Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Obama, Gates Take Aim at Israel's Arrow-3 Missile - Martin Sieff (UPI)
Americans in Israel Sue North Korea for Aiding Hizbullah Rocket Attacks - Aviad Glickman (Ynet News)
PA Prime Minister Fayyad Protests Toronto Exhibit of Dead Sea Scrolls - Oakland Ross (Toronto Star)
Russia Signs Deal to Buy Israeli Drones (RIA Novosti-Russia)
The Doha Summit - A Defeat for the Saudi-Egyptian Camp - Y. Yehoshua (MEMRI)
Shiite Party Challenges Hizbullah in Lebanon Election - Jihad Siqlaw
European Commission's "Partnerships for Peace" Program Funds Conflict (NGO Monitor)
Tour Brings Israeli Web Startups to Silicon Valley - Leena Rao
Study: Israeli Products Popular Worldwide - Itamar Eichner
Israeli Invention May Revolutionize Skin Cancer Diagnosis - Ofri Ilani (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Obama administration said Wednesday that the U.S. would start participating regularly with other major powers in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in a further step toward direct engagement with Iran. "Pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "There's nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon."
By showing a readiness to engage Iran, American officials said, the administration is trying to build support among allies like Germany and France, and more skeptical players, like Russia, so that if diplomatic efforts fail, it can marshal support for tougher sanctions against Tehran. (New York Times)
See also Iran Opens Nuclear Fuel Production Facility - James Hider
President Ahmadinejad opened Iran's first plant for producing nuclear fuel Thursday. The new plant in Isfahan will produce pellets of uranium oxide to fuel a heavy-water research reactor, which is expected to be up and running either this year or next. The international community is worried that Iran could reprocess spent fuel from the heavy-water reactor into plutonium for building a warhead. The Iranian news agency said that the fuel plant can produce 10 tons of nuclear fuel annually to feed the heavy water Arak reactor as well as 30 tons for light water reactors such as the Bushehr nuclear plant. Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's nuclear program, added that 7,000 centrifuges had been installed at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan. (Times-UK)
See also Clinton Skeptical about Claimed Iranian Nuclear Strides - David Gollust
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday said U.S. officials do not attribute any particular meaning to the latest Iranian claims. "We don't know what to believe about the Iranian program. We've heard many different assessments and claims over a number of years....There is a great gap between what the IAEA observed about six or seven weeks ago, and what the Iranians are now claiming," she said. (VOA News)
Iran could be on the verge of a financial crisis. Inflation, which stood at 10% when Ahmadinejad came to power, had shot to nearly 30% by the end of last year. Rent has become unaffordable for many Iranians. Iran is experiencing its own version of the credit crunch. Non-performing loans have, according to unofficial figures, increased by 75% in the past three years: there is simply no incentive for people to pay them back at state-mandated low interest rates. Now that oil revenues have plummeted from $147 to $48 a barrel, the government has no cash to sustain the credit supply. Unemployment, meanwhile, has continued to rise: unofficial figures put it at around 30%. (New Statesman-UK)
"I didn't see in the Gaza operation anything that can teach us or show us that something in the moral attitude of the IDF was...changed or spoiled," Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, the Israeli army's chief education officer and ethics watchdog, said in an interview. A wave of international criticism, and an imminent UN investigation, have deepened a sense in Israel that it is being treated unfairly and held to impossible standards. Most Israelis felt the war was a justified response to the Palestinian missile campaign that has disrupted life in southern Israel and killed more than 20 people. (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Friday that President Obama's speech in Turkey earlier this week did not include any support for the Annapolis peace process, Army Radio reported. Ayalon denounced calls which interpreted Obama's reference to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation launched in Annapolis in 2007 as a warning to Israel's government. Obama said a two-state solution "is a goal that the parties agreed to in the Roadmap and at Annapolis," and that is "a goal that I will actively pursue as president." "Anyone who bothered to pay close attention could see that Obama said nothing in favor of Annapolis," Ayalon said. "Actually, it's the other way around; he said that he hopes both Palestinians and Israelis are committed to the Roadmap, as was stated in Annapolis."
Ayalon added that he "met American officials on Tuesday night, and things aren't quite the way they are portrayed in the newspaper articles, and I think that the Americans noticed the substantial statements made by [Israeli Foreign Minister] Lieberman in his inauguration speech, according to which Israel was committed to all the previously ratified agreements, including the Roadmap." (Ha'aretz)
See also With "Annapolis," a Warning to Israel - Helene Cooper
Watchers of Middle East politics were quick to take note of a line in President Obama's address before the Turkish Parliament on Monday in which he mentioned "Annapolis." By bringing up the word, Obama was sending a warning to the government of new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that reneging on the goals outlined during the Annapolis Middle East peace conference in 2007 would put Netanyahu on the wrong foot with the Obama administration. Privately, several administration officials and Middle East experts said that Obama is girding for a protracted showdown with the new Israeli government over the pursuit of Palestinian statehood. (New York Times)
According to a new study by former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, the present Golan border line "is the only one affording plausible defense for the State of Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland
Israeli-Syrian negotiations in 1999-2000 discussed security arrangements to compensate Israel for the loss of the Golan Heights. The idea was to guarantee that in case of war, IDF forces could quickly return to the place where they are currently stationed. This analysis demonstrates that Israel does not possess a plausible solution to its security needs without the Golan Heights. Not only was the "solution" proposed in the year 2000 implausible at the time, but changing circumstances - made evident in the Second Lebanon War in 2006 - have rendered Israel's forfeiture of the Golan today inadvisable.
These changes include the massive use of short-range rockets against Israel's home front, which could hinder the mobilization of IDF reserves; the massive use of anti-tank weaponry, which would slow the return of IDF forces to their previous defensive line; and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, which removed the issue of the disarmament of Hizbullah from any Golan agreement. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Iran was behind the planning of terror attacks against targets in Egypt by Hizbullah operatives, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram quoted a senior official in Cairo as saying Thursday. Two employees of an Iranian satellite TV channel planned the attacks, which were meant to be carried out simultaneously at a number of locations across the country. Egypt's attorney general announced Wednesday that 49 Hizbullah agents had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out hostile operations. The men had been assigned to observe and collect intelligence along the Egypt-Gaza border, at tourist sites in Sinai, and at the Suez Canal. They had also been provided with explosives and training on how to use them. (Ha'aretz)
See also Egypt Arrests 7 Israeli Arabs for Ties to Hizbullah, Hamas - Roee Nahmias
Seven Israeli Arabs have been arrested in Egypt over the past six months on suspicion of aiding Hamas and belonging to Hizbullah. Al-Jazeera reported that security forces have detained 50 Egyptians, Palestinians and Lebanese for alleged ties to the terror groups. (Ynet News)
See also Iran's Prints Are All Over Alleged Egypt Terror Ring - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Sixteen Palestinians were injured on Wednesday in clashes with Israel Defense Forces near Bat Ayin in the West Bank, where 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ was killed last week in a terror attack. Bat Ayin's rabbi, Daniel Cohen, said hundreds of residents had arrived at a nearby hill to mark the Blessing of the Sun, an event which occurs once every 28 years, after coordinating their activities with the army. At a certain stage, the worshippers heard whistles and screams from the Arab village of Khirbat Safa, several hundred meters away. "There were dozens of Arabs gathered there, shouting. The muezzin called on Arabs from nearby villages to join them." According to the rabbi, "The army arrived at the village, and then a clash erupted between the army and the Arabs....No one entered the village apart from the army." (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Eliminationist anti-Semitism has long been a staple of Iran's fundamentalist regime, where government-organized mobs are led in chants of "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" Over the past few years, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has stepped up the rhetoric, saying in 2005 that the Jewish state "must be wiped out from the map of the world." At the same time, Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons. If this pursuit succeeded, Tehran would have the means to make good on its genocidal threats. Yet Roger Cohen of the New York Times argues that the Iranians are bluffing.
The Israelis have been consistent in sounding the alarm about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. So have the U.S. government (under Presidents Clinton and Obama as well as Bush), America's European allies, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and to some extent the regimes in Russia, China and some Arab lands. Is the whole world crying wolf as well?
If, as Cohen suggests, the Israelis are perpetrating a fraud by claiming that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel, they are doing so with a lot of help from the Iranian regime. No one would believe Israel were it not for Tehran's eliminationist rhetoric and its open pursuit of nuclear arms. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Israel Cries Wolf - Roger Cohen (New York Times)
In Turkey President Obama spoke of seeking engagement with Islam based on "mutual respect." In reality, however, the experience of Arab Christians living now amid majority Islamic populations is often repression, arrest, imprisonment and death. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been singled out for discrimination and persecution. Muslim rioters often burn or vandalize their churches and shops. In 1995, the Saudis were allowed to build a mosque in Rome near the Vatican, but never reciprocated with a Christian church in their country. Saudi Arabia even forbids private worship at home for some one million Christian migrant workers. Mr. Obama should make formalized tolerance of Christian sects in the Middle East the basis for arriving at what he called "common ground" with Islam. (Wall Street Journal)
The Doha Debates, held this year on March 25 at Georgetown University in Washington, discussed whether "It's Time for the U.S. to Get Tough on Israel." People who put forward the proposition that it's time to get tough with Israel assume that somehow if that happens and Israel is pressured, you will reduce the flames of radical Islamic rage, affecting organizations like al-Qaeda. But is that really true? When was al-Qaeda formed? Was it formed in 1948 when Israel was established? No. Was it formed in 1967 when Israel captured Jerusalem? No. Was it formed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War? No. Al-Qaeda was formed in 1989 after the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and had absolutely nothing to do with Israel.
Those who believe in getting tough with Israel also contend that muscular American pressure is necessary for Israel to make the first move in the peace process. But when Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel, launched the peace process with Egypt, he sent Moshe Dayan to Morocco to meet with Anwar Sadat's representative without telling the United States. And when Yitzhak Rabin began the Oslo track, it was done without any pressure from the United States.
Israel has taken enormous risks for peace since 1993. It signed the Oslo Agreement. It thought that Yasser Arafat was the Nelson Mandela of the Palestinians, and was willing to jettison armed struggle. We lost over a thousand innocent Israeli civilians to suicide bombings that emanated from territories under Arafat's jurisdiction. Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but instead of creating the basis for a Palestinian state, we got an increase in rocket attacks against Israel by 500%. The central problem of the Middle East is a nuclear Iran, it isn't Israel. (Doha Debates)
Last week the Obama administration announced its intention to seek membership in a body America has for years shunned: the UN Human Rights Council, in perhaps the starkest illustration yet of what officials have billed as a "new era of engagement." But joining the Human Rights Council plunges the U.S. headlong into one of the most notorious quagmires in international politics. The Council's most recent session saw the body voting to end its mandate to investigate the Democratic Republic of the Congo, even as that nation lurches into ethnic bloodshed. A Pakistani resolution against "defamation of religions" passed with ease despite being universally decried by human rights groups as a thinly veiled effort to curtail freedom of expression and suppress minority sects.
The body has declined to issue a single condemnation of Sudan for its ethnic cleansing in Darfur. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 26 other countries - including China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe - have been ignored by the Council. It has instead diverted an implausible portion of its resources to the constant, fevered condemnation of Israel: 26 of its 32 condemnations. During its most recent session, the Council issued five resolutions condemning Israel - more than all its resolutions concerning other countries combined. (Wall Street Journal)
We are all mindful that Palestinians in Gaza are in need of humanitarian assistance. Unfortunately, they are led by the killers of Hamas and this group must not be rewarded in any way until it abides by a minimum level of civilized behavior. As a start, that behavior should include providing Red Cross access to [kidnapped Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit. Where are the international voices calling for the protection of his human rights and his protection from torture and abuse? There have been reports that Gilad Shalit has been restrained with explosives tied to his body as a means of ensuring that no Israeli rescue is attempted. Yet no universal condemnation has resulted from these horrid reports. Inexplicably, only the side in the fight not recognized by the UN - terrorist groups Hamas and Hizbullah - has received protection under the Geneva Convention.
Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an admirable stated goal of the Obama administration. An important first step toward that end will be Hamas' adherence to basic international norms relative to human rights. A second step will be to abrogate the horrible double standard that has long defined the plight of Israeli combatants that fall into the hands of their enemies. The writer is a 23-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations. (Berntsen National Security Review)
Israel is not the reason for the lack of a Palestinian state - this is the responsibility of the Palestinians. For more than six decades, Arab leaders rejected every opportunity to create an independent state that would have also left Israel intact. In November 1947 - 20 years before "the occupation" following the 1967 war - Arab officials spurned the UN partition plan, which embodied the "two-state solution." In sharp contrast, the Zionist leadership grasped this opportunity, despite the minimal territory allocated to the nascent Jewish state.
During the Oslo process in the 1990s, Arafat could easily have negotiated the terms of a two-state solution, had he been interested in this outcome. However, most Palestinian officials and leaders have given priority to preventing Jewish sovereignty and rolling back the recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland. Hamas openly declares that its primary objective is destroying Israel; an independent Palestinian state is secondary, at best. (Jerusalem Post)
On Wednesday morning, tens of thousands of Jews gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Birkat HaChamah, the Blessing of the Sun. The crowd spilled out onto walkways overlooking the Western Wall and onto the rooftops of nearby hotels and buildings. According to Jewish tradition, the sun completes a "large cycle" every 28 years, bringing it to the same spot on the same day at the same time as it was when God created it. The sun blessing is a special event for Jews, said Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth. "Everyone gets a chance to experience it only three or four times." (Washington Post)
Today Ethiopian Jews who were rescued from Africa during Operation Moses in 1984 and subsequently educated in Israel, are returning to Africa to help educate orphans who survived the genocide in Rwanda. The Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, being constructed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Rwamagana, Rwanda, is modeled after the Youth Aliyah Village of Yemin Orde, which was started to assist orphans from the Holocaust, and which played a major role in assisting the Ethiopian orphans. Nearly a dozen Ethiopian Israeli volunteers will be participating in the training of the Rwandans as resident teachers and staff. (Tadias)
UN Human Rights Expert Would Prohibit Self-Defense - Harry Reicher (New York Jewish Week)
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Today's issue of the Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.