Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 12, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Defector Spied on Iran Since 2003 - Uzi Mahnaimi (Times-UK)
    Former Iranian deputy defense minister Brig.-Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, 63, who is understood to be undergoing debriefing at a NATO base in Germany, had been spying on Iran since 2003 when he was recruited on an overseas business trip, according to Iranian sources.
    After it became clear that his cover was about to be blown, he and at least 10 close family members succeeded in fleeing the country.
    Asgari and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2006, had been rivals for many years.

Israel Campus Beat
- March 11, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    The Saudi Plan

Outcry Forces Hamas to Rescind Book Ban - (AP/Washington Post)
    The Hamas-run PA Education Ministry on Saturday rescinded its decision to pull an anthology of Palestinian folk tales from school libraries and destroy copies, reportedly over mild sexual innuendo, following a widespread public outcry.
    Some 1,500 copies of the book were destroyed - the most direct attempt by Hamas to impose its militant Muslim beliefs on Palestinian society.
    Dozens of writers, academics and other intellectuals marched to the Education Ministry in Ramallah to protest the ministry's decision to pull the anthology, holding banners reading, "No to Ignorance, Yes to Enlightenment."

Israel Approves Jordan Rail Link (AFP/Yahoo)
    The Israeli government on Sunday approved an extensive regional cooperation project which includes the creation of a railway linking Jordan to the northern Israeli port of Haifa.
    Most of the projects will be concentrated in the Jordan Valley and will include the construction of a canal between the Red Sea and the gradually-evaporating Dead Sea.

Jordan Restores Military Conscription - Riad Kahwaji (Defense News)
    Jordan, which suspended military conscription in 1999, decided March 6 to resume compulsory service at a more limited scale, with 18-year-old men serving for three months instead of the previous two years.
    "This law was more or less a response to public demand," said retired Maj. Gen. Suleiman Al-Manaseer. "In addition to receiving basic boot-camp training, the conscripts will receive essential vocational training that would help them find jobs afterwards."

Al-Qaeda Targets "Al-Andalus" (Spain) - Tracy Wilkinson (Los Angeles Times)
    Nearly 300 suspected Islamic militants have been arrested in Spain since March 11, 2004, after bombs ripped through four Madrid train stations, killing 191 people and injuring nearly 2,000.
    Roughly 80% of the militants are from the Maghreb, according to a study by Madrid's Elcano Royal Institute.
    In February, Ayman al-Zawahri, the No. 2 leader in al-Qaeda, called on Islamic radicals in the Maghreb to "raise the flag of jihad" over North Africa and Spain "to once again feel the soil of al-Andalus beneath your feet."
     "Al-Andalus" refers to that part of Spain controlled by Islamic forces for seven centuries until their expulsion in 1492.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizbullah Preparing for the Next Round of War - Andrew Mills
    Hizbullah forces have returned to the mountains north of the Litani River, beyond the jurisdiction of UN soldiers stationed in southern Lebanon, to build a new line of attack. "We know that they're here," says Hafez Kirwan, 42, leader of the Druze village of As-Srairi, 20 km. north of the Israeli border. During last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah, its fighters used the thick underbrush of these mountainsides as cover to fire missiles into Israel. Locals say those fighters are back, in greater numbers, moving more frequently and, everyone suspects, stockpiling more weapons than ever before.
        Hizbullah says it has spent the last seven months preparing for another major battle with Israel by regrouping and amassing some 33,000 missiles. "We are completing our preparedness for a greater and more dangerous stage," Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address last month. (Toronto Star)
  • Palestinian Minister Admits Foreign Aid Millions Lost - Josh Mitnick
    Salam Fayyad, 54, who is poised to start his second stint as PA Treasury chief in a new "unity" government, said that Palestinian finances have descended into such chaos that he has no idea where much of foreign donors' money has been spent in the 14 months since Hamas won elections. An estimated £362.5 million has flowed into Palestinian government coffers from abroad since the election that brought Hamas to power including £59.5 million from the EU. PA spending is out of control, salaries are being paid to workers who never turn up, and nobody can track where the money is going, according to Fayyad. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • China Balks at Proposed Financial Bans on Iran - Evelyn Leopold
    China, backed by Russia, balked on Friday at financial sanctions against Iran during talks among six powers on a new UN Security Council resolution that would penalize Tehran for its nuclear program. Envoys close to the negotiations said Western nations had offered several ways to accommodate China and others on the financial sanctions. Russia and China also have not signed on to a mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials connected with the nuclear program. (Reuters)
  • Egypt in the Dock over Police Torture - Conal Urquhart
    Many Egyptians are feeling the pressure of what has been called the biggest crackdown in 26 years on opponents of the regime. Tareq Khater, director of the Association for Human Rights and Legal Aid, said torture of suspects was routine in Egyptian police stations and an important weapon in the war on dissent. "Torture has become systematic under President Mubarak. He uses it to force people to submit to his absolute power and to create fear, so that people think twice about disobedience," he said. Suspects claim that the torture takes various forms, including being beaten or electrocuted. (Observer-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Abbas Meet in Jerusalem - Ronny Sofer
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed Sunday that the Saudi initiative could serve as a basis for promoting a diplomatic process ahead of the implementation of the Roadmap. However, the two did not agree on the issues of the right of return, Jerusalem, prisoner releases, and the settlements. Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said that in a recent meeting between Olmert and a senior European diplomatic source, the prime minister made it clear that Israel's red line in the Saudi initiative, and in initiatives of other moderate Arab countries, was the implementation of the Palestinian refugees' right of return. Abbas reiterated his commitment to the three Quartet conditions, which include recognizing Israel, renouncing terror, and honoring past agreements signed between Israel and the PA. (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Meet, Producing Scant Results but a Pledge to Talk Again - Steven Erlanger
    Abbas and Olmert held their second meeting in a month on Sunday, but aides said afterward that there was little concrete progress to report. (New York Times)
  • Senior Hamas Militant Killed in Clashes with Fatah in Gaza
    Mohammad al-Kafarna, a member of Hamas' Executive Force, was killed Sunday in fighting with Fatah in Beit Hanun in Gaza, the first fatality in such clashes since the two sides agreed a month ago to form a unity government. Explosions from mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades shook the town. Seven Palestinians were wounded. (Ha'aretz)
  • Navy Shoots at Suspected Weapons Smugglers Off Gaza Coast - Hanan Greenberg
    The Israeli Navy opened fire at Palestinian boats suspected of weapons smuggling trying to infiltrate Gazan waters from Egypt early Sunday morning. The suspected smugglers were ordered to halt by an Israeli naval ship and, when they did not do so, the ship fired shots in warning, and then towards the boats. The Palestinian boats were damaged but were able to reach the shore in Gaza, where they were met by a large crowd. "These were not innocent fishermen, but smugglers," the IDF said. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Is Building "Hamastan" in Gaza - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari
    There is a growing strategic alliance between Iran and the radical Palestinian forces in the territories. Iran is involved in supporting both the Islamic factions and Fatah. Today, at least 40% of Fatah's different fighting groups are also paid by Hizbullah and Iran. Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh does not speak from the parliament. Rather, he makes his declarations from the mosque every Friday. The Arabs are very aware of the images they project. The head of the government preaching from the mosque creates the image of a new caliphate being built inside Gaza.
        Hamas thinks it can build a new southern Lebanon in Gaza, and this is what it is busy doing. Hamas is seeking to build anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems that will neutralize Israel's current ability to easily penetrate Gaza, by using new kinds of missiles that were used in Lebanon. Hamas is also trying to fortify the cities in Gaza in which it has its main rocket and weapons factories. The IDF will have to enter Gaza in a very wide-scale operation in the next year. The big question is whether to do it now or wait, like Israel did in Lebanon - and look at the results. (ICA/JCPA)
  • Has Israel Lost Its Deterrence? - Chen Kotz-Bar
    Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky said in an interview: "Whoever looks into what the IDF demonstrated in the Lebanon war in terms of its capabilities, power, accuracy, and the connection between intelligence and firepower, understands the power of the army. True, there were also mistakes. But every professional understands that what we saw here can be quickly corrected. I don't think the IDF needs to be rebuilt. It needs some changes in priorities, to train more, and we'll do it better next time." (Maariv-Hebrew, 9Mar07)
  • Years of Strife and Lost Hope Scar Young Palestinians - Steven Erlanger
    The children of the second intifada that began in 2000 grew up in a territory riven by infighting, seared by violence, largely cut off from the world. "Ever since we were little, we see guns and tanks, and little kids wanting little guns to fight against Israel," said Raed Debie, 24, a student at An Najah University in Nablus. Issa Khalil, 25, said he was arrested for throwing stones in the first intifada that began in the late 1980s and again in the second uprising. "And for what?" he asked. "I wasted 14 years of my life. We all did."
        Many Israelis agree that the current generation of young Palestinians has been thoroughly radicalized, but say that is the product of Palestinian political and religious leaders who have sanctioned and promoted violence and terrorism against Israel. Where young Palestinians once dreamed of staying to build a new state, now many are giving up and scheming to get out. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    The Price of a Free Press - Anshel Pfeffer (Jerusalem Post)

    • "The Israeli-Hizbullah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict" by veteran reporter, author and broadcaster Marvin Kalb is a must-read for journalists, the military, politicians, spokesmen and news consumers.
    • Kalb writes that democratic societies living by the ideals of a free and unfettered press will always be at a disadvantage to dictatorships and oppressive ideologies, adept at manipulating the media. "A closed society conveys the impression of order and discipline; an open society, buffeted by the crosswinds of reality and rumor, criticism and revelation, conveys the impression of disorder, chaos and uncertainty."
    • Israel's campaign was remarkably transparent. Even openly hostile Arab TV networks, such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, were allowed to operate in almost total freedom and film IDF units preparing for battle. Every failure and mishap on the battlefield - and relative chaos on the home front - was highlighted.
    • On the other side, Hizbullah controlled the journalists covering Lebanon with an iron fist. Media tours of Hizbullah-controlled areas were tightly managed, with foreign reporters sternly warned against wandering off and talking to local residents unsupervised.
    • Hizbullah also forbade any photographs of its fighters. Cameramen were warned never to show men with guns or ammunition. The only armed personnel seen during this war were IDF soldiers; Hizbullah remained throughout a phantom army.
    • Another scene almost never shown was the hundreds of Hizbullah firing positions and missile launch sites within residential areas and private homes, the cause of many civilian deaths and a violation of international law.
    • Footage coming out of Lebanon dealt almost exclusively with the results of the IDF bombing. Few news organizations made an effort to balance these pictures with those of the damage from Hizbullah's indiscriminate bombing of Israeli civilians.

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