Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


May 8, 2009

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

CIA Report: Iran Dramatically Increased Uranium Enrichment - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
    According to a little-noticed report covering 2008 released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on March 12, Iran has dramatically increased the amount of low-enriched uranium produced by its growing number of centrifuges that are part of its nuclear fuel production system.
    "During the reporting period, Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspension of those activities."
    Iran produced 75 kg. of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in 2007 and about 555 kg. last year, described by the CIA as a "significant" increase.
    Iran also continued development of Shahab-3 medium-range missiles with assistance from China, North Korea and Russia, the report said.

Germany Pressures Firms to Limit Iran Trade (Reuters/ Guardian-UK)
    The German government is increasing pressure on companies to curb business with Iran, Handelsblatt daily said on Thursday.
    Last week, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the German Near and Middle East Association to cancel two conferences on Iran.
    Recent figures show Berlin has significantly cut the value of new credit guarantees it offers firms that do business with Iran, but German exports to the country still rose last year. Germany has been one of the biggest exporters to Iran.

Brazil Dodges a Demagogue - Editorial (Boston Globe)
    If Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, did not breathe a deep sigh of relief Monday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled a planned trip to the region, he should have. Ahmadinejad's reactionary regime is in opposition to much of what Lula stands for.
    Brazil has abolished the death penalty; Ahmadinejad's Iran executes even minors. In Brazil, 55,000 adherents of the Baha'i faith practice freely; in Iran, Baha'is are persecuted mercilessly. Holocaust survivors found a home in Brazil; Ahmadinejad recycles the lies of Holocaust deniers.
    So, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Sunday to protest Ahmadinejad's impending arrival.

Foundation President Indicted in Iran Probe - Maddy Sauer and Richard Esposito (ABC News)
    Farshid Jahedi, president of the Alavi Foundation which the U.S. government has long suspected of being a front for Iranian espionage and anti-American activities, has been indicted on charges that he allegedly destroyed documents just one day after receiving a grand jury subpoena instructing him not to do so.
    The foundation has been described by a former CIA official as "totally controlled by the government of Iran."
    According to court documents, "The foundation funds a variety of anti-American causes, including the four Islamic education centers it owns in New York, Maryland, Texas, and California.... Mosques funded by Alavi have organizations which support Hizbullah and Hamas."

Israel, Vatican Deny Reports about Control of Holy Sites - Judith Sudilovsky (Catholic News Service)
    Israeli and Vatican officials denied reports that Israeli President Shimon Peres had asked the government to relinquish sovereignty over several holy places as a gesture of good will for Pope Benedict XVI.
    A spokeswoman for the president's office said Israel already has pledged to the Vatican that it will not confiscate land around six Christian sites for any sort of national development purpose such as the widening of roads.
    She said Peres had asked the Tourism and Interior ministries, as a gesture of good will before the pope's May 8-15 trip to the Holy Land, to confirm the pledge.

Video: Mother of Martyrs - Lisa Ling (National Geographic)
    A Palestinian woman raises her children to prepare them for suicide attacks in the conflict with Israel.

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Areas (DPA)
    More than 170,000 Arab-Christians live in Israel and the Palestinian territories, divided into 13 denominations.
    Over 120,000 live in Israel, around 50,000 in the West Bank, and another 1,000 in Gaza.
    In the West Bank and especially Gaza, Arab Christians have to "walk a tightrope" with the local Muslim fundamentalists, notably Hamas, says Daniel Rossing, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.
    "Protesting Hamas actions toward them can be suicidal. Protesting against Israel can be far more effective, but it creates a skewed picture,' Rossing notes.

Israel Opens Jesus Trail in the Galilee - Simon McGregor-Wood (ABC News)
    The recently completed Jesus Trail is 40 miles long. Starting in Nazareth, its route winds through the towns and villages of the Galilee region in northern Israel, through a landscape steeped in the history of the New Testament.
    The free trail is the brainchild of local Israeli tour operators who hope for a spike in Christian tourism after the arrival of the pope in May.

Patch of Israel Desert Is Oldest Place on Earth - Robert Roy Britt (FOX News)
    A new study of ancient "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert finds a region about 1.8 million years old, according to Ari Matmon and colleagues at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
    This is the oldest known expanse of surface area, more than four times older than the next oldest desert pavement, in Nevada, according to an article at the web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert - and want to share it with friends - please click "Forward" in your email program and enter their address.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Washington Committed to Seeking Syria-Israel Deal - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    The U.S. told the Syrian government on Thursday it was committed to seeking a peace deal between Syria and Israel. "We conveyed... President Obama's sincere commitment to pursue Arab-Israeli peace on all tracks, including on the Syrian-Israeli track," senior State Department official Jeffrey Feltman said after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus. (Reuters)
  • Israel Calls for Time-Limit on Iran Talks
    Israel's foreign minister says talks with Iran should come with a time-limit to prevent the Iranians from stalling to advance their nuclear program. Avigdor Lieberman said during his first official trip to Europe that any future discussions with the Islamic Republic should be ended after three months if it is clear there is no concrete progress being made. (UPI)
  • UN: Hizbullah Threatens Lebanon and Beyond
    UN official Terje Roed-Larsen told a meeting of the Security Council Thursday: "The most significant remaining Lebanese militia is the armed component of Hizbullah....[Its] arsenal is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and a threat to regional stability." In addition, he reported that over the last few weeks there has been a growing concern that Hizbullah has engaged in clandestine and illegal militant activities beyond Lebanese territory. (UN News Center)
        See also U.S.: No Distinction Between Hizbullah's "So-Called Political and Military Wings"
    U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the Security Council after Roed-Larsen's statement, "Let me be clear: we see no distinction between these groups' so-called political and military wings. Nor will we engage with them until they completely disarm," according to a transcript of her remarks released by the U.S. Mission to the UN. (AP)
  • Islamists Say Pope's Mideast Visit Provocative - Suleiman al-Khalidi
    Jordanian Islamist leaders on Thursday condemned Pope Benedict's visit to the Middle East, saying it was provocative because he has not apologized for offending comments implying Islam was violent and irrational in a 2006 speech in Regensburg. The pope arrives in Jordan on Friday on the first leg of a tour including Israel and the Palestinian territories. The outlawed Hizb ut-Tahrir Party issued a statement urging Jordanian authorities to withdraw their invitation. "All Muslims should raise their voices high to say that anyone who insults our Prophet is not welcome on this land in any way," said the radical party, which seeks to unite Muslims into a pan-Islamic state. (Reuters/Washington Post)
        See also Palestinians Seek Papal Pressure on Israel (AP/New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Syria: No Need to Amend Arab Peace Initiative
    After Arab diplomats reported that the U.S. has asked Arab nations to amend a 2002 land-for-peace proposal, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Wednesday: "It is not possible to amend the Arab peace initiative....I don't see any justification for amending this initiative." Arab diplomats said this week the Americans are asking the Arab nations to drop the Palestinians' right of return and agree to either resettle the refugees in the host countries or in the Palestinian territories. Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa has rejected that suggestion. (AP/Gulf News-UAE)
  • Netanyahu to Visit Egypt on First Trip Abroad - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Egypt on Monday for his first trip abroad since taking office, a symbolic move government officials say is designed to signal the importance he places on relations with Cairo and moderates in the Arab world. Israel would like to see Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia play a greater role in the peace process, as well as in pushing back against Iranian efforts to make further inroads in the region, a government official said. Iran does not just threaten Israel, it is also a direct threat to the region, the official said. As such, the Iranian threat has created the possibility of enhanced cooperation and dialogue between Israel and its neighbors. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Egyptian Officials: Ties to Israel Will Remain Steady in Netanyahu Era - Brenda Gazzar (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Women Having More Children than Arab Women as Muslim Birthrates Fall - Paul Morl
    In the early days of the State of Israel, the Arab minority underwent a "demographic transition," something that often occurs when traditional societies confront modernity. Health care and living standards improved rapidly, life expectancy rose and infant mortality fell, but, initially, family size remained large. However, the second stage inevitably comes in which birthrates fall. The average Israeli Arab woman is now having fewer than half the children she had in the 1960s, while the Jewish birthrate has recently stabilized and even risen. This accords with recent trends in the Islamic world. Today Israeli women have more children (2.77) than women in Iran (1.71), Egypt (2.72), Jordan (2.47) or Lebanon (1.87). (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Existential Threats from Iran - Michael B. Oren
    Rarely in modern history have nations faced genuine existential threats. Wars are waged to change regimes, alter borders, acquire resources, and impose ideologies, but almost never to eliminate another state and its people. Yet the State of Israel copes with numerous existential threats on a daily basis. The most manifest existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran emanates from its routinely declared desire to "wipe Israel off the map," and from the fact that cold war calculi of nuclear deterrence through mutually assured destruction may not apply to Islamist radicals eager for martyrdom.
        Beyond the perils of an Iranian first-strike attack against Israel, the possibility exists that Iran will transfer its nuclear capabilities to terrorist groups, which will then unleash them on Israel via the country's porous ports and border crossings. A nuclear Iran will also deny Israel the ability to respond to terrorist attacks: in response to an Israeli retaliation against Hizbullah, for example, Iran would go on nuclear alert. Finally, and most menacing, many Middle Eastern states have declared their intention to develop nuclear capabilities of their own once Iran acquires the bomb.
        Israel cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel should work in close tandem with the U.S., supporting the current administration's diplomatic efforts to dissuade the Iranians from going nuclear. But Israel must not allow its hands to be tied - it must remain free to initiate other, covert measures to impede Iran's nuclear program, while continuing to develop the plans and intelligence necessary for a military operation. The writer is the new Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (Commentary)
  • Shimon Peres on Iran: Overreaction Is Better than Underreaction - Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg
    President Shimon Peres: The greatest asset for Israel, both moral and strategic, is our relationship with the United States. We should not permit any rift, any rupture. This remains our top consideration. And since Iran is a world problem, we should participate in facing its dangers, but without trying to monopolize it.
    Q: Is there a chance that Israel is over-reacting to the language that comes out of Tehran?
    Peres: If we have to make a mistake of overreaction or underreaction, I think I prefer the overreaction to underreaction....If there is a threat, if there is a danger, and we ignore it, we lose.
    Q: There's a growing feeling in some quarters that Israel is not a strategic asset to America.
    Peres: Israel is the only country that has destroyed two generations of Russian weapons. Completely. I know that to produce weapons is an advantage, but to destroy competitive arms is also an advantage. We did it. Even today, strategically, I don't say that Israel is part of the American defense, but as an ally, politically and militarily, I don't think that we are passive or unimportant concerning information, intelligence, understanding the region. Imagine the Middle East without Israel. (Atlantic Monthly)
  • The Hamas "Peace" Gambit - Charles Krauthammer
    The New York Times conducted a five-hour interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal at his Damascus headquarters. Hamas is offering a peace plan with a two-state solution. Except the offer is not a peace but a truce that expires after 10 years. Meaning that after Israel has fatally weakened itself by settling millions of hostile Arab refugees in its midst, and after a decade of Hamas arming itself within a Palestinian state that narrows Israel to eight miles wide - Hamas restarts the war against a country it remains pledged to eradicate.
        Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. That elementary prudence should be shared by anyone who's been sentient the last three years. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It's called Gaza - a terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli civilians. If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the PA first build institutions - social, economic and military - to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace. (Washington Post)
        See also Hamas' Latest Gambit - Stewart Ain
    Hamas' offer Monday of a 10-year truce with Israel provided it retreat to its pre-1967 borders and grant the right of return to Palestinian refugees was seen in Israel as nothing more than an attempt to grab headlines. "They don't want to be frozen out," said Asher Susser, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. He pointed out that Hamas' top political leader, Khalid Meshal, made the offer in an interview with the New York Times. Susser said Hamas had made the offer many times before. It is "being repeated now because it is the eve of the Netanyahu visit to the United States" on May 18.
        Avraham Sela, an expert on Hamas and a professor in Hebrew University's department of international relations, said President Obama's promotion of a two-state solution has put undue pressure on Israel "without much talk of what is expected or demanded from the other side." At the same time, he said the Palestinian Authority "is hardly surviving," being artificially resuscitated by the Israeli Army deployed in the West Bank. "It would take just a few months for Hamas to take over [if the army left]," Sela said.
        Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, pointed out that Meshal's claim that there would be a 10-year truce if Israel agreed to its demands "does not mean it would end all acts of resistance and that there would not continue to be a build-up of arms. We should learn not to be fooled by declarations designed for Western consumption and to pressure Israel." (New York Jewish Week)
  • Good News for Israel in the Diplomatic World - Ari Shavit
    There is good news in the diplomatic world surrounding Israel. The strategic alliance between Egypt and Israel has never been as strong. The Egyptians see the Middle Eastern jungle as it is and understand that, in this jungle, Israel is a sister. If Israel is harmed, Egypt will be hit. If Israel is hit, President Hosni Mubarak's Egypt will be lost. That's why Israel and Egypt worked in coordination during the Gaza operation. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates, many royal families know they are living on the slopes of a volcano. If the right rope bridge is tossed at them, they will be happy to cross the river.
        Another piece of good news is Quartet envoy Tony Blair who understands that the way to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is from the bottom up. Not to force a Geneva-style piece of paper on both sides, but to build a down-to-earth process that will shape a different economic, diplomatic and security reality. (Ha'aretz)
  • Leaning on Israel Won't Bring Middle East Peace - Editorial
    The London Times reports that U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones told a European foreign minister the White House is ready to lean on Israel. The trouble with this position is it assumes Israel has a willing partner for peace. It ignores the fact the Palestinians - their government largely controlled by the terror group Hamas - won't commit to the existence of a Jewish state. That's a non-starter for any Israeli prime minister. The administration shouldn't pressure Israel to gain a flawed peace. There is a problem in the Middle East, but it's not America and it's not Israel. (The Oklahoman)
  • U.S. Must Work to Prevent Muslim Radicalization - Tim Roemer and Lorne Craner
    To break the cycle of Islamic radicalization, the U.S. and its allies must engage in a competition of ideas. With the right conceptual approach and concerted action, the Obama administration can set the U.S. on a course to undercutting al-Qaeda's narrative and appeal. This means empowering mainstream Muslims to provide hopeful, practical alternatives to jihadist ideology. It also will require substantial investment in rejuvenating efforts to encourage prosperity, reform and democracy in Arab countries.
        Persistent corruption is the No. 1 frustration among Arab publics, a factor radical extremists exploit to challenge governmental legitimacy. Encouraging increased transparency would help the U.S. build bridges to a suspicious public. Roemer, a former member of the 9/11 commission, and Craner, a former assistant secretary of state, were members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Presidential Task Force on Confronting the Ideology of Radical Extremism. (Indianapolis Star)

    Weekend Features

  • Arab World Needs to Stop Banning Books and Movies about Jews - H.D.S. Greenway
    Thirty years ago I was crossing the Allenby Bridge from Israel to Jordon to interview King Hussein, the father of the present monarch. In those days, foreign correspondents stationed in Israel routinely had two passports: one for Israel only and another for the rest of the world. My last posting had been Southeast Asia, and I still had a Laotian visa in my rest-of-the-world passport. "Ah Hah!" said the Jordanian immigration official. "An Israeli stamp!" I tried to explain that the stamp was from Laos and that the writing was Sanskrit, not Hebrew. He was having none of it. In frustration, I pulled out my Israel-only passport and showed him what Hebrew writing really looked like. His face expressed horror as he urged me to put it away, then quickly waved me through.
        When Lee Griggs, a reporter for Time Magazine, took up his post in Beirut more than 40 years ago, his household goods were held up at customs because of a Yale glee club record album. The seal of Yale University features Hebrew writing which, in the 18th and 19th centuries, was considered a language of learning, like Latin and Greek. Griggs had to come down to the customs office and convince the authorities that the record was not composed entirely of Zionist music.
        To ban the work of Jewish writers or books about Jews is a societal self-mutilation which the Arab world should put behind it. Like it or not, the Jews are as much a part of the Middle East as the Arabs and all the banning in the world will not refute that. (GlobalPost)
  • The Centrality of NGOs in Promoting Anti-Israel Boycotts and Sanctions - Gerald Steinberg
    NGOs (non-governmental organizations) focusing on human rights are powerful actors in international politics in general, and in the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular. The NGO community has advanced anti-Israel agendas in the UN, including in the 2001 Durban conference, which adopted the strategy of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. NGO reports, press releases, and political lobbying campaigns have a powerful influence in the UN, the media, and academia. This NGO-led political war against Israel uses the weapons derived from the rhetoric of human rights and international law.
        Examples include promoting the Jenin "massacre" and "war crimes" claims, the campaign against the separation barrier ("apartheid wall"), academic boycott efforts, church-based divestment activities, and efforts to falsely label Israel's response to rocket attacks from Gaza as "collective punishment." Funding for many of these NGOs is provided by the European Commission and many member governments, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and private organizations. The writer is head of the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University and Executive Director of NGO Monitor. (Jewish Political Studies Review)
  • Remembering the "Dutch Auschwitz" - The Story of Sobibor - Stephane Alonso
    During World War II, deep in the forests of Poland's eastern border area, the German extermination camp Sobibor was where 170,000 Jews, more than 34,000 of them Dutch, were systematically murdered. The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Israel recently agreed on a major "renovation" aimed at opening up the former camp to the outside world. Unlike at Auschwitz, there is nothing to see at Sobibor. The Germans dismantled the camp in 1943 after an uprising in which 12 SS officers were killed and several hundred Jews managed to escape. Fifty of them survived the war. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Observations:

    The Inadequacy of International Law - Daniel Taub (Boston Globe)

    • I recently asked a group of eminent jurists on a fact-finding mission: "Considering the rocket attacks launched against Israel by terrorist groups in Gaza, what in your view would have constituted a lawful response?" The answer was total silence. The troubling notion that international law has no practical advice for a state facing terrorist attacks other than to grin and bear it is increasingly pervasive.
    • According to the understanding of international law of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, Israel has no right whatsoever to defend itself. Yet, contrary to the impression created by such experts, international law is not a suicide pact. It offers practical guidance to a state seeking to respond responsibly and effectively to threats to the lives of its civilians.
    • International law does not require, for example, that a state refrain from attacking a lawful military target - a missile launcher or a weapons stockpile, say - solely because it has been placed in the heart of a civilian area. To require this would simply encourage terrorist organizations to operate from within kindergartens and hospitals.
    • There may indeed be attractions to maintaining a pristine ideal of international law. But in practice, it offers a simplistic and unworkable legal model that absurdly posits that the more irresponsible, illegal, and morally reprehensible the actions of terrorists, the less a state is permitted to do in response.

      The writer is a senior legal adviser in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    Support the Daily Alert
    Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert