Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 27, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Operating Over 5,000 Centrifuges for Uranium Enrichment - Ali Akbar Dareini (AP)
    Iran now has more than 5,000 centrifuges operating and enriching uranium, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Wednesday.
    Aghazadeh said the country will never suspend enrichment: "Suspension has not been defined in our lexicon."
    Also Wednesday, Iranian state television reported that the country successfully launched a second rocket into space, after the first such launch in February.
    The rocket, named "Kavoshgar 2" or Explorer 2, made it to the lower reaches of space and returned to earth 40 minutes later on a parachute.

Aid Agencies Seek $462 Million for Palestinians - Shawna Ohm (AP/Washington Post)
    The UN and other aid agencies appealed to the international community Wednesday to send $462 million in emergency assistance to the Palestinian territories.
    It is the seventh annual request for emergency funds, besides hundreds of millions of dollars in normal operating budgets.
    Kuwait, the EU, and the U.S. were last year's largest donors.

Russian Tourists Descend on Eilat - Yanir Yagna, Irit Rosenblum and Zohar Blumenkrantz (Ha'aretz)
    Between 25,000 and 30,000 Russian tourists are expected to fly directly to the Israeli resort city of Eilat by the end of April on seven weekly charter flights from Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
    The Russians began coming in large numbers last month, after the visa requirement for Russians visiting Israel was waived.

Amid Poverty, a Renaissance Villa in the West Bank - Karin Laub (AP)
    Palestinian tycoon Munir Masri, 72, has built a honey-colored Palladian mansion on a West Bank mountaintop that is visible for miles.
    The exact copy of a famous 16th-century villa known as "La Rotonda," with columns on four sides, sits on a 100-acre estate with sculpted gardens.
    The grounds feature a goldfish pond, a swimming pool, an amphitheater, and a garden pavilion of glass-and-iron - a gift from Napoleon III to a mistress.

Israeli Surgeons Share Expertise in China - Alison Klayman (JTA)
    The team of 15 doctors, nurses and medical technicians, all volunteers with Save a Child's Heart, a charity based at the Wolfson Medical Center in Israel, set up shop at Hebei Children's Hospital in Shijiazhuang, some 170 miles southwest of Beijing, continuing a partnership that began 10 years ago.
    The group has provided surgeries for more than 2,000 children from more than 33 countries. More than 40% of the patients are from Africa, and another 45% are from the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Iraq.

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

  • Terrorists Target Westerners in Mumbai, India; 100 Dead, Hostages Taken - Rama Lakshmi
    Gunmen attacked three luxury hotels, a hospital, a train station, a movie theater and other buildings in Mumbai Wednesday, killing at least 100 people and wounding more than 300. The attackers took dozens of people hostage, and witnesses said they were seeking out Americans and Britons. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujaheddin asserted responsibility for the attacks. The term "mujaheddin" suggests the attackers are Muslim extremists. (Washington Post)
        See also At Least Eight Israelis Held Hostage in Mumbai
    An Israeli rabbi is among at least three people being held hostage by gunmen at the Habad house in Mumbai on Thursday. Another five or six Israelis were among the hostages being held by militants at the Trident/Oberoi hotel. (Ha'aretz)
        A report Thursday from CNN's Indian affiliate said that three people were killed at Mumbai's Habad House including a couple and 16-year-old youth. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Terrorists Target Mumbai Jewish Center - Amy Kazmin
    For thousands of Jewish travelers visiting Mumbai each year, the Habad House was an important port of call, offering services that ranged from kosher meals to holiday services to the sympathetic ear of a young rabbi. Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, a young Israeli who also holds U.S. citizenship, and his wife Rifka, set up the Habad House in Mumbai five years ago. Rabbi Yosef Kantor, a Habad rabbi in Bangkok who worked closely with Rabbi Holtzberg, said, "He is a man with a very big heart....He was very committed to the mission he took upon himself." (Financial Times-UK)
  • IAEA Overrides U.S., Approves Syria Nuclear Aid - Mark Heinrich
    The UN atomic agency approved on Wednesday a contested Syrian bid for technical aid in planning a nuclear power plant, overcoming U.S.-led resistance while Damascus is under investigation for covert activity that could lead to atom bombs. A Nov. 19 IAEA report said a Syrian building demolished in an Israeli air raid last year bore similarities to a nuclear reactor and uranium particles, possibly remnants of pre-enriched nuclear fuel, had been found in the area. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: UN Downplaying Hizbullah Buildup - Herb Keinon
    The UN has an interest in downplaying Hizbullah's rearmament and activities in southern Lebanon because it wants "industrial quiet" there, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Wednesday. "The UN is denying any Hizbullah activity south of the Litani, even though Hizbullah admits to it," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Secret Meeting on Extending Cease-Fire Held in Egypt - Yaakov Katz
    Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, made a secret visit to Egypt this week for talks with Egyptian officials on restoring and extending the cease-fire in Gaza. Gilad asked the Egyptians to pressure Hamas to rein in the terror factions and stop their rocket attacks against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Thursday. Another rocket was fired Wednesday night. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • London Conference on Abuse of "Universal Jurisdiction" - Julie Stahl
    A London conference on Wednesday debated the "promise and perils" of universal jurisdiction, a concept that allows foreign nationals to be prosecuted for crimes committed elsewhere. A Palestinian civil rights group has used the doctrine to demand that a British court investigate an Israeli soldier for war crimes. Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog participated in the rescue of the Air France flight hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976, and later helped secure Israel's border with Gaza against terrorist infiltrators while heading the army's Southern Command from 2000-2003. But when Almog arrived in London in 2005 to raise funds for children with special needs, he was warned by Israeli officials not to get off the plane because he would be arrested for alleged war crimes.
        "Originally the idea of universal jurisdiction was conceived in many European countries in order to stop war criminals - former leaders who engaged in genocide, who have escaped the law," said Dr. Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Unfortunately, the whole system of universal jurisdiction has been abused." "Universal jurisdiction should be directed precisely at those countries like Iran, where those who engage in mass murder are considered heroes, and not against the U.S., the UK and Israel, who are leading the war on terrorism." Almog still cannot travel to Britain and participated in the conference through a video link. (CNS News)
        See also Conference Program: Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction (Middle East Strategic Information)
  • American Carrots for Syrian Sticks? - Matthew R.J. Brodsky
    There are two opposing views on how to handle Syria. The first holds that Syria has taken Iraq's place in the "axis of evil," and that the way to alter its behavior is continued isolation and stepped-up sanctions - this is the stick approach. The second argues that the U.S. should engage with Damascus and attempt to pry Syria from its allies in Tehran with a basket of incentives - the carrot approach.
        Assad wants "normalized" relations, a new U.S. ambassador (recalled after Hariri's assassination in Lebanon in 2005), an end to economic sanctions, compensation for the recent U.S. air strike, and American sponsorship of indirect peace talks with Israel. In other words, in return for agreeing to an increased regional role and an end to its isolation, the Assad regime would like to be offered an increased regional role, an end to their isolation - and a pile of cash to boot. Apparently, the hope of the regime in Damascus is that if it creates a regional problem, it should receive an international reward for fixing it.
        Carrots, be they diplomatic or economic, should be offered to those who adopt genuinely helpful policies. Providing them to states that merely offer to temporarily reduce their degree of rogue behavior is not only bad policy; it is bound to lead Syria to light more fires and then ask for additional rewards for extinguishing them. The writer is a Legacy Heritage Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)
  • What Is Killing the Prospect of Mideast Peace? - Janet Albrechtsen
    To spend a week in Israel is to begin to understand that this country is generations away from peace with the Palestinians. Sunday: A Kassam rocket is launched from northern Gaza into Sderot, an Israeli town within 3 km of the Hamas stronghold. Monday: Three more rockets are fired into Sderot, which has endured thousands of rocket attacks in recent years. The Israeli government has blocked access points to Gaza until the rockets stop. Tuesday: Three more Kassam rockets slam into the fields of the Negev. A young woman, who has lost relatives to the rocket attacks from Gaza, tells me, "We don't count the rockets anymore."
        Wednesday: Two Kassam rockets land south of Ashkelon, a town well beyond the Gaza border, on the coast towards Tel Aviv. Thursday: The Palestinian Authority runs advertisements in Israeli newspapers detailing Fatah's commitment to a peace plan. It is a meaningless commitment. How can Israel negotiate peace with Palestinian interlocutors in Fatah, who have no control over Gaza, where more than 40% of Palestinians live?
        An entire generation of Palestinian children is being raised on a full diet of hate education, on jihad and anti-Semitism. This is the long-term hurdle to peace in this generation, and the next. Look at the geography books for Palestinian children that encourage children to see no Israel, books that feature maps of Israel in the colors of the Palestinian flag, and described as Palestine. When the next generation of leaders is taught from childhood that Israel does not exist, how is future negotiation possible? The irony is that this hate education is funded by the West, by countries that pour money into the PA, who use it to glorify terrorism and to twist young minds against Israel, and peace. (The Australian)
  • Observations:

    Beware of Engagement - Martin Kramer (Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center)

    • There is a large industry out there whose sole purpose is the systematic downplaying of the risks posed by radical Islam. In the best American tradition, these risks are repackaged as opportunities. Engagement sounds low-risk - after all, there's no harm in talking, right?
    • Worried about Ahmadinejad? He doesn't really call the shots in Iran. Pay no attention to the old slogans of "death to America," because that's not the real Iran. Worried about the Palestinian Hamas? They are basically a protest movement against corruption. Troubled by Hizbullah? All their talk about "onwards to Jerusalem" is rhetoric for domestic consumption.
    • We are told that the demands of Hamas, Hizbullah or Iran are finite. If we give them a concession here, or a foothold there, we will somehow diminish their demand for more. But if their purpose is the reversal of history, to restore the vast power exercised in the past when Islam dominated the world, then our gestures of accommodation only persuade them to press on.
    • In the Middle East, the idea that "there's no harm in talking" is entirely incomprehensible. It matters whom you talk to, because you legitimize your interlocutors. Hence the Arab refusal to normalize relations with Israel.
    • An Arab head of state will never directly engage Israel before extracting every concession. Only an American would think of doing this at the outset, and in return for nothing. There is harm in talking, if your talking legitimates your enemies, and persuades them and those on the sidelines that you have done so from weakness.

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