Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 4, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Bush Consoles Habad (JTA)
    President Bush sent his condolences to Habad-Lubavitch for the loss of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were killed in last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
    "Through countless acts of love and kindness, the lost members of the Habad-Lubavitch community in Mumbai represented the best of the human spirit, and their memories will live on in the hearts and souls of those they touched," Bush wrote Tuesday.
    "It is impossible for us to make sense of the violence of the Mumbai terrorist attack, yet we offer our deepest sympathy to the Habad-Lubavitch community during this difficult time."
    See also Mumbai and the Habad Movement - Lucette Lagnado (Wall Street Journal)

Nuclear or Biological Attack Called Likely - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    The odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are growing, says a draft report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, a bipartisan congressionally mandated task force.
    The study warns of growing threats from rogue states, nuclear smuggling networks and the spread of atomic know-how in the developing world.
    The assessment of such threats singled out Pakistan as a grave concern because of its terrorist networks, history of instability and arsenal of several dozen nuclear warheads.
    "Without greater urgency and decisive action by the world community, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013," the report says.

Israel Opens Gaza to Foreign Journalists (AP)
    Israel has lifted a four-week-old ban on international journalists entering Gaza.
    The Israeli-Gaza crossing had been closed since a shaky truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers began to unravel.

Canada Honored for Israel Support - Steven Edwards (
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is giving Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian government its first International Leadership Award at a dinner Thursday in New York to be attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.
    "We are giving (it) to express appreciation for their courageous stands on the Durban conference, on their support for Israel and their efforts at the UN against incitement and...the delegitimization (of Israel), where they have taken a role in the forefront," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents.

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

  • UN Security Council Discusses Israel's Refusal to Allow Libyan Ship to Dock in Gaza
    Libya protested in vain Wednesday before the UN Security Council over Israel's interception of a Libyan ship attempting to reach Gaza. The Libyan complaint failed to elicit a formal condemnation of Israel. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev said that since Libya does not recognize Israel, the interception was justified on grounds of national security. "No member state of this Council, nor any other member of the UN, would allow a shipment originating from a hostile state towards a territory that serves as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against its civilians," Shalev said.
        U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff also rejected Libya's arguments and deemed it "absurd to assert Israel committed an act of piracy" since not a single shot was fired nor was the Libyan ship boarded. He said Libya's attempt to access a closed sea port instead of following the usual channels for international aid was "dangerous and irresponsible." (AFP)
  • Iran's President Concedes Falling Oil Prices Hurt Economy - Nasser Karimi
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad has acknowledged publicly for the first time that tumbling oil prices are hurting Iran's fragile economy, the official news agency IRNA reported Wednesday. Oil prices have plunged from $147 a barrel in July to under $50, adding to the pain of Iran's rising inflation and unemployment. Ahmadinejad said that will force his government to trim spending and generous subsidies and raise taxes. (AP)
        See also Ahmadinejad's Plan to Curb Government Subsidies Threatens to Alienate Iranians - Thomas Erdbrink
    Gasoline is 36 cents a gallon because Iran's government spends half its national budget to subsidize many of life's necessities. Yet many of these subsidies may end within a couple of months. Many members of Iran's urban middle class fear that Ahmadinejad's new plan will ruin them. (Washington Post)
  • Court Upholds $156M Palestinian Terror Verdict - Mike Robinson
    A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld a $156 million judgment Wednesday against three U.S.-based Islamic groups accused of bankrolling terrorism. The suit was filed in 2000 by the parents of American-born David Boim, a 17-year-old yeshiva student who was killed by Hamas terrorists in a 1996 drive-by shooting at a bus stop in the West Bank. The Boims' lawsuit claimed the groups that gave to Palestinian charities ultimately helped fund terrorism. The decision upheld a lower-court judgment against the American Muslim Society, the Islamic Association for Palestine-National, and the Quranic Literacy Institute. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Preparing Options for Strike at Iran Without U.S. Assent - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF is drawing up options for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that do not include coordination with the U.S. "It is always better to coordinate," one top Defense Ministry official explained, "but we are also preparing options that do not include coordination." Israeli officials have said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to launch a strike against Iran without receiving codes from the U.S. Air Force, which controls Iraqi airspace.
        Another Israeli official said, "There is still time and there is no need to rush into an operation right now....The regime there is already falling apart and will likely no longer be in power ten years from now." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Won't Let Hamas Form an Islamic Emirate in Gaza
    Mustafa el-Fiqi, who heads the Egyptian Parliament's foreign relations committee, said Wednesday that Egypt wouldn't tolerate Hamas setting up an Islamic state in Gaza, on Egypt's eastern border. Egypt is increasingly displeased with Hamas - especially after it boycotted Egypt-mediated Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo last month. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Washington Think-Tanks Call for Shifting U.S. Focus from Iraq - Barry Schweid
    The U.S. should shift its main foreign policy focus in the Middle East from Iraq to curtailing Iran's nuclear program and promoting peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, analysts at the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations proposed Tuesday. The report, "Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President," called on the new administration to support conciliation between Fatah, the Palestinian group with which Israel has negotiated, and Hamas, which controls Gaza and has refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. That new U.S. strategy would diminish the Islamists' incentive to undermine peace negotiations with Israel and force Hamas either to accept a peace agreement that supports Palestinian rights or lose the backing of the Palestinian public, said Steven A. Cook, of CFR, and Shibley Telhami, of Brookings. (AP)
        See also Report: Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Saban Center at Brookings Institution-Council on Foreign Relations)
        See also Beyond Iraq: A New U.S. Strategy for the Middle East - Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk
    The improved situation in Iraq will allow the new administration to shift its focus to Iran, where the clock is ticking on a dangerous and destabilizing nuclear program. Obama should offer direct official engagement with the Iranian government, without preconditions. To increase Israel's tolerance for extended diplomatic engagement, the U.S. government should bolster Israel's deterrent capabilities by providing an enhanced anti-ballistic-missile defense capability and a nuclear guarantee. The U.S. president should also spend capital trying to promote peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, in particular Syria. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Missing the Mission of Public Diplomacy - Robert Satloff
    In the post-9/11 era, the purpose of public diplomacy is not some amorphous desire to have America better understood or even the more pointed objective of winning the support of international public opinion for U.S. foreign policy. Today, that mission is how to identify, nurture and support mainstream Muslims in the ideological and political contest against radical Islamism and how to win backing for such efforts from nations and peoples in non-Muslim societies around the world. Alas, there is none of this in the Brookings report - no discussion of radical Islamism; no discussion of the ideological contest that undergirds the "war on terror;" no discussion of the role that mainstream Muslims play on the front lines of this battle; and no discussion of the vital role that innovative public diplomacy can play in helping our allies defeat these enemies of peace and freedom. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
  • New Mideast Peace Plan? - James Klurfeld
    I've seen this movie before: A new administration is about to take office and a prestigious think tank issues a report saying that nothing is more important than trying to put the pieces together in the Mideast, especially on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Sorry, but this time around I'm skeptical. Where I become doubtful is when the report says there's a unique chance to engineer an agreement between Syria and Israel, which, if it could be done, would alter the strategic balance in the region. Ever since I first started to cover these topics in the mid-1970s, I've heard that the Syria track is ripe for an agreement with Israel. The problem is that neither the older Assad nor the younger one has been willing to actually make a deal with Israel when push came to shove. Why is this time different from all other times? (Newsday)
  • A Diplomatic Deal with Iran? The Triumph of Wishful Thinking Over Past Experience - James Phillips and Peter Brookes
    Iran's nuclear program began under President Rafsanjani and flourished under President Khatami. Both were considered "moderates," extolled by some observers as leaders with whom the West could do business. Attempts to negotiate a diplomatic deal with Iran represent the triumph of wishful thinking over past experience. Under Ahmadinejad's predecessors, Iran concealed and lied about its nuclear program for two decades before admitting that it had built a secret uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in 2003.
        The U.S. should mobilize an international coalition to raise the diplomatic, economic, domestic political, and potential military costs to Tehran of continuing to flout its obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreements. This coalition should seek to isolate the regime, weaken it through targeted economic sanctions, explain to the Iranian people why their government's nuclear policies will impose economic costs and military risks on them, contain and deter Iran's military power, and encourage democratic change. (Heritage Foundation)
  • Observations:

    Fighting Racism, UN-Style - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • One of Colin Powell's best moves as Secretary of State was to pull out of the 2001 United Nations Durban confab against racism once it became an anti-Semitic rant. One of the best moves the new U.S. administration and Europe could make is to stay away from the follow-up meeting altogether.
    • "Durban II," planned for April in Geneva, promises to be an encore of the same old Israel-bashing. The draft declaration says Israel's policy toward the Palestinians amounts to no less than "a new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity, a form of genocide and a serious threat to international peace and security." We'll spare you the rest of the diatribe.
    • Israel will be the conference's main object of obsession, but it's not the only target. The draft declaration also goes after the West's freedom of speech and antiterror laws under the guise of protecting religion - read: Islam - from "defamation." The entire West will be in the dock for allegedly persecuting Muslims.
    • Israel said last month it will stay away from Geneva. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves kudos for having made that call already back in January.
    • The decision about whether to send an American delegation to Durban II will be an early test of Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton and the new Obama Administration. Western states would best serve the antiracism cause by joining Ottawa and Jerusalem in a boycott of this hate fest.

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