Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 28, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizballah Leader's "Regret" - Has Israel Regained Its Deterrence? (Times-UK)
    Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah told Lebanese television Sunday:
    "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture [of the two Israeli soldiers] would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11...that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."

UNIFIL Broadcasts Israeli Troop Movements - Lori Lowenthal Marcus (Weekly Standard)
    During the recent war, UN "peacekeeping" forces published on its website daily real-time intelligence of obvious usefulness to Hizballah on the location, equipment, and force structure of Israeli troops in Lebanon.
    At the same time, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hizballah forces.

U.S. Support for Israel Soars after Hizballah War - George Conger (Jerusalem Post)
    The American public's support for Israel has risen sharply following the war with Hizballah, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and reported on Aug. 23.
    As of mid-August, 52% of Americans sympathized with Israel while 11% backed the Palestinians. Less than a month earlier, Pew found 44% support for Israel and 9% for the Palestinians.
    Some 42% of Americans believe "Israel was given to the Jewish people by God."

UK Poll Shows Increase in Fear of Islam - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    A majority of people in the UK fear Islam as a religion, not only its extremist elements, and a growing number feel that the country faces "a Muslim problem," a YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph published Friday has revealed.
    53% feel threatened by Islam and see it as a threat to the West.

El Salvador Announces Embassy Move from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (AFP/Sunday Telegraph-UK)
    Officials in El Salvador announced Friday that they will transfer their embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
    El Salvador had been the only country to maintain its embassy in Jerusalem, after Costa Rica decided on August 16 to move its mission to Tel Aviv.
    See also El Salvador President of Palestinian Descent - Brian Harris (JTA)
    El Salvador's president, Antonio "Tony" Saca, is of Palestinian descent.
    In 2004, shortly before his election, Saca was a major contributor to construction of a "Palestine Plaza" in San Salvador to honor the "victims" of Israeli independence in 1948.
    See also And Then There Were None - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Fox News Journalists Released in Gaza after Forced to Convert to Islam - Doug Struck and Howard Kurtz
    After being forced at gunpoint to say they embraced Islam, American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 - two Fox News journalists kidnapped 13 days ago - were delivered unharmed to a Gaza hotel Sunday. A videotape sent to al-Jazeera television just hours before their release showed the two men somberly reading texts criticizing the American administration and saying they had become Muslims and had taken the names Mohammed and Yusef. "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint," Centanni said. (Washington Post)
  • Lantos: Freeze Aid to Lebanon Until it Prevents Arms Smuggling to Hizballah
    Congressman Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said Sunday he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevents arms smuggling to Hizballah. "A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hizballah attacks in the future. Hizballah must not be allowed to rearm again," he said. Lantos said he aimed to put a temporary hold on the aid package until the Syrian border was secured. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Mufti of Tyre: "The Shi'ite Community in Lebanon Authorized No One to Declare War in its Name"
    The Mufti of Tyre, Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin, told the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar on Aug. 22: "I don't think Hizballah asked the Shi'ite community about the war. Perhaps the great emigration from the south is the best proof that the people of the south were against the war. The Shi'ite community authorized no one to declare war in its name or to drag it into a war that was far from its wishes and from the wishes of the other ethnic communities in Lebanon. What happened in the south does not represent the will of the Shi'ite community, and is not its responsibility, but was caused by the vacuum that the Lebanese state left for years in this region." (MEMRI)
  • Iran Opens a Heavy-Water Reactor - Michael Slackman
    On Saturday, just days before Iran is supposed to suspend enrichment of uranium or face the prospect of sanctions, President Ahmadinejad formally inaugurated a heavy-water reactor. Nuclear experts note that heavy-water facilities are more useful for weapons than peaceful power generation because they produce lots of plutonium - the preferred ingredient for missile warheads. (New York Times)
        See also Russian Assessment: Iran's Heavy-Water Project Could Spark Regional Armed Conflict (Interfax-Russia)
        See also U.S. Plans for Sanctions on Iran - Bill Gertz
    The Bush administration plans to move rapidly to organize and impose international economic sanctions on Iran after a Thursday UN deadline passes, according to Bush administration officials. Sanctions likely will be imposed after passage of a UN Security Council Chapter 7 resolution, and will be applied in stages. A coalition of nations in Europe and Asia also is being organized to impose sanctions on Iran should the UN Security Council fail to take action. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Blows Up Hizballah Tunnels, Bunkers in Southern Lebanon - Nir Hasson
    In recent days, IDF troops uncovered and blew up a network of underground outposts, tunnels, and bunkers in southern Lebanon near Rosh Hanikra. Lt.-Col. Rasal Elian, deputy commander of the Golani brigade, said fortified bunkers were found carved in the mountain, as were a communications networks between positions, rocket launching sites, escape routes, a ventilation system, showers and bathrooms, as well as a lab for manufacturing explosives. The network was not visible from the air, nor from ground-level observation posts. "You can't see it until you're 10-15 meters from the site," Elian said. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Proposes International Observers at Gaza-Israel Crossing - Avi Issacharoff
    The U.S. security coordinator in the territories, Gen. Keith Dayton, presented a detailed proposal last week to PA representatives and to Israel to enable the reopening of the Karni crossing, Gaza's economic lifeline. Due to repeated threats of terror attacks at the crossing, Israel has frequently shut it down. According to Dayton's proposal, 90 international observers would be stationed on the Palestinian side to ensure that PA security personnel do what is necessary to prevent terror attacks in the vicinity. While the observers would be European, like those already stationed at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, American officials would supervise them.
        While Israeli security officials welcomed the plan, terming it an opportunity to both improve Gaza's economy and strengthen Abbas' position in the Palestinian political arena, they warned that Israel will not agree to implement it until Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped to Gaza in June, is released. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Spokesman: Palestinians Have Failed in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In an article published Sunday, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled PA, questioned the effectiveness of Kassam rocket attacks on Israel and noted that since Israel evacuated Gaza, the situation there has deteriorated on all levels. Dismissing Israel's responsibility for the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in Gaza, Hamad said it was time for the Palestinians to embark on a soul-searching process to see where they erred. "We're always afraid to talk about our mistakes," he added. "We're used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganized traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories - one that has limited our capability to think."
        Hamad admitted that the Palestinians have failed in developing Gaza following the Israeli withdrawal and in imposing law and order. He said about 500 Palestinians have been killed and 3,000 wounded since the Israeli pullout, in addition to the destruction of much of the infrastructure. By comparison, he said, only three or four Israelis have been killed by the rockets fired from Gaza over the same period. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Do You Take a Gun Away? - James Traub
    Can Hizballah be disarmed? The UN Security Council, the major Western powers, and the government of Lebanon have all called for the Shiite militia to be shorn of its weapons. But how? And by whom? And if Hizballah is not disarmed, all of the appalling bloodshed just concluded may be only the prelude to something worse. Victors in war forcibly disarm the losers. But in a war that ends without decisive victory, the fighting force must more or less agree to disarm itself.
        Disarmament, like peacekeeping itself, offers a set of time-tested, codified practices that are quite effective under certain political conditions and futile in their absence. Kosovo and Sierra Leone worked not because peacekeepers got disarmament right but because the politics were right, or because the balance of force was favorable to peacekeepers. Otherwise, disarmament fails. Hizballah has used its weapons on Israel, and it fights Israel with the professed goal of destroying it. If we take Hizballah at its word, disarmament can come only in the wake of apocalyptic triumph. (New York Times)
  • Feuding Muslims on a Collision Course - Vali Nasr
    Hizballah is not a headache for Israel alone. The Shiite extremist group poses an equally daunting challenge to the Sunni Arab regimes in the Middle East. For behind Hizballah's perceived heroics in the Lebanon war sits Shiite Iran, with its claim to great-power status. If unchallenged, the Iran-Hizballah axis will end the millenniums-old Sunni Arab domination of the Middle East. The writer is a professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Arabs Between Israel and Iran - Sana Abdallah (UPI)
  • Observations:

    Palestinians Envy Hizballah - Harry de Quetteville (Telegraph-UK)

    • In the West Bank town of Nablus, songs about the heroism of local "martyrs" are out of fashion. Top of the pops now is a catchy number about the "hawk of Lebanon" - Hizballah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah. "I wish we were like Hizballah," said Mohamed Eesa, an al-Aqsa militant in Nablus.
    • Eesa and his fellow fighters list the differences between disciplined, well-equipped Hizballah units and divided, poorly armed Palestinians. The results of Palestinian militant weaknesses are clear. The walls are covered in posters honoring the "martyrs" who have been killed fighting Israel.
    • With tactical, military, and intelligence supremacy, Israel is able to eliminate Palestinian fighters almost at will, while suffering few casualties.
    • For Hafez Barghouti, the editor of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the endless proud failures of Palestinian fighters have become intolerable. "Why do we insist that we are brigades, militias, groups, commandos, raiders, and mighty ones?" he asked. "Let us lay down our arms because we don't know how to use them and save our people more destruction and blood."

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