Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 31, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

UN Security Council Backs Tribunal for Lebanon - Colum Lynch and Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post)
    The UN Security Council voted Wednesday to create an international criminal tribunal to prosecute the masterminds of the February 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and 22 others.
    The resolution, which will take effect June 10, was approved 10 to 0. China, Indonesia, Qatar, Russia and South Africa abstained.
    The court will also have jurisdiction over at least 14 other political attacks against anti-Syrian journalists, scholars and politicians since October 2004.

Turkey Seizes Weapons on Syria-Bound Train from Iran - Selcan Hacaoglu (Guardian-UK)
    Turkish authorities seized weapons hidden among construction materials on a Syria-bound train from Iran after Kurdish guerrillas bombed and derailed the train on May 25 in southeastern Bingol province, Prosecutor Ismail Sari said Wednesday.
    A government official said the cargo included machine guns and pistols, while the private Dogan news agency said the cargo included a rocket launch pad and 300 rockets, as well as other weapons and ammunition.
    Turkish authorities suspect Iran is using Turkey as a transit point to send arms to Lebanon's Hizbullah via Syria.

Pipeline Would Extend Iran's Reach - David Montero (Christian Science Monitor)
    Pakistan, India, and Iran are currently negotiating terms in Tehran for a $7 billion natural-gas pipeline to slake Pakistan's and India's soaring thirst for energy.
    But Washington says it can't afford to let the pipeline succeed, as the revenues would further Iran's nuclear-weapons program.
    Iran has the world's second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia.

Iran's Fear of a Velvet Revolution - Mehdi Khalaji (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Despite the public bluster of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime's behavior shows that it suffers from deep self-doubt.
    The arrests of visiting Iranian-born U.S. scholars Haleh Esfandiari (director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center) and Kian Tajbakhsh (a consultant for philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Institute programs) reflect Tehran's fear that political change could be easily sparked.

Fatah Men Shoot Palestinian "Collaborators" in Nablus - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Gunmen belonging to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction on Wednesday shot and seriously wounded two Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with Israel.
    The two were dragged to the main square in Nablus and shot in the legs.
    PA policemen who were at the scene did not make any effort to stop the gunmen.
    Sources said some of the gunmen were themselves members of the PA security forces.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UK University Lecturers Vote for Boycott of Israeli Universities - James Meikle
    Delegates at the first conference of the new University and College Union in Bournemouth voted by 158 to 99 Wednesday for "a comprehensive and consistent boycott" of all Israeli academic institutions. A boycott might involve refusing to work with journals published by Israeli companies or collaborate on research contracts with Israeli academics.
        But Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the union, said: "I do not believe a boycott is supported by a majority of [120,000] UCU members, nor do I believe that members see it as a priority for the union." The boycott was also opposed by the education minister, Bill Rammell, who said: "The UK government fully supports academic freedom and is firmly against any academic boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics." (Guardian-UK)
        See also Jewish Leaders Condemn British Academic Union Vote to Support Hamas and to Boycott Israeli Universities
    Harold Tanner, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, have condemned the British University and College Union resolutions that support campaigns to boycott Israeli academic institutions and to provide unconditional financial aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority:
        "These obscene resolutions have all the faults that academics normally deplore in their profession: a superficial and flawed understanding of the subject, clear bias, and antagonism to the open exchange of ideas. Their call for unconditional financial support for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, which continues to terrorize Israeli civilians and calls for Israel's destruction, demonstrates that the sympathies of the majority of the union's representatives lie with a terrorist group rather than the victims of terror....The resolution asserts that boycotting Israeli academic institutions is not anti-Semitic, but singling out, demonizing, and delegitimizing the Jewish state, as the resolution does, is by definition just that." (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)
  • Quartet Condemns Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel
    The Quartet of Middle East mediators, meeting in Berlin on Wednesday, called for all Palestinians to immediately renounce all acts of violence and respect the ceasefire. The Quartet strongly condemned the continued firing of Kassam rockets into southern Israel as well as the buildup of arms by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. It also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. (ReliefWeb-UN)
        See also European Parliament President: "Israel Has a Right to Defend Itself"
    The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, has condemned "in the strongest possible terms" Palestinian rocket fire against southern Israel. "Israel has a right to defend itself," he said. (European Jewish Press)
  • Jihadist Groups Fill a Palestinian Power Vacuum - Steven Erlanger and Hassan M. Fattah
    With the fragmentation of authority in Gaza, and its isolation, said a Gazan analyst, Taysir Mhaisin, "there is an increase of fundamentalism and the birth of groups believing in violence and practicing violence as a model created by bin Ladenism." Bush administration officials say they are increasingly concerned that Hamas and even more radical groups may be hijacking the Palestinian movement. Whether these jihadist groups are part of al-Qaeda or simply local bands of religious fanatics, Westerners and their institutions are now more clearly under attack throughout the region, including in Gaza, as seen in the bombing of American and UN schools and in the kidnappings of two Fox News correspondents and of Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent. A shadowy group called the Army of Islam claims that it kidnapped Johnston in March. (New York Times)
        See also The Growing Hamas/Al-Qaeda Connection - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/JCPA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rockets Hit Sderot - Mijal Grinberg
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that hit a high-voltage electricity pole, then landed on a house in Sderot Wednesday evening. The residents were inside a protected room and remained unharmed, but the electricity supply in some parts of the city was disrupted. Earlier, a Palestinian rocket hit the fourth floor of a Sderot building, damaging several apartments. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Thursday - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
  • Sderot Residents Returning Home - Anshel Pfeffer
    The Kassam rockets haven't stopped falling, but a feeling of relative calm has descended on Sderot. Individuals and the community as a whole are making a conscious effort to get back to life as usual, despite the continuing attacks. Most shops have reopened and families are taking walks in an attempt to display a picture of civilian normalcy. For an outsider, it's hard to realize that although Sderot has been under fire, off and on, for seven years, two weeks ago was the first time evacuation was a serious option. But by now, everyone who needed a breather has had one, and the people of Sderot are back home facing reality. "We don't want to be refugees" is the explanation one hears from the locals. The historic Zionist policy of not evacuating civilians in the face of armed aggression has been reestablished in Sderot. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Boycotting Israel - Editorial
    Gesture politics at times are downright stupid. Wednesday's decision by Britain's University and College Union (UCU) of academics to boycott their counterparts in Israel is a good example. First, the very notion of an academic boycott is intrinsically absurd. The academy is, by definition, the arena for debate and enquiry, indeed for controversy. Then there is an issue of selective double standards: why not target Russian academics over Chechnya, Chinese lecturers over Tibet, Indian academics over Kashmir? (Financial Times-UK)
  • The Doctrine of Mahdism - A. Savyon and Y. Mansharof
    According to Shi'ite tradition, the Twelve Imams, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib, were endowed with divine qualities that enabled them to lead the Shi'ite believers and to function as Allah's emissaries on earth. However, when the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad Al-Mahdi, disappeared in 941 CE, his connection with the Shi'ite believers was severed, and since then, the Shi'ites are commanded to await his return at any time.
        Immediately upon assuming the Iranian presidency, Ahmadinejad began to assert his belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi as the basis for his political activities. Despite the traditional belief that no one can foresee the hour of the Mahdi's return, Ahmadinejad frequently stated that his coming was nigh, and even gave a more specific prediction. During a meeting with the foreign minister of an Islamic country, he said that the crisis in Iran "presaged the coming of the Hidden Imam, who would appear within the next two years."
        The messianic doctrine of Mahdism is also manifest in Iranian foreign policy, especially in its attitude toward the Western superpowers and toward the nuclear program. Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi, mentor to Ahmadinejad, expressed this approach in an October 11, 2006 speech: "The greatest obligation of those awaiting the appearance of the Mahdi is fighting heresy and global arrogance [i.e., the West, primarily the U.S.]." Ahmadinejad and his close circle do not avoid confronting the West, since they consider this struggle to be one of the ways to prepare the ground for the return of the Mahdi. (MEMRI)
  • Time to Change Course - Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon
    The Six-Day War changed the face of the Middle East. From a historic perspective it can be viewed as marking the beginning of the end of national-secular Arab ideology, which in turn encouraged the emergence of Islamic-Jihadist ideologies. However, I am of the opinion that more than anything, the Six-Day War influenced the way Israelis perceived themselves. It also impacted internal discourse pertaining to border conflicts and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    Components of Domestic Security in the Age of Global Jihadism
    - Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter
    (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • During the last 7-10 years we have had to deal with a new player in the Middle East, Iran - the biggest terror state in the world today. Khaled Mashaal, the external leader of Hamas, started to increase the level of coordination and cooperation with Iran in 2001 and today he is a frequent flyer from Damascus to Tehran. Mashaal is trying to implement the Iranian strategy toward Israel in Gaza, in the same way as Hassan Nasrallah is implementing the Iranian strategy in Lebanon.
    • It is well understood by Mahmoud Abbas that if the West Bank is going to continue to serve as a base for terror attacks against Israel, Israel is not going to ease the pressure. Israel is not going to bleed for Abbas. We are not going to count our fatalities and say we are waiting until Abbas builds up his own security forces.
    • In 2005 Israel disengaged totally from the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the Palestinians launched 1,400 rockets at Israel. What did they achieve with those rockets? Tough pressure by the Quartet countries and many other countries, a rejection by the United Nations, and tough responses by the State of Israel whenever we felt it was necessary.
    • I have been meeting and talking with Palestinians for 31 years. As I see it, the probability of setting up a peaceful situation between Israel and the PA is much stronger than the probability that we are going to get into another round of violence with the PA.
    • The Palestinians know they have no chance to build themselves as a nation without a peace agreement with Israel. However, one barrier to an agreement is the way that Hamas has been influenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for the past six years. The external leadership of Hamas in Damascus is much more extremist than the leadership in Gaza.
    • I am optimistic because I believe that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have some common interests with the State of Israel. Our partners on the Palestinian side know very well our limits and our red lines. They know that Israel is ready to go a long way towards them but not the whole way.

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