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May 5, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Video Shows Al-Zarqawi Fumbling with Rifle - Tarek El-Tablawy (AP/Washington Post)
    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown unable to operate his automatic rifle in a video released by the U.S. military as part of a propaganda war aimed at undercutting the image of the terror leader.
    Another clip showed the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi - who has derided everything Western - wearing American New Balance tennis shoes.
    The clips shown Thursday were part of a longer video that U.S. troops seized in a raid last month on a safe house in the Baghdad area.

Israel HighWay
- May 4, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    Rock Music in Israel This Summer

Lebanon's Jumblatt Offers to Help Syrian Opposition (AFP)
    Prominent Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt, who has been charged in Syria with incitement against the government there, offered to help the Syrian opposition to establish a democratic regime.
    "I tell the opposition that if it sees that I could serve its objectives in order to establish a democratic and free Syria, I am ready, if they want me to help," he told reporters.
    Jumblatt received a delegation on Monday headed by the London-based spiritual guide of Syria's banned Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadr Eddin el-Bayanuni.

Israel Cries Foul over Iran Leader's World Cup Trip - Roger Boyes (Times-UK)
    Germany, preparing to host the World Cup next month, is obliged to admit the head of state of a participating nation. But Iran's President Ahmadinejad has demanded Israel's destruction and has repeatedly denied the Holocaust - a crime in Germany.
    By unhappy coincidence Iran's first match is in the stadium on the Nuremberg complex used by Hitler for his mass rallies, and German neo-Nazis are planning a march in support of Ahmadinejad.
    Israel, Iranian exiles, and leading German politicians are demanding that he is kept away.

Jordanian Islamists Slam Media Delegation for Visit to Israel (UPI)
    Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood has denounced a Jordanian media delegation's participation this week in a seminar in Israel by the Histadrut labor union on peaceful coexistence with Arabs.
    The Jordanian Journalists' Union last week warned its members against participating in the seminar.
    Professional unions in Jordan ban their members from dealing with Israel or assisting in normalizing relations.

Bahrain: No Problem Starting Relationship with Israel; Won't Finance PA under Hamas (Palestine Media Center)
    Bahrain's ambassador to the U.S., Nasser al-Belooshi, told the American Jewish Committee on Wednesday that Bahrain, the first GCC country to formally end the trade boycott of Israel, had "no problem starting a relationship with Israel," AP reported.
    Israel and Bahrain share growing concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions and Hamas' control of the Palestinian government, al-Belooshi said.
    "We feel very unsafe. We are not sure that something like Chernobyl will not happen again," Al Belooshi said. "We would like to see a more united front against Iran. The United States is leading the charge, and other countries should follow."
    Al-Belooshi also said Bahrain would not finance the Palestinian Authority under Hamas' leadership.
    "We do not want terrorism to prosper. We would like Hamas to sit with Israeli officials and negotiate peace," he said.

Cash-Strapped Gaza Taxi Drivers Turn to Cooking Gas - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Facing sky-high gasoline prices, Palestinian taxi driver Abdel-Hakim Yassin now powers his cab with cooking gas.
    Mechanics in the Gaza Strip have altered hundreds of taxis from gasoline or diesel to gas, which is four times cheaper.
    "It is very dangerous," said taxi driver Othman Moghrabi. "When passengers get annoyed by the smell, I tell them it comes from other cars."

Israeli Study: Cell-Phone Towers Can Double as Rainfall Monitors - Ker Than (FOX News)
    Using data collected every 15 minutes from a cellular network in Israel during a rainstorm, the researchers calculated the amount of surface rainfall.
    Rain causes dips in the strength of radio signals bounced back and forth between towers within the network. These dips can then be analyzed to calculate surface rainfall during storms, according to a study by Hagit Messer from Tel Aviv University appearing in the May 5 issue of Science journal.

Pope John Paul II and the Jews: An Evaluation - Sergio I. Minerbi (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Many Jews admired the late Pope John Paul II but paid little attention to the content of his message, which seemingly aimed to "Christianize" the Shoah.
    Visiting Auschwitz in 1979, he spoke of "six million Poles who lost their lives during the war."
    He beatified and later canonized Edith Stein, killed at Auschwitz for being Jewish, claiming she was at the same time a "daughter of the Jewish people" and a "believing Christian."

EU: Produce Imports from Israel Increased 76% in Three Years - Andre van der Wiel (Fresh Plaza-Netherlands)
    In the past three years, the imports of produce from Israel to the EU have increased 76%, from 327,000 metric tons in 2003 to 577,724 MT in 2005, according to the Spanish export organization Fepex.

Useful Reference:

Olmert's Cabinet Includes Some Familiar Veterans, Some New Faces - Dan Baron (JTA)
    Thumbnail biographical sketches of the main players in Israel's new government.

Guidelines of the New Government (Ha'aretz)
    The agreement document signed by Israel's new government coalition partners.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Says Hamas Itself to Blame for Palestinian Financial Crisis - David Gollust
    The Bush administration said Wednesday the Hamas-led Palestinian government has only itself to blame for the financial crisis it finds itself in, following charges from Hamas that the U.S. is disrupting the delivery of aid to the PA. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said, "The difficulties that the Palestinian Hamas-led government might be experiencing now are wholly of their own making....The Palestinian people need to understand that it is, at this moment, the Hamas-led government that is the single biggest obstacle to their realizing a two-state solution. They are the ones who are standing in the way of that, nobody else."
        The Hamas-led PA administration spurned a call from the international Middle East "Quartet" that it accept Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism, and accept previous Palestinian commitments, including endorsement of the Quartet's 2003 road map to peace. (VOA News)
        See also Hamas Accuses U.S. of "War Crimes"
    The spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Dr. Ghazi Hamad, on Thursday accused the U.S. of "war crimes," and said "the great criminal is the USA." In an interview with the Ma'an News Agency in Jerusalem, Hamad said, "the U.S. is practicing a kind of war crime as it puts the Palestinian people under siege and starvation and oppression." (Ma'an News Agency-PA)
  • Bush: Hamas Has "One Foot in the Camp of Terror"
    President Bush told the American Jewish Committee Thursday: "I'm a strong believer in democracy and free elections, but that does not mean we have to support elected officials who are not committed to peace. Hamas has made it clear that they do not acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, and I've made it clear that so long as that's their policy, we will have no contact with the leaders of Hamas. Democratically elected leaders cannot have one foot in the camp of democracy and one foot in the camp of terror. Hamas must accept the demands of the international community to recognize Israel, disarm and reject terrorism, and stop blocking the path to peace."
        "The Iranian regime is repressing its people, sponsoring terrorists, destabilizing the region, threatening Israel, and defying the world with its ambitions for nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."
        "Last weekend, thousands rallied on our National Mall to call for justice in Darfur....I believe strongly that we must augment AU forces with a blue-helmeted UN force, with a NATO overlay, so that we can send a clear message to the leaders of Sudan: We will not tolerate the genocide taking place in that country." (White House)
  • Hamas Minister Gets Swedish Visa
    Hamas minister Atef Adwan will attend a Palestinian conference in Malmo on Saturday after the Swedish consulate general in Jerusalem granted him a visa, Svenska Dagbladet has reported. But Swedish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Fredrik Floren insisted that Sweden was "full-square behind" demands by the Quartet that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority renounce violence, acknowledge Israel's right to exist, and respect existing agreements. (The Local-Sweden)
        See also Swedish PM Says Hamas Lawmaker Not Welcome
    Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson ruled out on Wednesday a visit by Hamas politician Salah al-Bardaweel, saying Sweden would not give him a visa because the EU brands the Islamic group terrorists. Persson said his country, which belongs to the 15-country European Schengen group where travelers can move without a passport, said Bardaweel was not welcome in Sweden. Sweden's foreign minister has earlier said that Hamas members were free to visit privately but would not meet government officials. (Reuters)
  • Security Council Is Given Iran Resolution - Colum Lynch
    Britain, France, and Germany presented the UN Security Council on Wednesday with a draft resolution that urges states to restrict nuclear trade with Iran and requires Tehran to halt enriching uranium or face "further measures," a veiled reference to possible sanctions. Russia and China immediately signaled they will oppose the U.S.-backed resolution. (Washington Post)
  • Quartet Ponders Role as Mideast Peace Hopes Crumble - Sue Pleming
    The "Quartet" of world powers trying to mediate between the Palestinians and the Israelis is battling to stay relevant in the face of a Hamas-led government and divisions over how to handle the militant group. Made up of the U.S., Russia, the EU, and the UN, the group is set to look anew at their tactics at a meeting next week in New York. Some political analysts question its usefulness at all now that the peace process is stagnant after the election victory of Hamas, a militant group that refuses to recognize Israel and is responsible for dozens of suicide bombings. "The Quartet's role is very unclear now," said Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution.
        Alvaro de Soto, the UN special envoy for the Middle East, has said the road map should be updated to reflect the grimmer situation on the ground. Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said the road map was plagued with problems from the outset, with neither side understanding their obligations in the same way. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire Barrage of Rockets at Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired five Kassam rockets toward Israel's western Negev region on Friday. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Brands Convergence a Declaration of War - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan - to withdraw from some settlements in the West Bank and to keep large settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty - was "a real declaration of war on our people and we will confront it with all available means." (Jerusalem Post)
  • A Swollen, Bureaucratic Monster Is Managing Palestinian Affairs - Meron Benvenisti
    The PA has no less than 27 ministries. Each ministry has a minister and a deputy minister, and each has regional offices in addition to the main one. There are a total of 114 regional offices in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, there are 14 district governors, each with his own offices. The administrative structure is designed to create a large number of jobs and to hand out favors. Rational considerations such as efficiency certainly did not determine that the Ministry of Education and Higher Education be separate from the Ministry of Culture and Art, as well as from the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Each one of these has several directors-general and separate district offices, of course.
        Public relations are very popular in the PA: In addition to the Special Ministry of Information (which has a minister, deputy minister, advisers, five directors-general and five district offices), Chairman Abbas also has three informational divisions of his own: public relations, foreign information, and a department for the Arabic press and local media. Information technology merits two ministries.
        In addition to the ministries are dozens of "agencies, institutions, authorities, and councils," each one employing dozens of bureaucrats. The security forces comprise ten different organizations, including the naval police. Within this bureaucratic apparatus, average salaries are about two-thirds higher than the national average. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Never Again? - Charles Krauthammer
    Israel's Jewish population has just passed 5.6 million. America's Jewish population was about 5.5 million in 1990, dropped to about 5.2 million ten years later, and is in a precipitous decline that, because of low fertility rates and high levels of assimilation, will cut that number in half by mid-century. But there is a price and a danger to this transformation. It radically alters the prospects for Jewish survival. For 2,000 years, Jews found protection in dispersion - protection not for individual communities, which were routinely persecuted and massacred, but protection for the Jewish people as a whole. Decimated here, they could survive there.
        Hitler demonstrated that modern anti-Semitism married to modern technology could take a scattered people and "concentrate" them for annihilation. Hitler's successors now reside in Tehran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised that Israel would be "eliminated by one storm." Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the presumed moderate of this gang, has explained that "the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground."
        Iran makes clear that if there is any trouble, the Jews will be the first to suffer. "We have announced that wherever [in Iran] America does make any mischief, the first place we target will be Israel," said Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani, a top Revolutionary Guards commander. Hitler had announced seven months before invading Poland that, if there was another war, "the result will be...the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe." In 1938, in the face of the gathering storm - a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the West, and most determinedly of the Jews - the world did nothing. (Washington Post)
  • Human Interest Stories in New York Times Skewed Toward Palestinians - Ricki Hollander
    On May 2, the New York Times published a detailed human interest story on a Palestinian in Beit Hanoun in Gaza whose house was hit and whose son was injured by shrapnel from an Israeli artillery shell fired in response to Kassam rockets launched at Israel by Palestinians from that area. Israeli suffering is minimized by the way the deadly Kassam rockets are described: "the inaccurate, homemade Kassams." "Homemade"? Does the Times really not know that the Kassams are made in a bomb factory? And do they truly fall "harmlessly," when thousands of Israeli parents live in fear every day that their child will be killed or maimed by them?
        Israeli civilians in Sderot, Netiv Ha'asara, Yad Mordechai, and other southern Israeli communities have been killed and traumatized by Palestinian rocket attacks. Netiv Ha'asara was hit by over 100 rocket and mortar shells in the past three years. On July 17, 2005, Dana Glakowitz, 22, was killed there while sitting on her front porch. On November 2, 2005, five Israelis were injured in a mortar attack on Netiv Ha'asara by Palestinian terrorists firing from Gaza. The southern Israeli town of Sderot has been the target of hundreds of rocket attacks. On June 28, 2004, Mordechai Yosefov, 49, and his grandson Afik Zahavi, 3, were killed outside a kindergarten by Kassam rockets. Dorit Aniso, 2, and Yuval Abebeh, 4, were cut down by Palestinian rockets on September 29, 2004. On January 15, 2005, Ella Abukassis, 17, was killed while shielding her younger brother from a Kassam rocket.
        So far in 2006 there have been four human-interest stories in the Times on Palestinians versus none on Israelis: "Warm and Fuzzy TV, Brought to You by Hamas" (Jan. 19); "One Booming Business in Gaza: Tunneling for the Gunrunners" (Jan. 24); "Head High, Hamas Member Returns from Israeli Jail" (Mar. 1); "Gaza Crossings: Choked Passages to Frustration" (Mar. 4). The New York Times has essentially ignored the Israeli targets of the Palestinian attacks from Gaza. Rarely if ever does the newspaper run human interest stories interviewing families or friends of the victims or examining the effects of the daily disruption of civilian life in southern Israel. (CAMERA)
  • Backpedaling in Egypt - Editorial
    Why does the U.S. administration continue to give nearly $2 billion each year to a government that mocks President Bush's democracy initiative? That's an obvious question in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's reneging this week on his earlier promise to end emergency rule in Egypt. The law allows him to imprison political opponents without charge for six months - when the six months are up, his security forces often rearrest their hapless prey - as he tries to eradicate any sprouts of liberal, secular opposition.
        It's true that a Mubarak-ruled Egypt is better than some imaginable alternatives. But the administration and Congress shouldn't limit themselves to Mubarak's no-win options. If they want to help Egypt, aid should go to that nation's civic society and democratic reformers, not the corrupt regime that persecutes those who favor a freedom agenda. (Washington Post)
  • Meeting Abbas - Editorial
    Just because Abbas talks a better game than Hamas when it comes to claiming a desire for a negotiated settlement, he should not be elevated to savior status where Israel or the world is concerned. His record as leader of the PA before Hamas swept into power hardly inspires confidence. Any minimal list of PA requirements would include a determined and effective campaign to disarm all terror organizations; giving up the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel; cessation of the demonization of Israel and Israelis in Palestinian media and mosques; and development of an educational program which would promote all of these moves as good for the Palestinians' own national aspirations. When holding on to all the reins and means of power, Abbas took little or no action in any of these areas.
        Israel's strategic goal since Hamas' election win has been to force it to change its extremist stripes or to impede its ability to govern and thereby hasten its downfall. Israel has successfully convinced significant elements of the international community to follow suit based on first principles: A regime which sustains and justifies terrorism should be isolated. Talks with the chairman of the PA could break this policy by giving the PA as a whole international credibility. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Funding Alternatives to Hamas - Ben Fishman
    On April 7, the State Department announced its plan for restructuring aid to the Palestinians in response to the formation of a government led by Hamas, which has refused Quartet demands to recognize Israel, cease violence and terror, and accept past diplomatic agreements. There may be a great temptation by those seeking a rapid overthrow of Hamas to support the longtime leaders of Fatah who were soundly defeated in the January elections but who still represent the most obvious alternative to Hamas. But the U.S. should not disburse funds to Fatah until the movement, or some element of it, begins the comprehensive political reform and internal housecleaning it continues to avoid. Aid furnished to Fatah leaders absent a parallel process of political revitalization will only be money thrown down the existing Fatah sinkhole. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Muslim World's New Martyrs - Richard Z. Chesnoff
    The growing persecution of Christian minorities in the Islamic world is one of today's most compelling news stories, yet it's all but ignored by most of the international media. Wherever Sharia - orthodox Islamic law - reigns supreme, Christians have become regular targets for Islamic gangs who shoot at worshipers, then torch their houses of worship. (New York Daily News)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel's Mystery Benefactor - Tom Tugend
    The mystery man of the Israeli economy, as he was dubbed by the country's media, is alive and well and living in Los Angeles. His name is Elliott Broidy, and in the last two years he has raised $800 million to boost private enterprise in the Jewish state. Broidy, who founded Broidy Capital Management in 1991, proposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002 to establish a large private equity fund for investments in Israel. "Charity is charity and business is business," Broidy remembers Sharon telling him. "Do something that makes sense and a profit for your investors."
        Broidy established Markstone Capital Group and set a goal of raising $500 million. The New York State Common Retirement Fund signed on for $200 million. The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPers) put in $50 million, and additional amounts came from similar funds in Oregon, New Mexico, North Carolina, and New York City. With the pension funds as a solid base, corporate and private investors, foundations, banks, and insurance companies in the U.S. and Israel swelled the pot. Markstone raised $800 million between 2003 and 2005, with 90% coming from American investors and 10% from Israelis. (Jewish Journal of Los Angeles)
  • Unique Underwater Archaeological Park Opens at Caesarea - Stephen Farrell
    Just off Caesarea port, a unique underwater archaeological park opened last week, showcasing a sunken harbor built by Herod the Great for Caesar Augustus. Guides with waterproof maps lead divers beneath the waves along a marked route around the harbor foundations and sunken ships left on the seabed from 2,000 years of Phoenician, Roman, Jewish, Crusader, Byzantine, Mameluke, and British history One of the four routes can be viewed from the surface by anyone with a snorkel. The other three can be reached only with diving equipment. (Times-UK)
  • Book Review: Jihad in the Days of Jefferson - Erik Schechter
    In 1783, Muslim pirates - sea-faring terrorists - began attacking American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean. In May 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli's ambassador to London, who told them the raids were a jihad against infidels. Muslim privateers felt "it was their duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could as prisoners, and that every Mussleman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise." In Victory in Tripoli, Joshua London gives a fascinating account of how the U.S. took on the pirate states of North Africa. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Movie Review: United 93 - Peter Suderman
    Director Paul Greengrass' "United 93" is the first Hollywood-produced narrative feature to directly depict 9/11. For once, Hollywood got it right. The film, which deals primarily with the passenger uprising that kept the hijacked United Flight 93 from hitting its Washington, D.C., target, is a devastating experience, a solemn memorial, and a harrowing reminder of both the enemy we face and the heroism and sacrifice required to overcome it. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Prime Minister Olmert: "Borders Must Be Defensible and Ensure a Solid Jewish Majority" (Prime Minister's Office)

    Presenting Israel's new government to the Knesset Thursday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said:

    • "I believe with all my heart in the people of Israel's eternal historic right to the entire land of Israel. However, dreams and recognition of this right do not constitute a political program. Even if the Jewish eye cries, and even if our hearts are broken, we must preserve the essence. We must preserve a stable and solid Jewish majority in our state."
    • "The continued dispersed settlement throughout Judea and Samaria creates an inseparable mixture of populations which will endanger the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state....Partition of the land for the purpose of guaranteeing a Jewish majority is the lifeline of Zionism."
    • "The Government of Israel under my leadership prefers negotiations with a Palestinian Authority committed to the principles of the Roadmap, which fights terror, dismantles terrorist organizations, abides by the rules of democracy and upholds, practically and thoroughly, all agreements which have thus far been signed with the State of Israel....That said, we will not wait forever."
    • "We will also act without an agreement with the Palestinians to create an understanding which will, first and foremost, be founded on a correct definition of the desired borders for the State of Israel. These borders must be defensible, and ensure a solid Jewish majority."
    • "The agreement to which we aspire to shape the Middle East is based on consensus, broad consensus first and foremost within ourselves, and thereafter with our friends around the world."

          See also Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace - Yuval Steinitz, Yaakov Amidror, Meir Rosenne, and Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
          See also Olmert's Unilateral Option: An Early Assessment - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) (48pp-pdf)

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