Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
CIA Report: Iran Dramatically Increased Uranium Enrichment - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)
Germany Pressures Firms to Limit Iran Trade (Reuters/ Guardian-UK)
Brazil Dodges a Demagogue - Editorial (Boston Globe)
Foundation President Indicted in Iran Probe - Maddy Sauer and Richard Esposito (ABC News)
Israel, Vatican Deny Reports about Control of Holy Sites - Judith Sudilovsky (Catholic News Service)
Video: Mother of Martyrs - Lisa Ling (National Geographic)
Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Areas (DPA)
Israel Opens Jesus Trail in the Galilee - Simon McGregor-Wood (ABC News)
Patch of Israel Desert Is Oldest Place on Earth - Robert Roy Britt (FOX News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
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'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 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)
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:
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)
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)
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):
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The Inadequacy of International Law - Daniel Taub (Boston Globe)
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