Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 22, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Assad, Lebanon, and the Gemayel Assassination - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The assassination of Lebanese Christian minister Pierre Gemayel on Tuesday was intended to remind the anti-Syrian forces in Beirut that President Bashar Assad has not forgiven them for forcing him to pull his army out of Lebanon in a humiliating manner.
    Syrian military intelligence officers, who operate under the guise of businessmen, have infiltrated the Lebanese security branches and the political establishment in Beirut.
    With the help of remaining pro-Syrian elements such as Hizballah, the Syrians have embarked on a systematic policy of eliminating and terrorizing their critics. Gemayel was the fifth anti-Syrian figure to be killed in Lebanon in the past two years. Three other critics of the Syrian regime have been wounded in failed assassination attempts.
    The Gemayel assassination comes only days after reports in the U.S. media claimed that Washington was seeking Syria's assistance in ending the violence in Iraq.
    Gemayel's friends are convinced that the U.S. overtures toward Syria encouraged Assad to order the killing of another one of his foes in Lebanon.

Israel HighWay
- November 21, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    Celebrating Thanksgiving in Israel

Israeli Arab Convicted as Iranian Spy - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Jaris Jaris, 59, an Israeli Arab, was sentenced to a prison term of 34 months on Monday after being convicted of spying for Iran, it was released for publication on Tuesday.
    Jaris was arrested on December 12, 2005, after investigators discovered he had been recruited by Iran to infiltrate the corridors of power by making efforts to be elected to the Knesset.
    Security officials said "Jaris' interrogation reveals a web of Iranian espionage activity against Israel."
    "The efforts included attempts to infiltrate an Iranian agent into the Knesset with the primary goal of obtaining classified information and influencing government decisions."
    Police said that in 2005 the Shin Bet identified a significant rise in the number of Iranian attempts to recruit Israeli citizens as spies.

UN Commissioner for Human Rights Refuses to Meet Families of Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    The families of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and Gilad Shalit protested on Tuesday to UN representatives in Israel following the refusal of Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to meet with them.
    Arbour, who is on a five-day tour of the Palestinian territories and Israel, finally said "no" to a meeting after avoiding a direct answer for two weeks.

Chinese Delegation Arrives in Israel - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Liu Qi, a member of China's Politburo central committee and a former Beijing mayor, arrived Tuesday in Israel for a four-day visit, accompanied by 17 Communist Party members, and a delegation representing 14 of the leading companies in China.

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  • Anti-Syrian Minister Assassinated in Lebanon - Christine Hauser
    Pierre Gemayel, a Lebanese cabinet minister and prominent anti-Syrian Christian leader, was shot and killed Tuesday in Beirut in the latest in a series of killings of prominent Lebanese figures who were critical of Syria. Gemayel's father is Amin Gemayel, a former president. Witnesses said at least three gunmen rammed a car into Gemayel's vehicle, then leapt out and riddled his vehicle with bullets, firing at him with silencer-equipped automatic weapons at point-blank range. (New York Times)
        See also Assassination Increases Tensions with Syria, Iran - Robin Wright
    President Bush blasted Syria and Iran Tuesday after the assassination of Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel for trying to destabilize Lebanon. Bush said the U.S. remains "fully committed" to supporting Lebanon's democracy despite attempts by Damascus, Tehran, and their allies in Lebanon "to foment instability and violence." He also charged that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in violation of two UN resolutions for its ongoing meddling in Lebanon. (Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Link to Murder Threatens Blair's Policy of Engagement with Syria - Rosemary Bennett and Philip Webster
    Tony Blair's policy of engagement with Syria came under immediate threat Tuesday as the assassination of a Lebanese government minister was blamed on Damascus. The murder brings the Lebanese government perilously close to collapse. The government will fall if it loses one more cabinet member. (Times-UK)
        See also Syria Denies Involvement in Gemayel Assassination, Accuses Israel (Kuwait News Agency)
  • Israelis Bombarded with Rockets from Gaza - Carolynne Wheeler
    The psychological impact of daily alarms that warn of incoming rockets is mounting. Schools struggle to function and streets are largely deserted as families do what they can to get out of Sderot, or at least stay out of harm's way. At Alon Madaim school, the roof has been reinforced with steel plates, walls reinforced with plaster over steel, and windows coated to prevent shattering. On the side facing the Gaza Strip, a stand-alone exterior wall is ready to bear the brunt of rockets. Only a general assembly area, the gymnasium, and a few classrooms are not protected. Still, children are afraid an alarm will sound while they're in the hallway. "People don't realize what's going on here, really," said Liora Pima, the school's principal. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • Israel: Syria Preventing Kidnapped Soldier's Release
    Syria has disrupted efforts to free an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and interfered in attempts to defuse Israel's ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni said Monday in London. "Whenever there was a kind of chance to release him, the order came from Syria saying not to release him," she told the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Whenever Hamas showed signs of cooperation with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Syria sent messages saying, "don't do it," she said. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Calling for Palestinian Civilians to Shield Terrorists' Homes Violates International Law
    Palestinian armed groups must not endanger Palestinian civilians by encouraging them to gather in and around suspected militants' homes targeted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Calling civilians to a location that the opposing side has identified for attack is at worst human shielding, at best failing to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Both are violations of international humanitarian law.
        "There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm's way is unlawful." "[PA] Prime Minister Haniyeh and other Palestinian leaders should be renouncing, not embracing, the tactic of encouraging civilians to place themselves at risk," said Whitson. (Human Rights Watch/Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Wounded by Palestinian Rocket Tuesday Dies
    Yaakov Yaakobov, 43, died on Tuesday after sustaining critical wounds in a Palestinian rocket strike on the Israeli town of Sderot. A rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza came crashing through the roof of the poultry packing plant in which he worked. The rocket also started a fire which firefighters brought under control. A worker in the plant told Army Radio that the building had no defenses against rocket attacks, and that when an alert was sounded, all that the employees could do was "pray to God that it would not hit them."  (Ha'aretz)
        Yaakov Yaakobov, the father of two teenage boys, won't get to celebrate his son's bar mitzva next month. A video released to the media showed how the workers ran for the safety of a nearby protected room after the warning siren rang out. Yaakobov, who immigrated from Russia 12 years ago, is the last one seen heading out from behind a stack of boxes before the Kassam crashed through the roof. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Israeli School Wednesday - Shmulik Hadad
    A Palestinian rocket landed Wednesday morning near an elementary school and a kindergarten in Sderot shortly before the start of the school day. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Improve Rockets: Sderot Turns into Ghost Town - Yael Ivri
    The streets of Sderot seemed emptier than ever. A large number of residents left the city for safer places. Those who stayed did not dare to leave the houses and the fortified areas. Only a few dared to go out to the market and the commercial centers, places which in the past were teeming with life. "Today the parents are afraid to send their children outside, and I understand them," said Haim Baranes, 28. "For a month and a half now, since they began firing the improved Kassam rockets at us, since the injuries and casualties here, people are afraid. I myself am under stress, most of my friends and the people my age have left the city." (Ynet News)
  • Olmert: New European Peace Plan Impeding Regional Progress
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Tuesday in a telephone call that the new European initiative for Middle East peace was interfering in political progress between Israel and Palestinians. Prodi said on Tuesday he wants Britain and Germany to be part of a new initiative being developed by Italy, France, and Spain. (Reuters/Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Another Murder in Beirut for Jim Baker to Contemplate - Editorial
    Former Secretary of State James Baker has been saying that, when it comes to diplomacy, you don't "restrict your conversations to your friends" - shorthand for the view that the U.S. should engage Syria and Iran to find solutions in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. But Tuesday's murder of Lebanese Minister Pierre Gemayel might remind even Mr. Baker and his Iraq Study Group what some of those non-friends are all about.
        "The hand of Syria is all over" Gemayel's assassination, said Saad Hariri, the leader of the parliamentary bloc that helped evict the Syrian army in the spring of 2005. Mr. Hariri knows whereof he speaks: His father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was blown up with 22 others in February 2005, and the preliminary UN investigation offered a trail of evidence pointing to Damascus as the culprit. When it comes to Syria, do the sages of the Iraq Study Group really want the Bush Administration to seek the benediction of a country that stirs such mayhem in Beirut? (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Discredit to the United Nations - Editorial
    The old, unreformed UN Human Rights Commission was selective and one-sided, but occasionally managed to do some good work. That may be more than can be said for its successor body, the Human Rights Council, born earlier this year. If this is the best the UN can do at reforming itself, it isn't worth the effort. The council is new, but its deliberations have already fallen into a shameful pattern. When it comes to the world's worst and most consistent human rights violators, like China, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, and Sudan, there has been a tendency to muffle words and conclusions and shift the focus from individual and political rights to broader economic and social questions. But when it comes to criticizing Israel for violations committed in a wartime context that includes armed attacks against its citizens and soldiers, the council seems to change personality, turning harshly critical and uninterested in broader contexts. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Both Attacked and Condemned - Yoel Marcus (Ha'aretz)

    • On April 16, 2001, Palestinians in Gaza fired the first Kassam rocket at Sderot. Experts called it "primitive." Two months later, this primitive rocket killed two inhabitants of Sderot, one a child.
    • For more than five years now, this primitive rocket has been improving, both in power and range. They are nearing strategic sites on the outskirts of Ashkelon. The 20-second warning seems like a joke; the inhabitants run across the street as though racing against the second hand. One manages to find shelter, another is stricken with disaster and a leg is amputated.
    • After the IDF bombardment of Beit Hanoun, in which 19 Palestinians were killed by mistake, a huge majority at the UN sees Israel as the cruel aggressor. Its apology was not accepted. But have you ever heard Hamas apologizing for killing women and children? Have they ever asked forgiveness for the firing on Sderot? They have been firing on a civilian locale for more than six years now, and it is Israel that is defined as the aggressor.
    • Israel is the only country in the world in which one of its cities is a target for rockets every day. One wonders how France would react if Dijon and Rouen were under bombardment. No country would put up with the situation in which one of its cities is a permanent shooting range, and where crossing a street or going to the grocery store has become death poker.
    • The Palestinians do not want to recognize Israel or come to terms with its existence. Instead of building up and developing the territory that Israel evacuated, like the Egyptians did in Sinai, they have turned Gush Katif into a base for firing daily at the inhabitants of the Negev, firing that is aimed at civilians, women and children.
    • Israel is finding itself both attacked and condemned. The situation cannot continue like this. If Hamas continues to torpedo all discussions by not recognizing Israel and employing terror against its citizens, there will be no choice but to revert to the biblical method of an eye for an eye.

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