Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 30, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran: Hamas Would Win Any Conflict with Israel (AFP/Yahoo)
    The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Rahim Safavi, said Wednesday that Hamas-led Palestinians would be victorious in any confrontation with Israel under premier-elect Ehud Olmert.
    "(If) they confront one another, with the Muslims' support for the revolutionary Palestinians, great victories will definitely be for the Palestinians."
    "Today the Iranians are hand-in-hand with the Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Palestinians initiating a new trend that will free Palestine and will see the defeat of the Zionists and the U.S.'s greater Middle East plan," Savafi said.

UK Cell Followed Al-Qaeda Leader Orders (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's number three ordered a British terrorism cell not to pray in public and to pose as Western tourists when they traveled to a training camp in Pakistan, an informant told a London court on Tuesday.
    Mohammed Babar, 31, a Pakistan-born American, is the key prosecution witness against seven Britons accused of planning to use ammonium fertilizer bombs to blow up possible targets such as pubs, clubs, trains, and utility systems.
    He told the court on Monday that two of the suspects had been part of a cell receiving explosives training in Pakistan and had been under the orders of al-Qaeda's third-in-command, a man identified as Abdul Hadi.
    Three of the suspects are charged with possessing 600 kg of ammonium nitrate fertilizer - sometimes used to make bombs.

Setmariam Nasar: Al-Qaeda's Arrested Strategist - (Global Terrorism Analysis-Jamestown Foundation)
    Pakistan security authorities are seeking confirmation that a man arrested last October 31 during a police raid in the southern city of Quetta was a leading Syrian linked to al-Qaeda.
    Mustafa Setmariam Nasar is one of al-Qaeda's top ideologues, ceding place only to Abdullah Azzam and Abd al-Qadir bin Abd al-Aziz.
    Nasar joined the Syrian jihadist movement al-Tali'a al-Muqatila ("The Fighting Vanguard") and deepened his military expertise at the hands of refugee Syrian military officers in Jordan and Egyptian and Iraqi instructors in Baghdad and Cairo.
    Specializing in explosives engineering and urban guerrilla warfare, Nasar trained recruits in the military camps of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and Baghdad.
    Following the Syrian Brotherhood's dramatic reverse in the Hama massacre of 1982, Nasar left the movement and moved to Afghanistan with the intention of reconstructing the dismantled jihadist movement in Syria.

Useful Reference:

Israel's New First Family (PBS)
    Wide-ranging interviews with Ehud Olmert, his wife Aliza, and their son Shaul present an intimate portrait of a family, often at odds politically, as they prepare for a new era.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Bans Contacts with Hamas-Led Government - Paul Eckert
    The U.S. ordered its diplomats and contractors on Wednesday to cut off contacts with Palestinian ministries after a Hamas-led government was sworn in, the State Department said. The no-contact policy was more sweeping than many had expected because it applies not just to Hamas members but to independents and technocrats in the new government. Contacts will still be permitted with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and non-Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament, officials said. (Reuters/Scotsman-UK)
        See also Canada Severs Relations with Palestinian Government
    Canada is cutting assistance and diplomatic ties to the Palestinian Authority because the new Hamas government has not renounced violence. However, Ottawa will still provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through the UN and other organizations. (Canadian Press)
        See also Abbas Swears in Hamas Cabinet - Sarah El Deeb (AP/Washington Post)
  • Bush: No Aid to a Palestinian Government Which Desires to Destroy Its Neighbor
    President Bush said Wednesday: "Aid should go to suffering Palestinians, but nor should it go to a government, however, which has expressed its desire to destroy its neighbor....It makes no sense for us to support that government." "The Palestinians must make a choice as to whether or not it makes sense for them to have a government that says they want to destroy their neighbor. I don't think it does." (White House)
  • UN Council Urges Iran to Halt Atom Activity - Warren Hoge
    The UN Security Council urged Iran on Wednesday to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and asked the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency to report back on Iran's compliance within 30 days. The Council took its action in a presidential statement, a nonbinding declaration that needs unanimous support. In a last-minute concession by the European authors, the text eliminated language suggesting that any Iranian drive to produce nuclear weapons would be a "threat to international peace and security." China and Russia had argued that the term established a pretext for sanctions, which they both oppose. (New York Times)
  • Arab League States Unanimously Reject Unilateral Israeli Measures - Jonathan Wright
    The Arab League's 22 members ended a two-day summit in Khartoum, Sudan, Wednesday with a unanimous rejection of the Kadima party's expressed intention to carry out unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. Israelis voting on Tuesday gave victory to interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party, which has pledged to annex parts of the West Bank and define Israel's borders unilaterally unless Palestinian militants lay down their guns ahead of any negotiations. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamic Jihad: Katyusha Rockets Will Liberate Land Adjacent to Gaza
    The militant Islamic Jihad group said Wednesday it has "many" Russian-made Katyusha rockets that it can launch at Israel from the Gaza Strip. The group fired such a rocket from Gaza toward Israel for the first time on Tuesday. Islamic Jihad said the Grad version of the Katyusha is 2.8 meters long, carries a 17-kg warhead, and has a range of 18-30 km. Abu Abdullah, a spokesman for the group, said the rockets were made in Russia and smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. "These rockets, God willing, will be the reason for liberating the villages adjacent to the Gaza Strip," he said. (AP/Kuwait Times)
        See also IDF Vows Response to Katyusha Fire - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli security officials said Islamic Jihad was in possession of only "a small amount" of Katyushas, and not hundreds. "We plan to take action to dismantle the Islamic Jihad terror infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank to prevent Katyusha fire in the future," a senior security official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Foils Palestinian Suicide Bombing - Efrat Weiss
    IDF troops on Wednesday detained a Palestinian at the Bekaot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley carrying a 10-kilogram explosives belt. The Palestinian raised suspicions when soldiers saw wires sticking out from under his shirt. The Palestinian told interrogators he was given the device in Nablus and told to cross the checkpoint and wait for a man who would take him to blow himself up in a Jordan Valley community or within Israel. Regional Brigade commander Moti Almoz said the troops who detained the suspect foiled a large-scale attack. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "Israel Lobby" Critique Roils Academe - Charles A. Radin
    A paper co-written by the academic dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government is setting off a firestorm in academic and political circles because of its assertions that U.S. foreign policy is dominated by an ''Israel lobby" that ignores U.S. national interest and makes the U.S. a target of Muslim terrorists. The significance of the paper, according to those who condemn it, as well as those who embrace it, lies in the Harvard and University of Chicago credentials of the authors and in the fact that it has been presented in a high-level academic forum, in a heavily footnoted style associated with accurate, objective scholarship.
        Ronald A. Heifetz, the King Hussein Bin Talal lecturer in public leadership at the Kennedy School, said Tuesday that Mearsheimer and Walt had exceeded the bounds of academic freedom and that the dean of the Kennedy School should look into the matter. ''When a member of the Harvard faculty speaks, people are inclined to view us as credible sources of analysis and insight," Heifetz said. ''We have a special responsibility to clarify the difference between voicing an opinion and presenting a work of scholarship....It behooves us to be careful about what we say...if we express a point of view that can be embraced by David Duke and the Muslim Brotherhood to justify racist, terrorist activities."
        Alex Safian, associate director of the pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, said there were numerous factual errors such as overstatement of the proportion of U.S. foreign aid received by Israel. Safian also asserted that the authors' real issue is that U.S. foreign policy is subject to public politics and the give and take of interest groups. ''Their problem is not that a cabal is running U.S. foreign policy," he said. ''It is that they would like to be in the cabal."  (Boston Globe)
        See also Study Decrying "Israel Lobby" Marred by Numerous Errors - Alex Safian (CAMERA)
        See also The Basis of the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Mearsheimer-Walt Assault - Dore Gold (ICA/JCPA)
        See also Harvard Co-Author of Jewish Lobby Report to Step Down as Dean - Richard Beeston
    Harvard University confirmed Wednesday that Stephen Walt will be stepping down in June as academic dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government to become an ordinary professor. (Times-UK)
  • Policy Analysis - Paranoid Style - Max Boot
    In his classic 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," the late Richard Hofstadter noted: "One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality that it invariably shows." As examples, he cited a 96-page pamphlet by Joseph McCarthy that contained "no less than 313 footnote references" and a book by John Birch Society founder Robert Welch that employed "one hundred pages of bibliography and notes" to show that President Eisenhower was a communist. For a more recent instance of the paranoid style, "The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy," a "working paper" by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt - with 83 pages of text and 211 footnotes - is as scholarly as those of Welch and McCarthy.
        Their very first footnote demonstrates a terminal lack of seriousness: "Indeed, the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about." By that standard, Social Security, the 2nd Amendment, and Roe vs. Wade must not be "in the American national interest" either, because they are all defended by even more powerful lobbies.
        Mearsheimer-Walt can't see any legitimate reason why all these people (along with most Americans) might support Israel - support they claim is "in good part" responsible for our "terrorist problem." In reality, Osama bin Laden was far more inflamed by our support for the Saudi royal family than for Israel. But Mearsheimer-Walt never mention the existence of the Saudi lobby, whose success in influencing American policy is far more mysterious considering that Saudis, unlike Israelis, are leading participants in anti-American terrorism. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    A Nation Like Ours - Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe)

    • America's longstanding solidarity with Israel suits most Americans just fine. U.S. policy tends to align closely with Israel's because Americans like Israel. They instinctively sympathize with Israel's fight for survival in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods. Americans recognize in Israeli society a modern liberal democracy - a country like their own.
    • With all its flaws, Israel has the freest and fairest political system in the Middle East and the only one that guarantees complete freedom of worship to Christians and Muslims.
    • Israel is an invaluable American ally - a stable and dependable base in a most unstable part of the globe. From military R&D to world-class intelligence services, from a deepwater port to sophisticated air facilities, from counterterrorist expertise to a solid democratic culture, Israel brings assets to its strategic relationship with the U.S. that few countries can match.
    • American history is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian soil, nourishing a special kinship between America's Christians and the Jewish people. ''I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation," former President John Adams wrote in 1819.
    • Americans sympathize so strongly with the Israelis because both face a common enemy. Unlike Walt and Mearsheimer, who can find ''no moral basis" for taking Israel's side, most Americans make a clear moral distinction between suicide bombers and their victims.

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