Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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April 27, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iranian Arms Ship Destroyed near Sudan (Jerusalem Post)
    An Iranian vessel en route to Sudan with weapons for Hamas in Gaza was attacked by an Israeli or American ship and destroyed, according to a report Sunday in the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbua.
    Sources in Khartoum said, "The ship was destroyed at sea near the Sudanese coast" and all of the crew members on board were killed in the incident, which occurred in the past two weeks.

Turkey, Syria to Stage Joint Military Exercise (Hurriyet-Turkey)
    The land forces of Turkey and Syria will perform joint military exercises across the border this week for the first time, the Turkish General Staff said Sunday.
    See also Israeli Defense Minister: Joint Turkish-Syrian Military Exercise "Disturbing"  (Ynet News)
    See also Turkey, Syria Pursue Defense Industry Cooperation (Zaman-Turkey)
    Turkey and neighboring Syria plan to sign a letter of intent giving the green light for cooperation in the defense industry.
    Turkish defense industry sources said the agreement is a sign of the level of political relations reached between Turkey and Syria.

U.S. Aid Goes to Abbas-Backed Palestinian Phone Venture - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    U.S. aid in the form of loan guarantees meant for Palestinian farmers and other small to mid-sized businesses has been given to Wataniya Palestine, a mobile phone firm backed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and Gulf investors.
    Former Palestine Investment Fund board members and advisers challenged the justification for granting U.S. loan guarantees when the company's financial backers, including a Kuwaiti and Qatari telecom group, were highly profitable.

The Women Who Terrify Iran's Mullahs - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    For months, Iran's state-owned media have been whipping up frenzy about alleged plots to topple the regime.
    Last week, an Iranian court sentenced Roxana Saberi, 31, a former Miss North Dakota who has been in Tehran for years working as a journalist, to eight years in prison as a devious "spy" helping the American "Great Satan" undermine the Islamic Republic.
    The Khomeinist regime has always regarded women as one of its three worst enemies, the other two being Jews and Americans.
    Since last January, scores of women fighting for women's rights have been arrested and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment.
    Among the women in prison are the leaders of the "one million signatures" campaign for an end to gender apartheid in Iran.
    Some 30,000 women are in prison in Iran today, held on charges of anti-Islamic activities and/or violations of the notorious Islamic dress code.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Security Guards Foil Italian Cruise Ship Hijacking in Indian Ocean - Richard Owen
    Israeli security guards on an Italian cruise ship using pistols and a firehose beat back pirates who tried to board the vessel near the Seychelles, according to the ship's captain. Commander Ciro Pinto of the MSC Melody, with 991 passengers and 536 crew, said the ship came under attack 600 miles off the Somali coast. Domenico Pellegrino, managing director of the ship's owner MSC, confirmed that the Melody was protected by Israeli security guards. "We use them because they are the best," he said. "And we have just had a demonstration of that."  (Times-UK)
  • Is U.S. Changing Stance on Hamas Funding? - Paul Richter
    The new U.S. administration has opened the door, if only slightly, to engagement with the militant group Hamas. The Palestinian group is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization and under law may not receive federal aid. But the administration has asked Congress for minor changes in U.S. law that would permit aid to continue flowing to Palestinians in the unlikely event that Hamas-backed officials become part of a unified Palestinian government. The proposal is akin to agreeing to support a government that "only has a few Nazis in it," Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week.
        U.S. officials insist the proposal does not mean they would be recognizing or aiding Hamas. Under law, any U.S. aid would require that the Palestinian government recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to follow past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the proposal sounded "completely unworkable."  (Chicago Tribune)
  • Clinton: U.S. Won't Make a Deal with Syria that "Sells Out" Lebanon - Matthew Lee
    During a visit to Lebanon on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington will never make a deal with Syria that "sells out" Lebanon's interests. There have been concerns among anti-Syrian factions in the pro-U.S. parliamentary majority that the Obama administration's talks with Syria could weaken American support for Lebanon. Ahead of the June 7 elections that could boost the Iranian-backed Hizbullah and its allies, Clinton said: "I want to assure any Lebanese citizen that the United States will never make any deal with Syria that sells out Lebanon and the Lebanese people." (AP)
  • U.S. Seeks to Assure Arabs on Iran - Jay Solomon
    The Obama administration is dispatching its point man on Iran, Dennis Ross, to the Middle East this week in an effort to win greater Arab support for Washington's engagement strategy toward Tehran. A number of Arab governments in recent weeks have voiced concern about the U.S. outreach, fearing it could help entrench Iran as a Mideast power while failing to end its nuclear program. "The discomfort among the Arabs is quite real. They have deep anxieties about Iran," said a senior U.S. official. (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Ready for Peace Talks with Syria Without Preconditions - Shalhevet Zohar and Haviv Rettig Gur
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday told Israel Radio, "I'd be glad to negotiate with Syria this evening, but without preconditions." "They say, first go back to the 1967 lines and give up the Golan. If we agree to that, what is there to negotiate?" he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Assad: No Talks Till Israel Cedes Golan
    Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Austrian daily Die Presse in an interview published at the weekend: "The bottom line is that there is occupied territory that must be returned to Syria, and then we can talk about peace." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Who Murdered Boy with Axe Arrested - Efrat Weiss
    The Palestinian terrorist who murdered 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ with an axe in Bat Ayin in the West Bank on April 2 was arrested two weeks ago by the Israel Security Agency, it was announced Sunday. Moussa Tit, 26, of the West Bank village of Khirbet Safa, said he carried out the attack for religious reasons and wanted to die as a martyr. After infiltrating the village, the terrorist said, he spotted children and began attacking them one after the other. Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, noted, "The terror attack was indicative of the atmosphere within the Palestinian population, which encourages the murder of innocent Israelis." (Ynet News)
  • Israel Remembrance Day Begins Monday Evening
    Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars will begin on Monday evening, April 27, at 8 p.m. with a moment of national silence heralded by a one-minute siren. On this day the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence. On Tuesday morning at 11 a.m., ceremonies will commence at 43 IDF military cemeteries located throughout the country following a two-minute siren blast. Israel's flag, adorned with a black ribbon and memorial flame, is placed on each and every grave of those who fell in Israel's battles.
        A total of 22,570 men and women have been killed defending the Land of Israel since 1860. In the past year, since Remembrance Day 2008, 133 members of the security forces have been killed in the service of the state. The commemoration ends on Tuesday evening, April 28, with the celebration of Israel's 61st Independence Day. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Isn't Rejection of the Jewish People's State Racist? - Guy Bechor
    The new Israeli government demands recognition of both parts of the "two-states for two peoples" slogan, placing a mirror before Arab societies for the first time. This is an important development that must be insisted on at any price. The need to recognize Israel as the Jewish people's state will force the Arabs to look at Israel, and understand what it's all about. Is there a Jewish people? Most Arab community leaders would say: Not at all, just like Mahmoud Abbas or Saeb Erekat believe; at most, there is a Jewish religion, and perhaps Jewish culture. However, in order to get their own state, they will have to recognize this people, its identity, and its national movement - Zionism.
        Yes, the Jewish people is also a nation, and the Arabs will have to accept it. If such a demand is made, and they reject it to this day, what does it say about them? That they're racist? Unwilling to recognize the other? The writer is a lecturer in Arab Law and Middle East Politics at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ynet News)
  • Ahmadinejad at Durban 2 - A One-Man Wrecking Crew - Benjamin Pogrund
    How did the organizers of the UN conference on racism manage to allow Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the keynote speaker on the opening day? UN officialdom provided him with a platform to be a one-man wrecking crew. Some say the countries that boycotted and walked out should have stayed to listen to Ahmadinejad and engaged him in debate. But would it have been possible to sit down to a polite conversation with Adolf Hitler and persuade him that he was wrong to believe that Jews, Gypsies and Russians were sub-humans deserving only of mass death? Would there have been any point in trying to engage Ahmadinejad in debate, to tell him his views are lunatic and evil?
        During the Ahmadinejad diatribe, many in the conference hall, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, applauded and cheered his attack on Israel as a "racist state" and on the West. Who wants to be involved with people who behave like this? The writer was deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    The Purpose of Engaging Iran - Tony Blair (Office of Tony Blair)

    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on April 22:

    • Ten years ago I set out what I described as a doctrine of international community that sought to justify intervention, including if necessary military intervention, not only when a nation's interests are directly engaged, but also where there exists a humanitarian crisis or gross oppression of a civilian population.
    • Should we now revert to a more traditional foreign policy, less bold, more cautious; less idealistic, more pragmatic, more willing to tolerate the intolerable because of fear of the unpredictable consequences that intervention can bring? My argument is that the case for the doctrine I advocated ten years ago remains as strong now as it was then.
    • The struggle faced by the world, including the majority of Muslims, is posed by an extreme and misguided form of Islam. Our job is simple: it is to support and partner those Muslims who believe deeply in Islam but also who believe in peaceful co-existence, in taking on and defeating the extremists who don't. But it can't be done without our active and wholehearted participation.
    • There is a link between the murders in Mumbai, the terror attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempts to destabilize countries like Yemen, and the training camps of insurgents in Somalia. There is a shared ideology. There are many links criss-crossing the map of Jihadist extremism. And there are elements in the leadership of a major country, namely Iran, that can support and succor its practitioners.
    • Engaging with Iran is entirely sensible. The Iranian government should not be able to claim that we have refused the opportunity for constructive dialogue. The purpose of such engagement should, however, be clear. It is to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability, but it is more than that. It is to put a stop to the Iranian regime's policy of destabilization and support of terrorism.

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