Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Report: Hizbullah Planned Huge Terror Attacks in Tel Aviv - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Egypt Now an Enemy of Iran and Hizbullah - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
Abbas' Son Has Amassed a Vast Personal Fortune - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Asks U.S. to Continue Funding Arrow Anti-Missile System - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Release Imprisoned American-Iranian Journalist - Editorial (New York Times)
Israel Supreme Court President Speaks at Princeton - Samantha Henry (AP/Washington Post)
Law and Order, Palestinian-Style - Oakland Ross (Toronto Star)
Iran's Minority Politics - Philip Carl Salzman (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
Israel Is a Child-Bearing Superpower - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The Obama administration is pushing for a formal censure of Iran and Syria at the UN over an arms-smuggling case that U.S. officials see as highlighting the risks that Iranian weapons shipments pose to regional stability. The move could impede the ability of Iranian shipping firms to deliver arms to militant groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Washington has already placed unilateral sanctions on Tehran's largest freight shipping firm, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, for its alleged role in arms smuggling and procuring equipment for Iran's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.
"The fact that Iran is smuggling arms isn't new. What's new is that they got caught in the act," said a European official working on Iran. "We now have the evidence." The evidence involves an Iranian-chartered cargo ship that was detained in Cyprus after American intelligence suggested it was ferrying arms to Syria. The Cypriot-flagged ship, the Monchegorsk, left Iran in January, chartered by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. Cypriot authorities found bullet shells, high-explosive gun charges and items related to 125-mm armor-piercing guns. The Syrian port of Latakia was to be the port of discharge. Last month, a UN committee ruled that both Iran and Syria violated a Security Council resolution that bans Tehran from both importing and exporting weapons. (Wall Street Journal)
On one point, the U.S. agrees with Hizbullah's No. 2 leader, Naim Qassem, and not such allies as Britain. Neither Qassem nor Washington distinguish between the Shiite militant group's political wing, which has members serving in the Lebanese Cabinet and parliament, and its military wing, preparing for the next round of battle against Israel. "Hizbullah has a single leadership," said the 57-year-old cleric in a rare interview with an American reporter recently. "All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership," he said. "The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel." (Los Angeles Times)
Germany is likely to stay away from a UN meeting against racism next week in Geneva amid Western concerns that the event may take on anti-Semitic overtones, a senior official confirmed in Berlin Thursday. Guenter Nooke, the German Foreign Ministry's top human rights envoy, said in Berlin, "Germany, like several other EU nations, will very likely not be taking part in the conference." (DPA/Earth Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Palestinian recognition that Israel is a Jewish state is a fundamental element for any talks between the two parties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Thursday. Sources close to Netanyahu dismissed media reports of growing tensions between Israel and the U.S. over the best path for peace with the Palestinians, describing the meeting as a very positive one. Netanyahu assured Mitchell that Israel wanted to move forward to create a sustainable peace with the Palestinians, but that this peace had to take into account Israel's vital security interests. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Netanyahu to Mitchell: We Won't Accept Another Hamastan - Roni Sofer
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Thursday that while Israel has no desire to rule over the Palestinians, it must maintain its security interests. "Israel must make sure that the political process does not result in the creation of a second Hamastan (in the West Bank) that would threaten Jerusalem and the coastal strip," Netanyahu said, according to a senior official in his office. (Ynet News)
See also U.S.: No Alternative to Two-State Solution - Roni Sofer
The message conveyed by American sources at the end of talks in Israel by President Obama's special envoy George Mitchell is clear: The U.S. demands that Israel continues the Roadmap process in accordance with the Annapolis understandings, which call for the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state. Mitchell made it clear that the economic issue is only part of the dialogue with the Palestinians in the West Bank and is not an alternative to the peace process. (Ynet News)
See also Mitchell: U.S. Policy Favors a Palestinian State Alongside "the Jewish State of Israel"
Mitchell said Thursday he had reiterated the U.S. stance: "U.S. policy favors, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which would have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel." (CNN)
A terrorist infiltrated the Jewish community of Beit Hagai in South Mount Hebron early Friday and tried to attack several people with a knife. He was shot dead shortly afterwards by the settlement's emergency squad. One resident was injured. Two weeks ago, Shlomo Nativ, 13, of Beit Ayin was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who attacked residents with an axe. (Ynet News)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel early Friday. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
It's too bad the U.S. won't be able to attend next week's World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, but don't blame the Obama administration. Blame instead the organizers who have turned what should have been a worthwhile assembly to eliminate the scourge of racism into a hate fest against Israel. The U.S. walked out of a similar UN-sponsored meeting in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 because it focused on Israel and an effort to compare Zionism to racism. This one, to judge from a draft of the preliminary text, is heading in the same direction. The administration should stick with its position unless there is a wholesale change in the text and in the anti-Israel attitude that has prevailed so far. At this point, there's not much chance of that happening. (Miami Herald)
The UN's World Conference against Racism, known as Durban 2, opens on Monday. And it appears that the U.S. will not participate. Good. Good. Good. Obama administration diplos made a go of removing the most anti-American, anti-Israel planks from the agenda, only to come up short. That is one reason the State Department has signaled, without stating explicitly, that the U.S. is staying home. We'll stay away from the likes of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who plans to attend, while upholding American values. (New York Daily News)
Intensive diplomatic efforts are under way to salvage a UN conference on combating racism amid Western fears that Muslim countries may use it to attack Israel, restrict freedom of expression, and promote Islamist views on religion and sexual orientation. (Guardian-UK)
Opponents of the UN's Durban 2 anti-racism conference say it was tainted and could not be rescued because of the heavy involvement of human rights abusers. Libya chaired the planning committee, whose membership includes countries like Iran and Cuba. "It is a conference on human rights that is being chaired by people who abuse these rights," said Michael Schneider, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the conference's opening session on Monday, which coincidentally falls on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day. Israel, along with Canada and Italy, has said it has no intention of attending the conference, and the World Jewish Congress had been urging the U.S. not to attend. (Jerusalem Post)
Jewish groups are gearing up for next week's Durban 2 anti-racism conference in Geneva and are making final preparations for massive counter-protests. "We're ready to fight the good fight," said NGO Monitor's director, Prof. Gerald Steinberg. "The image that's going to be seen is one of a very active Jewish and pro-Israel community, which wasn't seen during Durban 1. Hopefully, we'll be able to roll back the way in which human rights were used there as a weapon against Israel, much like the UN declaration of 'Zionism is Racism,' which was passed in 1975, was repealed in 1991." "Human rights should no longer be exploited as part of the war against Israel. They should be universal and based on the frameworks set up after the Holocaust," Steinberg said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also A Theater of the Absurd - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
Roger Cohen of the New York Times is rapidly becoming Iran's foremost apologist in the U.S. In his latest special pleading on behalf of the theocratic dictators in Tehran, Cohen trots out the Mother of All Dumb Analogies: "Imagine if Roosevelt in 1942 had said to Stalin, sorry, Joe, we don't like your Communist ideology so we're not going to accept your help in crushing the Nazis. I know you're powerful, but we don't deal with evil." The reason that the U.S. allied with Russia in 1942 was that the two countries faced a common existential threat in Nazi Germany. As soon as that threat disappeared, the U.S. and USSR became mired in a decades-long Cold War. What common threat does Cohen imagine would bind the U.S. and Iran together? A Martian invasion?
Cohen spins a "normalization scenario" and writes: "Any such deal...can be derailed any time by an attack from Israel, which has made clear it won't accept virtual nuclear power status for Iran." So you see the Iranians are ready to change their ways, to become a paragon of Western liberal virtue. If only the nasty Israelites would let the nice Iranians have a nuclear program, everyone could walk off into the sunset, arm in arm. It is rare to get such insights outside of official Iranian government organs. (Commentary)
Inside the U.S. Treasury, an appointee of George W. Bush continues his campaign against Iran's nuclear program in the age of President Barack Obama. Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who has been singularly effective in piling financial sanctions on Iran, has retained his post in the new administration. Levey has toured the world telling America's partners that UN sanctions are reason to steer clear of all contacts with Tehran, as no outside company can ever be sure with whom inside Iran it is really doing business.
The campaign of dissuasion has borne fruit. International banks have pulled away from Iran and so have energy groups, most notably France's Total last year. As a result, what were originally intended to be targeted or "smart" sanctions have had much broader effects on Iran's financial system and economy as a whole. Levey has also used powers to ban American nationals from doing business with groups designated under anti-terrorism and nuclear anti-proliferation rules to act against a number of Iranian banks, industrial companies and the country's shipping line. "Back in September 2006, I could count on one hand the major banks that had cut off or dramatically reduced their business with Iran," he said. "Now there are only a few that have not done so." (Financial Times-UK)
Despite its prominence as a major oil exporter, Iran has significant energy vulnerabilities. Due to limited refining capabilities, it depends on gasoline imports for 40% of its domestic consumption. Iran is, in fact, the second-largest importer of gasoline in the world, behind only the U.S. Iran's gasoline imports are vulnerable: Tehran relies primarily on five companies for its gasoline supplies: Vitol (Switzerland/Netherlands), Trafigura (Switzerland/Netherlands), Reliance Industries (India), Glencore (Switzerland) and Total (France). Washington and Ottawa should give these companies a choice between providing gasoline to Iran's relatively small domestic market and gaining access to North America.
Iran's gasoline suppliers have growing business interests in the U.S. and Canada: Reliance, for instance, receives taxpayer support from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, has opened a trading desk in Houston, and is looking to acquire fuel storage facilities along the East and Gulf coasts. Total operates in 29 states in the U.S. and, with its American business interests likely in mind, decided last year that the political risks were too great to justify continued investment in - though not trade with - Iran's energy sector. Mark Dubowitz is executive director and Joshua D. Goodman is director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Post-Canada )
Oman's minister of foreign affairs Youssef bin Alawi this week praised the chief of Hizbullah. "Hassan Nasrallah enjoys a high position," he said in Tehran. "Iran's and Oman's position in regards to regional and global issues coincide." Saudi Arabia fears Iran is one step away from official recognition from Washington as a regional leader, and the country that calls the shots in the Gulf. "When relations between America and Iran improve, as is expected, the Gulf countries will pay the price again," Zaher al-Mahrouqi wrote in the Omani daily al-Shabiba last week. "Iran has become stronger and is the only major player in the region."
A Western diplomat in Muscat said Oman, with a small Shi'ite population, was more concerned about Saudi influence on society than Iran. Wahhabi followers have made inroads in Yemen and in the southern Saudi Shi'ite region of Najran. "A nuclear Iran is not desirable but they can live with it," the diplomat said. He also pointed to Iran's role in putting down a rebellion in the Dhofar region of southern Oman in the 1970s, ensuring the rule of Sultan Qaboos who remains in power to this day. (Reuters/Khaleej Times-Dubai)
The idea of two states was first proposed by the British, who had ruled Palestine since 1918. They created the Peel Commission of Inquiry, which, in 1937, recommended that the country be partitioned. If the Arabs were smart, they would have accepted, because today they would not only have Gaza and the West Bank, but good parts of present-day Israel as well. However, while the Jews reluctantly agreed, the Arabs rejected the Partition Plan, and the rest is history.
When Israel, under Ariel Sharon, dropped the concept of reciprocity and pulled out of Gaza unilaterally, the expectations were that in Gaza, the Palestinians would establish a mini-state, which would receive generous amounts of aid from the well-wishing world community and eventually take the process peacefully into the West Bank as well. Instead, there emerged an entity inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah and Iran, ruled by Hamas, which swears to destroy Israel. No wonder the Israelis don't want this to spill over to the West Bank.
With all due respect to the commitment of President Obama to the two-state solution, this seems like an uphill battle. While I still think it's the best possible solution, every day it becomes more difficult to realize. Some solution will eventually emerge. I believe that Jordan will take responsibility for the West Bank and Egypt for Gaza. Why? Because of their fear that Hamas, the true force in these areas, will undermine their own regimes. Is this the ideal solution? Definitely not, because it leaves the Palestinian national aspirations unfulfilled. But we don't live in an ideal world. Col. (res.) Uri Dromi was the chief education officer of the Israeli Air Force, director of the Israel Government Press Office during the Rabin and Peres governments (1992-96), and former director of International Outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute. (Miami Herald)
The street graffiti is so brazenly political in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province that it hardly seems like Saudi Arabia at all. Hundreds of Shi'ites have staged protests in recent weeks as police searched in vain for firebrand preacher Nimr al-Nimr, who breached a taboo to suggest in a sermon that Shi'ites could one day seek their own separate state. The threat, which diplomats say is unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution provoked anti-Saudi protests, followed clashes between the Sunni religious police and Shi'ite pilgrims near the tomb of Prophet Mohammad in the city of Medina, in the western region of Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials say Shi'ites make up less than 10% of the population, although diplomats believe the figure is closer to 15%. The rising influence of Shi'ite Iran, after the 2003 Iraq invasion empowered Iraq's Shi'ite majority, has revived official fears that Shi'ites could become a fifth column against the Saudi state. (Reuters)
The Irish Times has apparently chosen to champion the Palestinian cause and to promote that side's narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict. On its editorial and opinion pages, columns condemning Israel outnumber supportive columns by a ratio of 3:1, while its news pages serve as a platform for unchallenged, anti-Israel allegations. These conclusions are based on a 6-week CAMERA investigation of all articles published between Dec. 19, 2008, and Jan. 30, 2009.
The primary focus of the coverage was on accusations of Israeli wrongdoing, human interest stories about Palestinian casualties, condemnations of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, and the effect of the campaign on Arab society. Missing from the coverage was Hamas' anti-Israel and anti-Jewish agenda, the context of Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas' decision to use the territory as a launching pad to attack Israeli civilians. (CAMERA)
Israel is a country held together by argument. The politicians go at each other with a fury we can't even fathom in the U.S. At news conferences, Israeli journalists ridicule and abuse their national leaders. Subordinates in companies feel free to correct their superiors. This is a tough, scrappy country, perpetually fighting for survival. The most emotionally intense experiences are national ones. Moreover, the status system doesn't really revolve around money. It consists of trying to prove you are savvier than everybody else.
This culture of disputatiousness does yield some essential fruits. First, it gives the country a special vividness. Second, it explains the genuine national unity. Israel is the most diverse small country imaginable. Nonetheless, its people share an intense sense of national mission. Most important, this argumentative culture nurtures a sense of responsibility. Israelis blame themselves for everything and work hard to get the most out of each person. (New York Times)
The trail up Mount Tabor climbs through a pine forest carpeted with wildflowers, the call to prayer from an Arab village below mingling with the echoes of church bells from a monastery at the summit. To hike through the Holy Land is to wander a landscape of astonishing natural beauty. From the 1,311 foot summit, the rolling green hills and farmsteads of northern Israel stretch off toward the grey mountains of Syria and Lebanon, a landscape steeped in history. It was here that the Jewish prophetess Deborah inspired the defeat of a Canaanite army in the Book of Judges. "It's amazing to be hiking out here and someone takes out a Bible and says 'This happened right here'," said Warren Zauer, who moved to Israel from Australia.
"For a lot of Israelis hiking around the country is a mitzvah, it's like an obligation," said Jerry Unterman, an American-born Jewish Studies professor. "It goes all the way back to Abraham. God told Abraham: 'Walk the land.'" The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has clearly marked thousands of miles of trails and produced accurate maps. The Israel Trail, completed in 1995, runs nearly the entire length of the country north to south - 580 miles, 933 km. - takes around six weeks to complete, and draws thousands of walkers each year. (AFP)
Real Two-State Problem Is the Hamas-Fatah Feud - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
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