyguard's Gun Goes Off in Tel Aviv Airport (Daily Mail-UK)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israel says the international community needs to put more pressure on Hamas to end violence in Gaza. Israeli government spokesman Jonathan Peled maintains Israel's response to attacks by Hamas militants has been appropriate. "We've said time and again that if Hamas is willing to recognize the State of Israel and denounce terrorism, then we're open to dialogue with it," he said. "But [here is] somebody who refuses to recognize us, who shoots at us, and attacks us all the time." (ABC News-Australia)
See also Olmert Warns of Looming Confrontation with Hamas
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Tuesday of a looming confrontation with the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza. "I have no doubt that the situation between us and Hamas is an unavoidable pre-confrontation situation," Olmert said while touring the military headquarters responsible for the Gaza region. "It's only a question of time and not a question of if," his office quoted him as saying. "We are not eager for it but we are not afraid either and if there is a need to fight Hamas we will do so." (AFP)
Prosecutor Barry Jonas began his closing argument in the Holy Land Foundation trial Monday by telling jurors that their job is to determine if five defendants broke U.S. law by funneling more than $12 million to Hamas. He reminded jurors that since 1995, U.S. law has prohibited any support of Hamas, including humanitarian aid. The government contends that Holy Land sent money to specific Palestinian charity groups in Hamas' social services wing that provides aid to relatives of suicide bombers.
Jonas re-played several videos of Holy Land fundraisers in the U.S., some featuring songs with lyrics praising martyrdom, jihad and glorifying Hamas founders. "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck," Jonas said. "This was a Hamas rally. Who are we kidding?" Jonas addressed defense arguments that praising Hamas is protected by the First Amendment. "They have every right to say they support of Hamas, but when they start giving money to Hamas, what they said can and will be used against them." "They were part of a larger plan to eliminate the State of Israel and take over their land," he said. "By supporting Hamas, they helped create widows and orphans." (Dallas Morning News)
Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that a narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom, is sponsoring a discussion at the UN on religious tolerance starting Wednesday. More than a dozen world leaders are scheduled to attend the meeting including President Bush, British Prime Minister Brown, Israeli President Shimon Peres, and the heads of seven Arab states. King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, and Peres were both expected as guests of Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, at a dinner Tuesday night, a rare chance for an encounter.
But human rights groups are crying foul that Saudi Arabia is being given a platform to promote religious tolerance abroad while actively combating it at home. "It's like apartheid South Africa having a conference at the UN on racial harmony," said Ali al-Ahmed, a Shiite Muslim dissident from Saudi Arabia based in Washington. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Businessman Nir Barkat will succeed Uri Lupolianski as mayor of Jerusalem. Barkat won 52% of the vote versus 43% for MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party in the Jerusalem mayoral election Tuesday. Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak ran third with 3.5%. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Jerusalem Arabs' Election Boycott Continues - Khaled Abu Toameh
Only a few thousand Arabs - mostly city workers and their families - cast their ballots Tuesday in Jerusalem's municipal elections amid threats by Palestinian activists. Since 1967, the Arab residents of Jerusalem have been boycotting the municipal elections out of fear that their participation would be interpreted as recognition of Israel's annexation of the Arab neighborhoods.
The PA issued several warnings to the Arab residents not to participate in the election. Issam Abu Rmaileh, a shopkeeper, said he didn't vote because he was afraid that PA activists would harm him. "I heard that they were standing outside the voting centers and threatening people who wanted to come and vote," he said. "I would have liked to vote because it's in our interest, but who's going to protect me and my family afterwards?" (Jerusalem Post)
"The Palestinian leadership will continue to follow Yasser Arafat's path until a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is established," PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday during a memorial service marking Arafat's death. Abbas said, "The path of the shahids (martyrs) - Arafat, George Habash (founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and (former Hamas spiritual leader) Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - is the path that we cherish." (Ynet News)
See also No Ceremonies for Arafat in Gaza - Amira Hass
There was not a single public commemoration in Gaza of the fourth anniversary of Arafat's death. Rallies scheduled for Gaza cities were canceled by order of the police, Fatah officials said. Printers were ordered not to print any material related to Arafat or his picture without approval. The security forces have increased their presence on Gaza streets and are randomly stopping cars, especially at night. A Hamas spokesman said no arrests were made, but people were invited for a short talk with the police. (Ha'aretz)
IDF forces thwarted an attempt by a Palestinian terror cell to infiltrate Israel through the Gaza border fence on Wednesday. According to military sources, the gunmen approached the fence and were about to enter Israeli territory when an IDF force identified them and opened fire. Several gunmen were injured. During the event, Palestinians launched mortar shells at the Kissufim crossing. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The London Financial Times' first recommendation to Obama was not about the international economic calamity or domestic issues, or about Russia and NATO or the Korean bomb or Iran's much more ambitious nuclear designs. It was about the long and tortuous dispute between Israel and the political sects and clannish tribes which aspire to (isn't it really all of?) Palestine. They advised appointing Bill Clinton as "special envoy for the Middle East." By my count, there have been perhaps a dozen special envoys to the region in the last dozen years.
Much blood has been shed since the fall of 2000 and Gaza was given over five years later. The Israelis cannot be expected to start a negotiation with its old concessions carved in stone. Which is what the Palestinians expect for starters, and only for starters. The first prerequisite for any solution to this conflict and for the acceptance of a real Palestinian entity is that the Palestinians demonstrate concretely that they do not still yearn to vitiate a Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. (New Republic)
They don't kidnap foreigners in Gaza anymore, or they haven't done so in more than a year. The gunmen and masked thugs who once haunted the streets of Gaza have been forced out of business, along with the private militias who used to maraud through the territory. A year and a half after the radical Islamist group Hamas seized power, people can walk in public without fearing for their wallets, their purses or their lives. Unfortunately, almost everything else has become worse.
Whom do people blame? They blame Israel, of course. But increasingly, it seems, they blame Hamas as well. "Fatah perceives themselves as the sole representatives of the Palestinians," said Ahmed Abu Tawahina, director-general of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. "Hamas perceives themselves as the ambassadors of God on Earth." (Toronto Star)
The Curious Response to Ahmadinejad at the UN - Matthias Kuntzel (Weekly Standard)
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