Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 2, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Plans War of Attrition in the Golan Heights - Smadar Peri (Ynet News)
    Syria has threatened to begin a war of attrition in the Golan Heights if Israel continues to reject Damascus' overtures.
    In recent days Israel has received reports of increased Syrian presence on its side of the Golan Heights in preparation for a possible war.
    During the past year the Syrian government has encouraged settlement in the region, including many army officers who had lost their jobs following Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. Should a military conflict erupt, these officers are expected to spearhead the acts of attrition against Israel.
    Such a confrontation would also divert global attention from the international tribunal investigating Damascus' responsibility for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
    On Wednesday Assad said Syria was "determined to retrieve every grain of land in the Golan Heights. We are stronger than we have been in the past."

Terrorism Thrives with Saudi Support - Stephen Schwartz (Weekly Standard)
    Saudi Wahhabi clerics have preached and recruited for terror in Iraq; Saudi money has sustained it; the largest number of those who have carried out suicide bombings north of the Saudi-Iraqi border have been Saudi citizens.
    The Saudi state subsidizes Wahhabi clerics who demand the genocide of Shia Muslims and urge young men to go north and sacrifice themselves to that end.
    Official Saudi policy ignores financial contributions by rich Saudi citizens to support Wahhabi terror in Iraq.
    How many more American and Coalition soldiers, as well as innocent Iraqis, will be killed before the Saudis are compelled to end their support for terrorism in Iraq?

Iranian "Brain Drain" - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    An estimated 6.5 million Iranians, almost 10% of the country's population, have emigrated.
    The International Monetary Fund reports that more than 150,000 educated Iranians flee the country each year, "the biggest brain drain in history."

West Bank's Own Slice of America - Martin Patience (BBC News)
    Mazraa Sharqiya is not your average Palestinian village. Expensive villas nestle behind high stone walls. There are opulent four-storey residences, many of them clad in marble.
    Some Palestinians even refer to the village as the Miami of the West Bank on account of the wealth and the seemingly endless summer partying.
    About two-thirds of the village's 15,000 inhabitants live abroad, mainly in the U.S. During the summer, many of the residents return to the village where they have built villas.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Saudis Cautious on Plans for Middle East Conference with Israel - Anne Penketh
    Saudi Arabia has placed conditions on attending a U.S.-proposed Middle East peace conference as the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, attempts to drum up support for the initiative during a regional tour. The foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said after talks with Rice in Jeddah Wednesday that his country favored a peace conference dealing with "the substantive matters of peace, the issues of real substance and not form or insubstantive issues." He added if that were the case "it becomes of great interest for Saudi Arabia and should we then get an invitation from the Secretary [Rice] to attend that conference we will look very closely and very hard at attending the conference." (Independent-UK)
  • U.S. to Pour Millions into Palestinian Aid Projects - Joshua Mitnick
    The U.S. is beginning work on tens of millions of dollars worth of aid projects aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of Hamas. USAID expects to spend about $190 million over the next year on projects such as road and water infrastructure, health care and agriculture. Within the coming weeks, the agency is expected to award a $20 million contract that will fund about 200 road-upgrade projects aimed at easing unemployment. (Washington Times)
  • New England Methodists Weigh Divestment from Israel - Michael Paulson
    The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is advising congregations and individuals to divest their holdings from a wide variety of American corporations doing business with Israel. The action is giving new energy to the divestment movement, which had lost steam in other mainline Protestant denominations. In June, after two years of research, a committee released a list of 20 companies from which it recommends divestment, including Blockbuster, Boeing, General Electric, Raytheon and Volvo. Blockbuster was criticized for maintaining video rental kiosks in Israeli settlements.
        Leading Jewish organizations argue that divestment is not appropriate because Israel is unable to work with a Palestinian government that is associated with terrorism. Among the individuals who are not supporting the action is Bishop Peter Weaver of the New England Conference. "I believe we ought to be continuing in conversation with the Israeli leadership, as well as the Palestinian leadership, and trying to be evenhanded in our call for justice," he said. (Boston Globe)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad Clash in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    One Hamas man was killed and six Islamic Jihad members wounded Wednesday after the Hamas militia fired a rocket at a house in Gaza City and traded fire with Islamic Jihad militants inside for several hours. Hamas said in a statement that the Islamic Jihad militants were ordered to hand over their weapons but failed to do so. The incident is an indication of growing animosity between the two extremist Islamic groups, now that their common enemy, Fatah, has been vanquished. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues
    Four Kassam rockets landed in Sderot on Wednesday evening. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PlayStation Palestine - Aluf Benn
    The good news is that for the first time in seven years an Israeli prime minister declares that there are Palestinians to talk to - namely PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad. The bad news is that the initiatives and plans are based on an imaginary reality and on establishing a make-believe Palestinian state - a PlayStation Palestine. The basic assumption is that Abbas and Fayad are too weak and will not be able to impose security and order in the West Bank.
        Israel will not tolerate having its population and airport within Palestinian rocket range. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said recently that Israel would not be able to relinquish its security control over the West Bank, at least until it obtains the means of intercepting short-range rockets. Barak has no doubt that it is the IDF's presence on the mountains overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport that is preventing fire on it, rather than any self-restraint on the part of Palestinian terror organizations. In the absence of an effective Palestinian security force and an Israeli rocket interception system, there can be no significant pullout from the West Bank and handing over territory to a Palestinian state. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • West Bank Scholars Push for Spiritual Reply to Hamas Extremism - Joshua Mitnick
    As Fatah struggles to contain the spread of Hamas in the West Bank, some Palestinians are pushing for an Islamic critique to compete with the militant brand of religion practiced by the new rulers of Gaza. Some advocate a liberal brand of Islamic politics that would support territorial compromise, while those with a strict interpretation of the Koran are attacking Hamas for straying too far by mixing religion and politics. But most agree that any challenge to Hamas must include a new spiritual formula.
        The recent dominance of Islamic politics in Palestinian life is part of a pan-Arab trend in which religious parties have become the main opposition to regimes perceived as corrupt and undemocratic, says Hanna Siniora, codirector of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem. "Thirty or 40 years ago, it was fashionable to be leftist and socialist. Now it is becoming fashionable in the Arab world to be an Islamist," he said.
        Recognizing Palestinian society's traditionalist leanings, Mohammed Dajani, a political science professor at Al Quds University, argues that the only way to challenge Hamas is by setting up a separate religious party that will push interpretations of Islam that back non-violence and tolerance. Dajani named his party Wasatia - a term used in the Koran that means moderation. "What we want to do is change the culture of the people," he says. "Our goal is to teach youth that suicide bombing is not Islam." (Christian Science Monitor)
  • What Academic Values Does the British Boycott Protect? - Richard L. Cravatts
    If the British union members deny Israeli academics any discourse at all in what is usually called "the academic marketplace of ideas," of banishing them from the world of dialogue, research, and learning, have not they already struck a fatal blow to the core guiding principle of the academy? Since when has it been the responsibility of the university to control the actions of the state, or for its members to share culpability for the political decisions of a nation? And if the union members in fact feel that academics shape and influence national policy and political behavior, their choice of the Palestinians, now being led by homicidal Islamists, Hamas, seems a bit troublesome.
        In what has been deemed by observers to be essentially child abuse, young Palestinians are inculcated, nearly from birth, with seething, blind, unrelenting, and obsessive hatred of Jews and the "Zionist regime"; kindergartners graduate with blood-soaked hands while toting plastic AK 47s and dedicating their lives to jihad; and older children are recruited to hide explosives on their bodies to transform themselves into "shahids" - a new generation of kindling for radical Islam's cult of death. (History News Network-George Mason University)
  • What to Do about Teheran's Money-Laundering - Michael Jacobson
    Over the past year and a half, senior U.S. Treasury officials have traveled the world, briefing their finance ministry counterparts and the private sector on the range of Iran's deceptive financial activity. This includes: Iran's use of front companies; frequent requests by Iranian state-owned banks to remove their names from financial transactions; and the involvement of these same banks in Iran's nuclear and missile programs and terrorist financing.
        One international organization that would be well positioned to reinforce the American message would be the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, which seeks to set global standards on combating money laundering and terrorism financing. Launched by the G7 in 1989, FATF includes 31 member countries, including the U.S. and the European Commission. FATF should be pressed - through the UK, its sitting president - to blacklist Iran. Were Iran blacklisted by FATF, past history suggests that many governments would follow suit, placing Iran on their own domestic blacklists. This could have a significant impact, particularly if Iran's main business partners in Europe or Asia were to act. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior advisor in the Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Syrian Muslim: Why I Admire Israel - Farid Ghadry (Reform Party of Syria)

    • As a businessman and an advocate of the free economic system of governance, Israel to me represents an astounding economic success in the midst of so many Arab failures. Israel has, in less than 60 years, built an economy ten times that of Syria with one-fifth the population.
    • I do not know of any Western investment company that has bought shares in Arab public companies except for the lucrative cellular business, which are unmanageable without Western know-how and equipment. It will certainly not happen to any of the countries surrounding Israel any time soon (with maybe the exception of Jordan) as long as self-empowerment is absent.
    • The assertion made today by the likes of the ignorant Ahmadinejad, who aspires to wipe Israel off the map, and the violent Hamas, some members of which covet throwing the Jews into the sea, reminds me of the story of two factories built side-by-side. One is very successful and its employees take a good paycheck and the other is not so successful and its employees are economically deprived. The manager of the not-so-successful factory spends all his time striving to destroy the successful factory when he in fact should be spending his time learning and imitating the successful factory for his people to luxuriate in similar prosperity.
    • If some of the Palestinians are not willing to learn, we Syrians want to learn and imitate.

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