Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel Commemorates Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yad Vashem)
Iran Tells U.S. to Respect Its Courts in Journalist Spy Case (Reuters-Washington Post)
Canadian Charged with Trying to Export Nuclear Devices to Iran - Mike Funston (Toronto Star)
India Launches Israeli-Built Spy Satellite (AFP)
Is Iran's New Drone Really an Israeli Aircraft? (Ha'aretz)
Israel's Dubious Irish Visitor - Geoffrey Alderman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The U.S. announced Saturday it will not attend a UN conference on racism set to start Monday in Geneva. State Department Spokesman Robert Wood says the U.S. will boycott the conference "with regret" because of objectionable language in the meeting's draft declaration. (VOA News)
See also Obama Defends Boycott of UN Racism Meeting
President Barack Obama said Sunday: "I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe," but the inclusion of anti-Israel language in the draft final communique was "completely hypocritical and counterproductive." "We expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you incorporated, if you adopted, all the language from 2001, that's just not something we can sign up for," he said. (AFP)
See also Australia Joins UN Racism Conference Boycott (Reuters)
See also Netherlands Boycotts Racism Conference (Radio Netherlands)
See also Germany Joins Boycotters of UN Racism Meeting (AP)
See also Britain Facing International Isolation for Failing to Join Western Boycott - Bruno Waterfield (Telegraph-UK)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not setting recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, his office said on Monday. "The prime minister has never made the recognition of Israel as a state of the Jewish people a precondition to peace negotiations and dialogue with the Palestinians," said a statement from Netanyahu's office. But "the recognition of Israel as a Jewish country is a matter of principle largely accepted in Israel and the world, without which it is impossible to make progress in the peace process and reach a peace agreement." (AFP)
The administration is looking for a way to keep aid flowing if the Palestinians form a government that includes elements of Hamas, the militant anti-Israel group that controls Gaza. Obama wants to alter language in the fiscal 2009 spending law that makes the State Department worry about the possibility of a cutoff of aid to the Palestinian government should Hamas join Fatah in a power-sharing arrangement.
Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the change "would prohibit assistance to a government that does not accept the Quartet principles but would preserve the president's flexibility to provide such assistance if that government were to accept and comply with the Quartet principles," referring to requirements that a Palestinian government accept Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and abide by prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The new request appears to shift the burden of meeting the conditions from Hamas to the PA government.
In a meeting in Israel on Thursday with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who heads the House Appropriations subcommittee with authority over funding for diplomatic efforts, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned, "We cannot allow these funds to reach the hands of the terrorists." (Congressional Quarterly)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Despite media reports of disagreement between Israeli and American officials over the new Israeli government's attitude regarding preconditions for renewed peace negotiations, Jerusalem has yet to formulate specific positions on these issues, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said. He told Army Radio that the government's diplomatic policy should be ready by the time Prime Minister Netanyahu travels to Washington in late May for a meeting with President Obama. Officials in Jerusalem said Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell last week accepted Israel's request for a month or so to work on its new policy.
Mitchell's staff is said to view the Arab peace plan as a basis for negotiations, something Israel has rejected in the past. (Jerusalem Post)
See also The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Prime Minister's Office announced on Saturday that Prime Minister Netanyahu will recommend the appointment of Natan Sharansky as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews from the diaspora. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
In a sign of a deepening rift between differently aligned camps across the Middle East, Egypt's authorities claim to have busted a spy ring run by Hizbullah on Egyptian soil. The Lebanese group is allied to a front which embraces Syria, Iran and Hamas, and espouses confrontation with Israel. Exposure of a Hizbullah cell feeds the fears of many Sunni Arab governments that Shia Iran is using the group to extend its influence at their expense.
Egypt's state prosecutor has charged 25 people with forming a cell to smuggle weapons across Egypt's border with Gaza, monitor shipping in the Suez Canal and plot attacks against Egypt itself. Government-owned newspapers in Cairo say the cell planned terrorist attacks on Egyptian resort hotels, targeting Israeli tourists with the aim of stoking general unrest and prompting a military coup. Other Egyptian press reports assert that a round of arrests in December netted four members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Just as Nasrallah's unsubtle call for Mubarak's overthrow annoyed even some of the Egyptian president's foes at home, the revelation of Hizbullah intrigue raises questions about the group's intentions. (Economist-UK)
Cairo is sending a signal to Washington that the "nuclear file" is not the only - or even the most urgent - aspect of the Iranian threat. The timing of Egypt's latest, very public, moves against Hizbullah clearly reflects that Cairo is taking sides in an increasingly polarized pan-Arab debate on Iranian influence in the region. Especially striking is Cairo's outspoken challenge not just to Hizbullah, but also to its Iranian patrons. Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu al-Ghait has repeatedly used strident language that charges non-Arab Iran with the illegitimate desire to exploit Hizbullah to become "the queen of the whole Arab region," reflecting genuine anxiety not only about Iran's own activities, but also in regard to the new U.S. willingness to engage Tehran. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
In the past, the lack of international determination was skillfully exploited by Iran to gain the valuable time it needed to push its nuclear program forward. Even facing Obama's attempt to reach out, Iran continues to stall, playing for time. Obama's policies may defuse the nuclear crisis not by getting Iran to back away from its nuclear ambitions, but by containing it through deterrence, and limiting its potential to cause direct damage with nuclear missiles by beefing up missile defense capabilities throughout the region. But this would not indicate success - it would rather signify failure.
It would also leave the Middle East exposed to the major fear that states in the region harbor - not a calculated Iranian attempt to strike with nuclear weapons, but rather the enhanced and dangerous regional clout that Iran would gain by achieving nuclear status. Indications of the havoc that Iran can wreak are already being felt region-wide. The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
Given the failure of the U.S.'s political strategies of securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal by supporting Pakistan's government, and fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, it is becoming apparent that the only sure way to prevent the Taliban/al-Qaeda from taking control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons is to take those weapons out of commission.
The situation in Pakistan of course is similar to the situation in Iran. There, as Iran moves swiftly towards the nuclear club, the U.S. on the one hand refuses - as it does with Pakistan - to make the hard but essential decision to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. And on the other hand, it warns Israel daily that it opposes any independent Israeli operation to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. (Jerusalem Post)
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2009 (Yad Vashem)
On Monday evening, Israel will begin to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. Six torches will be lit at Yad Vashem in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. These are the torchlighters - who survived the Holocaust as children and lost their entire families:
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