Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 2, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Leader Has Heart Procedure (AP/Washington Post)
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas underwent a coronary angiogram - to ensure that the arteries are not clogged - at a hospital in Jordan on Wednesday, two Jordanian doctors said.
    Abbas was discharged from the Amman hospital on Thursday.

Saudi Maneuver Raises Suspicions of Nuclear Aspirations - Benny Avni (New York Sun, 1Jun05)
    A recent maneuver by Saudi Arabia to limit international inspection of its atomic capabilities has raised suspicions that the kingdom could be preparing to go nuclear.
    The Saudis are calling for the implementation of a provision of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that allows countries that are not suspected of having nuclear aspirations to forgo heavy inspection of their facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Israel Joins NATO Parliamentary Assembly - Nina Gilbert (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel was voted in as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Tuesday, after previously enjoying only observer status.
    See also PA Obtains Observer Status in NATO Assembly (PA Press Center)
    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Parliamentary Assembly has agreed to grant observer status to the Palestinian Authority.

Sharon Emphasizes the 21st Century Israel - Larry Weinberg (Israel21c)
    Prime Minister Sharon told AIPAC last week about Israel's extraordinarily high number of high tech startups, its impressive number of engineers per capita, its agricultural innovations that feed hundreds of millions of people around the world, and the quality of the advanced medical research and care in Israel.
    The prime minister understands that if he talks only about the conflict, then Israel becomes defined by this.
    His comments about the 21st century Israel tells the world about an Israel that, despite the conflict, adds value to the world every day.

Trans-Israel Highway a Runaway Success - Sharon Kedmi (Ha'aretz)
    The Trans-Israel Highway company, which runs the country's only private toll road, makes NIS 150,000 a day, according to the financial statement released Tuesday by Derech Eretz, the concessionaire of the project.
    The highway runs 86 kilometers from the Iron intersection in the north to the Sorek intersection in the south.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Rumsfeld Warns Countries Not to Help Zarqawi - Al Pessin
    U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned countries near Iraq not to provide sanctuary or medical treatment to Iraq's al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is believed to have been wounded by coalition forces. Rumsfeld added that it is important to differentiate between countries like Saudi Arabia, which has been hit by terrorist attacks and is part of the war on terrorism, and other countries that have not been as cooperative. Recent reports have indicated that most of the suicide bombers who have struck in Iraq have been Saudis, but it is not clear how they get into Iraq.
        At the same Pentagon news conference, the top U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers, said he believes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has in fact been wounded. "The best guess is that he was injured out in western Iraq, near the Syrian border," he said. (VOA News)
  • Arms Challenge Awaits Hizballah After Lebanon Poll - Alistair Lyon
    When Lebanon's phased parliamentary polls move south on Sunday, Hizballah, in alliance with Amal, the other main pro-Syrian Shi'ite group, is set to sweep the region's 23 seats. Yet the Israeli pullout from Lebanon in 2000 eroded any clear need for armed guerrillas. Some Christian leaders want Hizballah disarmed and there are Muslim voices too who view its military wing as an anomaly that must be resolved if the Lebanese state is to regain full authority. Yet Hizballah leader Nasrallah's vow to resist disarmament by force must be taken at face value - not that the Lebanese army, with its mostly Shi'ite soldiers, could be asked to do the job.
        Moving away from Hizballah's "resistance" identity is likely to be a slow process and one vulnerable to the vagaries of regional politics, at least while Iran is at odds with the West over its nuclear program and the threat of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iranian facilities remains possible. Hizballah's rocket arsenal would be an obvious means of retaliation. "Any internal Lebanese dialogue with Hizballah could be hindered or pushed forward by what happens in the nuclear dispute with Iran," Hizballah analyst Nizar Hamzeh said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Foils Double Suicide Bombing in Jerusalem - Efrat Weiss
    Israeli security authorities have foiled an Islamic Jihad double suicide bombing in Jerusalem. During interrogation, the terrorists confessed that they attempted to dispatch two suicide bombers from the northern West Bank on two separate occasions this week, and a third attempt was scheduled for Thursday. Iyad Fuajara, 27, from Bethlehem, revealed that he was to lead suicide bombers into Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood in order to carry out an attack "in a bus, synagogue, or coffee shop." Security officials said the latest terror plot demonstrates Islamic Jihad's unwillingness to submit to intra-Palestinian truce understandings and continued attempts to strike at targets inside Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Frees 400 Prisoners in Attempt to Boost Abbas - Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Yuval Yoaz
    Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners on Thursday in what Prime Minister Sharon called an attempt to boost PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Security Forces Block Gaza Roads - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Some 50 members of the PA's Military Intelligence Force armed with AK-47 assault rifles on Wednesday blocked main roads and stormed public buildings in the Gaza Strip in protest against the PA's decision to reconstruct the Palestinian security forces. Until recently, most of the PA security forces were being run as private fiefdoms belonging to top security officials.
        Sources in Gaza City on Wednesday confirmed that former Civil Police Chief Ghazi Jabali had recently left for Jordan. Since Arafat's death last November, several PA officials have fled the territories to avoid facing charges of financial corruption. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How to Make Violence Inevitable in Saudi Arabia - Mai Yamani
    While traditional Arab monarchies and emirates are changing in the wake of a democratic tide sweeping across the Arab world, Saudi Arabia remains a huge and seemingly immovable obstacle to region-wide reform. On May 15, three leading reformers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to nine years for calling for a constitutional monarchy. Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, is keen to be seen as a champion of reform. But his half-brother and more powerful rival, Prince Nayef, the interior minister, ordered the arrests, trial and imprisonment of 13 reformers in March 2004.
        Under regional and international pressure, the Saudi ruling family has constructed a Potemkin village of reform while retaining absolute control over all political developments. Earlier this year it staged partial, tightly-regulated municipal elections. The entire female population was excluded, and only a quarter of the male population was eligible to vote. Inevitably, Wahhabi Islamists did best. The writer is a research fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Time for Change in Syria - Farid Ghadry
    Professor Jonathan Adelman of Denver University describes three ingredients as historically important for a revolution to begin. The intelligentsia must take a stand against the regime, the nation is in financial distress, and there is a breakdown of the elites. In Syria today, the elites are represented by the Allawite families who are the last wall of defense for Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Although Assad's fall would be problematic for their stature, blind support would be disastrous for the whole community. The majority of Allawites today suffer from the malaise gripping Syrians in general and want to see a democratic Syria emerge.
        Among the traditional Sunni-based business groups, we are watching, in slow motion, the peeling off of their backing of the Assad regime because of Syria's policies in Iraq that are hurting any prospect for a better economy. Syrians are ready for a revolution and democracy whether we like it or not. The writer is president of the Reform Party of Syria. (Washington Times)
  • Intimidated by Extremists - Frida Ghitis
    One day, historians will scratch their heads in disbelief, wondering how it came to pass that Muslim extremists managed to intimidate moderates of every religion - including Islam - on every continent on earth. No question, insulting any religion is beyond reprehensible. It appears, however, that nothing is more reprehensible than insulting the Muslim religion. And the extremists now decide what constitutes an insult. Moderates everywhere now seem terrified of making missteps that might upset the extremists, while they obsess over the question, "What can we do to avoid offending Muslims?" Standing Pentagon orders instruct those touching the Koran that "clean gloves will be put on" and that "two hands will be used at all times." (International Herald Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Understanding Iran's Nuclear Agenda - Daniel L. Byman (Brookings Institution)

    • With regime change a dim hope, the possibility of an Iranian bomb requires the world to develop a coherent policy toward Iran's conservative-led government. As Geoffrey Kemp declares in "Iran's Bomb," a March 2004 Nixon Center report, Iran's bomb development could make it more aggressive, propel its neighbors to seek nuclear weapons, and enable terrorist groups to acquire them, too.
    • Western options range from the poor to the abysmal. Military approaches are relatively easy to dismiss. Iran is simply too big to invade, and the United States is militarily overstretched and diplomatically unpopular even with its traditional allies because of the war in Iraq. A narrow strike on Iranian nuclear facilities similar to what Israel did in Iraq in 1981, when it destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor and set back Iraq's bomb, would probably fail, as Iran has dispersed its facilities.
    • Iranians of all political stripes say that no deal will stop them from enriching uranium, and it would be foolish not to believe them.
    • First, the U.S. must reassure Iran's neighbors, like Iraq and Saudi Arabia, that it would defend them if requested against Iranian bullying - a measure that would limit a spiral of proliferation.
    • Second, American leaders should continue their rhetorical emphasis on the dangerous linkage between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, making it painfully clear that any support of terrorists by Iran would have grave implications.
    • Last, Iran must become even more of an intelligence priority.

      The writer is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution.

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