Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
U.S. Weighs Lebanon Aid if Hizbullah Wins Vote - Arshad Mohammed (Reuters)
Petraeus: Hizbullah Will Have No Reason to Exist If Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Is Solved (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Expert: Iran Setting International Agenda - Paul Lungen (Canadian Jewish News)
Iran Signs $4.7B Gas Contract with China (Reuters)
Negotiating for the Other Side - Danielle Pletka (Washington Post)
British Boy Made Suicide Vests after Watching Radical Cleric on Internet - Duncan Gardham (Telegraph-UK)
Indian Warship on Goodwill Visit to Israel (Hindustan Times-India)
Israeli Company Unveils Remotely Piloted Helicopter - Arie Egozi (Flightglobal)
New Museum of the Good Samaritan Opens in Israel - Oren Rosenfeld (Demotix)
Text: President Obama at Cairo University - June 4, 2009 (White House)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. had created the space and the atmosphere to restart Middle East peace talks, but urged Arab states and the Palestinians to make gestures toward Israel. After talks in Germany following a landmark speech in Egypt on Thursday to the Muslim world, Obama called on the key players in the region to make tough decisions, warning the U.S. couldn't make peace on its own. He said that he was "very sympathetic" to political pressures faced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his demand to stop settlement expansion on the West Bank. Obama said Arab states had to make "tough choices" on making concessions to Israel, and that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had made some progress "but not enough." (AFP/NASDAQ)
President Obama's choice of Egypt as the site of his address to the Muslim world endeared him to Egyptians, who are always proud to host a foreigner and show off their history. When he sprinkled his speech with words from the Koran and balanced support for Israel with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. The appreciation for the new approach from a U.S. president seemed widespread among Middle Eastern Muslims after the speech.
However, in Lebanon, a Hizbullah official dismissed the speech as a "sermon," while a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt characterized it as "public relations" with little substance. Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas, told al-Jazeera that the address would not entice Hamas to recognize Israel. "What he said about Islam was great. What he said about Palestinian suffering and a Palestinian state is great," but "we have a lot of reservations." (Washington Post)
See also below Global Commentary: Obama Addresses the Muslim World
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed President Obama's speech at Cairo University Thursday, saying that "beautiful speeches" could not remove the hatred felt in the Muslim world against America. "People of the Middle East, the Muslim region and North Africa...hate America from the bottom of their heart," he said. "Even if [Obama] delivers hundreds of speeches and talks very sweetly, there will not be a change in how the Islamic countries perceive the United States." Khamenei also denounced Israel as a "cancerous tumor in the heart" of the Islamic world. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The government of Israel expresses its hope that this important speech in Cairo will indeed lead to a new period of reconciliation between the Arab and Muslim world and Israel. We share President Obama's hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict and lead to Arab recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, living in peace and security in the Middle East. Israel is committed to peace and will make every effort to expand the circle of peace while protecting its interests, especially its national security. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Senior White House officials told Ha'aretz Thursday that "there is no crisis in our relationship with Israel, and we will succeed in reaching understandings on the matter of settlements." "We must emphasize that the president has made clear to the Arab and Muslim world that the bond between the U.S. and Israel is powerful and will not be broken," an official said.
Following his address in Cairo, Obama told journalists in response to a question regarding the settlements: "It's only been five months for me, Netanyahu has only been in office for two months, we've been waiting 60 years. So maybe we should try out a few more months before everybody starts looking at doomsday scenarios....Expecting a break between the U.S. and Israel is something that people should not anticipate."
"The Israelis have difficult decisions to make," he continued. "As I said in my speech, these settlements are an impediment to peace. That's not to deny the fact that there are people who are living in these settlements, there is a momentum to some of these settlements, and turning the back on those settlements involves very tough choices. That's why I said that America cannot do this for the parties." (Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. Official: We Can Reach Deal on West Bank Settlements - Herb Keinon
Washington feels "an arrangement that works" can be hammered out with Israel on the settlement issue, a senior administration official told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday, indicating the U.S. recognizes some wiggle room in defining a "settlement freeze." "There's a professional, constructive dialogue on this issue," the official said. "We have differences, but believe we can find an arrangement that works." "We're working this through, consistent with the relationship between strong allies," he said. U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell will arrive in Israel on Tuesday to continue discussing the matter. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian police killed two Hamas militants on Thursday after the men opened fire at security forces who had surrounded their underground hideout, Palestinian officials said. One officer was also killed in the operation, part of an intensifying crackdown on Islamic militants in the West Bank town of Kalkilya. The Hamas gunmen had been wanted by Israel for several years, and one of the dead men was wearing an explosives vest. The raid was the second attack on a Hamas hideout in Kalkilya by PA security forces this week. (AP/Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Obama Addresses the Muslim World
For many Muslims, the medium was the message: that a president would come to a major Muslim capital to address Muslims directly and that this president, with his compelling personal biography, would make a special effort to talk to Muslim youth - these are likely to be the most lasting impressions. The fundamental message was a call for partnership - the idea that U.S. goals and the objectives of Muslims around the world are not only congruent but also realizable by active and close cooperation.
The speech was notable for its often manufactured parallelism between blemishes in Muslim societies and blemishes in America and the West. This parallelism was perhaps most artificial in the president's discussion of the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While no impartial observer can dispute the hardship of Palestinian life, it runs counter to history to suggest that Palestinians have "suffered in pursuit of a homeland," when, since 1937, Palestinian leaders have rejected no fewer than six proposals to achieve just that goal. Similarly, the president's statement about Palestinians who "wait in refugee camps...for a life of peace and security" says as much about Arab governments' indifference to their fate as the inability to reach a diplomatic solution with Israel.
Cairo marks President Obama's fifth major message to the world's Muslims - following his inaugural address, early al-Arabiya television interview, Iranian New Year greetings, and speech to the Turkish parliament. No one can contest the fact that he has fulfilled a personal commitment to make "engagement" with Muslims a high priority. If there is any meaning to the phrase "mutual interest and mutual respect," America can now rightfully expect to hear and see what Muslims leaders and peoples say and do in response. The writer is the executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
President Obama's address in Cairo offered an eloquent case for American values and global objectives - and it looked to be a skillful use of public diplomacy in a region where America's efforts to explain itself have often been weak. Mr. Obama uttered verses from the Koran, spoke about the success of U.S. Muslims, debunked extremists' claims and defended the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Obama's challenge will be to prevent Arab leaders from diverting the broad engagement he proposed into the narrow alley of the Mideast "peace process." Though the president warned against using the issue "to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems," some were already at it: "Arabs are waiting for pressure to be exerted on Israel," said Iraq's government spokesman. Mr. Obama's initiative will fail if Israel's compliance with U.S. demands becomes the stick by which Muslims measure the "new beginning" he offered. (Washington Post)
See also The Cairo Speech - Editorial (New York Times)
Should Obama have summarized the real - as opposed to the air-brushed - history? Probably not. His point wasn't to settle historical accounts but to put the best face forward to the Muslim world. I thought he did an effective job of making America's case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn't mean that his audience will buy the message. (Commentary)
Muslim listeners said they were struck by how skillfully Obama appropriated religious, cultural and historical references, including four quotations from the Koran and used Arabic greetings. "He spoke really like an enlightened leader from the region, more than like a foreigner," said Mustafa Hamarneh, the former director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. (New York Times)
There was no mention of "terrorists" or "terrorism," just "violent extremists." In an Arab capital, he spoke of America's "unbreakable" bond with Israel and condemned anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, an apparent repudiation of the anti-Israeli rhetoric that periodically emanates from Iran. Yet he also seemed to draw an equivalence between Jewish and Palestinian suffering. The president said: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." Not since Jimmy Carter has a U.S. president in his own voice declared the settlements to be illegal, but Obama tiptoed very close to the line. Obama deftly referred to a "Jewish homeland," slightly different from Israel's demands that it be considered a Jewish state. (Washington Post)
To be Barack Obama is to be, as he says, a person who can see all issues from all sides. But the problem with the Arab-Israeli conflict is not that both sides won't listen to each other or give peace a chance. That might have been a good point to make prior to the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 when Israel recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations and began the process of handing over large portions of the area reserved by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish National Home for the creation of a Palestinian equivalent. But Israel offered these same Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Jerusalem in 2000 and again in negotiations conducted by the government of Ehud Olmert just last year. So, the problem is not that the Israelis don't want the two-state solution that Obama endorsed in Cairo. Rather, it is, as Mahmoud Abbas said in Washington only a week ago, that the Palestinians aren't interested in negotiating with Israel.
Even more obnoxious is his comparison of the Palestinians' plight to that of African-Americans in the U.S. before the civil rights era. Israelis have not enslaved Palestinians. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians rests on the latter's unwillingness to come to terms with the former's existence. The plight of Palestinians in Gaza is terrible, but it is a direct result of their own decision to choose war over peace, not a lack of understanding on the part of the Jews. (Commentary)
With his speech in Cairo, Obama is laying bare more of his sympathies and inclinations in the volatile area of Middle East politics. Obama spoke, for example, of Palestinian "resistance" - a word that can cast Israel as an illegitimate occupier. Moreover, in his defense of Israel's legitimacy, Obama cited the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism, but not the belief of some Jews that their claim to the land is rooted in the Bible and reaches back thousands of years.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Obama's remark that Jewish aspirations for a homeland were "rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied" was incorrect and "legitimizes the Arabs who say Israel has no place there." Several Jewish leaders described Obama's stance toward Iran's nuclear ambitions as too soft. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Obama in Cairo - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)
Given recent highly public and blunt statements about the need for Israel to halt all settlement activity, the Obama administration is going to be pressuring the Jerusalem government in the coming months. More disturbing is that the Palestinians get a pass on their commitment to stop terror while the pressure is brought to bear on Israel on the details of a settlement freeze.
Most disturbing is the willful blindness to two key facts. One is that the Palestinian Authority has virtually no Palestinian authority. Even if Abbas wanted to make peace with Israel, it would be meaningless because Hamas, the Iranian-backed terror group, controls Gaza and has its designs on the West Bank as well. But the diplomats, having no solution to this dilemma, choose to focus on bolstering Abbas, as if that would make a real difference.
The even more basic fact that no one wants to confront is that Palestinian determination to destroy the Jewish state precedes 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. To this day, no Palestinian leader has stated clearly that there is legitimacy to a Jewish state in the region. Though Netanyahu and every other Israeli political leader calls for living in peace with the Palestinians, no mention is made of the other half of the equation. (New York Jewish Week)
The heavy sentences handed down in the Holy Land Foundation trial sent an unmistakable message to anyone contemplating financial gifts to terrorist organizations. Anyone who helps fund groups that make bombs to blow people up deserves stiff punishment. What's still lacking in this case is any statement of contrition by the five defendants that they did anything wrong. Their crime: to collect money that helped Hamas kill, maim and fulfill its goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth. These acts deserve condemnation. Having refused to admit wrongdoing and renounce the bloodshed they helped foment, the defendants will spend the next 15 to 65 years in prison contemplating the "good" they've done for their cause. (Dallas Morning News)
See also Hamas Condemns U.S. Charity Members' Prison Terms - Albert Aji (AP)
Following the failure of the 1948 invasion to destroy the nascent Jewish state, Arab leaders began a massive effort to rewrite these events. The process was repeated in 1967, when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser's moves to wipe Israel off the map were turned into a "war of occupation." The narrative war, which has conquered Europe and is moving to North America, begins with the false history that portrays Israel as a Jewish "colonization project" forced on the Arabs by European anti-Semitism and guilt after the Holocaust. The violent Arab rejection of the original "two states for two peoples" proposal, and the continued refusal to accept a Jewish state, regardless of borders, has been removed from these histories.
In the narrative, the Palestinians are always innocent victims - by definition. Refugees from wars initiated by the Arabs are provided by an international support system with massive budgets that reinforce the narrative. The Arab version eliminates 3,000 years of Jewish history. (Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. (res.) Shawn Pine, 51, who also served in the IDF, was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul last month while working as a contractor training Afghan army soldiers. The blast also killed another Jewish officer, Lt. Roslyn Schulte, 25. Pine moved to Israel with his family at age 17 and served in the Golani Brigade. Following his discharge, he graduated from Georgetown University and earned a master's in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas. In 2001 the U.S. Army stripped Pine of his security clearance because of his dual citizenship. Six months later, after an appeal, the clearance was reinstated. In recent years, Pine wrote extensively on military policies of Middle Eastern nations and Israel. In 2003, he wrote in the Nativ journal that Egypt's military expenditures were closer to $14 billion than the $2.7 billion being officially reported. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Egypt's Defense Expenditures - Shawn Pine (Nativ)
A decade ago, researchers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum decided to create an encyclopedia of concentration camps. They assumed the finished work would be massive, featuring 5,000 to 7,000 camps and ghettos. Their ultimate count of more than 20,000 camps is far more than most scholars had known existed and might reshape public understanding of the scope of the Holocaust itself. "Instead of thinking of main death camps, people are going to understand that this was a continent-wide phenomenon," said Steven Katz, director of Boston University's Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.
"In most towns, there was some sort of prison, or holding area or place where people were victimized," says Paul Shapiro, director of the museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. "Think about what this means. For anyone who thinks this took place out of sight of the average person, this shatters that mythology. There was one Auschwitz. There was one Treblinka. But there were 20,000 other camps spread through the rest of Europe....What we are seeing in this project is that all of Europe was a camp." (Washington Post)
A few years ago, when I covered a visit to Cairo by former German president Johannes Rau, I stood in the reception line to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at his Cairo palace. After a routine handshake and a word of greeting in Arabic, I took him by surprise with the comment that I used to play on the property as a child. He didn't believe me, so I showed him my birth certificate - in Arabic: "Born at 1 Ibrahim Street, Heliopolis, Cairo." The headquarters of his regime used to be called the Heliopolis Palace Hotel and was considered the most beautiful residence in Africa. When I was a child living in the neighborhood, I played there often, as the manager was a friend of our family. To Rau standing next to him, Mubarak said: "Thank you for bringing an Egyptian brother with you."
When Mubarak and other Arab and Muslim leaders address the problem of refugees forced to leave their homes as a consequence of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they fail to mention the one million Jews who fled Arab countries and sought a new home in Israel. Israel has been portrayed as a project of Western immigrants who seized a foreign country in the Orient. Yet I am an Israeli, I come from the Orient, and they never mention me. Considering the plight of nearly half the Jewish population in Israel who are refugees from Arab or Muslim countries and their descendants is an indispensable part of any debate on promoting accommodation between Muslims and Jews or Arabs and Israelis. The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. (Jerusalem Post)
When I first visited the Gaza Strip after the Six-Day War, I encountered a territory that had been run directly by the Egyptian army for 19 years. The secret police probed everywhere. No one was immune from sudden arrest and unlimited imprisonment without trial. The jails were always full and torture was common. There was official censorship of the press and mail, and telephone lines were regularly tapped. For 19 years, the inhabitants of Gaza were prohibited from leaving their homes from 9 p.m. until dawn on pain of death.
The Egyptians seized property at will, while refugees were prohibited from owning land. Thousands of young refugees were forcibly conscripted into the Egyptian army. Many were sent to fight Gamal Abdel Nasser's war in Yemen. Three-quarters of the able-bodied were unemployed. Medical and social services were almost nonexistent. The majority of Arabs outside the town of Gaza were left to rot, without sewage, running water, electricity or roads. (Jerusalem Post)
The Settlements Myth - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert