Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 25, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Paying Palestinians to Attack Israel - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Fearing a harsh military response if it attacks Israel directly, Hizbullah has paid Palestinian terrorist cells to avenge the February assassination of its military commander, Imad Mughniyeh.
    Israeli officials said Hizbullah has paid tens of thousands of dollars to Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out large-scale attacks against Israel - including the kidnapping of IDF soldiers.
    In addition, the head of the research division of Military Intelligence, Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that Hizbullah was attempting to purchase surface-to-air missiles in order to try to bring down Israeli airplanes flying over Lebanon.

Iraqi Court Acquits Lawmaker for Israel Trip - Aseel Kami (Reuters)
    An Iraqi court on Monday acquitted member of parliament Mithal al-Alusi of committing a crime by visiting Israel, a country Iraq considers an enemy, ruling that his visit was not actually against Iraqi law.
    Alusi, a secular Sunni politician, says he was the victim of a campaign against him because of his outspoken views against Shi'ite Muslim Iran, an ally to many of Iraq's ruling elite.

Rocket-Plagued Sderot Residents Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress - Ilana Curiel (Ynet News)
    After seven years of Palestinian rocket barrages on the Israeli town of Sderot, Natal - the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War reported Monday that 28% of the town's residents are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
    In addition, a third of Sderot students, ages 13 to 18, have trauma-related learning disorders.
    90% of residents had seen or heard a rocket strike, while 65% personally knew someone hurt in an attack.

Saudi Crown Prince in U.S. for Cancer Operation (Reuters)
    Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz left Saudi Arabia for the U.S. on Sunday to undergo an operation for cancer, a source close to the prince said.
    The untimely death of Sultan, thought to be in his early 80s, could spark a succession battle. Sultan's half-brother, King Abdullah, is around 85.

U.S. Missile Tracking Radar in Israel to be Operational by Mid-December - John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes)
    The U.S. radar recently deployed to Israel to help it defend against a potential missile attack from Iran is in the midst of final tests and should be operational by mid-December, said Maj. Bryan Woods, a spokesman for the U.S. military team in Israel.
    The radar is reported to be capable of tracking a baseball-size object from a distance of 2,900 miles. It will help Israel to more rapidly activate its missile defense system in the event of an attack.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Charity with Ties to Hamas Convicted in Terrorism Financing Trial - Gretel C. Kovach
    On their second try, federal prosecutors won sweeping convictions Monday against five leaders of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The defendants were convicted of support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the U.S. government declared a terrorist group in 1995. "Money is the lifeblood of terrorism," Richard B. Roper, the U.S. attorney whose office prosecuted the case, said Monday. "The jury's decision demonstrates that U.S. citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations." (New York Times)
  • U.S., IAEA Chief Clash Over Nuclear Aid to Syria - George Jahn
    Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief UN nuclear inspector, clashed with key Western nations Monday over whether Syria should be given potentially sensitive guidance in planning a power-producing atomic reactor at a time when it is being investigated. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it was "totally inappropriate, we believe, given the fact that Syria is under investigation by the IAEA for building a nuclear reactor outside the bounds of its international legal commitments....For the IAEA to be involved in providing technical information [to Syria] concerning nuclear activities would seem to be contradictory, if not ironic." (AP)
  • U.S. Asks Israel to Refrain from Military Action Before Bush Leaves Office - Tim McGirk
    U.S. officials have asked Israel to refrain from any major military action in the region during the waning days of the Bush presidency, Israeli sources say. U.S. officials also cautioned Israelis against launching a ground assault in Gaza in a bid to stop militants there from firing rockets into southern Israel. U.S. officials turned to Jordan's King Abdullah for help in stemming the rocket attacks from Gaza. The Jordanian monarch dispatched a senior intelligence officer to Damascus to warn Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that Gaza was in danger of an Israeli attack unless the rocket fire was immediately stopped. (TIME)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Bush, Olmert Meet in Washington - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with U.S. President George Bush in the White House Monday and agreed that the two-state vision remains the preferable solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Olmert thanked Bush and lauded him as a friend who helped Israel immensely throughout his term in office. (Ynet News)
  • Barak: Hizbullah Has 42,000 Rockets, Some Capable of Reaching Southern Israel - Shahar Ilan
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Hizbullah had tripled its strength since the 2006 war in Lebanon, and that it now possesses 42,000 rockets, some of which are capable of striking Ashkelon, Yerucham, and Dimona, Army Radio reported. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket Monday evening that landed on the coast near an Ashkelon suburb. (Ynet News)
  • Peres Slams UK Law Jeopardizing IDF Officers - Jonny Paul
    President Shimon Peres met with British Foreign Minister David Miliband last Thursday and expressed Israel's displeasure over the Universal Jurisdiction law, which has been exploited by pro-Palestinian activists to try to arrest former IDF personnel on "war crimes" charges when they visit the UK. "The Israeli army is peace-seeking and makes huge efforts not to harm civilians," Peres said. "Britain and the U.S. use similar tactics [to Israel's] in their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."
        In 2005, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former Head of the Southern Command, avoided arrest at London's Heathrow Airport. He was warned not to disembark from his El Al flight as British detectives were waiting to arrest him for allegedly ordering the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2002. Using a loophole in Britain's Universal Jurisdiction legislation, Palestinian campaigners have filed private criminal complaints of "war crimes" against military personnel, even if the military personnel are citizens of other countries and the alleged charges were not committed on British soil. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Fresh Ideas for the Middle East - Zalman Shoval
    Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both highly respected foreign policy experts, seem to believe that "resolution of the Palestinian issue" would somehow miraculously create a turnaround in the attitude of the peoples of the Middle East towards the U.S. and restore its dominant position in the region. In fact, the Israel-Palestinian issue has little to do with the lack of stability and peace in the Middle East - or with America's deteriorating standing there.
        Iraqis are not shooting each other because of Israel, nor did al-Qaeda have the supposed plight of the Palestinians at heart when it blew up the Twin Towers. Syria will continue undermining Lebanon's independence and go on supporting terrorists everywhere, whatever happens in the Israel-Palestinian arena. Certainly, Israelis want to see the conflict resolved. The Middle East has a long history of well intentioned, mostly American, peace initiatives - all of which foundered on the refusal of many among the Palestinians and in the Arab and Islamic worlds to recognize the Jewish people's right to their own state in their ancient homeland.
        The "Arab Peace Plan" (or "Saudi Initiative") is being touted as a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and "57 Arab and Muslim countries." It is nothing of the kind; in fact, it is only a partially disguised ultimatum to the Jewish state to accept all the Arab traditional demands with regards to borders, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, it expects Israel to comply with those demands before even starting negotiations. If adopted, it would create severe security hardships for Israel, giving Israel's enemies an opportunity to achieve what they had failed to get in five wars and countless acts of terrorism. The writer twice served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Washington Times)
  • Obama Should Support Democratic Dissidents from Repressive Countries - Natan Sharansky
    Direct contact with dissidents from repressive foreign countries has never been popular with the State Department. It sees these nondemocratic regimes as actors with whom it must inevitably find a modus vivendi, and it sees meeting with dissidents as a provocation that could undermine those relationships. Though it seems ridiculous in hindsight, the State Department prevented President Ford from meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the prominent Soviet dissident and Nobel laureate. The Dalai Lama met with President Clinton a few times, but in order not to irritate Chinese leaders, he was never received in the Oval Office. However, this policy changed under President Bush. During his tenure, he openly met with more than 100 dissidents.
        Meeting the leader of the free world transforms the dissident in the eyes of his people from a lonely Don Quixote to the person who can expose the truth about their suffering to the outside world and influence the world to take action to address it. In the 1970s, when members of the U.S. Congress, beginning with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, started openly meeting with dissidents during their official visits to Moscow, it had a tremendous influence. Although these meetings would later become part of the charges against me for high treason, we knew that the only thing more dangerous for our cause was that we would be ignored by the outside world for the sake of realpolitik. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    A Disarmed Palestinian State? - Amitai Etzioni (Jerusalem Post)

    • During an off-the-record meeting in Washington on Nov. 10, one of Obama's senior foreign policy advisers stated that pushing a two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians had to take place with great urgency. One element of the plan the U.S. was to push involved a disarmed Palestinian state with U.S. or NATO troops stationed along the Jordan River.
    • I suggest that this is a dangerous trap. First, Abba Eban once compared a UN force stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border, which was removed just before Nasser attacked Israel, as an umbrella that is folded when it rains. A future American president could reverse the decision to deploy such troops.
    • Second, American troops in Iraq, and the NATO ones in Afghanistan, are unable to stop terrorist bombs and rocket attacks in those parts. There is no reason to hold that they would do better in the West Bank.
    • Third, there are very few precedents for demilitarized states. A two-state solution means two sovereign states. A sovereign state is free to import all the arms and troops it wants. One second after the Palestinian state is declared, many in the Arab world, Iran, and surely in Europe will hold that "obviously" the new free state cannot be prevented from arming itself, whatever it says in some treaty.
    • A two-state solution better be based on the Palestinians developing their own effective forces and an Israeli presence on the Jordan River. Neither can rely on the U.S., beleaguered as it is, or conflict- and casualty-averse NATO to show the staying power for peacekeeping which neither mustered in Kosovo, Bosnia, or Haiti, and which they have never provided in Sudan and the Congo.

      The writer is professor of international relations at George Washington University.

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