Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 14, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Shin Bet: Palestinians Working to Improve Missile Capabilities - Gideon Alon (Ha'aretz)
    The Palestinians are taking advantage of the restraint demonstrated by the Israel Defense Forces to bolster their arms and improve the range of their rocket fire, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday.
    He said Hamas was sending hundreds of men to Iran for prolonged periods of advanced training, and that 31 tons of explosive material had been smuggled into Gaza in the last year by terror groups, a six-fold increase.
    Palestinian terror groups are attempting to increase their rocket range to strike Kiryat Gat and Ashkelon; Islamic Jihad succeeded in launching a Grad rocket some 16 kilometers last July.
    In the West Bank, both the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades of Fatah and Islamic Jihad aspire to be the first to launch rockets into Israel.
    Diskin said the Palestinians have employed improved roadside bombs, some capable of penetrating armored vehicles.

Hamas Facing Internal Split Over Mecca Accords - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    "Opposition in Hamas to the Mecca agreement is growing as some of the movement's senior officials are talking about a possible revolt," sources close to Hamas in Gaza revealed Tuesday.
    The "rejectionist" camp in Hamas, led by Interior Minister Said Siam and Foreign Affairs Minister Mahmoud a-Zahar, is opposed to the Mecca agreement, believing Hamas made too many concessions to Fatah.
    The two are expected to lose their jobs in the new Hamas-led coalition.

U.S., Israel Walk Out During Iran's Speech at Geneva Disarmament Conference - Alexander G. Higgins (AP/Guardian-UK)
    The U.S. and Israeli delegations walked out during a speech Tuesday by Iran's foreign minister at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva after he accused Israel and the U.S. of posing the main threats to the security of the Middle East.

Japan Hosts Mideast Peace Meeting to Raise Profile - Elaine Lies (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Japan on Wednesday kicked off four-way talks with Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan aimed at economic cooperation in the Middle East, part of efforts to raise its political profile in the region and ensure a stable energy supply.

U.S. Students Volunteer in Battered North - Hagai Einav (Ynet News)
    This year 120 Jewish students opted to help rehabilitate Israel's north after the war in Lebanon during their semester break, planting trees and fixing up bomb shelters in a volunteer program organized by the Jewish National Fund and the Alternative Spring Break project.
    The group was joined by an MTV television crew producing a series on American youth spending their vacations volunteering around the world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • The U.S. and Israel Are Waging the War on Terror - Vice President Richard Cheney
    Vice President Cheney told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2007 Policy Conference on Monday: "The President has been clear and forthright about his vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. He remains committed to the achievement of that vision, nor has he compromised the basic principles he has stated from the very beginning: Peace requires a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel's right to exist, accepts the validity of past agreements and renounces violence and terrorism totally and completely."
        "We understand...the right and responsibility of every democracy, if it wishes to survive, to protect itself and its values. Doing so requires moral clarity, the courage of our convictions, a willingness to act when action is necessary, and a refusal to submit to any form of intimidation, ever. These qualities are a credit to the American and the Israeli people. And these qualities are tested every day as we wage the war on terror." (White House)
        See also AIPAC Convention Video Presentations (Jerusalem Online)
  • Largest West Bank Settlement Not Built on Palestinian Land as Previously Charged
    A military database released to an anti-settlement group under court pressure shows that very little private land was seized from Palestinians to build Israel's largest West Bank settlement. In November, Peace Now claimed that 86% of Maale Adumim, a Jerusalem suburb of more than 30,000 residents, was built on private Palestinian land. The group reported Wednesday that data show only 0.5% of the settlement is built on private land. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • U.S. Official Visits Syria for Talks on Iraqi Refugees - Nicholas Kralev
    Ellen R. Sauerbrey, assistant U.S. secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, met on Monday in Damascus with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad, but officials said the rare face-to-face exchange is not likely to ease tensions between the U.S. and Syria. "The purpose of the visit was to discuss the refugee issue, and that's what her conversations focused on. I don't think we see it as anything more or less than that," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arab Leaders Rule Out Amending Saudi Proposal
    Last week the Arab League said it would relaunch the 2002 Saudi initiative, but Arab leaders said it would not include changes Israel has been pushing for. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria on Tuesday explained their reasons for turning down Israel's request to amend the proposal. "We have the Arab peace plan and we are committed to it as a whole. Talk about amending it is baseless," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's spokesman Suleiman Awwad said, "Israel cannot pick and choose from the initiative and then jump into establishing normal relations with Arabs." Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said, "We have no desire to negotiate over this." (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Observations: What's Missing from the Saudi Initiative - Negotiations - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN Experts: Mugrabi Gate Dig Does Not Harm Temple Mount Compound - Shlomo Shamir
    Israel's excavation work at the Mugrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem is being carried out in accordance with international standards, according to the report drafted by a team of UNESCO experts who came to Jerusalem to inspect the dig. Sources in the UN said the report, to be published Wednesday, accepts Israel's claims that the excavations do not harm the Temple Mount compound, and support the legality of the work.
        However, the report criticizes Israel's choice to carry out the excavation independently, and calls on Israel to temporarily halt the excavation immediately to allow continued international supervision. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Commander Killed by Fatah in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Ali Haddad, a senior commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, was killed Tuesday in an exchange of fire with Fatah members in Gaza. According to eyewitnesses, gunmen stopped the car in which Haddad was traveling, opened fire and killed him. Nine people were injured in the shooting. Hamas accused Fatah members serving in the Preventive Security Service of being responsible for the murder. Palestinian sources said Haddad was accused several months ago of being responsible for the killing of an officer in the Preventive Security Service in response to the killing of a senior Hamas member. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Fire at Israeli Car in West Bank, Wound Driver
    Palestinians fired at an Israeli car near Itamar in the West Bank on Tuesday night, lightly wounding the driver. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is Gaza War Inevitable? - Alex Fishman
    All the scenarios point to a war in Gaza. A decision must be made to do something. According to Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin's forecast, some 200,000 Israelis will find themselves under the threat of missile fire from Gaza as early as this year. A senior defense establishment official says that each time the army asks the prime minister to change something in the rules of engagement pertaining to the Kassam launchers or to carry out a limited operation in Gaza along the fence, the answer is: "No, we shall maintain the ceasefire to the end. So that when we have to strike we'll have clean hands in the eyes of the international community and we'll gain support." The defense establishment feels that even the political echelons have already come to terms with the inevitability of a military operation.
        In parallel to upgrading its rockets against the Israeli home front, Hamas has established a well-equipped and trained, four-division army based on the Hizbullah model. Just like in Lebanon, bunkers and underground tunnels under built-up areas are being constructed in Gaza. Hamas' effective military might is improving daily. (Ynet News)
  • Overrated New Initiative - Hillel Halkin
    Every couple of years, a much-ballyhooed new initiative has surfaced to solve the Israel-Arab problem. Will anyone remember the current "Saudi initiative" 40 or even five years from now? Not unless the Saudis are willing to go a lot further toward meeting minimal Israeli conditions for a peace agreement. There is no way that even the most dovish Israeli government can agree either to return all the way to the pre-1967 borders or to accept a massive influx of the descendants of the 1948 refugees.
        And because the Saudis know this, they also know that their initiative in its current form is no more than a propaganda ploy. This is not to say that the Saudis would not like to see Israel at peace with the Arab world as part of their efforts to contain the spread of Iranian and Sunni jihadist influence. They are simply not, so far, willing to take any real risks to do so. (New York Sun)
        See also The Saudi Mirage - Editorial (New York Sun)
        See also See You Later, Riyadh - Eitan Haber (signed editorial)
    One has to know and remember that the "Saudi plan" in its current form is a recipe for the destruction of Israel. Agreement (over which there is not even the slightest possibility) to absorb in Israel hundreds of thousands or even millions of Palestinian refugees means from our standpoint that we have to pack our bags. The conclusion at this point can only be to agree to discuss the Saudi plan, but not agree to the lethal clauses that are contained in it. (Yediot Ahronot, 13Mar07)
  • The Myth of Moderate Mullahs: It's Still Khomeini's Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Are the clerical elite and their praetorians - the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the thuggish Basij, and the killers of the Ministry of Intelligence - still running a revolutionary enterprise within which they see themselves as the ideological vanguard of the nation and Islam? Yes, absolutely. To a striking degree, the ruling elite has maintained its sense of religious mission, while the Iranian people, especially the young who don't remember the charisma of Khomeini, have gone cold. For the vast majority of Iranians, an Islamic missionary spirit is no longer happily married to the national identity.
        It is astonishing that some Western analysts of Iran, and some senior U.S. government officials, actually believe that Khamenei and his kind would be willing to restore relations with the United States. Such a restoration would be an end to the revolution as we have known it. For the mullahs and for God, this would be an unbearable defeat. Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and Rafsanjani have no intention of letting this happen. Rafsanjani's voluminous writings show him, just like Khamenei, to be deeply impregnated with the idea of an Islam-destroying, globe-trotting, American tyranny. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    What's Missing from the Saudi Initiative - Negotiations - Shlomo Avineri (Jerusalem Post)

    • One key element is missing from the Saudi initiative and from the March 2002 Beirut declaration of the Arab League - negotiations.
    • The Beirut declaration "called upon Israel to affirm" three points: full and unequivocal withdrawal from all the occupied territories; achieving a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194; and acceptance of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.
    • The Arab League does not offer negotiations with Israel, nor does it suggest that its demands (which are the conventional Arab ones) will become a basis for negotiations.
    • What the declaration demands is that Israel "affirms" - accepts the Arab demands and then, only then ("consequently") the Arab countries will "affirm" the end of conflict.

      The writer is former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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