Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 11, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Release Kidnap Training Video - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    The Internet site of the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, released a video Monday showing some members of the unit that kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit training for the operation.
    The narrator explains that preparations lasted six months, including digging a tunnel.
    Throughout the video, Islamic chants and calls of 'Allah Akbar' (God is great) can be heard in the background.

Fears Mount for Missing BBC Reporter - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Fears mounted Monday within the Israeli defense establishment regarding the fate of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who was abducted a month ago by masked Palestinians in Gaza.
    This is the longest a foreign national has been held.
    The Defense Ministry recently allowed a delegation of Arab diplomats and security officials from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel - including Saudi Arabia - to enter Gaza on behalf of the British government.

Arabs in Israel Vote with Their Feet - Ben-Dror Yamini (Maariv-Hebrew, 2Apr07)
    Since Israel's founding, the Arabs in Israel have undergone positive changes that have not occurred in any other Muslim community in the world.
    This is in comparison to both neighboring Arab states where the societies began in similar conditions, as well as to minority communities in Europe.
    There is certainly a difference between the per capita income of Jews and Arabs in Israel, but this has little connection to discrimination.
    The average age in Arab society is lower (younger people earn less), most women don't work outside the home, and families are larger - all factors which affect the statistics.
    While millions have emigrated from Arab states and, according to polls, many more wish to, the rate of emigration by Arabs in Israel is one of the lowest.
    The Arabs of Israel are voting with their feet. They know well that it is doubtful if there is any place else in the world where conditions would be better.
    This should be seen as a badge of honor for Israel.

Israel Has Higher Fertility Than Europe - Meital Yasur-Beit Or (Ynet News)
    An Israeli woman has 3 children on average, making Israel more fertile than all European countries.
    Data submitted to the World Health Organization showed that for every 1,000 Israelis, 24 babies are born each year.
    The European average is 10; 12 in the UK, and 9 in France and Germany.
    Life expectancy in Israel is 80 years. The European average is 79.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Security Agency Warns of Hamas Attacks - Isabel Kershner
    A recent wave of arrests of Hamas militants in the West Bank town of Kalkilya, linked to a truck packed with 220 pounds of explosives and driven to the Tel Aviv area, provided evidence that Hamas members there are primed to resume attacks in Israel, the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet asserted Tuesday. The Shin Bet statement warned that Hamas operatives in Kalkilya "continue to work on the planning and execution of significant attacks, including ones in the immediate future."
        There has been a hiatus in Hamas suicide attacks since August 2004, but a senior Israeli army commander said recently that there are "some groups in the military wing of Hamas that don't like the cease-fire or the unity government." David Baker, an official in the office of Prime Minister Olmert, asserted that Hamas "continues to target Israeli civilians." "Terrorism is a cornerstone of the new Palestinian government, a government that should be shunned," he said. (New York Times)
  • Weighing the Iranian Nuclear Threat - Michael Hirsh
    David Albright, a physicist and former UN nuclear inspector, is president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. "Iran has installed about a thousand centrifuges underground, distributed in six or seven 'cascades,' and Ahmadinejad is declaring today that this is 'industrial-scale' enrichment. A year ago, they were saying the goal was 3,000 centrifuges, so he has changed the benchmark somewhat," said Albright. "They're still a couple of years away, in a worst-case scenario, from being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons...but this has exceeded the expectations put forward in the [U.S.] National Intelligence Estimate that Iran couldn't have a nuclear weapon until 2010 to 2015."
        "They're probably going to need to install 3,000 centrifuges to have the capability to produce nuclear weapons....They'll probably need another year to do that. That will be enough to make enough highly enriched uranium to make one bomb, or perhaps two bombs, a year." (Newsweek)
        See also Doubts Remain Over Iran's Nuclear Claims - George Jahn
    Exaggerating the number of centrifuges gives the Iranians more room to negotiate with world powers - and possibly allows them to hold out and keep some vestige of a nuclear enrichment program. "This is a country that routinely lies about conventional weapons developments and production," said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
        Diplomats in Vienna familiar with an International Atomic Energy Agency probe of Iran's nuclear program said Tuesday that Iran was running only about 650 centrifuges in series - and the machines were running empty, with none producing enriched uranium. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Jerusalem Dismisses Iran's Nuclear Boasting - Herb Keinon
    Senior officials in Israel brushed off Ahmadinejad's claim that Teheran had begun enriching uranium with 3,000 centrifuges, sufficient to produce a nuclear weapon, as "nuclear boasting." "He is a dangerous man," one official said, "but let's not downplay the fact that what he is trying to do is convince the Europeans that there is nothing they can do to stop him because he has already passed the nuclear threshold. He is not there." The official said Israel knows that Ahmadinejad "does not have what he is boasting about."
        Israel's assessment is that Iran has still not passed the "preliminary threshold, and that Ahmadinejad can still be stopped. Sanctions are effective, and need to be continued," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IAEA Predicts Iran Could Make Bomb Within Six Years (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty)
  • Bush Gets Green Light to Help Fund Palestinian Security Forces
    The U.S. will provide $59 million in aid to boost security forces loyal to Mahmud Abbas after members of Congress dropped their objections to the deal, officials said Tuesday. $43 million would go to train and equip the Palestinian Presidential Guard, which answers directly to Abbas, and another $16 million would be spent to improve security and infrastructure at the main cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza. A State Department official said strict controls would be placed on the aid and that "none of this assistance will benefit Hamas or other terrorist organizations." (AFP/Yahoo)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Expresses "Reservations" Over Hamas List of Prisoners to be Exchanged for Kidnapped Israeli Soldier
    After discussions by senior officials, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement Tuesday expressing "disappointment and reservations" over the list of prisoners whose release Hamas is seeking in exchange for kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Hamas May Not Deliver Soldier - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz
    There is no guarantee that the Durmush clan in the southern Gaza Strip, believed to be holding kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, will free him even if the Egyptians succeed in brokering a swap for Palestinian security prisoners, government officials in Jerusalem said Tuesday. The sources said there was no certainty the clan would obey Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Mashaal if he told them to release Shalit. Durmush was behind the abduction of two Fox News workers in Gaza in August. They were released - after two weeks - when Hamas agreed to pay Durmush $1 million. Sources in Jerusalem say Durmush was also involved in the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston on March 12, and that although Mashaal would like to see him released, he has been unable to arrange it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Wounded in West Bank Drive-by Shooting - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    An Israeli civilian was moderately wounded Tuesday at a bus stop west of Kedumim by a bullet fired from a passing Palestinian vehicle. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Arab Street Warms to Showman Ahmadinejad - Andrew England
    Abdullah Alshayji, a professor of international relations at Kuwait University, says the Iranian leader strikes a balance that resonates in the Arab world: candid and outspoken in his criticism of the West and Israel, while appearing as a humble man of the people. "What we see is Iran gaining the hearts and minds by standing up to the major powers, so it is likely the masses in the Arab street, or maybe the Muslim street, look at Iran as the only country that can play head to head with these powers," Alshayji says. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Indonesia's Former President Offers a Model of Muslim Tolerance - Bret Stephens
    Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says, "I am for Israel." Abdurrahman Wahid, 66, a former president of Indonesia, is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. In the early 1960s, Wahid, whose grandfather founded the NU in 1926 and whose father was Indonesia's first minister of religious affairs, won a scholarship to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which for 1,000 years had been Sunni Islam's premier institution of higher learning. Wahid hated it. "These old sheikhs only let me study Islam's traditional surras in the old way, which was rote memorization," he recalls. In 1966 he left Cairo for Baghdad University, where he encountered much the same thing.
        "Right now, the fundamentalists think they're winning," he once told a friend. "But they're going to wake up one day and realize we beat them." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Detente with Tehran? - Ilan Berman (Washington Times)

    • These days, you do not have to look very far to find signs of Iranian troublemaking. Tehran's assistance to Shi'ite segments of the insurgency in Iraq does not appear to be slackening, and in Lebanon, the Iranian leadership is helping its principal terrorist proxy, Hizbullah, carry out a slow-motion coup against the fragile pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. Iran's ayatollahs, in other words, are behaving badly.
    • In some quarters, however, policymakers and analysts have begun to urge some sort of accommodation with Tehran. At face value, such a "detente" indeed seems tempting. Engagement with the Islamic Republic, the argument goes, could compel the Iranian regime to behave better in Iraq, forswear its nuclear ambitions, and roll back its support for regional radicals. It may even lead to a thaw in the 27-year-old cold war between Washington and Tehran.
    • Yet there are at least three reasons why "doing a deal" with the Islamic Republic is both potentially disastrous and ultimately self-defeating.

      1. Regime ideology: The Islamic Republic established by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 remains a radical revolutionary movement. The goal of the Iranian regime, in other words, is not to become a part of the world community, but to overturn it. Such a government has no interest in a diplomatic bargain that would diminish its international standing.

      2. Strategic: The Iranian leadership has made clear that it has prioritized the acquisition of a nuclear capability over dialogue with the West. For Iran's ayatollahs, the nuclear program is not a bargaining chip; it is a core element of regime stability and a vehicle for regional dominance.

      3. Demographic: Iran today is in the throes of societal transformation; two-thirds of the country's 70 million population are aged 35 or younger, are deeply disillusioned with the Islamic Revolution, and are largely Western-looking in orientation. The country's current ruling elite, by contrast, is aging and ill, and by all accounts lacks serious popular support from the Iranian "street." All of which means that in the next five to ten years Iran's current leadership will give way to a new ruling order that may be more predisposed to partnership with the U.S. and the West.

      The writer is vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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