Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 23, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Elections Set for March 28 - Ilan Marciano (Ynet News)
    General elections in Israel will be held on March 28, 2006.

New Labor Party Head Backs Settlement Build-Up - Tali Caspi (Reuters)
    An aide to Amir Peretz, Israel's new Labor Party chief, said on Tuesday he approved a plan by Housing Minister Isaac Herzog, of Labor, to issue construction tenders for 350 new homes in Maale Adumim, the biggest Jewish settlement.
    "Maale Adumim is considered an Israeli city through consensus," the aide said.
    "We are not discussing extending the boundaries of the city, only building within the existing territory, and therefore we see nothing wrong with this."
    Maale Adumim forms the core of one of several West Bank settlement blocs that Sharon, with a nod from U.S. President George W. Bush, says Israel will keep under any peace accord.

Israel HighWay
- November 22, 2005

Issue of the Week:
    Israel's New Opening to the Islamic World

Historian Charged With Denying Holocaust - Susanna Loof (AP/Washington Post)
    British historian David Irving, arrested in Nov. 11, was charged Tuesday in Vienna with violating an Austrian law that makes Holocaust denial a crime.
    Irving is accused of giving two speeches in 1989 in which he denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers during World War II, prosecutor Otto Schneider said.
    Irving once sued Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust expert, for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier. The British court handling the case in 2000 declared that Irving could be labeled as such, and that he was anti-Semitic, racist, and misrepresented historical information.
    See also Denial of the Holocaust and Immoral Equivalence - Interview with Deborah Lipstadt (JCPA)

Trinidad Wants Closer Security Links with Israel - Stephen Cummings (Caribbean Net News)
    The Trinidad and Tobago government is seeking closer links on security matters with the government of Israel.
    Prime Minister Manning visited Israel looking for help in finding ways of protecting the Trinidad and Tobago borders from drug and gun trafficking.
    The visit follows the purchase from Israel of a 360-degree radar system to monitor Trinidad and Tobago's coastal waters.

2,000-Year-Old Palm Seed Sprouts in Israel, Sapling Is Thriving - John Roach (National Geographic)
    A sapling germinated earlier this year from a 2,000-year-old date palm seed is thriving, according to Israeli researchers who are cultivating the historic plant.
    "It's 80 centimeters [3 feet] high with nine leaves, and it looks great," said Sarah Sallon, director of the Hadassah Medical Organization's Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC) in Jerusalem.
    Several ancient date seeds were taken from an excavation at Masada, a historic mountainside fortress, where in 73CE Jewish zealots took their own lives rather than surrender to the Romans.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. and Europe Put Off Referral of Iran Case to Security Council - Steven R. Weisman
    The U.S. and Europe will not seek a referral this week of their case against Iran to the UN Security Council, American and European diplomats said Tuesday. (New York Times)
        See also EU Ready for New Nuclear Talks with Iran - Louis Charbonneau and Mark Heinrich
    EU powers are ready to revive nuclear talks with Iran to discuss a Russian proposal that would allow Iran to continue converting uranium ore but would ship it to Russia for enrichment, a system which, in theory, would prevent Iran from producing weapons-grade uranium, diplomats said on Tuesday. (Reuters)
        See also Blair: Iran Would Pose "Serious Threat"' If It Had Nuclear Weapons - George Jones
    Iran would pose a serious threat to world stability and peace if it developed a nuclear capability, Tony Blair said Tuesday. He described as "rubbish" the claim by Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, that UK foreign policy was "oppressing" Muslims. (Telegraph-UK)
  • UN Council Fails to Agree on Hizballah-Israel Clash - Evelyn Leopold
    The UN Security Council failed to agree on how to condemn Monday's clash between Lebanon's Hizballah guerrillas and Israeli forces, mainly because of disputes between the U.S. and Algeria. Pro-Syrian Hizballah guerrillas raided north Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Israeli troops; four Hizballah fighters were killed. Algeria, the only Arab member of the council, objected to putting the blame on Hizballah, according to participants at the consultations.
        UN undersecretary-general for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari said in Jerusalem that the attacks showed the importance of the Lebanese government extending control over all its territory, a reference to Hizballah's domination of the south. The Beirut government has been unable to disarm Hizballah as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004. The U.S. condemned the attack as deliberately provocative, saying it had been timed to coincide with Lebanon's independence day Tuesday. (Reuters)
        See also Israeli Planes Drop Leaflets Over Beirut
    After some of the worst border clashes in years, Israeli planes dropped thousands of leaflets over the Lebanese capital of Beirut and southern Lebanon Wednesday, denouncing Hizballah. "To the Lebanese citizens, who protects Lebanon?" read the small leaflet written in Arabic. "Who is lying to you? Who is sending your children to a battle they are not ready for? Who wishes the return of destruction? Who is the tool in the hands of his Syrian and Iranian masters? Hizballah is causing enormous harm to Lebanon," and Israel was determined to protect its citizens. The note was signed "The State of Israel." (AP/Washington Post)
  • U.S. Accuses Syria of Delaying Death Probe
    U.S. Ambassador John Bolton accused Syria on Tuesday of "delaying and obstructing" an investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister and demanded that Damascus allow six Syrian officials to be questioned. Syria is facing separate U.S. pressure to stop Islamic radical fighters from crossing its borders into Iraq to join the insurgency. "The critical element right now is the flow of foreign fighters across the border," Ambassador James Jeffrey, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Rice, said Tuesday. "That could be largely stopped by the Syrian government if it wants to." (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jaffee Center: Israel Maintains Strategic Advantage - Amos Harel
    The Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University presented its 2005 report on the strategic balance in the Middle East Tuesday. "The second intifada lost strength in part because Israel devised better methods to counter Palestinian terrorist activity," the center said. "This does not, however, constitute the dismantlement of the terrorist infrastructures, and Israel's deterrence of the Palestinian organizations, particularly the extremist groups, is limited and does not preclude a renewal of terrorist activity." (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Urges EU to Blacklist Hizballah - Herb Keinon
    After Monday's Hizballah attack, Israel will ask the Europeans to delegitimize Hizballah, stop meeting with its representative in the Lebanese government, and place the group on the EU's list of terrorist organizations, a senior diplomatic official said Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Paratrooper Sniper Becomes Hero - Margot Dudkevitch
    IDF paratrooper Corporal David Markovitch, who was drafted eight months ago, killed four Hizballah terrorists carrying an anti-tank missile in the village of Ghajar on Israel's northern border on Monday. Markovitch, a trained sniper, aimed at the rocket, which exploded and killed three of the terrorists. He then shot the fourth. (Jerusalem Post)
        "A comrade said, 'There's a terrorist,' and I fired. It's all a matter of seconds, the entire business lasted about a minute." "I'm not the hero of the day," Markovitch said. "There were four of us there. One spotted and I shot. It's a team, with a commander. We simply ended up at the center of things....This is what we train for." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Religious Freedom and the Middle East - Simon Henderson
    On November 8, the State Department released the International Religious Freedom Report, its annual survey of religious freedom across the world. "Countries of particular concern" include Saudi Arabia. "Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia," successive reports have declared. In an interview in October, King Abdullah argued that Saudi Arabia should be likened to Vatican City, where only the Roman Catholic form of Christianity is recognized. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Arthur Cohn Honored by UNESCO: Blasts Palestinian Textbooks for Breeding Suicide Terror - Tom Tugend
    Six-time Academy Award winning film producer Arthur Cohn was honored on Nov. 12 at a gala banquet in Dusseldorf, Germany, with an annual award by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and he used the occasion to warn UNESCO against the breeding of future terrorists in Palestinian schools. Cohn received his biggest applause when he urged elimination of "schoolbooks, TV programs, and teaching methods that are preaching hatred and train for terror."
        "We must not forget that the intimidating phenomenon of suicide bombers - who in effect are genocide terrorists - has its roots in Israel and meanwhile has brought lots of mischief and mourning into the whole world, from the United States and England to Indonesia, Iraq and now Jordan, which has been bred in the schools of the Palestinian Authority. In these schools, the children are educated from the youngest age to celebrate terrorists as heroic martyrs and to emulate them. UNESCO must face the challenge to see to it that only positive human values are taught in the initiatives it supports," Cohn said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israelis on the Frontline with Gaza - Raffi Berg
    When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, life for the residents of the southern Israeli village of Netiv Haasara changed overnight. Bordering Gaza, Netiv was formerly neighbors with a cluster of Jewish settlements, but their disappearance meant the village now became the closest community in Israel to the Gaza Strip. The village is just 400 meters away from the edge of the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya, and the impact on the village was felt immediately. It is this proximity which has made the village highly vulnerable to Kassam rocket attacks, a favored weapon of Palestinian militants in Gaza. (BBC News)
  • Observations:

    State of the Jewish State - Michael B. Oren interviewed by Yigal Gross (Yeshiva University Commentator)

    Historian Michael B. Oren, a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

    • Q: In your book, Six Days of War, you described how Israel delayed attacking and played out all of its diplomatic options in order not to lose American support. Is Israel's dependence upon an American diplomatic umbrella really such a good thing?
      Oren: It is a mistake for Israel to be completely dependent politically on the U.S. We have friends: there are a billion Hindus who love us and a couple of billion Chinese who like us a lot. It is extremely important that we diversify our political portfolio.
          We buckled to the U.S. on the Phalcon deal. We had attracted the Chinese to develop a reconnaissance aircraft. The U.S. was afraid that these aircraft had some of their technology in them. They were angry, cracked down on us, and we gave in. We broke our contact with the Chinese which impaired our reliability, and hurt us economically. We have to assert our independence and sovereignty to the U.S., even at the cost of irking it. Ultimately America will respect us more if we do it.
    • Q: You participated as a soldier in the withdrawal from Gaza. How did the actual withdrawal compare with your expectations?
      Oren: There were two things that I didn't anticipate. I did not anticipate the degree of efficiency and sensitivity of the Israeli army. The level of professionalism, training, sensitivity, and endurance was extraordinary. Every once in a while the strength of Israel surprises me.
          The second surprise was the trauma that I would endure taking people out of their homes. While I was helping a journalist onto a truck, a woman came up to me and said "Arur Atah" - that's a very powerful thing to say in Hebrew. I was unable to get it out of my mind for weeks. "Arur Atah" - accursed are you.
    • Q: You have said that, so far, the withdrawal seems to have been a success, but could there come a point in time when you would change your mind and be willing to declare it a failure?
      Oren: Yes. If America lowers the bar on Palestinian compliance with the road map, then we fail. If America looks at Abbas and says "he doesn't like terror, that's enough for us," and then orders Israel out of the West Bank and creates a Palestinian state, that would be a disaster.
    • Q: Do you believe that Abbas - or any Palestinian leader - is capable of waging war against the Palestinian terrorists?
      Oren: I don't. The world has been trying since the 1920s to impose leadership on the Palestinians that is capable of reaching a diplomatic solution and they have never succeeded. Abbas is a perfectly nice guy, but I don't see him waging a civil war to make peace with Israel, and that's really what it's all about.
          Arafat said he loved terror and did nothing to stop it. Abbas said that he doesn't like terror and does nothing to stop it. From Israel's standpoint, it's not a big difference. It's just much nicer to deal with Abbas than Arafat.
    • Q: Do you believe that Israel will ever see peace?
      Oren: The period of 1960-67 is considered one of the most peaceful periods in Israeli history. Do you know that per-capita more Israelis were killed every year in terrorist attacks during that period than today? We're in the Middle East, a very unstable and violent area, and, accordingly, we have to have realistic expectations of what peace means in our area. Peace for us really means the absence of active war.
          I'm confident that we can go through long periods of such peace. Keep in mind that we haven't had an attack by a large conventional army in more than 30 years. The reason we haven't is because the last time they tried it, we whooped them, even though they had a surprise attack on us. So we can have long periods of quiet, but quiet is relative.

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