Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 26, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iranians Fought U.S. Soldiers in Iraq in September - Anna Mulrine (U.S. News)
    In September, American troops acting as advisers for Iraqi border guards were surrounded and attacked by a larger unit of Iranian soldiers 75 miles east of Baghdad and well within the border of Iraq, according to a U.S. Army report.

Israel Campus Beat
- March 25, 2007

Point Counter-Point:
    The Palestinian Unity Government

Saudi Arabia Bars Israeli Journalist Traveling with UN Chief - Warren Hoge (New York Times)
    Saudi Arabia has barred entry to a Washington-based Israeli journalist traveling with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his current Middle East tour, the UN said Saturday.
    Orly Azoulay, the Washington bureau chief of Yediot Ahronot, was unable to obtain a visa to Saudi Arabia despite assurances the Saudi mission in New York gave the UN last week, said Michele Montas, Ban's spokeswoman.
    Azoulay, 53, a dual citizen of France and Israel, sought the visa on her French passport.

Palestinians Build Cannon (Middle East Newsline)
    Palestinians in Gaza have built a cannon capable of rapid artillery fire into Israel.
    Palestinian sources said the cannon, which has been demonstrated in live-fire tests, measured 100 mm. in diameter and could fire shells to a distance of five km.

U.S. Scolds Norway for Forging Ties with Palestinian Government (Maan News-PA)
    The U.S. State Department has informed the Norwegian ambassador in Washington of its dissatisfaction with Norway's violation of the boycott imposed on the Palestinian government and the meeting between the Norwegian deputy foreign minister and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the London-based daily Al Hayat reported.

Hunted Women of Gaza - Martin Chulov (The Australian)
    Eight women were murdered across Gaza during a ten-day stretch this month; all had been accused of immoral behavior.
    So-called honor killings have been carried out in Gaza in the past, but women have never before been hunted down so blatantly.

Useful Reference:

Official Lebanon War Investigation Committee Website (Winograd Commission)
    Transcripts of testimonies, in Hebrew only

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Captured Britons Taken to Tehran - Kevin Sullivan
    Fifteen British sailors and marines seized Friday by Iranian naval forces have been taken to Tehran for questioning. British officials insist that the sailors and marines, on two small patrol boats, were in Iraqi waters in the Persian Gulf conducting a routine patrol under a UN mandate. In London, British officials summoned the Iranian ambassador to "demand that our people be released immediately," according to a spokesman for the Foreign Office. (Washington Post)
  • Security Council Votes to Tighten Iran Sanctions - Thom Shanker
    The UN Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. The sanctions in Resolution 1747 focus on constraining Iranian arms exports, the state-owned Bank Sepah - already under Treasury Department sanctions - and the Revolutionary Guard Corps. "We are trying to force a change in the actions and behavior of the Iranian government," said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. "The sanctions are immediately focused on the nuclear weapons research program, but we also are trying to limit the ability of Iran to be a disruptive and violent factor in Middle East politics." (New York Times)
        See also Ahmadinejad Rejects UN Sanctions (CNN)
        See also Ahmadinejad Cancels UN Address - Colum Lynch (Washington Post)
  • Iran Feels Pinch as Major Banks Curtail Business - Robin Wright
    More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the U.S. last September, according to Treasury and State Department officials. The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East. The new campaign particularly targets financial transactions involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is now a major economic force whose commanders have been awarded government contracts such as airport management and construction of the Tehran subway.
        Iranian importers are particularly feeling the pinch, with many having to pay for commodities in advance when a year ago they could rely on a revolving line of credit, said Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The scope of Iran's vulnerability has been a surprise to U.S. officials, he added. The financial institutions cutting back business ties are mainly in Europe and Asia. UBS last year said it was cutting off all dealings with Iran. London-based HSBC and Standard Chartered as well as Commerzbank of Germany have indicated they are limiting their exposure to Iranian business, said Stuart Levey, Treasury's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. (Washington Post)
  • Rice: New Palestinian Government Does Not Meet International Standards
    During a visit to Israel on Sunday, Secretary of State Rice said the new Palestinian government "is not a government that meets the international standards and I think obviously if you were ever to talk about establishing a Palestinian state, you would have to do that with a government that does recognize the right of the other party to exist and renounces violence and so forth."
        "The question here isn't speed; the question is trying to really move forward toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that uses all the tools that we have - the roadmap, if possible the Arab initiative...the Sharon Herzliya speech...and the desire I think now across a broad range of both polities for a two-state solution." (State Department)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert: "Abbas Has Grossly Violated a Series of Commitments He Has Given to Israel"
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli cabinet Sunday: "It is impossible to ignore the fact that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has grossly violated a series of commitments that he has given to Israel, especially the commitment that a Palestinian unity government would not be established before Gilad Shalit was released. This commitment was given to me more than once, including in the 19 February 2007 trilateral meeting, and was given to world leaders, who will also wonder how it is possible to violate a commitment so grossly."
        "The platform of the Palestinian unity government legitimizes the continuation of violent opposition, which is also a violation of the Chairman's commitments. This will not facilitate - in the near future - contacts between us and the PA. There is no doubt that completely different conduct by the PA is required in order to create the correct equation for encouraging a fruitful negotiating process." (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • UN Secretary General Visits Israel - Ronny Sofer
    UN Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon arrived in Israel Saturday evening on his first official visit to Israel as part of a regional tour. Ban's last visit to Israel was in 2005 as Korea's foreign minister. While he met with Mahmoud Abbas, he did not meet with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tehran's Hostages - Editorial
    Fifteen British sailors and marines were kidnapped Friday in Iraqi territorial waters by the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. It was a premeditated act, carried out only hours before Britain voted to stiffen sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program in a unanimous UN Security Council resolution.
        It is worth recalling that Iran was at its most diplomatically pliant after the U.S. sank much of Tehran's navy after Iran tried to disrupt oil traffic in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s. Regimes that resort to force the way Iran does tend to be respecters of it. It is also far from certain that Western military strikes against Revolutionary Guards would move the Iranian people to rally to their side. Most important, the world should keep in mind that Iran has undertaken this latest military aggression while it is still a conventional military power. That means that Britain and the U.S. can still respond today with the confidence that they maintain military superiority. That confidence will vanish the minute Iran achieves its goal of becoming a nuclear power. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Keep Up the Pressure on Iran - Editorial
    A recent European Union poll surprisingly shows most people favor using all means, including force, to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad's diversionary tactics should be seen for what they are. Keeping up the pressure on Iran is paramount. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • The Hamas Conundrum - Editorial
    The renewed Saudi initiative will not get anywhere unless Hamas renounces terrorism and the Palestinian leadership moves aggressively to stop terrorists. Just as an Arab League summit meeting was adopting the initial version of the Saudi plan five years ago, Hamas blew up a hotel filled with Israeli civilians celebrating the Passover holiday. (New York Times)
  • For Many Palestinians, "Return" Is Not a Goal - Hassan M. Fattah
    Some younger and wealthier Palestinians in Jordan are quietly voicing the idea it may be neither possible nor desirable to go back to the homes they or their families left in the 1948 fighting that led to Israel's creation. "When people think, 'Is it possible for us to go back?' deep inside they now know they are not going back," said Hanin Abu Rub, 33, a Web content manager. Even having such a debate was once impossible. Many, however, now say returning is becoming less and less feasible. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    The Fall of Fatah - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)

    • Almost 40 years ago, the nationalist group Fatah took over the Palestinian movement, a reign that ended last week when Fatah accepted a junior partnership to Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. Fatah has accepted the partnership with its Islamist rival on terms which reflect much of Fatah's worldview but are very different from the moderate image the group wants to build in the West.
    • Even though there are Fatah members who prefer a compromise solution, they are in a minority and do not battle for the real acceptance of their views in that group. Fatah has never articulated among its own people - and does not articulate today - an alternative vision of peaceful coexistence.
    • Fatah's deliberate use of terrorism to mobilize Palestinians emotionally has always been a central strategy, and it has had a corrupting role in both moral and political terms.
    • Arafat's replacement, Mahmoud Abbas, has some moderate sentiments but is weak, ineffective, and an advocate of most of Fatah's traditional program. The actual head of Fatah is Farouk Kaddoumi, a man who rejected even the peace process of the 1990s. His popularity reflects the basic politics of Fatah.
    • The mistakes made under the decades-long leadership of Fatah are continuing, and even intensifying, in the new Hamas era. The result is that any possibility of peace is being pushed decades further away.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya.

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