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June 12, 2009

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IAEA: Ahmadinejad Election Rival Launched Iran Nuclear Program - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    International Atomic Energy Agency documents revealed that Iran decided in 1987 to purchase the centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium during the tenure of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Report: Hizbullah Terrorists Caught in Azerbaijan Had Iranian Passports - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Two Hizbullah operatives arrested recently in Azerbaijan for plotting to attack the Israeli embassy were caught with Iranian passports and were working on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as al-Qaeda, Azeri news reports have revealed.
    The cell's targets also included a Jewish community center in Baku as well as the Gabala radar station in the northern part of the country which Russia leases from Azerbaijan.

PA Official: Hamas Planned to Tunnel Under PA Buildings (Maan News-PA)
    Palestinian Interior Minister Sa'ed Abu Ali on Thursday revealed what he said were plans by Hamas to dig tunnels underneath security buildings in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israel Completes New Fuel Pipeline for Gaza - (Reuters)
    Israel on Thursday completed its section of a new fuel and natural gas pipeline to directly supply energy to Gaza.
    An Israeli military spokeswoman said the pipeline could begin to operate within a week.

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Man Convicted of Terrorist Support, Videotaped Potential Targets in D.C. Area - Carrie Johnson (Washington Post)
    A federal judge in Atlanta on Wednesday convicted Syed Haris Ahmed, 24, a Pakistani American, of conspiring to support terrorists after he traveled to Washington to videotape possible targets and sent the footage to "jihadi brothers" overseas.
    He made digital videos of the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the World Bank, and fuel tanks near Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia, which he shared with Younis Tsouli, an alleged recruiter for al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Aabid Hussein Khan, who has ties to Pakistani Islamist militant groups such as Lashkar-i-Taiba.
    Both men have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in British courts.

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Egypt to Publish Arabic Translations of Israeli Novels (AFP)
    Egypt will publish Arabic translations of novels by Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman, an Egyptian Culture Ministry official said Thursday.
    "Because we can't deal directly with Israeli publishers, which would cause a scandal in Egypt and the Arab world, we decided to negotiate with European publishing houses," said Gaber Asfur, head of the ministry's center for translations.

Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    The past year witnessed significant anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents in Norway. Among these were anti-Semitic television satire programs, physical attacks on a pro-Israel demonstration, death threats against Jews, and desecration of a Jewish cemetery.
    The Norwegian government's attitude toward Israel is among the most negative in Europe. Some Muslim Norwegians participated in the largest riots in many years in Oslo in January 2009.
    This article is a follow-up to the book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel, and the Jews - Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed. (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • North Korea, Iran Joined on Missile Work; Iranian Missile Threat on U.S. Seen by 2015 - Jim Wolf
    Iran and North Korea are working together to develop ballistic missiles and have made significant progress, Lt.-Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said Thursday. They are sharing know-how on avionics, propulsion and materials. The U.S. Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center said in a new report: "Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015." (Reuters)
  • Israel to Outline Conditions for Palestinian State - Eli Lake
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will accept the notion of a Palestinian state under strict conditions, Israeli officials and Americans briefed on the Israeli leader's thinking said Thursday. Mr. Netanyahu will deliver a major speech Sunday setting Israeli parameters for recognizing Palestinian sovereignty. The officials said Mr. Netanyahu will emphasize Palestinian obligations under the Roadmap - a three-phase process for negotiations initiated by the George W. Bush administration, which so far has not been followed.
        The conditions he is expected to put forward include: Any Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without an air force, full-fledged army or heavy weapons. Palestinians may not sign treaties with powers hostile to Israel. A Palestinian state must allow Israeli civilian and military aircraft unfettered access to Palestinian airspace, allow Israel to retain control of the airwaves and to station Israeli troops on a future state's eastern and southern borders. (Washington Times)
  • U.S. Envoy Urges Arabs to Make Peace with Israel
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell called on Thursday for Arab states to make peace with Israel, after talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in Cairo. "We are working hard to achieve our objective, a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel," Mitchell said. This includes "peace between Israel and its other immediate neighbors and full normalization of relations between Israel and all of the Arab nations as contemplated by the Arab peace initiative....We regard the Arab peace initiative as an important proposal that we are trying to integrate into our effort. Proposing the initiative was just the beginning. It brings with it responsibilities to join in taking meaningful steps and important actions that will help us move towards our objective." (AFP)
  • Gazans Increasingly Frustrated with Hamas' Hard-Line Policies - Erin Cunningham
    Nearly six months after the fighting with Israel, Gazans are growing increasingly restless under Hamas rule. Many privately complain that Hamas' hard-line approach with both Israel and the rival Palestinian party, Fatah, has intensified their suffering. According to a poll conducted by the West Bank-based Bir Zeit University in May, just 23% of Palestinians in Gaza would vote for Hamas in a new parliamentary election, as opposed to to 37% for Fatah. "People who voted for Hamas did not know their real policies. And if they knew the consequences of these policies, they wouldn't have voted for them," says Abu Khaled, a Gaza City shop owner. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mousavi Win Wouldn't Stop Iran's Nuke Drive, Israel Warns - Yaakov Katz
    Senior Israeli defense officials stress that the outcome of the Iranian elections on Friday is unlikely to have any impact on Tehran's continued race toward nuclear power. If elected, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who helped lay the foundations of the country's atomic program when he was prime minister from 1981 to 1989, may succeed in "laundering" the program in a dialogue with the U.S., the officials fear. Some officials are concerned that Iran will be allowed to build and operate nuclear reactors like Japan - which has reactors but no weapons. This would put the Islamic republic a turn of the dial on the centrifuges and mere months away from an atomic bomb. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also All Iran Candidates Will Bolster Hamas, Hizbullah Ties - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
  • Poll: 56% of Israelis Back Settlement Construction
    Nearly six of every 10 Israelis think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resist U.S. demands to completely freeze construction in Jewish West Bank settlements, according to a new poll released Friday by the Maagar Mohot Polling Institute. 56% said Netanyahu should not consent to the American demand, as opposed to 37% who said he should. 50% said failure to comply would not provoke a crisis with the U.S., while 32% said they thought it would. Maagar Mohot also found in a separate poll that two-thirds of Israelis have little appetite for dismantling West Bank settlements. 36% oppose any evacuation as part of a final peace deal and 30% said only a small number should be dismantled. (AP/Ha'aretz)
        See also Poll: 69% of Israelis Oppose Dividing Jerusalem
    According to a poll carried out on 10-11 June by the Maagar Mohot Polling Institute, 69% oppose, while 18% support, rescinding Israeli sovereignty over the Old City and other parts of Jerusalem. (IMRA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Lebanon's Triumph, Iran's Travesty - Elliott Abrams
    Should we celebrate the outcome in Lebanon and push for elections throughout the Middle East, or sourly note that Hizbullah has exactly as many guns now as it had when it was defeated at the polls on Sunday? Is the Iranian presidential election today a festival of freedom or a cover for theocracy? We should not idealize Lebanon's election, nor its politics. Most voters support only candidates from their own religious group, and the political talk is not of liberals and conservatives but of Armenians, Maronites, Druze, Shiites and Sunnis. Still, the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hizbullah's claim that it is not a terrorist group but a "national resistance."
        Unfortunately, Iran's election presents the voters with no similar opportunity. The candidates have been carefully screened to exclude anyone opposed to the ruling clerical establishment; each is part of the Islamic Revolution's old guard. Voting in Iran is a contrivance for settling certain policy disputes and personal rivalries within the ruling elite.
        The failed presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 reminds us that the power of a putative reformist is illusory. The Khatami years saw increased repression inside Iran, growing support for Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorist groups, and the covert construction of the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. A victory by Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is more likely to change Western policy toward Iran than to change Iran's own conduct. The writer, who was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (New York Times)
  • Obama's Resolve on Mideast Facing a Blunt Reality - Richard Boudreaux
    "We have a 'yes we can' president who believes he can make it happen, but he faces a 'no you can't' reality in a region that has changed for the worst over the past eight years," said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator. The Palestinian movement is in disarray, with the U.S.-backed leadership in the West Bank at odds with militant Hamas rulers in Gaza. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, traditional leaders of the Arab world, are ruled by wavering octogenarians who are hesitant to step in as peacemakers. Meanwhile, Iran's Islamist allies, Hamas and Hizbullah, have boosted their arsenals with logistical help from Syria and pose a lingering threat to Israel, giving Iran the power to sabotage any Israeli-Palestinian accord.
        Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition took office ten weeks ago on a wave of voter apprehension that withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers would turn the West Bank into a base for militant rocket attacks, as the 2005 pullout did in Gaza. Meanwhile, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas appears to have no strategy to reassert control over Gaza, and is so hamstrung by infighting in his own Fatah movement that he's scarcely able to govern the West Bank. His weakness helps explain Netanyahu's reluctance to negotiate with him on the core issues of a peace accord. "It's really hard to imagine how you get Abbas and Netanyahu into a negotiation that leads to a conflict-ending agreement," said Miller. "Why inflate expectations in such a grandiose manner when the odds of a breakthrough are so low?" (Los Angeles Times)
  • Trust Is Not Enough - Saul Singer
    President Barack Obama's Cairo speech embodied the paradox of the modern age: the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world is also the most idealistic. "Why can't we all just get along?" Americans want to know. Would it were true that the world is suffering from a vast misunderstanding.
        The danger is that moderate Arab leaders will take Obama's speech to mean 1) the pressure is off on us to liberalize and 2) we're on our own because Iran is going nuclear. The Arab people will similarly conclude that America is retreating and will not stand with them against their sclerotic governments or the spread of Islamism. The only way Obama will convince them otherwise is if he shows that the U.S. will put muscle behind its vision. (
  • A Tall Order for Saudi Arabia? - Michael J. Totten
    The New York Times inadvertently highlights how much more intransigent than Israel most Arab states are. President Obama went to Saudi Arabia where he presented a wish-list from the U.S. and Israeli governments for a few symbolic tourist visas, meetings between Saudi officials and their Israeli counterparts, and the opening of a Saudi interests office in Tel Aviv. "These would be a tall order for the Arab kingdom," the Times says. Good grief. The Obama administration expects Israelis to stop building houses in Jewish neighborhoods in suburban Jerusalem that they never intend to abandon, yet the Saudis won't even talk to Israelis or let a few Jews visit the beach.
        Israel isn't a threat to Saudi Arabia. The idea that Saudi Arabia "can't" have diplomatic relations with Israel until the Palestinian question is resolved has become mainstream, even axiomatic, but it's nonsense. Egypt and Jordan are Arabic countries, yet they both signed peace treaties years ago. There is no iron law of geopolitics that requires Saudi Arabia to remain in a state of cold war with Israel. The only reason the Saudis don't have normal relations with Israel is because they prefer hostile relations. Israelis will not have peace until Palestinians pitch their pig-headed rejectionism over the side. Arabs, including the Saudis, can opt out of that ridiculous conflict whenever they feel like it. (Commentary)
  • What Would Come After a Settlement Freeze? - Mitchell Bard
    Should Jewish communities be uprooted from the West Bank? If so, this endorses the Palestinian idea that Jews should not be allowed to live in the state of Palestine. Does President Obama want to endorse the idea that Jews can live anywhere in the world except in the country America helped create? Must Israel dismantle cities such as Ma'ale Adumim with a population comparable to Annapolis, Md.? Most Israelis believe the settlement blocs should be incorporated into Israel.
        The Israelis have fought three wars in the last nine years during which more than 1,000 of their people were killed. They continue to face terrorist threats and rocket bombardments. Does the Obama administration expect them to accept the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank with the capability of launching rockets into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, or targeting commercial jets at Ben-Gurion Airport? Finally, will pressuring Israel change the attitude of the Arabs to abandon six decades of hostility? Will the radical Islamists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah suddenly accept a Jewish state in the Muslim heartland? (JTA)
  • Israeli Settlements - R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.
    In his Cairo speech, Mr. Obama emphasized his government's sudden opposition to Jewish settlements on the West Bank, although some of those settlements are crucial to Israeli security. Heretofore, our government understood that in any peace treaty with the Palestinians, Israel was expected to keep some of these settlements. It was a matter of national security for a nation that faces war daily.
        The Israelis began giving up real estate to the Palestinians 16 years ago in the Oslo Accords. The gesture has gotten them no thanks and no closer to peace. The West Bank shows no development and remains incompetently governed and a source of poverty and radicalism. Gaza is a nightmare, abounding with tunnels for smuggling weaponry and launching guerrilla attacks, including rocket attacks into Israel. Israel has already given up real estate to the Palestinians. It is now time for the Palestinians to govern their real estate peacefully. The Egyptians live in peace with Israel. The Palestinians can, too. All they need to do is put down their arms and accept Israel as a neighbor. (Washington Times)
  • It's Boycott Time Again - David Newman
    Once again, the UK University and College Union passed a motion condemning Israel at its annual convention. Once again it recommended boycotting Israeli universities. Once again, this will have negligible impact on academic links between the two countries. Those who have scientific links with their UK counterparts all reported that these had not been affected in any way. As the representative of Israel's universities in the UK for the past two years, I have met countless senior British academics. Regardless of whether, as individuals, they like or dislike Israel, they are interested in developing strong research links with top scientists and scholars throughout the world - many of whom come from Israeli universities. Ironically, the scientific links between the two countries have strengthened in the past few years. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention - Andre Aciman
    For all the president's talk of "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," he never said a word about me or, for that matter, about any of the other 800,000 Jews born in the Middle East who fled the Arab and Muslim world or who were summarily expelled for being Jewish in the 20th century. With all his references to Islam's (questionable) "proud tradition of tolerance" of other faiths, he never said anything about those Jews whose ancestors had been living in Arab lands long before the advent of Islam but were its first victims once rampant nationalism swept over the Arab world.
        He failed to remind the Egyptians in his audience that until 50 years ago a strong and vibrant Jewish community thrived in their midst. Or that many of Egypt's finest hospitals and other institutions were founded and financed by Jews. In Alexandria, my birthplace and my home, all streets bearing Jewish names have been renamed. The writer, a professor of comparative literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center, is the author of the memoir Out of Egypt. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Needed: An Affirmation of Israel's Historical Right to Exist - Judea Pearl (Wall Street Journal)

    • In theory, Mr. Obama's speech in Cairo affirmed everything Israelis have ever hoped for. Peaceful coexistence and mutual acceptance with its Arab neighbors has been the ultimate dream of the Zionist movement since the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The peace offers that Ehud Barak made to Yasser Arafat in 2000 and that Ehud Olmert made to Mahmoud Abbas in 2009 prove that the idea of a two-state utopia is still firmly lodged in the psyche of most Israelis.
    • Palestinians view Israeli settlement construction as the litmus test for Israel's intentions vis-a-vis a future Palestinian state. Israelis view Palestinian textbooks, TV programs and mosque sermons to be the litmus test of Palestinian intentions. A society that teaches its youngsters to negate its neighbor's legitimacy, so the argument goes, cannot be serious about respecting a peace accord as permanent.
    • Mr. Obama's speech had crisp and stern words to say about Israeli settlements, but hardly a word about Palestinian denial and incitement. The president said, "It is time for these settlements to stop." But the hoped-for reciprocal sentence - "It is time for Palestinian incitement to stop" - was conspicuously absent. In Israel, even the harshest opponent of the settlement movement would not support the emergence of a sovereign neighbor, rocket range away, that is unwilling to invest in education for a lasting peace.
    • Secondly, Mr. Obama's rationale for Israel's legitimacy began with the Holocaust, not with the birthplace of Jewish history. "The aspiration for a Jewish homeland," he said, "is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied." Who else defines Israel's legitimacy that way? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does. Iran sees Israel as a foreign entity to the region, hastily created to sooth European guilt over the Holocaust. Israelis consider this distortion of history to be an assault on the core of their identity as a nation.
    • An affirmation of "Israel's historical right to exist," based on a 2,000-year continuous quest to rebuild a national homeland, is what the region needs to hear from Mr. Obama. The magic words "historical right" have the capacity to change the entire equation in the Middle East. They convey a genuine commitment to permanence, and can therefore invigorate the peace process with the openness and goodwill that it has been lacking thus far.

      The writer, a professor of computer science at UCLA, is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

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