Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister: "War Can Erupt Any Day" - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Israelis in Europe Warned of Hizbullah Kidnap Threat - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Pakistani in New York Sentenced to 5 Years for Aiding Hizbullah TV - Christine Kearney (Reuters)
Kuwait Politician Who Called for Israel Ties Quits Parliament Race - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
India to Acquire Israeli AWACS Surveillance System (PTI-Rediff.com-India)
Scottish Trade Union Congress Endorses Israel Boycott - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
Muslim Converts Accused of Holy War Bomb Plots in Germany - Roger Boyes (Times-UK)
Iran and Hizbullah's Strategic Penetration in Latin America - Ely Karmon (Institute for Counter-Terrorism/IDC Herzliya)
The Prague Appeal Against Anti-Semitism (ICEJ-Czech Republic)
Reflections on the Jewish Vote in
the 2008 Presidential Election - Steven Windmueller (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Progress on establishing a Palestinian state must go "hand-in-hand" with efforts to stem Iranian influence in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Appropriations Committee Thursday. "For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sideline with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts, that they go hand-in-hand," Clinton said. Clinton noted that every Arab official she has met with "wants very much to support the strongest possible policy toward Iran." But "they believe that Israel's willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran." (Washington Post)
See also Clinton Doubts Palestinians Will Reach Unity Deal
Secretary of State Clinton expressed doubt Thursday that rival Palestinian factions will clinch a deal on a unity government. "We doubt there will be such a unity agreement. There doesn't seem to be one in store." "No aid will flow to Hamas or any entity controlled by Hamas," Clinton told lawmakers, as she asked for $840 million in supplemental funds for the Palestinians this year. (AFP)
As the Taliban tightened their hold over newly won territory, Pakistani politicians and American officials on Thursday sharply questioned the government's willingness to deal with the insurgents. Some 400 to 500 insurgents consolidated control of a strategic district called Buner, just 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, while Taliban contingents were seen Thursday in at least two other districts and areas still closer to the capital. Pakistan's army receives $1 billion in American military aid each year but has repeatedly declined to confront the Taliban-led insurgency, even as it has bled out of Pakistan's self-governed tribal areas into Pakistan proper in recent months. (New York Times)
See also Taliban Advance: Is Pakistan Nearing Collapse? - Aryn Baker (TIME)
See also Israel Concerned If Pakistan's Nukes Fall to Islamists - Yaakov Katz
A day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the Pakistani government was losing control of the country, a top Israeli defense official expressed concern on Thursday that the country's nuclear arsenal would fall into extremist hands and be used to threaten Israel. Pakistan is believed to have several dozen nuclear warheads. The top official told the Jerusalem Post: "If Pakistan's nuclear weapons falls into the hands of radical Islamic elements, this will be a nightmare for the West and will also affect us." (Jerusalem Post)
While Gaza's residents face electricity shortages, the Palestine Electric Co.'s profits were $6.3 million in 2008, up from $4.4 million in 2007. Critics decry what they call a lopsided deal that guarantees the PEC a fixed annual fee from the Palestinian Authority, which is bankrolled with aid from Western governments. Past efforts by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to reopen the PEC's contract stalled. Many large PEC shareholders are close to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, officials say. Since 2006, the EU and member states have aided the PA by paying for fuel for the Gaza power plant, costing some $130 million last year. (Reuters)
The parliamentary elections in Lebanon in June are shaping up to be among the most expensive ever held anywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars streaming into this small country from around the globe. Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are arming their allies with campaign money in place of weapons. Votes are being bought with cash or in-kind services. Candidates pay their competitors huge sums to withdraw. Despite the vast amounts being spent, Lebanon's sectarian political structure virtually guarantees a continuation of the current "national unity" government, in which the winning coalition grants the loser veto powers to preserve civil peace. (New York Times)
See also U.S., Israel Fear Hizbullah Victory in Polls
With quiet campaigning and moderate talk, Hizbullah is building its strength for Lebanon's June 7 parliamentary elections - and the party and its allies stand a good chance of winning. That could mean replacing a pro-U.S. government with a coalition dominated from behind the scenes by Hizbullah, which is both a political movement and resistance group. (AP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told visiting Czech Premier Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, "Peace is in Israel's interest no less than it is in Europe's interest, and there's no need to make the upgrade in relations with Israel conditional on progress on the peace process."
When Topolanek brought up the issue of construction in West Bank settlements, Netanyahu responded, "If Israelis can't build homes in the West Bank, then Palestinians shouldn't be allowed to either." "I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing one], I don't think there's a problem." He characterized the West Bank as "disputed territory" over which negotiations must be held. (Ha'aretz)
The international community has to "stop speaking in slogans" if it really wants to help the new Israeli government work toward a solution to the Palestinian conflict and help bring stability to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday in an interview. Slogans like "occupation," "settlements," "land for peace" and "two-state solution" were both overly simplistic and ignored the root causes of the ongoing conflict, he said. The fact was that the Palestinian issue was "deadlocked" despite the best efforts of a series of Israeli governments.
"Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace," he said. The biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, he said, "is not Israel. It is not the Palestinians. It's the Iranians." Nonetheless, Lieberman stressed that Israel did not regard stopping Iran as a precondition for Israeli efforts to make progress with the Palestinians. Quite the reverse, he said. "No, we must start with the Palestinian issues because it's our interest to resolve this problem." (Jerusalem Post)
At least 709 of the 1,166 Palestinians who died in the Gaza war belonged to terrorist organizations. 609 took orders from Hamas and about 100 were from Islamic Jihad and other organizations. During the war Hamas adopted the policy of concealing its own casualties to prevent morale from flagging and to serve the "victory narrative" which Hamas has been carefully constructing. Hamas, which controls all information originating in Gaza, issued exaggerated numbers for "civilians" killed, while feeding the media false data and selective, biased reports about the number of armed operatives killed. Armed terrorists are represented as civilians or harmless policemen deliberately killed by the IDF. Total casualty figures reported by the Palestinians have also been inflated by the addition of those who died of natural causes. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza landed near a kibbutz in southern Israel on Thursday night. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Iran will have accumulated enough low-enriched uranium (LEU) to enable it to further enrich it and produce 25 kilograms of high-enriched uranium (HEU), should it wish to do so, by the end of this year. Everybody wants to give President Obama the breathing space he needs to try to reach a "diplomatic" solution through engagement. No doubt, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates' statement that a military attack by Israel would only delay Iran's nuclear project by one to three years and strengthen its resolve is well taken. However, the alternative, if and when engagement fails to achieve its aims, is not so great either.
The Iranians have already made a significant gain, when the U.S. more than hinted that there would be no prior linkage between negotiations and the suspension of enrichment activities. President Obama must set himself a time limit even if he does not disclose it, since any time gained by the Iranians during the negotiation process would be used to further advance their project. The writer, who worked at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years, is a senior research fellow at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Some believe the Kremlin is able and willing to exert pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, perceived geopolitical and economic benefits in the unstable Persian Gulf, in which American influence is on the wane, outweigh Russia's concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. The Kremlin sees Iran not as a threat but as a partner or an ad-hoc ally to challenge U.S. influence. Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of "multipolarity," a strategy that seeks to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions, and weaken or neuter NATO and the OSCE, while forging a counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
Moscow has signed a contract to sell advanced long-range S-300 air-defense systems to Iran. Once Iran has air defenses to repel Israeli or American air strikes and nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, it will possess the capacity to destroy Israel (an openly stated goal of the regime) and strike targets throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Beyond that, if and when an ICBM capability is achieved, Tehran will be able to threaten the U.S. homeland directly. Given substantial Russian interests and ambitions, any grand bargain would almost certainly require an excessively high price paid by the U.S. to the detriment of its friends and allies. The writer is a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Did you hear about the two Israeli policemen who stopped to help a Palestinian driver stuck with a flat - and were shot to death in the head at point-blank range? Did you know about the 120-kilogram bomb planted in a parking lot adjacent to a Haifa shopping mall? No, of course, you didn't. These are just two everyday incidents of the ordeal confronted by people in Israel while the world and the political leaders look away.
The willingness to give a free pass to terrorism was manifest most luridly in the Gaza war. Hamas fired thousands of rockets with the aim of murdering as many innocent civilians as possible. Then, when Israel finally responded, it was faced with world demands for an unconditional cease-fire. Ironically, the fiercest criticism in the Arab world stems from Israel's failure to achieve a decisive victory, for the Arab world rightly perceives not Israel but Hamas as a threat: It knows full well that Hamas is a fifth column for Iranian influence. (Huffington Post)
When it comes to horrors committed against Israel and Jews, it has become a given that both atrocities aimed at civilians and reprehensible speech will draw only mild rebuke, if that. Israel is the global pinata, so take your best swat. No need to duck afterwards. There are no riots in the street when Biblical texts are attacked or cartoons evoke the blood-lie - Jews drinking the blood of Christian children; when Israeli politicians are caricatured as hawk-nosed maniacs slaughtering Palestinian children and columnists for respected newspapers perpetuate the fiction of a Jewish conspiracy that controls the banks-Hollywood-foreign policy in Western capitals.
Thus, the UN conference on racism in Geneva, following a vile diatribe by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, continued with business as usual. We heard that Ahmadinejad had actually toned down his scripted comments by dropping a passage describing the Holocaust as "ambiguous and dubious." Well, give the goof a standing ovation. The rubric of slamming Zionism - the movement to establish a Jewish state in the Holy Land, intrinsic to the creation of Israel - is routinely used these days as a fig leaf for old-fashioned anti-Semitism. Ahmadinejad got precisely what he wanted: An international podium, UN-sanctioned, to vilify Israel and Jews. (Toronto Star)
See also Ahmadinejad's Victory - Abraham Cooper
It was a dramatic gesture to see two dozen countries walk out on the Iranian president's diatribe in Geneva, but it was too late. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
Does terrorism achieve its perpetrators' objectives? In his study, "Why Terrorism Does Not Work," Max Abrahms, a fellow at Stanford University, found that 28 terrorist groups (as designated by the State Department) with 42 different political goals had achieved only 3 of those goals, for a measly 7% success rate. The groups occasionally achieved limited success but mostly failed completely. Abrahms concludes that not only is terrorism "an ineffective instrument of coercion, but...its poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself." Frequent failure leads to demoralization, suggesting an eventual reduction of terrorism in favor of less violent tactics. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Why Terrorism Does Not Work - Max Abrahms (International Security)
Gerry Adams recently met with Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S.A., UK and Israel, and has called on the international community to bring Hamas into the peace process. Like him, we agree that Hamas must be put to the test. The political parties in Northern Ireland signed up to the democratic and non-violent Mitchell principles. Likewise, for Hamas to be brought to the negotiating table it must commit itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, recognize Israel's right to exist, and sign up to existing commitments between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
We welcome Gerry Adams' call for an end to the missile attacks on Israel. He must surely know that if there were no attacks on Israel then Israel would not have launched its attack on Hamas in Gaza. Article 7 of the Hamas charter states that the day of justice for Muslims will arrive when every last Jew has been killed. Hamas gives effect to this aspiration by suicide bombs and missiles fired randomly into civilian areas. It rejects all peace processes and says Islamic struggle will eventually obliterate Israel. Can Mr. Adams really be surprised that Israel, of all nations, won't speak to an adversary which is committed to genocide against it? The writers are co-chairs of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel. (Belfast Telegraph-UK)
Qatar's prestige emanates largely from the Al Jazeera channel based in Doha. The state-owned station broadcasts the most comprehensive coverage in the region but also plays to populist anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. views, giving Qatar legitimacy among Arabs even as it hosts one of the largest U.S. bases in the region. To its critics, Doha, with one of the world's highest per capita incomes, speaks in too many tongues. It has close ties to Iran, Syria and Hamas in Gaza. But except for a break in relations during the Gaza war in January, Qatar was the only Gulf country with economic and diplomatic links to Israel. U.S. misgivings over Qatar were summed up by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) after a recent trip to the region: "Qatar can't continue to be an American ally on Monday that sends money to Hamas on Tuesday." (Los Angeles Times)
U.S. and European observers believe that Israel's new government will seek peace with Damascus in an attempt to pry the Syrian regime away from Tehran. Yet peace with Syria remains highly unlikely for a fundamental reason: without Israel as an enemy, Syria's minority regime loses its sole rationale for retaining power. The consolidation of Hafez al-Assad's power in 1970 relied heavily on loyal Alawite officers in the military and security apparatus, yet Alawites, the backbone of the Baathist regime, comprise only 12% of the population. To maintain this minority dominance, the Baathist regime imposed a state of emergency 46 years ago, providing the state a vast array of tools to monitor all social communication and to restrict individual freedoms of expression and association.
Since the "threat" from Israel has been the essential and necessary myth for retaining the authoritarian grip of the Alawite minority in Damascus, losing it would eliminate the Assad regime's raison d'etre. Given the ruling clique's view that peace and regime preservation are zero-sum options, to seek a peace agreement is to chase a mirage. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
See also Book Review: The Ways of Syria - Fouad Ajami
In The View from Damascus: State, Political Community, and Foreign Relations in the Twentieth-Century Syria, the rogues and coup makers whose conspiracies have wrecked Syria's history walk out of Itamar Rabinovich's pages. In 1970, an Alawi peasant-soldier, Hafez al-Assad, emerged from a rapid succession of coups d'etat. On the face of it, there was nothing to suggest that this coup maker would succeed where others before him had failed. But he was to rule for three decades and bequeath to his son Bashar a political kingdom. Rivals were struck down, and many perished in Syria's notorious prisons.
Nowadays, those who know Syria (and often those who do not) are full of certitude and suggestions about the kind of diplomacy that would "peel off" Syria from the Iranian theocracy and turn it into a normal nation at ease with the world. Rabinovich, on the whole, is skeptical of major changes in the conduct of Syria. Bashar al-Assad has not been brilliant in the way he has handled the inheritance his father bequeathed to him, but the Assad dynasty and the intelligence barons and the brigade commanders who sustain the regime can be relied on to fight for what they usurped. After all, they stole it fair and square. (Foreign Affairs)
The main contenders in last week's student elections at Birzeit University, a barometer for decades of Palestinian public opinion, marched into battle like rival armies. First came hundreds of supporters of Hamas, lined up military-style in neat rows, and strictly separated into columns of men and women. Holding aloft a sea of bright green banners, the young Islamists chanted "Allahu akbar" (Allah is great) as they entered the university's main square. Behind them marched an even larger contingent of students supporting Fatah, waving yellow flags and chanting praise for Yasser Arafat.
Najib Mafarjeh, leader of the Islamist bloc, praises the stance of Hamas during the recent Gaza war. "We won in Gaza," he shouts, to wild cheers from his supporters. Ahed Hamdan, his Fatah counterpart, insists the "victory" was not one of Hamas, but of all Palestinian people. Neither he nor other speakers dare question whether the bloody three-week conflict was indeed a victory, least of all for Gaza's battered people.
Fatah went into the elections with a five-seat lead in the student parliament. After the elections, its lead was cut to two seats. Of the 51 seats, Fatah now holds 24 and Hamas 22. According to Ghassan Khatib, a political analyst and vice-president of the university, the results mirror closely the political sentiment among most Palestinians in the West Bank: Hamas' popularity is on the rise. (Financial Times-UK)
The missing third part of the Ringelblum Archives chronicling life in the Warsaw Ghetto has been found in a cellar at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta'ot. The archives consist of essays, diaries, drawings, wall posters and other materials describing life in the ghetto, collected between September 1939 and January 1943 by a group working under historian Emanuel Ringelblum. After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Ringelblum had stored the archive in three milk cans and ten metal boxes. The first two parts of the archive were discovered in 1946 and 1950, but researchers long believed a third part remained hidden.
On Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Simcha Stein, director of the Ghetto Fighters' Museum at the kibbutz, presented what he believes to be the third part of the archive, brought to the kibbutz in the late 1980s by Adolph Berman, a ghetto resistance leader. Stein said researchers had long been unable to decipher the handwriting in the Berman Collection, which was an elaborate code. "Today, after Sisyphean investigation, we believe it is highly likely that this is indeed the third part of the Warsaw Ghetto archive," he said. One of the most important documents is the diary of an unidentified girl who hid in a bunker with members of the Resistance and documented the last six days of the uprising. (Ha'aretz)
Criticism of Israel is sometimes used as a cover for anti-Semitism, according to new research published Thursday in the UK that tracks how Holocaust education and media coverage of Israel affect public perceptions of Jews. Despite extensive media coverage of the Israeli action in Gaza, much of it hostile, more than half of the 1,000 people polled saw Jews as victims of aggression throughout history, while almost nobody saw them solely as perpetrators.
Dr. Stephen Smith, founder of the Holocaust Centre in Nottingham and chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: "In light of President Ahmadinejad's ignorant and indefensible comments at this week's UN anti-racism conference and often one-sided media coverage of Israel, it is reassuring that the public are able to maintain a sense of historical perspective of the Jewish people." (Times-UK)
Obama Pays Tribute to Holocaust Victims - Michael A. Fletcher (Boston Globe)
President Obama addressed the annual memorial to the Holocaust at the U.S. Capitol Thursday:
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