Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 7, 2007

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In-Depth Issue:

Poll Finds U.S. Support for Israel Soaring (JTA/Jerusalem Post)
  American public support for Israel in the face of its enemies is at a five-year high, a poll found. A new survey commissioned by the Israel Project showed that an average of 66 percent of Americans rate their feelings toward the Jewish state as "warm" or "very favorable," while 11 percent gave Iran a positive rating.
  Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 65 percent of respondents said they support Israel, while 10 percent said they support the Palestinians. About three-quarters of those polled said the United States should not resume sending aid to the Palestinian Authority until the Hamas-led government "ends the culture of hate" and recognizes Israel.

Ignoring the Gaza Chaos - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
  For several weeks now the Gaza Strip has been burning. This is not a matter of fighting between Hamas and Fatah activists or actions by the IDF, but battles between armed groups that for the most part are identified with large clans. Nearly every day for the past two weeks, men, women and children have been killed in Gaza. The number of armed men in the Gaza Strip, according to various estimates, is greater than 100,000. These men belong to security mechanisms, political organizations and above all to clans, and are trying to ensure the economic interests of their kinfolk.
  In recent weeks attacks on Western and Christian targets in the West Bank have also become common. Members of terror cells identified with Al-Qaeda-type organizations are blowing up and destroying institutions linked to Western culture such as the American School, a church library and dozens of Internet cafes.
  But the world is ignoring this. The media in Israel and the West, which reported on every person killed or wounded in the conflicts between Fatah and Hamas or because of "the Israeli occupation," are not taking any interest in Gaza.

Shooting Near Gaza School Kills One - Ibrahim Barzak (AP)
  Palestinian militants opened fire near a children's festival at a U.N.-operated elementary school in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing a bodyguard of a local Fatah leader and wounding seven other people, medical officials said.

Thousands Of Supporters Of Israel March In Manhattan (CBS/AP)
  Thousands of Israel supporters marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday in the Salute to Israel Parade commemorating the 1948 founding of the Jewish state. Mayor Michael Bloomberg led off the parade accompanied by Mayor Uri Lupolianski of Jerusalem.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • French Jews Celebrate Sarkozy Victory - Rina Bassist
    Optimistic and celebratory, Jewish groups were quick to offer congratulations to Nicolas Sarkozy after his victory in French presidential elections. The former interior minister was seen by Jewish voters as a friend to Israel and an important figure in the fight against anti-Semitism. Soon after his opponent conceded, Jewish groups came out with their good wishes. (Australian Jewish News)
        See also Nicholas Sarkozy, New President of France: Past and Future - Raanan Eliaz
    Sarkozy�s mother was born to the Mallah family, one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika, Greece. In a 2004 interview, Sarkozy stated, "Every Jew carries within him a fear passed down through generations, and he knows that if one day he will not feel safe in his country, there will always be a place that would welcome him. And this is Israel.� (European Jewish Press)
  • An Uphill Battle to Stop Fighters at Syrian Border - Joshua Partlow
    The Iraqi general in charge of guarding the border with Syria said his forces cannot completely prevent suicide bombers, who often carry fake passports and appear well trained and funded, from slipping into Iraq. "This borderline cannot be controlled 100 percent," said Maj. Gen. Hadi Taaha Hasoun al-Mamoori. "If there was a desire on the part of the Syrians to help us, it would have been possible to wipe out a large segment of the terrorists." While 15 to 20 suspected foreign fighters are captured along the border each month, from countries including Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, more are making their way in, he said. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, told CNN recently that "several dozen foreign fighters a month" travel into Iraq through Syria. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Qassam Rocket Wounds Two Near Sderot
    Two people were wounded, one moderately, by a Qassam rocket strike Sunday on a gas station near the western Negev town of Sderot. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Later Sunday, two more Qassam rockets struck open areas in the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries. Earlier Sunday, an Israeli security guard for a fuel truck was seriously wounded in a shooting attack on a vehicle west of the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Qassam Lands Near Sderot Kindergarten - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
  • UConn Shelves UAE Campus Plan - Abbas Al Lawati
    The University of Connecticut has notified the Dubai Education Council (DEC) that it has halted plans to establish a satellite campus in Dubai following pressure from pro-Israel politicians and interest groups in protest of the UAE's 'human rights record' and policy towards Israel. Connecticut legislator Andrew Fleischmann told Gulf News he and his colleagues in the General Assembly would not allow such a deal to go through until the UAE "changed the way it deals with Israel" and improves the situation of foreign workers. (Gulf News -- UAE)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Self-Examination Healthy - Frida Ghitis
    Does Israel make itself more vulnerable by publicly airing the scathing results of its self-examination after last summer's war? Hardly. While Israelis painfully and openly struggle with how to address the problems identified by the Winograd Commission, the country's enemies -- beginning with Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah -- take the opportunity to gloat. How they miss the point!
      What they are watching with glee is not Israel's weakness. Instead, it is the country's greatest strength, and one from which just about every country -- from the Arab world to the United States -- could learn an important truth: Israel's most powerful weapon is its capacity for fearless self-examination.
      Israelis are looking at other issues raised by the commission, including the influence and preparation of the military, the decision-making process and the level of experience of government leaders. The government is already at work looking for ways to correct the weaknesses identified by the Winograd Commission. (Miami Herald)
  • Preparing for the Next War - Guy Bechor
    While Israeli society is busy as usual with internal battles, the imminent threats are clearly visible. Yet through astounding blindness they are not being discussed in the public discourse. Is the IDF currently prepared for the possibility of war on several fronts? Is the State of Israel prepared for the possibility that it would have to resort to the bomb shelters? Is the home front � which will turn into the front line - adequately protected? Does it have its own missile arsenal? Can it create adequate deterrence against Iran and other terror organizations? Is there and will there be coordination with the U.S. regarding various defense scenarios? (Ynet News)
  • The (Not So) Eagerly Modern Saudi - Michael Slackman
    Saudi Arabia, home of Islam�s holiest sites, flush with oil revenue, and increasingly the most influential player among Arab countries, has long resisted changing its ultratraditional ways. Now the intrusions of global economics and technology have begun to challenge some traditions in ways that the country�s idealists could not. And the strain that this is causing is showing in the form of surprisingly open debate about how much Saudis really want to modernize. (New York Times)
  • Saudi Shiite Sect Presses for Equality - Betsy Hiel
    Of an estimated 20 million Saudis, about 15 percent are Shia. Most live in the oil-rich eastern province, others along the Saudi-Yemeni border or near the holy city of Mecca. Despite sitting on some of the world's richest oil deposits, the Shia say Sunnis discriminate against them. After decades of disenchantment, they are pressing for equality. Yet many worry that a regional Shia resurgence is provoking a backlash. Sunni alarm is growing.
      In Hofuf, a desert oasis whose name means "whistling of the wind," the Shia tell of Sunnis dismissing them as foreigners, security threats, inferior Muslims, even infidels. Until recently, the government barred the Shia from building basements, which could be transformed into prayer halls called husseiniyas. They can import religious books, but cannot print their own; strict stipulations limit the building of Shia mosques. The Shia cannot hold high-level military, security or political posts. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
  • The Balkan Front, The Wahhabis Are Up to No Good in Southern Europe - Stephen Schwartz
    A visitor to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia encounters unmistakable evidence that extremist intruders are opening a Balkan front in the global jihad. The ominous presence of Wahhabi missionaries, financiers, terror recruiters, and other mischief-makers bespeaks a fresh offensive in that tormented land. From the new Wahhabi seminary in the lovely Bosnian city of Zenica, to the cobblestone streets of Sarajevo's old Ottoman center, to the Muslim-majority villages in southern Serbia, extremist Sunni men in their distinctive, untrimmed beards and short, Arab style breeches, accompanied by women in face veils and full body coverings, are again appearing, funded by reactionary Saudis and Pakistanis.
      In neighboring Montenegro and districts of southern Serbia, the Wahhabi presence is open and even violent. Wahhabis have disrupted religious services, yelling abuse at imams for not following their practices, and have precipitated gunfire between ordinary people as well as fatal confrontations with local police. Most recently, on April 20, a Wahhabi was killed in a clash with police in the southern Serbian town of Novi Pazar. In Bosnia, on April 27, a cache of automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, bombs, ammunition, and related material was seized in the remote north western village of Upper Barska. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Denial and Democracy in Egypt - Editorial (New York Times)

  • In recent weeks, Egypt�s government has further trampled the rights of its citizens, closing several branches of the Center for Trade Union and Workers� Services, which provides much needed legal assistance to workers. This comes at a time when a growing number of government critics have been thrown in jail and on the heels of constitutional amendments that restrict rights and weaken standards for arrest and detention.
  • After crackdowns weakened or destroyed so many of Egypt�s independent political organizations, democratic activists are hoping the burgeoning trade union movement will pick up the fight for democratic change. Which is why Mr. Mubarak has ordered the shuttering of the trade union centers.
  • With so many other things to worry about in the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush also seem to have lost their earlier fervor for Egyptian democracy. Washington must warn Mr. Mubarak clearly about the costs � for Egypt�s long-term stability and its relationship with the United States � of such anti-democratic moves. Happy talk and denial just damage America�s credibility and enable more repression.

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