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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

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December 1, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Hizballah Coup in Lebanon Could Oust UNIFIL - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli defense officials expressed extreme concern Thursday over Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah's call for a massive protest Friday to bring down the Lebanese government, warning that UNIFIL might be expelled from Lebanon if Prime Minister Fouad Sinoria were forced to leave office.
    "UNIFIL is not the best, but it has been effective so far in preventing Hizballah from returning to the border," a high-ranking defense official said Thursday.
    "If UNIFIL is kicked out of Lebanon, we could easily find ourselves back in the same situation we were in before the war this past summer, or even back at war."

Israel HighWay
- November 30, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    Israel Summer Programs

North and South - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The IDF's operative assumption is that during the coming summer months, a war will break out against Hizballah and perhaps against Syria as well.
    At the same time, the IDF does not anticipate a long life for the cease-fire achieved last Saturday with the Palestinians in Gaza.
    Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky has recently spoken about a war in the north in the summer in several closed military forums.
    The army is already undergoing an intensive process of preparation, which is based in part on lessons already learned from the second Lebanon war.
    Hamas is building in Gaza a southern version of Hizballah-land, and the cease-fire will enable it to increase its strength without interference, by carrying on with the arms-smuggling industry.
    The calm will collapse at the time most convenient for the enemy, not for Israel.
    See also Arms Smuggling Continuing Despite Gaza Cease-Fire (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli security officials will present their findings to the Security Cabinet that despite the supposed cease-fire in Gaza, weapons smuggling is still continuing in the areas of Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor, Army Radio reported on Friday.

Saudi Ultimatum to UK: Cancel Probe or Plane Contract Goes to France - Christopher Hope (Telegraph-UK)
    Saudi Arabia has given Britain 10 days to halt a fraud investigation into the country's arms trade - or lose a £10 billion Eurofighter contract that supports up to 50,000 British jobs.
    The UK's Serious Fraud Office is investigating allegations of a slush fund for members of the Saudi royal family.
    French President Jacques Chirac has been to Saudi Arabia twice in recent months to offer full French co-operation on a deal to purchase 36 rival Rafale jets.

U.S. Warns of Al-Qaeda Financial Cyber Attack - Kristin Roberts (Reuters)
    The U.S. government warned American private financial services on Thursday of an al-Qaeda call for a cyber attack aimed at penetrating and destroying the databases of online stock trading and banking Web sites beginning on Friday.

Survey: Americans Like Canada, England, and Israel the Best (AP/Macleans-Canada)
    Americans have the warmest feelings about England, Canada, and Israel, in that order of ranking, according to a survey measuring U.S. attitudes toward foreign countries released Thursday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Sniffer Bees Detect Explosives (Reuters/The Australian)
    Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico said Wednesday they trained honeybees to stick out their proboscis - the tube they use to feed on nectar - when they smelt explosives.
    The researchers trained bees to recognize substances ranging from dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives to the howitzer propellant grains used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
    The bees could be carried in hand-held detectors the size of a shoe box, scientist Tim Haarmann said.

Woman Found Inspiration Doing Volunteer Work in Israel - Pilar Ulibarri De Rivera (Palm Beach Post)
    Retired schoolteacher Judy Golden of Delray Beach spent three weeks recently sleeping in barracks, bathing in communal showers, and eating in a dining hall with strangers. It changed her life forever.
    Now Golden wants to tell everyone who will listen about the joys of living and volunteering on an Israeli military base.
    Golden took apart medical packs, which weighed 50 pounds or more, and rebuilt them with the necessary supplies, she said. "If there was one [item] missing, that could mean the difference between one man living or dying."
    "There was such a high caliber of volunteers that were hardworking and educated and that were so dedicated to the Israeli cause," said Golden.
    Never once did she feel like she was in danger, she said.

Israel to Provide Vietnam with Farming Technology (Thanh Nien Daily-Vietnam)
    Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam Ben Matiyan said Wednesday that Israel is working on a three-year cooperative agricultural technology plan with Vietnam, in which it plans to build a modern dairy in Ho Chi Minh City and help with technology in animal husbandry and milk processing.

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  • Impasse on Palestinian Unity Government Freezes Peace Initiative - Helene Cooper
    Talks to form a Palestinian unity government are at a dead end, Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday, ensuring that the Bush administration's plan to start pushing hard for a Middle East peace initiative will stay in a deep freeze for now. Abbas gave his grim assessment about the state of talks between his Fatah faction and Hamas, the militant faction that controls the Palestinian government, after a one-hour meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jericho, in the West Bank.
        American officials said they had hoped to use this trip to build on the fragile Gaza cease-fire reached Saturday between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and perhaps to start a Middle East peace initiative. That hope was bolstered Monday after Mr. Olmert offered to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier and said he was reaching out "for peace." But chances for a new initiative evaporated Wednesday after the Hamas leader, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, took off on a month-long trip to visit Arab allies, a clear indication that the unity talks between Hamas and Fatah had reached an impasse. (New York Times)
  • Hizballah Calls for Rally in Beirut to Bring Down Lebanese Government - Michael Slackman
    Hizballah and its political allies said Thursday that they intended to occupy the center of Beirut beginning Friday with a huge sit-in that they said would last as long as it took to force the Lebanese government to resign. The sit-in would be the most volatile escalation in what has turned into a political death match between the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian Hizballah and its adversaries, the pro-Western March 14 alliance, which leads the current government.
        In a televised speech, Prime Minister Fouad Sinoria blamed Hizballah for dragging all of Lebanon into a war with Israel and for the "heavy price" the country paid. "I am going to stay in office and defend democracy and independence, and we will not be scared by their threats or terrorized by their threats," he said. (New York Times)
        See also Lebanese Think the Unthinkable: Another Civil War - Megan K. Stack (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. May Pursue Iran Sanctions Even if Russia Balks - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Rice signaled Thursday that the U.S. is willing to risk a breach with Russia if the Russians do not soon sign on to a UN Security Council resolution to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. "I am all for maintaining unity, but I am also in favor of action," Rice said. (Washington Post)
        See also Sunni Arab States Wary of Role for Iran
    The so-called "moderate" Arab states are as reluctant as the White House to give Tehran and Damascus a larger role in resolving the Iraq conflict. Troubled by the rising influence and nuclear ambitions of Shia Iran in a largely Sunni Arab world, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are desperate to limit Tehran's power in Iraq. Arab officials say that giving Tehran and Damascus a greater role in containing Iraq's civil war risks further emboldening them. Riyadh, Cairo, and Amman also want to shore up the pro-Western Siniora government in Lebanon and derail Syrian-backed efforts by Hizballah to bring the government down. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Court Sets High Bar in AIPAC Case - Shaun Waterman
    The government has been set a high bar for conviction in the AIPAC secrets case - prosecutors must show the two lobbyists charged under espionage laws knew that the disclosure of the material they allegedly passed to reporters and Israeli officials would hurt the U.S. "The Court imposed the requirement that the government prove that the defendant knew the information...would harm the United States," Judge Thomas Ellis told a Nov. 16 pre-trial hearing, though prosecutors had asked that this requirement be lifted.
        Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, said the prosecution had "radically expanded the practical scope of national security law." He said it had always been understood that government employees who leaked were in criminal jeopardy, but not the reporters - or in this case lobbyists - to whom they were leaking.
        The case was originally expected to come to trial this year, but the date has been repeatedly deferred. Judge Ellis now says he will reserve time in May and June 2007 for a possible trial. (UPI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Despite Truce - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Friday morning, in violation of the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired 15 rockets at Israel since the cease-fire began Sunday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Israel has not responded to the rocket fire. (Ha'aretz/Jerusalem Post)
  • Rice Urges Cease-Fire "Consolidation" - Herb Keinon
    U.S. Secretary of State Rice came to Israel on Thursday, patted Prime Minister Olmert on the back, and left a few hours later without leaving much of a footprint. Rice praised Olmert for his "very positive speech" Monday, saying it represented "a hand reaching out to a Palestinian partner." Rice also praised Israel for its "statement of restraint" concerning the cease-fire, "because it is of course quite fragile, but we would like to see it consolidated and then extended." The main purpose of Rice's last-minute visit to Jerusalem, said a U.S. official, was to show support for the cease-fire and Olmert's speech. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Chirac: France, U.S. Agree There Is No Point Talking to Syria - Shmuel Rosner
    France and the U.S. agree there is no point in talking to Syria because the conditions for an honest dialogue do not exist, French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday at a NATO summit in Latvia. (Ha'aretz)
  • Olmert: No UN Force in Gaza - Ronny Sofer
    According to a senior European diplomat, Prime Minister Olmert told EU ambassadors Tuesday, "We are not interested in establishing a multinational force UNIFIL-style to oversee the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Besides, if we allow such a force, you would [later] curse us." Olmert also warned of the possibility of a severe terrorist attack or rocket firing which could cause much harm and may bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire.
        The diplomat also said the EU stood behind the three Quartet conditions which included recognizing Israel, renouncing terror, and acknowledging past agreements between Israel and Palestinians. "None of the European ambassadors present at the meeting with Olmert asked for flexibility of those conditions," he explained. (Ynet News)
        See also Olmert: No Hizballah Prisoner Swap Unless Israeli Soldiers Are Alive
    Israel will not free prisoners to Hizballah unless it proves that two Israeli soldiers it captured are alive, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told EU ambassadors this week. "We do not plan on giving Hizballah what they want in exchange for coffins," a participant quoted Olmert as saying. "We do not plan on making any deal with Hizballah until I receive proof the soldiers are alive."  (Reuters)
  • Former IDF Chief of Staff Target of New Zealand Arrest Warrant - Talia Dekel
    Despite an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes issued by the Auckland District Court, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon remained in New Zealand on Friday after the local Justice Ministry canceled the warrant at the last minute. Ya'alon said, "I am fully aware of the intention to make a claim against me, but thankfully New Zealand is still one of the countries which enforces the law correctly and does not allow people who want to stir up public opinion, to use Western tools to attack people like us on democratic missions, as opposed to those on missions of terror." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Our Allies, the Iranian People - Yossi Melman
    Former Israeli ambassador to Iran Uri Lubrani, currently an advisor to the defense minister, says the second Lebanon war really drove him crazy. "Suddenly everyone was surprised at the depth of Iran's penetration of Lebanon. People started to talk in terms of 'Iran's northern command is right on the Israeli border.'" "For years, at every opportunity we warned that there was an Iranian danger. That it was greater and more profound than any other danger facing Israel. Even more than the Palestinian issue. We said that it should be handled first. Not only in Lebanon, but in Tehran as well. Because from Tehran they send out tentacles to Berlin, to Saudi Arabia, to Argentina."
        "We have a big and important ally in Iran: the Iranian people....The question is what is necessary to make them take to the streets instead of succumbing to submissiveness and depression." "I believe that there's a popular basis for a change in Iran. The Iranians do not want to be a nation that has religion forced upon it....The Iranians have access to radio and television. They see what's going on in the world. There's a community of four million Iranian exiles and emigrants. There are family ties. Those who live abroad constitute an object for imitation and envy."
        "There is a great deal of wealth there as a result of the royalties from oil and the increase in oil prices. On the other hand there is astonishing poverty. The economic situation of most of the nation is very bad. There is tremendous unemployment. There is inflation of over 20 percent. I feel that conditions are ripe for carrying out a regime change." "The United States has thus far spent $100 billion on Iraq; with a small fraction of this sum, the aim can be achieved."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Should Accept Israeli Peace Overture - Editorial
    It would be a fatal mistake to walk away from an offer that would end the pariah status of the Haniya [Hamas] government and ultimately lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Unfortunately, it's a mistake Palestinian leaders have made before. (San Antonio Express-News)
  • For Palestinians, A New Low - Editorial
    Even by the standards of Palestinian terrorists, this ranks as a new low. Last week Hamas sent a grandmother as a suicide bomber to attack Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The good news is that she was unsuccessful: She didn't kill anyone except herself. And we suppose it's also good news that Hamas is so short of recruits that they must now resort to brainwashed grandmas - much as the Nazis conscripted young boys and old men in the waning days of the Second World War. The bad news is that there are Muslims on this earth who think Allah wants them to turn grandmothers into walking bombs. It seems the harder Israel and the rest of the world try to give the Palestinians their own country, the harder they try to prove that they don't deserve one. (National Post-Canada)
  • Why Can't Egypt Push the Palestinians to Make Peace? - Zvi Mazel
    Why hasn't Egypt's ongoing involvement in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians helped in resolving the ongoing conflict? While Egypt is still the most important Arab country, it is not an oil power. Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, is a moderate man, a man of peace, who is trying to make something happen, but it won't work. Today we face a different Arab world where the radical forces have become stronger and they do not bend to normal political pressures.
        The Egyptians want an orderly Gaza to guarantee stability in the region. They are as afraid of terrorists as we are, but they also do not know how to deal with people who don't care about human lives. The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Death's Workshop - Michael Hastings
    Abu Abdullah has almost finished assembling another rocket at a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hideout in Gaza's Khan Yunis refugee camp. His is merely one of a dozen or so armed groups that are operating in Gaza. Most, if not all, have rockets. According to the Israeli government, 640 rocket attacks have been launched from Gaza since July, with about 530 landing inside Israel. The Gaza militants say they've made big improvements, packing in more explosives and adding a second engine; some groups have begun upgrading to military-grade explosives, smuggled in from Egypt. And years of experience have sharpened their aim until they can count on striking within a quarter mile of a chosen target. (Newsweek)
  • Fatah Sinks Deeper into Disarray
    The Fatah Party that dominated Palestinian political life for four decades under Yasser Arafat has sunken deeper into irrelevance since Islamic Hamas militants ousted it from power 10 months ago. Its leaders are ailing or well beyond retirement age, its rank-and-file are entangled in petty infighting, and its only hope for a comeback at the polls languishes in an Israeli jail. Its weaknesses have forced Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, to try to co-opt Hamas rather than break it. "Sadly, our historic movement is dying," said Mohammed Mansour, the party's Ramallah district leader, sitting in a deserted office with broken chairs and torn posters on the walls. "Apparently, our role is over."
        Israel and the West see Fatah as the only Palestinian partner. But polls show Fatah would have a hard time winning if Abbas called early elections. Paradoxically, Abbas is seen as a key obstacle to change. His critics say that as Fatah chief, Abbas could have taken the first steps toward reform by calling a long-overdue party convention - the last one was 17 years ago - and by setting a date for internal elections. However, the 71-year-old Abbas does not have a strong power base in Fatah and an overhaul could further weaken his position. By leaving the old guard in power - the average age in Fatah's 16-member Central Committee is 67 - he can control the party more easily. (AP/Boston Herald)
  • Student Politics Turn Violent in Divided Gaza - Charles Levinson
    Voting for student government at Gaza City's Al-Azhar University was proceeding smoothly on a recent fall morning until a pushing match erupted outside a polling booth. Kalashnikovs appeared seemingly from nowhere as gunmen stormed onto campus. Panicked students scrambled for shelter beneath bursts of automatic gunfire. Al-Azhar is a Fatah stronghold. Next door, the Islamic University is Hamas country. Dozens of windows at the Islamic University remain shattered from a recent battle sparked by an inflammatory speech by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus. Stones and fists soon turned to guns, and before the dust had settled, a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into an Al-Azhar classroom. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • It's Always Israel's Fault - Mindelle Jacobs
    The concept of land for peace has long been the reigning sentiment fuelling the push for consensus in the Middle East. Too bad it's a myth. Israel retreats and the Arabs smell weakness, ululating in joy as they dream of the eradication of the Jewish state. By now, the Palestinians should have been well on their way to statehood. It's been more than a year since Israel uprooted thousands of Jewish settlers and pulled out of Gaza. But when you elect terrorists whose priorities include murdering Israelis and kidnapping Westerners for kicks, it's hard to build a state, never mind lure tourist dollars.
        Israelis live in hope that one day Palestinians will choose reconciliation and peacemaking over terror and hatred. Ordinary Palestinians, however, continue to embrace murderous pursuits, as exemplified by the recent decision of a 64-year-old grandmother to blow herself up near Israeli troops. If "innocent" Palestinians want peace, they should stop forming human shields to protect terrorists and destroy the rockets in their backyards instead. (Edmonton Sun-Canada)
  • Observations:

    The Energy Wall - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, 1Dec06)

    • I believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the big "clash of civilizations" now under way between the Muslim world and the West what the Spanish Civil War was to World War II. It's Off Broadway to Broadway.
    • The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, was the theater where Great European powers tested out many weapons and tactics that were later deployed on a larger scale in World War II. Similarly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the small theater where many weapons and tactics get tested out first and then go global. So if you study the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Off Broadway, you can learn a lot about how the larger war now playing out on Broadway, in Iraq and Afghanistan, might proceed.
    • For instance, airplane hijacking was perfected in the Israeli-Palestinian context, as a weapon of terrorism, and then was globalized. Suicide bombing was perfected there, and then was globalized. The Oslo peace process, which David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, calls an "attempt by Israel to empower a Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate," was first tried there and then, in a different way, moved to the big stage with the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. These were a U.S. effort to create Arab and Afghan partners to push a progressive, democratic agenda in the Muslim world.
    • Unfortunately, Oslo failed Off Broadway. So what do we do next? Again, start by looking at what happened in the Israeli-Palestinian theater.
    • Israel decided to just build a wall. As a result of the Palestinian intifada of 2000-2004. Israel concluded that partnership at that time was impossible with the Palestinians, whose leaders were too divided and dysfunctional to prevent suicide bombing. So Israel erected a wall, unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, and basically said to the Palestinians, "We'll continue to engage you, but only from a position of strength, only after we're insulated from the daily threat of suicide bombings or the burden of occupying Gaza."
    • What would be the equivalent for the West and the Muslim world? How do we insulate ourselves from the madness of the Middle East - if Iraq and Afghanistan can't be made to work - without giving up on reform there, which is still badly needed?
    • Build a virtual wall. End our oil addiction. Build a wall of energy independence that will enable us to continue to engage honestly with the most progressive Arabs and Muslims on a reform agenda, but without being hostage to the most malevolent.

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