Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org|
December 4, 2009
Atomic Blast Detection Station Established Near Iran - Jonathan Tirone (Bloomberg)
Hamas Makes Gaza More Islamist - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Obama Delays Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem (AP)
Israel Unveils New Anti-Tank Missile - Jonathan Urich (Israel Defense Forces)
Rights Groups: Torture Is Systematic in Egypt "Police State" - Jailan Zayan (AFP)
Jews in the Psyche of America
- Steven Windmueller (Jewish Political Studies Review)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
"Time is running out. That deadline is the end of the year," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday, referring to the deadline for Tehran's response to international demands in order to avoid sanctions over its nuclear program. (Reuters)
See also House to Vote on New Iran Sanctions - John Bresnahan
House Democratic leaders are planning to move forward with a bill imposing tough new sanctions on Iran before the holiday recess, according to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.). The legislation seeks to cut supplies of refined petroleum products, especially gasoline, into Iran as a means of convincing that regime to end its nuclear weapons programs. Additional sanctions would be imposed on foreign exchange, banking and property transactions, including any organization that does business with the Central Bank of Iran. "I intend to pass the bill by the end of this year," said Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill has 339 co-sponsors. (Politico)
The Iranian regime has been cracking down hard at home, and now it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well. In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide who criticize the regime in order to silence them. Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings. (Wall Street Journal)
In the midst of two wars abroad and a sour economy at home, there has been a sharp rise in isolationist sentiment among the public, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. For the first time in more than 40 years of polling, a plurality (49%) says the U.S. should "mind its own business internationally" and let other countries get along the best they can on their own. in December 2002, just 30% agreed with this statement.
At the same time, there has been a rise in unilateralist sentiment. Fully 44% say that because the U.S. "is the most powerful nation in the world, we should go our own way in international matters, not worrying about whether other countries agree with us or not." That response, up from 25% in 2002, is by far the highest percentage agreeing since the question was first asked by Gallup in 1964.
When asked which country represents the greatest danger to the U.S., more Americans cite Iran (21%) than any other country. 63% approve of the use of U.S. military force against Iran if it were certain that Iran had produced a nuclear weapon. 51% of the American public say they sympathize more with the Israelis, while just 12% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. This compares with 34% for Israel and 13% for Palestinians in 1990. (Pew Research Center)
Three days after Switzerland voted to ban minarets on mosques, enraging the Muslim world, a Libyan court has sentenced two Swiss businessmen to 16 months in prison for violating immigration laws. Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani's misfortunes began in July last year when Gaddafi's son, Hannibal, and his daughter-in-law were arrested in a Geneva hotel and charged with beating their servants. The Gaddafis spent two nights in custody before they flew home. Reprisals followed. Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrew $5 billion from Swiss banks, and cut Swissair flights to Tripoli. It also arrested Goeldi, director of an engineering company, and Hamdani, who worked for a construction firm. The businessmen were tried in absentia, with no lawyers or foreign journalists present. Should Britain really be selling that repressive, vindictive regime armored cars and water cannon, and training its police? (Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The U.S. failed last week to gain a declaration of international support for Israel's temporary settlement construction freeze by the Quartet after Russia expressed a series of reservations and foiled Washington's effort. In a conference call, Secretary of State Clinton proposed that the Quartet issue a joint statement of support for the Israeli decision to freeze construction. U.S. diplomat David Hale, deputy to U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, initiated exchanges with his colleagues in the EU, the UN and Russia, but it quickly became clear that there was no agreement on the content of the statement.
Senior Israeli and American officials say that Russia was responsible for foiling the announcement by expressing many reservations to the text proposed by the Americans - which was reportedly very short. At the crux of the Russian objections were two points that were very important to the U.S. administration: the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, and that the future border between Israel and the Palestinians would reflect developments on the ground - a reference to the large settlement blocs. (Ha'aretz)
Prime Minister Netanyahu explained his reasons for the decision to freeze West Bank construction in a meeting with settler leaders Thursday. "The decision made by the cabinet is the best for Israel under the complicated diplomatic circumstances Israel is in and in view of the multifaceted challenges facing us," he said. "We made a difficult decision in order to advance the broader interests of Israel. This move makes it clear to key players around the world that Israel is serious in its intentions to achieve peace, while the Palestinians refuse to enter negotiations for peace. There is a side that wants to [talk] and another that does not. This move has made clear [which side] is refusing peace." (Ha'aretz)
See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets with Leaders of Judea and Samaria Jewish Communities (Prime Minister's Office)
On Thursday, IDF forces disarmed two explosive devices near Beit El in the West Bank on a road marked for security forces' use only. A third explosive device was found near Beit Omer, just south of Gush Etzion, along with a set of IDF uniforms supposedly meant to be used as a disguise. "These incidents illustrate that there is still motivation to carry out terror attacks on the ground. They also stress the importance of allowing the military a free hand in this area," a military official said. According to military data, while attacks in the form of hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails are ongoing in the West Bank, the use of firearms and explosive devices has been rare in recent months. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Iranian-backed Shi'ite Islamist movement Hizbullah is pursuing a long-term strategy intended to eventually deliver Lebanon into its hands. But at the core of its strategic thinking lies a series of delusions which are likely to bring about its defeat over time. Senior Israeli officials note the growing strength of Shi'ite officers in the Lebanese Armed Forces, particularly at mid-level. This development, alongside political moves that enable the Hizbullah-led opposition to block any legislation not to its liking, is slowly blurring the borders between the official Lebanese state and the parallel state maintained by Hizbullah - representing the slow, full-spectrum advance of the Shi'ite Islamist camp in Lebanon.
Hizbullah's new manifesto condemns the U.S. as the "root of all terror," and a "danger that threatens the whole world." It also reiterates the call for the destruction of Israel, describing the need to "liberate Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa" as a "religious duty" for all Muslims. Recent visitors to Lebanon speak of a high, almost delusional state of morale among circles affiliated with Hizbullah. Inside its closed world, it is sincerely believed that the next war between Israel and Hizbullah will be part of a greater conflict in which Israel will be destroyed.
The true balance of power is rather different, of course. And as Hizbullah slowly swallows other elements of the Lebanese system, the conclusion being reached in Israel is that any differentiation between the movement and the nest it has taken over is increasingly artificial - and will not be maintained in a future conflict. The recent history of the Middle East indicates that gaps between reality and ideological perceptions tend to be decided - eventually - in favor of the former. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
Two factors have led to Turkey's shift away from Israel and toward Syria. First, Turkey no longer needed Israeli assistance to pressure the Syrian government to change its policy of providing safe-haven to the terrorist Kurdish Worker's Organization (PKK). Second, in the past seven years, once secular Turkish politics have undergone a profound Islamist transformation. At the same time, the Turkish military can do little to impact the policies of the Islamist AKP, which promote solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes while dismissing secular, pro-Western Muslim governments. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to renew negotiations immediately to achieve permanent peace between our peoples. Considering the fundamental points of agreement between us, it is frustrating that for the better part of a year we have not managed to sit down and move forward toward peace. We both believe that Israel and a Palestinian state should live alongside each other in peace, security and economic well-being. We both understand that the best future for our children requires that we make painful concessions to accommodate each other's essential national aims. Israel and the Palestinian Authority both face the emergence of radical regimes in our region - Hamas, Hizbullah, and a nuclear-ascendant Iran - none of whom wish either of us well.
Our mutual interest requires that we be deeply engaged in achieving peace. We find ourselves in the very odd position of pleading with our Palestinian partners to sit down with us, so they may achieve that which they seek and need: a viable and thriving Palestinian state. The Palestinians must determine if they wish to be victims of history or actors upon it. Israel wants to be their partners in a better future and renew peace negotiations immediately - but they have to meet our outstretched hand. The writer is the Israel consul general to the Pacific Northwest. (San Francisco Chronicle)
This week, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei ended his controversial and unsuccessful term as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Egyptian diplomat was considered Iran's most important supporter and benefactor in the international community and was responsible for his organization's placatory approach toward the Iranian nuclear program. For almost a decade, starting in 1992, the agency inspectors did not notice that Iran had a secret nuclear program that violated its international commitments. Even when the agency had the information, in 2002 (to a considerable degree thanks to American, British, German and Israeli intelligence), ElBaradei ignored it and made every possible effort to undermine its reliability.
He intervened repeatedly to distort his inspectors' reports on Iran's nuclear sites, and he made sure that the IAEA's periodic reports about Iran would be camouflaged in diplomatic gibberish. Time and again they repeated the phrase that "no proof was found" that Iran's nuclear program had military aspects, even though they were blatantly obvious. ElBaradei was opposed to sanctioning Iran, not to mention military action, and repeatedly attempted to conduct a dialogue with Tehran in order to reach a compromise. (Ha'aretz)
See also The End of an Era - Ephraim Asculai
Mohamed ElBaradei will probably be remembered as the director-general who politicized his position more than any of his predecessors. The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
"New historian" Avi Shlaim will probably earn more Israel-bashing brownie points for his newest book, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations, than all his previous books combined. This collection of academic essays and reviews are mostly an extended exercise in anti-Zionism, nothing more. On page 307, for example, he tells us that the establishment of Israel "involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians," and goes on to quote a leading British Foreign Office anti-Semite, John Troutbeck, in 1948, to the effect that the Americans were responsible "for the creation of a gangster state headed by 'an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders'." While Palestinian political aspirations, then and now, were "just," according to Shlaim, he never applies the word to Zionist aspirations, before 1948 or after.
Nowhere in his book does Shlaim say a word about the Jewish people's three-thousand-year-old connection to the Land of Israel. Nor does he mention that the Arabs, who had no connection to Palestine, in the seventh century conquered the land "unjustly" from the Byzantine Empire and "illegally" settled in it, forcibly converting it into an "Arab" land. The writer is a professor of Middle Eastern history at Ben-Gurion University. (New Republic)
Immigration into Israel and the Palestinian West Bank is surging after the financial crisis and economic downturn evaporated jobs elsewhere. By the end of this month about 4,000 North American Jews will have immigrated to Israel this year, an increase of 33% over 2008 and the most in one year since 1973, according to Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Hundreds of Palestinians, mostly from the Persian Gulf, have been returning to the West Bank, where the economy is expected to grow 5% in 2009. Amjad Sandoka, 36, a civil engineer from Jerusalem, said he went to work in Dubai seven years ago, but came back in October and found a job in Ramallah. He figured he would likely lose his Dubai post after watching hundreds of people around him being let go. "I started to feel the crisis there; on the other hand, I heard there was lots of work in the West Bank," he said. With a building boom under way in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities, fueled partly by international aid money totaling $1.7 billion in 2008, many returning from Dubai are finding jobs. (Wall Street Journal)
While working on a doctorate in government and international relations at Georgetown University in Washington, Rafi Frankel, 32, served as a teaching assistant to Israeli scholar and current ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. While he was still teaching, Oren had been approached by officials of the Georgetown University Medical Center to help with a feasibility study and laying the groundwork for a teaching hospital on the West Bank. When they asked him to recommend someone to coordinate the project, he nominated Frankel.
There is no teaching hospital in the Palestinian health-care system. "The best students go abroad and don't come home," Frankel said, because there is no training for specialists. His job, he said, "is getting all the people together who can bring this about." The project is strongly supported by the Israeli government, but "the challenge is getting a support and logistical staff on the ground." (Chico (Cal.) News and Review)
Denis Avey, 91, was a courageous and determined British soldier in World War II. He was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to the Germans' largest concentration camp, Auschwitz, and repeatedly smuggled himself into the camp. He says he wanted to witness what was going on inside and find out the truth about the gas chambers, so he could tell others.
He arranged to swap for one night at a time with a Jewish inmate he had come to trust. He exchanged his uniform for the filthy, stripy garments the man had to wear. For the Auschwitz inmate it meant valuable food and rest in the British camp, while for Denis it was a chance to gather facts on the inside. He describes Auschwitz as "hell on earth" and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.
"There were nearly three million human beings worked to death in different factories," says Avey. "They knew at that rate they'd last about five months." He says he would ask where people he'd met previously had gone and he would be told they'd "gone up the chimney." He also witnessed the brutality meted out to the prisoners, saying people were shot daily. (BBC News)
Iran Loses Clout in Arab World - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
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