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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 30, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Risks Grow of Terrorists Getting Nukes - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
    There is a growing threat that terrorist groups such as Hizbullah will acquire nuclear or other WMD technology, a senior U.S. State Department official told the Jerusalem Post this week.
    "You have this environment of material, expertise and supporting equipment [for weapons of mass destruction] being more widely available than before."
    "You have that coupled with the demonstrated interest of some terror groups to acquire these capabilities, and that is a real concern to us."

Israel HighWay
- March 29

Issue of the Week:
    Jews in the Muslim World Today

Israeli Ambulance Enters PA to Save Baby - Lilach Shoval (Ynet News)
    A bullet-proof Israeli ambulance entered the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday in order to save a six-month old baby in critical condition after inhaling toxic substances.
    This was the first time a Magen David Adom ambulance entered the PA since the violence that began in 2000.

UK Vows Crackdown on Anti-Semitism - Duncan Campbell and Matthew Taylor (Guardian-UK)
    The British government committed itself to new ways of tackling anti-Semitism Thursday, following a report which found that Jews were increasingly the focus of attacks.
    There is particular concern about the growth of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.
    Phil Woolas, the minister for communities and local government, said the government took very seriously recent manifestations of anti-Semitism and "current rhetoric about Israel and Zionism from the far right, the far left, and Islamist extremists alike."
    He said the Crown Prosecution Service had agreed to review whether there should be more prosecutions related to such incidents.

UN Watch: "UN Is Human Rights Nightmare" - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
    In a speech given during a session of the Human Rights Commission on March 23, 2007, Hillel Neuer, Director of UN Watch, delivered a scathing attack on the commission's track record, describing it as a "human rights nightmare."
    Commission President Luis Alfonso De Alba declared Neuer's comments "inadmissible."
    See also View Video (YouTube)

U.S. Demands Syria Release Political Prisoners (Reuters)
    The U.S. on Thursday harshly criticized Syria for arbitrarily arresting political opponents and called on it to free four dissidents.
    "We deplore arbitrary arrest and detention of political prisoners by the Syrian government," the State Department said in a statement, saying it was particularly concerned about activists Anwar al-Bunni and Kamal al-Labwani.
    Bunni, a campaigner for political freedom, was dragged screaming from his home by security forces in May 2006. Labwani was jailed in November 2005 after he attended a White House meeting.
    The State Department said both men were being tried in criminal courts "for expressing their opinions."

Kidnapped BBC Reporter Still Missing in Gaza - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
    Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent in Gaza who was kidnapped at gunpoint 18 days ago, has been held longer than any of the other foreign journalists seized in a series of abductions over the past two years.
    There is speculation that a large Gaza family with criminal as well as shifting factional connections carried out the kidnap.

Pakistan: Karachi's Madrasas and Violent Extremism (International Crisis Group)
    More than five years after President Pervez Musharraf declared his intention to crack down on violent jihadi groups and to regulate the network of madrasas (religious schools) on which they depend, banned jihadi groups, supported by networks of mosques and madrasas, continue to operate openly in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, and elsewhere.
    Karachi's madrasas have trained and dispatched jihadi fighters to Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir.
    Not all madrasas in the city are active centers of jihadi militancy, but even those without direct links to violence promote an ideology that provides religious justification for such attacks.
    The madrasa sector has grown at an explosive rate over the past two decades.

First Temple Wall Found in City of David - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    A wall from the First Temple was recently uncovered in Jerusalem's City of David, strengthening the claim that it is the site of the palace of King David.
    The new find was made by Dr. Eilat Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center's Institute for the Archeology of the Jewish People.

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    Please add a prayer at your Passover seder for Israel's kidnapped and missing soldiers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Security Council: Iran Should Free UK Sailors - Janine Zacharia and Paul Tighe
    The UN Security Council said Iran should release 15 UK sailors seized in the Persian Gulf. Council members want "an early resolution to this problem, including the release of the 15 UK personnel,'' Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the body's rotating presidency, said in a statement issued Thursday in New York.
        The Security Council's statement replaced a stronger draft proposed by the UK "deploring'' Iran's actions. Russia led calls for the wording to be changed, objecting to the Council taking the British position that its vessels were operating in Iraqi waters. (Bloomberg)
        See also Iran Agrees to Give UK Access to Sailors - Thomas Harding, George Jones and Stewart Payne
    Iran has offered to give British officials access to the 15 captured sailors and Marines. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said: "We have accepted that [the British request], there is no problem. Measures are under way. They can meet them." (Telegraph-UK)
  • Arab Allies Condemn U.S. at Summit in Saudi Arabia - Noha el-Hennawy and Borzou Daragahi
    Bush administration attempts to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks suffered a setback Wednesday as leaders at an Arab League summit in Riyadh, including the heads of state of several U.S. allies, condemned Washington's foreign policy and refused to budge on a peace proposal that Israeli officials have criticized. Saudi King Abdullah condemned the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa lamented "the absence of honest mediation" in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Abdullah condemned the U.S.-backed aid boycott of the PA government led by Hamas militants who don't recognize Israel's right to exist. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also U.S. "Surprised" by Saudi Comments on American Role in Iraq - David Gollust
    The Bush administration Thursday expressed surprise, and said it was seeking clarification, over remarks by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Arab League summit that the U.S. role in Iraq was an "illegal foreign occupation." (VOA News)
        See also Israel: Arab Peace Plan "Interesting" - Steven Gutkin
    Israeli officials spoke positively about Thursday's relaunching of a 2002 Arab peace initiative at the Arab League summit. "In general there's no question that the prime minister and government of the state of Israel see the Saudi initiative as interesting and as the possible basis for a dialogue. But that doesn't mean we accept it from A to Z," Israeli government spokesman Miri Eisin said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: "Arrow Missile Interceptor Can Fully Protect Against Iran" - Yaakov Katz
    Recent modifications made to the Arrow enable Israel's ballistic missile defense system to successfully intercept and destroy any ballistic missile in the Middle East, including nuclear-capable missiles under development by Iran, said Arieh Herzog, the head of the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency. "Our Arrow operational system can without a doubt deal with all of the operational threats in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria," he declared. Such a system also serves as a deterrent. "If someone thinks that a large percentage of his missiles will be intercepted, he will think twice before attacking," Herzog said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Olmert: No Palestinian "Right of Return" - Herb Keinon and David Horovitz
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Jerusalem Post that Israel would not accept the return to Israel of any Palestinian refugees. It is "out of the question," he said. "I'll never accept a solution that is based on their return to Israel, any number." Olmert also said Israel would not recognize a "right of return." "I will not agree to accept any kind of Israel responsibility for the refugees," he said.
        The initiative adopted Thursday by the Arab League was the same one passed in Beirut in March 2002, commonly known as the Arab Peace Initiative. It is not, however, identical with the so-called Saudi initiative from a month earlier that did not mention the refugee issue. "The Saudi initiative looks better in this respect than the Arab initiative," Olmert said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas: Military Operations Have Not Stopped - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared that his movement would continue to launch attacks on Israel despite the formation of the PA unity government. Addressing supporters in Gaza City by phone, Mashaal said: "We will never give up our principles; anyone who thinks that Hamas is tired or weak is mistaken. Hamas has not stopped its military operations."
        Meanwhile, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former PA information minister who is currently a close advisor to PA Chairman Abbas, Thursday discussed Abbas' agreement to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert twice a month: "I don't see any point in holding these meetings. We agreed to them only to appease the Americans." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosion in Hamas Leader's Home Kills One Child, Injures Two
    Nidal 'Aamer Killab, 5, was killed and his brother Ahmad, 3, and his sister Fatima, 6, were moderately injured in an explosion in their family's home in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. The children's father is a leader within Hamas and the head of public relations for the pro-Hamas Executive Force. Khan Yunis has witnessed a wave of abductions and gunfire exchanges in the context of family and factional conflicts for over a year. Scores of residents have been injured or killed in these violent outbursts. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • The Results of Diplomacy: In Iran's Case, They've Been Pretty Thin - Editorial
    Iran is parading captured British sailors before cameras and using their purported confessions of trespassing in Iranian waters as propaganda in a way that suggests an eagerness to escalate rather than defuse confrontation with the West. The diplomatic campaign against Iran has been pretty successful by the usual diplomatic measures. Not only has the U.S. worked relatively smoothly with European partners with which it differed bitterly over Iraq, but it has also been effective lately in winning support from Russia, China and nonaligned states such as South Africa.
        Critics who lambasted the administration's unilateral campaign against an "axis of evil" a few years ago ought to be applauding the return to conventional diplomacy. We, too, think it's worth pursuing, especially when combined with steps short of a military attack to push back against Iranian aggression in the region. Still, two years after President Bush embraced the effort, it has to be noted: The diplomatic strategy so far has been no more successful than the previous "regime change" policy in stopping Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Actions Will Only Increase Its Isolation - Editorial
    Revolutionary Iran's complete contempt for normal diplomatic procedures was manifest from its inception. In November 1979, just seven months after Ayatollah Khomeini had come to power, students seized the American embassy in Teheran. Of around 90 people inside the compound, 52 were held hostage for more than 14 months.
        The difficulties for the British Government in securing the release of the 15 sailors and marines are twofold. First, there is the well-attested readiness of Iran to defy international norms of behavior. Second, it is, as usual, hard to identify which part of the regime, its clerically appointed or elected civilian component, is responsible for the kidnapping. It is unclear what the Iranians hope to gain by their latest outrage. It will not persuade the Security Council to remove the sanctions imposed on Teheran last Saturday for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. All it does is isolate Iran further. (Telegraph-UK)
  • The Revolutionary Guards Are the Real Power in Iran - David Ignatius
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guard orchestrated the seizure of 15 British sailors and marines at a time when it is under intense and growing pressure. The Revolutionary Guard was targeted in the UN sanctions enacted against Iran's nuclear program - which is run by the Revolutionary Guard. The military group may have wanted to retaliate by imposing its own brute sanctions against Britain, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The Revolutionary Guard may also have hoped to sabotage diplomatic negotiations over the nuclear issue. (Washington Post)
        See also The Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force: Lessons Learned - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)
  • Is a U.S.-Iran War Inevitable? - Robert Baer
    A grim fatalism has settled over Iran of late, the resigned belief that a war with the U.S. is all but inevitable. Tehran is convinced the U.S. or one of its allies was behind the March 2006 separatist violence in Iranian Baluchistan, which ended up with 20 people killed, including a Revolutionary Guard member executed. And the Iranians believe there is more to come, accusing the U.S. of training and arming Iranian Kurds and Azeris to go back home and cause problems. Needless to say the Iranians are not happy there are American soldiers on two of its borders, as well as two carriers and a dozen warships in the Gulf.
        Our Arab allies are jumping ship, apparently as fast as they can. At the opening of the Arab summit on Wednesday, Saudi King Abdallah accused the U.S of illegally occupying Iraq. The day before, the leader of the United Arab Emirates sent his foreign minister to Tehran to tell the Iranians he would not allow the U.S. to use UAE soil to attack Iran. That leaves us with Kuwait and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to face Iran. The writer is a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East. (TIME)
  • Why Is Putin Now Getting Tough on Iran? - Bret Stephens
    Nearly from day one of his presidency, Vladimir Putin has been Iran's best friend at the UN and, not so coincidentally, the leading supplier of its advanced conventional weapons. Then, on March 19, Iranian, European and U.S. sources reported that Russia had informed Iran that it would not supply the reactor with the uranium it needs to function unless Iran complied with UN resolutions calling on it to suspend its enrichment program. At the Security Council, U.S. diplomatic sources confirmed that Russia had been remarkably cooperative in negotiating Saturday's unanimous resolution on Iran, going so far as to blunt an attempt by some of the nonpermanent members to insert language calling for a nuclear-free Middle East - code for disarming Israel. In the meantime, the Kremlin preserves all its options, a reminder, as Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation observes, of an old KGB maxim: First create a problem, and then offer to be part of the solution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Escalates - Thomas G. McInerney
    President Reagan once famously quipped that his strategy in confronting the Soviet Union was "We win, they lose." Today, we need a similarly clear strategy to confront Iran, if we are to successfully counter its aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and - as we see with the 15 British sailors the Iranians have taken hostage - attempts to intimidate Western powers into inaction. While we dither at the UN, the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons, give support to our enemies in Iraq and undermine our credibility with our European allies. We need to demonstrate now that there are viable military options in dealing with a rogue regime in Tehran and that not all of those options will leave us embroiled in a shooting war with yet another large, sprawling nation in the Middle East.
        Let us remember that Iran is a very diverse nation whose population is only 51% Persian. The rest is Azari (24%), Kurdish (10%) and a mix of other ethnic minorities including Turkman, Arab and others. This is a rich environment for unrest and one reason why there were an estimated 4,300 protest demonstrations in 2005 alone. Iran imports 40% of its domestically consumed gasoline. Shutting off or even restricting the supply of gasoline flowing into the country would put the regime in a crunch and drive up public discontent without creating a corresponding humanitarian crisis. Lt. Gen. McInerny is retired assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force. (Wall Street Journal, 30Mar07)
  • Iran and America: Capture Kharg Island? - James A. Lyons Jr.
    In November 1979, when the U.S. embassy was sacked and our diplomats were taken hostage, I recommended to the then-acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Tom Hayward, that our only good option was to capture Kharg Island, Iran's principal oil export depot. If we did this, we could negotiate from a position of strength for the immediate return of our embassy and our diplomats. Unfortunately, the Carter administration rejected any offensive operations as a means of responding to this blatant act of war against the United States. We were humiliated and seemed to the world to lack the courage to defend our honor.
        There is no time to waste. Immediate diplomatic and military pressure must be brought to bear to obtain the immediate release of the British sailors and marines. The capture of Kharg Island could be viewed as part of a larger economic sanction that the UN Security Council has already endorsed. It is not an attack against the Iranian people. In fact, it could further encourage the popular antigovernment movement against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's corrupt and already shaky regime. The economic cost to Iran would be catastrophic at minimum. Most of all, such a move would end almost 30 years of our Iranian appeasement policy, demonstrating to Tehran we finally mean business. If Iran fails to respond to this measured action, we must be prepared to execute more forceful options. The choice would be Iran's to make. The writer, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, is a former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the UN. (Washington Times)

    Other Issues

  • Bill Clinton Criticizes Carter's Book - Jennifer Siegel
    Former president Bill Clinton spoke out against Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, during an appearance in March before the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County. "If I were an Israeli I wouldn't like it, because it's not factually correct and it's not fair," Clinton reportedly said. In addition, the American Jewish Committee released a letter from Clinton thanking the group's executive director, David Harris, for speaking out against the book. "Thanks so much for your articles about President Carter's book," Clinton wrote in a handwritten note dated January 11. "I don't know where his information (or conclusions) came from, but Dennis Ross has tried to straighten it out, publicly and in two letters to him. At any rate, I'm grateful." (Forward)
  • Inside Hizbullah's Hidden Bunkers - Nicholas Blanford
    It had taken seven months of searching to finally discover one of the underground bunkers that had enabled Hizbullah to fire thousands of rockets into northern Israel last summer even under the pounding of Israeli air and ground operations. The elaborate network of bunkers and fortified firing positions built over a six-year period in sealed-off valleys and hilltops throughout south Lebanon was key to Hizbullah's ability to survive Israel's onslaught during last summer's month-long war. One bunker complex discovered and dynamited by Israeli troops a week after the ceasefire reportedly covered more than a square mile and was fitted with hot and cold running water and air conditioning.
        After several unsuccessful attempts to find one, last week I received map coordinates for two bunkers in a valley near the Christian border village of Alma Shaab. We almost missed the manhole cover beneath its layer of dirt, dead leaves and twigs. The room must have been at least 100 feet underground, and could probably have withstood a direct hit by a heavy bomb. A few hundred yards away we found two rocket firing positions, one of them located in a 15-foot deep pit with reinforced concrete walls. Even from a few yards up the hill, the position was all but invisible. And during the war, Hizbullah gunners had tossed fire-retardant blankets over the launchers immediately after unleashing their rockets to hide the lingering heat signature from prowling Israeli aircraft.
        The effort that went into building the fortifications in this valley alone had been extraordinary, and these were just three of dozens, possibly hundreds, scattered throughout southern Lebanon. The steel plates and girders, as well as the digging tools, sandbags and other equipment, had to be carried by hand up the steep slope from the valley floor and welded into place in the tunnels. (TIME)
  • Observations:

    Unserious Summit - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • The Arab states seem serious about looking like they are serious about achieving peace. If the Arab states were serious about achieving peace, they would not be putting forward an ultimatum, complete with threats of war if it is not accepted, to which no Israeli government could possibly agree.
    • The problem is that the Arab side continues to insist on coming to the table with a demand that clearly negates the objective of the entire exercise: two states living side-by-side in peace.
    • It is assumed that Israel would not even demand that Israelis living in what would become a Palestinian state be allowed to stay, let alone that Jews or Israelis would have a right to move to Palestine. Yet Palestinians, and the Arab states in their revived plan, not only assume that a million Arabs who are already full citizens of Israel would stay, but that millions of Palestinians would have a right to move to Israel.
    • If Israel's sovereignty is to mean anything, then Palestinians can have no more right to move to Israel than Israelis would to a future Palestine. The Arab states, if they want peace, need to be saying this. If they cannot, it shows that they may be serious about making Israel look obstructionist, but not about achieving peace.

        See also Saudis Leave Rice Stranded - Scott MacLeod (TIME)

    • The Arab League summit that concluded in Riyadh Thursday re-affirmed the body's peace offer to Israel, but it hardly suggested the sort of "bold outreach" to the Jewish state for which U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been lobbying. Indeed, the summit appeared to reveal a yawning gap between the outlooks of the U.S. and its key Arab ally, summit-host Saudi Arabia.
    • Rice seemed to be expressing the hope that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, who she praised as the author of the 2002 Arab initiative, would authorize direct Saudi-Israeli talks. Plainly, however, the U.S. and the Saudis are not exactly in lockstep, and the distance between them is widening by the day as American credibility in the Middle East nosedives as a result of the U.S. failure in Iraq.
    • The Saudi-U.S. differences are highlighted by the summit's endorsement of the Mecca Agreement under which Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas agreed to establish a national unity government to end Palestinian infighting. In contrast to the continued U.S. insistence that Hamas be boycotted, the Saudis believe that peace negotiations can only succeed if Hamas can be drawn into the process.
    • Saudi Arabia's increasingly public divergence from U.S. positions is a comparatively new development - until fairly recently, Abdullah appeared willing to support Bush as much as possible. But the message out of the Riyadh summit is that the Saudis, along with the other Arab states, have concluded that Washington's policies are neither wise, effective, or in long-term Arab interests.
    • In his summit speech, Abdullah called the U.S. military involvement in Iraq an "illegitimate foreign occupation," and demanded an end to the "unjust" American-led embargo on the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority. All of this amounted to a sharp debunking of Rice's suggestion that Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies form a new moderate bloc to confront Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizballah.

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