Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
CIA Head Hayden: Iran Near Nuke Decision - Pamela Hess (AP)
Israel Doing Its Best to Help Gazans - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
UN Chief in Israel: "How Does One Take Shelter in 15 Seconds?" - Roni Sofer
Iran Wields the Gavel at the UN Development Program - Claudia Rosett (Forbes)
Aerial Evacuation Time of IDF Wounded: 45 Minutes - Yaakov Katz
Israel Is Communicating with Gaza - Safa Joudeh
On Proportionality - Michael Walzer (New Republic)
Hamas, Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda: 21st Century Nazis - Samuel Rodriguez (Washington Post)
The Holocaust in Arab Public Discourse - Mikael Tossavainen (Jewish Political Studies Review)
Hebrew University Scientists Succeed Through Stem Cell Therapy in Reversing Brain Birth Defects (MediLexicon)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday that Israeli troops had shelled a UN compound in Gaza in response to fire coming from the building. "The Israeli forces were attacked from there and their response was severe," Olmert's office quoted him as telling Ban. "We do not want such incidents to take place and I am sorry for it. I don't know if you know, but Hamas fired from the UNRWA site." (AFP)
See also Rice Cautions Israel over UN Warehouse Bombing
U.S. Secretary of State Rice said on Thursday she had told Israel's defense and foreign ministers that more care must be taken to avoid incidents such as the bombing of a UN warehouse in Gaza. (Reuters)
Signs of sharp division are appearing within the top ranks of Hamas as fighting with Israel in Gaza intensifies and cease-fire talks brokered by Egypt reach a critical point. Gaza-based Hamas officials have sounded more willing in recent days to consider a deal for a temporary cease-fire, being pushed by Egypt, even though the proposal would leave Israeli troops on the ground in Gaza temporarily and keep the territory's borders sealed in the short term. But Hamas political officials close to the group's leadership-in-exile in Syria have characterized a cease-fire as still far away.
Israeli intelligence assessments have repeatedly suggested differences emerging between the Syria and Gaza wings of Hamas. Israel's goal in the offensive is to inflict heavy damage on Hamas and force it to stop rocketing southern Israel. The rift suggests the on-the-ground Hamas people in Gaza - bearing the brunt of the offensive - are leaning toward a pragmatic compromise to end the bloodshed. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Israel Pushes for Changes to Hamas Truce Terms - Adam Entous
Israel has rebuffed some of the conditions set by Hamas for a cease-fire, Israeli and Western sources said on Friday. Israel had objected to putting a time limit on the truce. Hamas proposed a 12-month agreement that could later be extended. "A time limit on any period of quiet is a mistake," a senior Israeli source said. "We saw that when the previous calm ran out of time, it was just an excuse for some to escalate the violence." (Reuters)
See also Israel Focused on War Aims in Gaza - Alistair Lyon
Israel's war aims, such as restoring Israel's military deterrence and badly damaging Hamas' armed capacity, have already been achieved, Israeli analysts and officials say. Others, such as stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel and preventing the Islamist movement from rearming, are still incomplete. Much will depend on the exact terms of a cease-fire agreement that Egypt is mediating. "We don't know yet if the Egyptians will take it upon themselves to block the Philadelphi crossing, or whether Hamas is willing to make a commitment to the Egyptians that there will be a cease-fire for many years," said former Mossad chief Danny Yatom.
"Our information...is that Hamas has over-played its hand, that it has alienated large sections of the Palestinian street," said Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev. "On the day after this crisis is over, when the dust settles, Hamas will be facing a very serious problem with the Palestinian people, specifically the population of Gaza." Shmuel Sandler, a professor at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said, "What's even more amazing is that the Arab states basically want Hamas to be hit because they see a threat in the ideas of Hamas to their own regimes." (Reuters)
President-elect Barack Obama's choice for U.S. envoy to the UN, Susan Rice, noted at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that many try to use the UN "willfully and unfairly to condemn our ally Israel." Rice served in the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of state for Africa. (AP)
The U.S. hopes to use the post-war reconstruction of Gaza to help the Western-backed Palestinian Authority reassert its presence and influence in Hamas' stronghold. The aim would be to ensure that credit for reconstruction accrues to the PA and not to the Iranian-backed Islamists of Hamas. "Whoever rebuilds Gaza will be the real winner," said one Western diplomat. EU officials said preparations were already under way for a donor conference.
"Let's be realistic," a senior EU diplomat said. "If the Palestinian Authority is to be in charge, it has to be on the ground, have institutions. At the moment there is none of that." In addition, Western donors who financed most of the infrastructure in the first place have grown weary of seeing it destroyed by the Israelis and then being asked to fund the rebuilding. (Reuters)
A group of foreign journalists were taken to the edge of al-Atatra, a town from whose environs Hamas regularly fired rockets into southern Israel a few miles north. It has paid a terrible price. The houses and apartment blocks have been abandoned and mostly reduced to shells, their walls pockmarked by shrapnel. The Palestinian civilians have fled.
Colonel Herzi, the commander, and his fellow paratroops are not afflicted by doubts about the justice of their mission, or about their overwhelming use of force. Hamas brought this death and destruction on itself, they argue. By continuing to rain rockets on Israel, it left them with no alternative. "They didn't give us any choice except to fight and show them that they should stop and find another way to live with us," Herzi said. (Times-UK)
Israelis aren't blind to civilian deaths or to mass suffering in Gaza. However, Israelis support the war against Hamas by more than four to one. If you lived here, many say, you would too. Polls show that Jewish Israelis see the war as necessary and justified, despite the deaths in Gaza and massive destruction of Palestinian homes and property. The public attitude here is that there's no peaceful way to deal with a foe such as Hamas, which doesn't recognize Israel's existence and whose fighters have fired thousands of rockets into Israeli towns over the past eight years.
"You can't compare by the number of people dying here and there," said Samuel Balmas, 41, from Tel Aviv, whose elderly father lives in southern Israel and has had rockets land within a few hundred yards of his house. "We didn't send bombs to them. They sent them to us first." (McClatchy/Kansas City Star)
A series of competing Arab conferences on ending Israel's military offensive in Gaza reflects the fractures within the Arab world. Qatar invited members of the 22-nation Arab League to a special summit Friday in Doha. Egypt and Saudi Arabia refused to attend. Egypt, which is trying to mediate a truce on its own, says the league should discuss Gaza at its economic meeting Monday in Kuwait. The divide separates countries aligned with the U.S. - Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - from those that vehemently oppose Washington and its ally, Israel: Syria and Iran. (Bloomberg)
See also Iran's Ahmadinejad Joins Gaza Crisis Summit in Qatar (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam was killed along with Salah Abu Shrakh, the head of the Hamas general security service, in an Israeli air strike in the Jabaliya neighborhood in Gaza City Thursday. Siam was responsible for the various security apparatuses in the Strip, including the police and the naval force. He was considered a radical, was in contact with Hamas' political leadership in Damascus, and was also considered close to Iranian officials. Siam was one of the masterminds of Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian sources said Hamas' military commander in Gaza City, Mahmoud Watfah, was also killed in the attack. (Ha'aretz)
See also Security Kingpin Held Gaza in Iron Grip - Khaled Abu Toameh
Siam was considered by many Palestinians to be the Hamas "defense minister." His main task was to ensure the stability of the Hamas regime and thwart any attempt by Fatah to regain control of Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
Despite his mother's best efforts to protect him with her body, seven-year-old Uriel Elazarov was seriously wounded in Beersheba on Thursday when shrapnel from a Grad rocket penetrated his skull. When the warning sirens sounded, Uriel and his mother, Angela, an emergency room nurse, exited their vehicle and laid on the ground, as instructed by the Home Front Command. The Grad exploded nearby, sending shrapnel and metal balls in every direction. A 43-year-old woman was seriously wounded by the rocket, and four other people also sustained wounds. An hour later, the air force destroyed the rocket launchers used in the attack. Some 25 rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Israel Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, returned to Egypt on Friday to discuss the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday, "We will stop terror and stop Hamas from rearming, without any compromises. I don't want any time pressures or international pressure to dictate failing to meet these goals." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made it clear that even after the agreement is signed, Israel reserves the right to respond with fire to Hamas' attempts to rearm itself. (Ynet News)
Israeli military pressure has destroyed most of the Palestinian defenses in the heart of Gaza City. Infantry, armor and special forces are operating in the center of the city, very close to the Hamas "security quarter" southwest of the city, where most of its command and control centers are situated. Hamas gunmen are opting to avoid direct encounters with the IDF. In most cases they are choosing to escape along with thousands of civilians. (Ha'aretz)
See also Palestinian Sources: "Iranian Unit" of Hamas Has Been Destroyed - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian sources reported Thursday that the "Iranian Unit" of Hamas, trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, had been destroyed in fighting in the Zeytun neighborhood of Gaza City. The unit numbered 100 men who had trained in Iran and Hizbullah camps in Lebanon. The IDF Thursday took control of one of the large residential neighborhoods of Gaza City, Tel al-Hawa, that borders the center of the city. (Ha'aretz)
The head of Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, spoke a few months before the war of the "Dahiya Doctrine." The destruction in Gaza is reminiscent of what the air force did to Beirut's Shi'ite Dahiya quarter in 2006. Israel has made it clear that it is capable of inflicting enormous damage if provoked in such a way that it feels compelled to respond. The Israeli operation in Gaza was completely disproportional.
Al-Jazeera faithfully broadcasts all the announcements issued by various unknown Palestinian factions about their alleged successes in the Gaza fighting. The running captions at the bottom of the screen report non-stop on wholly fictitious events. The Popular Resistance Committees announce they have destroyed a Merkava tank; there are numerous false reports about IDF soldiers being killed. Hamas propaganda films immortalizing a strike on Israeli soldiers are broadcast over and over again. The viewer can't help but conclude that, at any moment, Hamas' forces are about to reach Gaza's northernmost point and that the IDF is fighting a desperate battle to push them back. When Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh eventually emerges from his bunker, he will proclaim his organization the victor - and plenty of people in the West Bank will be ready to believe it.
Haniyeh will have a harder time convincing Gazans. One Gazan journalist, noting Hamas claims of delivering surprises to Israel, said this week: "Hamas' only surprise were the more than 1,000 dead we suffered." (Ha'aretz)
Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces have stepped up their crackdown on Hamas supporters and figures in the West Bank since the beginning of Israel's Gaza operation, Palestinians said Thursday. The latest anti-Hamas measures, which are being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of U.S. security experts, are designed to foil any attempt to overthrow the PA. Israeli security officials praised Abbas' forces for employing an "iron-fist" policy against Hamas since the beginning of the military offensive. In the past three weeks, dozens of Hamas supporters have been detained or summoned for investigation by the PA's Preventive Security Force and General Intelligence Service.
The PA-controlled media continues to blame Hamas for the "massacres" in Gaza. Several Fatah-controlled news websites carried reports about how Hamas militiamen were stealing fuel and food in Gaza. They also mocked the Hamas leaders for abandoning their constituents by going underground. PA officials in Ramallah said on Thursday they had evidence that Iran and Syria were pushing Hamas to continue fighting Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
The only long-term solution to Palestinian weapons smuggling into Gaza is the establishment of an Egyptian security zone on its side of the border, former National Security Council director Giora Eiland said Wednesday. "All this talk of an international force, special equipment or special technicians is completely hopeless, since it is not required and not effective," he said. "Today the Egyptians are more open to other ideas than in the past," Eiland said. He said that Israel's military offensive against Hamas had boosted Israeli deterrence and predicted that a cease-fire will push off a new round of Hamas violence for "several years." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The battle in Gaza is the first time Hamas has engaged the Israel Defense Forces in large-scale combat as an organized military force. Hamas hoped to humble the IDF by employing unconventional, quasi-guerilla tactics in densely built-up areas a conventional army would have difficulty dealing with. In ten days of ground combat, however, Hamas offered only sporadic resistance, melting away before the Israeli advance while suffering heavy casualties and inflicting few.
Even before the war started, Israelis knew it would end with Hamas declaring victory regardless of what happened on the battlefield. A parting salvo of rockets as the cease-fire went into effect would constitute a victory salute while the inevitable withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza would be offered as proof that Hamas had endured and won, regardless of the fact Gaza lay in ruins and more than 1,000 of its residents were dead. This week, Hamas leaders signaled from their basement hideouts in Gaza that they could no longer hold out. (The Australian)
Israel's military operations in Gaza serve to remind Hamas and other belligerents that Israel's political will and military prowess have not faltered. It is a tragedy for Gaza's impoverished and downtrodden population that it has taken so much death and destruction for Hamas to come to understand that a cease-fire is preferable to what has been experienced in Gaza in recent days. Hamas is defeated, or is in the process of being defeated. Its own leaders and fighters, and its own people, have died and been injured in numbers greatly disproportionate to the soldiers and people of Israel. It is time that Hamas, and the battered people they represent, understand not just the inevitability of defeat, but they must absorb the truth that harassment and provocation are not the way forward. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
The besieged Palestinians of Gaza matter to the people of Egypt. But peace with Israel has come to matter more. Hosni Mubarak refuses to risk his nation's peace with Israel by opening the Egyptian frontier to the Palestinians trapped in Gaza or showing any support for Hamas. Mubarak has put Egypt first, turning Cairo into the global pivot for efforts to reach a new cease-fire between Jerusalem and Hamas. And his regime has benefited from a nationalistic backlash to harsh criticism from Iran and radical Arab movements. "This is the first time I agree with Mubarak on anything," says Hisham Kassem, a leading figure in the democratic opposition and a newspaper publisher. "He has kept Egypt from being drawn back into a war with Israel. People are not ready to take that risk for the sake of Hamas. Suddenly Mubarak is made to look like a stability-minded statesman." (Washington Post)
Violence and bloodshed are commonly seen in lands such as Gaza where at least 30% of the male population is in the 15-to-29 age bracket. In such "youth bulge" countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society. The reason for Gaza's endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed, clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA, which is benevolently funded by the U.S. (31%) and the EU (nearly 50%). Unrestrained by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have plenty of time on their hands for digging smuggling tunnels and firing missiles at Israel.
By generously supporting UNRWA's budget, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel. If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA's help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to wage war. The writer heads the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of Bremen, Europe's first institute devoted to comparative genocide research. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Canada is to be commended for voting against a foolishly biased indictment of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council. A lone voice of integrity, Canada voted against the motion on Monday while 13 nations, mostly from Europe, abstained. Thirty-three countries voted in favor, including such human rights stalwarts as Cuba, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has wisely refused membership in this disreputable cabal. Canada has hung in, purportedly to try to inject some level-headedness into the council's chronic looniness.
The motion blames Israel entirely for the crisis. There is no mention of Hamas and other Palestinian groups using civilians as shields or lobbing rockets into Israel. It vilifies Israel for the "collective punishment" of Palestinians but says not a word about Hamas leaders urging the blood of Jewish children be spilled everywhere. (Toronto Star)
When the fighting in Gaza ends, and Ismail Haniyeh emerges from his bunker beneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and proclaims victory amid the ruins, how credible will that boast be among Palestinians and among Arabs generally? In the Middle East it is not enough to objectively lose or win a war; perception often overtakes and determines reality. A crucial factor is what Israelis themselves believe and communicate. If the Israeli public remains convinced that the IDF has restored its credibility, that the military command is trustworthy and its soldiers are fighting more effectively and with greater motivation that they have in decades, then Haniyeh's inevitable declaration of victory will appear less credible in the Arab world. (Shalem Center)
I have always criticized the tendency of some commentators to dismiss all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. However, in recent years, especially since the eruption of the latest conflict in Gaza, anti-Israeli sentiments often mutate into anti-Jewish ones. Recent events indicate that in Europe the traditional distinction between anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish feelings has become confused and blurred.
The most worrying development in Europe is not the visible signs of radical Muslim and far-right vitriol directed at Jews but the new culture of accommodation. What has emerged is a slightly embarrassed "see nothing, hear nothing" attitude that shows far too much understanding towards manifestations of anti-Semitism. Sometimes even politically correct adherents of diversity and anti-racism manage to switch off when confronted with an anti-Jewish comment. The writer is a professor of sociology at the University of Kent in England. (The Australian)
What is indisputable is that Israel is responding to a barrage of Hamas rockets which threaten its citizens. All this follows the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlements in Gaza in 2005, after which Hamas swept to power and turned "the Strip" into its own paramilitary playground, using it as a springboard to launch a campaign of sustained and indiscriminate attacks into southern Israel.
I am a Muslim, something which, in the eyes of many Muslims, means I should automatically defend the "Palestinian struggle." This is absurd, as it means overlooking the vicious crimes being perpetrated by Hamas - against the Jews and, increasingly, its own population too. Those who claim to support and empathize with the Palestinians must recognize that it is the terrorists of Hamas who have so disastrously betrayed their own people. (Telegraph-UK)
Jeffrey Gedmin is president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, whose Iranian service, Radio Farda, has been receiving messages from its Iranian listeners regarding the war in Gaza. Here's a sampling (translated from Farsi): "The clerical regime is lying. It was not Israel who started this war." "Any other country [apart from Israel] would have done the same a long time ago." "Hamas should be destroyed. This cowardly group is taking cover in hospitals and residential areas. The people of Gaza should help Israel."
"As long as [Iran's rulers] are helping Lebanon and Palestine, we're not going to have a decent living." "In my opinion, it would be better if our leaders, together with their supporters, would relocate to Palestine....This way we would have peace and quiet in Iran and our economic situation would improve." The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)
A Palestinian man had his car stolen in Ramallah. Dutifully, he turned to the local Palestinian Authority police - whose improved law enforcement capacity has been much exalted in certain quarters of late. Police officers proceeded to attempt to negotiate a "ransom" arrangement with the thieves, under which the vehicle would be returned in exchange for an acceptable payment. Dismayed, the victim abandoned that corrupt path, and decided to go all the way to the top. He contacted the office of PA head Mahmoud Abbas. But officials there also offered to negotiate with the thieves on a fee for the car's return, with a supplementary payment for their own involvement.
If Abbas is incapable of achieving the legitimate return of a stolen car to its rightful owner in his home city of Ramallah, why on earth would anyone consider him capable of marketing to his own people and then implementing a peace agreement with Israel? The writer is Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post. (Jerusalem Post)
Save Gaza by Destroying the Heart of Terror - Natan Sharansky (Bloomberg)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert